f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: 12/01/2006 - 01/01/2007

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

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Hippocorn Lives As Well

A few weeks after Relief Journal launched, the Ankeny Briefcase offers its debut issue. It's a thick little publication with quite a number of stories in it, so I'm excited to see what folks out there are doing with short fiction.

Mark Bertrand, always worth reading, has a story ("Strings") in the journal. A woman named Faydra Stratton who I've been fortunate enough to read placed a story. And somehow I bamboozled the editors into picking up a work of mine called "Copyright." It's a romance set amid the world of copyright law. And there's robot ducks, too. C'mon, you know you can't turn that down.

The good people of Relief and Ankeny would greatly appreciate any support you could lend them, whether by mentioning them and passing on links to their site, submitting your work, or especially by purchasing an issue or subscription.

Pledge drive over, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Library Journal's Best Christian Fiction of 2006

Library Journal recently announced their "Best in Genre" list for 2006. A trend emerged...


CHRISTIAN FICTION

Rekindled - Tamera Alexander - Bethany House
Set in the 19th-century American West, Alexander's impressive debut follows Kathryn and Larson Jennings as disappointment and separation lead them on a journey of spiritual discovery.

Grace in Thine Eyes - Liz Curtis Higgs, Liz Curtis - WaterBrook
Following up on her heart-wrenching “Lowlands of Scotland” trilogy, Higgs proves once again that she can write tortured romance like nobody else. This moving tale draws its inspiration from the biblical story of Dinah.

Waking Lazarus - T. L. Hines - Bethany House
Hines' intricate thriller about a man declared dead several times offers plenty of twists and turns without sacrificing character development. Supernatural suspense that pushes the envelope.

The Brethren - Beverly Lewis - Bethany House
Lewis concludes her absorbing “Annie's People” trilogy (The Preacher's Daughter, The Englisher) about an Amish girl's struggles between her traditional life and her forbidden artistic talents and budding romance with an outsider.

Things We Once Held Dear - Ann Tatlock - Bethany House
Tatlock hones her sparkling prose into a memorable story about artist Neil Sadler, who tries to reconnect the pieces of his past and understand the path he has chosen. An unforgettable homecoming tale of tragedy, choices, and forgiveness. )

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Free Book, Sorta

I'm not sure why I didn't know this before, but The NYTimes is running a serialized Michael Connelly novel. So you can check it out if you want.

It's a fun idea but I can't get the nagging idea out of the back of my mind that if Connelly thought this was his best work, we'd probably be getting it in hardcover. We'll see; I've not yet read it and don't want to cast aspersions prematurely.

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In other news, I hope you had a nice Christmas. I didn't get the My Little Pony I wanted, but my daughter did and she's promised to let me play with hers.

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Two addendums to my year-end review

1. Born Into Brothels - We're in a strong age for documentaries. I think access to portable, high-quality digital video is making it easier for folks with a passion to cover a subject. This one is well worth your time. I'm pretty sure there's any number of lessons to Christians in here on how to live.

2. Superman Returns - Snuck it in under the wire, but this is absolutely my least favorite film of 2006. Wow, I disliked it.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Free Audio Book

If you want a free audio book, head on over to iTunes to get John Hodgman's (known mainly as the anthropomorphous-"PC" in those Apple commercials) The Areas of My Expertise.

It's got a Poor Richard's Almanack meets McSweeney's kind of feel to it. No clue how it'll do in audio, but free is enough to sell me.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Picks of 2006 - Books

Fiction

Inkspell
by Cornelia Funke
- Like Azkaban, a sequel that trumps Book 1. Her character of Dustfinger is one of the pinnacle creations of recent years. Wonderful, engaging fiction--and the audio versions as read by Brendan Fraser are exceptional. (Start with Inkheart of course.)

U.S.! by Chris Bachelder - More muck-raking! This time with the most famous muck-raker of all--Upton Sinclair. Poor Upton's resurrected corpse gets stuck being the sacrificial metaphor in this pretty incisive look at how we've abandoned our outrage.

The Zero by Jess Walter - Interesting not only for its stylistic quirks (the narrator blacks out in the middle of scenes only to come to in the middle of new scenes) but for its examination of our post-9/11 landscape. Absurdist and satiric in some ways, deeply grieved and dumbstruck in others, it was a solid read.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - One of the better books I've read this decade. Haunting is such an over-used word in these little blurbs, but it really is beautiful and lingering. The only thing that annoys me is that the author looks like he's about 24.

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Non-Fiction

Salvation on Sand Mountain by Dennis Covington
- A number of years old at this point, I only recently took the opportunity to read this. Our talk of "faith in fiction" should realize it has a fair amount to learn from "faith in non-fiction" as well. This is an interesting case study as it explores religious ecstasy/being overcome by the Holy Spirit both from a third-person and first-person perspective. This is one of those fragments of Christianity I will never understand but it's an interersting glimpse inside the church's front door.

Feeding the Monster by Seth Mnookin - Perhaps the most lucky/timely sports journalist ever, Mnookin got the opportunity to sit inside the Red Sox organization as they made their run to the World Series in 2004. If you're a baseball fan, the access you get into the operations of a front office is unparalleled. If you're not a baseball fan, this would bore you to death.

Death in Belmont by Sebastian Junger - Let me get this straight: You have, in your family history, a connection to a notorious killer (the Boston Strangler) that may link him with a crime attributed to another person. And somehow this becomes Book 2?! Because you have to go write The Perfect Storm? Most authors would kill for either of these--I'm not sure it's fair for Junger to have this in his back pocket.

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Picture Book

Flotsam by David Wiesner -
I've always like Wiesner's stuff. This one rates pretty near the the top of his impressive list.

Do Not Open This Book! by Michaela Muntean - Meta-fictional fun with a pig who's annoyed that you've interrupted his story before he's completed it.

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Scariest

High School Confidential by Jeremy Iversen
- A 24-year-0ld gets permission to go undercover as a student at a So-Cal public high school. What he reports nearly made my eyes bleed.

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Disappointing

The Ruins by Scott Smith -
Twelve years in between books shouldn't leave me with Little Shop of Horrors set in Mexico.

Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst - It's an interesting glimpse behind the world of an Amazing Race-like TV show but the actual novel itself was pretty weak. And it was such a suprise to see a "repentant Christian homosexual" turn out to be a hypocrite. Who could have predicted?

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(And by request, for Mark Bertrand)

Chair - This one?

Cologne -
Don't wear the stuff. But staying at the Denver Marriott hooked me up with Bath and Body Works Orange Ginger lotion/shampoo/etc. That scent is working nicely for me.

Holiday Cheer from Neil Gaiman

I've posted a link to the text of this before. Now you can hear Gaiman himself read it.

It's called: "Nicholas Was..." and it still makes me laugh.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Picks of 2006 - Movies

In past years I always forgot what I'd seen, so I kept a list this year of the films (nearly all on DVD) that I watched. Looking back through I realize why I forgot most of the films. Anyway, here's my favs.

Documentaries

Mad Hot Ballroom - More dancing, you ask? Yep.

The Stone Reader - If you read or care about books, this should be of interest to you.

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Muck Raking

The Constant Gardener
- Poke the drug companies with John LeCarre

Good Night and Good Luck - Liked the film...and got into Diana Reeves from the soundtrack.

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Blast From the Past

The Insider - This movie engrossed me. Paired with GN,GL above I felt like becoming a journalist just so I could get up on some high horse.

Metropolitian - Jane Austen-esque comedy of manners set amid the NY debutante scene. Mostly people in tuxes and dresses talking...but it entertained me greatly.

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Smaller Films

Brick
- For me, this "high school noir" worked so much better than Veronica Mars. Adjusting teen slang to become hard-boiled patois, I think that was genius.

Tristram Shandy - A film about filming an unfilmable 18th century novel. I laughed.

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Liked it More Than I Expected

Cars - The people at Pixar...well they entertained me even in a story involving NASCAR and Larry the Cable Guy.

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90% of a Good Film

The Inside Man -
The ending was weak.

16 Blocks
- The ending was weak.

Murderball - The ending was weak.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Picks of 2006

As always, this isn't a "Best of" because my sampling of these categories is far too limited to make such a designation.


On TV

The Office
- Who has two thumbs and likes The Office? This guy! Season three has been a little hit/miss but any show with Dwight K. Shrute on it is worth watching. (Did you know you can get Dwight to call your friends and taunt them about lupus?)

Project Runway - I once rated myself on a sexuality continuum. Let's knock that rank down one. Don't care; enjoyed this show, though the wispy little blonde woman should have won. (Also, it reminds me of this festival which I saw out of the blue in New Zealand.)

So You Think You Can Dance? - Crap. Knock me down another point. Downside to this show? It's the reason they made TiVo. Ten minutes of dancing (maybe) crammed into an hour-long episode.

Arrested Development - Inducted into the Dave Long Sitcom Hall of Fame after concluding season three in the spring.

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Theater

Reeling
- Children's Theater Company
- A world premiere production of physical comedy and silent-film shenanigans. I'm biased, as I got to be in a few productions.

Hamlet - Guthrie Theater - This was the sixth stage production of Hamlet I've seen and likely my second favorite.

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Music

Guster - Lost and Gone Forever
- Their new album was okay, but I tracked down this older offering and it's pure pop gold. Yay!

MuteMath
: I'm still just so-so about their lyrics but I saw them live and they're really, really talented. Their drummer is other-worldly and their lead singer was channeling Sting from The Police, circa 1981.

Springsteen - "Oh, Mary Don't You Weep" - My favorite from the new Creole-tinged offering from Bruce.

Joseph Arthur - Nuclear Daydream - Probably what I've been listening to most lately.

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Cheese

Parrano - It has its own website.

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Restaurant

Broder's Pasta Bar - If you're ever in the TC, especially during the winter, and you're looking for a bite...this is the place you should go.


The New Yorker on Bible Publishing

The New Yorker tackles the business of Bible publishing.