Category Archives: Criticism

Sex, Violence and Dark Events…

That is the title of my guest post over at Speculative Faith’s Blog which should be up sometime Friday morning July 6. I want to thank you all, my readers, who replied to my request last week for ideas for this post. You can see from the title which of them was most popular.

This post turned out to be a lot harder to write than I expected. I thought I’d just knock it out, but it took me the entire week.

The question I posed myself was : “Should we as Christian novelists include portrayals of sexual sins, violence or other “dark” events in our fiction, or would that be an automatic violation of Christian standards?”

Then I did a nonstop on the subject. That turned out to be more or less a rant, but it had a lot of energy, as rants often do, so every time I re-read it, it just carried me along and no alternative routes opened up before me. Finally, in desperation, I sent it to a friend for help, and afterward sat down and began to just list my thoughts on the matter as they came, without letting the emotion carry me off.

Turns out I have a lot to say on this subject. More than could be confined in a single blog post, so I had to work on paring it down and getting it focused. It was an experience kinda like trying to fill a plastic trash bag with styrofoam peanuts. Every handful you put in, stirs up the peanuts already in the bag. They go flying out, stick to your hand, the inside of the bag, the outside of the bag… Yeah. Very much like that if you substitute “thoughts” for peanuts.

A lot of prayers went up, and at times I had to vigorously trust  that in the end God would make it come clear. Between His help and that of my friend, I believe it did.

Anyway, as I said, it goes up Friday morning, July 6, and I invite you to head on over to Speculative Faith to see for yourself if I succeeded.  Feel free to comment there or here, if you are so moved. I’ll try to monitor both places.

Here’s how the post starts:

Ten years ago this summer Bethany House Publishers released my first novel Arena into a literary world of petticoats, bonnets and buggies. This explains its original pink and purple cover, an attempt perhaps to mitigate the fact that it was a significant departure from the usual run of Christian fiction. While Arena does include an element of romance, at heart it is an allegorical adventure with sometimes dark and violent scenes.

I’ve received a full spectrum of responses to it, from “Fabulous!”…. Read the rest here


Common Courtesy

One of the things I dislike about the Internet is the way it wears away at common courtesy. Some people in their comments  — blogs, product reviews, movie reviews —  just blast away, saying whatever they feel like saying, as rudely and bluntly as it comes out and who cares about the consequences!

One thing that I find especially irritating is when I post something political and people who have never commented before, whom I don’t know, suddenly appear with their negative comments about how wrong I am to have posted such a thing!  Sometimes their remarks do have something to do with what I said. Other times it’s some variant of Bush Derangement Syndrome. I have only to mention the subject in question and here comes the trashing. I wonder how they even found my post and have to conclude they are searching for particular subject matter. So they can go and pounce on some hapless blogger with their negative opinions.

WordPress allows me to moderate comments by first time commenters, and in general I don’t like to censor negative comments out of hand, so unless it’s really obvious they were just trolling for the subject, I approve them. That happened today regarding my Gov Christie post yesterday. Instead of acknowledging the courage and integrity the governor exhibited in the clip I showed, the commenter was on a mission to set me straight on my foolish claim that Christie was conservative. After I thanked him for the comment and noted that I’d not heard about the accusations he’d made, he proceeded to flood my blog with comment after comment on how Not-Conservative Christie supports cap and trade, amnesty and Obamacare, with plenty of links to support his assertions.

Well, fine. I didn’t know Christie supported those things, and a cursory investigation by means of Google indicates that he does indeed, at least to some degree. I don’t support cap and trade, amnesty or Obamacare but does that mean that I cannot applaud courage and common sense when I see it?  Good heavens, Christie’s the governor of Blue Blue Blue state New Jersey. I can hardly believe he’s even there. I doubt he could have been elected there if he were Ronald Reagan. And in any case, he IS a fiscal conservative, and I have watched him stand up to snarky reporters and angry teachers union activists with a backbone I’ve seen few others display. I admire that.

Still, seeing as the commenter was apparently from New Jersey, I can  also sympathize with his frustration. My senator, after all, is John McCain, Mr. I-was-a-Maverick-before-I-wasn’t-a-Maverick, who is also for cap and trade, amnesty, TARP and I can’t recall on Obamacare. I did not vote for him in the primary. I will in the general election, however, (holding my nose)  because his Democratic opponent will not bother to even  pretend  he’s conservative.  The bottom line is very, very few of our elected representatives fulfill all our criteria for Conservatism. And most of them cave immediately when pressured by the media or the unions. And probably by the DC social/political life, as well.

Besides that, Writing From the Edge 2 isn’t meant to be a political blog. I post about politics from time to time, because there are things I find interesting or admirable or exceptional, sometimes ironic, sometimes goofy, sometimes surprising or outrageous or even ominous. But I’m not into political activism and I’m not interested in getting into arguments with people who don’t like what I post, nor sponsoring political discussions in the comments section. There are many other blogs out there who welcome all that, but I just don’t have the time or emotional energy to do so.

In fact, I should be in bed right now. I did 4 hours of writing work today and hoped to get up early to do 4 more hours tomorrow. So I guess I’ll post this thing and stop second-guessing myself. If readers decide that’s it, they can’t read my blog any more because I censor comments I don’t like… so be it.

Judging Well

Criticism, as it was first instituted by Aristotle, was meant as a standard of judging well; the chiefest part of which is to observe those excellencies which delight a reasonable reader
   ~ John Dryden (finest,,)

I really like this quote. I think it meshes well with the command that we, as Christians, are to build each other up rather than tear each other down.  As Eph 4:29 instructs: 

“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. “

[John Dryden (9 August 1631 – 1 May 1700) was an influential English poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright who dominated the literary life of Restoration England to such a point that the period came to be known in literary circles as the Age of Dryden. (From Wikipedia article)]