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Friday, March 24, 2017

Dear Writer, What's Your Testimony?

By On March 24, 2017
Everything we write will tell people something about us- and if we're Christians, it will tell them something about the God we serve. It will tell them something about the faith we live out. It will tell them something about the salvation we believe in.

Are you giving the world a good impression of your faith, or a bad one?


Many of us don't really think about this when we write- I didn't up until recently. But then I got to thinking, and I thought "What is my writing saying about my faith?" 

I think a lot of us might try to be neutral. We think that our fiction isn't Christian, but there's nothing bad in it either. Sure, we don't deal with God in our stories, but neither do we include swearing. 

I know Christian fiction often gets a bad rap. I'm aware of that. But the thing is: Why should that stop us from writing our own quality Christian fiction? Just because somebody else who's gone before us might have failed, doesn't mean we have to. 

When I write, my novels address God. They address faith. They address the state of the world, and they address brokenness and salvation and hope and meaning and purpose

They're not just stories without meaning. 

Sometimes, we'll get warned about not being preachy. And I get that. If you're writing a novel, then you're writing fiction, not a sermon. 

But that being said, I would ask you this: Can you write distinctively Christian fiction without being preachy? 

Yes. Yes you can. And I believe every Christian should do it. 

I'm not writing this post to try and put you on a guilt trip if your novel doesn't include a bunch of profound Christian doctrines. (spoiler alert: mine doesn't really) But what are you saying with your writing? 

Are you shining God's light to a lost and dying world, or are you spreading hopelessness? 

Are you sharing the Gospel, or sticking to vague statements like "Life is beautiful" and focusing on those instead? 

These are hard questions. And this is a tough issue. I realize that there are sincere, devoted Christians out there who might not write Christian fiction.

But what message does this send to the secular world? What does this tell them when they can pick up a book, and not even know that the author is Christian until they read the author bio on the last page? 

Christians are supposed to be different. Does your writing demonstrate this difference? 

That's all I have to say for now. I definitely have a post coming up about writing your faith into your fiction though, so stay tuned for that. This is a big, wide topic, so anyone who has any thoughts or anything to add to this, feel free to share! :D 

~ Jonathan 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Dear Writer, How's Your Heart?

By On March 17, 2017
It's so important as writers to make sure we're keeping the right attitude as we write. Sometimes it's easy to get so caught up in the elements of our story that we forget about something even more important than those, and even more important than how well we're writing: our hearts.

Today I'm here to give you a short post about that. In case you didn't notice. xD

As writers, the end goal for many (if not all) of us is to get published. We want to make money off of our books- and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that! (as long as it's not too important) 

But there's another thing we want: recognition. We want people to recognize us for what we did. Because here's the deal: writing a book is hard. I don't care if it's 40k or 150k- it's not an easy thing to do. 

So by the time we're done with our first drafts, we're often tired, worn out, and unmotivated. 

Then we have to edit. 

Then we have to edit again. 

And maybe edit a couple more times. 

Sometimes we might even have to write a whole new second draft. 

The point being: it takes time. It takes energy. It takes passion. And it takes some good, hard work. (If you're one of those people who thinks sitting in front of a computer never counts as 'actual work', then go write a book. :P) 

But in the end, our goal in writing shouldn't involve recognition of us. 

And I'm just gonna be honest with you guys. This is something I deal with. A lot. It's so easy for me to get caught up in how good I think I am instead of how good God is.

In the end, every writer is a mirror. And instead of reflecting ourselves, God calls us to something much greater. 

He calls us to reflect Him. 

Does this mean you can never be proud of your work? Of course not. Writing a book is something to be proud of. 

But there's a balance. A balance between being proud of your work, and still making your goal to glorify God. If you have trouble with the balance here, then I'd like to ask you something: 

How's your heart? 

Sure, we can be proud of our work. But when we realize that God is the only reason we have fingers to type with, the only reason we have a brain that allows us to spell words, the only reason we can write at all, we realize that only through Him can we accomplish anything. 

~ Jonathan 

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Art of Work by Jeff Goins

By On March 10, 2017
I believe I promised you guys my thoughts on this- so HELLO YES HERE I AM TO DELIVER. Plus I haven't posted a review in forever so now seemed like a good time to fix that. xD




The path to your life's work is difficult and risky, even scary, which is why few finish the journey. This is a book about discovering your life's work, that treasure of immeasurable worth we all long for. It's about the task you were born to do. 

As Jeff Goins explains, the search begins with passion but does not end there. Only when our interests connect with the needs of the world do we begin living for a larger purpose. Those who experience this intersection experience something exceptional and enviable. Though it is rare, such a life is attainable by anyone brave enough to try. 

Through personal experience, compelling case studies, and current research on the mysteries of motivation and talent, Jeff shows readers how to find their vocation and what to expect along the way.




Answering a call will sometimes feel that way. It won’t make sense and may even open you up to rejection and criticism, but in your heart you will know it’s right. How? There will be confirmation. You will take a step, and things will happen. Opportunities will reveal themselves. Through the words of others and even in the pit of your stomach, you will know this is the path to take- not because it’s easy or safe, but because it is right.

Hm. Okay. So my question here is: WHAT ON EARTH. 

It’s getting two stars, because I'm tired of political correctness, I'm tired of flowery language, and I'm tired of authors trying to beat around the bush. And I'm not quite harsh enough to give it one star, heh. 

On the one hand, this is filled with inspiring stories of people who rose above difficulties and challenges in their own lives. It’s got some great themes about determination, hard work, and overcoming obstacles. It’s very well written, with a style that’s never choppy or hard to read.

BUT. That’s where the good stuff comes to an abrupt stop. The idea behind this book is actually kinda brilliant- but the execution is fatally flawed.

It’s a book about finding your calling, and it’s from an author who I THINK (don’t quote me on this) claims to be Christian. And yet there’s something conspicuously missing here: God.

Instead of reading the Bible and praying, the author advocates things like ‘listening to your life’ to determine what your calling might be. What does he mean by this statement? I read a whole chapter about it, and between the flowery language and evasive, vague structure, I have no clue. 

Whispers of New Age are strung throughout this. But it’s almost always more implied than direct. Although at one part I got hit with this: 

You have everything you need to be your whole self; it’s already in you. Now you just have to become it.

The statement above is easily the strongest reference to New Age in the entire book- and like I said, it’s still not all that direct. The parallel between this statement and New Age seems clear to me, but then again, it’s hard to tell exactly what the author means by this statement and other statements that are even less clear. 

Plus, author Brennan Manning and his book Ruthless Trust are cited twice (I think) in the extensive list of notes in the back of the book, and since Manning was a well-known Catholic mystic, this says a lot. But at the same time, could Mr. Goins just be citing Manning out of ignorance?

It’s hard to tell anything really. This is just so, so, so incredibly vague and politically correct that it’s near impossible to tell what the author himself believes. 

He seems to advocate some sort of New Age form of Christianity, but there’s nothing explicit in here that advocates the view that he has a belief in EITHER. (He does tell a Bible story at one point, but he avoids mentioning God or pointing out that the story came from the Bible.)

Basically this frustrated me to no end. The question here is: What exactly does this author believe? And what is he trying to say? It's like abstract art- only instead of colors thrown onto a canvas, it's words thrown onto a page. And it left me scratching my head and saying "WHAT DOES IT MEAN??" 

~ Jonathan 

Friday, March 3, 2017

February is Over

By On March 03, 2017
Honestly I'm at the point where I have no idea what to put as intros for my monthly wrap-up posts. I mean I kinda want to do something dramatic like "As February rides off into the sunset, a new era of the blogiverse has arrived on our doorsteps." But then again I think we're all glad I don't go there. 

And no, don't look at me like that. I am definitely not three days late. Because I'm never late. 

Anyways. This has been awkward intros with Jonathan. 

On to the actual post. 




(I'm tired of trying to find seasonal pictures, so instead you're getting an arbitrary picture of ice cream. So yeah don't spend too much time trying to figure out how this relates to February. Because spoiler: it doesn't.) 



GUESS WHO READ 11 BOOKS THIS MONTH:






Favorite Fiction

(not counting my rereads of both Salt to the Sea and Martin Hospitality

The Scourge by Jennifer A. Nielsen- This is by the author of The Ascendance Trilogy, so what did I expect? SASS. SASS AND SNARK IN LARGE QUANTITIES. And I was not disappointed. This is clever and ingenious, definitely recommended!

Favorite Nonfiction 

No God but One: Allah or Jesus? by Nabeel Qureshi- I looooved this author's other book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, so I had high hopes for this one. It didn't disappoint! While I definitely don't agree with all of the theology in here, this was well-organized and made complicated concepts easy to understand. If you have any Muslim friends, then you need to read this. 

The Ultimate Proof of Creation by Jason Lisle- MIND=BLOWN. LITERALLY. This is about how to defend your faith logically and I think everyone should read this at some point. That is all. 

Not Recommended 

The Art of Work by Jeff Goins- I have A LOT to say about this one, haha. Maybe I'll post a review later this month? Just to prove to all you guys who don't stalk me on Goodreads that I DO ACTUALLY WRITE NEGATIVE REVIEWS if I don't like a book and I actually don't throw out 5-star ratings for everything. I just mainly post positive ones here. xD

Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos- Fabulous concept, but there's definitely some doctrinal issues here. I posted a pretty thorough review on Goodreads, so you can go check that out if you're curious. 



Currently working on editing both The Raven Project (FINALLY) and Library of Lies while trying not to get distracted by a historical fantasy plot bunny that may or may not involve dragons.


The Raven Project 


OKAY SO FIRST THINGS FIRST: 





YES I PRINTED IT OUT. Thanks to some help from both Hannah and Sarah I managed to work through the technicalities and get this thing printed! (ALSO SARAH LOOK IT'S NOT OVERLY CONTRASTED)


I'm almost done reading it through, and I've officially started draft 2. Which is both exciting and exhausting because I have sooo much to fix. xD My main character is too passive, the plot isn't driven enough, and the villains are pretty flat. 

*cracks knuckles* So I've got some hefty work to do- basically I'm reworking the plot to make it less aimless and a bit tighter and trying to put the main character in more control. Plus throwing in a few other cool elements just for fun because I want to and I can, mwahaha. 


I shake my head to dispel the memories, but I only succeed in making the ache even worse. What I really need right now is some good, old-fashioned ice- and maybe an ibuprofen. 

I glide over the floor in the dark. The fact that I’ve lived in this house my entire life aids me in my ninja-like endeavors, but as I slide open the freezer, it creaks loudly, and pale light mixed with the cold both blinds me and whisks my breath away. 

Blinking, I plunge my hand into the frigid interior and fumble around for an ice pack. It takes me a moment, but my fingers eventually caress something cold and smooth. I don’t waste any time, promptly shoving it onto my recently acquired black eye. The chilling sensation sends an initial wave of additional pain over my face, but it dulls after a few seconds. I let out an exhausted sigh and flop down into one of the kitchen chairs. 

Thud.

I jerk my head up, then twist my neck to search the dark kitchen. The sound wasn’t caused by me landing on the wooden chair- it has a softer, quieter, more sinister lilt to it, as if someone is trying not to be heard. 

I rise from the chair, slowly. My breaths are short, still, silent. The whir of the refrigerator, the hum of the freezer, and the distant rumbling of the heater all blend together in a futile effort to make the silence less thick. Less dangerous. 

Thud. 


GUESS WHO'S USING THE WORD 'NINJA' ON THE 2ND PAGE OF THEIR BOOK. #priorities 


Library of Lies

In which I share all about why my alpha readers are probably better than yours and how amazing they are at catching EVERYTHING. xD

Alpha reading is going slowly but surely, and VERY well. I've only finished editing part 1 of my novel, but it's definitely much smoother now, and I've worked out a lot of things I was sorta hazy on before. 

Everyone has been really great with giving concrete suggestions- which is basically the most helpful thing of ever. So I'm making some really great progress! If you're one of my alpha readers and you're reading this then THANK YOU FOR YOUR HELP BECAUSE IT'S INCREDIBLE. 




Evidently this was a big month for blog stats. Because I... um... hit 50k pageviews?? AND I HIT 100 GFC FOLLOWERS? 

*CUE SCREAMING IN THE BACKGROUND* 

Seriously though, I'm kind of in shock? 50,000 pageviews is way more than I expected. O.O Plus I only posted three times this month, so it's a little weird that I hit so many views. 

In other news, I'm currently on internet break from everything but my own blog and alpha reading (on Google Docs) because life was getting crazy, heh. I needed some time to focus in on school and writing. *nods* So I should be getting back on Goodreads and such at some point.

And I got my new page for Library of Lies up. FINALLY. That was on my mental to-do list for way too long so I'm glad it's done. xD Check it out here!

ALSO I MADE AN AWESOME CONTACT PAGE. But I haven't had time to play around with the html yet and get it to work- so look for that at some point in the distant future. XD








Let's all just take a moment here to appreciate how far my graphic design skills have come. (Canva + Unsplash = my blog.) 



SO HOW ABOUT YOU GUYS?? How goes writing and reading and such? What projects are you currently working on? Last book you read? TELL ME EVERYTHING.  

~ Jonathan 


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