I am The Writer, I Speak for the Innocence

While trying to study this morning, I was distracted by the Today’s Professional segment on The Today Show.  I don’t often pay much attention to that segment, just because one of the “professionals” really gets on my nerves.  But this morning, the topic of discussion intrigued me.  As a writer, publishing trends catch my attention.  This trend was about teen novels, and as my sons are rapidly approaching their teen years, I was very interested in what might be discussed.

What I heard left me feeling outraged.  I swear, I’d like to get my hands on someone (that “professional” that annoys me, perhaps?) and shake some sense into them.

How can someone possibly think that writing Fifty Shades of Grey-style novels for teens is actually a good idea?

I have never read the Fifty Shades trilogy and I don’t intend to.  From what I have heard from a variety of sources, the book is, at best, “soft” porn.  There is a strong focus on the sexual relationship between the two main characters, including some rather detailed descriptions of their actions.  I don’t know, really, how the term “soft” applies; porn is porn.  Call it what it is.

There is little doubt in my mind that this series of novels I getting into the hands of teen girls.  They see their mother reading it, some probably even see Mom trying to hide that she is reading, and can’t wait to read it themselves.  Thinking it will make them look “cool” to their friends, they probably slip it off the bookshelf as soon as Mom has finished reading it and sneak the books to school.

And now some brilliant mind in the publishing industry has decided that making similar books for teens, apparently books in a new sub-genre called “steamies,” is a good, money making idea.  So how did that conversation go?  “Let’s exploit young girls, take away the last vestige of innocence they have, and give them explicit tales of teenage lust that will completely distort their idea of what love is about. It’s brilliant!”

It’s something, all right.  Not sure that brilliant is the right word for it, though.

As parents today, we need to reach our kids to value themselves enough to just enjoy the gentle, tenderness of first love as it unfolds and to respect themselves and the one they love enough to not give into the lust just because peers and society say it is the cool thing to do.  Not an easy thing to do with the pressures of society and that entertainment choices that are readily available to teens today.  I know a lot of parents who have worked hard to do that, and still have kids who focus on the lust rather than the love.

So maybe it is time for the publishing industry to help out.

No, I don’t think this one blog post—or even a series of blog posts like it—will stop publishers from producing steamies.  Publishers are in it for the money; they don’t often care who might be harmed by the books they publish so long as the sales improve their bottom line.

But this is one author who DOES care.  I am not willing to compromise my children or their friends in order to make a little money.  Yes, it is hard to make  a steady income with writing.  But it is not worth it to me to make money at this career if it means causing harm to someone else.  And porn hurts, in a lot of ways.  Not that I have the time go into all of those ways today!  But it does hurt, and I refuse to be a part of it.

Someone recently asked me to define what being a successful writer means to me.  Success to me is touching one life with my words, making a positive impact on someone with the story that God gave me to write.  Writing a story that emphasizes sex is not something that I can see having a positive impact on anything.  I won’t do it.  No matter how much money a publisher offers me to do it.

I wish other writers would stand up with me on this.  I’d love to somehow build a network of writers who are committed to not only getting young men and women to read, but to giving them books worth reading.  But even if I have to stand alone in this, that is what I will do.

Holy eBooks, Batman!

In early May, I thought I would celebrate 5 years of writing full time by giving away three of my novels free for the Kindle. My husband wasn’t sure what he thought about that. He was concerned that by giving them away, I was losing money. The ebooks weren’t selling before, though. It’s not always easy to get your books purchased when you are an “unknown” author. I thought that if I could give away a few copies and then sell copies of the other titles, it would be well worth it. I chose to only do three titles–FORSAKING THE CALL, SUMMERTIME, and MIRACLE PLAY–because they were the only ones I had formatted for Kindle. I put them up for free for 2 days each and worked on formatting the other two books. Yesterday, both SHATTERED and THE LADIES OF FAITH went up on Kindle for a 2-day free promotion.

This morning, I checked on sales numbers and was pleasantly shocked at what I saw.

A total of 300 free copies of FORSAKING THE CALL were downloaded. An additional 20 copies were purchased.

A total of 276 free copies of http://www.amazon.com/Miracle-Play-ebook/dp/B007MNX776/ref=sr_1_4_title_0_main?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1338382026&sr=1-4 were downloaded. An additional 6 copies were purchased.

A total of 386 free copies of SUMMERTIME were downloaded. An additional 18 copies were purchased.

So far, 692 free copies of THE LADIES OF FAITH have been downloaded and a staggering 852 copies of SHATTERED have been downloaded. No paying sales on those two yet, as the free promo is still going on.

Did you add up those numbers?? I did. It is over 2500 copies of my books that have gotten into the hands of readers just this month. “Only” 44 of those were paid, so I only get royalties on those 44 books. My husband looks at the 2500 books that I don’t get paid and gets said. I look at the 44 that will earn me some money, and I am excited! Before this month, I had not sold any electronic copies of my books. If I hadn’t taken a chance and offered the giveaway, I likely would not have sold those 44 books.

I am not in the writing business to make money. Sure, I’d love to make a steady income at this. I would love to have a studio purchase movie rights for one or more of my books and earn enough that my husband doesn’t have to go spend his days in a hot factory. But the money isn’t my guiding force. My goal is to get my work into the hands of readers, to find people who have never heard the message of Christ’s love and use my work to plant a little seed in their lives. That is my goal. And the free Kindle promotion seems to be helping me to reach that goal.

Pride and Joy

I was 12 when I first knew that I wanted to be a writer.  My first stories were told to my many dolls and.stuffed animals.  There was even a “puppet show” that my younger sisters and I put on for our parents.  That is the first clear storytelling memory I have–performing that little play based on Cinderella for Mom and Dad after church one Sunday.  Though I can’t take writing credit for that show–Cinderella had been told for years and nh sisters did help with rewriting it to suit our needs–that was the first time that I realized I could make other people smile and even laugh with my words. When my fifth trade teacher suggested I start to write down my stories, I listened.  It was fun–even more fun than reading, which was my favorite passtime back then (and still is in many ways today!)

I wrote down the stories, but I didn’t keep many of them.  I have one or two that I wrote on junior high and high school.  Not many, though.  Some of the ones I did keep (I remember a few long ones from high school that I wrote about my friends and I meeting and falling in love with some of our favorite celebrities that I was sure I’d never throw out) were stored in the attic above my parents’ garage.  Unfortunately, that home was destroyed by fire a little over three years ago.  So I lost those stories.  There are parts and scenes from those stories that I still remember and I could probably replicate, if I ever had the need.  Still, it would be nice to actually have copies of some the stories that I wrote in high school and before.

Why am I telling you all of this?  Because something happened in my home at the end of last month that made me think about those old stories.  What triggered that memory?  It was something that my oldest son did.  He did something that most 11-year-olds would not think to do.

He wrote and published his first book, The Storm.

From the time I decided to write books, I said, “Someday I will publish my own novel.”  It took 20 years for someday to finally arrive for me.  Andru, though, didn’t wait.  He wrote his book and when he felt it was perfect, he self-published it.

My son, the author!

Now, I don’t want to hear that self-publishing doesn’t count as really publishing, as some have told me about my own work.  The book is in print, it is for sale, and it is lovely!  I am so proud of my son.  When my first novel was published nearly four years ago, Andru told me, “When I grow up, I want to write books like you, Mom, and not have a real job like Dad.”  I still giggle a little about that.  I think what I do is a real job and just as difficult and demanding as what my husband does.  But I understand the thought behind it.  Dru saw how happy my work makes me, where as my husband doesn’t have quite the same passion for his work.  I am glad that he realized that it is possible to have a job that is both fun and rewarding.

Andru is having fun telling people about his book.  He’s even become a bit of a local celebrity at his school.  He had more orders for The Storm than I did for my latest novel last week.  I’ve had to remind him more than once that writing a book is the easy part; selling one can be a bit more tricky.  I’ve also told him that if he is writing books only to make money, then he is in it for the wrong reason.  A writing career is only for those who truly love to tell a story.  Andru assures me that he does.

Available on Amazon.com

I am just so proud of what he has done.  I’ve always known there was something special about that young man.  He amazes me every day with the things that he does.  I can’t imagine anything bringing me more joy than seeing the delight on his face with this book.  I’d rather see Dru become successful with his writing (if that is what he chooses to do with his life) than to have my own successes.

Not that I am going to stop trying!

Andru’s book, The Storm, is available on Amazon.com at the following link….

http://www.amazon.com/The-Storm-Andru-McMonigal/dp/1470106884/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&qid=1330873779&sr=8-12

Reader’s Block

Georg Schäfer Museum

Image via Wikipedia

Help!!  I am suffering from reader’s block!

What’s that?  You’ve never heard of reader’s block?  It is a fairly common condition, a horrible affliction for any bibliophile to face.  It happens when a reader can find nothing good to read on his or her shelf.  The condition can worsen over time, like mine has.  Not only can I find nothing good to read at home, I’ve found nothing worth reading in the book section of Wal-Mart (and I can’t go to a book store as my lovely hometown no longer has one) and have no clue what to read from the library.

I just have no clue what to read!

Any suggestions?

I am serious here.  I need some suggestions on what to read.  Asking makes me a little nervous.  Last time I asked for a book recommendation, I ended up all wrapped up in the world of Twilight.  Reading that series forced me to admit that I had been wrong about the books—they are very well-written and just so realistic (well, the love story part, anyway!)  So I got thinking….

What other delightful literary worlds am I missing out because of some preconceived notions I might have about a book or an author?

When it comes to books, I am pretty easy to please.  There is very little that I will not read.   Poetry—that is one that I am not real fond of, but I am willing to consider it.  About the only thing I will put my foot down about are sex, blood, and swearing.  Not interested in reading vivid descriptions about someone’s love life.  The same with blood and violence—I don’t like scary, gory movies so I don’t imagine books like that would appeal to me.  Besides, I have such a vivid imagination that I am sure that dreams from books like that would keep me from sleeping well for a week!  As far as swearing goes, I suppose there is a place for that in some conversations.  But I don’t like reading something where the dialog consists of little more than just swearing.

Do you know any books that fit into that category?  Very light on the sex, blood, and swearing?  Something that you would recommend I read?  Classic, contemporary, poetry.  Anything, really.  I am just looking for some ideas.  And I am willing to pay for them….

I have two $10 gift cards to give away.  Interested in winning one?  The winner can choose an amazon.com card or an iTunes card.  To win it, all you have to do is comment on this post.  Leave your name and email address, along with at least one book suggestion.  If you could, please tell me why you are recommending that book.  That will help me determine what I really should read.  On September 30, I will draw one random winner from all of the comments.  The other card will go to the person whose suggestion I actually follow!

Feel free to pass this post along to other readers you know!  The more the merrier!

THE EDGE OF GRACE, My Review

An early morning call shatters Caryn Becker’s world.  Unable to cope with her brother’s news that he is gay, Caryn rejects him and disappears into her own turbulent like as a young widow and single mom.  But when David is attacked and nearly killed, Caryn is forced to make hard choices about family, faith and her own future; choices that take her to the very edge of grace.

To be totally honest, when I first heard that Christa Allan had a new book out, I didn’t care what the book was about.  She could have written 500 pages about watching paint dry or grass grow, and I would have wanted to read it.  OK, so that might be a bit of an exaggeration.  But I enjoyed her first book so much that I would have read The Edge of Grace no matter what topic it covered or how the plot twisted.  The first book was written in such a fluid, conversational style.  I had great hopes for the second.

And I was not disappointed.

The story really hit home for me (check out what I posted about it yesterday if you want to know why.)  Dealing with a gay family member can be very confusing, to say the least.  Caryn’s reaction to her brother’s was very real—“he’s doing something that I don’t approve of and can’t relate to, so I am just going to ignore him.”  Her attitude didn’t make the “problem” go away or turn back the clock to a time when she didn’t know that David was not happily in love with the woman he was planning to marry, but it did help Caryn to cope with the shock.  At least in the very beginning.  It was interesting to watch Caryn move from denial to acceptance, even though the metamorphosis meant changes in her own life and in her way of thinking.

The Edge of Grace was a very well-written story about a topic many Christians struggle with.  This book earns my highest recommendation.  I can’t say that I agree with all of the opinions expressed in this book, but that is OK.  At least reading it forced me to consider positions other than my own.

I think Caryn said it best herself in this speech to her brother near the end of the book: “And God is reaching me, maybe in very small steps, that He is the final judge, not me.  And that my job, for as long as I am here, is to reach out and love.”

That is something I think we all should keep in mind before we start hurling insults and accusations at one another.

Christa Allan is the author of Walking on Broken Glass and the mother of five.  Christa teaches high school English.  She and her husband, Ken, live in Abita Springs, Louisiana.  Visit Christa on the web at http://www.christaallan.com.

Suspenseful Intervention

Barbara Covington is living every mother’s worst nightmare.  Her teenage daughter, Emily, has morphed from a friendly, fun-loving child into a teen with a drug problem.  Barbara can’t help but blame herself.  Maybe she didn’t do enough during her husband’s illness and in the months following his death to be a good mother.  Maybe she had just never been a good mother.  That her son, Lance, doesn’t have a drug problem doesn’t matter much.  It is her failures with Emily that drive Barbara’s life now.  She makes one final, desperate decision to try to conquer Emily’s drug problem.  Little does she know that sending her little girl across the country for an intense, in-patient rehabilitation program would plunge her family into a nightmare far worse than the drug addiction ever was.

For years, I’d been told I should try one of Terri Blackstock’s books.  For years, I found excuses not to.  And then I found Intervention available for my Sony Reader, and I thought I’d stop making excuses.  This isn’t the kind of book I normally read.  I don’t normally like thrillers, and honestly did not expect to enjoy this one as much as I did.  But from the moment I read the first page until I finished with the last, I found this book hard to put down.

Blackstock is good at what she does.  In this case, what she did was combine the love of a mother with a daughter’s desire for some sort of independence.  Barbara reminded me a lot of mother, in that she would do anything to protect her children.  I found myself relating a lot to her—I would go to the ends of the earth to find my missing child and ensure that child’s protection. 

I think my favorite part of the book, though, is the character of Emily.  One minute, I wanted to slap her for being so rude and selfish.  The next, I wanted to hold her in my arms as she cried.  The resolution of this story brought tears to my eyes, feeling as proud of the young woman Emily eventually grew into as any mother would.

If you like fast-paced stories that keep you on the edge of your seat, Intervention is a book you should read.

Review of CLOSE TO HIS HEART

Close to his Heart, by Leonora Pruner

Life in 18th Century England, without the “benefit” of modern conveniences we rely on today, was much simpler.  Love, however, was not.  Leonora Pruner explores this in her latest novel, Close to His Heart.

Despite their deep love for one another, Grace Carstares and Lord Henry Buryhill face a rough road.  Misunderstandings, anger, and hurt feelings keep them from enjoying the happy marriage both long for.  When Grace loses her memory, Henry sees a chance for them to start over.  Only she sees him as a complete stranger, and not one she is sure she wants to get to know.

This book was beautifully written, with wonderful detail.  Ms. Pruner’s descriptions made me feel as if I was walking through the grounds of Westwood along with Grace.  The love that both Grace and Henry have for the Lord was simply stated.  It was a part of them, a part of what drew the two of them together,  but never really preached.  It was seen especially when Grace had an encounter with a beggar at a London party and then later when she came across an escaped slave.  Many today could learn a lesson from the way she acted in both of these situations—showing God’s love through kindness to others is more meaningful and more powerful than any words we could use.

This is the first book by Leonora Pruner that I have read.  With a new book scheduled to be published before Christmas, I know this will not be the last of her books to grace my bookshelves.

To learn more about Leonora Pruner or order this book, please see this website: http://nordskogpublishing.com/book-close-to-his-heart.shtml