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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Provoking thoughts in fiction

I went to a Christian Writers' Conference last weekend. It was wonderful, uplifting, inspiring, thought-provoking, and, yes, even a little depressing. The main speaker, Bill Giovannetti, was fantastic, funny, and wise - I'll include reviews of a couple of his books below (one read on Sunday, the other on Monday) - and I enjoyed his talks so much I even switched plans for a workshop to hear him again. Thus I began to learn how to write a non-fiction book proposal. And the timing's good. I have a non-fiction book in my head (two or three chapters on the computer) and I'd been wondering if I should try to do something with it. Chance would be a fine thing though, since I'm frantically writing Subtraction, editing Infinite Sum, researching Peter's Promise, dreaming of resurrecting Love on a Transfer, and reading and reviewing in as many genres as I can find. Oh, and washing, shopping, cleaning, weeding the borders, cutting the grass... you get the idea. But his talk was great. He had me almost believing I could really do it. 12 Weeks to a non-fiction Book Proposal? I was even beginning to guess who I'd ask to review my super-proposal along the way. Then I reached the last line. "How many people can you personally sell your book to?" Somehow, I suspect if I answer six (I'm being optimistic - maybe six I'd sell to myself then give away) my chances of that proposal ever being accepted might drop to zero. Ah well, I could always Divide by Zero I suppose...

Anyway, here are some more fiction reviews, with reviews of Bill Giovanetti's non-fiction books at the end. Grab a coffee. I know I need one.

Starting with The Pendle Curse, by Catherine Cavendish: Here's a book I knew I'd enjoy, was thrilled to have on my kindle, then completely forgot to read. (See above: all that washing and shopping does get in the way...) It's an almost perfect blend of classic and modern horror, set in England (where the Pendle witches are part of history and folklore) with past and present day scenes and voices perfectly intertwined. Drink some rich dark five-star coffee and enjoy!

I'd heard The Ishbane Conspiracy, by Angels, Karina & Randy Alcorn, compared with C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters, so I was expecting more modern demonic activity here. But the Alcorns have a heavier hand than Lewis, and paint an image that's more geared toward a singularly American anti-Harry-Potter, Christians-under-seige point of view. Still, perhaps I just feel that way because I'm English. There is wise advice for Christian teens, combined with plenty of examples of teen evangelism, and alternating chapters of the demon's point of view. Read with some more bold dark intense five-star coffee to hand.

Inspector of the Cross, by John B. Rosenman, starts with a warning to readers that its handling of religion might be unconventional. But that's okay. It's seriously classic science fiction, with fascinating hints of future history (told with a pleasingly light touch), great world-building, wonderful aliens and alien lands, universal warfare, and romance, all told through the convincing eyes of a jaded warrior whose travels leave him so far out-of-time that his grandchildren die as old men before his eyes. Drink an elegantly complex four-star coffee and enjoy!

Karen Wyle's Playback Effect is science fiction set closer to home, in a near-future world where experiences can be recorded and shared. Technology's uses for art, information, and control form the three legs of this tale, as home-grown terrorism strikes a little too close to home, and the workings of the human  mind might mend or break the heart. Enjoy with a well-balanced, full-flavored three-star coffee.

Since I was reading science fiction, I had to pick up one of my Christmas presents to read as well. The Returned, by Jason Mott, is set in the present day and imagines what might happen if the dead began coming back to life - not as zombies, but just the same as they once were. On the small stage of small-town America, and elderly couple are reunited with their long-lost son, but is the little boy really a child, or an "it." Meanwhile the world's larger stage wonders how to deal with increasing numbers of strangers filling its streets. The novel balances both stages intriguingly, and quietly asks not so much about life after death as life after loss. It's an oddly compelling and beautiful tale. Enjoy with some more well-balanced, full-flavored three-star coffee.

The Returned isn't Christian fiction, but it invites the sort of questions that are bound to make me think of my faith. So here, as promised, are reviews of two books by that wonderful speaker I heard at the weekend, Bill Giovannetti. Grace Intervention offers a pleasingly empowering argument for accepting grace, not as something totally undeserved (which thus weighs us down), but as something that declares our wonderful worth, because of the indwelling of one who died for us. Secrets to a Happy Life offers a similar message, couched in the language of seeking happiness, and drawn from the story of Joseph, of dream-coat fame. It's a faster read, with simpler observations and lots of wise advice. Enjoy both of these with well-balanced, full-flavored three-star coffee to hand.


Jean Harkin said...

Sheila, what is the proposed subject for your non-fiction book? More on chess? I'm guessing not, but curious what it might be.

Sheila Deeth said...

More on church rather than more on chess, I guess, but they're both "ch" words :) I want to write about faith and... science, history, mythology, legalism, democracy, etc... but all from an everyday, best-friends, chat-over-coffee point of view.