Does “Nightmare” Belong in the CBA?

On Friday I reviewed Nightmare by Robin Parrish. As a paranormal suspense novel, close to a horror novel, this book has received some interesting reviews. None of the reviews I’ve seen have said that it is a bad story. They all acknowledge Robin as a good suspense author.

However, a few reviews I’ve seen (on Christianbook.com, a couple during the CFBA tour) turn negative when they talk about the spiritual aspects of the book. Obviously Nightmare takes on a topic that may seem to go against some people’s theology. To this I say, make sure you read the book all the way through, and read it carefully. It is a work of speculative fiction – as in “speculate.” He is not saying a definitive position on the topic, he came up with a suspenseful story idea and worked on it. If you expect a treatise on spiritual warfare you’ll be disappointed.

Spoilers Ahead!

Robin never denies or totally affirms the paranormal in the book. He writes an author note at the back of the book saying he believes closer to a Christian character in the book, and warns people that he does not believe dabbling in the paranormal is a good idea at all. The plot hinges around a machine that is able to remove a person’s soul from their body. There is a large McGuffin plot device that pops up at this time to explain this. The people are able to be reconnected soul to body at the end.

End Spoilers

I’ve had some bad experience with things like Dungeons and Dragons in the past. I believe that Christians shouldn’t dabble in every possible form of evil or paranormal. This is a whole different ball game to me. I don’t believe he is trying to glamorize anything, but to use a plot point to tell a story. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but Robin makes sure at the end to remind people it is just a story to make people think – not to sermonize on ghosts or glorify any kind of evil. At least in my opinion.

So is there a place in CBA fiction for a book like Nightmare? The answer is: it depends who you ask!

Nightmare is going to trip up some people who think that CBA fiction means uplifting, theologically correct books that are squeaky clean in the orthodoxy department. Thus the negative reviews. There is another segment of readers who are more open to fiction that has a little more ambiguity, without things fully nailed to a theological premise. People who read science fiction or fantasy should have no problem in general. I would like to see a CBA industry that has room for authors like Robin Parrish or Eric Wilson. However, in my opinion there is enough resistance to writers like them at this time that they may need to pursue other options in publishing.

Does “Nightmare” Belong in the CBA?

On Friday I reviewed Nightmare by Robin Parrish. As a paranormal suspense novel, close to a horror novel, this book has received some interesting reviews. None of the reviews I’ve seen have said that it is a bad story. They all acknowledge Robin as a good suspense author.

However, a few reviews I’ve seen (on Christianbook.com, a couple during the CFBA tour) turn negative when they talk about the spiritual aspects of the book. Obviously Nightmare takes on a topic that may seem to go against some people’s theology. To this I say, make sure you read the book all the way through, and read it carefully. It is a work of speculative fiction – as in “speculate.” He is not saying a definitive position on the topic, he came up with a suspenseful story idea and worked on it. If you expect a treatise on spiritual warfare you’ll be disappointed.

Spoilers Ahead!

Robin never denies or totally affirms the paranormal in the book. He writes an author note at the back of the book saying he believes closer to a Christian character in the book, and warns people that he does not believe dabbling in the paranormal is a good idea at all. The plot hinges around a machine that is able to remove a person’s soul from their body. There is a large McGuffin plot device that pops up at this time to explain this. The people are able to be reconnected soul to body at the end.

End Spoilers

I’ve had some bad experience with things like Dungeons and Dragons in the past. I believe that Christians shouldn’t dabble in every possible form of evil or paranormal. This is a whole different ball game to me. I don’t believe he is trying to glamorize anything, but to use a plot point to tell a story. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but Robin makes sure at the end to remind people it is just a story to make people think – not to sermonize on ghosts or glorify any kind of evil. At least in my opinion.

So is there a place in CBA fiction for a book like Nightmare? The answer is: it depends who you ask!

Nightmare is going to trip up some people who think that CBA fiction means uplifting, theologically correct books that are squeaky clean in the orthodoxy department. Thus the negative reviews. There is another segment of readers who are more open to fiction that has a little more ambiguity, without things fully nailed to a theological premise. People who read science fiction or fantasy should have no problem in general. I would like to see a CBA industry that has room for authors like Robin Parrish or Eric Wilson. However, in my opinion there is enough resistance to writers like them at this time that they may need to pursue other options in publishing.

Review – Nightmare


Robin Parrish chills and thrills in his latest book

A few weeks ago I used Nightmare, the new book from suspense author Robin Parrish, as a springboard into a discussion about the boundaries of Christian fiction. Since then, a discussion has taken on a life of its own (others started talking about this at the same time).

I got caught up in this debate, but in the meantime I finished Nightmare. So what is this book about, and does it “fit” in Christian fiction?

Nightmare is the story of Maia Peters, a college student who had an unusual upbringing – her parents were ghost hunters on a famous TV show. Maia grew up on the paranormal, so there wasn’t a lot that could scare her. When her friends drag her to the latest in theme parks, “Ghost Town,” she isn’t impressed.

That is, until a familiar face and voice form out of a mist and warn her, “The nightmare is coming.”

The face belongs to Jordin Cole, a rich orphaned classmate who has a fascination with the supernatural. Jordin had hired Maia to explore several “known” hauntings to explore these phenomena, but Maia hadn’t seen her in months. She didn’t know that Jordin had disappeared.

Now Jordin’s fiance is looking for her and asking for Maia’s help. The pair retrace Jordin’s steps, trying to find the nightmare before it comes. However, messing with the supernatural may have a heavy price to pay…

The Good
Robin Parrish is one imaginative fellow. He has come up with some amazing tales in his writing career. Nightmare does not disappoint. The plot alternates between Maia’s search for Jordin and the adventures Jordin and Maia have seeking out haunting hot spots. You can tell Robin did his research, as the settings are actual sites of reported paranormal activity. There’s an added bonus of grainy pictures in front of these sections. The pace doesn’t let up, and he has a gift for keeping the pages turning frantically. This was the type of book I’d pull out of my backpack in between work assignments to read “just a little more.”

Several reviewers commented that this was a book to read with the lights on. There was one section that seemed a little creepy to me, but nothing that was excessive. I can see how some people might get freaked.

Finally, that cover ROCKS! Best one I’ve seen this year.

The Critique
Robin is also very intelligent, and he writes with a specific voice and a fluent vocabulary. After reading all of his books, I feel his characters sound too much alike. Maia didn’t seem to be too feminine (which was her character), but I never felt she had a “female” voice. Then again, Robin always seems to have very intelligent characters, so perhaps this is natural. Not a big deal, but something I noticed in this book.

The “Huh?”
I think every book has a “huh?” moment. Robin is proud of his geek cred (since he blogs for ForeverGeek). So I was pretty shocked when I came upon page 259. There is an otherwise excellent Star Wars reference, but “Wookiee” is misspelled! Don’t worry Robin, I blame it on the editors.

The Verdict
As far as Nightmare goes, it is a very entertaining, suspenseful read. It also makes one think about some mysteries in our world in regards to the paranormal. The book doesn’t spell it out for the reader – we get to think about it. I recommend this book to any fan of suspense, paranormal, or horror fiction.

Now where does this book belong in the library of Christian fiction? Well, *looking at his watch* we’ve run out of time. Check back next time with my thoughts on this…

Review – Nightmare


Robin Parrish chills and thrills in his latest book

A few weeks ago I used Nightmare, the new book from suspense author Robin Parrish, as a springboard into a discussion about the boundaries of Christian fiction. Since then, a discussion has taken on a life of its own (others started talking about this at the same time).

I got caught up in this debate, but in the meantime I finished Nightmare. So what is this book about, and does it “fit” in Christian fiction?

Nightmare is the story of Maia Peters, a college student who had an unusual upbringing – her parents were ghost hunters on a famous TV show. Maia grew up on the paranormal, so there wasn’t a lot that could scare her. When her friends drag her to the latest in theme parks, “Ghost Town,” she isn’t impressed.

That is, until a familiar face and voice form out of a mist and warn her, “The nightmare is coming.”

The face belongs to Jordin Cole, a rich orphaned classmate who has a fascination with the supernatural. Jordin had hired Maia to explore several “known” hauntings to explore these phenomena, but Maia hadn’t seen her in months. She didn’t know that Jordin had disappeared.

Now Jordin’s fiance is looking for her and asking for Maia’s help. The pair retrace Jordin’s steps, trying to find the nightmare before it comes. However, messing with the supernatural may have a heavy price to pay…

The Good
Robin Parrish is one imaginative fellow. He has come up with some amazing tales in his writing career. Nightmare does not disappoint. The plot alternates between Maia’s search for Jordin and the adventures Jordin and Maia have seeking out haunting hot spots. You can tell Robin did his research, as the settings are actual sites of reported paranormal activity. There’s an added bonus of grainy pictures in front of these sections. The pace doesn’t let up, and he has a gift for keeping the pages turning frantically. This was the type of book I’d pull out of my backpack in between work assignments to read “just a little more.”

Several reviewers commented that this was a book to read with the lights on. There was one section that seemed a little creepy to me, but nothing that was excessive. I can see how some people might get freaked.

Finally, that cover ROCKS! Best one I’ve seen this year.

The Critique
Robin is also very intelligent, and he writes with a specific voice and a fluent vocabulary. After reading all of his books, I feel his characters sound too much alike. Maia didn’t seem to be too feminine (which was her character), but I never felt she had a “female” voice. Then again, Robin always seems to have very intelligent characters, so perhaps this is natural. Not a big deal, but something I noticed in this book.

The “Huh?”
I think every book has a “huh?” moment. Robin is proud of his geek cred (since he blogs for ForeverGeek). So I was pretty shocked when I came upon page 259. There is an otherwise excellent Star Wars reference, but “Wookiee” is misspelled! Don’t worry Robin, I blame it on the editors.

The Verdict
As far as Nightmare goes, it is a very entertaining, suspenseful read. It also makes one think about some mysteries in our world in regards to the paranormal. The book doesn’t spell it out for the reader – we get to think about it. I recommend this book to any fan of suspense, paranormal, or horror fiction.

Now where does this book belong in the library of Christian fiction? Well, *looking at his watch* we’ve run out of time. Check back next time with my thoughts on this…

Opinions on Christian Fiction

In the past few weeks there has been a healthy discussion about the state of Christian fiction. I talked about whether some CBA authors should seek publication for the general market via the ABA. That was nothing. Novelist Eric Wilson really sparked the discussion with his post “Is It Time for Christian Fiction to Die?” Then I collected several thoughtful posts together in a post last week (I encourage you to at least check this one out – not for my words, but the numerous links).

The conversation has been continuing at other places. I want to highlight a few. If anyone knows of other blogs/authors/etc talking about this, I’d love to read what they have to say.

My friend Nicole Petrino-Salter has written several novels, but is self-published, so she doesn’t necessarily have an “insider’s” view of CBA fiction. However, she is a prolific reader and blogger, and has cultivated relationships with numerous figures within CBA fiction. She reviews a plethora of novels and has an educated opinion about the whole matter.


She has posted her thoughts on her blog. Then, she has had three days (so far, more coming) of opinions from various individuals within the industry, authors and editors alike. Some of those commenting requested anonymity, as they still have to go to work in the morning! She asked them to make up to 5 recommendations for Christian/CBA fiction.

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3 (the whole post is by Jeff Gerke of Marcher Lord Press – very intriguing).

Another author posting about this is Robin Parrish, whose novel Nightmare started my own musing about the boundaries of Christian fiction. He wrote his opinion early this week (which I enjoyed), but I actually felt a comment on the article by Dana Timmerman was one of the best opinions I have read on this issue. He speaks of working hard on the business side of writing, to make sure the quality is as high as it can be, and to be broken before the Lord in approaching this ideal.

Finally, Robin in another post references this article wondering why there isn’t more science fiction in the CBA (almost another subject, but relevant to this discussion). Of course I am interested in this idea as a member of the Christian Sci-fi/Fantasy blog tour.

The general consensus on the posts from Nicole is that the insiders would like to see a little more risk taking by the powers that be in CBA publishing. They would like readers to be willing to take chances on things a little more. There is acknowledgment that CBA fiction has grown a lot, but quality needs to be a continuing priority. There is mention of mentoring new talent, and grooming new authors to step in when the Karen Kingsburys and Ted Dekkers are done writing.

It seems to me that a consensus is out there, even if it isn’t readily apparent. The people who want grittier fiction  recognize a place for “safe” fiction to read, but ask for a place that allows a Christian imprint to push books toward the mainstream more. I miss the old imprint West Bow, which used to be a label under Thomas Nelson. West Bow was producing the earlier Ted Dekker books, and had a reputation of books that pushed the boundaries.

Ultimately, CBA is a business, and it is run by supply and demand. People who ask for certain types of books (speculative fiction, horror, “realistic”) need to support the books that do come out with their dollars. I could’ve gotten Nightmare for free through a review group, but I chose instead to buy it, as I was familiar with Robin’s work and wanted to support him.

I’ll keep an eye on the conversation as best I can and post updates as they come around. I hope the discussion continues in a productive manner, and I certainly encourage the conversation here!

Opinions on Christian Fiction

In the past few weeks there has been a healthy discussion about the state of Christian fiction. I talked about whether some CBA authors should seek publication for the general market via the ABA. That was nothing. Novelist Eric Wilson really sparked the discussion with his post “Is It Time for Christian Fiction to Die?” Then I collected several thoughtful posts together in a post last week (I encourage you to at least check this one out – not for my words, but the numerous links).

The conversation has been continuing at other places. I want to highlight a few. If anyone knows of other blogs/authors/etc talking about this, I’d love to read what they have to say.

My friend Nicole Petrino-Salter has written several novels, but is self-published, so she doesn’t necessarily have an “insider’s” view of CBA fiction. However, she is a prolific reader and blogger, and has cultivated relationships with numerous figures within CBA fiction. She reviews a plethora of novels and has an educated opinion about the whole matter.


She has posted her thoughts on her blog. Then, she has had three days (so far, more coming) of opinions from various individuals within the industry, authors and editors alike. Some of those commenting requested anonymity, as they still have to go to work in the morning! She asked them to make up to 5 recommendations for Christian/CBA fiction.

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3 (the whole post is by Jeff Gerke of Marcher Lord Press – very intriguing).

Another author posting about this is Robin Parrish, whose novel Nightmare started my own musing about the boundaries of Christian fiction. He wrote his opinion early this week (which I enjoyed), but I actually felt a comment on the article by Dana Timmerman was one of the best opinions I have read on this issue. He speaks of working hard on the business side of writing, to make sure the quality is as high as it can be, and to be broken before the Lord in approaching this ideal.

Finally, Robin in another post references this article wondering why there isn’t more science fiction in the CBA (almost another subject, but relevant to this discussion). Of course I am interested in this idea as a member of the Christian Sci-fi/Fantasy blog tour.

The general consensus on the posts from Nicole is that the insiders would like to see a little more risk taking by the powers that be in CBA publishing. They would like readers to be willing to take chances on things a little more. There is acknowledgment that CBA fiction has grown a lot, but quality needs to be a continuing priority. There is mention of mentoring new talent, and grooming new authors to step in when the Karen Kingsburys and Ted Dekkers are done writing.

It seems to me that a consensus is out there, even if it isn’t readily apparent. The people who want grittier fiction  recognize a place for “safe” fiction to read, but ask for a place that allows a Christian imprint to push books toward the mainstream more. I miss the old imprint West Bow, which used to be a label under Thomas Nelson. West Bow was producing the earlier Ted Dekker books, and had a reputation of books that pushed the boundaries.

Ultimately, CBA is a business, and it is run by supply and demand. People who ask for certain types of books (speculative fiction, horror, “realistic”) need to support the books that do come out with their dollars. I could’ve gotten Nightmare for free through a review group, but I chose instead to buy it, as I was familiar with Robin’s work and wanted to support him.

I’ll keep an eye on the conversation as best I can and post updates as they come around. I hope the discussion continues in a productive manner, and I certainly encourage the conversation here!

A Nightmare for CBA Fiction?

OK, not quite tomorrow. How about in a week?

In my last post I talked a little about Robin Parrish (Dominion Trilogy, Offworld) and his latest novel Nightmare. It was a featured book of the CFBA this week, and my copy has just arrived from Amazon. I haven’t started it, but I’ve heard not to read it too late at night.

It is being billed as a paranormal suspense. It deals with a girl whose parents were some of the country’s foremost ghost hunters. After a friend of hers disappears, she has to help the fiance find out what happened.

I’ve followed Robin for a long time, as he used to run a significant culture website called “Infuze” that examined the intersection of art and faith. I know that he loves the Lord. I also know that he has a particular taste in speculative fiction and is trying to explore some bigger ideas with his work. He was a big fan of Lost and I believe he uses that influence in his writing (never really watched it myself, so I can’t say for sure).

The point of this is, there were some reviews of Nightmare that questioned its place in the CBA realm of Christian fiction. (For the uninitiated, CBA is a term used to designate fiction written primarily for an evangelical Christian audience, usually through a store like Lifeway or Family Christian Bookstores. CBA is more precise here than saying “Christian fiction”).

It has been argued frequently and widely through the blogosphere on what constitutes Christian (CBA) fiction. Since I’ve been paying attention since around 2005, the tentpoles have increased significantly in just that time. The market is dominated by historical romance and Amish fiction, but includes quality suspense, chick lit, mystery, legal thrillers, and is starting to include more and more speculative fiction (such as science fiction and fantasy).

Having not read Nightmare yet, I’m a little limited in the claims I can make off of it right now. Still, is there room for CBA fiction to grow? Speculative fiction that encompasses more wide-ranging topics is very popular in mainstream culture (I’m quite interested in the upcoming moving Inception).

The CBA could move into other literary genres as well. My next post will talk about a new crime thriller, Back on Murder, that may also move boundaries some.  Check back!

A Nightmare for CBA Fiction?

OK, not quite tomorrow. How about in a week?

In my last post I talked a little about Robin Parrish (Dominion Trilogy, Offworld) and his latest novel Nightmare. It was a featured book of the CFBA this week, and my copy has just arrived from Amazon. I haven’t started it, but I’ve heard not to read it too late at night.

It is being billed as a paranormal suspense. It deals with a girl whose parents were some of the country’s foremost ghost hunters. After a friend of hers disappears, she has to help the fiance find out what happened.

I’ve followed Robin for a long time, as he used to run a significant culture website called “Infuze” that examined the intersection of art and faith. I know that he loves the Lord. I also know that he has a particular taste in speculative fiction and is trying to explore some bigger ideas with his work. He was a big fan of Lost and I believe he uses that influence in his writing (never really watched it myself, so I can’t say for sure).

The point of this is, there were some reviews of Nightmare that questioned its place in the CBA realm of Christian fiction. (For the uninitiated, CBA is a term used to designate fiction written primarily for an evangelical Christian audience, usually through a store like Lifeway or Family Christian Bookstores. CBA is more precise here than saying “Christian fiction”).

It has been argued frequently and widely through the blogosphere on what constitutes Christian (CBA) fiction. Since I’ve been paying attention since around 2005, the tentpoles have increased significantly in just that time. The market is dominated by historical romance and Amish fiction, but includes quality suspense, chick lit, mystery, legal thrillers, and is starting to include more and more speculative fiction (such as science fiction and fantasy).

Having not read Nightmare yet, I’m a little limited in the claims I can make off of it right now. Still, is there room for CBA fiction to grow? Speculative fiction that encompasses more wide-ranging topics is very popular in mainstream culture (I’m quite interested in the upcoming moving Inception).

The CBA could move into other literary genres as well. My next post will talk about a new crime thriller, Back on Murder, that may also move boundaries some.  Check back!

The Nightmare Is Coming

This week the CFBA is featuring Nightmare by Robin Parrish. I didn’t sign up for this tour because I wanted to support Parrish by buying the book (the one downside of participating in the tour sometimes). The book is on its way, and I am looking forward to getting into his mind again.
Still, I want to add a little support to the CFBA tour. Robin provides some interesting thoughts for Christian (CBA) fiction. What are the boundaries of Christian fiction? What can this market accept? Mind you, I haven’t read Nightmare to give any opinions on its content, but I’ve seen a review on Amazon that questions its place in CBA fiction.
Let’s talk more about CBA’s boundaries tomorrow. In the meantime, if you would like to read the first chapter of Nightmare, go HERE.

The Nightmare Is Coming

This week the CFBA is featuring Nightmare by Robin Parrish. I didn’t sign up for this tour because I wanted to support Parrish by buying the book (the one downside of participating in the tour sometimes). The book is on its way, and I am looking forward to getting into his mind again.
Still, I want to add a little support to the CFBA tour. Robin provides some interesting thoughts for Christian (CBA) fiction. What are the boundaries of Christian fiction? What can this market accept? Mind you, I haven’t read Nightmare to give any opinions on its content, but I’ve seen a review on Amazon that questions its place in CBA fiction.
Let’s talk more about CBA’s boundaries tomorrow. In the meantime, if you would like to read the first chapter of Nightmare, go HERE.