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Posts Tagged ‘Realistic’

Art: What Would Jesus Do?

Today’s Daily Prompt poses a challenging question:  Do you need to agree with an artist’s lifestyle or politics to appreciate their art? To spend money on it?

Whoo boy.

You noticed, of course, that I’m a Christian writer.  As a Christian, I often choose to listen to music by Christian artists.  I often choose to read books that help me develop in my faith.  I frequent blogs with Christian content.  All this I do on purpose, because having faith means more than having once been sprinkled with holy water.

And yes, I’ve had my doubts about secular artists.  For a time I particularly enjoyed a performer who made frequent drug references in his music.  They made me squirm.  As I watched the scene of a lovely spring day in Poland become a horrific nightmare, I admired Roman Polanski’s artistry while despising his behavior.  I sometimes find humor in the work of Alec Baldwin, yet I hope to never meet him.

These doubts sometimes make me wonder if I should allow my entertainment dollars to go to people with views that don’t match mine.  I don’t want to support anyone who leaves long and abusive phone messages for a daughter.  I think Roman Polanski should feel our outrage and disdain.  And I like the idea of giving my money to Christian artists.

But it’s just not right.

I live in the real world.

I interact with people in the real world.

If I limit myself to the ideas and the art of only those who agree with me, I’ll never learn anything.  I’ll become stagnant, hidebound.  But when I examine art that challenges my world view, I have the opportunity to grow.

I felt the same way as my children grew up about content that might be “too adult” for them.  On a few occasions I chose to shield them from content I felt would frighten them or confuse them.  But on far more occasions, my husband and I chose to watch the television show or movie with them, and then talk about what they saw and what we saw.  I’m glad we did this.  Often, we learned that our children viewed the world much the same way we did.  We learned that they had interesting, thoughtful questions.  They, in turn, appreciated that we valued their opinions.  (I confess, both kids learned exactly what to say whenever I grabbed the remote to hit the pause button.  “I know, Mom,” they would say.  And then they’d mimic my views on the subject at hand.)

It’s also how Jesus lived his life.  As a man with new ideas to share, he couldn’t spend his time with the like-minded because at that time, there were no like-minded souls.  Instead he reached out to speak with the sick and dying.  He challenged the religious leaders of his day.  He brought women into his inner circle.  He spoke with people his society considered unclean and unworthy.

So I’ll continue to view art that makes me squeamish.  I’ll read books that challenge my conservative, Christian views.  I’ll watch movies that make me wonder if anyone in Hollywood has ever met anyone outside of Hollywood.

Because it’s the right thing to do.

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I enjoy reading the blog of Rachel Held Evans, and particularly liked what she offered today in her post titled Do Christians idolize virginity?

The main characters in Forgiveness Fits decide to remain virgins until they are married.  I tried to keep it realistic, though.  They talk about sex, joke about sex, and acknowledge their sexual attraction.  More than one writer-friend has suggested that I’ve written a fantasy.  Maybe I have.

I read once about an area that had a fairly high teen-pregnancy rate.  Researchers (or psychologists or social workers, I don’t remember which) talked with the pregnant girls to learn why, after having had a thorough education in sexual prevention, they managed to get pregnant anyway.  The overwhelming response?  They didn’t know what to say when they were lost in the moment.

The researchers (or psychologists or social workers or whatever) used this information to work with the next group of young women.  They asked them to role-play the conversations they were getting into with their boyfriends, so that the others could talk about how to avoid giving in. It worked!

That’s why I wanted the kids in my book to be virgins.  I thought teenage girls–whether they are Christian or not–might appreciate reading about an authentic couple that faces this authentic and very common issue.

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Every now and then I have to remind myself that the purpose of this blog is to promote my writing.  I want to get myself a little supplemental income, pay off some nasty debts, and maybe go to Palm Desert more often.

With that in mind, I’ve been revising the first third of Forgiveness Fits.  Too many reviewers thought Caroline was whiny and annoying and several–men, especially–didn’t like reading a first person story about this whiny girl.  Reviews that identify problems are great, but the ones that suggest solutions are pure gold.  One reviewer suggested switching to third person, and I agree it solves many problems.

Below, you’ll find the new beginning.  The rest, as always, can be found at http://www.authonomy.com/books/36529/forgiveness-fits/

-1-

Caroline MacDougall eased the Monahan’s Suburban into a parking space near the Ferris High School gym and put it in park.  “Got everything?” she asked the eager football camper at her side.

“Duh, Caroline.  You sound like Mom when you do that.”

Caroline smiled.  John hated thinking of her as the family’s nanny.  He’d much rather think of Caroline as something else.

“I’ll be back at four,” she said, as she noticed the player coming toward the car from John’s side.

Caroline’s smile disappeared.  “You better go.”

John looked toward the player and made a disgusted noise.  “Chase Gillespie.  I forgot he’d be here.”  But he opened the door and hopped out.

While the door was open, Chase shouted.  “Monahan!  That your babysitter?”

John slammed the door.

Caroline contemplated Chase from behind her sunglasses, grateful for the tinted windows and air conditioning, as John jogged to the back of the Suburban and jerked out his equipment bag.  Tall and slender, Chase appeared better suited for basketball than football, but she knew him enough to know he probably liked the contact.  That, and trash talking his opponents.  John turned and waved as he trotted past Chase without another look.  Atta boy, thought Caroline.

She pulled in to the lot again just before four, and waited along with the moms there to retrieve their sons.  Michael gurgled in his safety seat and Aiden escaped from his seat to stand at the window, watching for John.  Just as she’d expected, they erupted with joy at the sight of their oldest brother, filthy from sweating all day on the football field in the sun.  Michael kicked his fat legs and Aiden jumped up and down on his seat, pudgy hands pressed on the window.

“How was it?” she asked, as she handed him a cold bottle of Gatorade.

“Good.”  He tilted his head back and swallowed half the bottle in one gulp.  “Thanks.”

“Chase give you a hard time?”

John shot her a curious look.  “You know him?”

“I know of him.  I know he’s not very nice.”  Caroline knew more than that, but wasn’t about to unload her sob stories on an eighth-grader.

“Well, then, you know him.”  John shrugged.  “He’s a creep.”

Caroline smiled to herself.  She’d been worried John would spend a day with the football players and come home indoctrinated with their beliefs about Caroline MacDougall.  She should have known better.  John adored her.

A loud “ga” from the back seat drew John’s attention.  “Hey, Mikey.”  He reached back to grab Michael’s toes.  “Didja go for a ride with Caroline?”

He smiled and repeated his catch-phrase.  “Ga!”

Aiden still stood on the seat next to Michael, sucking his thumb.  He opened his mouth enough to say, “Ca-ine said.”

“I know Caroline invited you,” John reassured him.  “Hey!” he added.  “When you come to this camp, you’ll have Matt and Mark as coaches!”  Matt and Mark were the seven-year-old twins.  “You’re so lucky.”

“ManMark!” agreed Aiden, nodding.  “ManMark,” he said once more before returning his attention to his thumb.

When they arrived back at the Monahan’s house, just across the street from Caroline’s, John carried Michael in and deposited him in his playpen before returning to the car for his bag.  He disappeared down the hall to shower while Caroline added Aidan to the playpen and helped Barb get ready for dinner.

While Caroline extracted loaves of French bread from the oven, she watched in wonder as the kids tended to their assigned chores.  Frankie, age nine, sprayed the picnic table with cleaner and wiped it down before his siblings prepared it for the meal.  Next, Reagan, the only girl, set out the eight placemats and pointed out any the spots Frankie had missed.  The twins were allowed to set out the silverware and napkins, though seldom did Barb allow them to touch the knives.  John and the next oldest brother, Chris, brought out the glasses, filled with ice and homebrewed iced tea.  John and Chris then carried the two high chairs outside, one for Michael and one for Aidan, setting them both across from the chair Caroline would perch on while feeding them.  Once everyone was served and seated, Bill said grace and when he finished, asked John about camp.

John sat up straighter when his father addressed him.  “I liked it.  They worked us hard.”

“I hope so,” mused Bill.  “What did you learn today?”

“We did some handoffs and agility drills.  We ran a lot.  They timed us.  I’m faster than some of the sophomores.”  John waited for his dad’s reply.

“Don’t brag, son.”  Bill peered over his glasses at John.  “Did you talk with the coach?”

“No, sir.  He sort of had the Varsity players doing everything.”

“Hmpf,” said Bill.

John’s face signaled his disappointment.  Then he brightened.  “Paul Corbin was there.”

“Was he?” asked Barb, suddenly interested in the conversation.

John nodded, glad to have said something at least one of his parents liked.  “He said to tell you hello.”

“We’ll have to have them over,” Barb said to Bill.  She leaned closer to Caroline in her seat at the end of the table.  “Have you met our friends Greg and Nancy?”  As Caroline shook her head, Barb continued.  “You’ll love Paul.  Everyone loves Paul.”

Caroline wanted to answer but knew her remarks would sound like self-pity.  She liked many of her classmates.  But they didn’t much like her.

After she’d spooned the entire jar of baby spaghetti and half a jar of apricots into Michael’s mouth, Caroline excused herself to take him inside and clean him up.  Wiping his face and hands, she repeated her mantra about starting school in three weeks.

Smile, she instructed herself.  Say hello more often.  Reach out in kindness and friendship.  No sarcasm, no matter how funny you think you are.  You’re good at this, Caroline MacDougall.  You can do it.

Caroline knew life in the military.  She knew a dozen schools, people of all races and backgrounds, and cities across the country.  She recognized change, disruption, and friendships based on little more than a momentary need.  Hey, let’s go play on the swings!  Because they giggled together as they pumped their legs and swung high enough for the chains to go slack, they became inseparable.  Wanna come over and watch television?  They stayed up until after midnight watching an old movie and quoted the lines the following week at school, best friends.  You!  Over there!  We need someone to play outfield.  Caroline missed every ball hit in her direction but made five new friends that one afternoon.

And then her dad retired from the Air Force, and the family moved to Spokane to be near her mom’s sister.  Caroline recognized nothing.

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My book’s rank is rising!  I’ve been inside of the top 50 since May 19–a great wedding anniversary gift.

I’ve written three books, all realistic teen stories with a Christian theme.  I tried writing them not to proselytize, but to provide an example of how a person in a relationship with Christ would react to the events in the story.  I teach students from all over the world.  They often ask questions that tell me they want to know more about how Christians behave and how they make the choices they make.  I tried to write with this audience in mind.

If you have time on this peaceful Memorial Day weekend, I’d be grateful if you could have a look.  I’d be especially grateful if your teenage daughter could have a look.  If you create an account you can leave feedback to help me improve the book.

I currently have sixty ‘backers.’  This means that 60 members of the site have decided to ‘shelve’ or support my book.  If you like my book, please consider creating an account and then placing my book on your shelf.

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A little PR

One of the things writers must learn to do is to publicize their work.  Every published writer I’ve been lucky enough to know has told me that it’s a strange new world for them.  Can you imagine?  Writers are people who enjoy sitting alone typing.  Yet we must tell everyone we know about our secret typing activity, and on top of that, we have to let them read what we’ve typed!!  I don’t know about you, but I’d rather sit in my recliner and tap on the keyboard.

I uploaded a newly revised version of my book to Authonomy.com today because it’s my turn to be reviewed for two weeks by one of the crit groups I’ve joined.  A crit group is like a college creative writing workshop:  it’s a group of people who have written books and have agreed to read yours in exchange for you reading theirs.  This particular group focuses on one book each fortnight.  (I love the word ‘fortnight.’  So much more useful than ‘two weeks.’)

I’ve written a YA book about two Christian teens.  I’m told the category is “CTF” or Christian Teen Fiction.  I think of it as Realistic YA Christian because it explores realistic, modern themes and how they might be handled by people who happen to be Christian.  My concern is that it’s “too Christian” for mainstream publishers and “too realistic” for Christian publishers.  I’d love to know what you think.

Anyway, the latest and greatest is now posted, and I’d be honored if you would have a look.

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Spring Break

So this is what happens when you create a blog.  You add excerpts from your books.  You post notices letting your friends know you’ve started blogging.  You comb through your PC for previously written gems you can fob off as new posts.

And then you realize, horrified, that you have little else to say.

I’d hoped to blog about the books I read, particularly the YA books read by my students.  But because I spend so much time on Authonomy reading parts of unpublished books, my appetite for completed novels is sated.  Besides, on Authonomy I can also visit with the author.

Sigh.

This past week was our Spring Break from school, so here’s a Spring Break excerpt from “Steadfast:”

Chris began to laugh at the loud voices and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry or arm myself with a frying pan and a knife.  I pulled on my shirt and opened the door to prevent the neighbors from calling the police.

At the sight of me in the doorway, they dropped the swagger and adopted the look of chastened schoolboys.  They headed straight for me, mumbling “Sorry about the noise,” and “Nice to see you,” as they entered the apartment.

Once inside they hesitated a second as they saw the state of their once powerful older brother.  But to their credit, it was a quick second, and then they were climbing into the bed, stealing his cookies and lemonade and firing questions at him.

“Dude, is she….”  started Matt.

“Always here?  finished Mark.

“Is it true you did it…” started Mark

“With just one guy?” finished Matt.

“Do you have more…” started Matt

“Of these awesome cookies?” finished Mark.

“Are you going to come…” started Mark

“To our baseball games?” finished Matt.

“Why is it…” started Matt

“So effing hot in here?” finished Mark.

I took them more cookies and lemonade.  They ignored me, of course, and I stood by the French doors, watching them.  The blue fire returned to Chris’s eyes as he answered their questions.

“Did you thank Heather for the awesome cookies?”

They turned to me, as if seeing me for the first time.  Their invisible twin communication system crackled, and they bounced off the bed in tandem to embrace me in a terrifying twin bear hug.  “Thanks for the cookies!” cried one, a little too loudly.  “We love you, Heather,” cried the other, also too loudly.  I tried to worm my way out of their moist and smelly embrace.  Mark picked up on my disinclination and turned back toward the bed.

Before he could bounce like Tigger on his beloved Poo, Chris said, “Why don’t you sit in this leather wing chair?” and pointed at one of the lawn chairs.  Mark took the hint.

Meanwhile, Matt didn’t let me go.  In fact, he hugged me right around the edge of the wall into the other room, and whispered “Thank you,” as he looked into my face.  He put a hand on either side of my head.  “I feel so much better knowing you’re here.”  He kissed my forehead and practically sprinted back to the other room to drop into the other lawn chair as loudly as possible.

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I’m Blogging!

I’ve decided it’s worthwhile to begin blogging in support of my writing (and reading) habit.  As the author of three books in a sub-genre I’m calling “Realistic YA Fiction,” I know my work will be difficult to place.  Christian publishers might shy away from the realism and mainstream publishers may shy away from the religion.

But I believe there are young adults out there who live in the real world and struggle to live out their faith while interacting with others in that real world.  For them, I write my books.

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