Monday, August 8, 2016

What's So Important About Women's Fiction

with guest Carre Armstrong Gardner.

For the first three-and-a-half decades of my life, I was a people-pleaser. I thought—I really did think—that niceness was next to godliness. The most important thing, if you wanted to show the character of Christ, I thought, was to be agreeable. To not ruffle feathers. To say, “yes, dear” to your husband, and “yes, of course, I'd love to!” to anything the church asked you to do. I don't know if I was ever taught this overtly, but it's certainly what I saw the nice Christian women around me doing. It was what godly women in books did (Ma Ingalls, from the Little House on the Prairie series, anyone?) But this faulty brand of “godliness” made me miserable. It left me with no sense of who I really was. It very nearly ruined my marriage.

Inspirational fictional heroines have, historically, not done us many favors this way.  As a young adult, I read plenty of missionary biographies, and there, I found real heroines aplenty: women of true courage and fortitude, with a robust godliness that appealed to me. They stood up to corrupt governments, and went to prison for the sake of their ideals; crossed continents on foot, leading trains of little orphans behind them to safety. Women like these were one of the reasons I became a missionary myself, later on. But these were not the kinds of women who showed up in the novels of my church's library back then. In those earlier years, Christian heroines were often timid and helpless. They seemed to spend a lot of time standing about wringing their hands until someone with broad shoulders, a shock of unruly hair, and an impossible amount of money happened along to rescue them.

But it's 2016, and women's fiction can—and should—do better than that. We've evolved, it's true, there's still room for growth. I would like to see women's inspirational fiction be better at addressing real, complex issues. Not many of us will find ourselves orphaned and cast out into the world to earn our living with our secretarial skills, according to the 1980's Harlequin romance formula. 

Twenty-first century women are more likely to face issues like a husband who has an affair; crushing debt; infertility. And while there are plenty of faith-based books on those subjects, they are still mostly in the non-fiction section of the bookstore. Women read self-help books, of course we do. But there is something about fiction that resounds and stays with us in a way that non-fiction rarely does. In spite of all the hype against gender stereotyping, studies are still pretty conclusive: Men change their minds when faced with facts. Women are more likely to change when the facts are presented in the context of relationships. And the essence of fiction is that the reader develops a relationship with the character. In fact, writers know that during the hours someone spends reading a novel, that person becomes the main character, in a sense. Stories shape the way we think and behave: and as women's worlds and problems grow more complex, it's more important than ever that women's fiction speak to those worlds.

We're improving at this, especially in the last decade or two, but there's still a lot of room for growth. For example, twenty years ago, prescription drug abuse and alcoholism weren't really publicly-acknowledged problems among Christian women. But today we know they're enormously widespread, even in the church. I wrote about them in my Darling Family series because they're issues that should be addressed in the fiction we read. And what about food addiction, obesity, and all the health and social problems that go along with it? I've never seen that addressed in inspirational fiction, yet it's clearly an issue for a lot of women. So I wrote a book about it (Better All the Time, Tyndale, 2015.) Other issues I've written about over the series are bad marriages (All Right Here, Tyndale, 2014,) perfectionism, and grief (They Danced On, Tyndale, 2016.) Real issues that women face.

One of the pitfalls of writing inspirational fiction is the temptation to become didactic: that is, that the author will try too hard to teach a moral or a lesson. As a writer, I have felt this pressure from readers and at times from my publisher, who knows what readers expect. I'm afraid it's a snare I've fallen into more often than I like to admit. But good fiction should not be didactic, and one of the first rules of writing is to simply tell the story and trust your reader.  Fiction should not be a Sunday School lesson, with a moral to it, where the good girl always wins. Because life is not like that, so how is that helpful? Ideally—and again, I have not always done it perfectly—I prefer to show my characters with real struggles, let them battle their way through them, and trust the reader to take away what she needs. Can readers learn something from my characters' stories? I hope so, but it's not up to me to decide what that should be. I might even say that's God's job.

The Bible, I have learned over the years, has much to say about the answers to our problems, but is fairly silent when it comes to the process. And forgiveness, sobriety, grief, choosing to love...they're not one-time problems with a done-and-dusted solution. This is where fiction can fill in some of the gaps. It can show people like us grappling through the process. It can make us feel, for a couple of hours or weeks, that we are not alone in the fight. It offers hope that things can be different, and gives us examples to follow in our lifelong battle to become all that God made us to be.

What about you? If you're primarily a reader, what's a novel you've read—inspirational or not—that materially helped you through a problem you were facing? And for the writers among us, what's an issue you would like to write about: a theme you think could make a real, solid difference for women who might read your book someday?

Carre Armstrong Gardner is a former worker with children at risk in Russia. Now, she continues her work in Russian-speaking countries while making her home in Portland, Maine. She is a nurse and the mother of 3 grown children. Her latest novel is They Danced On, the final book of The Darling Family series. Follow her on Facebook or at her website:

Today Carre is generously offering two books to commenters. One for each of two winners.  All Right Here and They Danced On. Leave a comment to get your name tossed in the family hat. Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.

All Right              Better All the Time          They Danced On


  1. Welcome, Carre!

    A nurse! I love it. Moi as well.

    I spent most of the time reading this nodding and smiling.

    We're all about being REAL around here.

    I love that you're talking about the elephant in the room.

    Gearing up for some good chatter Monday in Seekerville!!

  2. Welcome, Carrie. Yes, yep, I agree. I'll be looking for your novels in our library...and if they're not there...I will keep,looking. Thank you for addressing the hard issues

  3. Thank you for your post Carrie. You are right, it seems no one touches the personal issues of today. Maybe publishers are afraid it won't sell as a piece of fiction, but I believe they are wrong. Many times, in books I have read I learn something or I see a flaw in the character that reminds me of me. I think it's wonderful when an author can make the reader think.

    May you all have a blessed day!
    Cindy W.

  4. Welcome, Carrie! "Fiction should not be a Sunday School lesson, with a moral to it, where the good girl always wins. Because life is not like that." I couldn't agree with you more. Do you think this is the reason so many authors are breaking into Indie, to address more real issues we face? Great topic! I look forward to reading your books.

  5. Cindy and Jill, I have a theory about why we're not seeing these issues addressed more in inspirational fiction, and it boils down to....not the publisher, but...wait for it... The Women Who Read Christian Fiction. I'm sad to say it. But publishing markets are driven by what readers want. And what we see a huge, huge volume of in this market is simple romance and Amish romance. That's what sells, so that's what they publish. There's nothing wrong with those genres, but I think the amount of shelf space they take up does speak to what Christian women want in their reading. Those types of books give us a little dose of happiness; they hearken back to simpler times. Maybe, if we're stuck in a less-than-happy marriage ourselves, they help us remember what it was like to be in love. But I do always close the back cover of a romance novel, when they epilogue is over, and they're newly married, and I think, "Now the REAL story begins."

  6. Jill--I didn't exactly address your comments: sorry! You might be surprised how many scolding comments I get in book reviews from women who think my books should have more of a moral lesson to them. It's what they're used to in Christian fiction, so when it doesn't show up, the book doesn't feel as "Christian-ish," maybe. I like to think Christian writers can help change their minds about this, but it will take time. But publishers WILL buy books about gritty issues more often, as they see that it sells. My publisher, Tyndale, has been great about letting me write in a way that's true to myself. I believe they're one of the leaders in creating change in this market, but time will tell.

  7. Hi Carre, welcome to Seekerville! First, I love your beautiful book covers! Wow! Second, what a great ministry your stories are through fiction.

    I know in real life many issues don't get resolved, but you have to learn to live with the consequences of other peoples' actions. For instance, a woman I know is raising THREE grandchildren born to her drug-addict daughter. They are in grade school now but still suffer from the drug abuse inflicted on them by their mother. And I've heard the grandmother often confide she doesn't know what she's going to do. BUT she continues to care and love these children. Real life is not tidy like some fiction, and I think it's good to not tie everything up in a nice neat bow in our stories.

    Thanks so much for sharing today!

  8. CARRIE, welcome to Seekerville. Your books sound and look wonderful!

    Thanks for the thought provoking post. I write historical romance so that happy ending is guaranteed. In real life there is no such guarantee, but stories can also give women escape from their problems. Having said that, I try to write strong heroines facing real issues that readers can relate to.


  9. Jackie, wouldn't it be great if someone wrote a novel about the issues that grandmother is facing with her grandchildren? With drug addiction becoming a greater and greater problem, it's certainly a growing need!

  10. Janet, Sometimes we all need to escape. Romance novels will always be a strong market for women readers, and if that's your writing niche, then you're doing readers a favor by creating those strong heroines who know how to do more than stand about wringing their hands and waiting for their hero to show up. Good for you for helping change the culture in that way! I once wrote a historical novel that didn't get published, and I COULD NOT BELIEVE the number of hours of research that went into the writing of it. I've learned a lot about history from reading historical romance: history that would not have stayed with me if I'd only read it in dry old non-fiction. So again, good for you.

    I myself don't like "gritty fiction," either in books or film. I can't read or watch anything violent or hopeless. So although I write about gritty issues, I try to do it with warmth and hope.

  11. Hi Carre AMEN to what you have said. Welcome to Seekerville and thanks for sharing your observations and ideas. I have been saying the same thing ever since I heard about Christian fiction and started writing for it. There is a demand for the kind we have now. There is a readership for that simple fiction because it is escape from the real world.

    But I truly believe there is a need for the other also. Through fiction and people's stories we learn how to cope with the ugliness that life sometimes offers. There is evil in the world. It says so in the Bible. So how do we confront it, face it, deal with it. In real life. Those are wonderful conflicts to write into stories and show wonderful character arc changes that we need in fiction writing.

    It will be fun to hear responses today. Thanks again and good for you to speak out.

    PS Love the sounds of your books. True issues that face most of us today in one way or another.

  12. Welcome, Carre! I've written a novel dealing with infertility, but it remains in a drawer to this day. :) Who knows, though. Maybe someday I'll pull it out and revise it and try once again to sell it.

  13. Thank you, Carrie, for this post. I just finished reading a three book series by Elizabeth Maddrey about twin sisters and their spouses dealing with infertility. The books were powerful and I believe they helped me to understand someone going through those issues.

    While I was writing my first ever novel, I wrote about rape. It wasn't planned when I started writing, this heroine is raped twice in a six month period. I tried to portray her as a strong Christian and her pastor and his wife as strong leadership. I wanted to emphasize how she dealt with the aftermath because lets face it bad things do happen to good people. I am now reworking the story but the basic story is still there. When I was writing it the first time I received advice from a family member that I should take out the rape and that I shouldn't be writing such things.

    I hope everyone has a great day.

  14. Good morning, Seekerville.

    I'm one who'd rather read for escape than to search for answers to my problems. But, the problems I give my characters stem from my emotions caused by my own problems. Does that make sense?

    I'm a I Love Lucy type of person. They took a lot of real-life marriage situations and exaggerated them w/humor. In real life Ricky might've belted Lucy a good one for some of the pranks she pulled, and Lucy might have found her a boyfriend on the side if she kept fearing Ricky was in love w/another woman. But in the show, we all new they were deeply in love w/another.

  15. CARRIE, we think alike. I can't handle violent and hopeless stories. Some of the grittiness of my novels stems from the wounds my characters carry. When the story forces them to face those issues and grow and heal, readers today will relate and and close the book with hope in their hearts.

    Are you a plotter or panster? Or a mix?


  16. I appreciate your response, Carre. :)

  17. Welcome, Carre! Lots of wisdom in this post, and I agree completely that the best fiction is real and honest but always hopeful. One of the reasons I'm a fan of women's fiction is that it can dig deeper into individual lives instead of always keeping the romance front and center. Love happens in the midst of everything else going on around us, but it's all part of the story.

  18. Sandra, it's interesting that you use the Bible of an example of messy lives: Esther--a nice, faithful Jewish girl--is a one-night stand for the king, and is so *ahem* good at it, that she ends up saving her people. Lot's daughters commit incest with him when he's blacked-out drunk. Noah's son likely does the same. People are slaughtered, tortured, sold into slavery... Does life get messier than that? Those stories are appropriately toned down for us as children in Sunday School (where we're taught that Esther "won a beauty contest,") and I think we often forget to take a fresh look at those stories as adults.

    The beauty of the Bible is that the moral thread running through it is unwavering: God DOES promise victory to the upright, but sometimes that victory doesn't come for a very, very long time. Meanwhile, you have to keep on fighting the good fight. Fiction can give us some tools for doing that.

    Well-said, Sandra!

  19. Oh, Missy, I hope you'll try to get your novel out there: infertility is such a heartbreaking issue! I recently read a statistic--and I'm going to get the exact figure wrong here, but I'm in the right ballpark--that something like 90% of people who say they dream of writing a novel never finish a manuscript. And of those who do, something like 85% never submit their work anywhere for publication! The moral of THIS story is: work it up and submit it somewhere. Someone, somewhere, needs to read it!

  20. Wilani, WOW! Who, in the Christian market, is writing about rape? Not many, if any. Good for you! It takes courage to work outside the box and disregard the comments of the *hem* well-meaning. In my second book, "Better All the Time," I have a homosexual character. I made no value statements on the issue either way: he's just a person who happens into this family's life, and they love him. I wrote him in because homosexuals are very much part of the social landscape, especially where I live, and Christians need tools to learn how to love them. But oh, heavens! The flack I've gotten from readers who say--like they said to you--that I "shouldn't be writing about such things!"

  21. Connie, I think that's where a LOT of women are, when it comes to reading and writing books. We don't all need to be smacked over the head with the anvil of truth: often tackling a more hidden issue--and our own emotional issues are certainly hidden issues--is just as necessary. In the church, women can feel the pressure not to be anxious or depressed; not to suffer from poor self-esteem, or bitterness, or a whole host of other emotional snares. Somebody needs to speak to them too, and maybe that person is you. And of course, a spoonful of humor always helps the medicine go down. :)

  22. Janet, I'm a plotter, for sure! I'm always afraid that if I "pants it," (or fly by the seat of my pants,) then I'll paint myself into a corner, so to speak. But once I know the structure of what needs to happen in a scene, I try to give my characters free reign, and sometimes they surprise me pleasantly.

    What about you? Plotter or Pantser?

  23. Hi Carrie:

    What a wonderful post you brought us! I have long held strong and, I believe, similar views concerning the goals of fiction.

    It believe that 'didactic' is telling; for example, the teacher who relies mainly (or entirely) on lectures. Even beyond the inspirational perspective, 'telling' is not well accepted in fiction.

    The 'exemplary' teacher, on the other hand, teaches by showing, doing, practical application and role playing. This approach is the much prized 'showing' in fiction.

    It has been said that we read in order to live other lives. We seek the experiences. And while experience may be the best teacher, it does not have to be our own experience. We can also learn from other people's experience-- especially if we can experience that experience vicariously. Fiction can provide that vicarious opportunity.

    The most influential fiction in my life, especially as I was going thru young adulthood, was Ernest Hemingway. His characters acted and then suffered the consequences. They also acted in ways I would most not likely ever risk or have the opportunity to risk.

    Hemingway's ethics were simple: "what feels good afterwards, was good and what you feel bad about afterwards, was bad."

    Of course, the problem with this ethical standard is that you have to do the thing in question before you can determine if doing that thing is moral or the right thing to do. In other words, you get one free try at doing anything!

    Hemingway did many things he later regretted. He betrayed friends, got into fights he was almost sure to win and really tried to hurt the other person (even his friends), took too many risks, and used people unconscionably. Yet, to Hemingway's credit, he shows all this bad behavior in his fiction. He did not spare himself. He was indeed his own worse critic. A suicide.

    Hemingway's one didactic book, "Across the River and Into the Trees" was harshly criticized at the time for being vainglorious and heavy-handed. He wrote this work while lamenting his lost youth. This was a stage his friend, Scott Fitzgerald, also suffered through a little earlier in his life. Scott is still quoted for saying, "There are no second acts in American lives." The 'lost generation' seemed to burn up their youth like a roman candle and then spent the rest of their lives lamenting how fast it all ended.

    There are lessons here. Some seemingly simple books, like "The Old Man and the Sea" and "The Great Gatsby", can teach us many things about life which we may not even know we learned from reading those books for many years to come -- if ever. I believe it is these kind of books -- which can change lives without the reader knowing it -- that are the ones which most often win Nobel Prizes.

    This need for fiction to be 'life-changingly worthy' transcends the inspirational women's fiction market. All fiction can be inspirational in this sense: both secular and non-secular.

    When Jesus wanted to save the adulteress from stoning, he did not lecture the crowd. He just wrote each person's sins in the sand. If you can write in a way so the appropriate readers can 'see' the errors of their ways and the ways of others -- while coming to these conclusions on their own --, well, that would be exemplary.

    Please enter me in the drawing for one of your books. I think I'd enjoy living 'vicariously' in your world.


  24. Myra, I agree with you completely. As a teenager, I read Jeanette Oke's "Love Comes Softly" series, and it showed me that love is a choice; that it can start with friendship and commitment, and grow into real romance from there. I think, in the end, every marriage is an arranged marriage in this sense: many of us do, at some point, wake up one morning, look at our sleeping spouse, and think, "My goodness, what have I DONE?" (At least, this was my own experience, and seems to be a common theme among women I've known.) And then, you just have to get on with learning to live side-by-side with another human being, and making the most of it. If you're lucky, you do it well and you fall in love with your spouse again.

    Now THAT's a story that never gets old.

  25. I see we have a crowd. Time to pull out the bagels and schmear and fruit!!!

    Ladies and gents, help yourself.

  26. Vince, Ah! A man with literary tastes after my own heart! Have you read Anna Karenina? Wow, THAT is a courageous book. Tolstoy simply tells the story--of a woman who has an affair, which goes on to destroy the lives of everyone around her--but he makes no value statements about it. I read this book when I lived in Russia, and the Russians' take on the book was completely different from mine. I saw a moral lesson that adultery and self-centered choices ruin lives. The Russians, however, see Anna as a heroine. They believe she had no choice but to act the way she acted, because she was suffocating in the life she was living with her husband. Interesting.

    Last week, I had two instances where I saved an animal from dying: I think I carried a moth out of the house, instead of killing it, and later did the same with a bat. I was amused, as I was thinking about this later, to remember all the fairy tales and fables I read as a child, where someone saves the life of an animal and then gets rewarded--with wishes or riches, or something like that. But that's not real life, is it? Something about our childhood lessons stays with us as adults, and we want to both search for the moral of the story, and also to teach it. Truly courageous fiction, I think, does neither. It tells the story and trusts the reader.

    One of my favorite novels is "The Catcher in the Rye." I think it's a brilliant piece of psychology. It's never left me, yet nowhere did Salinger try to tell me what to think or do. Thanks for your thoughts!

  27. I think a good many authors do discuss the ugly themes and work very hard to get them into their books.

    Mary Connealy writes historical and has dealt with physical abuse. Ruth Logan Herne has had to indie publish the really tough issues of molestation.

    So I see it getting out there.

    But I will say that there are issues I don't want to read about. I am a HEA girl for the most part. A Christian light girl and that's because I already dealt with those issues in my personal life and came out on the other side a victor.

    But, that said I do understand that there are women out there who need to hear about that journey. I'm just not the person to write it.

  28. I salute you Carre and authors like Ruth and Mary. Oh, and Myra Johnson dealt with marital discord in One Imperfect Christmas. Brave women.

  29. Well speaking of fairytales.

    I watch Criminal Minds as research for a book. Talk about the ugliness of humanity.

    Anyhow...a quote from a recent episode still has me thinking...

    Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragon can be killed. -C.K Chesterton.

    1. Tina, I'm a Criminal Minds kind of gal too! Love the quote.

  30. Thank you for this thoughtful and provocative post Carre. I understand the need women have to escape in their fiction and "keep things light". However, I also believe as Christians we need to be able to crack the tough issues as well. Jesus never diverted from anything, but told stories with simplicity and deep meaning at the same time. I'd like to see more issues confronted in Christian fiction: date rape and rape culture on campuses - because we're really pulling the wool over our own eyes if we think that doesn't happen on Christian campuses as well - drug/alcohol use among Christians who struggle - the one of infertility is deeply personal to me, as is divorce and the havoc it wreaked in my life and my future life as a Christian. We don't want to talk about these things but they happen and I believe Jesus meets us right where we are at the time. Fiction can show Christians and the non-Christian woman who picks up a book at the doctor's office, for example, how Christ deals with us and the situation. How about the loss of a child through cancer? None of these things sound like escapist stories but I believe there's a place for them in the CBA market. Just my .02 worth on a Monday morning. And good for you for including a homosexual character in your book. this is an issue the church is really grapping with - how to show love and compassion to homosexuals. I have a young nephew who's "come out" and it's been a challenge for everyone with hurt feelings that didn't have to be hurt. This is life! and we're called to be salt and light in the world, so I hope I can be brave in my fiction writing as you have shown yourself to be. Thank you for challenging all of us today!

  31. Carrie, this is a great post. I like that Christian fiction can deal with more "real" subjects today. I usually enjoy reading books with happy endings, but I do also enjoy some books that have more serious subjects to them. I mostly prefer to read fiction to nonfiction, so glad that is happening. I am currently writing my first book about a town dealing with a devastating tornado and the process of rebuilding.

    I am not one who could write about some of the more serious issues of life, such as what Ruthy does so well. I have written some short stories that include the topic of losing a child which I know personally from having lost my daughter at age 17 months. She is on my mind especially today because this would have been her birthday. I may have to put that theme in a book someday.

  32. CARRIE, thank you for the great post!

    I recently finished reading Becky Wade's The Porter Series. Each sibling dealt with insecurities. I was reminded of the Lord's faithfulness during our valley seasons.

    Please put me in for the drawing.

  33. Well, now you've gone and done it. Made me think. hahahaha

    BTW, I read the back cover on all your books. I'm very excited to read them.

    I believe every author has an underlying theme running through most of their books. Can you give yours a one-liner? I am pretty sure that I know what it is without reading the books which is cool.

    I tend two deal with two themes:

    1. It's never too late to have a happy childhood

    2. Normal is way overrated.

    So I guess I wrap it in HEA and a small book formula. And yes, as you said to Janet, there is a huge market for that. HUGE. So it is a HUGE responsibility. You made me realize that in a new way, today.

    So thank you.

  34. Hi Carrie,

    One thing my daughter brought up as she started dating and then marrying her first serious boyfriend at age 27 is that Christians never talk about the realities of dating, getting serious with a guy, etc. etc. She grew up during the time of "just say no," but she knew that there would be a time when she wouldn't say "no" and she needed to be prepared. So we had a lot of conversations during the ten months between the time when she knew he was the one and the wedding.

    I see Christian fiction in the same way - for years writers have ignored the realities of life (for many different reasons), when the readers are longing to learn how to respond to those realities as a Christian.

    Thanks for your insights. :)

  35. Gosh, and the CBA is only barely starting to break out of the mold of who the Christian woman is.

    Aren't we all nice blue-eyed, blond-haired pastor's wives who grew up with Jesus? Women who lead perfect lives. I see them all the time. LOLOLOL.


  36. Wow another person who catches a moth and frees it. My hubby thinks I'm so funny when I do that. LOL

    Tina you are tooooooo funny. Blue-eyed, blond-haired, etc.???? LOL especially the perfect part.

  37. Tina, I think your last comment hit the nail on the head: "CBA is only barely starting to break out of the mold of who the Christian woman is." We need more quirky, imperfect characters. For a few years though, it was fashionable for a romantic heroine's "fatal flaw" to be that she had a child out of wedlock. So now she's a single mother. But then that heroine often went on to be the nice, blue-eyed, blond-haired pastor's wife in character, at least. But most of us, in real life, are as prone to be irritable as we are compassionate; as selfish one day as we are loving and giving the next. And on and on. Fascinating heroines abound in the ABA market, but I often feel, when I read CBA fiction, that I'm reading about the same character over and over. It's not that Christian authors aren't good writers, because they are. I just think we face pressure not to let the world see our imperfections too clearly. And when you're an author, readers know that everything that shows up on the page was generated in your own, imperfect head. Maybe we pull back unconsciously, when we write as Christian women. What do you think?

  38. Interesting comment Jan I"ve often wondered how we are going to achieve these ideals if we don't have examples of how real people struggle to achieve them. It helps to know what works and what doesn't and it also helps to know that what works for some may not work for others.

    Another rationale for real characters facing real issues.

  39. Laurie, thanks for saying thanks to my including a homosexual character: I wasn't sure how it would go over, so I almost didn't mention it. See? We edit ourselves because we're afraid of what other people will think, and it shows up in our writing! But somebody has to pave the way, and Christian women writers can be brave enough to do it. Campus rape and date rape should be written about. It may help a victim--especially someone who's been victimized on a Christian campus--to realize she's not alone. Christians, of all people, have help and hope to offer anyone who has gone through the hardest things. Writing fiction is a fantastic tool to get that done. We just need to have the courage to do it.

  40. I've always felt I was a woman who loved Christ. I don't feel I have much in common with the average Christian woman writer or non-writer. Wow and isn't that a double whammy for Christian women writers. We already feel like outsiders because people are talking to us in our head and then we feel like the odd man out because we aren't Norman Rockwell Christians.

    I was raised Catholic. Church on Sunday. Hell all week.

    My first introduction to Jesus was in a Protestant summer camp. I was mesmerized by this Bible thing. :)

  41. Sandy, if writing about a town rebuilding after a tornado isn't serious, I don't know what is! And from a purely literary standpoint, I see the potential for all sorts of metaphors in there about rebuilding lives in other ways: relationships with others; relationships with God; relationship with self....

    I think the key to whatever we're writing is not necessarily to aim for being gritty and serious, but to write what feels right, then BE HONEST about it. Don't write characters who are "good examples:" write characters who behave in real ways. And be honest about God's redemptive grace as well. If we block out the voices of the critics around us (and maybe our mothers and our fifth-grade Sunday School teacher as well,) and write with integrity, then the truth will shine through. No matter what your story is, there is probably someone out there who needs to read it.

  42. Carre what a great, inspiring post.
    I love when you're talking about the courage and danger faced by missionaries. These are NOT shrinking violets.

  43. Jan, I think we as Christian authors are writing during exciting times: we have the chance to improve on the Christian fiction of the past and help people figure out how to face tough issues that the church is only now starting to face openly. I think it's pretty incredible that your daughter would come to you with her issues about what it means to be married. My daughter is 20, and I can't even imagine her coming to me with things like that! She would die a thousand deaths of shame. You must have done something right with her. :)

  44. I actually have a problem with many Christian fiction novels because they are so MILD.

    I really love a book that moves and makes me laugh and is scary and passionate and edgy.

    So much of Christian fiction avoids all of that.

    I try to write my own books in a way that entertains me. I guess that's why any time the story gets too mild....I shoot someone. Just because I need action, tension, drama, even laughter (though no one's probably laughing DURING the shooting)

  45. I also, when reading secular fiction, find myself editing. If she leaned on GOD right now, this would all be solved. It would take real courage though.
    I do love a brave heroine who turns to God for more strength!!!

  46. Mary, my missionary colleague in Russia had been a missionary in China years before. She actually escaped the country by hiding in the hold of a ship, during the Tiananmen Square upheaval in the late '80's. She used to tell that story without batting an eyelash. We have known some of the most courageous, cool, REAL people in the world--and they're our missionary friends.

  47. Tina, I think my underlying theme is keeping family together.

    I think that's because I want all my children to live CLOSE to me.

    Can that be a theme? But I know, for example, when Kylie in 'Tried and True' got married and moved away from her sisters, I hated that.

    I even have my own imaginary second chapter of that story where Kylie spends several years back east then her whole family moves back west to settle near Kylie's sisters.

    I force myself to sometimes have them all move apart. It's simple reality, but it's always a struggle.

  48. Carre, this makes me feel like a coward in my own life...and yet I think it's GOOD to feel that way. How else do we change if we don't recognize our shortcomings and face them and act against a timid nature that is failing God?

  49. I agree- these are exciting times. The problem is, they can get too exciting. One big challenge is to keep my heroines from becoming mere damsels in distress... while preventing the men from becoming lazy good-for-nothings but standing there and looking pretty. I mean, I'm all for strong women... as long as it doesn't create weak men. We want the Leias of Star Wars, without the disappointments of guys like Luke Skywalker (no offence, but he's too whiny, even for a brother). No, we need men like Han Solo, who make the story more interesting and actually challenge the heroine.

    As for dealing with problems, I admit, I'm a bit shier there. My characters deal with things like going on the run from evil crime lords and being forced to be special agents by the government. I try to use these things most of us won't have to deal with to exaggerate the things we do have to deal with to show the truths we need to face in a more magnified view. Though, scared as I am to meet with problems head on, I have to admit, I'm noticing them beginning to shine through my stories with more frankness (I mean, the book I'm working on now's main conflict is the protagonists deciding whether they should remain married or not... because they accidentally got married on a mission).

  50. Oh my goodness, Mary, you made me laugh out loud: "Any time the story gets too mild...I shoot someone." Would you believe that at this moment, the FBI is at my house, talking to my cop husband, on our front porch? It's true, and I'm going to tell them what you said.

    Okay, I won't tell them. But amen and amen to fiction that is too MILD. Perfect word. Of course, as some people have already commented, there are readers who like mild, and who find a soothing escape in that. So there will always be a need for more "gentle" fiction, and that's all right. I guess I don't really mind if the plot of a book is mild: I just don't want the characters to be. I want memorable characters who feel so real that I want to take them home with me and put them in my guest bedroom.

  51. The FBI really IS at my house right now.

  52. By the way, please throw my name into the drawing.

  53. Boo, you have a very cool name.

    Also, I think it's insightful that you see what you're doing in your books: using situations most of us will never face, but letting the issues we DO face shine through. I don't know if you happened to read my comment a bit further up on the page about how I believe most marriages, at some time or other, are arranged marriages, because we all go through times when we have to choose to stay married just because we promised. I've always been fascinated by the subject of arranged marriage, so I like the idea that you have a character who accidentally got married on a mission. I think she will fall in love with her husband just at the crucial moment and choose to stay married, and we will all breathe a sigh of relief!

    After I wrote my second book, my husband complained that all my strong male characters were unlikable, and all my likable male characters were weak. It forced me to take a look at some of my attitudes toward men that might have been coming through subconsciously. I'm admitting nothing here, mind you, just sayin'...

    Oh, and Luke Skywalker is the biggest whiner ever. My family makes fun of him every time we watch Star Wars. Do not let your male characters do this, or we will be forced to laugh at you as well. ;)

  54. CARRE - I really enjoyed this article. Thank you! As a reader, I describe myself as a lover of romance novels with plenty of meat on the bone. I don't want to read anything superficial! I need to see a strong, vibrant protagonist struggle with something that truly challenges her and then I want to see that character grow. I have so much to say. I'll try to be concise...

    As I writer, well...I write what I like to read. The struggle with grief after a loved one has died is one that tugs particularly on my heart, because I've lived through it. When death comes to your house, so to speak, it takes everything you thought you believed, everything you thought you knew, and upends it all.

    That said, I NEED some humor in my novels. Otherwise, it's just so heavy. One theme that I'm drawn to is fully surrendering our lives to God. Jesus not only as savior but also Lord of our lives and displaying that difference.

    Now, as far as the moral of the story goes, that's where it gets tough. I've read some Christian fiction that literally had me rolling my eyes. I felt, at times, that I was literally reading through a sermon. Then, last month, I wrote a scene where my protagonist is in church, listening to a sermon. Ha! Thank you because your post will have me re-reading my scenes to edit for preachiness.

    On a side note, I'm a new writer, definitely a panster and I totally agree that when I finish most romance novels, I close the book thinking "Now the real story begins!"

  55. So Tina, all this time, I've been thinking about what the theme for my books might be, in one sentence. Like Mary Connealy, I love close family relationships (I am starting to think, Mary, that you and I should go out for coffee together...) But I think I'd sum up my theme this way:

    Life is messy, but love carries us through.

    I chose to write about a large, loud, boundary-challenged family, but if you read the books, you'll find that they're not necessarily honest with each other about their problems. And that's true to life too: many of us, by the time we're adults, no longer tell our parents and siblings much about the messy stuff. None of us can ever be sure we know the truth of what goes on in another person's life. But in a family, you love each other the best you can anyway, and try to hold it all together, and be there for each other when it's called for, and commit each other to God. That's all you can do.

  56. Josee, I loved what you had to say! Yes, yes, and yes! Maybe we should have coffee too!

    I am constantly fighting the urge to preach (in fiction, as in life.) And to be perfectly honest, I was more didactic than I liked in my 3 books, because my editor urged me in that direction. But then, she knows readers' expectations, so I listened to her. I have a friend who writes paranormal romance for the secular market, and she's always being pressured by her editor to write sex scenes, so I guess the pressures I face are the lesser of the two evils.

  57. Well, Boo isn't actually my name- it's my brother's nickname that we chose for my gmail name for some series of convoluted reasons I don't entirely remember. My real name is Jordan, though my pen name is Jes Drew. How I manage to keep all my names straight, I have no idea (or my characters' names for that matter, since it comes to real people I can't keep them straight).

    As for my poor, accidentally arranged marriage characters, I actually tell the story through the guy's point of view, and his wife is already in love with him, though he's too blind to see it. But don't worry, he finally realizes that he loves her back... and then finally gets around to telling her before it's too late. Barely.

    Also, all Luke Sywalkers are banned as my heroes. My sister and I often compare our male protagonists with others to make sure they're manly enough.

  58. MARY - I do that all the time with secular novels. This book would have been SO much better with Jesus in there! That's what keeps pulling me back to Christian fiction, though, I've read some Christian novels thinking they would have been better with a little more edge and a some grit.

  59. Tina, I so identify with what you said (I'm going to paraphrase here,) about not feeling like you fit in with other Christian women all that well. My husband and I spend more time with our non-believing friends than with our church friends. We just have fun with them. And somehow, it's easier for us to resist the urge to conform when we're with them than to resist with our Christian friends. For example, my husband has no problem telling his work buddies, "No, I'm not interested in going to the strip club with you." They take that in stride and even admire him for it. But if I tell my Christian friends,"No thanks, I'm not interested in going to that new Christian movie that's opening next weekend," and they look at me like I just took the Lord's name in vain. It's just harder to be yourself in the church, sometimes. Of course, I have also found wonderful, supportive friends in the church. As I get older, I'm more comfortable being myself and letting the chips fall where they may. Sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised at the way other Christians accept me, and sometimes I have to just stifle a sigh and move on.

  60. I feel like I'm having coffee with a bunch of friends here, and everyone is talking over each other, but somehow I'm hearing all of it!

    Boo/Jordan/Jes, I once read a Debbie Macomber novel where the heroine had very definite criteria for what a hero should be, and one of her stipulations was that heroes do not drink blush wine (or other pink drinks.) I loved it so much I used it in a story myself some years later. I think the Macomber book was called "I Need a Hero."

  61. CARRE - I laughed. Oh my goodness, I'm such a "preacher" in life! I used to be a Spanish and French high school teacher so, I guess it's only natural it would come out in my writing.

    That's a good reminder, actually: to inform without ever patronizing.

    A total aside. I live in Vermont and my book is set here (and Quebec, where I'm originally from). I plan on setting most of my books in New England and La Belle Province. So far, most of the Christian Romance I've read takes place below the Mason-Dixon line. Now, I know New Englanders are a different breed but I guess the question is: does it hurt (or help me) to have my book set in the green mountain state. Is this even an issue or am I overthinking it?

  62. It's not really Boo.

    I keep thinking of To Kill A Mockingbird.

  63. You get Seekerville, Carre.

    It's like the Cheers bar except not a bar. Coffee bar, maybe. LOLOL

  64. "Life is messy, but love carries us through."

    There you go! Yes. Exactly!!

    I heard another author say this once about themes. It's like we as authors keep trying to rewrite our life or our past with our theme.

    Life is a blackboard and with every book we write we write our theme on the board again.

    I find it fascinating.

  65. The FBI is at your house? Can you sneak and take a picture?

    I live for the BAU Team lately. (Criminal Minds-Behavioral Analysis Unit)

    They are my people.

    I am so fascinated, I can hardly stand it. However, the downside of being a writer is I only watch TV for research and I take notes. Movies I dissect for the 6 Act Structure.

    Life used to be simpler.

  66. "After I wrote my second book, my husband complained that all my strong male characters were unlikable, and all my likable male characters were weak. It forced me to take a look at some of my attitudes toward men that might have been coming through subconsciously. I'm admitting nothing here, mind you, just sayin'...

    Oh, and Luke Skywalker is the biggest whiner ever. My family makes fun of him every time we watch Star Wars. Do not let your male characters do this, or we will be forced to laugh at you as well. ;)"

    On the floor laughing. What exactly does your husband do for a living??????

  67. Josee, my books are set in Maine, and I think that's a good thing! People who don't live in New England seem to be fascinated by it, and rightly so. After all, fiction set in the south may be able to rhapsodize about the amazing cooking, but they can't describe the maple trees in October like you can. And Christmas in Vermont has more of a nostalgic sound to it than Christmas in South Carolina. I think the very novelty of it is a strength.

  68. Tina, I'm a recovering alcoholic, so it's fine with me if Seekerville is like the Cheers bar, but I'm still having coffee!

    I missed getting a picture of the FBI. They were two disappointingly normal-looking young men with the disappointingly normal names of Trevor and Andrew. My husband is a cop, and they're working on special clearance for him for some work he does in the field of human trafficking.

    And now I realize I've told you more, in one comment, than most people know about my life, ever. Ah well--it's that Seekerville coffee-shop atmosphere, I guess!

    My friend and fellow writer (although she writes nonfiction) Leslie Leyland Fields has written a great article called "9 Woes of the Writing Life." It's about how becoming a writer ruins you forever: never again can you simply read and enjoy something without that inner Red Pencil editing it as you go along. You parse a TV show for its 6-Act Structure. You criticize other peoples' adverbs.

    Life used to be simpler, indeed.

    I'll find the link to that article and post it here in a minute--my rarely-seen daughter just walked in.

  69. BOO do you want me to sign the book you won this weekend to BOO or to Jordan???
    Maybe I can slip in BOTH!!

  70. I'm a chubby food-a-holic with a familial history of alcoholism and abuse. I hear ya. Also formerly a widow and also divorced, and a US. Army Vet. I carry enough baggage to start my own store. God is good. That's all I have to say. LOL.And yes, more than I have shared in 9 years in Seekerville.

    But I didn't want you to be the Lone Ranger in the confessional.

  71. Carre this is one of the reasons I avoid some really favorite Christian authors. I can FEEL myself rewriting their books and toying with the idea that if I changed things ENOUGH I could get away with pretty much stealing their whole idea.

    That makes me really nervous because the pull is strong to use some charming character twist or plot twist.

    I would never go so far as to plagiarize, but at what point am I so derivative that my work isn't really even my own?

    So with real regret...the closer someone is to writing in my genre, even if I love their writing...the more I just do NOT pick up their books.

  72. Here's Leslie's article: The 9 Woes of the Writing Life.

  73. I found the Debbie Macomber book!!!

    My Hero

    He was a perfect hero--on paper, anyway!

    Would-be romance writer Bailey York was a woman who'd already failed twice at love. As far as she was concerned, men were wonderful to read--and to write--about, but that was as close as she wanted to get. Which was probably why she had such difficulty creating a hero.

    She needed a real-life model, she finally decided. And she found one. Parker Davidson was everything a hero should be. Compellingly attractive. Forceful and determined, yet capable of tenderness. A man of substance.

    Parker was perfect for Bailey's novel--but he wanted to be the hero in her life, not just in her book!

  74. CARRE I'm in for coffee. But can we have coffee at your place? While the FBI is there?

    Are you by any chance living in Nebraska?
    (Otherwise no doubt I am a LONG LONG WAY from you.) I'm actually a long long way from everybody.

    Are you going to ACFW?
    Or do you live in Nashville? A bunch of Seekers are heading there.

    PS you do NOT have to tell me where you are actually from. I would understand that.

  75. Thanks for the link, you can tell her I am also putting the link in the Weekend Edition of Seekerville that is out on Sat/Sunday.

    Guests like you make Seekerville -and the huge time commitment it is. AND IT IS, TRUST make it worthwhile. Thank you.

  76. I had to look up "didactic".

    I'm such a loser.

    But I'm okay with that and admitting it to all of you because a gal's got to have a sense of humor about these things... all of these things... or drive herself cray-cray.

    Carre, how wonderful that you're making your mark in Women's Fiction. I love some WF. I love romance.

    I like to blend the two.

    But I mostly like coffee and chocolate, and I might be staring at you guys in the confessional and thinking "WHAT ARE YOU THINKING??????"

    But I love Tina's line about starting her own baggage store because now that's got women's fiction/humor written all over it.

    I might just steal the idea for a series because I can totally SEE IT.

    Carre, so nice to have you here! And thank you for increasing my vocab and I will never forget didactic again, I promise.

    Nor will I do it. Mostly!!!!

  77. Mary, there's also the danger--and it happens--that something we read and absorbed and forgot about long ago will re-surface in our writing, and we won't even realize it. But as someone (Hemingway?) said, there are only 3 real stories in the world: Boy Catches girl; Boy Loses Girl; Man Catches Fish. Everything else is just re-inventing.

  78. Josee go for it with the New England setting.
    and I set my books in Texas (because duh, cowboys) but I also set them in Montana and Colorado and other places where the cold or the mountains might kill you. It gives me yet another way to threaten my characters live.


    Okay well, Hemingway might've narrowed it down a LITTLE TOO MUCH, but it's always in the details anyway.
    I've read somewhere a list of ... maybe six basic story plots. With the proof being, they are the foundation of all writing.

    And the six are pretty ridiculous. Right at the level of BOY CATCHES GIRL!!!

  80. RUTH! hahahahaha You are hilarious. Funny, yes. Loser, def not. If I was drinking coffee, I would have spit it all over myself.

  81. YES, Tina: that's the book! I remember liking it because it was so lighthearted. Sort of making gentle fun of the whole Harlequin-esque formula. And of course, Debbie Macomber started out writing formula romance and went on to create her own niche in women's fiction and to be a NY Times bestseller over and over again, so she's entitled to do that.

    I love that you have so much baggage you could open your own store. Me too, girlfriend!

  82. Mary, I live in Maine, so if you pop on over here for coffee, I promise I will call and invite the FBI. I am not going to ACFW this year. I've already been away from work too many days. We did a 100-mile kayak trip in June, then spent almost 3 weeks in Belarus in July. My manager is starting to give me dirty looks.

  83. I totally agree with your post, as a reader if there's one thing I hate it's a preachy book (or in your words a didactic one). So as a writer I try to steer clear of all things preachy. Even though this is the case I do have my characters face some real life issues (even if I do write fantasy, and so there circumstances are less than real life). For instance, the first thing that come to mind, is that my hero in my current WIP has some suicidal tendencies (a rough thing to write to be sure, but I feel it is necessary) and through the series he must come to grips with who he is and who he has become (he doesn't necessarily start off like this, but as the story progresses things happen to him that become increasingly hard for him to come to grips with).

    As for strong heroines, I totally agree. No one wants to read about weak heroines (and believe me I have read my fare share). You may not know it,but I can be a very impatient person (especially when it comes to reading) and nothing makes me madder in a book than a weak heroine. Sometimes I want nothing more than to crawl into the book and slap the girl myself.

    Please enter my name for the drawing. Thanks!

  84. Ruth, don't you love "didactic?" It sounds just like a teacher's ruler smacking down on a desk. Di-DACK-tic!

    The first time I heard it, I was at a very brainy writers' conference--full of the kind of authors who write lofty literary fiction and guest-speak on NPR--and I had to be told what it meant too.

    And here, I will just mention something else I learned yesterday. You know how sometimes you come across a new word or idea you've never heard before, and then suddenly you're hearing it everywhere? There's actually a name for that: it's called The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, and it's a real thing.

    Here's betting you hear the word "didactic" several times in the coming weeks!

  85. I have a cousin and her husband who have been missionaries in Egypt for ... probably thirty years now.

    I asked the husband once, 'Aren't you afraid in such an anti-Christian country with so many troubles? Don't you ever think about moving home?'

    His response was, 'We've been there so long we consider it our home. The Egyptian people can move, why should I be able to?'

    A very courageous and inspiring man to talk with.

  86. I'm going to have to go get a cup of coffee and mull the whole 100-mile kayak trip thing.

    I can't actually wrap my mind around it.

    I am guessing you did it...on purpose.

    Oh, my. Waiter! Make that a double espresso.

  87. I think maybe, in my books, I need to be a little MORE didactic!

  88. I do, however, have serious doubts if I'll be hearing The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon used in other conversations. :)

  89. The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

    Must look this up.

    There is a book called Write it Down, Make it Happen by Henriette Anne Klauser which talks about this but doesn't name the phenomenon.

    It's loosely the If You Build It They Will Come theory as well.

    That could be a great blog post.

  90. I find this all to be a conundrum, but a good one.

    I love to write sweet historicals with happy endings because those women had enough on their plates with how tough life was! And when you add men to the mix, oy vey....

    So my historicals are gentle, warm reads. And I love that!!!!

    My contemps have more grit because if we women don't stand up and work for our own benefit in this day and age, and use God's grace to strengthen ourselves, then we're quite silly.

    I love being madly in love with God... because that frees me up to be okay with just about everyone else. They can't compete with him, they shouldn't try, and I'm free to grab hold of life and love and writing and live my dream.

    So these days, with a plethora (I did not have to look that one up, by the way) of opportunities lying in wait for us to be brave and ambitious enough to grab hold, there's really no excuse to not write what you want to write.


    That doesn't mean anyone will buy it or love it.

    Back to the conundrum.

    I'm blessed with great sales in multiple venues, and I love writing for several markets because life isn't always about being the same... it's about trying those new things on and being delighted when they fit, right? And if they don't fit?

    We go to the next rack and start again!

  91. Nicky, it's a courageous thing to write about suicidal tendencies. I was just thinking the other day about a book I read as a teenager: "A Pebble in Newcomb's Pond" by Marianna Dengler. It's about a 17-year-old girl with schizophrenia and a vitamin deficiency that makes her suicidal: it really shows her slide from "normal," happy teenager to someone who's trapped inside her own head, and the confusion and helplessness of the loved ones watching her. I must have read it 30 years ago, and I've never forgotten it.

    I'm working on a fantasy novel myself, so I'm just starting to get into the genre. But it's definitely a niche where you can't get away with weak heroines. Thanks for commenting!

  92. Hemingway, Vince?????

    Oh my stars.

    Oprah would have featured him.

    I'd have changed the channel.

    And yet I love you, big guy, reverent visitor!!!! :)

    But I may have thrown my fair share of depressive authors' books across the room or gone all Fahrenheit 451 on them....

    I do love happy endings!!!!!!

  93. Didactic. Plethora. Conundrum.

    I love hanging out with writers.

  94. Your welcome. I LOVE the fantasy genre because you can basically get away with anything (you know besides weak heroines, but i'm not sure ANY genre can get away with that). My favorite part about writing with that genre is the world building. I really like making fantasy worlds! A close second would be all the strange and magical creatures you can write about. I look forward to when your book is done, so I can read it.

    BTW an FBI agent at your house?! Words cannot describe how cool that is. Have you ever considered writing suspense because you might actually be pretty good at it what with all your first hand knowledge.

  95. Has anyone read Gone Girl? Spoiler alert, if you haven't, but plan to: I'm about to give away the ending a little bit:

    Well, not give it away, exactly, just say that this runaway best-seller had a very UN-happy ending, and I hated it! I resented the author. I felt she wasn't playing fair with us. On the other hand, I read it 2 years ago, and it still hasn't left me, so 2 points to Gillian Flynn for that, I guess.

    My points is that reading Gone Girl taught me that I, too, like happy endings. Or at least hopeful ones. Before I read it, this was something I did not know about myself. So.

  96. Nicky, I don't think I'll write a suspense novel, but you never know. My cop-husband is a fount of information for me, and he has some great stories!

  97. On an entirely different note, every time I post a comment here, I have to tick a little box that says, "I'm not a robot." And every 3 posts or so, I get a pop-up with 16 photographs, and it says, something like, "Choose all the pictures with storefronts." But some of them are written in Spanish, so how would I know? What if it's really a school, or a hospital, and not a store at all? And sometimes, I get the corner of a building, with a storefront on one side: is that the same thing? Or I have to pick out all the utility trucks, and one of the choices is an 18-wheeler. Does that count?

    Oh, the pressure!

  98. Yeah, there are certain rules that my main character have to live by, and I'm really strict with my heroes because one misstep and they lose all their swoon-worthiness. For instance, a guy can't hit a girl. He just can't. He can't use course language or lewd jokes (though, that's the same for all my characters- bad guys included because I'm just not going to write that). No whining like Luke Skywalker and so on.

    And, Mary, you can sign Jordan, just in case my brother gets into romance and decides he has a claim on my books just because it's signed to him.

  99. Hmm...I haven't been on here in months, but when Tina posted the following on Facebook: "Quote from today's guest Carre Armstrong Gardner, as we discuss real men and women of God. 'Oh, and Luke Skywalker is the biggest whiner ever', I responded with:

    "Ah, but he matures with each movie. ;-) (Whereas his father, Anakin, in the prequels, starts out wise as a child and progresses to whining with each movie.)"

    Then Tina said I needed to stop by Seekerville and say that. Ha!

    Anyway, we're big "Star Wars" fans in our family. I dislike the prequels (the first one, with wise young Anakin, is my favorite) but love the original trilogy (and can't wait for Episode VIII to come out--want to find out just how wise Luke is now!). Not that "Star Wars" ever pretended to be Christian anyway. And, yes, Han Solo, the "scruffy-looking nerf herder" (or whatever that line is), is my type of guy. In movies and tv. Not in real life though as I'm not sure I could handle the craziness associated with him and that type. My hubby of almost-37 years is quite enough for me!

    Forgive me for not commenting more on the original post or comments. I just obeyed our fearless leader Tina! :)

    Blessings to all!

  100. That sucks.

    We have it set on NO Captcha, but Blogger makes that one appear without our permission.

    Try ignoring it.

    I never click the box, but I am logged into Blogger which may make a difference.

  101. Melanie, just for fun, I went to YouTube and put in "Luke Skywalker whining," and this is what came up:

    Thanks for stopping by!

  102. I totally hated Gone Girl. Hated, hated, hated.

    Well beyond the ending.

    The family was so dysfunctional there was not a shred there to grab onto to like. To the author's, credit she wrote a realistic story. I was right there, but you can only read a train wreck for so long before you get off the train.

  103. No, that's okay, Tina: I love the challenge. It's like getting 100% on a test, sixty times in one day. How often does that happen to a girl?

  104. I'm a little frightened that I am a fearless leader. Rocky or Bullwinkle?

  105. Love the Luke clips. hahahahah put it on FB too.

  106. Yes, Tina, reading Gone Girl was like watching a train wreck in slow motion.

  107. I didn't know you were posting clips from this conversation on Facebook: how fun!

  108. Well only posted the funny stuff. No baggage.

  109. Haha, Carre! "Luke Skywalker: Angsty Teen" = annoying clips! And all from the first movie. It's amazing anyone wanted to watch him in any more SW movies after all that whining.

    Yes, Tina, fearless leader because you seem to take on everything! :)

  110. I suppose in the 80's, we all thought Luke Skywalker was cute, and what more did anyone as young as us need from a romantic hero? (I'm speaking for myself here: I've no idea how old the rest of y'all are.)


  111. Oh, that Luke. Like an annoying little brother.

    I was old enough to love Han Solo.

  112. Great post to make us think and dig a little deeper! Welcome to Seekerville, Carre!

  113. Sharee! Yeah. If you can just get past the first five minutes, the rest of the show will not make you lose your cookies.

  114. When I was younger and watching Star Wars for the first time I was all for Luke, and would get soooo upset with my dad when he would make fun of how whiny he is. After watching it again just recently I realized something totally life changing: Luke was lame Han was awesome! Hated the last Star Wars movie...

  115. Hi Carre,

    I read your post early this morning, but I'm visiting with my mother and didn't have a chance to respond earlier.

    You said:

    "Josee, my books are set in Maine, and I think that's a good thing! People who don't live in New England seem to be fascinated by it, and rightly so. After all, fiction set in the south may be able to rhapsodize about the amazing cooking, but they can't describe the maple trees in October like you can. And Christmas in Vermont has more of a nostalgic sound to it than Christmas in South Carolina. I think the very novelty of it is a strength."

    I envy you living in Portland. My daughter lived there for awhile and we hope to be able to move to that vicinity soon. I figure if she survived the snowy winter of 2015-15, I can handle it.

    I had a Christmas in VT scene in my debut LIS. The cover designers turned my cozy scene into a scary one, but it was still Christmas in New England.

  116. Carre, I loved this post and give you a hearty Amen! I am so grateful for Christian fiction but don't like Pollyanna books. Life is messy. Relationships are messy. I love a great story that deals with real life mess. Especially one that gives hope in Jesus.

    By the way, All Right Here is one of my favorite books.

    As a writer I want to keep it real without compromising integrity. Some of my stories deal with human trafficking, life in a cop family, and life in a mixed race family. One thing that isn't as common in Christian books is the topic of remarriage after divorce. With half the population being divorced that's interesting to me.

  117. Cate, I love Portland, Maine! The winters of '14 and '15 were nightmarishly frigid, and not at all like our usual winter weather. I like snow, and a lot of it, but I do not like the cold! If you do move to Portland, please get in touch, and we can have coffee!

    I mean Christmas in Vermont!?! It's so iconic that Irving Berlin wrote a musical about it, and we all watch it every year. (*cue music for "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas"*)

  118. Nicky, your comment says it perfectly: "Luke was lame, Han was awesome." You could drop the mike and walk away after that.

  119. Haha, Sharee, what's interesting is category romance has a ton of single parents meeting single parents with kids in the mix. But we don't touch divorce often. Easier to make them widows and widowers. So that means we are killing off a lot of parents. A LOT!!!

  120. Great post, Carre! I enjoyed it very much. Interesting, enlightening, and convicting. =)

    I can so relate to the people-pleasing ways. Growing up, I was so busy being the child one person in particular "thought" I should be that I lost myself in the process. I'm definitely learning, but I will always be a work-in-progress, I'm sure. God has allowed this whole writing journey to teach me more than just writing. I've learned even more about Him and myself.

    This post has really brought about some very interesting comments and discussion. Awesome!

    Sidenote: I can't imagine even getting into a kayak without the thought of "Will I be able to get back out?" So traveling 100 miles in one is out of the question. In fact, my name and kayak in the same sentence undoubtedly gives a new example of an oxymoron.

  121. Sharee, wow, "All Right Here" is one of your favorite books? I am really honored by that. Thanks for letting me know. I'd like to read more good Christian fiction that deals with divorce, just because it's such a widespread and shattering experience. And if it's both of those things, that means there are a lot of shattered people all around us. We should have tools to deal with them, or if we ARE them, it would help to know we're not alone. There are so many of these tough issues: divorce, remarriage after divorce, homosexuality, addiction... Until recently, the church has dealt with them by shooting shifty glances at them out of the corner of its eye (metaphorically speaking,) spouting a few reductionist sermons, and hoping they'd go away. But these are not issues that are going to disappear, and we have to say, okay, how can we love broken people through the messiness? What does the hope of Christ look like on a very practical level? Fiction can give us some of those tools. I'll say it again: we live in exciting times as Christian women writers, because we can face these things courageously and offer real hope to our readers.

  122. Tina, your comment that making all our single parent-characters be widows and widowers means we end up killing off a LOT of spouses made me snort my Diet Coke out my nose. There are plenty of people I wouldn't mind writing out of my own life's story (my husband NOT being one of them.) If only it were that simple in real life....

  123. "Easier to make them widows and widowers. So that means we are killing off a lot of parents. A LOT!!!"

    Sort of the way Disney kills off the mothers.

    Han Solo girl all the way. Or Indiana Jones. Or ... well you get it.

    Will do, Carre. This is the first summer in ages that I haven't made it up to Maine. Major dog expenses and a child who wants to go to grad school interfered.

  124. Susan, As a former people-pleaser (and okay, I still struggle with it,) I've noticed that a lot of women get over their people-pleasing ways only to rebound in the opposite direction: by adopting an "in-your-face" attitude about their own rights and choices. From acquiescence to abrasiveness in a single bound. The trick is to find a balance and learn to stand up for yourself with grace. I have a few good examples and a few bad examples on all sides of me, to remind me often of where that balance lies.

    And oh, the kayak trip! It's the 2nd time I've done it, actually. The first time was 11 years ago, and believe you me, that 11 years makes a difference to my joints and muscles! It was grueling, but in the end it's like childbirth: all you remember are the good parts and the great accomplishment. Or if you do remember the pain, it's just part of a good story to tell. I'm planning a series of blog posts, starting later this week, to tell about my trip. If you go to my website ( and subscribe to the blog posts, you'll get an e-mail when the posts go up. Or don't, if even the thought of reading about it is too painful!

  125. Stepping away for 40 minutes to walk the dogs. Keep talking!

  126. You're giving me a good time today. I appreciate that.

    Easy on the cola snort.

  127. I have divorces in many of my Love Inspired books... and out-of-wedlock babies. I think it used to be more true, even five years ago, but not so much now.

    In the Double S series, the Stafford men are ROUGH on marriage. I mean holy smokes, there's got to have "HIGH RISK" emblazoned across their foreheads.

    Waterbrook was fine with it, and I'm glad because there's a lot of temptation out there and we all know that marriage isn't easy when temptation is minimized. But when it's there, 24/7, on TV, movies and smart phones, wow. It's hard to keep the faithful, faithful.

    So Carre, how did women take to your stories? I love books that empower women, that's my calling... but I want them to see that there are happy endings beyond the gaining self-control of themselves.

    Do you find that your stories help women identify the triggers that tend to mess us up?

    And I need to visit Maine. I'm in upstate NY, and I set most of my stories in the north because I love living up here.




  128. I was interested in this post because I have written a WF novel about a woman dealing with her husband's disability. Since I have a disabled Grandson, I was able to draw on some of the emotions and frustrations of life with a disabled person. In my novel, the woman is struggling with the loss of the man she once knew. It needs some editing - but has received some positive feedback from a couple of contests. Anyway, this is a topic near and dear to me. I like more serious themes in my Christian books but also like a hopeful ending because, after all, we as Christians have a hopeful ending! Thank you for sharing.

  129. Lovely, thoughtful post, Carre!!!

    I've arrived late due to a book deadline! I just emailed the manuscript to my editor. Big sigh of relief. Also a bit of letdown. Hate to see my creation take flight, so to speak. For the last two weeks, I'm been living in another world. Just looked outside and saw the sun shinning. Nice!

    I like strong heroines! Also, I like flawed and wounded characters who have made mistakes, often significant mistakes, in the past. All that struggle makes for a better story, IMHO.

    Speaking of stories, I want to read yours! You've hooked me with this blog. Love the covers and the title of your Darling series. :)

    Must run to the grocery, then home to read the comments.

    Thanks for being with us in Seekerville! Will you be at ACFW? If so, we have to meet!

  130. I had to read a few comments and saw mention of GONE GIRL. My take: Wierd!

    I recently read Beverly Lewis' SHUNNING. I did not like the ending. I really did not like the ending. Anyone else upset by that story? Ah, but don't tell Beverly. I enjoyed the first 3/4th of it. It was loosely based on her grandmother's life so perhaps she felt compelled to end the story as her mother lived it.

    Now, I'm heading to the grocery.

  131. Not out the door yet...

    I just started ROOM. Not sure I want to read it. The first night, I closed the book and said I wouldn't read any more. Too troubling. Then three days later, I picked it up again. It's my book club selection for this month. We meet on WED.

    There's a movie too. Don't think I could take the movie. Some things are too dark...even for me.

    Does anyone know about the ending? Tell me it ends on an up note. I'm hoping.

  132. Thanks, Carre! I'd love to live vicariously through your adventures. =) I'm just a kayak chicken. =) I'll definitely check out your website.

  133. Ruth, your comments made me think. I don't know whether women have identified triggers that tend to mess us up in my books--and again, I'm trying to avoid teaching a moral in my stories, so it's okay with me if they haven't--but I've had such great feedback from readers in other ways. Some have told me that they identified strongly with the characters locked in a bad marriage ("All Right Here.) Others, that they saw themselves in the mother who finds herself with an empty nest ("They Danced On,") and still others that they see in Amy Darling their own tendencies toward perfectionism ("Better All the Time.") But if I'm going to give you a fair and balanced answer, I have to also confess that I've been criticized for not having an overt Gospel message, for having characters who drink wine, and for including a minor character who's a homosexual. So how the books will be received in the long run remains to be seen. It's only been 2 years since Book 1 released, and now there are 3 on the shelves, so I'd say the jury is still out.

    I grew up in the Adirondacks, so I have a particular love for Upstate NY. :)

  134. Linda, you're right: we as Christians have the most hopeful ending! To be fair, writers have to tie up a character's problems and supply a hopeful ending within 400 or so pages... a much shorter time than it actually takes in life. So if it sometimes feels a little forced, it's no wonder. But it is important to give hope. Remember that children's series that was so popular 10 years or so ago: "A Series of Unfortunate Events"? Nothing good ever ever ever happened, in 13 volumes, which of course was the whole schtick of the series. I read about 4 of them before I gave up. I thought, "If you know nothing good is going to happen, what's the point?" Yes, we definitely need hope!

  135. CARRE, I'm a plotter but my characters have surprised me, too. :-) I may try getting more detailed with my outlines.

    Just realized I added an "i" to your name. Sorry!


  136. This comment has been removed by the author.

  137. Debby, I had to Google "Room" to see what it was, and I shuddered. I couldn't read it, no matter how much triumph of the human spirit there might be in it. I felt the same way when my book club read "Sarah's Key." I skipped that month. Just couldn't.

  138. Wow -- what a post and what a discussion. I've only been reading Christian Fiction for the last six years so I'm not sure I get the lack of reality in novels reference. Because the books I read -- and I confess to being an avid romance reader -- including Amish Fiction -- all have a core of grit and realism that the hero and heroine are battling with.

    I'm reading an Amish romance right now that deals with family abuse from the hero's perspective no less. Just finished a gritty romantic suspense about child abuse. And Candace Calvert's awesome medical inspired romances are so full of raw, real grit and realism that it will take your breath away. And that's just a sample of what I've been reading lately.

    Varina Denman writes such flawed characters that you want to tear your hair out and will scream yourself hoarse before you reach the end...and they are romance.

    And what you might consider the most traditional books in the Christian romance market -- Harlequin's Love Inspired lines -- all contain honest and realistic portrayals of men and women dealing with the scars of all kinds of abuse and hurt -- issues like PTSD, abandonment, past abuse, lack of self-esteem, moving on after the death of a loved one, facing up to serious past mistakes....I could go on, but I'll spare you. :-)

    Just a few observations from a passionate reader of Christian Fiction -- Six years and counting!

  139. Ah well, Janet: you and everyone else on the planet! Hardly anyone spells my name right, so I've learned not to be sensitive about it.

    To add insult to injury, I'm an identical twin, so nobody actually ever calls me by the right name either. I'll answer to almost anything. Brian Regan, the family-friendly stand-up comedian, has a funny bit he does about people who get all bent out of shape over the way their names are spelled or pronounced. I learned long ago not to be one of them. :)

  140. Kav, I think you've come in on the best end of Christian fiction. I sold my 3-book series about 5 years ago, and at that time, the publisher was really trying to up the ante on the quality of the things we've been talking about. It's not that the tough issues weren't being addressed; it's that when they were, it was the exception rather than the norm. But a lot happens in 5 years, and I think we've really been doing much better. Back in the 90's though? Not so much!

    By the way, Candace Calvert and I have the same publisher. I've read one or two of her novels and as a nurse myself, I really think she does a fantastic job of the medical side of things! She's also a lovely person in real life.

  141. CARRE, wow, you did get a double whammy! Did you and your sister trade places when you were kids? Does she write? Or are you very different except for appearance?


  142. Ha! My twin's name is Claire, and one of my grandmothers couldn't tell us apart. She spent the rest of her life calling us both "Clarre." No joke. Once, we traded places in 4th grade, on April Fools Day. And back in the day, I used to use her ID to buy...things I needed an ID for. If I'd forgotten my own driver's license at home. Claire is a fantastic writer: she's hilarious. Much hilariouser than I. But she rarely finishes anything. And she would not like to be considered a "Christian," so I doubt you'll be seeing anything by her in the pages of CBD Magazine. Pity, really. Other than that, we're so much alike that we practically share a brain!

  143. You are giving us book fodder here. Let's see whose book comes out with twins named Clarre first.

    And let's see who uses the word hilariouser.

    You do share a brain.

  144. what does it say when the same writer who can drop "didactic" into a blog post also thinks "hilariouser" is a real word?

  145. CARRE, reading over the comments and your answers and really appreciated this comment of yours: Don't write characters who are "good examples:" write characters who behave in real ways. And be honest about God's redemptive grace as well.

    I wonder what writers do with perfect characters? Where's the story if there's no need to change, to grow, to forgive and be forgiven, to overcome?


  146. JOSEE said: As a reader, I describe myself as a lover of romance novels with plenty of meat on the bone. I don't want to read anything superficial!

    I love this!! Well said Josee! Romance novels don't have to be fluff!


  147. "I'm a chubby food-a-holic with a familial history of alcoholism and abuse. I hear ya. Also formerly a widow and also divorced, and a US. Army Vet. I carry enough baggage to start my own store. God is good. That's all I have to say. LOL.And yes, more than I have shared in 9 years in Seekerville.

    But I didn't want you to be the Lone Ranger in the confessional."

    Tina, are you sure we're not sisters separated somehow to different countries? Except for being a widow, I could be your twin...although not an Army vet my husband is an Air Force vet of the Afghan war and still serving...I am an ex-police officer so I guess there's also a uniform of sorts to share between us. No one should be alone in the confessional. :) God is good and I'm excited to see where He's leading me next. I'm SO glad I found Seekerville and you wonderful ladies!

  148. I'm guessing those are the ones that turn into plot-based books. I think people who write thrillers can often get away with that. Like, the kind of authors who write whole serials with the same main character. How much serious growth and change can a hard-boiled detective undergo over 20 books? There's definitely a market for that, but it's generally not what we'd call "Women's Fiction," would you say? But if you try to pull that in Women's Fiction, you probably get your manuscript relegated to the circular file.

  149. Hi Laurie, and welcome to the confessional! It's getting crowded in here, but we'll just scoot our chocolate-padded bottoms over and make room for you.

  150. Carre I just read a book called Into the Woods by Tara somebody.

    And it was a great read.............right up to the ending which was just stupid and weird, a disappointment and incredibly irritating.

    I will seriously NEVER risk reading this author again.

    And no it's NOT sticking with me.

    Everybody was a chain smoker btw, I hope they all die of cancer at a young age.

  151. Oops, it's In the Woods by Tana French

  152. I think I deal with some serious issues in my books but sometimes it's hard to see beneath the action and comedy.

    Wife abuse. Child abuse. Co-dependence. PTSD. Drinking and cheating and laziness...but that's The Husband Tree and those louses were all dead.

  153. I wonder if Tana is a Pantser? Painted herself into a corner, in the end? It will serve her right if her characters all die of lung cancer. I hate it when characters are constantly smoking. Books set in the 1960's always leave me with a slightly grotty feeling, and I think it's because the women always have a cigarette in their hands!

  154. I love that title: The Husband Tree! You know, Mary, as much as I think books should deal with real issues, I also think it's important to leaven them with humor of some kind. Otherwise, you end up with a book that leaves everyone depressed. Some books are just exhausting to read, because of the lack of any kind of levity. A very little bit of serious subject goes a long way. Readers will get the message: no need to drop it on them like an anvil!

  155. LOLOL. Chocolate padded bottoms.

    Mary called it the husband tree for good reason. They bury their no good husbands there.

    A review:

    I am enamored with the Montana Marriages series. It is baffling to me how each and every story can grip you further. The catty wit is so amusing and the characters are lovely. The issues dealing with real world problems are incredibly woven in a western historical standpoint and cause a reader to truly think. The growing love between protagonists is breathe taking and palpable. As a mother of a new baby, reading and watching Belle's days with her girls especially her infant is amazing. I cannot imagine nursing while riding on horseback, much less changing a diaper in mid-gallop without missing a beat. I am thrilled and enchanted to the bone by the tale devised by Mary's imagination and I cannot wait for the third installment in the series The Wildflower Bride. In this book you get a taste for what might be in for Wade Sawyer and Abby Lind. *sigh* Anticipation.
    (Margaret Chind Novel Reviews )

  156. I've been out most of the day and am really behind. But I loved this quote of yours, Carre, in the comments:

    "Something about our childhood lessons stays with us as adults, and we want to both search for the moral of the story, and also to teach it. Truly courageous fiction, I think, does neither. It tells the story and trusts the reader."

    As an aside...I am forever setting spiders and moths out the door! We're kindred spirits. :)

  157. hahaha Laurie,

    I've got sisters separated at birth ALL over Seekerville. Happy to have one more.

  158. Missy, I still believe that one day a freed moth is going come back and grant me 3 wishes.

    And Tina, that review of Mary's book sounds great!

  159. Carre,

    I know that it's three hours ahead where you are and at some point, you're going to need to take a break from all this fun, so I want to thank you for giving us such a wonderful day today in Seekerville.

    We'll be picking your winners and announcing them in the Weekend Edition which goes up Saturday and sending Christy the addresses.

    I haven't had this much fun in confession since ....well, never, lol.

  160. This has been so much more fun that I anticipated, Tina: thank you so much for inviting me! I'll check back in a few times later tonight, and see how the conversation is going on. Until then, it's been lovely to meet so many kindred spirits. Thank you all for your thoughtful, insightful, and FUN comments!

  161. And if nothing more, today, we have established that I am not a robot.

  162. Carre
    I think I'm the only one who read 100 mile kayak trip and thought "COOL, sign me up." That said, I'm a Han Solo girl all the way. No whiny Luke for me.

    I like romance that has real world issues with the hope that Christ brings into the picture - which, for me, means Ruthy's Indie books for sure. LOVE EM!!!

    I have a ms rolling around in my brain that deals with a preacher's kid who finds herself an upcoming unwed mother. Maybe she's not the impossible heroine to write for publication that I thought.

    Loved the post. Loved the comments section even better. SEEKERVILLE ROCKS!!!!!!

  163. Carre, what a provocative post!!

    Welcome to Seekerville, and I LOVE this post, even though I am not a Women's Fiction reader, per se. I love it because you tell it the way is is. For instance, you said:

    "I have a theory about why we're not seeing these issues addressed more in inspirational fiction, and it boils down to....not the publisher, but...wait for it... The Women Who Read Christian Fiction. I'm sad to say it. But publishing markets are driven by what readers want. And what we see a huge, huge volume of in this market is simple romance and Amish romance. That's what sells, so that's what they publish. There's nothing wrong with those genres, but I think the amount of shelf space they take up does speak to what Christian women want in their reading."

    YES. YES. YES, YES!! I do not write Women's Fiction but I do write emotionally deep romance that deals with problems in families and relationships, which is sometimes messy and complicated, something that is not the bread and butter of the Christian market. I want to address real issues that real people have -- issues that I've had in my life and conquered through Christ -- but sometimes those issues are too complicated for those who want a sweet, easy read.

    You asked: "And for the writers among us, what's an issue you would like to write about: a theme you think could make a real, solid difference for women who might read your book someday?"

    The issues I write about are relationship issues, especially in marriages because frankly, I have WAY too much experience in dealing with them myself to let that go to waste! ;) I take stories -- and resolutions wrought by God -- in my own marriage and life and weave them into fiction where I hope and pray they touch people's lives like God touched mine.

    But ... not everybody wants to deal with issues in their lives, which is why Christian fiction is so critical. We can touch them in these areas while they are being entertained, sowing God's Word in their minds and hearts to hopefully help them deal with issues in their own lives.

    LOVED this post, Carre -- thanks for the very healthy discussion today.


  164. LOL. Yes. I am checking that off my list.

    Carre is not a robot.

  165. Terrific thought provoking post CARRE! Like you, as I get older, I'm more comfortable being myself and letting he chips fall where they may.

    Does this feel like a New Years post, and all its fun, to anyone besides me? I read few of the comments this morning and came back and read an hour, then another hour after dinner just to catch up, and it was worth it. There enough dialogue on interesting topics to last the rest of the year.

    Sign me: another one of the Tina Twins separated at birth. I've been a Christian almost forever, but I don't fit many of the "normal" church slots either TINA.

  166. Enjoyed your post, Carre! Your books sound great!

    Note ...I need help...I can't find Love Everlasting by Julie Lessman on Amazon (for ordering)??? Is it too late in the day for my brain to work??? lol

  167. Jackie Smith. It's called Everlasting Love not Love Everlasting. :) And you can see it on her Journal Jots here.

    But it's not available for preorder yet.

    So in the meantime go buy Carre's book.


  168. LOL, Jackie, God bless you, my friend! That means I will at least sell one book, so YAY!! :)

    And, uh, Tina ... it's actually Love Everlasting, not Everlasting Love. I've changed it back and forth a number of times, and would change it back to Everlasting Love even now if I could, but the cover's already done. ;)


  169. Oh, I read the cover as Everlasting Love. Dyslexia here we come.

    I even went back to check. Sorry Jackie.

    And her name is Leesman Julie too.

  170. Thank you, Tracy. Just sign the petition to outlaw normal and we will all sleep better tonight.

  171. Tracy with an e. Sorry. I was just emailing Pam Tracy without an e.

  172. Thank you for this post! I have been working on a stpry concerning a woman's battle with her food addiction but I doubted it could ever be published. Perhaps the tides are turning ....

  173. Carre, your post was thought provoking and made me realize that why I read and why I write have separate motivations. I read for enjoyment, thrill and the opportunity to live in the mental place that sometimes my life didn't allow me to go. Reading is a break from the real world - for now. I write because I have something I want to tell others but since real life can be more unbelievable than fiction, fiction allows real life to be disseminated in small doses. I like to write about strong women who either became strong because of their circumstances and the lessons they learned, but occasionally because they made a good choice. But then I like the happy ending which is the relief from what the heroine has had to carry alone. I want today "Ahhh!" at then end.

    I wonder about topics like the unchurched or the underground church. More and more people walk that walk because like Tina indicated, they don't fit the golden image of the traditional Christian.

    Do you think WF may have more of a berth in Indy publishing?

    Thanks for being thought provoking!

  174. Oh gads I meant to say I want to say "Ahhh" at the end. Auto correct drives me nuts!

    And Cate Nolan you made me laugh about killing off parents. When my daughters played with their Barbie's they used to always start out by saying "Let's pretend our parents are dead…" Ha! Is it because with out restrictive parents or rules imaginations can fly? Or is it rebellion to authority?

  175. Thank you Carre for your comments. I hope I hit the mark on what you described. I just had a fiction book released, the main character dealing with the aftermath of an abortion.

  176. Hi Mary:

    Really, there are just two plots:

    1. Something happened.
    2. Nothing happened. ("Waiting for Godot")

  177. Hi Carrie:

    How fortunate to have lived in Russia. I wanted to do that years ago. I studied Russian history and Literature and read many Russian authors.

    Funny...I never liked Tolstoy. I had two reactions to reading "Anna Karenina":

    1. I sure wish Dostoevsky had written this! To me, Dostoevsky was Beethoven and Tolstoy was Wagner. I loved the one but couldn't stand the other. (There is a Russian folk saying, "Scratch a Russian and underneath your find a peasant." However, try as he might, if you scratched Tolstoy, underneath you would still find an aristocrat.)

    2. It's good but it's no "Madame Bovary".

    I believe in your observation about youthful reading and why you save animals. I think it is the same thing for me and why I take instant dislike to some creative people and love others.


  178. Hi Ruth:

    For millions of young men at the time, Hemingway was not an author: he was a destination. At times I was Hemingway. I was stationed in Italy in the same area Hemingway was. I walked the fields where much of "A Farewell to Arms" took place. I went to the same bars. I went to Spain. I hung out at Shakespeare and Company in Paris. If you watch "Midnight in Paris", you'll see a little of this 'phenomenon' with a second generation "Hemingway-Walter Mitty" -- of course, Woody Allen, himself, is a charter member of this club.

  179. Thanks, Carrie, for an insightful post. Even if a novel is not overtly didactic with that perfect plot, the reader still draws some kind of truth or lesson from it, right?

  180. You are so right, Carrie. I have read a number of recent authors whom are tackling current issues in their novels. The books were definite eye-openers and are some of the best books that I have read. While not being "preachy" and still carrying great stories, it's great to leave the reader with some solid takeaway. Many thanks for this lesson!

  181. Fiction helps me understand what others are going through. I experience things I have not and probably would not otherwise. I feel it helps me to be a better person.

  182. Francine Rivers "Redeeming Love" comes to mind as a book that helped me through a problem I had at that time in my life. God used it to break some chains that were holding me back & dispel some lies the enemy was telling me. It was life-changing!!

    And you're so right Carre when you say "one of the first rules of writing is to simply tell the story and trust your reader". God's job is to use your words He's given you to write, to speak to the readers heart and get out of it what He has for them :-)

    If it's not too late, please toss my name in the hat, thanks!