Announcement

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Hope to see you at jwexperience.com!

The Christian Author – Excellence in Writing: What to do With Your Ideas

Every story starts with an idea.

Sometimes it takes effort to put an idea together. Other ideas seem to pop into place more or less fully formed. My ideas often come to me at inconvenient times (i.e., middle of the night, in the shower, when I’m busy at work), and it can be a struggle to get the minimum necessary information written down somewhere so I can go back to the idea later.

But this post isn’t so much about how to foster ideas or jumpstart your creativity if you’re going through a dry spell. What I’m after is the “should”. “Should I pursue this idea?” While my own personal standards will undoubtedly be reflected in this post, I don’t want to approach this topic in a legalistic fashion. If I can’t conclusively prove from Scripture that my standard is the biblical requirement, it’s okay for you to have a different standard. And I welcome feedback if you think I’ve overstepped some Scriptural line. With that said, let’s move forward.

My first thought whenever a new idea comes to mind is to turn to Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things.” (NET). At first blush, one could argue that nothing should be written outside of flowery, beautiful, pie-in-the-sky stories. Those are all well and good, but they do not adequately capture reality. The world is a messy, broken place after all, and part of writing a story is to have people read it, which probably means given them something to which they can relate.

Ever have ideas come spewing forth like this?

Even fantasy, science-fiction, and speculative fiction, to name a few genres, can serve a purpose in this fashion. C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia are one example of a fantasy world that served to speak of a higher matter. Most stories have at least an element of good vs. evil or sacrifices made for the greater good; those concepts are woven into the fabric of our being and are played out ultimately through the pages of Scripture. Thus, one could argue that any story is redeemable, though I would not claim this is the case.

As a Christian author, what is the purpose of the story you are telling? If you are ultimately demonstrating the grace of God in redemption or exploring how to practically apply the teaching in Scripture, I would say you are on the right track. Are stories that are purely entertainment wrong? I’m not fully prepared to say “Yes”; it’s a concept with which I wrestle often.

Who is your intended audience? The depth of depravity that you are willing to show will vary depending on the readers you are targeting. Older audiences, by and large, should be able to handle more complex themes and situations, yet even still I would never suggest that sex should be graphically depicted and would caution the use of violence and gore. Swearing is another area of concern, and it is something that I would personally avoid (I might make an exception in a fantasy series where essentially nonsense words are used rather than known curse words, but still, I would exercise caution in their use).

Your genre may have an impact on whether or not to follow up on an idea, too. I struggle with a fantasy story idea I’ve had in mind for years simply because I’m not sure how to incorporate Christian themes into the story, and I don’t know how I feel about writing a story involving magic. This isn’t to say that I absolutely won’t write the story, but unless there is a realistic way to make it into some sort of allegory or metaphor for the Christian existence, I would of course not market it as Christian fiction…which begs the question, “Should I write it at all?”

These are all things to consider. Again, if Scripture is not outright stating to avoid a particular topic, I am not saying you should not go ahead with your story. If you want to bounce ideas back and forth or hash out a particular idea and its implications, comment below or send a message to editor@parablesfortoday.com and I’d be happy to be involved.

In all things, remember that we are to give God the glory. Seek that, and I think you will be well on your way to writing something wonderful.


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New Series: The Christian Author – Excellence in Writing

What do you think of when you hear the phrase “Christian fiction”? One image that comes immediately to my mind is “Amish romance novels”. I think that’s kinda sad, considering that I co-authored a series of six Christian fiction books with my friend, Tim Chaffey.

Other thoughts that filter through my mind are “low-quality”, “cliché”, and “childish”. Sadly, the advent of self-publishing has not, in my experience, done much to change my mind. It seems that everyone wants to be a writer (hey, so do I!), but I have seen numerous books come through that were poorly planned, poorly edited, and downright poorly written.

I am working through a book right now that I hope to finish soon so I can properly review it, and without wanting to bash the author, it seems that this book was put to press before sufficient drafting and editing had taken place. I hate to say that, because I think the idea of the story itself is intriguing. I’m not trying to lift myself up as some master author with final authority on what is good or bad because I know I have plenty of room to grow in this area, too. But I think Christians ought to be holding themselves to the highest possible standards in all aspects of life, which, for authors, includes how you write.

In this series of posts, I want to delve into the aspects of writing, from conception to publication, as much as I can. Again, I am not the be-all-end-all on this matter, and others probably have much more practical experience, especially on the publishing end of things. But I want to look at these issues from the perspective of excellence rather than a how to plow through each step and be incredibly successful.

Please comment if you have questions or thoughts to add to the discussion, and share these posts with your author friends. We grow best in community!

Book Review: Book Review Banzai

Title: Book Review Banzai: The Unknown Author’s Ultimate Guide to Getting Amazon Reviews
Author: Jason Ladd
Publisher: Boone Shepherd (June 7, 2017)
Language: English
Formats: Kindle
Pages: 55

If you’re an author looking to generate sales on Amazon, you need reviews. Without reviews, few people are going to take a chance on your book, plain and simple. It doesn’t matter how good your book is, time and money are precious commodities, and spending either on an unknown author is a risky prospect.

Here’s where a shot in the arm is needed, and Jason Ladd’s Book Review Banzai yields insight into the necessary steps to generating large numbers of reviews on or around launch day for your product. I appreciate that Ladd is honest about the effort you will need to put into your own banzai to see results. This is not a magic bullet or get-rich-quick scheme. As he puts it, you will realistically need to put in a few hours every week working on your banzai, and that’s on top of everything else you’ve got going. Of course, he also points out that you need to have a good product. He quotes Michael Hyatt along the lines of “Good marketing causes a bad product to fail faster.” Got something that isn’t up to snuff and you want to be sure it does poorly? Do a great job marketing and word will spread.

While there is enough information in this short book to get you going, this is also somewhat an encouragement to try out Ladd’s online course. It’s smart marketing, but as I was discussing with my wife recently, there’s something about it that rubs me the wrong way, probably because I’ve never done any self-promoting and feel rather self-conscious about the prospect. I will check out his online course when I get a chance, though I likely can’t afford whatever it might cost right at this moment (and the only book I’m currently developing is maybe 5 pages long, so I’m a long way off from having a review copy ready, so I don’t find it to be a critical need for me right now anyway). I imagine that some of the “this feels yucky” feeling will go away once I’m at a point where I need Amazon reviews to help kick off my own book launch.

While short, and with a couple of set-the-hook chapters to get started, Ladd doesn’t mince words. If you’re getting close to launch day, I’d recommend looking this book. You can find it at this Amazon affiliate link: http://amzn.to/2skNHoN

If you want to jump right in and check out his course, go to www.bookreviewbanzai.com.

Overall, I give this book a 4/5 rating, mostly because I’d have liked something a bit longer and more detailed.


Note: I received a free copy of this book for my fair and honest review. I was not required to provide positive feedback, nor did I receive financial or other compensation in exchange.

Book Review: Education: Does God Have an Opinion?

Title: Education: Does God Have an Opinion? A Biblical Apologetic for Christian Education & Homeschooling
Author: Israel Wayne
Publisher: Master Books (April 1, 2017)
Language: English
Formats: Paperback, Kindle
Pages: 240

Whose duty is it to educate children? To hear some tell it, the responsibility lies with the government. Looking back over the past century or so of education, it should be obvious that this mindset has led to disastrous results. Even Christian schools have bought into the models of public education without realizing or caring where those models originated.

Israel Wayne has written an excellent book in Education: Does God Have an Opinion?. The first half or so lays out the biblical mandates for parents to take charge of educating their children in a Christian environment. This can often most easily be achieved through homeschooling, but there may be times where enrollment in a Christian school or academy may be necessary. Israel’s arguments are biblically sound and should encourage Christians at all levels of considering homeschooling to get started or keep going.

The second half gets into individual areas of topical instruction, pointing out differences between Christian and non-Christian approaches to those topics. Israel’s argument is that no subject is neutral. Math and logic, for example, do not exist because we came up with the laws governing these areas; rather, the laws exist because they were written by God, and no other explanation is satisfactory.

If you’re on the fence about homeschooling and could use a push to make that decision, or if you’re neck deep and wondering if it’s worth going on, I would highly recommend you pick up a copy of this book and be encouraged. I rate this book 5/5.

You can purchase a copy through Amazon at this affiliate link: http://amzn.to/2szZOet

You can also purchase a copy directly from Israel at http://www.familyrenewal.org/shop/education-god-opinion/

To be a writer…

I’ve not been terribly active on any of my blogging sites for quite some time, and without looking at my list of posts, I’m confident that at least the last dozen on this blog have been book reviews. Not unimportant in my mind, but also not fully in keeping with what I intended this site to be. And for that I apologize.

I recently put up a post on my general blog about struggling with dissatisfaction (http://www.jwexperience.com/2017/04/14/a-long-break/). My wife and I have had some discussions lately and have come up with a few reasons we as Christians might experience dissatisfaction. Sometimes it’s God nudging us to shift our focus because something different is in the works. Other times it’s a reminder to realign our priorities because we’re actually doing what we should be and have lost sight of that.

When it comes to writing, you have to write. I still want to be a writer, but I can’t say that I’ve put in the time to rightfully claim that title. And I’m working to fix that.

I’ve used a lot of excuses about being busy, but much of my busyness has been really wasted time. Deleting games from my phone is a step in regaining some of that time; you may not need to take that step yourself, but it is necessary for me.

I’m in the middle of building a dedicated office space in my basement. Is this absolutely necessary? In the strictest sense, no, I don’t think so. Will it be helpful to have a space dedicated to a few specific tasks? Ideally, yes. The space I’m building is intended to be a spot where I will write, study, and record my podcast (Bite-Sized Theology, found on iTunes or your favorite podcast catcher). By allowing my office to serve only certain functions, I hope to stay on task with those functions and be present with my family when I am not working.

This won’t be an overnight fix, but experiences at my job make me think that having structure, deadlines, and enough tasks to stay occupied will actually improve my time management and allow me to see a level of productivity that I have not witnessed in my writing life.

Stay tuned. I look forward to sharing my progress and my stories.

Book Review: The Resurrection Fact – Responding to Modern Critics

Title: The Resurrection Fact: Responding to Modern Critics
Edited by: John J. Bombaro & Adam S. Francisco
Publisher: NRP Books (August 21, 2016)
Language: English
Formats: Paperback, Kindle
Pages: 248

In The Resurrection Fact, eight authors take on various modern skeptic thoughts that contradict a literal risen Christ. These skeptics include Robert Price, Bart Ehrman, John Dominic Crossan, Michael L. Martin, Matthew McCormick, Jonathan Mumme, and Gerd Lüdemann. Some of the arguments against a risen Christ I have heard before, and a few I had not, but all were handled in exemplary fashion.

The book is well-written and a relatively quick read, at least if the reader has a reasonable familiarity with theology and theological terms. I believe the third chapter was the one I found the most technically challenging in terms of vocabulary, and that also contained the counter-resurrection arguments with which I was least familiar.

Perhaps the biggest complaint I might offer about this book is that probably 65-80% of the material has been covered in other resources I have read. Not all apologetics books cover the same narrow topics, and apologetics covers such a broad range of topics that no tome could satisfactorily cover every possible topic and argument. Still, I would rather have this volume in my library sitting next to other volumes that share a large amount of material than miss out on what is unique in this work.

All in all, I would give this book a 5/5 rating.

Note: I received a free copy of this book through Cross-Focused Reviews in exchange for my fair and honest review. I was not required to provide positive feedback.


Want more book reviews? Check out my blog history! And follow the Amazon affiliate link to purchase this book (or any other goods) to help this blog find new resources to share with you. Also, be sure to check out my podcast website, www.bite-sizedtheology.com, and find my podcast, Bite-Sized Theology, on iTunes or your favorite podcast catcher.

Book Review: Christ All Sufficient

Title: Christ All Sufficient: An Exposition of Colossians
Author: Brian G. Hedges
Publisher: Shepherd Press (September 30, 2016)
Language: English
Formats: Paperback, Kindle
Pages: 176

Christ All Sufficient is a relatively quick read if you don’t linger too long to contemplate the truths pointed out by author Brian G. Hedges. The front cover declares this book to be an exposition of Colossians, which it is, but don’t let that scare you: this is not a technical commentary on the epistle, but a conversational working through of Paul’s letter. This is something I find to be of immeasurable benefit. Hedges writes with the heart of a pastor seeking to make Scripture accessible and alive to all, not just the scholars. He also brings out how this epistle is relevant and applicable to our lives today.

I think Christ All Sufficient and books like it make for tremendous resources to begin assisting in Bible study. More technical and in-depth commentaries will of course help the student explore the Greek in great detail, but Hedges’ book will help maintain a focus on the heart of the text.

Overall, I’d give this book a 5/5 rating.


Note: I received a free copy of this book through Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my fair and honest appraisal. I was not required to provide positive feedback.

Book Review: Marry Wisely, Marry Well: A Blueprint for Personal Preparation

Title: Marry Wisely, Marry Well: A Blueprint for Personal Preparation
Author: Ernie Baker
Publisher: Shepherd Press (August 1, 2016)
Language: English
Formats: Paperback, Kindle
Pages: 185

EDIT: I thought I has posted this review back in October when my Amazon review went live. Apparently that was not the case. Anyway…

This is a book I wish I had been able to read when I was nearing the end of my high school days. I spent my first year of college at a Bible college (commonly referred to as the “bridal” college because of the number of students who got married there), and I had an expectation that I, too, would meet my wife there. Looking back, I was definitely not ready, and I think reading this book would have helped me identify that fact.

Mr. Baker uses the analogy of building a house when it comes to marriage. Like any structure, the first and most important element is the foundation. If you are still single, I would highly recommend picking up a copy of this book and checking to see how prepared you are for marriage. Your single years can and should be used to set patterns that will be followed during the rest of your life. An appendix provides a preparation project that will help you understand if you are ready for marriage at this stage in your life.

Married couples will also benefit from this book. No matter the condition of your marriage, it can always be better. And if your marriage is in trouble, it is never too late for God to work in your lives and heal the damage.

This book is engaging, well-written, and biblically sound. I would rate it 5/5.


Note: I received a free copy of this book through Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my fair and honest appraisal. I was not required to provide positive feedback.

Book Review: The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life

Title: The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life: Connecting Christ to Human Experience
Author: Jeremy Pierre
Publisher: New Growth Press (October 3, 2016)
Language: English
Formats: Paperback, Kindle
Pages: 288

In The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life, Jeremy Pierre reminds us that people are multi-faceted beings existing in more than the immediate moment or context. However, many will look at a single action (a father yells at his child for having a messy room, a wife cries when her husband works late, a child takes a toy away from his sibling) and attempt to address only that particular issue/instance without looking to the various elements that combined to bring about the situation in question. This is where many counselors fail their counselees, seeking to correct behavior without getting to the underlying contributing factors.
The Christian should understand that there is a spiritual element to man, and it is ultimately this level that needs to be addressed. If someone has a faulty view of God, his or her responses will be shaped in error. Additionally, our views and responses are influenced by the various circles with which we identify (culture, ethnicity, education, career, family, church).
Pierre’s call is for counselors to dig deep and help counselees not only gain an understanding of how their outside influences affect their lives but respond rightly to them and not allow them to lead away from biblical living.
The information given is not new or groundbreaking, but it is good for all Christians to remember. Overall, I’d rate this book 4/5.

Note: I received a free copy of this book through Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my fair and honest appraisal. I was not required to provide positive feedback.


Hey, it’s been a while since I’ve put one of these up. I hope you enjoyed it! Be sure to subscribe to the site and share this post. I’m excited to bring more reviews and other posts to the online world in 2017!