f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: 09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Comics 101

Comics savant Scott Tipton introduces you to one of the most absurd comic book characters. Ever.

Having dipped first a toe and perhaps now a foot or calf into the pool of comics and graphic novels, I've found this weekly column to be one of the most knowledgeable and helpful introductions out there to the world of people in tights. Also it doesn't require scouring comic book stores or eBay for back issues or compilations. And, yes, I am an adult.

(The archives will give you a glimpse into just how much Tipton actually knows.)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The View from Dallas

Those interested in recaps of ACFW (from an f*i*f perspective) should probably start with Mark Bertrand's thoughts. He's also linked to a number of others in the community who've written up their experiences.

::

It's hard to know what to answer when folks ask me how the conference went.

Are you asking from a pure acquisition's perspective? If so, my hopes are pretty tempered and I really won't know until possibly even months from now as ideas I heard trickle in.

Are you asking from a more general work perspective? Because at ACFW I was able to chat with BHP published authors Deeanne Gist, Kim Sawyer, Cathy Hake, Elizabeth Musser, and soon to be published Paul Robertson. Plus I spent time talking with a number of agents. It's personal face time that can't necessarily be quantified. But is extremely important.

Finally are you asking about my own personal perspective? I'm beginning to worry that I'm actually making "friends" in this industry--among fellow editors, published authors, aspiring authors, and perhaps even agents. Comraderie is not what I'm paid to establish when I attend one of these things. And it can't dictate the business decisions that need to be made at the end of the day. But it certainly keeps me sane.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Making the Most of Your Reading

The NYTimes has an article about a few new titles that explore how to get the most from the time you spend reading.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Integrity Publishers Bought By Thomas Nelson

PW reports that Nelson has purchased Integrity Publishers.

There's been so much change in the last year, I'm going to have to do another tour through the industry.

::

BTW: I'll be at the ACFW conference the remainder of this week. If I blog, it'll be from there. See many of you shortly.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

More on Violence

It's been a hectic week, folks. (Likely to be hectic next week, too, as I prepare to join, well, apparently 90% of you in Dallas at ACFW.) So posting's been light.

Mark Bertrand, who's apparently too high and mighty to post comments here decided to post his thoughts at his own blog. So here's a link to them. The thing that sparked in my mind is that the novels that stand out in my mind as being the most "violent" are both representative of genre fiction--and yet somehow felt more dangerous/real/close than much of the genre fiction I've read.

For instance...you take a serial killer novel like The Bone Collector which has some pretty brutal moments in it. I think it's the last in that style that I read. On the surface, the point of the book was a mystery behind the identity of the serial killer...but in the end I felt the real point of the book was the flair and creativity with which people could be could be killed. (I believe rats played a part.) That's what the genre seems to lead to in the end. Upping the ante on death. You see it in procedural shows like C.S.I. and all the crime shows all the time. The point of the narrative becomes getting the viewer/reader to go "Wow...never seen anybody use a lamprey to desanguinate their victims before."

I think there's something troubling about pursuing the "wow" factor.

Meanwhile, as everybody has stated, there's real power in exploring the shattering effects of violence, the existence of evil, etc., etc. Otherwise it's just "pop" violence. It becomes affectless...or worse, numbing. I remember the one fight I had in middle school. "Numb" isn't how I left it. I left in pain. Violence should hurt.

All that leads to the two novels that "hurt" me. (This has probably gotten a bit overstated at this point...but bear with me.)

One I've mentioned before: Scott Smith's A Simple Plan. This a novel that shows there's consequences for your actions. And without repentence, remorse, accountability...yikes.

The other, appropriately enough, is called Violence by Richard Bausch. I read it a while ago, so I can't even fully describe the plot. All I know is I put the book down feeling like I'd be in a boxing ring. It beat me up like a thug in Hell's Kitchen and said, "You think you wanna read your little suspense novel with stabbings and killings and everything, punk? Here's what they don't tell you." (And, yes, it sounded a little like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas.)

These are not reading experiences I recommend lightly. I'm not 100% how good they are for the soul. I do think they were better for my soul than The Bone Collector though. Sure evil was conquered in that book...but horrific violence became almost mechanical. Set pieces to scamper through until the big unveiling. And I was left untouched. Unharmed.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Violence in Christian Fiction

Jana Riess, religion editor at PW, recently tackled this topic in an editorial piece for her magazine. She was gathering opinions from folks in the industry so we chatted about the topic while at ICRS and frankly it's been in the back of my mind ever since.

If you want to blow past supposed CBA guidelines, you'll have a hard time with sexuality and (pretty much) and impossible time with language. But blood and guts seem okay...as long as there's righteous justice. Nihilism won't fly but bullets certainly can.

Jana ends up coming down softer than I thought she might on the topic. The point she does make is important...at least to me. She wants awareness and intentionality in the content choices made by publishers. Doing something simply because we can get away with it seems a recipe for bad news.

A few other thoughts:

1. As a country, I think we've long held a double-standard between "acceptable" sex vs. "acceptable" violence--especially on TV and in movies. Unfortunately, the push of some folks seems to be as permissible with sex rather than showing restraint with both.

2. Christian men like them their blood. I know so many guys for whom Braveheart, Saving Private Ryan, and Gladiator are all in their top ten films. It is the message of these films that I know men love—but they are messages that I don’t think can easily be extricated from the violence. Heroism in the face of puppy kisses is not the same as storming the beach at Normandy or facing the lions for the sake of Jesus’ name.

These things also demand “villains”—which isn’t so hard in a historical setting, but becomes more problematic when we cast our stories in present day or the near-future. Because then the question essentially becomes: “Who is it acceptable to kill?” I hope we see how thorny that question is.

3. This is a crucial topic to me because I’ve acquired books with body counts. Children are threatened in Waking Lazarus. Folks get all sorts of mangled by the powers working in Relentless. Next spring’s The Heir is one-part murder mystery.

None of these books can be called explicit, I don’t think, but is that my defense? And what do I say to the proposals reaching my desk now? Which are just a little more explicit. Where the context between message and violence seems a little more tenuous.

4. Part of the reason I think the boundaries have shifted for violence rather than sexuality is that the books are so obviously not for what’s historically been the most important CBA customer—romance/women’s fiction readers. While Janette Oke readers continue to buy books and exert their influence on the market, Ted Dekker has (assumably) generated a readership apart. His books look different; they read different. A historical romance, meanwhile, continues to be marketed to roughly the same readership as before…where the chance of irking a more conservative reader is far higher.

5. Finally I just want to offer a quick comment on how we’re viewed by the world. I know a number of secular reviewers who, when they cast their eye toward the Left Behind series commented on the casual slaughter of the enemies of God. This should be on our minds. Voices who speak so strongly in favor of life in some areas, I don’t think, should so dramatically change their tune. Any death represents the last chance a soul had to find redemption. To celebrate a soul gone to hell strikes me as merciless.

Download of the Week: II

Frisbie's "Shine."

Wicked-good power pop song from an indie band out of Chicago. This is one of my favorite songs of the last ten years. Reminiscent of Big Star.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Download of the Week

Fountains of Wayne's "Monster House."

Far, far from their best work (i.e."Hey, Julie", "Red Dragon Tattoo", "Maureen") but they're always entertaining. (Dekker and Peretti should totally co-opt this song for their novel....)

Friday, September 01, 2006

Unsatisfied

I'm not happy with the post below. I just re-read it and while I agree with much of it, it's also pretty pie-in-the-sky. It doesn't reflect the editing work I've done so far at BHP nor does it define most of the author/editor relationships we have at BHP. I make it sound like editing is more like bonsai carving as though changing a single sentence or deleting a scene will suddenly make a manuscript explosively more exciting to a readership.

There's much, much more collaboration in all the editing at BHP than what I wrote below.

So...

I'm not sure. I still believe much of what is below but most of the editing I've done and witnessed has ALSO incorporated critique and back-and-forth discussion of what the heck should be in the book.

Does that make sense?

What’s an Editor For?

“Dave?”

“Yes, disembodied voice?”

“So, if I take your advice from yesterday and I really, really work hard on my manuscript and turn it in clean and polished and in excellent condition…well…”

“Spit it out.”

“Well, why would I need you? Sure a proofreader, but if the book is great why do I need an editor?”

On the outset in might look like a Catch-22. An editor demands a polished manuscript…but if they get one, they don’t have anything to do.

A few thoughts on why you shouldn’t plan on getting rid of me quite yet:

1. Really, couldn’t every manuscript use yet another polish?

2. An editor is able to edit to industry. A strong editor in any genre (romance, mystery, CBA, etc.) should know all the fine tuning, all the tips of the trade that are invisible to general readers but might promise broader appeal for the book.

3. An editor edits to your career. Does book 2 sound too much like book 1? Are there brand carry-overs that can help link this book with those that came before?

4. An editor stands in the gap. You on one side, readers on the other. We should be an arbiter between what you’re trying to express and what readers are hearing or what they want to hear.

In many cases, the editorial process takes the place of both things I suggested yesterday. There’s risk in that. Perhaps instead of editing to career, an editor is simply trying to patch plot holes. Or perhaps timelines and schedules mean no “agnostic” readers are approached. And your novel fails to find new readers because of a tone problem.

I don’t want to become Tony Robbins here, but it seems logical that—with an industry as unpredictable as publishing—you want to place yourself in the best position for success. And in my opinion, I think that comes from using the critique, review, and the editorial processes to their fullest potential.

**

And now a story.

Last year I stumbled backwards into the opportunity to ask a few questions of Jonathan Galassi, publisher of FSG…home of Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead. Galassi apparently also served as the editor for the book.

My query of him went something like this: “How in the world did this book come to be?”

His answer was simple. He didn’t really know. The reason? It came in that way.

**

I know many writers are terrified of the editorial process. The easiest way to sail through it smoothly? Turn in an untouchable manuscript.

Writers Beware: Protecting Potential Authors

The new Writer's Beware! blog gives advice, tips, warnings, and reviews on all the sketchiness out there in publishing-land.

The Evolution of a Cover

Robin Parrish posts on the cover design process for his novel Relentless.

(Dee Gist could do a similar one for A Bride Most Begrudging with early covers that would make your eyes melt. It was my first acquisition and I remember looking at these cover possibilities thinking: "My career is over." And yet a month later we end up with one of the more acclaimed covers of recent years. Folks have noted that I'm going gray...well guess why!)

The Minnesota State Fair

I am always amused when the national media casts its eye toward this spectacle...because it always treats it with the same "stranger in a strange land" tone normally reserved for describing conception rituals from Haiti or the religious rites of East Timor.

My parents were delighted that the summer I moved here the Great Minnesota Get-Together made it into National Geographic.

I've never been the hugest fan of the fair (heat and crowds don't mix) but in upcoming years I think even I will be nostalgic for the yesteryear of, say, 1997. This thing is a cash-cow and like anything that generates the Benjamins it's slowly being corporatized and prices are maxing-out. Last year I was so annoyed after three hours of jostling the obese, emptying my wallet, and a diet of sugar and fat that I couldn't even enjoy the unexpected spectacle of a non-descript average Joe absolutely killing on karaoke version of Styx's "Lady."

We're not going this year.