Tag Archives: Christian fiction

When Jesus prayed for me & my readers

It happened one evening in an upper room in the city of Jerusalem…more than 2000 years ago. The disciples gathered with Jesus, and what transpired is known by theologians as “the upper room discourse.” The Apostle John used five chapters to cover a few hours of time. In chapter 17, we are allowed the soul-stirring honor of listening as Jesus prayed. He prayed for Himself, for the men gathered with Him, and then–in one of the most amazing moments in all the scriptures–Jesus prayed for us!

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone [the disciples in the room with Him], but for those also who believe in Me through their word;” (John 17:20)

Jesus prayed for believers who would become part of “the Church” that didn’t even yet exist! He prayed for those who would accept the word of the apostles. That word would be both spoken–via preaching and teaching–and written–by being recorded and thus preserved in the New Testament.

That’s you and me, folks! Jesus prayed for us. He prayed for those of us who would choose to believe in Him because of the timeless message of the apostles. They spoke the word about the Word. And centuries later, you and I–if we are in Christ–are beneficiaries of that message.

We have believed because of their word.

As a writer of Christian fiction, I certainly don’t live under the illusion that my words are inspired scripture. That would be heresy. But I do try to find creative ways to deliver the message that was handed down in the scripture: that Jesus Christ came into the world to seek and save sinners. And I pray for those who will read the words I write, and hope that they will find hope in Jesus Christ.

Because Jesus has already prayed for them too.

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IS “SUSPENSE” A DYING GENRE?

Special note: My AUTHOR’S PAGE is now up at www.facebook.com/larrywtimm If you haven’t dropped by to “like” it, I’d be grateful if you would. Thanks.

Question: is Christian suspense fiction a genre that’s dying?

Answer: NO! NO! NO! If you think I’m being unclear or wishy-washy, let me add NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

It is my opinion that the whole mystery/suspense/thriller genre hasn’t even hit the mother-load yet. First, there will always be an interest in fiction that grabs our adrenal glands and gives them a hearty squeeze. (Okay, so I just disgusted myself with that image). Yep, Christians still like a good rush, especially when it’s part of a message that leaves hope in our hearts.

Second, I believe that the Christian market can increase its influence and impact by investing time and money into an intentional effort to attract more male readers to Christian fiction. But do men really read suspense books? YES! Men buy and read a ton of “secular” mystery/suspense/thriller books. And the major reason is because they are purposely targeted. And, sadly, the secular market is glad to cater to the fleshly desires of male readers. And there isn’t the stigma in the secular market that there is in the Christian market. Many men think that Christian fiction is only romance and bonnets. Is that a wrong perception? Yes. Are we doing enough to correct that mistaken idea? I humbly–and with no disrespect intended–submit that we are not.

I admit that I’m not sure what the answers are, but here are a few steps I think Christian writers can take to reach out to more men with the power of Christian fiction:

  • We must unapologetically proclaim the quality of Christian m/s/t/ fiction. And when men tell other men, it makes an impression. Even Christian men are largely unaware of the great Christian m/s/t fiction that is available. I’ve talked to men who saw the movie Courageous loved it. It has amazed me how many of those men didn’t know it was based on a book by Randy Alcorn.
  • We should intentionally look for opportunities to market Christian m/s/t/ fiction to men we know. This means we will be ready to recommend specific titles to men. The power of word-of-mouth marketing can sway male readers also. Can local writing groups help in this outreach?
  • We need to figure out ways to stress the “thrill-ride” aspect of Christian m/s/t fiction. Men are more likely to be open-minded to the idea of adventure than the idea of reading as an escape from real life. Many men see the “escapism” mentality as a confession of weakness. This includes the covers on the books we publish. When we understand how male readers think, we can more effectively market to them.
  • Christian writers and publishing houses are going to have to commit themselves to a serious strategy to grow the number of men who read Christian m/s/t fiction AND will need to commit to this strategy for several years.

This is only the tip of the iceberg in talking about this topic. But I really want to know what you think. is this a conversation worth having?

 

 

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“These things I have written so that…”

When the New Testament writers spoke of writing (“grapho”), they chose words that highlighted several things about the act of writing:

  • Its power of DECLARATION. When someone penned a letter or epistle, they were making something known.
  • Its power of PRESERVATION. Whether they knew it or not, writers operated off the same principle that was expressed by an old Chinese proverb: “Weak ink is stronger than a good memory.” Things captured on the page lasted longer–and with less room for error or embellishment–than mere verbal stories.
  • Its power of TRANSFORMATION. The object upon which words were penned or etched was forever altered. Whether it be a wax tablet, cured animal skin, piece of stone, or a roll of parchment paper, the writing left an impression.

The constraints of this post do not allow a deep treatment of any of these wonderful elements, however, we as writers should approach our writing with the same sense of respect. Our writing also has the power of declaration. We have something to say, and it is important. And, my friend, no one can say it like you can, even if they are writing the same type of story. So write on, dear writer, and declare the glories of the Lord!

We also are privileged to have the power of preservation in our writing. Our stories can be published–one way or another–and the truth we’ve declared can survive for generations. There is a permanence in writing that is unique and important. Truth is never outdated.

But it is the last blessing, the power of transformation, that has captured my attention today. Not only are we the writers, but we are the paper upon which the greatest writer pens His truth. Feast on the following verses:

“…you are a letter of Christ…written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (II Corinthians 3:3)

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (Hebrews 8:10)

My life has been changed because God’s Spirit has transformed my heart from useless “blankness” to a tablet upon which He makes Himself known to me. I write because I’m a changed man. And when my life is over, more than anything else, I want it to be clear why I worked hard to write Christian fiction. I want my stories to declare the truth, be preserved for future generations, and be used by God to transform lives. So if someone comes up to me at the end of my life, points to a stack of my novels, and asks, “Why did you do all of that writing?”, I want to humbly borrow the written words from the Apostle John as the purpose statement for my stewardship of story:

“…these things have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31).

How about you?

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“Wounded Warriors”

Writers are some of the bravest people I know. They march into the kingdom of darkness–following the lead of their Lord–and seek to do battle with the evil hosts that lurk within.

And they write.

Christian writers bear the burden of conviction, the weight of mission, and the scars of their past. And a keen awareness of their present weakness. They need not look often to know that the baggage from their own past is dragging along behind them.

And they write.

The enemy of our souls–of all souls–tries to stop them. He tells them that they are not as good as “so and so.” He reminds them of hurtful comments. And mocks their attempts to move forward on the writer’s journey.

And they write.

As they sit to write stories that stab his veil of darkness with the sharp power of words, and threaten to open avenues of light for others, the devil retaliates with lies. “Your Work-in-progress is terrible,” or “Your last book was a failure…and that means you are too.” He spews discouragement, threatening them with weariness and doubt. Tempting them to give up.

And they write.

He offers them the sweet taste of arrogance and pride, and tries to make them believe that they are a star…one that shines brighter than the Nazarene. Satan’s flattery is lined with razor-sharp blades that cut as the writer swallow his lies, the cuts opening wounds that bleed away their joy.

And they write.

Dear God, Someone reading these words today needs Your help. They have grown discouraged under the weight of our enemy’s deceit. They can feel his hot, foul breath on their necks and they are feeling defenseless before him. They have started to question Your calling in their life. They are ready to quit. Please, Father, come to their aid, and assure them of Your never-ending presence. Refresh their soul. Heal their wounds. Send them a friend. And return to them the joy of their salvation. And then…they write. In Jesus Name, so be it.”

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“Carefully & Prayerfully”

Yep…I know I just used two “ly” words. I did it intentionally and happily [Larry snickers gleefully]. Seriously…(that makes 6!)…the two words I used for the title of this post are my answer to the question: “How do you approach your responsibility as a writer?”

Carefully and Prayerfully.

But, today, I’m going to concentrate on the second word. The more I am blessed to be around other writers, the more I am feeling a conviction that we ought to be praying for one another. Specifically. By Name. We are, after all, a band of brothers and sisters toiling together to impact our world with the light of truth. Yes, we want to deliver a strong emotional experience. But we are CHRISTIAN writers, which makes us brothers and sisters with the same Lord and children of the same Heavenly Father. The strong emotional experience we offer should be delivered in words soaked in spiritual awareness.

As Christian writers, we are dealing with a spiritual reality that secular writers can not possess or reveal. And regardless of the genre–or even the market–in which we seek to publish our stories, we can call upon a power that no unbeliever can claim: the power of God!

Of course no writer can prayer for every other writer…there are too many writers. But we can pray for some. And we should. If you are in a writing group, do you pray for those other writers? To you take time to pray together at your meetings? Do you pray for your favorite writers–the ones whose books have blessed you? ACFW members could take a minute to pray for the names of the new members when they are posted on the loop.

Let’s hold one another up in prayer to a God Who has promised to hear our prayers. Let’s tap into the power that awaits us. And let’s intercede for one another.

 

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“Top Ten Bad Back Cover Blurb Ideas”

These would probably be really bad ideas to include on the back cover of your book.

#10:  “If you hate this book as much as my mother did, you’ll get your money back.”

# 9:  “Why buy this book when you can get it at the library?”

# 8:  “Scratch & Sniff section inside!”

# 7:  “The blank pages at the end are so you can write your own dumb ending.”

#6:  “Book Two will probably be a lot better.”

# 5:  “There’s not going to be a movie. Get over it!”

# 4:  “Discussion questions? Are you crazy? It was hard enough to write the stupid book!”

#3:  “Here’s a few hours of your precious time, you’ll never get back!”

#2:  “This is Christian fiction…if you don’t like this book, it means you’re a pagan.”

# 1:  “What a coincidence…the ISBN number and my Social Security number are exactly the same!”

Any other bad ideas?

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Terri Blackstock Interview

It is my great pleasure to bring you an interview I did with one of my favorite authors: Terri Blackstock. Terri is a best-selling, multiple award-winning, Christian fiction writer who has over six million books in print. Her latest release is called Truth Stained Lies, and is the first book in The Moonlighters Series. Truth Stained Lies releases on March 12, but can be preordered now at amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Indie Bound, or Christianbook.com. You can learn more about this book–and all her great books–by going to her website at http://www.terriblackstock.com. With over 25 years of experience, Terri knows how to write books that will keep you up all night.

And now….my interview with Terri Blackstock.

*Terri, having already enjoyed great success as a best-selling writer (with over 6 million books in print), what keeps you passionate about writing Christian fiction?

Thank you for saying that. I think my ideas are what keep me passionate. God has always gifted me with ideas that I can’t wait to write. So even as I’m getting to the end of a book or series, I have new ideas that keep me going on to the next thing. And sometimes God is working in my life in a way that I think will help my readers, and because I believe that everything happens for a purpose, I try to fulfill that purpose by passing those lessons on to my readers.

*Where do your story ideas come from? Do you develop them from the perspective of a seat-of-the-pants writer or from the mind of one who carefully plots out the entire story before launching into it?

I’m a careful plotter. Usually an idea comes like a light flicking on in my mind, and I have to flesh it out and develop a plot that I hope will be a page-turner. I tend to do a loose plot for the whole book, then I very meticulously plot the first fourth of the book, write that, then plot the next fourth, etc. I use a storyboard to plot each scene so I know where I need to take the story each day.

*Emotionally speaking, which book or series has been the most difficult to write? The most rewarding?

Definitely the Intervention Series (Intervention, Vicious Cycle, and Downfall). The series was inspired by my experiences with my daughter who had severe drug addictions. The whole series was very personal to me, and the mother, Barbara, felt and thought things that I had felt and thought. But I’m really glad I wrote the series, because it brought healing to so many families. I hear from family members of addicts, and the addicts themselves, telling me that they felt they were alone until they read these books. They finally knew that someone got what they were going through. The books give them hope, because they remind them that God is the parent of prodigal children, and He understands the pain and suffering.

*Do you enjoy or endure the editing process?

I actually enjoy the editorial process. The worst part for me is the first draft, but the second draft, all the way through editorial, are kind of fun for me. With each pass I’m able to make the story better. I’ve worked with the same editor for over fifteen years, and he usually gives me a long critique of the story. Then I’m eager to dive back in and take it to the next level.

*One of my greatest highlights from the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference in St. Louis (2011) was the privilege of getting to meet you personally. How do you balance your time so that you can meet the demands of writing at such a high level with the need to maintain a certain amount of personal contact with your readers?

I’ve had to clear my calendar so that I can focus more on writing than other things. For that reason, I don’t speak or teach much, and I keep traveling to a minimum. But I do try to stay connected with my readers through Facebook, Twitter, and email. But I realize that there’s always more for me to learn about my craft, so I do try to make time to attend writer’s conferences when I can. I always enjoy meeting my readers and getting to know other writers. I love the wit and kindred spirit of fiction writers.

*The Restoration Series was a bit of a departure from the type of suspense you normally write. What drew you to that series?

Sometimes I get an idea that doesn’t fit perfectly within my genre, but no one can talk me out of it! That’s kind of what happened with that series. My publisher was concerned I was off-brand with it, but I was determined to write it, and I’m glad I did.

I got the idea for the series after Y2K, when everyone expected technology to stop when the calendar turned. When nothing happened, my imagination kept taking that story in a different direction. What if something actually happened that knocked out all our technology? I researched what could make that happen, and found that EMPs (electromagnetic pulses) are an actual threat. In the first book, Last Light, my middle class family finds themselves without electricity, transportation, communication, etc. I thought it would be interesting to see what a family like mine would do when all of our modern conveniences are taken away. How would they survive? Would they hoard what they had, or would they share at the risk of starving? And I realized that I could bring in the suspense element through the looters killing for food and provisions. In times of crisis, darkness is darker than ever, and light is lighter than ever.

I called it the Restoration Series because I wanted the crisis to be a time of restoration for this family. And at the end of the series, when the power returns, I wanted the family to be different. They have a choice to go back to the way they were before, or to embrace the changes in their family and live in light of what they’ve learned.

I have to say that the series has had renewed interest in the last couple of years, probably due to the economy’s downturn and TV series such as Revolution. My publisher is repackaging the series and will re-release it in the fall, hoping to give it a second life. The subject matter is pretty timely right now. Just for the record, my series began coming out in 2005, before all these similar programs/movies/books were written.

*Even though it was published under a different title and you used a pen-name, Shadow in Serenity represented a transition in your life as a writer. What was it like for Terri Blackstock the Christian writer to revise something by Terri Blackstock the secular writer?

It was kind of difficult because it’s not the kind of book I write now. But I liked the characters and the story–kind of a modern day Music Man–so when I got the rights back, I decided to rewrite it. I have done that with five other books. My Second Chances series was made up of four books that had been rewritten from my early days, and Emerald Windows was also “redeemed.” Revising those books wasn’t quite as hard as writing something from scratch, so it was a nice way to clean my palate between books.

*I’m very much looking forward to the release of Book 1 in the Moonlighter’s Series, which is about three sisters who try to prove that their brother is not guilty of his ex-wife’s murder. In addition to Truth Stained Lies, what can we expect to see in this intriguing series?

I got the idea for the first book during the Casey Anthony trial. I was very interested in that trial, and I followed some blogs written by people with legal backgrounds, who were digging for behind-the-scenes information, some of which wasn’t being allowed into court. It occurred to me that these bloggers probably made some people angry, and I began to do my usual What-If routine. What if someone set up the crime to turn the tables on the blogger? What if that crime put the blogger in the position of being judged? So I created Cathy Cramer, a former prosecutor who started her blog after her fiance was murdered. She’s determined to make guilty people pay–so she investigates and speculates, and posts her findings.

When a reader warns her that she’s about to get a taste of her own judgmental medicine, she shrugs the warning off. But then her sister-in-law is found murdered, and her brother is set up as the killer. The killer has orchestrated events so that her brother’s true story sounds completely unbelievable. Despite Cathy’s efforts to defend her brother, she knows that no one is going to believe the truth.

Cathy is one of three sisters–a blogger, a stay-at-home mom, and a ne’er-do-well taxi driver–who moonlight as private investigators to help solve these crimes related to their family. Michael Hogan, the brother of Cathy’s dead fiance, is a PI who eventually hires the unlikely trio to help him solve crimes. (And he’s Cathy’s love interest.) The personality differences among the sisters creates some humor and conflict as they learn how to work as PIs without getting themselves killed. Each book will feature one of the sisters, and I’m having fun exploring these characters and the relationships in this family.

*How do you handle the ups and downs of being a writer?

I’ve been doing this for a long time, so over the years I’ve learned patience. It used to be so hard to wait…to hear back from a publisher if they were going to buy my book or reject it, to actually get the contract, to get paid, to have a book come out a year later, to see if anyone bought it, to see my royalty statements. I was always waiting, and my emotions were like a roller coaster. One minute I’d be dancing because I’d sold a book, and the next I’d be devastated because someone wrote a nasty review. But I have to say that I don’t let those things bother me much anymore. Deadlines keep me pretty focused, I avoid reading most of my reader reviews, and I try to remember that God doesn’t judge me the way the world does. As long as I’m staying true to Him, I’m succeeding. That keeps me steady.

Thanks to Terri Blackstock for being a part of this interview! You can learn more about Terri and her books in the following places:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/tblackstock

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/terriblackstock

Website: http://www.terriblackstock.com

 

 

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“I dedicate this book to…”

Yes, I read the dedication page in every novel I read. And, yes, I think about what I’ll put on the dedication page of my debut novel (when that day comes). There’s a special kind of emotional energy spelled out in that small section of thanks and appreciation. And I’m willing to bet that many writers put a ton of thought and effort into the words they use there–at least on their first few books.

So I was thinking…since Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, I wanted to share an idea with you. If I had the great privilege of turning in a dedication page for my first novel, and it needed to submitted today, it would read like this:

Loving. Supportive. Sacrificial. Honest. Patient. My Beloved. All these words describe the person to whom I dedicate this book: my wife, Kristal. Your understanding and encouragement has made this writer’s journey possible. My dear, I count my life blessed because you are in it. And I look forward to the new chapters that God has yet to write in our life together.

If you were preparing a dedication page today, what would it say?

Happy Valentine’s Day everybody.

 

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A Chapter of Blessing

Call it a fellowship gathering, a support group, or a monthly injection of writing adrenaline, and you’d be right on the mark. The American Christian Fiction Writers Chapter that I am blessed to be a part of is all those things and more. Quite frankly, now that I’ve been a part of the South Central Kansas ACFW Chapter that meets in Wichita, Kansas, I can’t imagine my life as a writer without this group.

Last Thursday we went around the table and each writer spoke about the writing project that they were working on. I was blown away by the passion that was expressed by my fellow writers. They spoke openly about the joys and struggles that they faced. And I understood what they meant.

And on my hour-long drive home, I praised God for the group, and for the fact that He has entrusted us with the stewardship of story. We encourage each other along the journey.

If you are part of a writers group, I’d love to hear from you. I’d be thrilled to hear what you like the most…and about how important being a part of a group is to you.

And if you are a writer of Christian Fiction, and are interested in belonging to a group, ACFW has chapters all across the country. I promise you will not regret the time you spend with other writers. It may just take your writing to a higher level. And just as importantly, it could make you–the writer–a more fulfilled person too.

Fellowship has a way of doing that.

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I fell off the trash truck

Yes, it’s true. At one time in my life I was a trash man. I worked for a small city, and one time I was helping another fellow on the trash route. We’d worked together many times and had developed  a system that really sped up the route. He’d drive and I’d hang on the back. When we came to trash bags that had been placed at the end of a driveway, Larry–yes, his name was Larry also (stop the Bob Newhart Show references to “I’m Darrel, this is my brother Larry, and this is my other brother Larry” right now!)…anyway, larry would slow down and I’d hold on the truck with one arm and lean out and grab the bags and with one brilliant move I’d flip them into the back of the truck as Larry kept driving. It was a great system that could have revolutionized waste management for all ages. Until…

Let me put it this way: people who put seventy-five pounds of shingles into a black trash bag should be arrested.

So here came Larry & Larry rolling down the street, their fool-proof system of trash collection on display. The next thing I know I’m laying on the ground next to a nearly immovable bag of shingles and wondering what happened. I rolled over on my side to see that the trash truck had come to a stop a couple of house down. The other Larry wasn’t even trying to hide his outburst of unnecessarily loud laughter.

We altered our system from that day forward.

Okay…hold on…here comes the segue: sometimes the writer’s life is like hanging on the back of a moving trash truck chucking trash bags into the back. (Wow, that was a lot of stretching…I think I may have pulled something).

I was embarrassed, but I just got up, dusted myself off, and went on with my job that day. As a writer, some days I get a lot done and other days I feel like I’ve been smacked to the ground by a bag of shingles. On those days I have a decision to make…quit or keep doing my job.

If you are new to this writing thing, I can promise you that there are a few surprises along the route. I endured the embarrassment–along with other demeaning things that come along with being a city worker–because my family was depending on me to bring home a paycheck. As a writer, you have to decide if your motivation for writing is strong enough to overcome the “down” days.

Whatever happens, let me urge you to get back up on the back of the trash truck and roll on.

 

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