Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A Book Sale

Pleased to report that my contemporary "second chances" book, DAMAGES, will be released by Desert Breeze Publishing next April.

I love this story. It's about its sixteenth incarnation, where a man recovering from the loss of his disastrous first marriage, embarks on a second for all the wrong reasons. Probably this "mistake" factor is the reason it didn't sell in the mainstream Christian markets. That's fine. Sort of. In any case, I'm glad to see this book get a chance out there, and hopefully engage some readers in a story I like a lot.

There are thematic elements I'm told the Christian reading public won't tolerate. In ANGEL WITH A RAY GUN an early reader told me the main character should be shown praying more. I considered this, but didn't change it much. You see, a "more prayer" theme didn't actually advance the story. And story rules all. In DAMAGES, I was told the marriage-by-mistake theme would turn off readers.

Do Christians make mistakes? Sure. I do, and I don't think I'm atypical. It's how I show the Lord working through these characters' lives that matters. The development of the characters, getting past their less savory decisions, growing in Christ -- that's the story. If the idea that believers make mistakes, even in major life-decisions, turns off some readers, so be it.


Janny said...

The idea that there are certain thematic elements that the Christian "reading public" won't tolerate is ludicrous in the extreme. The reality is, there's a SEGMENT of the Christian reading public that will not accept certain things...and publishers who percevie that they get major bucks from mostly that segment of the market, therefore, give them exactly what they seem to want. There's a world of difference between those two sentiments, though...and that's where the problem lies.

Nowhere was this more clear than when I was reading guidelines for one major house and they came out and said, "Many of our readers consider ________ objectionable; therefore, rather than risk offending a great many readers..."
And then they proceeded to prohibit everything from alcohol to dancing to, I think, sleeveless tops for women. :-) It would go without saying that no Christian character would make a serious "out of fellowship" mistake and stray from the Lord's path in these books...because then, we'd be "glorifying" that behavior by spotlighting it in a main character...

Which brings up the reason for this perception and problem in the first place. Most Christian publishers operate from a position of fear of offending rather than taking any kind of a stand FOR (or even AGAINST) anything. They claim they're standing for certain things in their books, but in reality, they're running scared from the threat of "someone" becoming upset and ceasing to buy the books because they're scandalized by something in them. Instead, they'd rather alienate and bore the rest of us to death. Yeah, THERE's a solid business plan.

What's so infuriating about this stand is that the decisionmakers at these publishers neither understand, nor care to understand, that merely SHOWING something done in a book by Christian characters is not the same as GLORIFYING it or, in effect, conveying the message that it's "okay" to do this stuff. Why is that distinction so difficult to figure out? Those two things are hardly the same; yet because they fear offending the blandest, strictest and/or most legalistic of their readership by daring to actually show Christians who still struggle...we get what we have now. Christians do the RIGHT things in books. Those nasty unsaved people do the WRONG things. That's the way the script has to run: we know from the very beginning who's who, as clearly as if they're wearing black or white hats....and except for a handful of books here or there that stray dangerously close to reality, that limited, bland, and UNREALISTIC picture is what we get, time after time, when we pick up a Christian book. And some of us have had it.

I'm the last person in the world to want depravity in a book--but isn't there some kind of happy medium? Are we saying that the moment you're saved, you NEVER SIN AGAIN? You NEVER MAKE REALLY BAD MISTAKES again? That appears to be the guiding principle behind what we can, and cannot, put in Christian books--exacerbated by a slanted, skewed, and totally sterile view of what constitutes "sin" in the first place.

The world at large has a more Christian worldview, in the context of realizing that people are imperect, than the Christian fiction--or even nonfiction!--world tends to have...which is why the world at large fails to understand or "get" much of Christian fiction. It's not a matter of "until you're saved, you just don't understand." It's a matter of realizing that "saved" does not equal "perfect," and "unsaved" does not equal "just waiting to get saved and perfect here on earth." :-)

Makes me glad I'm planning to write for the ABA. At least secular people "get" that we're not completely redeemed until we get to heaven. The Christian fiction world, by and large, STILL fails to get that...and as a consequence, fails to sign and publish many of us who could probably make them richer, and glorify God way better, than they will ever believe.

My LONG, ranting take...

Deb said...

Boy, lady, you got on a roll, didn'tcha?

I'll read in detail & comment in more detail when I'm done parboiling in the warm South Florida sun (G).

Deb said...

Having read more slowly this time (no longer parboiling but home now in a cool, May-like July afternoon), most of your rant is spot-on.

I've attempted on several occasions to research the "we can't show that or the readers will take the book back to the store and complain" statement. I asked simple, easy questions: what is this demographic? how often does this actually happen?

Did I get anywhere? No. It's just OUT THERE that this occurs. How often? We don't know. Who are the buyers who do? We don't know. How can I find out the actual numbers? Nobody has them.

Yeah. Right. Any first year stats student knows an unverifiable statistic is called an Anecdote. And not usable if you want to make your point.

I suspect what happened is, one reader, once, somewhere, returned a book to a store and complained that the characters were dancing or what have you. Once. Okay, twice. Somewhere. Not exactly what a conscientious writer can base plot elements on, is it?

And yet some of my fellow authors are showing murder on-page. And other things just as objectionable. But that's okay, for some reason.

Better murder than marriage-made-in-error? That's the message I'm taking away.

Jessica said...

I don't think marriage by mistake would turn me off. Sounds interesting, actually.
I just started My Silent Heart which I won a few months back (yes, I'm so behind on my pile it's ridiculous) Anyways, I'm enjoying it. :-)
Congrats on your sale!

sarah said...

Make mistakes??? that's an under statement. I am just thankful He loves me regardless. Sarah