C.S. Lakin Kickstarter Update

C.S. Lakin is raising money to publish a book:

“Conundrum is an important novel to me. It’s mostly the story of my own family’s betrayal, and although I resisted writing it, I felt led by God, my agent, and my husband to tell a story that dealt honestly with bipolar illness and the need to sever ties with toxic family members.

I hope you will consider helping me get Conundrum into print. I’m giving away signed copies of the book and critique services as rewards for supporting my Kickstarter project. You have until August 30th to join in and help bring this dream to reality–and help many readers who need to read this book.” – C.S. Lakin

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cslakin/turning-conundrum-the-novel-into-a-print-book

Won’t you help?

Author, C.S. Lakin (Christian Fiction: Is It Effective?)

The first question that needs to be asked about writing Christian fiction is, Who is the writer’s audience? Most Christian writers write for the Christian market, and the publishers in CBA (the acronym for publishers in that market) buy and solicit novels they hope will sell, based on the sales records and buyers’ demographics—which consist mostly of white, American females in their thirties with a high school education only, small children at home, and not extremely traveled or “worldy” in the more general sense of the word. These readers who are targeted by the CBA booksellers and publishers have very narrow tastes, and for an author to want to sell in that market, they have to tailor their novels to fit. Which, to reiterate, provides a very limited canvas on which to create.

What is meant by “effective”? If the goal of author/agent/editor/publisher is to sell books to entertain believers, then an author who writes such a book that sells well is “effectively” accomplishing the goals aimed for.

But there is another group of writers who want to be effective in a different way, and I am one of them. I don’t write for fun. I don’t write to entertain other Christians. I feel a pressing calling from God to reach out to the lost in the world, to those who have no hope and do not know a plan of salvation has been executed on their behalf and is being offered to them. I look at my writing as 100% ministry, and my efforts and prayers are all directed toward those ends. I take the views of authors like Flannery O’Conner and Madeline L’Engle who felt strongly that their writing should honestly and even painfully reflect the true state of the human condition, of sin, and all its ugliness without censoring. I was told pointedly by a senior editor at one of the largest CBA publishing houses that a Christian should never write for unbelievers. She should only write for Christians, and hope that some believer, for example, at her work would pass on the book to a non-Christian. Shock aside, I completely disagreed with her. I feel that, if this is truly the view of CBA overall, it shows the intent of this collective publishing endeavor is way off, and missing the heart of God. And to me, that paints a very sad picture indeed.

Censoring is a big thing in CBA because the typical CBA reader does not want to look at the down and dirty condition of humanity. She wants a clean, sweet, entertaining read that will upbuild her and make her happy. Not make her face life as it really is, and make her think deeply and outside the “safe cocoon” of the Christian life. Of course, there are some exceptions to this rule, but I feel the writers who work hard in their ministry to reach the lost through their fiction, to be effective, need to do what author Tim Downs suggests—to woo the world back to God. To plant seeds and let God water them, for this isn’t a time of harvest but a time of planting and watering. Gone are the days of pounding people over the head with the Bible and decrying their sin and telling them to “repent for the end is near.”

Yes, we know we have a responsibility to preach the kingdom before the end comes, but it has been proven over time that “wooing” readers by sharing an honest worldview, as did writers like O’Connor and L’Engle, draws people to God more than preaching at them. And sadly, I have read way too many Christian novels that made me cringe and that I found appalling in their blatant preachiness that often not just bordered on but crossed the line into harsh judgment and abject scare tactics and manipulation. Those types of books offend me, so I can only imagine how much they would offend someone who does not know God or the Bible. I wasn’t raised in the church; I was raised a Jewish atheist, and so understand why God is using me to write the kinds of novels I write. I know what it’s like to be preached at and to be offended by certain phrasing and terms. It took me years before I could even say the name Jesus without a bad taste in my mouth, and it’s sad so many Christians (who were raised “in the church”) have no sensibilities at all toward those who come from such a different worldview and upbringing. We are to be “all things to all people” according to the apostle Paul in order to “win” others to Christ, and pushing our agenda in our fiction to force Christianity on others is not in line with his wise admonition.

Many Christians in CBA publishing would disagree with me, and are offended by my remarks and reactions to so many books in CBA. I feel hard-hitting, preachy books not only do a disservice to God, they turn people away from him and, in effect, serve the purposes of the Enemy, who wants nothing more than to chase people away from their Creator. Authors of those books will say they are not writing for nonbelievers. Yet, what are they thinking will happen when a nonbeliever picks up their book—purposely or incidentally—and reads it? If that novel subsequently turns them further from God because of its offensive presentation, even though it is hailed by Christians as a great read, what are we to think? I’ll leave that to you to decide. I don’t blame many nonbeliever critics of Christian fiction at all, and well, I would invite them to read my novels, and those of other Christian writers who share my view. The greatest joys I have had as a published author are the comments from readers, who are not Christian, telling me how moved they were when they read my books and how the topic of religion and faith was so nicely handled and did not offend, so much so it got them thinking. That’s why I write, and to me, that’s evidence of effectiveness of the best kind.

www.cslakin.com

C. S. Lakin writes novels in numerous genres, focusing mostly on contemporary psychological mysteries and allegorical fantasy. Her novel Someone to Blame (contemporary fiction) won the 2009 Zondervan First Novel competition 2009 (published October 2010). Lakin’s Gates of Heaven fantasy series for adults (AMG-Living Ink Publishers) features original full-length fairy tales in traditional style. Already in print are the first books in the series, The Wolf of Tebron and The Map across Time, with five more to follow. In addition to her mysteries and fantasy series, she has also written the first book in a Young Adult sci-fi adventure series: Time Sniffers, slated to be published. Her contemporary mystery Innocent Little Crimes made the top one hundred finalists in the 2009 Amazon Breakout Novel Award contest, earning her a Publisher’s Weekly review which stated her book was “a page-turning thrill-ride that will have readers holding their breaths the whole way through.”

Lakin currently works as a freelance copyeditor and writing mentor, specializing in helping authors prepare their books for publication. She is a member of The Christian PEN (Proofreaders and Editors Network), CEN (Christian Editor Network), CAN (Christian Authors Network—regular blogger), ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association), and two regional writers’ groups. She edits for individuals, small publishing companies, and literary agents, and teaches workshops and does critiques at writers’ conferences, and occasionally guest blogs on writing sites.

She recently completed Intended for Harm, a contemporary take-off on the biblical story of Jacob and Joseph and is developing a swashbuckling dog memoir in the style of Moby Dick entitled A Dog after God’s Own Heart. She lives in Santa Cruz, CA, with her husband Lee, a gigantic lab named Coaltrane, and three persnickety cats.

Note From Nikki: Yesterday, we featured Jennifer Hancock, a humanist. Tomorrow David Rosman, an atheist will be featured. You can also read more about this series here.

Mid-June Series Introduction: What is it About?

Dear Readers,

“Christian Fiction: Is It Effective?” will post from June 13 – 20. I have come across blog posts like She Reads or Mike Duran or even A Christian Worldview that have discussed the effectiveness of Christian fiction.

In my opinion, Christian fiction is created for Christians. How can it be effective if it’s in the Christian genre? Some unbelievers feel intense anger towards the genre and won’t give it a second look. Some Amazon reviews show this anger with comments like the genre being ‘religous,’ or, ‘deceiving’ because they ‘didn’t know’ it was of the Christian genre. Some wonder if there isn’t a plan to simply eradicate Christianity from literature by sabotaging Christian fiction via reviews. So what do nonbelievers think of Christian fiction?

In this series, four Christian novelists and two nonbelievers will square off. Though I spoke with many nonbelievers, I could not get two more nonbelievers to read Christian fiction in order to participate. Some wanted to post posts to argue Christinaity instead of taking this opportunity to examine Christian fiction. This is not a debate about Christianity. The Christian novelists will write a 750-word blog post on why they write Christian fiction and how they intend to reach the unbeliever, while the nonbeliever will write a 750-word blog post about what they like or don’t like about Christian fiction, citing examples and being specific.

Comments will be moderated that week to ensure the discussion stays honest and friendly. I don’t care where the conversation goes, as long as we treat each other like humanbeings.

I only have two nonbelievers who have contributed. They have done an excellent job in answering my question. Here are their bios and photos:

David Rosman is an award winning author, columnist and educator. You can read his weekly essays in the Columbia Missourian, and on InkandVoice.com/editorials. He is also a book reviewer for the New York Journal of Books.

Originally from the New York City metro-area, having lived in Denver, Colorado for 25-years, five-months and 22-days (but who was counting), David now resides in the middle of Middle-America, Columbia, Missouri.

David is faculty of Communication at Columbia College and Chief Cook and Bottle Washer (CCBW) of InkandVoice Communication, providing communication consulting and editing services for business, political campaigns, and not-for-profits. He is the winner of the Interactive Media Council’s award for political web site design, writing and editing, and has been twice nominated for the Kulp-Wright awards for training and academic textbook and classroom excellence.

David’s most recent book is A Christian Nation?: An examination of Christian nation theories and proofs, and is available through Amazon.com in paperback or eBook formats.

 He also writes: “I am a member of the Columbia Atheists Association (American Atheists). At 13, after my Bar Mitzvah, I wanted to become a Cantor and ended up at St. Louis University’s Parks College of Engineering, a Jesuit institution, where I was required to take all of the religion courses. There was a failed baptism in the Ohio River on my 25 birthday, and I was on the Board of Directors of two Temples before I discovered that I never really believed in God since I discovered quantum mechanics, evolution, and critical thinking.”
 
Hello, my name is Jennifer. I am the author of:
I’m about to publish a book on bullying called The Bully Vaccine: http://thebullyvaccine.com which will be out early May 2012. I write a freelance column about Humanism for the Bradenton Herald newspaper and yes, I am interested in syndicating it. I am also the Tampa Humanist and Freethought Examiner for Examiner.com and I publish the Happiness through Humanism blog and podcast. Finally, I am a speaker specializing in Humanism, ethics, morality and what motivates us to be better humans. I’m on the web at: http://www.jen-hancock.com
Christian Novelists:

Tricia Goyer is the author of thirty books including Songbird Under a German Moon, The Swiss Courier, and the mommy memoir, Blue Like Play Dough. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer’s Conference in 2003. Tricia’s book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like MomSense and Thriving Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. She and her family make their home in Little Rock, Arkansas where they are part of the ministry of FamilyLife.

Carol Cox: If you’re a lover of history, mystery, and romance, you’ve come to the right place—a place where time pauses beneath brilliant Arizona skies.

As a third-generation Arizonan, I have a special love for the Southwest and its history. Life in the Old West was never easy, but the American Frontier had a way of drawing people who were resilient, who met adversity with a quiet inner strength and a reliance on God’s provision. From the deserts to the canyons to the towering pine forests, the history of my home state is filled with tales of characters whose courage and tenacity helped shape this part of the country.

I grew up listening to stories about people like this. Men and women who possessed the qualities needed to meet the challenges of this rugged land. Men and women who experienced their share of laughter and tears while taming the Southwest . . . and learning something about themselves and their relationship with God along the way. These are the kind of men and women who inspire the books I write.

Dianne Christner lives in Phoenix, Arizona, where life sizzles, at least in the summer when temperatures soar above 100 degrees. Before writing, Dianne balanced a career of office management with raising a family and serving the Lord in her local church.

 She has been married for thirty-nine years. Dianne and Jim have two married children, Mike and Rachel, and five grandchildren. With several historical fictions to her credit, she hopes you enjoy her new contemporary series – The Plain City Bridesmaids. If you want to learn more about Dianne’s writing and personal life, visit her blog. She loves interacting with her readers.

C. S. Lakin is novelist and writing coach who spends her time divided between developing new book ideas and helping writers polish theirs. She is the author of twelve novels – six contemporary novels and six in the fantasy/sci-fi genre. Whether she is exploring the depths of the human psyche and pushing her characters to the edge of desperation, or embellishing an imaginary world replete with talking pigs and ancient magical curses, she is doing what she loves best – using her creativity and skills to inspire and affect her readers.

Please join us that week. This is your opportunity to share your views. Feel free to ask questions.

Readers: Will you join us on that day and share your opinion after each post? You can subscribe to my posts so it comes to your email.

Posts begin tomorrow!

Are You An Atheist or Humanist?

Dear Readers,

“Christian Fiction: Is It Effective?” will post from June 13-20. I have come across blog posts like She Reads or Mike Duran or even A Christian Worldview that have discussed the effectiveness of Christian fiction.

In my opinion, Christian fiction is created for Christians. How can it be effective if it’s in the Christian genre? Some unbelievers feel intense anger towards the genre and won’t give it a second look. Some Amazon reviews show this anger with comments like the genre being ‘religous,’ or, ‘deceiving’ because they ‘didn’t know’ it was of the Christian genre. Some wonder if there isn’t a plan to simply eradicate Christianity from literature by sabotaging Christian fiction via reviews. So what do nonbelievers think of Christian fiction?

In this series, four Christian novelists and four nonbelievers will square off. This is not a debate about Christianity. The Christian novelists will write a 750-word blog post on why they write Christian fiction and how they intend to reach the unbeliever, while the nonbeliever will write a 750-word blog post about what they like or don’t like about Christian fiction, citing examples and being specific.

Comments will be moderated that week to ensure the discussion stays honest and friendly. I don’t care where the conversation goes, as long as we treat each other like humanbeings.

I only have two nonbelievers who have contributed. They have done an excellent job in answering my question. I need two more. Here are their bios and photos:

David Rosman is an award winning author, columnist and educator. You can read his weekly essays in the Columbia Missourian, and on InkandVoice.com/editorials. He is also a book reviewer for the New York Journal of Books.

Originally from the New York City metro-area, having lived in Denver, Colorado for 25-years, five-months and 22-days (but who was counting), David now resides in the middle of Middle-America, Columbia, Missouri.

David is faculty of Communication at Columbia College and Chief Cook and Bottle Washer (CCBW) of InkandVoice Communication, providing communication consulting and editing services for business, political campaigns, and not-for-profits. He is the winner of the Interactive Media Council’s award for political web site design, writing and editing, and has been twice nominated for the Kulp-Wright awards for training and academic textbook and classroom excellence.

David’s most recent book is A Christian Nation?: An examination of Christian nation theories and proofs, and is available through Amazon.com in paperback or eBook formats.

 He also writes: “I am a member of the Columbia Atheists Association (American Atheists). At 13, after my Bar Mitzvah, I wanted to become a Cantor and ended up at St. Louis University’s Parks College of Engineering, a Jesuit institution, where I was required to take all of the religion courses. There was a failed baptism in the Ohio River on my 25 birthday, and I was on the Board of Directors of two Temples before I discovered that I never really believed in God since I discovered quantum mechanics, evolution, and critical thinking.”
 
Hello, my name is Jennifer. I am the author of:
I’m about to publish a book on bullying called The Bully Vaccine: http://thebullyvaccine.com which will be out early May 2012. I write a freelance column about Humanism for the Bradenton Herald newspaper and yes, I am interested in syndicating it. I am also the Tampa Humanist and Freethought Examiner for Examiner.com and I publish the Happiness through Humanism blog and podcast. Finally, I am a speaker specializing in Humanism, ethics, morality and what motivates us to be better humans. I’m on the web at: http://www.jen-hancock.com
 
 Could this be you? I need two more nonbelievers. email me at nikolehahn@thehahnhuntinglodge.com
 
Christian Novelists:

Tricia Goyer is the author of thirty books including Songbird Under a German Moon, The Swiss Courier, and the mommy memoir, Blue Like Play Dough. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer’s Conference in 2003. Tricia’s book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like MomSense and Thriving Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. She and her family make their home in Little Rock, Arkansas where they are part of the ministry of FamilyLife.

Carol Cox: If you’re a lover of history, mystery, and romance, you’ve come to the right place—a place where time pauses beneath brilliant Arizona skies.

As a third-generation Arizonan, I have a special love for the Southwest and its history. Life in the Old West was never easy, but the American Frontier had a way of drawing people who were resilient, who met adversity with a quiet inner strength and a reliance on God’s provision. From the deserts to the canyons to the towering pine forests, the history of my home state is filled with tales of characters whose courage and tenacity helped shape this part of the country.

I grew up listening to stories about people like this. Men and women who possessed the qualities needed to meet the challenges of this rugged land. Men and women who experienced their share of laughter and tears while taming the Southwest . . . and learning something about themselves and their relationship with God along the way. These are the kind of men and women who inspire the books I write.

Dianne Christner lives in Phoenix, Arizona, where life sizzles, at least in the summer when temperatures soar above 100 degrees. Before writing, Dianne balanced a career of office management with raising a family and serving the Lord in her local church.

 She has been married for thirty-nine years. Dianne and Jim have two married children, Mike and Rachel, and five grandchildren. With several historical fictions to her credit, she hopes you enjoy her new contemporary series – The Plain City Bridesmaids. If you want to learn more about Dianne’s writing and personal life, visit her blog. She loves interacting with her readers.

C. S. Lakin is novelist and writing coach who spends her time divided between developing new book ideas and helping writers polish theirs. She is the author of twelve novels – six contemporary novels and six in the fantasy/sci-fi genre. Whether she is exploring the depths of the human psyche and pushing her characters to the edge of desperation, or embellishing an imaginary world replete with talking pigs and ancient magical curses, she is doing what she loves best – using her creativity and skills to inspire and affect her readers.

Please join us that week. If you’re a nonbeliever, contact me to contribute at nikolehahn@thehahnhuntinglodge.com. This is your opportunity to share your views. Feel free to ask questions.

Readers: Will you join us on that day and share your opinion after each post? You can subscribe to my posts so it comes to your email.

Mid-June Series Introduction: Exciting News!

Dear Readers,

“Christian Fiction: Is It Effective?” will post from June 13-20. I have come across blog posts like She Reads or Mike Duran or even A Christian Worldview that have discussed the effectiveness of Christian fiction.

In my opinion, Christian fiction is created for Christians. How can it be effective if it’s in the Christian genre? Some unbelievers feel intense anger towards the genre and won’t give it a second look. Some Amazon reviews show this anger with comments like the genre being ‘religous,’ or, ‘deceiving’ because they ‘didn’t know’ it was of the Christian genre. Some wonder if there isn’t a plan to simply eradicate Christianity from literature by sabotaging Christian fiction via reviews. So what do nonbelievers think of Christian fiction?

In this series, four Christian novelists and four nonbelievers will square off. This is not a debate about Christianity. The Christian novelists will write a 750-word blog post on why they write Christian fiction and how they intend to reach the unbeliever, while the nonbeliever will write a 750-word blog post about what they like or don’t like about Christian fiction, citing examples and being specific.

Comments will be moderated that week to ensure the discussion stays honest and friendly. I don’t care where the conversation goes, as long as we treat each other like humanbeings.

I only have two nonbelievers who have contributed. They have done an excellent job in answering my question. I need two more. Here are their bios and photos:

David Rosman is an award winning author, columnist and educator. You can read his weekly essays in the Columbia Missourian, and on InkandVoice.com/editorials. He is also a book reviewer for the New York Journal of Books.

Originally from the New York City metro-area, having lived in Denver, Colorado for 25-years, five-months and 22-days (but who was counting), David now resides in the middle of Middle-America, Columbia, Missouri.

David is faculty of Communication at Columbia College and Chief Cook and Bottle Washer (CCBW) of InkandVoice Communication, providing communication consulting and editing services for business, political campaigns, and not-for-profits. He is the winner of the Interactive Media Council’s award for political web site design, writing and editing, and has been twice nominated for the Kulp-Wright awards for training and academic textbook and classroom excellence.

David’s most recent book is A Christian Nation?: An examination of Christian nation theories and proofs, and is available through Amazon.com in paperback or eBook formats.

 He also writes: “I am a member of the Columbia Atheists Association (American Atheists). At 13, after my Bar Mitzvah, I wanted to become a Cantor and ended up at St. Louis University’s Parks College of Engineering, a Jesuit institution, where I was required to take all of the religion courses. There was a failed baptism in the Ohio River on my 25 birthday, and I was on the Board of Directors of two Temples before I discovered that I never really believed in God since I discovered quantum mechanics, evolution, and critical thinking.”
 
Hello, my name is Jennifer. I am the author of:
I’m about to publish a book on bullying called The Bully Vaccine: http://thebullyvaccine.com which will be out early May 2012. I write a freelance column about Humanism for the Bradenton Herald newspaper and yes, I am interested in syndicating it. I am also the Tampa Humanist and Freethought Examiner for Examiner.com and I publish the Happiness through Humanism blog and podcast. Finally, I am a speaker specializing in Humanism, ethics, morality and what motivates us to be better humans. I’m on the web at: http://www.jen-hancock.com
 
 Could this be you? I need two more nonbelievers. email me at nikolehahn@thehahnhuntinglodge.com
 
Christian Novelists:

Tricia Goyer is the author of thirty books including Songbird Under a German Moon, The Swiss Courier, and the mommy memoir, Blue Like Play Dough. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer’s Conference in 2003. Tricia’s book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like MomSense and Thriving Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. She and her family make their home in Little Rock, Arkansas where they are part of the ministry of FamilyLife.

Carol Cox: If you’re a lover of history, mystery, and romance, you’ve come to the right place—a place where time pauses beneath brilliant Arizona skies.

As a third-generation Arizonan, I have a special love for the Southwest and its history. Life in the Old West was never easy, but the American Frontier had a way of drawing people who were resilient, who met adversity with a quiet inner strength and a reliance on God’s provision. From the deserts to the canyons to the towering pine forests, the history of my home state is filled with tales of characters whose courage and tenacity helped shape this part of the country.

I grew up listening to stories about people like this. Men and women who possessed the qualities needed to meet the challenges of this rugged land. Men and women who experienced their share of laughter and tears while taming the Southwest . . . and learning something about themselves and their relationship with God along the way. These are the kind of men and women who inspire the books I write.

Dianne Christner lives in Phoenix, Arizona, where life sizzles, at least in the summer when temperatures soar above 100 degrees. Before writing, Dianne balanced a career of office management with raising a family and serving the Lord in her local church.

 She has been married for thirty-nine years. Dianne and Jim have two married children, Mike and Rachel, and five grandchildren. With several historical fictions to her credit, she hopes you enjoy her new contemporary series – The Plain City Bridesmaids. If you want to learn more about Dianne’s writing and personal life, visit her blog. She loves interacting with her readers.

C. S. Lakin is novelist and writing coach who spends her time divided between developing new book ideas and helping writers polish theirs. She is the author of twelve novels – six contemporary novels and six in the fantasy/sci-fi genre. Whether she is exploring the depths of the human psyche and pushing her characters to the edge of desperation, or embellishing an imaginary world replete with talking pigs and ancient magical curses, she is doing what she loves best – using her creativity and skills to inspire and affect her readers.

Please join us that week. If you’re a nonbeliever, contact me to contribute at nikolehahn@thehahnhuntinglodge.com. This is your opportunity to share your views. Feel free to ask questions.

Readers: Will you join us on that day and share your opinion after each post? You can subscribe to my posts so it comes to your email.

C.S. Lakin: My Life

You have been busy! Congratulations on winning Zondervan’s first novel contest in 2009. It has been a while, but your winning novel, “Someone to Blame” is finally about to be released. That is very exciting. Tell us about it.

Someone to Blame was the sixth novel I’d written. I’d already written three contemporary relational dramas/mysteries, one a psychological takeoff of Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None,” her best-selling mystery. I thought it might be fun to do another based loosely on “Murder on the Orient Express.” So instead of on a train, this story is set in a small coastal town. At first I had planned to make this story primarily about the young drifter who comes to town and have him cause so much trouble the townsfolk murder him. But as I laid it out, it morphed into something much deeper and more universal. I especially got hooked with exploring the theme of blame and how we blame ourselves and others sometimes in ways that is hurtful. So the focus shifted to a family reeling from tragedy that moves to this town to heal, yet gets entangled in this drifter’s life. I love writing ensemble pieces set in a crucible, and this certainly is what happens to both Billy Thurber, the drifter, and the Moore family. Through this collision, there are unexpected repercussions of healing and grace. I originally intended it for a commercial audience, but then decided to tweak it for believers too.

1.  Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

I can’t imagine how any author could avoid putting herself into her characters in one way or another. I certainly do. And I put in just about everyone I know, in bits and pieces along the way. My latest novel, Conundrum, is 95% autobiographical, although it is a mystery. That was tough to write—all about my mother’s betrayal and the greatest pains I’ve suffered. It wasn’t, though, cathartic for me at all, and that wasn’t why I wrote it, either (that’s another story), but I’m very much in that book. I’d say most of my other nine novels in both genres only pull from my passions and opinions through the voices and actions of my characters.

2.  What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

I’ve done a lot of quirky things. (I just looked up the word to be sure) Peculiar. Well, that’s subjective, isn’t it? To some people running a commercial pygmy goat farm might seem peculiar, but seemed pretty normal at the time. I chased a couple of bottlenose dolphins around at sixty feet underwater, which was one of my best experiences in scuba diving. And I hid behind my very tall husband when four 9’ reef sharks headed my way. Maybe not quirky but funny nonetheless.

3.  When did you first discover that you were a writer?

I’m sure most authors say this, but I’ve written since I could hold a crayon. I even “published” a neighborhood magazine back when I was about eight called “The Stone Canyon Gazette.” It was in those ancient prehistoric days before copy machines and electric typewriters. I organized a handful of neighbor kids and we handwrote ten copies of each issue on construction paper, including drawing the same drawings ten times. We charged ten cents. The mothers complained I had too many entries in the magazine and didn’t feature the other kids enough. Already hogging the limelight! After that I helped my mother with her scripts, collating and offering ideas. I got my first rejection letter at age twelve from the producer of Woman from Uncle regarding my script idea.(I was raised in TV industry.)

4.   How do you build suspense?

Any great writing teacher will tell you suspense is all about getting your readers to care about your characters. I don’t write suspense (genre) but I do try to infuse all my stories with suspense. I want readers to care so much about my characters that they are tense with anticipation over what happens next to them. In addition, I believe you must have a tight, compelling plot. As a professional copy editor and writing coach, I’d say the lack of a well-thought-out plot that has twists and surprises is a common flaw in most manuscripts I critique.

5.  Pick two characters from your book, and tell us about them.  What makes them tick?

I love deep, rich characters. I’m a very character-driven author. I have about fourteen POV (point of view) characters in this book, but my favorites are probably Jerry Hubble, the newly divorced motel owner who wants to stir up trouble in town and Sheriff Joe Huff, who feels a lot like Malcolm Reynolds, captain of Serenity on the Firefly series (which I happened to be watching a lot at the time of writing his scenes). Firefly fans may pick up a bit of Mal’s jargon. But Huff is his own character—a daydreaming wishes-he-really-was-retired sheriff trying to keep the town of Breakers from falling apart as all the crimes escalate. I’d like to do a spinoff book featuring Huff, so it may happen one day. Hubble nurses a lot of anger at his ex-wife and directs it toward everyone else.

6.  Tell us about your upcoming fantasy series, and the first book “The Wolf of Tebron”:

The Gates of Heaven collection of fairy tales is my true heart song. I prayed and asked God what I should write, where I could best reach hearts and change lives, lead people to him. He told me to write fairy tales in the style of C. S. Lewis. Really. No, God doesn’t talk to me directly (he did though in a dream telling me to write Conundrum, which was intense, and a story for another time…) but he led me clearly to see that I was to write a very unique, specific type of fantasy series. So many people love Narnia but there is nothing like it out there. No one is doing full-length fairy tales. I was introduced to Orthodoxy, by Chesterton, and in it he has a chapter all about how fairy tales are the most important books ever written. By the time I finished the chapter, I knew it had been written for me. All I can say is, you have never read fairy tales like these! I take traditional elements from famous fairy tales, but alter then into new stories, deep, intense, evocative. I love being able to play with imagery and language, as I’ve been a huge fantasy fan all my life. Some of my contemporary mystery technique spills over into my fantasy, as my characters are deep and complex and there is always  a mystery to be solved (riddles, lost scrolls, ancient sayings and curses…) I believe adults especially will love sinking their teeth into these rich tales. As Lewis sais “Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” So true. You can learn all about the series, all the ideas behind it, more on fairy tales at www.gatesofheavenseries.com The first book, The Wolf of Tebron, is out and getting great reviews.

And if those two projects weren’t enough, you’re novel “Innocent Little Crimes” was a finalist in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Awards. (Tell us about that)

Innocent Little Crimes is the book I mentioned earlier—based on the other Christie book. I wrote it many years ago and it’s for the commercial market, as are all the rest of my novels. My agent is trying to sell that one, along with two others. The contest was fun and finaling earned it a full read by Publisher’s Weekly. They called it a thrill ride that leaves readers holding their breaths until the end.  All my mysteries are heavy on exploring the psychological aspects of humanity—what pushes people over the edge, how they deal with unmet needs. I’m presently starting a new novel—a modern-day take on the story of Jacob and Joseph called Intended for Harm. I am amazed at how this book is shaping up and how God has led me to explore my version of Jacob. Everyone focuses on Joseph, but no one has really looked at what makes Jacob tick—his flaw of showing favoritism to one son—that tore his family apart, and a twin who felt rejected by his father. This one is going to be deep and literary too. I’m almost done with book four also in the fantasy series: The Unraveling of Wentwater, which is all about the power of words. A lot of fun.

7.  You have written so many books, and you are just now bursting on to the scenes. Share with our readers the complexities of your writing journey. (as concise as you can, I know it’s tough)

I hope bursting is really true! I’ve been writing and been agented for over 23 years! Yes! I quit after my third novel didn’t sell. Gave up, very discouraged for about ten years. I wasn’t a Christian then. The odds are way against anyone breaking in. And then I turned it all over to God. I prayed hard for him to revive my passion for writing. I’d been through a horrible family betrayal, lots of loss. I felt numb, worthless, uncreative. I’ve never seen God answer any of my prayers with such immediacy and confirmation. Literally, he just set my heart on fire to write (be careful what you pray for…) and I’m feeling so blessed. Not because he’s open doors to having my books published as much as he is so kind and gracious to care about what is in our hearts. I do believe all my life experiences occurred to be fodder for my writing—that he knows how our lives will play out and our dream and purpose in him. What’s exciting is to ask him to show you what that is and then go with it with all your heart. I know now that it was his plan all along for me to become a novelist and writing coach, to write these books and be faithful to the dream he’s put me in. It is a very different viewpoint that when I was not a believer. Now I don’t stress or worry about my “career.” It is going to be exactly what God wants, not what I want. I could go on about this, but you get my drift.

8.  How do your books connect readers with God?

Well, having lived in the dark world most of my life, I feel a strong desire to reach those who don’t know God. Yet, I’m very sensitive to how much a turnoff most CBA books are to unbelievers. Well, many are to me too because of their preachy arrogant style. I am not interested in preaching to the saved or just entertaining to make money. I feel passionately about God and how tough this life is. How the road to God is one of not just searching but groping for God. It can be messy, painful, agonizing, confusing, frustrating, heartrending—in fact, it usually is. God put us on this planet to learn some important stuff and you don’t learn it by just reading a book. You learn it by living life. I love it that the Bible is a collection of people who encountered God and then told about their experience. In a way, that’s what I do as a novelist—I let what I’ve experienced about God spill out through the stories I tell. Many of my books don’t mention God or faith. But I explore what being a fallen human sinner is like and what things are important—forgiveness, grace, hope, trust. Sometimes this leads to a discussion about faith, but not always.

Even so, God’s spirit works on so many levels. Sometimes all a person needs to do to get to God is read about a mother who welcomes back a wayward child. Maybe they haven’t spoken to their child in years. Maybe this moves them toward reconciliation. Maybe later, God uses this experience to help this mother see how God has open arms for her, despite what she’s done. I think we’ve all seen God do amazing things and use unlikely people and circumstances to bring people to him. And if you haven’t personally seen this, just read the Bible. There are plenty of examples in there!

Visit her website here.

Book Review: Someone To Blame By C.S. Lakin

Love Vs. Hate

When you lose a child, you tumble in free fall continually, without acquittal. The ground rushes up at you, your mind frantic and disbelieving. Impending doom pulls you toward impact at dizzying speeds. But you never hit bottom. Never a reprieve from panic. Never startling awake before the moment of contact. Never breathing that sigh of relief as the wisp of nightmare dissolves and you learn you are safe, tangled in bed covers, your husband sleeping undisturbed at your side. You are always falling.”

- Pg. 8

Chapter 1 immediately snagged my attention. The words flowed with ease, purpose, and kept me on this journey of discovery. The plot was well done. The characters well developed and intriguing, typical of humanity. I could easily identify people of those personalities in my town. I could see me in that town making their mistakes. It is a classic story of love versus hate with several psychological twists.

Someone To Blame centers around Matt and Irene Moore. They moved from their town to escape the deaths of their sons—one was an accident and the other was suicide. Their daughter, Casey, becomes this angry form stomping through the pages of the book like a wind storm. All three wish to blame someone for the deaths. They blame each other. In this muddle comes a young man named Billy Thurber and in his wake a crime spree leaves the town of Breaker in an uproar. The Moore’s find curious healing in their encounters with Billy.

I read this book with the preconceived notion that it would follow a formula story. Villains in most books are easy to discover. It’s like watching a movie and the music changes when the villain enters the room. This is not the case with Someone To Blame. Everyone is blaming something or someone for whatever happened and the reader is left in the fog, questioning, turning the pages, compiling the clues, and coming to erroneous conclusions.

The writer always leaves finger prints of themselves in between the words. The emotions Irene and Matt experience of losing a child and the anger Casey exhibits makes me think the author must have experienced losing a child, too. I have never lost a child. Yet after reading this novel I feel as if I can fully understand a couple who has experienced that loss. It is deep and painful. The first half of the book is depressing leaving one to pick over the conversations and the words, thinking deeply about it for the rest of the day. On the back cover, C.K. Lakin says she has other books on the market. All are psychological suspense. It has certainly helped me look at my own novel with new eyes. While reading her book, I learned a few more things about character and plot development. Books that make me think and make 2D characters 3D always take a permanent spot in my library. It is well worth rereading over and over again. You learn about hate, love, bad choices, good choices, and scripture hits you in the face. It is an unusual love versus hate story that I would read again and again. In fact, I am going to look up her other books. If she writes this well on Someone To Blame, I can’t wait to read her other books.

Book Provided By Zondervan And The Author For Review. To order this book click here.  To read more about this author, click here to explore her website.