Monday, August 30, 2004

Jack Cavanaugh

I'm peeking out of the review book mountain to discuss my favorite historical fiction author, Jack Cavanaugh. He is known for combining drama with historical accuracy.

Other authors use tried-and-proven general plotlines for specific time periods, Cavanaugh doesn't. Consider his first novel, The Puritans. Drew, his main character, infiltrates a Puritan community in order to find the identity of a pamphleteer, a plot you might expect to find during the Cold War or in a book about the persecuted church in China. Yet his plots mesh so perfectly with history that it doesn't seem out of place, just exciting and unpredictable.

Friday, August 27, 2004


Sorry about the lack of posts this week. I'm buried under a mountain of review books. Once I get out, I'll be able to tell you about them.

Sunday, August 22, 2004


Hope you all enjoy the new author links. They're not in any particular order, and include my favorite and not-so-favorite Christian authors. Many also have tips for writers on their sites. Please let me know if any of the links doesn't work. I'll be adding more as I read more books!

Friday, August 20, 2004


Ted Dekker's signature mark is the way he presents vital themes through his characters' lives in dramatic ways. Many well-known CBA authors have a common thread throughout their titles. Sometimes this can be used as a marketing tag: Brandilyn Collins - "Don't forget to breathe." Or it's simply an area of focus in an author's best-known titles: Janette Oke - prairie romances; B.J. Hoff - Irish immigrants. After a distinction is formed, it's hard to change. Imagine Janette Oke writing a thriller. Or Frank Peretti writing a western. Or B.J. Hoff writing chick lit. T. Davis Bunn dropped the T. for his latest thriller (and wrote juvenile fantasy under the name Thomas Locke), and Dee Henderson states on her website that she'll use a pen name if she switches genres.

All that to say: Now is the time to decide what you want to be known for with your writing. Not just your genre, although that may play a part if you stick to only one. Make it catchy, but make sure it fits your writing and doesn't promise more than you can deliver. Don't let it box you in, though. Use your phrase on your website but don't overdo it. Your readers may come up with one on their own. This is mostly for you to focus your writing - in the idea stage and when you present your work to editors.

This month has been full for me so far, and I have lots more writing to do before it ends. But there's been fun, too. Tuesday night I joined my sisters for a sleepover at their friends' house, and we watched movies till 6AM. Also went to a game night for the college-aged young people - about a dozen guys and girls playing double-deck Hilarium. Bad thing about college people in August, though. They leave. And our little black kitten, Caspian, after surviving an infected neck wound, only lasted a few days after an attack by our yellow lab. (Micah's in the doghouse - literally - and I hope he stays there for a while. Maybe we should change his name to Miraz.) Been plowing through more fantasy books, and have a bunch of reviews due. I really should go to bed before my post becomes completely disconnected, though. Night!

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Dekker POV

Continuing with Dekker this week:

In Ted Dekker's novels the point of view is usually half a step away from the character. Not that he doesn't do POV correctly - no headhopping here. There's just a slight distance - like looking through a character's eyes but not quite living in their brain. You feel their emotions, but you don't feel like they're yours.

I think this is because his books lean more toward the plot-driven camp than the character-driven. It's hard to describe action accurately if you're too caught up in the emotions of the moment. The tiny bit of distance is all Dekker needs. Close enough to feel, far enough to see.

The distance is somewhat of a boon. Your heart isn't ripped out when a character dies - Dekker wants to keep it racing instead. The books don't grip you emotionally as much as mentally. (And that doesn't include the spiritual aspect, which Dekker covers in a breathtaking way.)

Maybe it's a guy/girl thing, but I like being so emotionally involved with the characters that I breathe when they breathe. Maybe guys like a little more distance in their reading. But I'm willing to loosen the emotional bond for the thrill ride of my life.

Thursday, August 12, 2004


Thr3e, while not definitely my favorite (it ties with Blink), stands out in my mind as the most distinct of Dekker's works. The plot twists, a battle between good and evil fought in a most peculiar way, and the best surprise ending I've ever read. It's not the flat-out-"Really?"-Sherlock-Holmes type of ending, where you don't have a usable clue until the answer pops up from his brilliant mind and the case is solved. But part of it was a complete surprise, and part kept you figuring and refiguring as two theories provided proof in an alternating pattern similar to ping-pong.

No more hints. Go out and buy it.

I'm the sort of person who likes things the second or third time around, and that includes authors. It's a rare book that will make me fall in love with an author I've never read before. There are a few. Ann Tatlock's All the Way Home, for example. But generally, I like knowing a little bit about the author before they stick me on a galloping horse until the last page. I'm not the most adventurous person. Doing something for the first time gives me the jitters. If I do something again, it's usually because I know it's safe and well worth my time. It's still thrilling, but it has a slight homey feel as well. (I guess that's why they invented dress rehearsals.)

As I read more and more of an author's books, I understand their methods better, and usually after a while (the time depends on the author) I start disliking their work 'cuz it's so predictable. A few authors continue to surprise me, and the fact heightens my esteem of their writing. The Circle trilogy pulls so many elements from Dekker's other seven books that parts were predictable, though most of it was not. Thr3e wasn't predictable in the least, though I'd read six Dekker books before it. That's why I rate it above the trilogy.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Hints of Narnia and Pray

I was perusing Ted Dekker's message board and came across a month-old post about his daughter. Seven-year-old Chelise has an extremely rare, incurable disease called Dermatomyositis. Roughly 3000 children in the US are afflicted by this malady which ravages the muscles and skin. It does respond to treatment in most and 90 percent of children go into permanent remission after a 2 to 3 year battle. There is no known cause.

Fortunately she's responding well to treatment so far. But keep her in your prayers.

I've noticed several hints of Narnia in The Circle trilogy, whether intentional or not. The 15 years at the end of Black bring to mind the 15 years the Pevensies reign in Narnia at the end of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and the years having no effect in this world is similar, though the Pevensies don't gain back the years when they return to Narnia as Thomas does. How Lucy is drawn toward Justin in Red also smacks of Lucy Pevensie's and Aslan's relationship.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Dramatizing Truth - Ted Dekker

As promised, I'm doing Ted Dekker after I've finished his trilogy. Yes, I've read White. And before you become jealous, remember, you can be a book reviewer, too. I'm not stopping you. In fact, contact me if you're interested and I'll give you some tips on getting started.

If you haven't read Black and Red yet, I may be including a few plot spoilers this week, so you may want to turn off the computer and grab a book. I'll try not to give too much away.

I've read all of Dekker's novels so far, and The Circle trilogy pulls elements from all to create what may be his most powerful books yet. The love between Christ and His church from The Martyr's Song series (especially When Heaven Weeps), the colors and delights of the kingdom from Blessed Child and A Man Called Blessed, the international exploits and revealed future of Blink, and the mind-bending twists of Thr3e blend for a reassuring familiar yet radically new tale.

Don't be put off by Black's confusing and somewhat slow beginning. Just think of it as the long uphill climb at the beginning of a roller coaster. If you must stop for a break from reading, the first half of Black is the best place. For the rest, take a long weekend, take the phone off the hook, and lock the doors.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

VBS Week

Sorry, everyone, for the skipped days, but I'm taking this week off. I'm helping with VBS at our church in the evenings, which is the time I usually post. In the meantime, here's a link to check out: Enjoy, and I'll be back next week.