And Nothing But the Truth ~ Ann Tatlock

Ann Tatlock is the author of eight novels. Her newest release, Promises to Keep, was chosen by Booklist Magazine as one of the top ten historical novels of 2011. Writing to a Post-Christian World is her first non-fiction release, based on a class she teaches at writers conferences. Her passion is helping writers better understand our culture so they can be fully equipped to reach others for Christ. She lives in Asheville, NC, with her husband Bob and their daughter, Laura. Her website is www.anntatlock.com.

My best friend’s brother sits in jail, awaiting trial for the murder of his wife. Having known my best friend and her family for 35 years, I’m inclined to believe Scott isn’t guilty. Much as I love this family, though, I couldn’t stake my life on Scott’s innocence.  My heart tells me Scott didn’t do it but my reason reminds me that I wasn’t there in the house when Karen was bludgeoned to death. While I know what I want to believe, I don’t know with absolute certainty who murdered Scott’s wife.
For the sake of argument, though, let’s say Scott is telling the truth. According to his testimony, he was mountain biking—alone—the evening an intruder killed Karen. No alibi. Just his story and a declaration of his innocence.
The prosecutor isn’t buying it, of course. Examining the evidence, he and his team have drawn their own conclusions and come up with a scenario (read: story) they hope will convince the jury of Scott’s guilt.
The public defender doesn’t know with certainty whether his client did it or not and he probably doesn’t care. That’s not his job. His job is to present a case (read: story) that convinces the jury of Scott’s innocence beyond a reasonable doubt.
So which story is true? Which story aligns with what really happened? Maybe none of the above but one thing we do know: Scott cannot be both innocent and guilty at the same time. One and only one series of events led up to Karen’s death. Someone planned it and carried it through, step by step. All the conjecture, argument and second-guessing doesn’t change the reality of that moment.
The problem is, the only person who really knows the story is the murderer himself. The one who was in the home. Whoever the killer is—presuming Scott is innocent—you can bet he (or she) is as far away from the courtroom as possible.
While it may be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Scott is innocent (and that’s all that needs to be accomplished in this trial), there are those who will always believe he killed Karen. They will always doubt Scott’s creditability unless someone comes forward and confesses to the murder. For us to know the truth, the one who knows the truth must come forward.
So here we are, in a court of law, where everyone involved has sworn (on a Bible, no less) to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. But without the one who knows what the truth is, any attempt to uncover the truth seems pretty much an exercise in futility, doesn’t it?
Welcome to the postmodern world.
Picture humanity sitting around in the big courtroom of life, trying to uncover the mystery behind the big questions: Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going? We’re looking for answers while, ironically, in our highly spiritual but anti-Christian culture, we’ve dismissed the one Witness who was there from before the beginning and who has not only seen all of human history unfold but who planned it and orchestrated it by his own hand. The God of the Bible is not in the room.
For the postmodern thinker, we’re all on our own to come up with a story, one that will make sense of our lives, one that will save us from meaninglessness and death. In a very real sense, we become self-appointed lawyers trying to create the best scenario to save ourselves. But not to worry. Since truth is relative (relativism being at the heart of postmodernism), all paths lead to God, truth, and salvation. What’s true for you is true for you and what’s true for me is true for me. It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere.
As Christians, though, we still believe it matters in what we believe, because what we believe has eternal consequences.
We also believe that God (whom Christians haven’t dismissed as irrelevant, intolerant, outdated, or simply unlikable) is the one who knows exactly what the truth is when it comes to all matters of life, and that he has revealed all we need to know in his inspired Word, the Bible. The Bible tells the One Grand Story in which we all have a part.
God is not only still in the room with us, he’s speaking loud and clear. His message is the message we present as Christian writers. As novelists, we’re simply retelling the story that was told by the original Author, the story about creation, sin, Jesus, salvation, redemption, hope.
The one who knows the truth has told us what it is. From there, we weave reflections of His Story into every plot the Holy Spirit inspires us to write. That’s what our ungrounded, free-floating, reality-twisting, thoroughly confused postmodern culture needs to hear: the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Take the sword of the Spirit—His Word—and journey forth.

Is our nation on a downward spiral? Can the corrosion of our culture be reversed? Or are we experiencing the end of God’s blessing due to our depravity? For the past 50 years our culture has undergone a monumental shift as the media has pulled people into a whole new way of thinking. Gone is the idea that absolutes exist. Instead our leaders and educators preach a belief that everything is relative….including truth. How do we respond to such muddled thinking? How do we present the one true Truth to a culture that worships diversity of thought and morals? In this concise, easy-to-read book, Ann Tatlock answers these questions and more. What is a biblical worldview? What is The Great Literary Conversation? How has relativism affected our culture? How has revisionism affected the Church? What is postmodern literature? What is our greatest task as Christian writers?

Take a stand for truth. Take a pen and write.

You Don’t Have The Money? Sorry, I Don’t Believe You

For years I told myself I was willing to do whatever it took to be an author.

Like go to a conference.

Not a half day workshop or a gathering of writers at the local library. A full-out writer’s conference with editors and agents. Where I’d have to pitch. Show my work. Risk rejection. Try to make the dream become more than a dream.

I had a specific conference in mind, but every spring when the time to register smacked into my calendar I started dancing the rumba.

You know, the conference fence dance where I wasn’t sure if I was going or not.

And every spring I landed on the wrong side and promised I’d go next year. (For seven years.)

Deep down I didn’t think I was ready to go, wasn’t good enough to go, and I was scared. But I didn’t admit it to myself then. The excuse I used was money; that I didn’t have enough.

You’re not using that one are you? Because that’s all it is. An excuse. Before you lambast me, listen to my logic. By the time the final cha ching fades on the cost of a major writing conference you could shell out anywhere from $500 – $1,200. (Conference cost, hotel, airfare, CDs, etc.)

Yes, that’s some serious coin of the realm, but you have the money. Really.

• Three lattes per week: $5 each x 4 = $60 x 12 = $600

• Monthly cable bill: $50+ x 12 = $600

• Monthly dinners out: $50 x 2 = $100 x 12 = $1,000

“But I gotta have my lattes, Jim!” Uh huh. “I gotta have my cable!” Really? Okay, then have it. But don’t say you don’t have the money to go to a conference.

Say, “Cable TV and lattes and dinners out and new clothes (and whatever else you spend non-essential money on) are more important to me than going to a conference and taking this writing thing seriously.”

My friend Roy Williams says, “The risk of insult is the price of clarity.” I realize I’ve risked insulting some people with the above. That’s not my intent and I am fully cognizant of writers who want desperately to go to a writing conference and have already cut their budgets deep into the bone.

My intent is to reach the people who are like I was. Scared. Feeling unworthy to come. Allowing the dream to stay only a dream. Using the excuse of money to hold them back.

I want to tell them all published authors were once where they are. I want to tell them if they’re serious about writing they’ll make sacrifices to be able to take action. And without question, if you’re intent on being a writer, going to a major writing conference will take your aspirations beyond the next level.

Yes, it costs a lot to go to the Super Bowl, but there’s a vast difference between watching the game on TV and being in the stands.

Yes, it costs a lot to go to a conference, but there’s a vast difference between reading about the publishing industry in a book or magazine and being there live.

So if you can skip a latte or two, laser in on a conference you’ve wanted to go to and commit. If we wind up at the same one, the first Starbucks run is on me.

James L. Rubart is the bestselling and award winning author of ROOMS, BOOK OF DAYS, and THE CHAIR. He’s the owner of Barefoot Marketing and lives in the Pacific Northwest with his amazing wife and two outstanding teenage sons. More at: jameslrubart.com FB- James L. Rubart Twitter @jimrubart

Why is Christian Spec-Fic Mostly YA?

I suppose I should be glad that young adults are reading Christian speculative fiction. But the truth is, I’m disheartened. Why? It’s not translating into more adult Christian speculative fiction. My friend Becky Miller sponsors The Clive Staples Award (CSA), a readers choice award recognizing the best in Christian Speculative Fiction. When she unveiled The 2010 Clive Staples Award Winner, I’ll be honest, I was a little disappointed. Why? According to this readers choice award, apparently the best Christian speculative fiction is for kids. Not only was the CSA top vote getter a Young Adult novel, four of the top five winners were YA!Before I proceed, let me clarify: I am not suggesting that Young Adult fiction is inferior to adult fiction. Nor am I ignoring the fact that small presses (like Marcher Lord Press, Splashdown Books, Port Yonder Press, etc.) are starting to publish more adult Christian spec titles. I also recognize that much YA is consumed by adults.

Nevertheless, I think The Clive Staples Award is representative of a very important trend. In the same way that women’s fiction comprises 80% of the Christian fiction market, YA comprises the bulk of the Christian speculative market. But what does it say about the state of Christian speculative fiction that the best, most popular stuff, is YA? Some may find encouragement in this. Indeed, the fact that kids are reading is a good thing. After all, “teen” readers will eventually become “adult” readers. But if the CSA is any indication, this “transition” from “teen reader” to “adult reader” — at least as it relates to Christian speculative fiction — is not happening very quickly. If it’s happening at all. So where’s the “adult” Christian spec-fic? And why is Christian spec-fic constituted so heavily by YA? I have two theories: First, YA speculative fiction is simply more compatible with the Christian market’s “family friendly” image than is adult spec-fic. In fact, “adult” themes often don’t fit well in the Christian market. (Don’t believe me? Follow the discussion thread in THIS RECENT NR POST where writers debate whether adultery is viable as a “Christian” subject.) Contemporary “adult” spec-fic not only must be free to “speculate,” it must be “adult.” But neither of those things come easy in today’s overly-sanitized religious market. In this way, YA speculative fiction is much better suited for CBA / ECPA readers because it doesn’t need to have the “bite” that adult spec-fic does, and can more easily skirt taboos of sex, language, and questionable theology. Which is why much Christian YA spec-fic tends to involve lots of dragons, elves, and swordsmiths.Second, parents are deeply motivated to get something “Christian” into the hands of their teenagers, alternatives to the Harry Potters and Twilights of the world. In this sense, adults may actually be behind the Christian YA movement. However, this may say as much about the type of Christian teens we want to raise, as it does about the types of fiction we want them to read. Anyway, that’s my going theory. While I should be excited that young adults are reading, I can’t help but ask, Where’s the “adult” Christian spec-fic? Discovering C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy and Till We Have Faces, Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, George MacDonald, Charles Williams, and G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday, were some of the most exciting times of my life as a Christian reader. Discovering that those books were 50+ years old and still have no contemporary equals, was depressing. Perhaps we just can’t write like that anymore. It’s bad enough that speculative fiction is under-represented in Christian bookstores. What’s worse is that the stuff that IS there, is mostly for kids. Anyway, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you agree that adult spec-fic is under-represented in the CBA? Is there any validity to my suggestions that YA does well in the Christian market because “adult” themes don’t always fit, and that Christian parents are anxious to find alternatives for their Twilight, Harry Potter-loving kids?

Mike is a monthly contributor to Novel Journey. He is represented by the rockin’ Rachelle Gardner of WordServe Literary. Mike’s debut novel, “The Resurrection,” is in stores now. You can visit his website at www.mikeduran.com.

Love’s Covering By Anita Mellott

Love covers over a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)
I ran my fingers over the crisp pages of my Mother’s Day gift—a new Bible to replace my tattered twenty-year-old one. I’m going to take better care of this Bible, I determined. Maybe it’ll last longer than the other one.
A few weeks later, I placed it on my nightstand after my devotions. As I stood up, my hand brushed against a glass of water. I watched in horror as the pages turned into a soggy mess. I grabbed a towel from the bathroom, wrapped the dripping Bible in it, and ran downstairs.

You’re so careless. You’ve ruined a new Bible. So much for it lasting a long time. My thoughts accused me as I opened the door to the sunroom. I lay the Bible on a wicker chair and dragged it to the spot that got the most sun.
Throughout the day I checked on my Bible, my heart sinking every time I saw its drooping, wet pages.
That night I stood in the sunroom looking at the warped water-wrinkled pages of my Bible. Go buy a new Bible. This one’s no good. It’s a reminder of your carelessness. Perfectionism battled with relief that my Bible was still usable. It’s fine. It’s not that damaged. I can still use it. I picked it up and turned it over, feeling the bumpiness of the pages. “Child, I love you just the way you are,” a whisper floated into my heart.
Over the years, I’ve come to treasure that Bible. It has become a cherished reminder that God’s love covers the multitude of my imperfections.

Digging deeper: What does God’s perfect love mean to you? Reflect on Psalm 136.
Excerpted from School Is Where the Home Is: 180 Devotions for Parents by Anita Mellott, copyright © 2011 by Anita Mellott. Used by permission of Judson Press, www.judsonpress.com.
Author, and homeschooling mom, Anita Mellott has post-graduate degrees in Communications and Journalism. She worked as an editor with Habitat for Humanity International, and headed the Department of Journalism at her alma mater in India. She blogs at From the Mango Tree.