What is the big deal?

After years of seeing her books in stores and movies made from them on network TV, I recently decided to read a Danielle Steel novel. It was curiosity that led me to it. I wanted to see just how “bad” her storylines are.

I was actually surprised to see that the storyline wasn’t bad at all. In fact, it was good! The book I picked up, Rogue, was actually a nice story of a divorced couple finding their way back together. Sure, there was more cussing than I would have liked. And I didn’t care for the drinking and the sex scenes (though they were not nearly as graphic as I had expected). Over all, it was an entertaining book. It could have been an amazing, unforgettable tale (especially the part where the husband finally “grows up”).

Could have been. But it wasn’t.

Even more of a surprise than the “tameness” of the book was the writing ability of Danielle Steel. Or should I say that lack of writing ability.

OK, so the woman has sold a lot of books. According to the Wikipedia entry about her, Steel has sold 550 million copies of her books, had 22 books made into TV movies, spent nearly 400 weeks at the top of the New York Times best seller list, and is the 7th bestselling author of all time. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danielle_Steel) Between 1973 and 2009, she wrote and published over 75 books, not counting her children’s books and non-fiction offerings. She is obviously a very successful writer, with a career many of us can only dream of.

Personally, I would prefer to eek out a meager living with one or two well-written novels than be raking in the profits of nearly one hundred poorly written ones.

OK, so maybe that isn’t fair. Maybe I just picked a bad example of her writing. Maybe the others are not as poorly written as Rogue. Obviously there is someone out there who likes them. I won’t be spending my time reading through them all, trying to find one that isn’t a dud, though.

Why do I think this is a dud? Mainly because there is one “rule” that I have always heard about writing, one thing that I strive to do—”Show, don’t tell”. In this book, I felt that Steel was telling me what she wanted me to know, not showing me. She repeatedly talks about how “flaky” Blake is and how is never around for his ex-wife and kids. She doesn’t SHOW it, though. In the scenes with Blake and the kids, he is very involved with them, and appears to be very hands-on. And as far as telling, there are so many places in the book where she just repeats the same thing over and over. It’s like she is trying to convince herself and her readers of what is happening.

Danielle Steel may be one of the most known, bestselling authors of all time. But based on just this one book, her work is not something that I want to spend my time on.

Risqué Reading

Recently, I was told that one of my novels was too risqué for a Christian resale shop to support. It is completely within the rights of the store managers to feel this way, and I respected their decision.

At least I did until I saw a shelf of Danielle Steel novels for sale in this same shop.

I’ll be honest—I had never read a Danielle Steel novel before. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a movie made from one of her books either, though I can say that I have seen the previews for them. “Risqué” seems too tame to convey what I saw in those clips and scenes. It confused me and even hurt a little that my novel about first love could be over the line, but her works could be deemed acceptable. I decided that I would read at least one of her novels for myself, just so I could compare my work and hers a little more fairly.

The novel I chose was “Rogue”.

This is the story of a man and a woman, still very much in love, who found they were not compatible in the same home. They have been divorced for I believe 5 years. She is raising their 3 children while working full time as an adolescent psychiatrist, specialization in suicidal teens (note: NOT a job I would want to tackle!!). He is a free spirit, spending his time jet-setting around the globe, purchasing homes to remodel/restore, and dating any hot young thing he meets. Throughout the book, they slowly realize how much they need each other and that no one else can make them “complete”.

It’s a harmless enough story line. In the right hands, it likely could have been a very powerful story as well. But the book is filled with sex, alcohol use, and cursing. No, the sex scenes are not graphic. They are also not between married partners. The drinking was not always confined to adults, and it seemed that the only not swearing was the 6-year-old.

Is this kind of work acceptable in a Christian resale shop because it is not labeled as “Christian literature”? Mine is. So does that mean my characters need to be perfect, following the Bible exactly, never veering off the path or taking a detour into sin? I suppose I could write that, if I really tried. But the characters would not be real. If not for the mistakes we make, there would have been no need for the death of Christ. Why would we need a Savior if we never needed to be saved?

Best Books

One of my favorite things about my job is having the chance to introduce new people to my writing. It is so exciting to see the look of interest on a stranger’s face and my enthusiasm for what I do with others. Book signings give me the chance to do that.

My next book signing will be held on Saturday, October 31, 2009. From noon until 3PM, I will be at Best Books in the Jackson Crossing Mall. This will be my second appearance at Best Books and my first appearance anywhere with my latest novel, The Ladies of Faith.

I am so grateful to Sandy and the staff at Best Books for the support they have given me. Not only have they generously supplied a place for a book signing, they are the only book store in town willing to carry my books. The biggest drawback of self-publishing is finding retailers to take the author seriously. I can’t tell you how thankful I am for all this store is willing to do so much to show support to a new author.

Shades of Blue

 Shades of Blue, the newest novel by Karen Kingsbury, was released earlier this month. For the first time, I didn’t need to look for the book in a store or put my name on a waiting list at the local library. At the local library. Thanks to a Twitter contest, I have my very own copy–signed by Karen herself. The contest was in September and I have been anxiously waiting for the book to arrive.

And now that it has, I am scared to read it.

Karen’s books rarely fail to move me. More often than not, I shed at least a few tears over the words she has written. The subject of this book is bound to lead to a lot of tears.

Shades of Blue deals with the after effects of abortion.

My copy of the book arrived on October 14, the day that my daughter would have turned 4. She didn’t get to celebrate that birthday due to a miscarriage. I didn’t choose to end my pregnancy. I didn’t do anything wrong. There are no medical explanations for why my Rylee didn’t survive. Twice a year–on the day she died and the day she should have been born–I wonder about certain things. Things like would she look like her brothers? Would she be Daddy’s little girl? Would she resist all the pink, purple, and lace I would still want to dress her in? And almost every time those questions come to mind they are followed with–What did I do wrong? What could I have done differently with that pregnancy that would change things?

So yeah–I know how hard it is to deal with the after effects of a spontaneous abortion (words I still absolutely hate). I can’t imagine, can’t even BEGIN to imagine, how much stronger those feelings would be if I had made the choice to end that pregnancy.

I’ve had the book for a week and I’ve only made it into the beginning of chapter 3. As expected, Karen’s words are bringing up a lot of feelings. That’s not a bad thing. It’s the job of a good writer to stir up emotions in her readers.

And Karen Kingsbury is definitely a great writer.