‘Yachting with No Pants On’ (2013)

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Every now and then a perfectly serviceable novelist writes something that makes you fear for his sanity. And every now and then, one of these clangers is published.

And you wind up with John D. MacDonald babbling about a nude yacht with an “all-girl crew”… and your flesh just crawls.

Yachting With No Pants On

This book was one of JD’s Travis McGee series, solid, kind of offbeat, highly entertaining thrillers. Why he ever felt the need to write about a nude all-girl yacht crew is a poser for the ages. I mean, gee! Editors are supposed to protect you from making a fool of yourself! What was MacDonald’s editor thinking?

PS–Hats off to Lisa for correctly identifying the Travis McGee book in question.

‘I Love My Characters’ (2018)

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One thing about writing a continuing series: it gives your characters scope to grow and change.

And of course it’s always fun when new characters enter the story.

I Love My Characters

Any day now The Wind from Heaven will be published, No. 13 in the Bell Mountain series. I have no idea how it’ll be received.

If you’re reading Bell Mountain for the first time (a lot of people read it more than once), I’d love to hear from you!

I’m Already Tired

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Help!

I’ve got a book to write, which means going out there where it’s as hot as Hades. I also have to write blog posts, a Newswithviews column, and a book review…

Why don’t you write indoors, stupid?

Because I can’t write fiction indoors, that’s why. I have to be in the real world if I want to write fantasy. (Oy, now they’ve got me doing it!)

Will I get more blog views if I say Joe Biden is a great man who won the election fair and square? Will that move me up in the search engine rankings… or just get me struck by lightning? Or totally destroy my self-respect for the rest of my life?

Well, it ain’t gonna get any cooler while I sit here dawdling over the manuscript. Onward!

‘How Bad Should Your Bad Guys Be?’ (2017)

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If he’s really worse than Shakespeare’s Richard III, or Iago, your villain’s got problems–which will be passed on to both the writer and the reader.

How Bad Should Your Bad Guys Be?

Well, okay, how many of us have to worry whether the villains we make up are credible? Oh, but many people do like to try their hand had writing a story, so these tips may not come amiss. And fiction can sometimes help us to understand what we see and hear in real life.

My villains all have something in common–they justify themselves to themselves. The elasticity of this approach is limitless. Even Stalin, Mao, or Hitler could have used it, and very likely did.

P.S.–I don’t believe Richard was anywhere near the villain Shakespeare made him out to be. He’s a great example of what happens when your enemies win and get to write the history.

 

‘Are We Really Talking “Christian Fiction”?’ (2018)

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What makes “Christian fiction” Christian? Is it just a convenient marketing term, or does it have a real meaning?

Are We Really Talking ‘Christian Fiction’?

You’ll be interested in the comments by Nadine and Unknowable.

BTW, getting a super-early start hasn’t helped me in the least. Neither have key words. I’m not going to bother with them anymore.

I’ve Got a Title!

I’ve got a title for the new book I’ve just started writing–Let Shut the Doors of Heaven. How’s that? I can always change it, but at least now it gives me a destination toward which to guide the story.

As for The Wind from Heaven, I have no idea what’s holding up its release–but it’ll be worth waiting for.

Meanwhile, blog traffic here is down to a trickle, I don’t know why, using key words has had no effect whatsoever, and I now have to work twice as hard to get only half the results.

Let me know what you think of my title. Does it say “Pick me up and read me”?

In Search of a Title

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Before I buckle down to the serious business of typing up Quokka University’s weekend TV listings, I’ve got to sit down outside with a nice cigar and pray Our Father to give me a title for the new book I’ve been writing.

Five chapters written so far, and still no title. I can’t go on like this.

The dickens of it is, I understand the problem! The book is going to have two climaxes. Cool, huh? One climax I’ve got in my back pocket already, but the other is still up in the air. And any title I choose must somehow relate to both of them. You can see why I’m in difficulty. If I knew the second climax, it should be easy to come up with a title.

I think I need both climaxes; in fact, I’m sure of it.

And so, before it rains… a thought break.

P.S.–Violet Crepuscular has suggested I simply adopt a title: e.g., Earl of R’lyeh, Duke of Beanball, etc. I don’t think she understands my problem. And I get fidgety when she does that “us writers” thing.

Writing in the Heat

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It was all I could do to crank out two and a half pages today. Holy moly, it’s hot! But if I try to write indoors, I’ll be interrupted again and again by nuisance phone calls.

In writing a continuing series, each new book has to pick up where the previous book left off. Can’t expect the reader to remember! It’s hard enough for me to remember. I have to revisit the last manuscript again and again, lest I forget where I put the various characters and why I put them there. Only then can I launch into the next story.

I don’t have a title yet, and that’s a handicap. I’m working on a book that will have two different climaxes. One is already in the bag, and I thank the Lord for that. But the other is still up in the air. The title will somehow have to link the two together. I pray it’ll soon pop into my head.

I do wish it was about ten degrees cooler!

 

How Not to Write a ‘Christian’ Novel

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Speaking of “Christian fiction,” I’ve decided to revisit one of the weirdest novels I’ve ever read in my life–Heaven Breaks In, by Nicholas Cappas.

https://chalcedon.edu/magazine/heaven-breaks-in-by-nicholas-cappas

All the action in the story takes place on a college campus. What planet it’s on, that’s what mystified me. This college is remarkable for its total lack of sex and drugs, protest movements, Far Left Crazy… It resembles a 1950s sitcom episode. I mean, really, what kind of college is this? How did it get to be immune to all the loony schiff going on at all the other colleges?

The students are weird, too. They all have gobs and gobs of spending money–which they spend on meals at posh restaurants. And clothes. What kind of 19-year-old male, who has a thousand bucks to spend, makes a beeline for the upscale men’s clothing store?

And then comes the crisis! Spring break is here. Does the protagonist go on a glamorous trip to the Bahamas with his friends, or a glamorous missionary trip to Kenya with his other friends?

Did you ever have to make that choice?

The preachy weirdness of this novel wows me more now than it did four years ago. In it, the angels are worried about saving this kid’s soul. From what? From football? How hard can it be to save a soul in an environment that’d be the envy of any monastery?

“Christian fiction” has to do better than this. Much, much better!

Now What?

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Oy, am I busy! I’ve written three more pages of my new book (no title yet!), half a dozen blog posts, and I still have to write my Newswithviews column. What to write about, I don’t know yet–but I’d better decide sometime in the next ten minutes or I’ll never get it done on time.

Should I write about pushback? Because we’re starting to see some, and it looks like it could blossom into something big and beautiful and grand. Maybe we actually needed something as awful as a bad election and Critical Race Theory to wake us up.

But have we wakened up in time?

It’s in God’s hands. Work hard to do whatever we can do, and pray even harder.