On Faith and Writing: Crossing Over

By Tina Ann Forkner
Many years ago I listened to a popular author say, “A
Christian author should not try to cross from the Christian market into the
general market. They will not be successful in doing so, unless God makes it
happen.”
As an author who wouldn’t have minded being a crossover
novelist, I was perplexed by the author’s statement. I could have misinterpreted
what this person said, but it sounded to me a lot like the author was saying we
had to be appointed or blessed in some way to cross over, and that most of us
weren’t worthy. Basically, I received the message that it was wrong to aspire
to be in any other market.
Well, many of us are blessed and appointed in different
ways, and time has shown that each author’s journey is different. It was soon
after that statement was spoken that I became published in the inspirational
market by a Christian publisher. I was thrilled and still love my publisher and
still promote those books (Ruby Among Us
and Rose House are still available!),
but it was obvious that I was having a hard time connecting with the majority
of Christian readers who loved historical romance fiction. I loved historical
romance fiction too, but I wrote Women’s Fiction. I didn’t even know if I was a
Christian author.
My books did okay, and riding on the heels of such great Literary
Women’s Fiction authors as Mary DeMuth, Susan Meissner, and Lisa Samson I did
find an audience, but sadly they were the kind of readers who don’t usually
shop in the aisles my books were shelved in. In my opinion, Literary Women’s
Fiction really took a hit the next few years in the inspirational market, and
so I quietly took that break I’ve blogged about before, and started pursuing
the general market where I knew my readers, Christian and otherwise, shopped.
It’s true that I don’t call myself a Christian writer
anymore because it would be misleading to readers who are expecting something
different, but it doesn’t mean I am not a Christian. Crossing over wasn’t the
result of some divine appointment (I’m still not a NYT Bestseller!), but I do
think it was part of my calling.
Over the last decade, much has changed in the industry. Most
Christian professionals would not ding anyone for “trying” to pursue general
market publication. Many would say, and have said, go for it! And I love that.
I have kept my membership in American Christian Fiction Writers because I am a
Christian and I love the fellowship with its members and long-time friendships I’ve
formed. I mostly read general market Women’s Fiction because that is what I
write, but I still read Christian fiction from my favorite authors (pointing at
you, Courtney Walsh and Carla Stewart!).
The lessons I’ve learned from watching the changes in the
inspirational market over the years are that we shouldn’t assume we know God’s
plans for others, and more importantly, I’ve learned that the term Christian
Author might not be the label for everyone, and that it’s okay. Some of us are
just authors who are Christians, and even though my last two novels have been
released in the general market by a small traditional publisher, I still need
the fellowship.
I haven’t talked much about this aspect of my journey
before, because I don’t like to rock the boat, but I wanted to say something
now because there are authors out there who are Christians who think they only
have one choice, but it’s not true. God’s plan for them is only for them. I sometimes
wonder what that author I quoted in the beginning of this piece would say now.
I hope they changed their mind.
That’s the beautiful thing about being a Christian. We can
change and allow others to change. We can be there to support each other in a
special way that a shared faith makes possible, and that’s why I didn’t make a
clean break from my Christian writing family. I guess in that sense, I never
really crossed over.
Tina Ann Forkner
is a substitute teacher and award-winning author of multiple novels including Ruby Among Us, Rose House, and her newest release The Real Thing. Her novel, Waking
Up Joy
, is a recipient of the Virginia Romance Writers HOLT Medallion Award
of Merit for Romantic Elements. Tina is also a proud member of Tall Poppy
Writers, American Christian Fiction Writers, and American Fiction Writers
Association. Learn More: www.tinaannforkner.com

Get it While You Can

For a limited time, Tyndale is offering Wings of Glass via Nook, ibook, Kindle, Google Play and wherever ebooks are sold for just $1.99. Hurry, this deal isn’t going to last! (And just 1.59 at CBD)

  • Best Books of 2013: Library Journal
  • 2014 INSPY Winner
  • ECPA Book of the Year Finalist
  • Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Finalist
  • Southern Indie Booksellers Alliance OKRA Pick
  • Southern Literary Review Read of the Month: “Wings of Glass proves Gina Holmes’s mettle as an author. This a solid novel, for Holmes has deftly handled a story about domestic violence that is both heart-wrenching and endearing at the same time.”

 
 
From the best-selling author of Crossing Oceans comes a heartrending yet uplifting story of friendship and redemption. On the cusp of adulthood, eighteen-year-old Penny Carson is swept off her feet by a handsome farmhand with a confident swagger. Though Trent Taylor seems like Prince Charming and offers an escape from her one-stop-sign town, Penny’s happily-ever-after lasts no longer than their breakneck courtship. Before the ink even dries on their marriage certificate, he hits her for the first time. It isn’t the last, yet the bruises that can’t be seen are the most painful of all.

When Trent is injured in a welding accident and his paycheck stops, he has no choice but to finally allow Penny to take a job cleaning houses. Here she meets two women from very different worlds who will teach her to live and laugh again, and lend her their backbones just long enough for her to find her own.

“Wings of Glass is a powerful, can’t-put-down novel, so real that it reads like a memoir. (Liz Curtis Higgs, New York Times bestselling author)”

Are E-Books Making Us Sloppy Readers?

reprinted with permission: TessGerritsen.com

By Tess Gerritsen

When I was young, one of the great pleasures of reading mysteries by Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie was the challenge of spotting clues and finding the villain before the fictional detective did. It required careful reading, and taking the time to ponder the evidence. I fear readers today don’t have the same patience.
I say this because of comments I’m hearing about my new novel PLAYING WITH FIRE, which has a startling “Sixth Sense” revelation at the end that completely flips the reader’s assumptions upside down. “You pulled a rabbit out of a hat!” “You didn’t play fair!” are some of the reactions.  When I point out the numerous clues that are evident throughout the story, clues that should have told them all they needed to know to solve the mystery, their response is: “Oh, I missed that,” or “I didn’t realize that was important.” They had read the story so quickly that they’d simply skimmed right past the half dozen glaring clues without pausing to consider their significance.
 A far cry from the days when readers would carefully ponder the evidence the way Miss Marple and Sherlock Holmes did.
 I don’t think this was true 16 years ago, when I first started writing the Rizzoli and Isles series. Crime readers are a pretty clever bunch, and it used to be a challenge to surprise them.  I’d have to carefully disguise every clue.  Now I find that more and more readers are missing those clues and even need me to point out where they occur in the story. I don’t think readers are stupider; I think they’re just not reading as attentively as they once did, and the reason may be that many are reading stories in digital format. As a result, they’re doing more skimming and less pondering.
 And they skip right past vital information.
 PLAYING WITH FIRE is about Julia, a violinist who buys an old handwritten music manuscript in a Rome antique store. It’s a complex piece that accelerates into some high, piercing notes. Whenever she plays it, her 3-year-old daughter Lily seems to turn violent and even stabs Julia. No one else witnesses these attacks, and Julia’s husband doubts they even happened. The search to explain Lily’s behavior leads to a series of doctors and medical tests.  But soon it’s Julia’s sanity that’s in doubt.
 Although the answer to the mystery may be shocking to some, the evidence is actually there all along, in the form of some pretty obvious clues.  Which are….
(more comments below, after the spoiler)
 *********SPOILERS AHEAD.  SKIP PAST THE FOLLOWING IF YOU DON’T WANT TO SPOIL THE SURPRISE ENDING !!!  **************
— Julia has headaches.  Several times throughout the story, she complains of them.
— A pediatric neurologist discusses the possibility that Lily suffers from Complex Partial Seizures, where the patient appears to be awake, may perform bizarre behaviors, and is completely unaware this is happening. The patient has no memory of this and experiences only a puzzling gap in time.  The doctor also explains that these seizures can be set off by certain high frequency sounds or by flashing lights.
— The doctor also reveals that many patients with CPS are misdiagnosed as having psychiatric problems.
— Julia loses track of a few hours and fails to pick up Lily at daycare.  All she knows is that hours have passed and she can’t account for them.
— Her husband complains that lately Julia doesn’t seem to be listening to him and she doesn’t answer his questions.
— Julia later suffers another gap in time after she sees a camera’s flashing “low battery” light.
As I was writing the story, I worried that the clues were TOO obvious.  Wouldn’t readers find it too easy to figure out that the problem wasn’t Lily at all, but JULIA, who turns out to be a whoppingly unreliable narrator?
But no. They didn’t see that answer coming at all. They missed the clues, so they think the answer came out of left field.  All the signs were there, yet they missed the diagnosis.  So they blame the writer.
(Interesting side note — I just heard from a reader who was recently diagnosed with CPS. He recognized what was going on in the story because he’d experienced something very similar.)
 ******************END SPOILERS   *********************
So now we mystery writers face a dilemma.  As the percentage of our digital readers climbs, readers who click past pages so quickly they often miss vital details, how do we adjust our stories?  Do we label our clues with bright red flags?  Do we insert traffic signs warning them “slow down, twists ahead”?  Must we consider the shorter attention spans of an audience that seems to revel in reading faster, ever faster?
I don’t know.  I just know that I miss the days when we took our time to read — and understand — books.

How to Know if You’re Called to Be a Writer

by CJ Darlington

How
can you know if God’s calling you to be a writer? Finding out doesn’t have to
be mysterious or hard. But you won’t find the answer in your head, because
God’s calling lives in our hearts.

Child’s Play
What
did you love to do for fun as a kid? Often God will give us natural
inclinations as children that coincide with our calling as adults. Have you
always had a fascination with stories, books or writing? Chances are God’s put
that in your heart. It’s not about skill. You can develop skills, but you can’t
fabricate a calling.

I
remember as a teen I begged God to show me what I was supposed to do with my
life. I prayed and yearned to know. Right then. But if I had looked closely, I
would’ve seen He was already leading and guiding me through my childhood
dreams. I loved to read as a kid. One of my favorite activities was visiting
the library, and I’d come home with bags full of books. I loved writing little
stories about animals. My sister and I started a newspaper/magazine we peddled
around the neighborhood for fifty cents.

When
I was fifteen I started writing a story about two sisters. I had no idea that
story would eventually become my first published novel, Thicker than Blood,
or that the book would become the first in a series. Those initial pages were
horrible, but I kept at it because it was something I couldn’t not do. That’s
another way to recognize a God-given dream. Does it burn within you? I asked
Jerry B. Jenkins once how beginning writers could know they were called to
write, and he said if you can’t not write you may be called to write.

God
puts desires and dreams in our hearts at an early age to guide us into our
calling. 

And why wouldn’t He? Doesn’t it make sense He’d plant ideas in our
hearts as children? As Psalms 139 says, “All the days ordained for me were
written in your book before one of them came to be.” It’s only as we get older
that those dreams begin to fade due to the distractions and pressures of life.
Take time and look back. Remember what you dreamed about as a kid. Maybe you’ll
discover God’s been calling you for longer than you think.

It’s Never
Too Late



You
might be wondering, “Did I miss my calling? Have I wasted years of my life when
I should’ve been writing?”

Even
if you were supposed to start writing sooner, don’t despair. I like to think of
life’s journey as walking down a road. The easiest way would be to stay on the
straight path. But many of us veer off course. We might take a turn that wasn’t
God’s direction for us. Note to self—don’t sweat it. God’s a God of love,
forgiveness and grace. All we have to do is ask Him to get us back on track.
And you know what? He will. No matter how many wrong turns you take, God can
reprogram your life’s GPS and still get you to that final destination… the
fulfillment of your dreams and His plans.

Here’s
something I’m learning—nothing is ever wasted by God. Did you dream of being a
writer but for whatever reason became a lawyer instead? Great! Maybe you can
write a legal thriller. Your life experiences can help you create a character
you might not have written otherwise. Did you become a nurse instead of writing
the next Great American novel? Maybe you’ll share your knowledge and experience
writing nonfiction articles about health. Or maybe you’ll write a historical
novel, featuring a struggling doctor serving in the Vietnam War.

Even
though I wrote stories when I was young and dreamed of someday publishing a
book, writing wasn’t exactly paying the bills. So I followed another interest
of mine—rare books. I became a book scout and sold used and rare books to local
bookstores before eventually co-founding my own online bookstore with my
sister, Tracy.

I
was able to incorporate a lot of what I learned about rare books and the book
business into my stories. A first edition of Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the
Bell Tolls
plays an important role in Thicker than Blood, and that
was one of the very first rare books I learned about. It might not have looked
like I was on track for reaching my dreams during those grueling book scouting
years, but God knew all along the experiences I’d need to write the novels I’m
writing today. It was all part of God’s plan for my life after all.

Why write?


You’re
sitting at the computer staring at a blank screen. The words aren’t coming. You
start to think about everything else you could be doing, what you want for
lunch, and the question flits through your mind, “How can I possibly impact the
world with stories? What good is writing anyway?”

Think
about this—God could’ve imparted his Word to us in many ways. He could’ve
branded it on our minds or invented the iPad sooner. But what did He choose? He
wrote His words down in a book. How many lives have been changed by that one
Book alone? Do you think God would’ve chosen writing as his medium for
conveying the gospel if there were something more powerful?

One
day a couple years ago (or was it yesterday?) I was lamenting how hard writing
is and the worth of it all. My mom asked me a question I’ve never forgotten.
She said, “If everything you ever wrote reached only one person for the Lord,
would you still do it?”
Maybe
that’s a question we all need to ask ourselves. Your lifetime of words will
impact at least one. When people read novels their defenses go down. They might
not listen to a preacher or a family member or even their best friend. But
stories are powerful. Jesus himself used stories liberally in his teachings.
The Prodigal Son. The Good Samaritan. If anyone would know the most effective
way to win people for the Lord, it would be the Lord Himself, don’t you think?

Writing novels is a vital calling. You can be called to write a novel the same
way a preacher is called to preach. In the book Writer to Writer
(originally published by Bethany House) by Bodie and Brock Thoene write:

“You
have a unique perspective! No one has the combination of gifts of the Spirit in
the same proportion that you do. No one! What’s more, God has been leading you
through experiences and circumstances that contribute to you being you and no
one else. No one has all your memories. Even identical twins have some
experiences they haven’t shared. 

“If
God is calling you to be a writer, then He will lead you from this point on.
And you will soon discover that He has known all along that you’d have this
desire and has been building into your life a whole set of unique events from
which you’ll be able to draw your own one-of-a-kind perspective.”

Don’t Give
Up

Maybe you do believe God’s calling you to pursue writing. You’re banging out
the story of your heart at the keyboard, and you’d love to see it published.
You figure you’ll finish it and send it off to a publisher, or slap it up on
Amazon, and the rest will be history. Isn’t that the way it works? Well . . .
not always. It wasn’t that way for me. It took fourteen very long years before
my first book was published.

This
is where trusting God comes in. If it was up to us we’d be published in months,
not years. But you know the Scripture that says God’s ways are higher than our
ways? It comes in really handy to remember that when it seems like our writing
dreams are never going to come true.

I’m
very glad I didn’t get published right away. As I look back I see God’s hand
guiding me all those years ago opening some doors, closing others, leading me
to where I am today. But it wasn’t easy to see then. I had a plan all figured
out. If it had come true like I envisioned, it would’ve been a lot harder
journey. God knew that.

Don’t
give up on the discouraging days, because they will come. Proverbs 16:3 says,
“Commit your work to the Lord and your plans will succeed.” If you do, then you
can’t fail. He’ll make sure you get where you need to be at just the right
time.

C.
J. Darlington has just released her fifth novel, Running on Empty. C. J.
has loved to read since she was a kid dragging home bags of books from the
library. When she was twelve she started dreaming about becoming a published
author. That dream came true when her first novel Thicker than Blood won
the 2008 Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel
contest. It became the first book in the Thicker than Blood series, which also
includes Bound by Guilt, Ties that Bind, and now Running on
Empty
. She has also written Jupiter Winds, the first book in a teen
space adventure series. C. J. lives in Pennsylvania with her family and their
menagerie of dogs and a Paint mare named Sky.