Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Heart of Christian Romance


OH SEEKERS!!! I am so very glad to be here with you all today! My first ‘community’ of Christian authors started here when Mary Connealy introduced me to this wonderful, passionate, and…crazy bunch of encouraging writers over seven years ago. How? Well, it started when I read one of Mary’s books and thought “Oh my goodness!! She writes Christian ROMANCE novels!! That’s what I write. I didn’t even know there was such a thing.”
 

Meeting Audra and Julie followed after that and then Ruthy – and all of them wrote these amazing novels of redemption, hope, healing, and…um…ROMANCE (some a bit steamier than others…ahem…Julie “Kissing Queen” Lessman)
 

So, with that intro in mind, I’m excited to chat with you all today about a topic very near and dear to my heart.
 

Romance in fiction…. Particularly romance in fiction written by Christians. 

Are you ready?
 

Let’s do this!
 

The big story of the Bible is all about relationship. God’s relationship with his creation…and then out of that relationship we find almost every conceivable example of relationships and how they work well. We also learn how they can be dysfunctional – because, let’s face it, we live in a dysfunctional world. Which is why I think lots of Christian fiction is moving toward a more ‘realistic’ description of life in novels.
 


The real world is messy. Our hearts are messy. And…our relationships are messy – so we really need stories that bring hope in the middle of all the mess.
 

What I’d love to do today is encourage a healthy dialogue about this topic of realistic writing in one of our most intimate relationships we experience – the romantic kind.
 

First off, the word ‘romance’ is not in the Bible, but here is Harper Collins Dictionary’s definition: the actions and feelings of people who are in love, especially behavior that is very caring or affectionate.
 

(A Side Note: the Bible does have A LOT to say about love)
 

I think this definition encompasses what lots of us want to see when we choose to read romance. Deep down, even in the secular world, the books that have a romantic story at the core (not just the physical intimacy portion) are the ones that show the ‘affection’ and ‘caring’ as an outpouring of love.
 

Why is that?
 

Because we all love…Love.
 

We crave it.
 

Our souls were made for love. First and foremost, we were made for the Creator-creature love, but the Bible clearly portrays various forms of God’s relationship-love to his people. Father-child, Savior-saved, Friend-friend, Groom-bride, Lover- beloved, and lots more.
 

Since we’re talking about the ‘romance’ type love, then let’s focus on Scriptures view of the Groom-bride and Lover-beloved relationships to see what God says about it.
 

The best representation of this kind of love in the Bible is in Song of Solomon, but beware: if you understand the imagery depicted in this book, you’re going to find it’s super-duper intimate in its descriptions. The Lover in S of S gives us a good clue of how ‘romance’ is shown in a man and woman’s relationship and…it is shown in a physical way.
 

It’s really cool how God uses a “story” through Song of Solomon to teach a deeper truth about Christ’s pursuant, faithful, tender, passionate love for his people. 

Christianity Today says it like this: The Bible “presents God himself as a lover and his courting of creation the Great Romance.”
 

It’s pretty clear through the story of Song of Solomon that the Lover and the Beloved are enthralled with each other. They both seek each other out and long to be together. And this ‘love’, this romance, between the Lover and his bride is not just words or sweet dialogue, it’s displayed through very clear actions – to show to us the beauty and happy purpose that romance plays in the lives of two people (within God’s best plan).
 

How does this information play out in fiction?
 

Years ago, there wasn’t a distinction like ABA and CBA. Actually, CBA is fairly new in the grand scheme of fiction. Books like Jane Eyre and even Chronicles of Narnia, both written from a Christian worldview, were on the shelves next to Frankenstein and Philip Pullman (okay, Pullman is a more recent author, but you get my point). “Real life” was portrayed in Charles Dickens in all its gory mess, and people, Christians and nonChristians alike, picked up the books and read them. (which I HOPE is still our goal as we write quality fiction to any reader).
 

Nowadays, though, our media is soaked with its ‘brand’ of romance, which can leave a rather hollow and hopeless heart behind, but…they do a great job of making their stories relevant to the culture and selling their definition to a world desperately searching for love.
We, as Christian authors, should tell an even better and more realistic story because we have the deeper secret behind what is God’s ‘best’ for romance…and the ultimate answer for our love-hungry hearts.
 

In a recent interview, I was posed with this question:
 

Some people have a problem with Christian romance, what would you say to them? 
I gave the interviewer the short version, but I’d like to flesh out the answer a little, particularly as it relates to the accusation that romance in fiction ‘tempts people to sin.”
 

This is a serious declaration and one that causes me to ask two specific question.

1.)  Did the author glorify God in what they wrote? I think there ARE boundaries in writing romance. As an author, my words and influence is bigger than I can imagine, so as I write romance I not only want it to be winsome, organic to my story, and beautiful, I want it to glorify God. As authors, we need to be accountable and prayerfully consider what and how we write romance. It’s definitely not a ‘free for all’.
 

For example – I’m a mom of teens – and (at least once) have had the ‘what’s too far’ talk with my kids as it refers to dating-relationships, however our main question to our kids is “what’s the attitude of your heart and how can you keep your attitude in-line with God’s, even in romantic relationships?”
 

We, as Christian writers, have a chance to promote romance God’s way!
 

Otherwise, people can certainly find plenty of other books to read that will help desensitize them to sex-outside-of-marriage, abuse, and lots more. Julie Lessman says it much better than I ever could in her article here. http://seekerville.blogspot.com/2009/05/life-on-edge.html.
 

If we’re writing romance from a Godly perspective, we must make sure any actions we write about that are outside what God says is okay, must have consequences to them (either internally, externally, or both) So…if I have two people who sleep together outside of marriage (and one or both are professing Christians), then I need to show the consequences of that choice and not play it off as ‘oh well, that stuff just happens.” There are spiritual ramifications when we step outside of God’s ‘best’ for us, and if I’m trying to show God’s best through my novel, I’m presenting those consequences.
 

There are natural ‘guardrails’ up on my heart as I write because I profess to have the Holy Spirit guiding my words. One of the gauges I put up for myself is “Can I let my daughter read what I’ve written and feel unashamed about what she learns about me and her Savior?”
 

I love writing romantic scenes…organic and realistic ones that flow out of the story. If kissing is a natural progression for my characters and story, then I’ll write kisses. If my characters are newlyweds, then I want the world to see how exquisite the romance between two people who love Jesus can be…just like the intricate beauty displayed in Song of Solomon.
I write romance scenes to show the beauty of a man and woman’s love relationship, not for the purpose of writing sex (I’m a closed-door writer, btw…but I close the door after some good kissing).
 

Plus, we can make our stories relevant without making them raunchy.
 

Remember, as authors, we’re telling a STORY. As authors who want to write authentic and relevant stories that impact our culture, we need to make them realistic.
Two people who are in love will do more than hold hands (unless they’re a distinct minority). How can I show this growing expression of love in a way that displays the beauty of love God’s way? That’s the goal: Keeping Heaven’s love and expectations in mind while writing earthly romance.
 

Jesus used stories to help teach greater concepts and God uses romance as a beautiful example of his love for his Bride. The closest relationships most of us experience are those of spouses and families and, for me, this is an amazing and poignant canvas on which to paint a picture of love and hope.
 

It’s just another reason why we love fairytales. They call to our imaginations and our child-like wonder and hit at some of the deepest longings of our hearts. Rescue, good winning over evil, miracles, and a happily-ever-after…TRUE love. How much more beautiful to take our God-given imaginations and our understanding of His sacrificing love for us and show it through the guise and intimacy of a romance?

2.)  Does the reader have issues within their own lives that might cause them to be particularly sensitive to certain aspects of the story – so much so that it’s not the book that’s the really issue, but the heart of the reader. (ex. He/she struggles with dissatisfaction, temptations of their own, etc)
 

For example, I don’t read thrillers, as a rule. I get highly agitated and nervous when I read them, so I don’t. It’s not the author’s job to write something different than a thriller, it’s MY job to choose NOT to read a thriller. That’s on me! Not them.

I think this is a very serious question to consider as we read novels. Many times, as Christians, we focus so much on the external ‘sin options’ around us that we forget how sin influences us from within – without external motives at all sometimes. What might we be struggling with in our own hearts/spirits that manifests itself when we read a romantic scene in fiction?

So in summary????  (Yep, I finally got here. Can you tell I’m influenced a little bit by a certain Kissing Queen? ;-)
 

God created romance and he said “It is good”.
 

He uses story to not only celebrate the beauty of a man and woman’s most intimate relationship, but uses that very intimacy as an example of His love for His Church.
 

The Bible is quite explicit on showing how romance, designed by God, is to be enjoyed with a passion blessed by God. Novels, written by Christians, have reflected their culture for years and influenced them without losing the parameters God’s set in place.
 

And…an author is responsible for their intentions behind what they write to glorify God, but a reader is also responsible for their heart attitudes in what they read.
It’s basically a team approach to bring great fiction to a world who is desperately searching for TRUE love.
 

So…what are your thoughts about romance in Christian fiction? 

GIVEAWAY!

Leave your comment to place your name in the hat for a copy of my newest release, Just the Way You Are – a Britallachian romance that has LOTS of good kisses in it! Romantic Times hailed it a Top Pick and gave it 4 ½ stars!! 



 



 

ABOUT PEPPER:

Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes novels inspired by her love for history and the Blue Ridge Mountains. She writes both historical and contemporary romance. Her two most recent releases, The Thorn Healer and Just the Way You Are, both received a Top Pick from RT with 4 ½ stars.  You can get to know Pepper on Facebook, or over at her group blog, The Writer’s Alley, or Instagram.


203 comments :

  1. Pepper!!! Our little Villager grew up and became a successful author..you never call, you never write. WE MISS YOU!!!!

    So wonderful to have you back in the Village.

    And wowza, those book covers are awesomeness~!

    So delighted for your success.

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    1. Thanks, Tina!!! I love those covers :)

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  2. Hi Pepper:

    So happy to see Seekerville's original spice girl back for a visit.

    My question is this: how much reality do romance readers, who demand an HEA, really want to see in a romance?

    I don't read romances to experience reality. In fact, I'd like to see less reality and more romance in romances. You know the 'open the door,' 'bring candy, hearts and flowers' and sincere love poems type of romance. I see romances more like bubble baths than blood baths!

    I can't remember the last heroine who was truly 'romanced'.

    Reality has writers so mesmerized with the page turning catnip of conflict, they want more and more. Oh, how nice it would be to have more romance in romances. And how perfect that would be in a Christian love story.

    Vince

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    1. Vince, there is strong truth in your words... but, Vince...

      I CAN'T HELP MYSELF! :)

      And ya' gotta look at this from an editorial perspective... they'll make us change it. They want the real stories, at least all the ones I'm working with....

      So maybe we need a paradigm shift? But in the meantime, I will confess that I am having the best time of my life! :) But then you know I love the real life issues, my friend.

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    2. Vince,
      I am a romance junkie not a conflict junkie… But since most stories both in real life and in fiction have conflict of some sort or the other it's definitely found its way onto the printed page :-) I think sometimes it can be overly dramatized, but I really hope that we are moving in a direction of romance that still has that fairytale kind of feel to it without losing sight of the real world :-)

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    3. One more thing: I don't think we necessarily have to forgo the beauty of romance to make a story or realistic. It might not be easy but I think the two can coexist quite beautifully

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    4. Vince, I think it just all comes down to BALANCE. Yes, we want to get away from everyday life when we read, but conflict and 'reality' can be in a book without losing the element of escapism.

      In fact, if done right, reading a book about other people's troubles can be down right enjoyable. Almost like...listening to your MOM scold your brothers and sisters while YOU have piously done NOTHING WRONG!!!

      I always enjoyed that as a kid. Now books fill that gap.

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    5. I like romance in my romance books but I love angst. The "Oh, I've never felt this way before, she's killing me!" kind of angst.

      In romance we KNOW we'll get our HEA. I want the path there to be romantic and angst-filled. Not too heavy, mind you, but with enough realism to give the book depth. But that's just me!

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    6. HAHAHAHA!!! Mary!! YES - on the sibling comment!! LOL

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    7. Josee,
      I respect your love for angst. I have a lot of friends you really love that in their romance books. I like conflict, but am not as interested in angst, but I'm sure you're finding lots of great books to read right now :-)

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    8. Pepper, I"m laughing too at Mary's sibling comment. chuckle, chuckle

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    9. Loving the sibling comment! I'm always happy when they're the ones in trouble!!!

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    10. Romance and Reality

      In a writing class, James Patterson said that he doesn't write realism...but he wants his stories to seem real to his readers. I think this is a profound insight. Patterson's use of exacting details can make any odd situation seem real.

      I think this non-realism that seems real is ideal for romance.

      Have men lost all sense of romance?
      Couldn't even a hit man send his girlfriend flowers after their first date because he was actually infatuated?
      Couldn't the conflict be the heroine is a feminist who doesn't like being romanced? (Inner conflict: she does not like how good it makes her feel to be so special to someone that they are moved to romantic overtures.)

      I had a hero, who on finding out the heroine loved Donna Leon (and the city of Venice), sent for Leon's new book just released in England (from Blackwell's). He wraps the book in Venice scene gift wrap and gives her the present at their six month anniversary (of meeting each other) dinner date.

      "You remembered it's our six month anniversary?"

      "The best six months of my life."

      "But this book does not come out for over a year yet."

      "Donna's books come out a year earlier in England before they come to North America. I just didn't want you to have to wait a full year for your next Venice mystery adventure."

      "You're an impossible romantic."


      This is from a WIP called, "The Last Romantic". The hero is a former war torn Army Ranger going to college on the GI Bill. When a campus sniper starts shooting out the student center windows, the hero, a sniper himself, hears the type of weapon being used and figures the rance and knows where the sniper is. He runs two hundred yards to the high ground above the lagoon, unarmed, hides in wait, and pushes the perp off the cliff as he turns a bend, killing him. The students riot in outrage that such a mad dog Army guy is allowed on campus. "He acted as cop, judge, jury, and executioner."

      The heroine is horrified. She was molested as a child and fears men. She even shares a house on the beach with the most famous lesbian on campus to discourage men from hitting on her.

      To the hero it's love at first sight. He saved her life at the student center by his quick action and is determined to win her over if it takes every romantic gambit in the book.

      The story is not realism in any form but it reads real because the details are so exacting.

      So here's an alpha hero being as romantic as it is possible to be after a heroine who wants nothing to do with men and who hates how much she enjoys the attention of such an hunk of a hero.

      That's my story. :)

      Romantic love that reads like realism.

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    11. Vince said: "In fact, I'd like to see less reality and more romance in romances."

      Where do I sign up??? I'm with you on that, Vince, no question there, although I DO love a fair amount of angst in my books. ;)

      Hugs,
      Julie

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    12. Love that, Vince. That's what I mean when I say that I love to write realistic romance sprinkled with old Hollywood magic. the quote by James Patterson is PErFECT. I want my stories to be 'real' to the readers, but a little magical.

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  3. Hi Pepper! Welcome back to Seekerville! I must say the covers of both of your books are beautiful and inviting.

    Romance in Christian fiction...well, sometimes I think, there needs to be a little more romance and less angst in the stories. As a reader, I want to 'run away and be entertained' for a while and some novels give that to me more than others. I found recently that while I love suspense, I need to pick and choose the time to read a Christian suspense novel as it keeps my current "high" stress level up and I don't relax. More romance I think would cool down my stress. I don't know if that makes sense or not.

    Please toss my name in for your giveaway!

    Blessings,
    Cindy W.

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    1. Cindy, I totally get that! Now, being and unadulterated romance writer, I may have too much romance in my romance novels, but I totally hear you on picky and choosing when you read what you read. Our hearts can be finicky things, and I suppose that's why With in all the fun, entertainment, suspense, conflict, adventure… You get my idea, we are careful to guard our hearts. There are certain times I cannot read suspense. It agitates me to the point of not sleeping.

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    2. Sorry for the typos! I hope the Grammar Queen is conveniently absent today!

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    3. Cindy said, "More romance I think would cool down my stress. I don't know if that makes sense or not."

      LOL ... not in my books it wouldn't, Cindy! ;)

      Hugs,
      Julie

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  4. It's great to see you here, Pepper! I'm all for more romance in Christian fiction, especially the good old fashion kind...no asking for a date by text message. :)
    Congratulations on your latest release. Great cover! Please toss my name into the hat.

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    1. Hey Jill, I love old-fashioned romance too! And Hollywood magic in romance! You know, any of that Meg Ryan/Sandra Bullock type of romantic feel to the story

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    2. Pepper I used to love romantic comedy movies. I can't remember the last time I saw one that was truly funny and truly romantic. :(

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    3. Oh Mary, that is a sad commentary on the state of romcom around the world. :-(

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    4. Oh, me too, Jill -- BRING. IT. ON!!! ;)

      And Mary said: "Pepper I used to love romantic comedy movies. I can't remember the last time I saw one that was truly funny and truly romantic. :("

      I agree with you on that, Mary, which is why I stick with one of my top tried and trues -- HITCH!!

      If you've never seen it, you need to. SO fun, and I'm not even a Will Smith fan.

      Hugs,
      Julie

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    5. My favorite of all time is: While You Were Sleeping

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    6. And a close second is: The Cutting Edge romance between a figure skating prima donna and an ex-hockey player. So funny.

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    7. I LOVE both those movies, Mary! Very witty :)

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  5. Pepper!!!! THIS WAS CLASSIC PEPPER! LOVED IT from the beginning to the end, and you are simply marvelous... and I champion your success! GO YOU!!!!!!

    Thank you for such a beautiful laid out and insightful post.... (I used the words insightful post yesterday for Tina's post, too, but they apply both times!)

    And that last pic of you.... OH MYLANTA, love it!

    And I'm thinking of Phineas and Ferb RIGHT NOW.... "With a hundred and four days of summer vacation... til school comes along just to end it..."

    :)

    Pepper and I did a Phineas and Ferb duet! I'm still laughing!

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    1. Phineas & Ferb! Ruthy & Pepper- sounds like a good fit to me :)

      Thanks for the encouragement, Ruthy. When I sent this article to Julie I was super nervous because of two reasons: one, the content can sometimes get controversy oh and two, it was so long :-) I figured only the most committed readers would bake it to the end :-)

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    2. I am not only committed.... I might BE committed! Any day! It seems the world is not always ready for blatant Ruthyisms without a LOCKED ROOM! :)

      Okay, kidding, my family would miss COOKIES and pies.

      It's the only thing that's keeping me out of the home!

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    3. I understand, Ruthy. My family say that I have so many imaginary friends in my head I'm diagnose-able :-)
      Sigh...to each their own ;-)

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  6. Ahhh, my first online writing friend. It is so awesome to see how your have blossomed this past couple of years. I absolutely LOVE your book covers and soooo excited that your Brittalachian is finally out there for the world to read.

    You do romance so well and rival the Kissing Queen with your fabulous kissing scenes! :)

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    1. Sherrinda!!! Oh my goodness! I love you so much! And what's this I hear about the Genesis…

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    2. Btw, thanks for the kind words about my kissing scenes. I may have an unhealthy fascination with kisses ;)

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    3. Ha! No such thing as an unhealthy fascination with kissing. I've been known to watch YouTube clips of kissing scenes!!!

      And yes!!! So excited about the Genesis. 😊

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    4. LOL ... no such thing as an "unhealthy fascination with kisses" in my book, Pepper, because really now -- how much trouble can you get into with JUST kisses, seriously???

      SHERRINDA!! Long time, no see, my friend! Hope all is well in your world.

      Hugs,
      Julie

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    5. "...how much trouble can you get into with JUST kisses, seriously???"

      Well, that would depend on who you are kissing, who sees you, and where it stops. Kissing is sin's doorbell. I think in Christian fiction, the more passionate the kissing, the more spirital reason there needs to be for why the couple stopped at JUST kissing. (But then, I had 13 years of nuns!)

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  7. Pepper, so good to see you and celebrate your success! Congrats!

    Loved your blog. If only we truly understood how much God loves us. He invites us to experience love on a human level as well as divine. And he created us to take part in his creating process when husband and wife give themselves to the other. Such a wonderful God who gives his children such beautiful gifts.

    Reaching for another cup of coffee...

    Sending hugs and love!

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    1. Debby! Yes and amen!!! We are so loved!

      And his love is so big and amazing that he gives us enough to share with other people :-) I'm so thankful

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  8. hi Pepper
    I need to go check out your book list and buy some to read. I love what you've said in this post. I agree whole-heartedly with you.
    I think the Seeker ladies do a wonderful job in their books with showing God-like romances. They also do a great job of it here in Seekerville with the love they show everyone too.
    Love the covers of your books and would love to have my name in the draw. (I really do need to get a couple of your books... off to Amazon)
    Thanks for visiting and being positively influenced by the "kissing Queen". I tend to like reading about those romantic kisses that hint at what's to come. :)

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    1. DebH,
      I'm pretty thankful to have been influenced by the Kissing Queen too ;-) And the Seekers are AMAZING! I'm so thankful for them!

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  9. Great post, Pepper! I'm all for romance in Christian fiction, and I honestly miss it when there aren't any romantic elements in an inspirational novel, even if it's just holding hands.

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    1. Stephanie,
      I'm with you on this! I love reading romance of about any kind (with an HEA).

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    2. Hear, hear, Stephanie -- I'm with you! And I actually feel downright cheated when there are hardly any kisses in a book, which is why I tend to pack in plenty.

      I LOVE the Keira Knightly Pride & Prejudice movie, but I honestly felt cheated at the end when the movie went to black after the VERY first kiss. I mean, seriously??? That's one of the reasons I'm not a Jane Austen fan, I guess.

      No flying tomatoes, please!!

      Hugs,
      Julie

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    3. YES!!! I felt that way about the new Beauty and the Beast movie! One more kiss would have made it even BETTER :-)

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    4. "I LOVE the Keira Knightly Pride & Prejudice movie, but I honestly felt cheated at the end when the movie went to black after the VERY first kiss."

      Oh, Julie, where is the romance? That was five wonderful, totally love felt, expressions of eternal love. They were just married. Lasting love was now the issue. Elizabeth said he could only call her 'Mrs. Darcy' when he was completely, perfectly, incandescently* happy.

      So Darcy calls her 'Mrs. Darcy' as he pecks her on the forehead. He calls her 'Mrs Darcy' again as he kisses her cheek. And again when he kisses her nose. Then 'Mrs. Darcy' as he at last kisses her on the lips. Finally he calls her 'Mrs. Darcy' as he kisses her on the lips...forever as suggest by the fadeout.

      These were sincere kisses promising years of eternal love doubling with each repeat of her name and a kiss of love and not just mindless passion.

      I love that scene.
      Sometimes a kiss is more than a kiss.

      Vince

      *look up the word 'incandescently'...it's just perfect for this scene.

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    5. Well, my lovely American friends, do you realise that "incandescently" scene was added in only to the American release of the film? In Australia and the UK, the film ended with Lizzy leaving the room with her father. No kiss at all. TRUTH! I only saw that final scene when I got the movie on DVD and they had the "US ending" as a special feature :)

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    6. Hi Rel May:

      Thanks for that comment. I guess the Brits are less into the romance of the event than the Yankees. BTW: I love Dr. Blake Mysteries and Miss Fisher Mysteries. The ABC has some wonderful, well written, detective shows. Never miss them.

      Vince

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    7. Vince, I'm sorry, but this is one of the RARE times I must disagree with you! And, yes, I did look up the word "incandescently," and this is what Merriam Webster told me: "white, glowing, or luminous with intense heat"

      Uh, no. There was NO "white, glowing, or luminous with intense heat" there for this CDQ, so apparently we see passion in a somewhat different light. Keep in mind that I came out of the secular romance genre to Christian romance, so kisses on the forehead, cheek, etc. does NOT cut it for me, I'm afraid. Give me lips, and give me plenty, and I'm happy! ;)

      Hugs,
      Julie

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    8. "Uh, no. There was NO "white, glowing, or luminous with intense heat" there for this CDQ, so apparently we see passion in a somewhat different light."

      Julie: I don't think we disagree. We're just looking in two different locations. You are looking at the external world where your hot passion is reflected in the physical intensity of the kissing. I have no problem with this in the courtship run-up to marriage.

      I was looking into the internal world of the couple. Remember Elizabeth told Darcy he could only call her 'Mrs. Darcy' when he was completely, perfectly, incandescently* happy.

      Each time he kissed her he was showing that he was completely, perfectly, incandescently ( white, glowing, or luminous with intense heat happy -- imagine this degree of happiness!). This was a demonstration of Darcy's inner state of happiness.

      How wonderful for a new bride to know she makes her mate so passionately happy. That's what those five tender kisses were about. They were an instantiation of his passionate love.

      True, a long, deep, passionate kiss sequence may be a sign of sensual enjoyment but it is external. It may or may not lead to lasting happiness. When the passion is gone then will there still be happiness and love?

      Those tender kisses, in their post marriage context, were born of passionate happiness -- independent of sensual peak arousal.

      I just find this tender expression of love to be highly romantic. I assume so did the director of the movie.

      Of course, as an invaluable foundation for the growing love that eventually leads to marriage and those ultimate chase kisses, I find your external passionate kisses to be ideal.

      It's not that I love your passionate kisses less, for as Patton said about Rommel, "I read your book" -- no it's really that I love the after marriage happiness even more! :)

      Vince


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    9. LOL, Vince, okay -- you win. But then you usually do, my friend! ;)

      I am NO match for your brain, but at least I'm smart enough to know it! :)

      Hugs,
      Julie

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    10. REL!! Welcome to Seekerville, girl, SO great to see you here!!

      And that is SO interesting about the American vs. of P&P!! So we got the racier one??? Who would have thunk! ;)

      Hugs,
      Julie

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    11. Hi Julie:

      This is not a competition! It's more a collaboration of ideas. It's like Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot. Everyone won!

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    12. Hey dear Julie! When Pepper mentioned she was writing this post, I knew you'd be in boots and all ;-) Love it xo

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  10. Pepper, this is great and so true. Marriage and family is a model of Christ's love on this earth and a boot camp for the next one. Christian fiction is my genre of choice, to read and to write, because it reflects that model.
    BTW, I was also brought here by Mary C., who reached out to me after judging a contest I was in.
    Please enter me in the drawing.
    Back later,
    KB

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    1. Mary's pretty great, isn't she, KB?

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    2. I really rounded up the GREAT ONES!!! :D

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  11. Pepper, I am also of the closed-door school (or three-dot as some call it...) and I look at it this way. You wouldn't follow a REAL couple into their bedroom, would you?
    Sex is a good thing, but most of us already know how it works.
    KB

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    1. KB, I have followed my fictional couples into their bedrooms a little ways, but then I retreat before things get...too crazy :-)

      My HOPE is not to focus so much on the physical connection of the relationship, but the emotional intimacy which is portrayed through the physical connection. If we do that well, we don't have to leave the bedroom door open :-)

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    2. kaybee, I always think in secular fiction, with the wide open door, it's not the actual ACT that's got the punch, yes a sex scene carries emotional punch, it's what leads up to it and it's the aftermath, That's where the powerful emotional punch is. And those can be done with a closed door! Between married people. Or it can lead to a KISS on sex.

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    3. LOL, Kaybee, that reminds me of the song in Mama Mia -- Honey, Honey -- where the daughter reads the mother's diary and ends up each page with an ellipsis ..., signifying that something went on. :)

      Pepper said: "I have followed my fictional couples into their bedrooms a little ways, but then I retreat before things get...too crazy."

      I've done that, too, Pepper, and I'll be the first to admit I like to leave the bedroom door open in my novels for a number of reasons.

      1.) Frankly, as a Baby Boomer, I get sick and tired of the young people (the heroes and heroines of romance) having all the fun! ;)

      And as a former reader of secular romance (a billion dollar industry, so somebody wants to read it), I want to see that passion in play according to God's precepts.

      2.) I think depicting marital love and attraction brings more reality to romance novels instead of reducing the married couples to cardboard characters, who since they are not the hero and heroine, don't get to indulge in married romance.

      And, in fact, I once got a letter from a middle-aged editor of a publishing company other than my own who thanked me for portraying married love in a tasteful yet passionate way. She said reading my books helped to make her marriage better because she was motivated and inspired by them. I should have framed that email, but I never did.

      3.) With the majority of secular romance novels preaching the world's amorality with graphic scenes a la 50 Shades of Gray, wouldn't it be nice if we could reach some of those women with godly examples of passion instead of closing them out with a bedroom door slammed in their face? That may never happen in my lifetime, but I won't stop praying about it. :)

      Hugs,
      Julie

      Hugs,
      Julie

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    4. Hi Julie:

      I think you do this better than anyone! I just loved how the grand parents in an early Boston book had a richer and more rewarding passion than they seemed to experience in their youthful romance (A Light in the Window). I read it as an almost 'take that, younguns'!

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  12. Hey Pepper! I enjoyed reading your blog post and couldn't agree more! God's love is perfect. We sinful humans do our best to try to get it right, and using Him as our example we may get close. God is love and all love comes from God. Thank you for sharing your heart!

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    1. Trisha, Thanks so much for stopping by this morning! We humans are constantly craving that HEA romance because initially our hearts were made for a perfect world

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  13. An interesting post, Pepper! Thanks for sharing! I am all for Christian romances as you know! Congrats on your RT top picks and on your new release!

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  14. PEPPER!!! It's sooooo good to have you here, my friend, with one of my favorite subjects, so you go, girl!!

    Especially love the statement, "The real world is messy. Our hearts are messy. And…our relationships are messy – so we really need stories that bring hope in the middle of all the mess."

    Amen and amen, girlfriend. Couldn't have said it better myself. :)

    Hugs and more hugs,
    Julie

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    1. Julie,
      I think you've probably said all of this before anyway ;-)
      Thank you for allowing me to be with you wonderful ladies today. You all have such a special place in my heart!

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  15. Hi Pepper,
    I enjoyed your post today and wholeheartedly agree with you. I've read your Twist of Faith and can definitely see how you applied your beliefs in your writing.

    On the subject of Christian romance, of course I love it. My love of romance in general probably started back in the day with books like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. I've been reading Christian fiction for 40+ years, yikes, telling on myself. I've read some general market romances over the years so I can compare the two. The difference being in the general market a romance, even a well written one, leaves me feeling hollow by books end. Two people meet, fall in love, but it's "all about them", with no redeeming value overlaying the story.
    By contrast, not only does Christian romance offer a story of two meeting and falling in love, but there's always a thread of more woven in. The "more" being the spiritual element and how all true love stories originate with the love story God wrote first. He's the only True Example of Selfless Love, of showing love that puts the other person first. There are some fantastic Christian romances that have done an excellent job of showing how God's love enables men and women to love in a fuller and more meaningful way because they have first been loved by God. Any Christian romance worth reading will have this thread running through it, whether subtle or overt.
    Gosh, didn't mean to write a blog of my own, you already did it so well.
    Please enter me in the Just the Way You Are drawing. Thank you for the giveaway and your contribution to relevant Christian fiction romance!

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    1. Tracey,
      This is FABULOUS! Thank you for sharing your perspective and really getting to the heart of how the two romances are different.
      I particularly loved this quote of yours:
      "The "more" being the spiritual element and how all true love stories originate with the love story God wrote first. He's the only True Example of Selfless Love, of showing love that puts the other person first."

      Amen!

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  16. I've told people before that if Gone with the Wind were published today it'd have to be in the Christian fiction section. It's got too much God in it.
    Jane Eyre did nothing but preach little sermons. (well, she did a FEW other things)

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    1. Me too, Ruthy. One of my all time favs!

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    2. I love Jane Eyre, too, Ruthy. Except the part where she's heartbroken and goes to live with the single pastor and his sisters. Maybe I just don't want her to fall in love with him, but I am very impatient during that section. Does that bother anyone else?

      Janet

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    3. I get very impatient during that part, Janet! It's good for character growth for Jane, I think..., but I still get impatient ;-)

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    4. Yay, Pepper's impatient too! But apparently I should stop rewriting it in my head. Same with GWTW only more so. LOL

      Janet

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    5. I like the part where the mad-woman is in the attic. I could have written that. It would've been auto-biographical of course!!!

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  17. Marvelous post, my dear Pepper! You write Christian romance so very well--so I say keep doing what you're doing! Because it certainly is working for me!! <3 (No need to enter me, I already own this fabulous new contemporary which I'm reading right now!!)

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    1. Aww, sweet Case! Thank you for saying that!! I hope I continue to do so. I LOVE writing romance!

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    2. Good to see you here, Casey!!!

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    3. CASEY!! I'm with Jackie -- SO good to see you here, my sweet friend -- MISS YOU!!

      Hugs,
      Julie

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  18. Love this post! You strike such a good balance, always honoring the Lord in your writing while keeping it tastefully spicy <3

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    1. Laurie!!! Congrats on your debut, lady!! The reviews have been AMAZING!!!

      With my name, I hope I can keep things tastefully "spicy" :-)

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    2. "Tastefully spicy."

      LOL ... LOVE IT, Laurie!!

      Hugs,
      Julie

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  19. Hi Pepper, what a great post. I feel like we just sat down and had a conversation. Congrats on your new story, Just the Way You Are. I love your books and definitely want in on the drawing. Thanks for sharing today!

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    1. Okay, that was a fantastic compliment, Jackie! I love writing in such a way that people feel like they've had a conversation :-) THANK YOU!

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  20. Hi Pepper! I loved "A Twist of Faith." A great example of contemporary Inspy romance!

    I'm a (yet unpubbed) romance writer and when I tell people I write love stories, I always get the eyebrow waggle and "Oh yeah? Steamy stuff with lots of sex?" Sigh. Ah, well, sex sells. We all know it.
    That's why as Christian authors, we've got to pack the punch with romance in other ways. Romantic gestures, thoughts, longing, and steamy kisses are all good but for me, the best romances have always been and will forever be, those in which the couple had to be together because they were made for each other. Not only was the physical attraction strong, but genuine, sacrificial love was obvious. The kind of love that will give all, do all and expect nothing. A Christ-like love. Swoon.

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    1. You're totally talking 'swoony', Josee!!! And I love this quote of yours:

      "That's why as Christian authors, we've got to pack the punch with romance in other ways."

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    2. Josee, here's hoping you enjoy the writing journey!!

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    3. Pepper, I'm having the time of my life! I started writing last Memorial day and since can only think "Where was this my whole life? How did I not know I LOVE this?!"

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    4. YAY!!! I know, it kind of takes over in an amazingly fun and inspiring way, doesn't it? :-)

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  21. Hello, Pepper! I just discovered your books and have found that we are kindred spirits. As a not-yet-published Christian romance author, I share your goals: to portray how God works in a messy, broken world rather than a safe, sanitized, wholly fictional one, and to have characters who seek to honor God in all they do, but who also notice how good the hero looks in jeans. Christians are humans, too, with very human feelings and wants, and I think it is right to portray that in Christian fiction (within the boundaries God has set, of course). If we are to write things that appeal to both Christians and non-Christians, then we must write believable characters, and I think you do that flawlessly! Thanks for the post.

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    1. HAHAH!!! Oh yeS!! Faith, romance, and "how good the hero looks in jeans"
      I think we could get along really well :-)

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    2. Oh, me too! I think we are kindred spirits. (I think I updated my profile so you can see who I really am; I'm undergoing a bit of an identity crisis at the moment, transitioning from professional musician to professional musician-and-Christian romance author. It's a different experience, getting my Real Name out there now!)

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    3. Oh, hooray! I did it! Phew. Technology and I are not BFFs.

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    4. Amanda!! Nice to 'see' you :-) wonderful mix to have music and stories together :-)

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    5. Music and writing are both about communication at their core; I'm thrilled to be a conduit for God's love in both avenues.

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  22. Nice post. The story I'm working on now is definitely messy, but I like what you said about consequences. In my story, different characters (not all of them are Christians) have different points of view. My hope is to show the consequences without watering down God's grace for the most broken and messed up person. It makes me think of some people's testimonies I know… dark stories turned around by God's love and redemption. His light appears brightest in the darkness because it shows His love to be bigger than (what we might perceive as) the worst of sins.

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    1. Lara,
      YES! perfect! May God bless your writing these authentic stories that are lathered in God's grace and sprinkled with a teensy bit of fairytale magic?
      I love this quote of yours:
      "His light appears brightest in the darkness because it shows His love to be bigger than (what we might perceive as) the worst of sins."

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  23. Pepper, I love your thinking on this. I also like the team mentality that you mentioned...a read needs know what's going on inside and whether or not this is for them.

    I'm not a huge fan of thrillers, either.

    -Barbara Brutt (I can't figure out how to change my google ID on these comments)

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    1. Barbara,
      You know how much I love you, right?
      And thanks so much for stopping by!

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  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Sorry, I made a grammatical error I couldn't live with (Twice). Trying it again.

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    3. The Grammar Queen would be very proud of you, Cindy. I, on the other hand, wouldn't have noticed :-)

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    4. LOL, Cindy!! The Grammar Queen does strike fear in the hearts of commenters everywhere!!

      Hugs,
      Julie

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  25. Hi Pepper - thought provoking post. My gut reaction is that if someone wants to read romance there are a myriad of books out there available to them. Why not provide them with the option of a Christian romance? Personally, I would choose that every time. I have no desire to read steamy, sexy kind of stuff. Romance is a real part of our world as Christians. Lets show the rest of the world how wonderful it can be in that context.
    P.S. Really like your books!

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    1. Thanks so much, Cindy - and I love your comment here!
      "Lets show the rest of the world how wonderful it can be in that context." YES YES YES!

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  26. Pepper, we're so glad you're here! What a fantastic post.

    I love this quote: "How can I show this growing expression of love in a way that displays the beauty of love God’s way? That’s the goal: Keeping Heaven’s love and expectations in mind while writing earthly romance."

    Another thing I really liked that you said was about reader responsibility in choosing books. I'm the same way about being careful not to choose certain types of thrillers and horror books. So as long as an author/publisher describes a book accurately, then it's my responsibility to choose wisely for myself.

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    1. Thanks so much, Missy! I know this gets into tricky territory sometimes, but I think both sides of the 'book team' have responsibilities to consider. And, Missy, I'm ALWAYS glad to visit you WONDERFUL ladies. You're amazing!

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  27. Good morning Pepper and welcome to Seekerville. It is so wonderful to see you and all your books. Yay. I remember when you joined us those eight years ago. "You've come a long way, Baby" Congratulations.

    Love this post and so agree with you. You said "The Bible is quite explicit on showing how romance, designed by God, is to be enjoyed with a passion blessed by God." I've always agreed with that and really think we need to show how that relates to the messy things in life. If we sugar coat everything, then we don't really show how God's forgiving and merciful love works. Hooray for stepping out there.

    And like Missy pointed out above. Its up the the reader really to choose their own level of comfort.

    Thanks again for joining us and have fun today with this interesting and important topic. Hugs

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    1. Thanks, Sandra! You Seekers will never know how much you're sweet encouragement has impacted me for the good! :-) Ruthy's tough-love has certainly had a lot to do with it too :-)

      Stepping out isn't always easy. I was really nervous about sharing my thoughts here today because the topic has a tendency to cause controversy, but I'm so glad Seekerville has a history of healthy, mature, and fun dialogue :)

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    2. Pepper, it can be a touchy subject. But I think you handled it well!

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    3. THanks so much for saying that, Missy :-)
      I certainly was long-winded enough ;-)

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  28. Pepper, yes, yes, YES!!! Love your points today. Such a great post!

    I remember one of my first ACFW workshops was JULIE'S "passion" workshop (wish I could remember the name of it -- sorry, Julie! -- it's probably in my files somewhere), but so much of what she said really stuck with me. Christians are passionate, romantic people, too, who face all the same problems and temptations that non-believers face. Julie's workshop made me think in a whole different way and it was so refreshing. (And yes-- Christians kiss, too!) *grins*

    Pepper, I agree, especially, with your point about the need to make our stories realistic and relevant to today's culture. Ohh, how I could get started on that. But...I won't. :-)

    Absolutely fantastic! And please throw me in (me AND my name - LOL) for Just the Way You Are.

    Here's to romance! *clink*

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    1. Cynthia, ROMANCE! Hoorah!!! :-)
      I hope to make my stories realistic, but also lather them with God's grace and romance...and, I can't help it, LOTS of kissing ;-)

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    2. Wait ... Christians kiss too???? Oh my goodness, Cynthia, what a revolutionary idea!! ;)

      The workshop was called "A Kiss is NOT Just a Kiss," and thank you for coming to it, Cynthia -- MUCH appreciated.

      And I'm clinking with you, girlfriend, so thank God for romance or none of us would be here ... ;)

      Hugs,
      Julie

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    3. Yes! THAT's what it was, JULIE. (And remember, I think you passed out miniature Hershey's kisses, too.) Nice touch BTW! :-)

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    4. Chocolate and kisses should always go well together ;-)

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    5. Okay, Cynthia, this seals it -- I MUST meet you soon!! Do you ever get to Lake of the Ozarks???

      Hugs,
      Julie

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  29. Pepper, you made such a good point about Christian fiction being kind of new... in parts... although older works would have been housed on the same shelves with other works.

    Mary Connealy pointed out a great point a few years back... that the rise of hyper-sexed fiction opened a wide door for Christian fiction, for folks who wanted a choice of good, clean fiction in their homes. WHAT A DOOR IT WAS/IS!

    I love it!

    I bemoan the fact that our society has become hypersexed in so many ways, but that we had and have an opportunity to do something quite different.

    Taking advantage of God's timing... and the strength of conservative-ish values (NOT QUITE SALEM, MA style, now.... Let's avoid the bratty teens and burnings at the stake, okay???)

    But this chance is wonderful!

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    1. Ruthy, I'm SOOOOO Thankful for that open door. (and I'm thankful for God leading the Seekers to great Seekerville for those of us who were learning about that open door) :-)

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  30. Good to see you, Pepper! I have your Thorn books on my Kindle and will be reading them soon! I am very anxious to read this book, so please enter me. THANKS for your giveaway....keep up the great writing!

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    1. Hey Jackie!!! Thanks so much for stopping by! Good luck on the giveaway :-)

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  31. Pepper, welcome back! Congratulations on your success, especially on those 4 1/2 star Top Picks in RT!

    If not for conflict that keeps the hero and heroine apart, our stories would be over before they started. :-) But I also want loads of attraction, a bit of sizzle so the conflict and attraction create a wonderful push-pull that's great fun for me both as a reader and a writer.

    An area that I try to be sensitive to as a writer is giving a pat answer to serious issues.

    Janet

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    1. Janet, I was thinking the same thing about conflict. No conflict, no story. :) And that's coming from a person who hates conflict in real life!! LOL

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    2. Missy and Janet,
      Right? I'm not a fan of conflict in real life and it hurts to see my characters experience it, but it's also a VERY BIblical concept. We are refined through trials. Conflict SHAPES us, if we see it through the hand of a loving father - and it also makes the HEA even sweeter :-)

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    3. Pepper, when conflict changes and refines the character, I like to think of it as s/he's earned the HEA. Often with blood, sweat and tears.

      Janet

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    4. Yes, ma'am, Janet! Exactly!

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  32. Good morning, Pepper! :) SO glad to see you back in Seekerville today!
    Awesome post - - I agree with your thoughts today and am thrilled about your writing success - - YAY!! Toward the beginning of your post you wrote about something that for me is the bottom line: Does what I write glorify God? That's what I want to focus on with each story I write. :)
    Thanks again for taking time to share with us today - - always so nice to "see" your sweet, smiling face!
    Hugs from Georgia, Patti Jo

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    1. Hi lovely Patti Jo!! It's so good to 'see' you too. I'm thrilled to be visiting here. The company is always the best :-)
      You're right! God's glory is the true bottom line.

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  33. Love, love, LOVE this!! Well said!

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    1. Thanks so much, Becky! And for all your encouragement!!

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  34. Pepper, my Pepper!! THIS. All my yeses. - The real world is messy. Our hearts are messy. And…our relationships are messy – so we really need stories that bring hope in the middle of all the mess.

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    1. Carrie,
      Thanks for stopping by. I'm so glad God used Christian romance to bring you into my life so we can enjoy this messy journey together :-)

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    2. CARRIE!!! SO good to see you here, darlin', and miss you, my friend!!

      Hugs,
      Julie

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  35. Pepper, your post had so many strong points, so many things on which to comment -- which has obviously happened :-) I silently said "YES!" as I read the entire post.

    I particularly appreciate this: "It’s not the author’s job to write something different than a thriller, it’s MY job to choose NOT to read a thriller. That’s on me! Not them. AMEN!

    I've noticed more 'grit' and some people's version of 'reality' in previews for movies and TV programs as well as in books. I've also noticed a lack of hope ... which is why I'm SO glad you made the point that we need stories (and movies and TV programs and songs and ...) that come across as realistic but also bring hope in the middle of the mess.

    Ah romance. I like reading a push-undeniable pull romance. It's fun to have a heroine and hero who aren't perfect (and there's no hint they ever will be but they strive to do better) who are also mental equals, humor equals, spiritual equals, supportive of each other, and admire many things about each other's skills. Physically attractive heroines and heros never hurt though, right? :-)

    Thanks for this post. So much to consider. Looking forward to returning to read more comments ... I'm sure there will be more.

    Also looking forward to catching up on your books!

    Nancy C

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    1. Thank you SO much for this response, Nancy!! Hope is powerful, isn't it? We live off of hope and YES, our stories, songs, and tv programs need more of it. And I must also agree with you that "physically attractive heroines and heroes never hurt", but I'm so glad to write a quirky mix :-)

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  36. Hi Pepper
    I loved your post and all the thought you've put into romance. And I love romance. Romance is such a healer, especially when it shows us how much God loves us. He is after all the perfect hero, the one that knows all the dance steps that you can completely trust to follow. He even loves us when we step on His toes.

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    1. Oh Barbara!!! This!! YES YES

      "He is after all the perfect hero, the one that knows all the dance steps that you can completely trust to follow. He even loves us when we step on His toes." AMEN!

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  37. I don't mind thrillers, But I avoid horror. It just is too vivid for me and bothers me when I'm trying to sleep. I've learned to avoid that to keep it out of my head.
    Other people love it and that's fine, but it's not for me.
    So I get picking and choosing.

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    1. Mary, I have a very low threshold for just frightening films in general.

      When I was younger I watched maybe thirty minutes of an old black and white movie called The Last Man on Earth, a movie adaptation of the book I Am Legend. I ran upstairs shrieking "the vampire is in his house! The vampire is in his house!" about ten minutes from the end. I had nightmares for weeks.

      A year or so ago my mother, brother, sister, and I decided to watch the modern adaption of that movie, I am Legend. I made it halfway through before I just couldn't watch it anymore. I had nightmares when they just told me about what I missed.

      New Years two years ago and I watched a zombie movie called World War Z with my family, and while I was able to make it all the way to the end, once it was over I was as white as a ghost (it's not even an exaggeration, everyone was worried about me) and felt like I was going to pass out.

      If I can't even handle these movies then I'm definitely not going to be able to watch real honest to goodness horrors. My heart would probably stop beating in my chest.

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    2. I agree with you, Mary. I enjoy thrillers but horror is completely different.

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  38. Nancy C you're so right with your comment about a lack of hope. The dystopian books, Hunger Games and such, are so grim, with such an ugly view of the future.
    And aimed right at young adults.

    I hate that. Where are the uplifting books for millennials?
    But of course they're out there, probably, they just aren't the big hits. And I feel bad about that for the future generations.

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    1. Disclaimer, I haven't read or watched The Hunger Games, I've only heard.

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    2. You're right though, Mary. Hunger Games does leave a sense of hopelessness. That's exactly what I felt after watching the first movie. Not all dystopian reads are that way, but there has been a large influx of novels and movies that really seem deeply melancholy. Melancholy is digestible when there is hope in sight, but without hope, it leads to despair.

      AHH!! We are loved by the God of hope! This world needs hope. That's why I love writing books with hope...and kisses ;-)

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    3. I actually really like the Hunger Games. It's probably one of my favorite book series of all time, and I've read all three books multiple times. Not to mention watched the movies, which while good are not half as good as the books.

      Yes, there are some things that are dark, and yes people die. Maybe it's a little bit of an exaggeration of the future (maybe not), but I wouldn't say that it is a hopeless read. I read the series and all I see is the hope based elements. That no matter how bad it gets, there's still hope for a better life.

      Perhaps it's what I focus on as I read the book that helps me see the elements of hope. There is one character (my favorite) who is the very embodiment of selfless love, who shows that even in all the darkness and despair good can flourish.

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    4. THanks for sharing that, Nicki

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    5. I agree with both of you. Hunger Games was very melancholy, and would have been hopeless beyond degree... if it weren't for Peeta.

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    6. Mary, it's disconcerting to think that is some people's view of the world. I also fault some of the 24/7 news and social media that seems to only dwell on the sensational, oh-my-gosh-how-awful 'news.' That stuff is bound to contribute to a skewed idea of what reality is. It sure sells advertising though :-)

      We need to understand that those things happen, not ignore them, but I've participated in so many volunteer organizations I can attest to the fact there are a lot of great people out there ... plenty of hope and good news.

      Nancy C

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    7. Peeta is one of my favorite book characters of all time- if not my favorite. Definitely in the top three.

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  39. Pepper, it's so fun to see you over here! :) And I had no idea you had so many books out. Way to go, friend. :)

    Your insights were so good in this post. I think the ultimate goal for my stories is to glorify God. Learning to make my characters real, with flaws they need to deal with, and hopefully seeing them come to a better understanding of God's love for them is one way I can do this. When we can write stories that point our characters and our readers to God in an organic way? Mission accomplished. :)

    I like the benchmarks you've placed for yourself. Can you daughter read your books safely? Of course, I have boys, but my hope is that, if I ever get published, my stories will be "safe" for teen girls (my friends' daughters) to read and not be "stumbled" by.

    Great post!

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    1. Jeanne!! So good to 'see' you!!!
      It's been a busy 2 years ;-)
      I loved this quote of yours:
      "When we can write stories that point our characters and our readers to God in an organic way? Mission accomplished. :)"

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  40. Ever since I was little I always had to have at least some romance in the books I read, movies I watch, &c. And by romance, I mean people who I can ship for. But I try to stay away from the romances that are a bit more... extreme.

    Maybe it's my age, but those kind of make me uncomfortable.

    I've gotten better. It used to be that I couldn't even read a kiss scene. Now only the most steamy kiss scenes make me uncomfortable, but still...

    What I prefer in reading romances is to read about the beginning stages of the relationship. I much prefer reading HOW they fall in love rather than the aftermath of them falling in love. Also I find myself more interested in the feelings behind the romance rather than the physical aspects.

    Those are just my opinions, though.

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    1. Nicki,
      I'm totally with you! I definitely want a couple I can 'ship for'. Believably, you know? Weird example here, but my kids and I were just talking about this. I have the hardest time shipping Aang and Katara from Avatar - even though they're cute and all. The more organic and believable (and more interesting) ship is Katara and Zuko! (that's probably a crazy example. I'm also a BIG FitzSimmons shipper from Agents of Shield) :-)

      I do like romances with spice, but the actual 'story' of the romance is much more important to the story than the physical element - you are right. THough...the physical element is a fun biproduct :-)

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  41. My Pepper! You are preaching to the choir here but I have to say AMEN! Passion and kisses and attraction are evidence of love and it IS godly, holy, good, and pure in the appropriate time and place according to His Word (I don't have a specific verse here but believe scripture strongly implies OFTEN and as unto the Lord. AMEN)
    I do wish readers would be mindful of their own reactions to whatever they consume and be mature enough to say "that's not for me" without calling down fire and brimstone on the author in a scathing review. We can find much more productive things to do with fire, now isn't that right, Pepper? *wink,wink*

    Hello Seekers! It's been too long since I've dropped by for a visit so I have HUGS for all y'all! Blessings to you writer friends! Keep on writing whatever level of romance God leads you to write. There are readers for every notch of the sweet to steamy scale.

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    1. Hee hee, myBeth!! Fire...oh yes. And lighting it :-)

      Thanks so much for your sweet support!

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    1. Oh yes, indeedy! Me too, Sabrina

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  43. Pepper, I am so thankful there are Christian romances. I have loved them since reading Janette Oke's Love Comes Softly series way back when. I would love to be entered in the drawing for your book.

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    1. I'm so thankful for Christian romances too, Sandy! The only true happily-ever-after stories, huh? :-)

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  44. Pepper! Yes, yes, yes, to everything you wrote up there! Excellent post! Thank you!

    I was just discussing this subject with a reader friend last night. She was reading a certain Christian book, more than a decade old, and she was considering putting it down because of the (unmarried) main characters' removing clothing, caressing, becoming quite passionate, and then (off scene) "going all the way." There were major consequences in the story later, but the book had disturbed me, too, when I read it as well as another reader friend I didn't even mention. While the tale taught a good lesson in my opinion, I couldn't help thinking it might have been executed in a way that enabled the targeted readers to be more comfortable recommending the book.
    We also talked about a different author who writes with about the same level of sensual content, but for some reason I'm more comfortable with her work. I told the reader I couldn't figure out the difference except one author seems to use sexually charged situations as a much-dwelt-upon selling point, and the other treats the true-to-life physical attraction and temptation as a realistic part of the human experience that Christian's must deal with (and certainly can enjoy in the right context and on God's terms). Not sure if that makes sense, but it was the best I could define it. :)

    Congrats on your new release! Would LOVE to be entered for a copy. :) This post makes me want to go back and read my favorite Julie Lessman books, too! I've got book-cravings!

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    1. GREAT conversation, Natalie. You know, there is an undercurrent authors can present in those situations that can go one way or other. I love the romance...the kissing (and more), but there has to be a way to show those wonderful things in a realistic yet tactful way which is organic to the story. That's what I'm aiming for, how about you? :-)

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    2. Natalie -- DO IT!! The O'Connors, McClares, and O'Bryens are WAITING for you!!

      Thanks, you sweet thing -- you made me smile!

      HUGS,
      Julie

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    3. Yes, Pepper that's exactly it!

      Julie! Now I'm REALLY homesick for those characters!

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  45. PEPPER!!!!! This is a fabulous post! You are a blessing! Congrats on your new release.

    I would <3 to be entered for a copy.

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Caryl

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  46. I don't find anything wrong with Christian romance. People in this day and age are so confused about love and romance- and how are they going to know any difference if we're silent on such topics? There is a way to show the beauty of romance between a man and wife without intruding on it. And by doing so we can help 'take every thought captive to obey Christ' (2 Corinthians 10:5). And that includes romance!

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    1. Great statement here, Boo. And so true that love, romance, and lust are often convoluted to the point of being unidentifiable. Well written Christian fiction should certainly be able to display the beautiful differences through the lens of Christ's love!

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  47. What a great post! I loved your thoughts. I LOVE romance in a story, and it's what I tend to focus on. Maybe because it makes me feel, and the HEA makes me feel good :) All the other stuff I learn from the other details in the story is just icing on the cake. I so appreciate Christian and clean fiction for allowing me to get my fix without having to worry about explicit content or lacking a connection with the main character because of a huge difference in values.

    Please enter me for your book! I've read so many great reviews for it!

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    1. Thanks so much, Heidi!!! Good luck in the giveaway!

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  48. This is a really good post. And, from a self-professed "non-romantic" (I called myself Charlotte Lucas in one blog post), that's not easy to say, but it's true. I think I said what I mean best in that blog post when I said,

    Romance belongs in Christian fiction and not just because Scripture paints the picture of Christ’s love for us with a romantic brush.

    See, I knew you thought I’d go there. And while there is truth to that, it’s not why it worms its way into the heart of my books. No, romance belongs in Christian fiction–really almost any fiction–because it’s a part of life. And if you try to remove any core element of life from any book, you remove life itself from that book.

    But while Vince makes a good point (I have a character I'm dying to write--all typical romantic gestures with none of the ensuing results), the fact is that without some conflict, there is no story. It's just a series of events. It doesn't have to get all angsty (and sometimes it's a relief when it doesn't), but it does need to have conflict or tension or the book doesn't go anywhere.

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    1. Chautona!!! Thanks for stopping by!! I love your quote here:

      Romance belongs in Christian fiction and not just because Scripture paints the picture of Christ’s love for us with a romantic brush...but also because it's a part of life!"
      YES! Romance is also a fairly broad word, if you think about it. We all have some general idea of what it means, but it holds a specific meaning individually too.

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  49. Great points, Pepper! I love Christian romance, especially when I see the God element woven in to add that 'three cord strand' that encourages us to hope the fictional couple won't be torn apart by 'real life' after they get together. I like swoon factor, but in the Regency era of which I'm such a fan, period appropriate young ladies and gentlemen would not even kiss (!) (as any Jane Austen novel shows us), which makes the challenge of presenting realistic romance all the harder. (Of course, most general market Regencies tend to ignore such social conventions in their - very - open door bedroom scenes). I like a bit of angst but too much introspection can be soul-drearying :) so I think it reads best when balanced with humour, by way of fun banter or a witty character. I appreciate the reminder about SofS and how God woos His people, reminding us over and over how important we are to Him, and how close He wants us to be with Him. Powerful!

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    1. Carolyn,
      I'm with you on the "too much introspection can be soul-drearying" SOOOOO true. Conflict is necessary for a story, but dragging one's emotions through every proverbial mire is not.
      And yes, yes for humor!!!!

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  50. Can I say just how much I loved this post?!!! Pepper... I nodded at your comment about natural guardrails around your heart. I ask myself the same questions regarding whether or not I would be comfortable letting my teenagers read what I write. And I loved the connections between the Bible and romance. Beautiful! I am saving this post for when ever I hear Christian romance is wrong. Thanks!

    I would love to have my name included in the drawing.

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    1. Oh Dana, I'm so glad this touched you. The interview question (followed by a long FB dialogue I saw) sparked the idea to really answer that question for myself :-)

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  51. Great post, Pepper. I can't do horror and am not real keen on thrillers. I can handle suspense in small doses. :)

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    1. Thanks so much, Pam. Yep, I read one of Steven James' books and didn't sleep for two nights. Those are not for me ;-)

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    2. I don't usually enjoy that TYPE of book, but man I loved his books. And he is such a nice man. You'd never imagine what goes on in his head as he's sitting there with the Bible open encouraging you as a Christian writer.

      Did you know I go to NC every year for a writers' retreat? Small world, no?

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  52. Reading most of the comments and totally agree with Mary's.... that if Gone With The Wind was published today, it would be considered in the "Christian Fiction" group. By the way, I read that in junior high....and it solidified my love of reading. Enjoyed the blog posting and I do enjoy some romance in books, but they don't have to be romance as I read many books based on serious issues, but, even then, clean books. I, mixed in with my Christian Fiction book stack, have just finished, based on WWII history, The Women in the Castle.

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    1. CC, it's great to have a variety of genres you love!

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  53. I appreciate your insights. Christian romance that's realistic always reaches into the heart of the reader. Put my name in the hat please.

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  54. Hi Pepper. Thanks for a great post and congratulations on your writing success. You mentioned that your guage for writing is your daughter. Would you want her to read what you've written. For many years this has been my guage for reading. Would I want the Teens in my SS class to see me reading this book? Do I need my Christian witness to be compromised by this material!
    I would love to be included in tje drawing for your book.
    Blessings!
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Connie,
      I try not to write anything that I wouldn't let my daughter read, so yes, I'd let her read everything I've written so far.

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  55. This was such a great post, Pepper! Thank you so very much. As a romance writer, it is my greatest desire to reflect God's love. For some of us, there is a fine line, and I get squirmish (is that a word?) when I read a Christian novel that tiptoes along that line. I would much rather there be a little "left to the imagination". You hit it right on...would I want my daughter or granddaughter to read those words? Great relevance. Blessings to you and thanks again, Rebecca

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    1. Thanks, Rebecca. This world is saturated with so much promiscuity that, unfortunately, our kids have a tendency to be more desensitized, but the power of GOOD story is that it's much more than a physical reaction, but it has the power to create an emotional/spiritual impact. Jesus used it to reach beyond the boundaries of socio-economic differences and statuses, to show a heart issue. I love that we have that same opportnity by writing stories that glorify Him

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  56. Great article! I think you covered it well - particularly the fact that individuals need to know themselves and whether something that is generally acceptable, and written with good intent, may be problematic to them in particular.

    One minor clarification that I'd make:

    <>

    I'd say the consequences should be shown even between two atheist characters. Sexual morality or immorality is part of the natural law written in our hearts and part of God's design that has natural consequences whether we acknowledge God or His law at all. Those consequences may look a little different for someone without any faith, but they'll be there.

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    1. Very good point, Carolyn. It's been interesting to me that many of the people I know who are not Christians 'say' they have no issues with many sins, but I do wonder that in their deepest hearts what's going on...because they ARE made in God's image

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  57. Hi Carolyn:

    You wrote:

    "I'd say the consequences should be shown even between two atheist characters. Sexual morality or immorality is part of the natural law written in our hearts and part of God's design that has natural consequences whether we acknowledge God or His law at all."

    I think this is the best expression of why each story should have a Moral Premise that I've yet to see in print. Please check in often. I'd love to read more of your comments.

    Vince

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  58. Thanks, Vince! I lurk here once in a while, but this post hit on my niche, so I commented. ;-)

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  59. Hi Pepper:

    This was a wonderful post! So many comments. So many interesting ideas. But tell me this please: is that one of your patented hats in your comment photo? Your profile is not active on Blogger so I could not enlarge or get a full view of the photo.

    I must say when I saw your photo on this post, hatless, I wondered if this sophisticated lady was the same writer as the Pepper with the most identifiable hats in all of romance.

    Another thing: I love the concept and artwork of your "The Thorn Bearer" so I rushed to buy it on Amazon only to find that Amazon said I already owned it! A lesson here: we need to hear from you more often. A writer needs to get those books in the TBR pile, read! Oh, my, that book has over 100 five star reviews and has by now won all kind of awards! And it's just sitting quietly on my Kindle!

    Thanks for your post...and don't be a stranger!

    Vince

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    1. Oh Vince!! You are SUCH a sweetheart!!! My dad hates that I wear hats so often :-) but yes, I've got one of my signature hats on in my profile pic :-)
      And I hope you enjoy The Thorn Bearer!!!
      You're right, I need to visit Seekerville more. The company here is always the best :-)

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  60. To the lady that wears a hat better than anyone I know! Wish I could do the same but I literally have a "fat head". I may try and attempt crocheting one......
    To any here that hasn't read one of Pepper's books I ask, "what are you waiting for?" You're missing out big time!!!

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    1. Oh Gail!! You are such a sweetie!!

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