Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Asked & Answered Part 4: What is Christian Inspirational Romance




Today, I present part 4 of our Asked & Answered Series as I attempt to either answer your survey questions or point you in the direction to find your own answer. 

Don't get too excited. I am not here to debate the merits of CIR (Christian Inspirational Romance. AKA Christian Romance. AKA Inspirational Romance). Nor to give my opinion or tell you what CIR is or is not. 
The Facts:

Christian:


Per the 2011 Pew Report on Global Christianity: "A comprehensive demographic study of more than 200 countries finds that there are 2.18 billion Christians of all ages around the world, representing nearly a third of the estimated 2010 global population of 6.9 billion.  About half are Catholic. Protestants, broadly defined, make up 37%. Orthodox Christians comprise 12% of Christians worldwide. Other Christians, such as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, make up the remaining 1% of the global Christian population."

A 2015 Pew Report confirms that Christianity is the world's largest religion, with Muslim as second. 

Inspirational: 

The word inspirational is perhaps one of the most difficult to define. Although attached to Christian fiction in the last thirty years, it can and does encompass a broad readership and diverse definition. 

One example might be "Fiction that encompasses books where the central character triumphs over adversity and hope for tomorrow is the final outcome. Not necessarily including a higher power."




Romance:   

As defined by the ten thousand plus membership of Romance Writers of America, the romance genre is defined by two things: A central love story, and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.


Author Leigh Michaels defines these characteristics of a romance novel.

 This definition summarizes the four crucial basics that make up a
romance novel:
1. a hero and a heroine to fall in love
2. a problem that creates conflict and tension between them and
threatens to keep them apart
3. a developing love that is so special it comes about only once in a
lifetime
4. a resolution in which the problem is solved and the couple is
united


The broad definition of Christian Fiction listed under the rules for the Carol Awards of the American Christian Fiction Writers states:

"The title shall be written from a Christian worldview (specifically, the book should not contain profanity, graphic sex, gratuitous violence or other objectionable material, and must otherwise conform to generally accepted standards of the CBA) in any Christian fiction genre."

And while RWA no longer recognizes the term "Christian Romance" as they strive for politically correct and diverse terminology, the reading public continues to recognize and purchase specifically from this category.

 From RWA and a 2013 Nielson survey:

 Top romance subgenres by format read primarily:

 Print: romantic suspense (53%); contemporary romance (41%); historical romance (34%); erotic romance (33%); New Adult (26%); paranormal romance (19%); Young Adult romance (18%); and Christian romance (17%).

E-book: romantic suspense (48%); contemporary romance (44%); erotic romance (42%); historical romance (33%); paranormal romance (30%); New Adult (26%); Young Adult romance (18%); and Christian romance (14%).


14% and 17% That's a big chunk of change for the CBA and ABA. 

This might be a good place to discuss CBA and ABA for those who need clarification.

The American Booksellers Association is a non-profit trade association founded in 1900 that promotes independent bookstores in the United States.-Wikipedia

CBA (Christian trade association)is a trade association that was established in 1950. The CBA has guidelines for books sold by its member stores to prohibit offensive content.-Wikipedia.

These are the booksellers who sell the publisher's books. Our books.

Who are the publishers who publish CIR?  The list includes:

"Formerly known as "The Big Six" (until Random House and Penguin officially merged in June 2013), all of the Big Five book publishers have their main U.S. headquarters in the hub of book publishing, New York City." -The Balance. They are:

 Hatchett Book Group-23 Imprints including Hatchette Books, FaithWords, Little, Brown & Co., Grand Central Publishing, Forever & Forever Yours.


 Harper Collins Publishing-120 Imprints including, Harlequin, Thomas Nelson, Zondervan, Harper Collins Christian, & Avon Inspire. 


 MacMillan Book Group-US Imprints include Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Henry Holt and Company; Picador; St. Martin’s Press; Tor/Forge; Macmillan Audio; and Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group. 


Penguin Random House-250 Imprints including-Bantam, Dial, Ballentine, Random House, Knopf Doubleday, Crown, Berkley, NAL, DelRey, Waterbrook/Multnomah, & Delacorte. 


Simon & Schuster-35 Imprints including-Jeter Books, Howard Books, Gallery, Pocket Books, Pocket Star, Simon & Schuster, Atria & Touchstone.

Besides the Big Five are the following:

Baker Publishing Group- includes Bethany House, Revell, Baker Books, Baker Academic, Chosen and Brazos Press.

Kensington Publishing- 20 Imprints including Zebra, Lyrica Press, Lyrical Shine & Urban Christian.

 Amazon Publishing-14 Imprints including Montlake Romance and Waterfall Christian Fiction.

Other publishers of CIR, include but not limited to, Harrison HouseHarvest HouseMoody Press  Abingdon Press, Barbour Publishing, Worthy Publishing, Crossway Books, Whitaker HouseGuideposts Books, David C Cook and  Kregel Publications


Also the Christian small press or small indie publishers such as Mountain Brook Ink, Serenade Books, & Pelican Book Group.

Add to this the Secular small press publishers such as EntangledTule,  Soul Mate Publishing, who also have Christian imprints, or in the case of Sourcebooks, state "we consider all subgenres." 

I haven't forgotten authors who independently publish. Here, the lines blur as do the guidelines, as author-publishers set their own rules on what content is allowed and what makes a CIR. 

What's the point of all this information? If you take all these publishers,  imprints and options into consideration, can there be a single definition for Christian Inspirational Romance?

The rule of thumb has always been "Find the publisher definition before you target a publisher. However, much of the struggle for authors is the fact that guidelines are not readily available. Even simple things such as word count can be a national secret. May I suggest reading the books of the publisher you are targeting? Or writing the book God puts on your heart?

Trivia for Your Enjoyment: Christian Fiction Historically.


The First Christian Inspirational Romances Include:

Christy-Catherine Marshall-1967

Janette Oke is attributed as the pioneer of inspirational fiction and is the leading author in the category today. Love Comes Softly, her first novel, was published by Bethany House in 1979.

Redeeming Love-Francine Rivers 1991.

Heartsong 1993 (Barbour Publishing) See Steve Laube's post on Heartsong's Legacy.

Love Inspired 2000 (Harlequin a Division of Harper Collins)


The Elements of Christian Inspirational Romantic Fiction:

Hero
Heroine
Internal Conflict
External Conflict
Happily Ever After
Faith Thread???

The faith thread. What is it and does it still exist? The faith thread like the romance arc and character arc is the development of a character's faith. The character stands in a different place with his relationship with God at the end of the story than they did at the start. 

This would include scenarios such as a return to the cross or a decision to become a Christian. It develops as part of the internal conflict, so it can and does include self-forgiveness and forgiving others.

Historically, the first CIR books on the market included an obvious element of proselytizing. And many subgenres of CIR still include this element.

Today, the faith thread may not be as identifiable in contemporary CIR. The trend is "Christian World View," that utilizes an organic element of faith. However, since there are many Christian denominations, it goes without saying that the Christian World View will vary. Would you agree?

I heard that. 

What do I mean by organic?  From Plato's Organic Unity. A genuine Christian World View relies less on guidelines, and rules, instead, allowing the faith element to flow naturally from the character. This is the difference between a story where a random prayer is thrown up, and disjointed scripture is written into a scene in an effort to create a CIR. 

Instead, with organic faith, the author knows his characters and their motivation so well, that their Christianity is seamless (organically) part of their GMC, actions, and vocabulary. The faith element is so well woven into the internal conflict that it is impossible to remove faith from the story. In fact, it would take a good amount of editing.

The last thing I want to offer for random discussion is a term that I (opinion alert) feel is overused as a catch phrase yet, underutilized in practice in CIR.



Edgy Christian Fiction.

Edgy by definition: synonyms: cutting-edge, on-the-edge, fringe, avant-garde, innovative, original, offbeat; gritty.

 I think God is pretty edgy, but putting secular elements in Christian fiction does not make it edgy. Copying secular fiction does not make it edgy. 

Can CIR embrace edgy? Is the Bible edgy?   

Mike Duran wrote an interesting post on the subject if you want more to think about. Here.

Today, I'm barely scratching the surface of the topic of "What is Christian Inspirational Romance?"  So I'll end by asking your opinion. (You know you want to give it!)

What does the reader want in Christian Inspirational Romance?  

What do you want to write? What are you called to write? 

And lastly, in your opinion, what kind of edgy CIR do you envision? 


Leave a comment to get your name in the drawing for either a 15-page CIR critique to prepare for the Genesis or a Seeker ebook of Choice. And because I'm sorry I made your head hurt, a coffee or tea gift card to one commenter who discusses the edgy concept. Three winners announced in the Weekend Edition.



Love Inspired author Tina Radcliffe is a two-time RWA Golden Heart finalist, a 2012 ACFW Carol Award finalist, a 2014 ACFW Mentor of the Year finalist, and a 2014 ACFW Carol Award winner. She has won first place in over twenty RWA chapter affiliated contests in her career. Tina is also a short story writer and has sold over twenty short stories to Woman’s World Magazine. She is anything but edgy. Tina currently resides in Arizona where she writes fun, heartwarming romance. So far all her attempts to be edgy have failed. Find her at www.tinaradcliffe.com

And if you've gotten this far, and need another laugh, I'm also visiting Just Commonly today, with "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To Becoming a Writer."

142 comments :

  1. Thank you for the many definitions here, especially "organic". I had NO CLUE what that meant but now I have a good idea!

    As an avid reader of Christian fiction, what I want to see is a good strong faith-theme, where the Christianity of the characters comes naturally (or organically) in their speech, actions, lifestyle. Where a reader wouldn't question whether they are a follower of Christ because they can see it played out in everything in the book. I've read some books where I know that I was reading a book written by a Christian writer, but there was little mention of God...kind of like what you said here...thrown in for good measure. That's not what I want! As a Christian, I try to live my life so people KNOW that I am one & so it concludes that I want my characters to act & live the same way. You don't necessarily have to be so strong that it knocks the reader upside the head with the gospel, but don't make it so little that it's an afterthought either.

    Now as to "edgy", I suppose everyone would have their own opinion as to what's edgy. But speaking just for myself, there are certain lines I don't want crossed or even balanced on (picture a tight-rope walker) in my reading. Curse words (even so called "little" ones), or going too far in a physical relationship, drinking of any kind (I do understand some people are ok with a glass of wine or beer), or in the case of a spiritual warfare type book something that crosses lines a little too much into the demonic (witchcraft and the like). Edgy could also be something like paranormal Christian fiction (which to me is an oxy-moron)or Fantasy Christian fiction. I don't think either one of those belong in the Christian fiction category! Again, this is strictly my own opinion and some people may not have such scruples. Those examples (and I'm sure there are more) would be a little too edgy to me. One author I don't read would be Ted Dekker. I've read a few of his earlier books, but then they just became too "wierd" (or edgy)to me. I'm not putting him down as an author, just his writing style is not to my liking.

    I hope that answers your questions. Some things are harder to define than others in the Christian fiction market I'm sure! And everyone has their own taste in books, so I'm sure there will be a variety of answers to this :-) I just know what I like to read and what I will not read at all.

    I hope you'll add my name for the gift card for making me think so much...lol!! I'm interested in coming back tomorrow to read the comments added :-) This inquiring mind wants to know....

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  2. Thank you for sharing, Trixi. Dozens of publishers and hundreds of imprints. Everyone has their own opinion and that keeps us writers in business. Every author has a story to tell and thankfully there are readers for each of those unique stories.

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  3. Hi Tina:

    Wonderful post! An ideal setup in which to launch discussions. Great job!

    I think Christian fiction exemplifies Christian values and how living according to Christian values ultimately provides for the most rewarding life. (Even if virtue must be its own reward.)

    I think inspirational fiction needs to inspire the reader. This often means overcoming a challenge that seems to be overwhelmingly difficult. Seeing how a person faced this challenge and prevailed should inspire others to do the same. In this sense secular books can be inspirational and normal Christian romances may not be. For example, I think "The Price of Victory" was inspirational over and above the love story.

    I think edgy Christian Fiction goes right to the edge of where fiction is still accepted as being Christian. Of course the edge can move and different folks will place the edge in different locations. I think the most edgy Christian Fiction should be where some of the more conservative Christians will think it has gone to far while a sizeable majority will think it's still hanging on the edge.

    Most readers may feel that a greater emphasis on sex is the hallmark of edgy Christian fiction. Passion alone may alarm some conservative readers while passion without lust but with genuine love may satisfy the more liberal Christians.

    I don't see Julie Lessman's fiction is being all that edgy because her passion is always love driven and not fueled by lust. I think the test here is that lust truly objectifies the woman to where almost any woman of similar look and feel would do, whereas with love, only the object of the passion will satisfy the genuine longing of the lover.

    I don't expect realism in Christian fiction, such as bad language, smoking, drunks, gratuitous violence but I do expect the story to seem to be real. A great example of this is "The Lawman's Second Chance" which seems totally real in that it deals with death, betrayal, and cancer and yet it meets all the standards of Christian Fiction even to the point of being truly inspirational.

    I also think that Mary's "The Bossy Bridegroom" is edgy in a different way. It makes Christians face the harsh reality of really living up to Christian values when doing so is very difficult to do. It actually tests the reader's willingness to accept forgiveness and redemption. In fact, it may be the most edgy Christian Fiction I've read.

    Vince

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    1. Standing up and giving you a big hand clap. Well said, Vince! Well said.

      I am still of the mindset that CIR should and can offer the next big thing. The book that will have Secular counterparts saying, can you write a secular version of this Christian book everyone is talking about? That will have agents saying..#MSWL. A book like that one that is burning up the CBA bestseller list.

      I believe it is out there. I am searching for it. I want to write it.

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    2. Hi Tina: Isn't this what C. S. Lewis did with Narnia? I bet most of the people who go to the Narina movies don't even know it is Christian.

      So how about writing a great secular novel that only after it sells millions do you tell them that it is Christian?

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  4. Tina- quick correction on your sidenote in the paragraph defining Christian- Latter-day Saints and Mormons are the same ;)

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  5. Great post! Very informative, and I like that you defined the difference between inspirational and Christian fiction since I've wondered about that before. I really prefer organic faith in characters since it seems more genuine. I love reading books where I can relate to the values!

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  6. Well, DUH, Heidi. I didn't even see that I did that. Fixing. Thank you!

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  7. Well, I defined the terms, lol, but they still get put together or torn apart at will. HA!

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  8. Tina, this post is full of information. I want my Christian Inspirational Romance to have a love story, a faith journey of some sort-maybe something I've struggled with or others have, and a satisfying happily ever after. I want to see God working in the story and be challenged in my faith. Edgy CIR- I've read some. I don't like what some of them have done. They take real situations, and go so far as to let the characters curse, describe elicit sex scenes. They portray drug addiction-to the point of taking the reader right there with what they are doing. I guess I want to remain naive and not know. Not necessarily to just gloss over those details, it's hard to put it into words exactly. I want to read to be taken away, encouraged, focus on the end result. I read CIR to know I'm not going to see certain things in those stories and be guaranteed to see other things. Thanks for putting together this great post!

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to share your opinion so fully, Sally. :)

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  9. Great post Tina! When I read a Christian novel I love a good clean read. No bad language and no bedroom scenes. I want to see God in the lives of the characters in some format, they can just be coming to the Lord or fighting to get right with the Lord or be a longtime Christian.

    As far as Edgy, I'm not sure it fits with "Christian fiction" but as long as it doesn't disturb the Christian thread then I guess it might be okay but I'm not really sure how. However, would Francine Rivers book Redeeming Love be considered Edgy? If so I can handle that as God's message was so strong in that book that it touches lives of people who read it.

    I would love to have my name tossed in for the gift card.

    Blessings,
    Cindy W.

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    1. Thank you for sharing, Cindy. This is the point, yes. That we all get to have an opinion and there are writers out there filling your TBR pile with those great books.

      You are in!

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    2. I love the way you put that with Francine's work on Redeeming Love... She framed the story in such a way that we suffered and cheered from all aspects, and to me that's what an organically written story does. It draws us in to the understanding and the grace.

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  10. Great post, Tina! Lots to think about and consider, and I had to laugh at your not edgy picture.

    Thanks for sharing today!

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    1. I had to fly to France to get that beret, Jackie! Glad you enjoyed it.

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  11. Thanks for a great post, Tina!

    I'm headed out the door to the ever, stressful day job, but I'll come back later to reread the post a little more thoroughly. I'm sad that I've not been able to visit Seekerville daily for the past few weeks, but I am popping in and reading the posts, even if I don't have a chance to comment.

    Side note: Found out yesterday, my dear daughter, son-in-law, and sweet grandbaby boy are being relocated to Arizona. This RahRah (my grandma name) isn't too happy right now, but I know it will be okay. And, Lord willing, I'll finally get to see the Grand Canyon.

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    1. WRITERS RETREAT IN ARIZONA!!!!! Yahoooey!

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    2. Blogger ate my comment. :( trying again.

      I'm sorry your family is moving so far away, Rhonda. But take advantage of it! So much to see in Arizona--an amazing land of contrasts. For instance, Tina's sitting in a (now slightly damp) desert with palm trees and saguaro cactus--and a couple of hours north in the mountains we're shoveling 3 ft of snow that came in since Thursday night!

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    3. Rhonda, I got to see the Grand Canyon last year when I went to AZ to visit my son... It was beyond amazing, and so worth the time and the effort and money. I'm sorry they're moving so far away. I don't like being separated from my NC family, because I can't be the same Grammy to them that I am to the local cuties... but it gives me a great excuse to jog down the coast a couple of times/year. And having one kid in Massachusetts gave me a trip to Cape Cod with him... so when I got the opp to write a Martha's Vineyard mystery last fall, I had my research done! :) I try to look at every one of these destinations as an excuse to write a story along the way...

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    4. Yay! Brilliant idea, Tina! Connie Queen, looks like our writer's retreat is hitting the road and moving from GA to AZ this year. :)

      Thanks, Glynna. I do look forward to visiting part of the country I've never seen. The biggest drawback is going to be that my Mountain Man refuses to fly, and I'm not looking forward to 30 hours of driving.

      Ruthy, I'm trying to look on the bright side, but like I told my sweet Mountsin Man, I've got to have day or two to be sad first. Kind of like getting a rejection on a manuscript, you cry, eat chocolate, and feel sorry for yourself, then you pick yourself up and keep moving forward. And, yes, I've already thought about the new story ideas and locations that will open up to me. :)


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    5. Rhonda, I'm handing you a box of Kleenex! There's a chance my eldest and her family will move to the West Coast so I'm feeling your pain of separation!

      My two cents? Mountain Man needs to get over his aversion to flying. End of story!

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  12. I see we have avant-garde Pierre/aka Tina, woman of little sleep this morning, posting at 2:13 and then again at 7:33, you are a wonder, or an insomniac, or both, lol!

    Such an interesting post on publishers, I never really understood the imprint thing, why don't they just use their main name? No matter, the important thing is CIR.

    Michelle Griep had an interesting blog post on Monday, Why readers read. She gave seven reasons, then ask readers which ones applied to them:

    Surprise, Predictability, Escape, Challenge, Humor, Adventure and Education.

    Along with a faith and love thread, all of these apply to my reading choices except predictability, if it's to predictable, why bother?

    At to what constitutes edge in Christian romance, Redeeming Love was edgy when I first read it in 1997 and still felt that way when I reread it last year. It's gritty and raw, and yet it's still the very best example I know of laying oneself bare to come to Christ and how He covers us with His love when we do. That ending scene is still my favorite of all time for just that reason.

    Sally Bradley is writing edgy fiction. Her book, Kept was gritty and on the fringe of anything I've seen since Francine's book. It dealt with the subject of being a "kept woman", not your normal "Christian" topic, yet Sally nailed it perfectly , so good and well-written.

    Just the way I like different genres of Christian fiction, I also like different effects to apply like humor, adventure, surprise, escape, challenge and even education. I just finished My Heart Belongs in Fort Bliss, Texas by Erica Vetsch. The setting of a 1874 military outpost was so vividly described, I want to pick up a history book and read more about that setting and time period.

    If you ask me questions about books I have a tendency to go on and on, so I blame you for my long answer :)

    I'm so looking forward to your new book this spring! Paradise lives on!!

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    1. I love hearing what readers think, Tracey. Thank you for sharing and for sharing Michelle's post.

      I am two hours behind you so it was really midnight and five am. Which sounds not nearly as crazy to me. HA!

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    2. I need to read Erica's story. Fort Bliss was the first place hubby and I lived after marriage. :)

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  13. What an educating post, Tina!

    I'd agree w/Cindy that Redeeming Love to me would be considered edgy. But no where in that story did it seem to glorify her over-abundant sex life. You understood why she was the way she was, and you walked all the way back to God with her.

    I don't care if a story is CIR or just clean, like Heartwarming, but I want the hero/heroine to be Christian-like.

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    1. I tend to be with your thoughts. I want a clean read. I don't want to be surprised. That happens enough on TV and in the movies. I want to sigh, I want to laugh. Heavy on the laugh. I don't do angst well.

      A book for everyone's taste!

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  14. Tina, thank you for this informative post! I tend to shy away from books that are considered "edgy". I read "G" rated books.

    Please enter me in the drawing for a Seeker book.

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    1. What do you consider Christian Inspirational Romance, Caryl?

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    2. When I think of CIR, these stories have a spiritual element woven throughout. The characters struggle with their faith. You had several good points in this post.

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  15. I BROUGHT FRESH COFFEE!!!!

    What a treasure trove of amazingly excellent information. Look what 40 years has brought??? What an open opportunity for us to spread our wings and fly... and with indie publishing offering options from the narrowing window of Christian fiction publishers, I truly believe everyone has the chance to live their dream, lying right before them.

    I have been blessed to work with a large number of publishers the last six years. Love Inspired, Summerside Press, Guideposts, Waterbrook/Multnomah, Franciscan Media, Amazon's Waterfall Press, St. Martin's Press and Gilead.

    And each one has a different slant on how they'd like their stories to look. And that can vary by author as well...

    As an author, I think that helps thrust me forward because I can guarantee you that not all of my books will sound alike.

    But also it's good for keeping me fresh, helping me to re-align my stories to meet varying perspectives. Writers never want to become stale, so this wide-reaching spectrum is kind of awesome, isn't it?

    I believe opportunities abound, and you never know when one might feed into the other.

    We are truly blessed.

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    1. Exactly. There is no ONE SIZE FITS ALL.

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    2. I love your take on this, RUTHY.

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  16. One more thing: As we watch the rise in inspirational TV networks and movies.... And as I sense some TV shows might follow the trend.... the common sense of the situation says there is money to be made in inspirational and sweet fiction. Otherwise you wouldn't be seeing it happen. I use that as a guide to dream big.

    Wholesome TV Climbs

    When multiple industries recognize an opportunity, it's generally because there are dollar signs attached. So YAY!!!!

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    1. Right on Ruth! Even in godless Hollywood money is still a god.

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  17. I personally like to read inspies that integrate the faith element into the story naturally--not just pausing in the middle of things for "a word from our Heavenly Sponsor" and then on with the story.

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  18. Loved the way you boiled this down today, TINA! There's so much confusion regarding CIR, and bravo for addressing it. As I was reading, I thought how great it would be if the Seeker team penned a book one day combining all the fabulous info, thoughts, and posts you've shared over the years. Have you considered that? I have JULIE's Romance-ology 101 (SUPER insights BTW and a MUST for CIR writers).

    As to edginess... Hmm. Going to be honest here. My thoughts have changed a bit over the years. No, I don't want to read my Savior's name taken in vain, and dropping the F-bomb right and left in mainstream fiction makes me want to say to the author... There ARE better words to use. You're a writer, right? You're an author. You know this.

    Now--on the other hand, I do believe we're seeing a shift in readers of CBA fiction. Some readers I've chatted with are gravitating elsewhere to read stories with subject matter that mirrors the lives they're leading--subject matter that Jesus dealt with, but isn't necessarily addressed yet within the Christian market.

    Not to misunderstand, I don't mean that we, as writers, should compromise our values or beliefs, however, I think we need to meet people where they are (through a variety of stories, characters, etc.) as CBA fiction (prayerfully) expands.

    Here's how I summed it up in a blog post (http://authorcynthiaherron.com/is-christian-fiction-all-hearts-and-flowers): The true heartbeat of Christian fiction is about lives broken, mended, and restored.

    Christian fiction (including the romance genre) isn’t all hearts and flowers, but neither is it misrepresentation of holiness.

    Will I one day look beyond the realm of CIR? Maybe. I write Heartfelt, Homespun Fiction, and I will always long to write the stories of my heart, whether it be ABA/CBA.

    I loved hearing TED DEKKER speak as our keynote last year at ACFW. Several points resonated with me, but this one, in particular, has stayed with me. It went something like this: "Allow yourself to see things differently. Your perception determines your experience in reality. As you write, take your characters through YOUR transformation. Find the light in the midst of darkness. As you witness the light, you are transformed by the story." Our readers are, too.

    Now--back to romance. FRANCINE RIVERS' Redeeming Love is considered "edgy" by some. In fact, in the first editions of that life-changing story, I believe there was a disclaimer or something noting the age appropriateness regarding younger readers. I LOVED Redeeming Love. It challenged me. It changed me.

    Anyway,the Bible's pretty edgy. It addresses lots of core issues that many deem unsuitable within Christian fiction and CIR. To this end--I do believe when we approach issues within a godly context AND meet hungry people where they are, God will continue to move in BIG ways.

    Amen and please pass the coffee! :-)

    ~ Apologies for the lengthiness. It's a subject I'm quite passionate about.

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    1. Cynthia, don't apologize. Thank you for your insightful input!

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    2. Are you kidding, Cynthia. I love the lengthiness.

      The Bible has the best edgy stuff and words. The most fabulous words.

      Hot displeasure. WOW. What a visual.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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    3. Cynthia, you said that so well. Yes, the Bible itself is very edgy and yet as we believers know, that is where God begins to change us if we let Him in, through the hard things we read there and experience ourselves. As you said, Redeeming Love challenged you and changed you, me too, but it's not an easy read. But so worth the transforming power found there.

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    4. As you said, "The true heartbeat of Christian fiction is about lives broken, mended, and restored." I think this is what we seek to convey in our stories!! Thanks for your insights, Cynthia!

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  19. Great post, Tina! From what I've heard from some authors, edgy means more realistic. I think the people who feel called to write that way chafe because they think they can't write "real" characters. But I've seen some publishers who do allow characters to struggle and sin (on the page, not in backstory). I think it depends on reader expectations for particular publishers or particular lines within a publisher. As some have said here today, they don't want to read that in their stories (and publishers recognize that their particular readers want a gentler story).

    I hope that made sense. I had a night of insomnia and haven't finished my coffee yet!

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    1. Edgy means something different to everyone. That IS the beauty of it. Filling up your cup, Missy.

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  20. I think Ruthy gets my vote for top surprising and edgy plot twists. Refuge of the Heart, Try, Try Again, Running on Empty, Safely Home and The First Gift all have storylines and lots of twists on topics that took me by surprise and yet because she did them so well, they are some of my favorite books. So I no longer rule out books that may have "heavy" topics because I might be missing truly amazing books with huge insights.

    Tina gets my vote when it comes to humor, no one makes me laugh out loud like she does. I need to reread all Tina's indies, I need some laughter this week.

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    1. Tracey! :)

      Laughing is a lovely thing.

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    2. If you need another laugh, I'm also visiting Just Commonly today, with "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To Becoming a Writer." http://bit.ly/2kiKjTW

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    3. Always Tina, always! Will check it out, thanks!

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    4. Aw, I'm sending you money for such a nice shout out, Tracey!!! :) I'm so glad you love my stories... I love being able to chat with you about them!

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  21. What a great topic, Tina!

    I've been around long enough that my reading has followed that history of CIR. I read Christy soon after it was published, and devoured Janette Oke's books as soon as they hit the shelves.

    But then CIR exploded - and that's both good and bad. I got so tired of syrupy sweet vanilla stories that I stopped reading CIR for several years. The definition of CIR was too narrow, IMHO.

    Then I was pleasantly surprised when I started delving into it again. CIR had survived its growing pains.

    One of the great changes is that the definition of CIR has been allowed to expand to include a wide range of sub-genres and writing styles, and that's good for authors!

    My own calling includes challenging believers to grow in their faith, so that is usually the kind of story I write. Most of my characters are already believers, but they might be disillusioned, or have a very shallow faith. Through the story they are challenged by their circumstances to grow...and my hope is that the readers follow their example.

    And as for the type of CIR readers want? It depends on the reader - and that's why I think we have such a variety in publishers. Like I said earlier, I don't like my fiction too sweet, so there are some publishers I avoid. But they are very popular publishers! I know there are many readers who love that type of fiction. :)

    But in general, I think CIR readers are looking for G (or at least PG) rated stories, without offensive scenes or words, where real people deal with real problems from a Christian world view. And always, always, ending on a positive, hopeful note.

    And edgy? I don't even know if you can define that. Everyone has a different "edge" that writers skirt. So where is that edge?

    Like I said before, this is a great topic! I'm looking forward to reading all of the comments!

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    1. Well said, Jan. My cup of tea may be your too strong coffee.

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  22. Tina Thanks for this post. It is nice to know who some of the publishers are that do Christian fiction. It also helps to have a definition. I am one of those readers who has a problem with Christians drinking beer. I am currently reading an arc where the main character is a brand new Christian who is wanting to grow. I have to keep reminding myself that she is a new Christian and hasn't learned yet that she shouldn't be doing certain things. The writing is great and the suspense is awesome, but when I write my review I will have to put the qualification about the things that I don't agree with.

    I prefer in my writing to have the main characters strong in their faith and so much a part of them that it comes out in everything they do.

    Although in the book I started in November which is an historical book about Cherokee. They do the traditional customs which include things Christians wouldn't do but in the second chapter the missionary arrives in the village and they get saved which means they no longer call the witch doctor and their lives are changed.

    Please enter me in the giveaways.

    I hope everyone has a great day.

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    1. Historical CIR is an interesting bird because you can't change history, can you? Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Wilani. You are entered.

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  23. CYNTHIA is right about the heartbeat of Christian fiction. I recently started a series by a popular writer and dropped it halfway through the second book because it didn't hold my interest SPIRITUALLY. The cute hero and the cute heroine mumbled a prayer here and there, but over the course of the story they didn't change that much, they just got together where they weren't before. After a couple of hilarious misunderstandings. I could of watched a Hallmark movie.
    So far, all my characters have had strong spiritual arcs, either becoming Christians over the course of the story or growing as Christians, but that's partly because I put them in the crucible, so to speak, and they have really nasty situations to overcome.
    Put me in the drawing for the critique. I have nothing to say about "edgy" and I'm over-caffeinated as it is.
    I need to ponder this stuff for a while, will be back later.
    Redeemed, restored.
    Kathy B.

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    1. It's true, your dropped series might be another's perfect read. It does depend on where we are spiritually and mentally.

      I have Keepers and I have books I wonder why I kept, lol, as I have changed and didn't realize it.

      Ponder away.

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    2. I think this points out that part of the problem is that there are so many different Christian belief systems. Says someone who has had a beer with his priest after playing basketball on a hot afternoon. I think there are those who will find a steel ball bearing to be too edgy! :)

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  24. Excellent breakdown of Christian inspirational fiction, Tina--brava!!! And bless you for taking on this challenging and sometimes controversial subject!

    Your point about reading the books from the publisher you're targeting is essential. Even the most unoffensive, everyday references one publisher will allow may be unacceptable to another.

    As for what constitutes "edgy" fiction, the term has baffled me from the first time I saw it used.

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    1. You got it, Myra. The only way to be clear anymore is read their books unless they spell it out.

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  25. TINA! Your post rocks, and its appearance today is providential and God-planned because I am preparing a presentation on Inspy romance for a RWA chapter and this was so helpful for me. In fact, I'd like to quote you. I'll contact you about it. Thanks for the fantastic, comprehensive post!

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    1. Susie, I was thinking about your talk as I read this post. I kept thinking that I needed to email you! Great stuff. The topic fits perfectly into your presentation!

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    2. Thanks, Tina! And thanks for thinking of me, Debby! I hope I can clear up some misconceptions about inspies. I'm also going to talk sweet but sizzling chemistry!

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  26. Love the new you, Tina! You're looking very avant-garde.

    Great topic. Wish I weren't on a tight deadline. Would love to spend the day chatting.

    Krista Stroever, the LI editor who acquired my first book, said the characters in LIS stories should be trying to live moral lives, even if those around them are not moral. Bad things do happen to good people in LIS stories, but the hero and heroine try to right those wrongs. Over the course of the story, they learn to forgive, to love, and to trust themselves as well as the Lord. The faith element is one thread, but it is a necessary thread that weaves through the entire story.

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    1. And yet, Love Inspired stories have changed over the years too. Interesting.

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  27. TINA, thanks for the excellent post! When I think of edgy Christian fiction, I think of characters pushing the envelope, teetering on the edge of behavior that CBA publishers and Christian readers would approve, but then the characters choose--perhaps through consequences or circumstances in their lives--to step back and put God first. So edgy isn't glorified.

    Janet

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    1. See, I have a hard time with that. Edgy should not mean unGodly. Still thinking on that one.

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    2. The sin I'm speaking of isn't breaking the Ten Commandments. It might be jealousy or little white lies. LOL I don't know. Why did I even think I had a clue. That's not what I write.

      Janet

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  28. Great post Tina. It is good to clarify the genre now and then and I'm sure this is a big help to beginners. What I would have given for all this info when I started. smile

    Happy writing.

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    1. You and me both, Sandra. And yet, I was still shocked at all the imprints that have been bought out by the big publishers. It almost one big happy family!

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  29. What a great topic of discussion.

    I loved Vince's post. :)

    As a reader:
    I want something clean that doesn't give me images in my brain that I can never unsee. I have a vivid enough imagination. I love books that can tell a great story without foul language and intense explicit content. That's a huge turnoff for me. I share books with my 19 year old daughter. I don't want to read something that I wouldn't be okay sharing with her.

    I also listen to audiobooks a lot and I don't want something that I have to dive across the room to shut off before my 7 year old hears it.

    As a writer:
    I love the story of redemption. That's what I feel called to write. That God uses the messed up, weak, and unwanted to do great things. That we're never too far gone to be redeemed by His immeasurable grace. I try to incorporate that in all my stories in one way or another.

    For Edgy CIR:
    I don't mind a story that's intense, suspenseful and has crimes that must be solved. But I get frustrated when someone says a book is edgy and the only thing that's edgy about it is foul language or questionable behaviors. I love shows like CSI, Criminal Minds, and Forensic Files so I can handle quite a bit. But in the past couple of years, I've read some books that made me blush.


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    1. You already know your ministry, Sharee. That is beautiful!!!

      Once again, unGodly does not make a book edgy IMHO.

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  30. Thank you, Tina, for tackling this subject! Great post and I love the breakdown of terms and who publishes what...and I agree with you - "edgey" doesn't need to mean "unGodly" at all. I realize I'm "pre-pubbed" but my author tagline is "Writing On The Edge...of Love and Faith". Maybe that's not going to get me far, but let me explain what I mean by "on the edge". I want to handle life issues that hit everyone (or someone they know) by showing characters going through it and coming out the other side with God's help and direction. Bad things DO happen to good people. This doesn't mean the situation needs to be graphic, etc. but it does need to be dealt with because hopefully *someone* reading my stories will be helped in seeing that there is hope and a way out. Eg. we have two lovely adult children who both have Down Syndrome. When our son was born we joined the local Down Syndrome society and were matched up with a young couple whose second baby had Downs. They also had a four year old son. And, the husband was a Pastor. You'd think that would've helped them, right? Wrong, which is why we as a family were matched up with them. They were angry, hostile, bitter...you name it, and their marriage suffered with it. How could God do this to THEM? We as a couple sought to support them as they went through the grieving process. Because we weren't anger, bitter, or hostile, we could see beyond the immediate - and I'm NOT touting us as the perfect parents here by any means! Just that we were in a different spot than they were. This kind of struggle hits Christians all the time - cancer, sudden death of a spouse, birth defects, miscarriages, adultery, gambling - you can fill in the blanks. And I believe stories that show how you can get through them with the Lord are helpful, even if the subject matter is deemed "edgey". I enjoy books that are "clean" in language and content. I just think that you can do both in your writing. Tina, please put me in the draws. I'm off to keep going on my current "single dad with a special needs toddler" WIP. :) Have a blessed day, everyone!

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  31. I love that you are not afraid to tackle those topics on the page and off. What a testimony!

    And...That's a great tagline. I respect that and am proud of you for your fearlessness. We each have a ministry and you know yours as well. You are in the draw.

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    1. Thank you, Tina! I appreciate your encouragement.

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  32. Wow, Tina. So much great information here! I love your clear descriptions of the different things to consider about CIR. I especially loved your description of organic faith in a story. It's a little tricky to write , but when it's done well, it's powerful.

    Let's see edgy fiction . . . I haven't read a ton of books I would consider "edgy." One I read and really liked was Sally Bradley's, Kept. This book took a non-believing heroine in a compromising lifestyle and made the story redemptive in a very real way. She didn't shy away from the faulty beliefs the heroine had. The heroine had to wrestle with faith issues in a realistic way. She behaved very "un-Christian," but it worked. Because she wasn't a Christian. I think it was edgy because the heroine had life patterns and belief systems that were, at times opposed to traditional Christianity. Bradley didn't share too much detail about these things, but she wrote in a way that helped the reader to get the gist of the lifestyle, if that makes sense. What I loved is how Bradley wove a faith element into the story, changing all the characters (even believing characters) as they walked through the story.

    Okay, I probably rambled, but this is the best example I've found of what I would consider "edgy" Christian fiction. :)

    Please put me in the draw for the book or the card. I'll never say no to books or coffee. ;)

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    1. Thanks for sharing that, Jeanne. And you are in the draw!

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  33. EROTIC CHRISTIAN FICTION?

    If there were a line of erotic Christian fiction, on a par with Blaze, and it was proven that this line was reaching readers who were not hearing the word of God and that some of these lost souls were subsequently motivated to find faith and salvation, how would you feel about this line? Ban it? Ignore it? Deny it was Christian? Welcome it? Condemn it?

    To what degree is Christian Fiction there to entertain and to what degree does it exist to save souls?

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    1. To what degree is Christian Fiction there to entertain and to what degree does it exist to save souls?

      I think (opinion alert) that we have to be very clear about our ministry. I write for money, make no mistake, but it took a long time for me to feel the green light from God to write romance.

      Ministry is a partnership between you and God and a writing ministry is no different.

      So what you are talking about is no different than spreading the Gospel in a brothel, a bar or a ghetto. You better be called to do it or you're just pedaling backwards and fooling yourself.

      And it's not my job to tell you so. HA!!

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    2. VINCE (OUR RESIDENT DEVIL'S ADVOCATE):
      If there were a line of erotic Christian fiction, on a par with Blaze, and it was proven that this line was reaching readers who were not hearing the word of God and that some of these lost souls were subsequently motivated to find faith and salvation, how would you feel about this line? Ban it? Ignore it? Deny it was Christian? Welcome it? Condemn it?

      To what degree is Christian Fiction there to entertain and to what degree does it exist to save souls?

      WOW. WOW. WOW!!! As usual Vince's mind goes places few others dare (or are deep enough) to go!!

      I believe that in the end, Christian fiction must glorify God with its intent, allowing His precepts to be the gold amidst all the dross because let's face it, everything is dross when compared to Him and His precepts.

      I have read Christian fiction that was too arousing and so focused on the "sin" that I felt God and the message of salvation came in second. I felt the "intent" was more to titilate than to teach. I know there are some 1-star reviewers who feel that way about me and consequently I have prayed about the level of romantic passion in my books for years now, especially with my prayer partners, so I hope that I have not overstepped the bounds of God's grace even a hair.

      Yes, I write what some refer to as sexy romance which my prayer partners have fondly referred to as Romantica. ;) I do that primarily because many women today (mainly secular readers, but many Christian readers as well) who need God and His precepts in their lives wouldn't crack open a Christian novel to save their souls, pun intended.

      BUT ... they might crack open a Christian novel that satisfies what they're looking for -- passionate romance -- that could lead them to passionate romance of another kind -- with the Lover of the Souls!!

      Or at least, that's always been my prayer and my hope.

      Years ago, after I first became a born-again Christian (remember that term way back when???), I brought this woman I worked with to the Lord, and she was on fire for Him, witnessing to everybody she met -- uh, in bars -- including the men she met and went home with. I was so distraught at the time and tried to explain to her why this didn't help the cause of Christ, but looking back, I can't help but wonder if the seeds she sowed, no matter how malnourished, may have set someone on the road to salvation. Or at least I pray it was so.

      Hugs,
      Julie

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    3. I don't know how an absolute oxymoron would exist.... Because when you flagrantly tempt people to sin (lust), then how can you claim it to be first "Christian" and second, "helpful"?

      I figured out a long time ago that the reason Christian fiction has mystery.... and a little mayhem... is because most of us aren't tempted to murder by reading a mystery.

      Sex is different.

      Sex is often governed by hormones and lust and when you feed those intentionally, people have a mental, emotional and physiological reaction.

      So how can that temptation be called Christian? Even if you've got back row folks yelling "Yeah! If this is bein' saved, I'm all in!!!" :)

      Because that's not what Jesus taught or what the Bible teaches so I see that as very different from a story of someone who turns away from temptation purposely.

      I think sexy books are way different from preaching in a brothel, bar, drug house, etc... because we paint deliberate pictures with our words, and our words carry influence.

      And I know we take that influence very seriously.

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    4. Hi Ruth:

      I appreciate your arguments. But no one said it had to be good Christian fiction. It just had to save some souls. And as for oxymorons, they really do exist. There are open secrets, Hell's Angles, liquid gas, and there is even military intelligence (to say nothing of postal service).

      Remember in the middle ages that the Church ruled that the validity of the sacraments did not depend on the moral worthiness of the priest? The same might apply to ECF? Just saying.

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    5. But at what cost, I wonder? If a story encourages a hundred to sin, and 3 to come searching for free food and solace at a shelter (which is a whole other game-changer, right? Because food is in itself a great motivator for the hungry. Lots of folks come to Christian shelters and soup kitchens for food with a side of preaching)...

      It doesn't jive with me. I think it's easy in these days to make excuses for latitude, for increasing spectrums... but that doesn't necessarily make it good or right in my opinion...

      But then I'm kind of a prude, Vince... and I really like that about myself. :)

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    6. Hi Ruth: You're probably right. The more you tell, the more I lean to your point of view. Yet, isn't there a story in the Bible where the 99 sheep are left defenseless as the shepherd goes looking for the one lost sheep who has strayed?

      Just a thought.

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    7. I love those parables! Love 'em to pieces!!! That and the Prodigal Son and the woman at the well and the woman being stoned.... ah, life's lessons at their finest, with skilled simplistic storytelling... "organic" to a higher power, for sure!

      But Christ didn't mention anything about tempting the sheep back with pornography... and he made it clear that the prodigal realized his foolishness because he hit rock bottom, a scene we see repeated many times a day in our country, in our cities... and did Christ paint a picture of sexual temptation before the accused woman, to remind her of the physical pleasures she would be giving up?

      Naw. He said "Go. And sin no more."

      (Depending on which version).

      I think a beautifully written story can allude to misbehaviors without extolling them. I think a well-written story can tempt folks to open the doors to faith... or learn more. I don't think we need sexual exploitation to increase the faithful... I think we could use more quiet good deeds of the faithful, to lead by example.

      Vince, food for thought in reverse. :)

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  34. I love that I can count on you, Vince, to play devil's advocate. A day without Vince, is like a day without sunshine.

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    1. Wow!
      The devil does not need me as an advocate. Lawyers are a dime a dozen in his neck of the woods. :)

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  35. Vince, I wonder how one could "prove" that people were coming to salvation through such an oxymoron as erotic Christian fiction? There are many examples of Jesus dealing with sexual sin throughout the Gospels, but I don't personally see how such a "line" of books would be glorifying to God. This is something an author would have to search his/her heart over and be sure they were "straight with the Lord" as my spiritual mother used to say. I could see that it would be one of those areas where it would be easier for the author to fall in to sin, then their writing being able to draw others *out* of sin. Just my .02 cents!

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  36. Sorry to be late today. I have been sick for several days and just now able to sit up with my computer. Funny thing, I was thinking about this just this morning. My ideal Christian romance is sweet, laid back, and all about the romance. I know many will not agree with me, but too much conflict or suspense elements ruin the story for me. I want to relax while I read, and not be on the edge of my seat. That's why I love Tina's books. Just enough - not too much. I agree that if edgy is what it takes for a non-Christian to pick up a Christian book, I am all for it. Personally - not my favorite. I will stick with the sweet romance between two believers. It's what I read and what I write.

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    1. Feel better, Cindy.

      What we are discovering today is that there is a book for everyone, right? I like edge of the seat suspense but without the ugly. If that makes sense. Terri Blackstock, Terri Reed, Lynette Eason, Debby Giusti, Alison Stone do it for me...and I am leaving someone out, I know it.

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    2. I am so sorry you've been sick, my friend! Sending you big Ruthy hugs!!!

      And I love sweet romance, too....

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  37. EDGY INDEX?

    What would you think of having an "Edgy Index" which tells the level of edginess and why it is edgy?

    For example:

    "A Passion Most Impure," 9.1 explicit sex, lauguage.
    "A Lust for Truth", 3.3 passionate kissing.
    "After the Fall", 5.0 implicit sex, drunkenness.

    In other words, make the person who claims the book is edgy explain how and why it is edgy. This is actually done for the 'hotness' of secular books.

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    1. LOLOL. Like the Nutritional Rating label on food, Vince. Or PG-13 or the ratings on video games and music. NC 17.

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  38. Oh, WOW, Tina, is this post LONG overdue or what???

    THANK YOU!!!

    You asked: What does the reader want in Christian Inspirational Romance?

    If you're asking what I as a reader want, you probably have a pretty good idea already by what I write. In fact, as I have said before, the main reason I started writing in the first place was because I couldn't find the level of passion -- both romantic and spiritual -- that I wanted in a Christian novel. So, I decided to write my own with the intense spiritual and romantic passion that I so craved.

    YOU ALSO ASKED: What do you want to write? What are you called to write?

    I want to write -- and FIRMLY believe I am called to write -- passionate love stories with God in the middle, just like I say on the home page of my website: "As an adult, I quickly learned that true romance is spiritual as well as physical and emotional. And one pass through the “Song of Solomon” in the Bible told me that God was the biggest romantic of them all, deeply passionate in His love for each of us. Through my love affair with Him, I have discovered that romance can transcend to another dimension where romantic passion and spiritual passion merge, creating a 3-D love story: the hero, the heroine, and the God that brings them together. I hope you enjoy my stories ... and may they bring you closer to the Father’s heart.

    YOUR FINAL QUESTION: And lastly, in your opinion, what kind of edgy CIR do you envision?

    I had a "vision" in my mind's eye one day last year while I was praying, and I believe I told you about it. I saw what appeared to be two equal clouds in the sky and while I was praying, a mushroom cloud (like an atom bomb) shot up from the earth to bloom in between the other two clouds. I didn't hear a voice or anything like that, but I felt like the cloud on the left was secular fiction and the cloud on the right was Christian fiction, and the mushroom cloud between the two was a new genre I believe God wants to bring about that straddles the two genres with a fiction style that is passionate spiritually as well as romantically.

    Now, I'll be the first to admit this could have been my own longing and imagination since my purpose from the beginning has been to reach women on the fringes of the church -- those who profess Christianity but live according to the world's standards in their morality -- with the Gospel in story form based on the lessons God has taught me over the years. Thus my tagline: Passion with a Purpose.

    But I honestly don't think so because the mind's-eye vision came out of the blue while I was praying and worshiping God. As a result, I have been praying for God's will to be accomplished in this if He so decrees.

    Great post, Tina!!

    Hugs,
    Julie



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    1. Hi Julie:

      I think your dream of three clouds is very much in tune with the times. I've read where Christian movies are making a lot of money. Often with small investments. The news was about how Hollywood was looking to make some blockbuster or at least big budget Christian movies to cash in on the trend.

      Some experts are saying that the more secular society becomes and the more it moves away from God, the greater the attraction of a loving and forgiving God becomes. There are now countless children who have not been taught about God at all. Not at home. Not at school. Not at church. When they turn 18 this God talk is new to them.

      I believe this is happening.
      You just may be chosen to write this new fiction.

      Vince

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    2. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! Your words are EXACTLY what I felt impressed upon me when I began writing.

      Reaching "those who profess Christianity but live according to the world's standards in their morality."

      I feel so strongly about it, I just KNOW it's what God is calling me to write.

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    3. Oh, VINCE, from your lips to God's ear, my friend!! And I have been asking Him to just allow me be a part of it -- a true dream of mine, so your words have blessed me. Thank you!!

      And you know what? There is a N.Y.Times bestselling erotica author who has come to Christ and is now writing Christian fiction, so who knows? Maybe she will lead the charge. :)

      JOSEE, YES, YES, YES!!! I believe it IS God calling you to write because if this vision is of God, He's going to need all the passionate writers he can get, girlfriend, so get crackin'!! ;)

      Hugs,
      Julie

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  39. Thanks, Julie, and when God lays something on our heart it will come to pass. I believe he has put a similar desire on my heart. To write something secular publishing copies instead of the opposite.

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    1. AMEN, Tina!! I feel that same thing about you when I pray for you, my friend, during our joint commitment to lift each other up in regard to our writing. So God bless you and your efforts on His behalf.

      Hugs!!
      Julie

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  40. What a great post, Tina! And the comments have been so educational, too! I like to see characters struggle with real world issues but make the right choice because of God's grace and love. I loved Janet's comment about not glorifying the edgy.

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    1. Hey, Lazarus, how are you feeling today?? Praying for your recovery!

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    2. Still feel like the walking dead only I don't look that good, hahaha. Thanks!

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    3. HAHA....that was me last week & I DID know what Lazarus felt like coming out of the grave!!! This is the exact conversation My husband and I had....he made comment that the producers of The Walking Dead called wanting to cast me as one of their actress.....bwahahahaha!!!

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  41. How It Was Proven That The New Erotic Christian Fiction Romances Saved Souls (in the hypothetical question, that is.)

    The purpose of the ECF books was to suggest how Christian values could save a person, not for Christ but rather from dying when hitting bottom. The themes were about finding the strength to mount a secular comeback. The goals of the books were just to motivate the reader to seek more information from a church. It was left up to minister to do the heavy lifting of saving these lost individuals for Christ.

    How was this proven? The books had coupons at the back for a free super deluxe meal at any local Christian shelter. When coupons were redeemed and that individual was converted and cleaned up for a nice photo, the photo and original coupon were posted on the Wall of Salvation. These "Walls of Salvation" appeared in Church auditoriums all over America.

    It is at this point that the question arose:

    How would you judge such fiction?

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    1. This is very fascinating, Vince. I'm going to have to research this further. You're making me think. Need more coffee.

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  42. Wow...wow...so much to consider, Tina.

    I think I'm not in the normal category of Christian readers. I often feel I don't "fit in!" I feel like a schizophrenic.

    I live in a real world of hurting, struggling, searching people who use foul language, have gone through more than one fire-pit, spout bizarre theories, and hope with all that is within them that they can find happiness and feel connected...some of them love Jesus, some hate the church but not God, and some are mystical, but not believers...and I love and admire them!! And, I read some of the same books they read. (Not necessarily secularly edgy, but not part of the Christian market).

    Then...I live in the world of my beautiful Christian friends where HOPE is alive and mercy and grace abound and I read the books they read... sanitized versions of overcoming all the ugliness of the world ...and I LOVE and admire them too...

    I agree...I think God is edgy...and His stories are edgy...and not always scrubbed clean...just like real people! Redemption is pretty edgy...or is that messy? I remember in our small town church the day a woman who was divorced several times and had lived with various men in our community and the man she was currently living with (who was a divorced partying womanizer) stepped over the threshold into our tiny church. Our pastor was not from our little town and had no idea why most of his congregation broke down in tears when this couple walked to the front of the church to accept Christ. The next several months with them was a bit edgy/messy...but within six months...they came to ask if they could be married...not because anyone showed them the rule-book and told them to quit swearing and clean up their act, but because they were surrounded with love. Accepted for who they were and loved! (They are still married--about 20 years now!)

    So, I don't really have an opinion...just thoughts...books and life?? Thanks a lot!! LOL

    I'd love to be entered for a critique!

    Wishing everyone a lovely day!!

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    1. I am a note taker Kate. Another note in the back of my bible says this:

      9/24/1995 We are not go go out and convert. We are to go out and love people in Jesus name.

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    2. Very thought-provocative, Kate. Your comment blessed me.

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    3. Wonderful Note, Tina!! I find it awe-inspiring that loving people often brings about conversion!! Guess that's why I am so attracted to and adore Love Inspired!!

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    4. Hi Tina:

      I had very much a similiar experience as your Bible note only I expressed it this way:

      "Live your life as a joyous Christian and let your example make others want what you have."

      And do you know how I came to this awareness? I meet a few Mormons, independent of each other at different times, who all seemed so content and joyous in their religion I found I was very much attracted to their religion. Of course these were people I worked with and had time to get to know. They also let me know they were Mormons. But I was very impressed and in my early twenties.

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  43. I'm a very picky person when it comes to the Christian Inspiration Romance I read because I don't really like it when the books get too "preachy". I like to have an undertone of inspirational content, but I like it to be a bit more subtle.

    I don't write Christian fiction for say. I feel that at this given time I am called to write YA for my fellow young adults to sort of give them an "out" from all the trashy young adult books out there. I try to give them something better to read by writing clean YA.

    My definition of "edgy" (and actually the term I use is mushy) is anything that will make me squirm uncomfortably and blush, and then glance around to make sure that no one noticed me squirming (or blushing). And this tends to happen if there is too much romance in the story hence me calling them mushy.

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    1. Edgy = Mushy Okay, I can see this at your age. LOL. I like it!

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    2. Hi Nicky:

      You wrote:

      'My definition of "edgy" (and actually the term I use is mushy) is anything that will make me squirm uncomfortably and blush, and then glance around to make sure that no one noticed me squirming (or blushing). And this tends to happen if there is too much romance in the story hence me calling them mushy.'

      I don't know how old you are but this is beautiful insightful writing. You're a good writer right now. I'd love to read your first book.

      Vince

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  44. Wonderful and instructive post, Tina! Thanks for your hard work and for your and Julie's comments! I shared on FB. Blessings!

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    1. Thank you, Carrie. Always good to be able to discuss and respect each other's opinion on the topic. We like Seekerville to be a safe place, and it's nice that everyone has their own opinion. That makes for lots of variety in books!!! Thanks for stopping by and for sharing.

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    2. 12 years between Love Comes Softly and Redeeming Love (ps...talk about edgy!)
      They both seem like the beginning. Right there at the start. But they were NOT

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    3. And they were sooooo very different.

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    4. Hey, Carrie, SO good to see you here, my friend -- I've missed you! Hope things are going well.

      Hugs!!
      Julie

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    5. YW, Tina. I am impressed with the amount of work that went into compiling this article. That is just wonderful that you did this for the Seekerville readers. Planning to print this one out.

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    6. Hi Julie, I have been very sick for a long time and when not I've been in my writer's cave. But when I saw this article, I had to read it. And thank you for sharing the link! Tina outdid herself, didn't she? Enjoyed the dialogue, too!

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  45. The post and comments today are so informative! As an avid reader, I love series, LI romances and some mysteries. All the Seeker writers are at the top of my list! Two commenters have pushed me to read Kept which has been on my Kindle for a while! Please count me in for an E book.

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    1. You are in, Jackie Smith you faithful fan you!

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    2. How about "The Atonement Child"? The topic was rape and abortion and very un-Christian Christian College administrators. It was so edgy everyone told Francine Rivers that it could not be published but it was and it was a success. (4.7 stars on 930 Amazon reviews)

      I think that book was edgy by topic alone. Besides, if you are hanging on the edge of a cliff by your finger tips, I'd say that is also uncomfortable. : )

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  46. When I think of edgy, I think of topics. Edgy topics. Not adding swearing and graphic sex, but tackling drug use or infidelity or child abuse or ... oh you know. EDGY stuff and reflecting Christian understanding, and either redemption or consequences on troubled characters.

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    1. Is that edgy or uncomfortable? Edgy or taboo? Edgy or .....

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  47. Tina, What a great post. I remember the first writing class I took after I decided I wanted to get serious about writing. It was a literary fiction class, but someone mentioned my local chapter of RWA. That first time I went to a meeting and talked about the craft of writing genre fiction, I knew I was in the right place. I wish I'd had this post way back, but I have it now! Hooray!

    Glad I started reading some of the comments. I thought you meant whether I thought the Bible was edgy, and you meant Christian fiction. Oops. I think readers often keep within their comfort level. The wonderful thing about fiction (including Christian fiction) is there are so many authors out there who provide different perspectives, and personally, I like challenging myself. Also what I consider edgy someone else might not and vice versa. To me, edgy is more wrapping my mind around Christian authors who might explore different dimensions (literal dimensions as in alternate history or speculative fiction), but I would read such a book so I could understand where the author is coming from better. I think the joy of reading is challenging yourself on occasion. To me, that's the edgier realm of Christian fiction. As far as edginess in regards to the way passion is expressed by an author, I like authors who communicate a good story. I'm more offset by a heroine who is so perfect that I can't relate to her than a heroine who kisses the hero or a character who is not the hero. I've read Julie's books and love them. I think she does a great job writing about passion with a purpose in such a way as to be relatable and enjoyable.

    Thank you for this post. As a writer, I grappled with this subject when I started writing. I enjoyed reading it and the comments.

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    1. YES!!!! See you get it.

      "To me, edgy is more wrapping my mind around Christian authors who might explore different dimensions (literal dimensions as in alternate history or speculative fiction)"

      This is what I mean. Edgy.

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    2. Totally different from what I call edgy!

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    3. TANYA SAID: "I think readers often keep within their comfort level. The wonderful thing about fiction (including Christian fiction) is there are so many authors out there who provide different perspectives, and personally, I like challenging myself. Also what I consider edgy someone else might not and vice versa."

      YES, Tanya, I totally agree with you on that, my friend! There's such a broad range of moral perspective in the Christian market, that not everyone is going to be "comfortable" with everything, much less like it!

      YOU ALSO SAID: "I've read Julie's books and love them. I think she does a great job writing about passion with a purpose in such a way as to be relatable and enjoyable."

      Oh, God bless you, Tanya -- I SO appreciate your kind words, my friend, because that is one of my goals!

      HUGS and MORE HUGS!!
      Julie

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    4. TERRI, I'm in your camp on this -- my interpretation of "edgy" is totally different from Tina's.

      Mine is pushing the bounds of moral allowance as far as one can with romantic passion, sexuality, language, violence, etc. without compromising God's precepts in order to reach an amoral society where those things are common.

      GREAT DISCUSSION, TINA!!

      Hugs,
      Julie

      Hugs,
      Julie

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  48. Hey Tina, my head doesn't hurt, but f you knew where I worked you'd understand it takes a lot to give me a headache!

    Like Mary, I think oh edgy as topics. I read a couple of edgy books that were wonderful. I keep checking to see if the author has written more - so far no luck. I want to see God at work in broken people's lives. See the transformation that only He can make.

    Ted Dekker's When Heaven Weeps was somewhat edgy.

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    1. And I always want to be entered for a critique.

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    2. Thanks for the book referral. I will add it to my cart, Terri. And you are entered.

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  49. Nothing very deep here because it's been a long day in a longer week, but when I think of Edgy, I think of what a number of other people have mentioned - stories about Christians dealing with difficult (possibly morally so) situations.

    I saw a reference somewhere recently to CIF as unrealistic because everything always works out neatly and life isn't like that.

    Of course that's true of most romance novels. ;) (And Hallmark channel movies).

    So I see edgy as falling somewhere over that line - can be extreme or just a bit more realistic.

    So, working with that definition, I think there are readers who are looking for that Calgon read, but there are also readers who are looking for something a little grittier. And some of us may want one or the other depending on what is going on in our own lives at the time.

    As for the paranormal stuff - I love dual timeslines/ time travel, etc. - love to read it and love to write it, but I don't expect it to be pushed by mainstream Christian publishers.

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    1. Which is sad, Cate. I'd love to see a Christian version of the TV show Timeless.

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  50. You're both hilarious and informative, Tina :)

    Edgy Christian romance is a new one by me. I think Love Inspired has gotten edgy since being bought by Harlequin. But it's probably not truly edgy as the secular world thinks. Just a departure from certain Biblical standards.


    May God bless you and all of Seekerville!

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    1. Thanks, Phyllis. Tipping my beret to you!

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  51. Edgy makes me think that the story might include topics that don't seem Christianlike to me but they might actually cause me to examine myself as to judging others. I Do Not think that profanity or explicit sexuality is Edgy; it is profanity and explicit sexuality!
    As for the 14% and 17% numbers: As a public librarian for 22 1/2 years, I watched as Christian or Inspirational Fiction became our fastest growing collection. I don't know if it is because we serve a rural area but people search for those books with the "red dot' and INS on the spine label above the Author's last name.
    Thanks for a thought provoking post.
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Wow! This is excellent to know, Connie! Thanks for sharing that encouraging news about Christian Fiction!!! Woot!

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