What’s On My Reading List

One of my favorite things is supporting indie authors and their efforts.  And as everyone knows, if you want to be a good writer, you have to read, read, read.  Here’s a run-down of what is on my list.

Jill Williamson’s epic Kinsman Chronicles Series.  So far, I’m really enjoying it.  Will review when I’m through with all six.

The traditionally published Tim Keller’s “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering.”  Of course, nobody can say it quite like this modern-day CS Lewis.  I started this awhile ago (read: months ago) and as it sits on my nightstand, I savor it, like a hot cup of coffee I’m afraid will end.

Hugh Howey’s Wool.  This needs no explanation.

James Maxwell’s “Hidden Relic”, the second part of his Evermen Saga.  So far so good…will also review when I’m through with the series.

book stack

On the docket:

Looking forward to diving into some not so Indie titles: Ender’s Game, Pillar to the Sky, and perhaps a thriller, to branch out a bit.  Any suggestions?

One of the coolest things, in my humble opinion, about the indie author community is the ability to support each other as we all work hard at improving our craft.  I’m biased towards fantasy and sci-fi, since my own work in progress(s) are in the fantasy genre, but I’m pretty sure the same thing goes for ANY genres within this community.  What are some of your favorite things about it?  Comment below!

Vine

vine

 

Wispy tendrils stealing softly, fire embeds my mind

Flinging seeds of suspicions blind

Hearken now to my story, listen if you dare

A tale of rejection and despair

The seeds of vine’s worries stem from roots of doubt

Can my heart be free from wounds of gout?

 

What’s this fearsome frenzy, of soul’s shaking sight?

No center for my eyes to focus light

Clouding all my thoughts, dimming shadows views

Fleeting prose and dreadful, soundless muse

Be silent, oh accuser! Be silent, thoughts constrain!

Final dusk creeps to ponder vain

 

Conflict and torture! Angst and sorrow large!

Loom ever-present taking charge

Vine slinks closer still, darkening my door

Mist steals gradually up the shore

Vine of abysmal anguish! Vine of coarse regret!

Rises imminent fostering final threat

 

Linger no longer, plant of floundering pain

My true heart desires righteous gain

I cannot attain it! It slips through my fist!

A traitor betrays with conniving kiss!

Flesh rises in me, virtue it defeats

If only grace could peaceful mercy meet!

 

Reckless is my falling, dreadful fear abounds

I must travel to the burial ground

There I find death, to shameful gloom regress

There my comfort waits to oppress

Consolation in shame, because I know it well

I’d rather have my immortal soul to sell

 

What’s this vine I see!  Wrapped upon the tombs!

I can’t escape its sacrilegious blooms!

Where is my freedom? Where’s my liberty?

Oh this vine of deceit and trickery!

Vile you await, to mock my calm reflection!

Wherever you await is my rejection!

 

So flee I must, from restful deliberation

And bid this sanctuary salutation

But where is there to go? Can I escape your wares?

Wherever I go, there is your deadly stares

Thorns envelope you, oh poisonous plant you are!

You shoot out darts to wound and scar!

 

Running aimlessly, my life a repulsive race

I long to find a truly restful place

Does such a thing exist?  Or is all fantasy?

My soul will never be given amnesty

Fie soporific waters! You do not endure!

You are fleeting, and certainly unsure!

 

Shame, doubt, fear, dread, call out my name

Their cries echo forward to proclaim

There is no peaceful life, there is no harmony

Evil reigns supreme triumphantly

So slip away I must, collapse in flesh and bone

A soul rejected, no hope, no love, alone      

Image is Not Everything

Our culture gets it wrong when it comes to women and image. That is no surprise, and much has been said on the topic. The Huffington Post did a piece on what tabloids would look like if they treated men the way they treated women. Westminster College has a well-researched article about beauty standards, women in the media, and how women internalize the “thin-beauty” standard.

It seems that although the culture admits there is a problem, they still buy into the lie that if you are thin you are prettier than if you are fat, if you have blonde hair you are more attractive than if you don’t, and having no skin flaws makes you sexier. And I’m not even touching on the anti-aging issue. One top health website has an article about top ten anti-aging tricks.

Walk through a mall and not only will you see advertisements adorning every store about beauty standards, but you will see a young generation that is literally buying into the lie that image is everything. Now that I have two sons, I want to teach them how to respect women and not objectify them. Lord willing, if I have any daughters I want to teach them to love how God created them and not have an unrealistic view of their body type. Yet the competing voices of the media and their friends will tempt them to not listen to Mom and Dad, and to go sell their souls at the altar of image. They will have to wear certain clothes. They will have to have certain hairstyles. My daughter will have to start wearing make-up at nine. She will have to have sexy underwear from Victoria’s secret in middle school…the list goes on, and it tempts me to fear. How will I raise godly children in this culture that is at war over their hearts?

I think it goes beyond just teaching Silas and Gideon to not objectify girls, and I think it goes beyond teaching any future daughters that they are beautiful no matter what. It goes fundamentally deeper; to the very identity that God has given us not just as Christians, but also as humans. Because at the heart level, sin takes what God created good and twists it to be something it wasn’t meant to be.

Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Originally, women (and men) were in the image of God. Not the image of who we were as individuals, reflecting our own inner selves that are beautiful. No. We were, and still are, God’s image-bearers. Once, Eve reflected God in a more perfect way than any sinfully flawed women that came after her (us included!) ever can or could. That is the image that matters, and that is the image we must teach our children.

It isn’t about keeping them unstained from the culture, or even learning how to love and respect others. Ultimately, a right understanding of who they are in God will lead to a right understanding of themselves and others. Wayne Grudem in Systematic Theology says, “…as we read the rest of Scripture, we realize that a full understanding of man’s likeness to God would require a full understanding of who God is in his being and in his actions and a full understanding of who man is and what he does.”

In order to teach our children about God and themselves, we as mothers (and fathers) must understand these things ourselves. And it must come from hearts that have been affected by these truths, and not just words regurgitated from Scripture or big books like Systematic Theology. We can’t expect our children to take us seriously if they don’t see the truths we teach them modeled in the way we live our own lives. I can’t expect my boys to respect women who aren’t beautiful by the world’s standards if he hears me talking about how ugly someone is if they are larger than others, or if they have acne scars. I can’t expect any future daughters to be comfortable in their bodies if they hear me bemoaning the extra weight I carry around on my own body, talking about how ugly I am.

The culture says that image is everything. God says He Himself is everything. Sin says we need to look a certain way, act a certain way, and buy certain things to be happy and to have the correct image. God says that a certain Someone came and did what we couldn’t; he perfectly reflected God, was completely sinless, and did the complete opposite of what the world thought he should do. He allowed himself to be crucified to show the culture, and us, just how far the distortion of sin reached, and just how serious God took the lies we believed that the world’s image was better than His image. And even still, with the resurrection and seal of God’s approval, Christ still has a human image, one that we will have also, that will once again perfectly reflect what was once distorted in Eden.

Hope is never completely lost in the kingdom of God. While we wait for the perfect image to be restored, let us show our children and the world that even now, in a fallen world, we can still accurately represent God and his kingdom by not buying into the cultures lies. There is only one image that matters, and it certainly isn’t the one we have been bombarded to believe. It isn’t a transitory, ever-decaying image; it’s an everlasting one. And it points directly to the One seated on the throne, with his Son placing his feet on the world as his footstool.

Conformity

conformity As a writer, finding a way to “stand out” from the crowd of other amazing authors with brilliant story ideas can be challenging (to put it mildly.)  Depending on your genre, there are beloved tropes of that genre that readers want, regardless of whether it’s new and exciting or not.

So does conforming to these tropes make you a sell-out?  Well, not according to Neal Gardner.  He says, “One does not necessarily have to cluck in disapproval to admit that entertainment is all the things its detractors say it is: fun, effortless, sensational, mindless, formulaic, predictable and subversive. In fact, one might argue that those are the very reasons so many people love it.”

 Life the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality

The issue is, of course, at what point do we stay in conformity with a genre, and at what point do we dally within the constraints that keep a genre…well…a genre.  As a fantasy writer, examples of tropes would be magic, new worlds, swords, good vs. evil, coming of age, etc. Just to name a few.

What are your thoughts?  Do you have trouble with this, too, or is it just me? Continue reading “Conformity”