Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Taboos in Christian Fiction

by Pam Hillman

So I got to thinking. I switched days with another Seeker because of a conflict on my regular day to post. Then I forgot that I’d switched and scheduled an appointment for this morning. All is well as I shouldn’t be out more than a couple of hours. (I’ll be back, so y’all behave!!!)

In addition, today is the 16th, and I blog in Heroes, Heroines, and History on the 16th of every month, rain or shine, much like the postman makes his rounds.

My topic on HHH today is taboo foods. I started mulling over the topic when thinking about why it is that the five whites (sugar, bread, pasta, rice, potatoes) tend to be shunned in American society these days. Is it a fad or truly that these foods can be detrimental to our health and our waistline?

Anyway, today’s post here in Seekerville isn’t about taboo foods, but more about writing-related taboos, and I’m not just talking about taboo topics. There can be all kinds of taboos, and they change as often as the foods that it’s currently hip to avoid.

Taboo Language. It’s no secret that there are certain words that many Christian readers would prefer not to see in their reading material. It’s not that we’re prudes or that we like to pretend we don’t hear or see those words in the world around us. But you can’t unsee a vulgar word. Sure, I can get past one or two here or there, but when my reading material is riddled with them seemingly just for the shock value, then I notice and I remember and I can’t unthink them. Same with the spoken word. I’m visual and soak up the written word more than what I hear, but I’m not a fan of being around people who curse with abandon or anything that comes over the “tube” that’s riddled with obscene language. I’m not even a fan of “potty” humor. It’s just not funny to me.

So it’s a balancing act. And words that were frowned upon ten, fifteen or twenty years ago would probably pass muster in a lot of Christian fiction these days. But in some cases, not, depending on the publishers guidelines, and each reader’s personal preferences.

Taboo Topics and Visuals. When I searched the internet for this, a blog post by Steve Laube from 2017 was one of the first to pop up. In his post, Edgy Christian Fiction, Steve says, “There are three main areas of dispute: Sex, Language, and Violence,” regarding taboo topics in Christian fiction. The post and the (very civil) comments are enlightening as visitors to the blog discuss what is “too much” or when it’s “too sanitized” for real life. I suppose we all have our hot buttons, but depending on the skill of the author, the purpose of including violence, etc. in a novel and the set-up leading up to the questionable scenes, I might accept or reject accordingly. Case in point: There were a lot of scenes in Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers that in many novels would have made me stop and never read that book again. However, the skill of Ms. Rivers to portray the subject matter in a tasteful, believable, and sympathetic manner made the book memorable, not stomach churning.

Taboo Styles. Maybe not taboo, but third person, first person, omniscient pov, and/or a mix of all the above has been in vogue or out of vogue depending on the season and which way the wind is blowing. While omniscient pov is out of style right now, a mix of third and first person within the same novel can be found. It’s not common, but it’s out there. Third person is the most common (at least in the novels that I generally read), and first person is a bit more rare.

Taboo, or rather, out of favor, genres. In 2005 (give or take a few years), publishers didn’t want historical romance. Women’s fiction, Chick Lit, and Lad Lit were all the rage. Three days later, the pendulum swung and historical fiction was on rise again and Chick Lit had sprouted wings and flown away. In the last 19 years, the pendulum has swung back and forth hitting all the genres, mixing them up, combining, and spitting them out again. Time slip is popular now. This is not time travel. It’s two (or more) storylines from different timelines within the same novel with some thread that ties the stories together.

One thing is for sure, change will swing again. Just as tomatoes were frowned upon in 16th century Europe, words, topics, styles, and genres will change, morph and grow.

CBA Bestselling author PAM HILLMAN was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn't afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove an Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn't mind raking. Raking hay doesn't take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. Now, that's the kind of life every girl should dream of.

Monday, October 14, 2019


Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.  

Today I want to talk a little bit about foreshadowing. It’s a wonderful literary device that, when used effectively, can really make a story resonate with a reader, can lead to a head slapping, “I should have seen that coming” moment.

First, what is foreshadowing and why might you want to use it?
Foreshadowing is the planting of a hint or warning of something to come later in the story. These hints can be overt, used by the author to create tension or anticipation, or subtle if the author wants to plant clues without being obvious.

The functions of foreshadowing include:
  • to provide clues or hints about things to come
  • to add an extra richness and dimension to your story for readers, even those who don’t consciously pick up on these hints
  • to provide a reward for those readers who are paying close enough attention to ‘get it’
  • to enhance the tension and/or anticipation in the readers
  • to provide a page turning quality to your story as the reader becomes eager to find out if they’ve interpreted your foreshadowing device correctly
  • to support a future ‘surprise’ occurrence so it doesn’t strike the reader as coming out of left field

So now that we know what it is and why a writer would want to use it, how would one employ it effectively?

First you need to decide what you want to foreshadow.
Of course, not everything needs to be foreshadowed. In fact, some stories don’t lend themselves to foreshadowing at all. Some surprises and twists work better coming out of the blue. And other events are not significant enough to warrant foreshadowing.

You also don’t want to wear out your reader with too much foreshadowing – doing that would mean you are overloading the story with set-up and are not providing enough story. This can make your story seem eye-rollingly melodramatic.

Foreshadowing should relate to something significant to your story - something improbable you want to lay a foundation for or a big event you want to subtly build toward.
However, this requires that you know what these ‘significant’ events are. So that may mean the foreshadowing info doesn’t get woven in until the second or subsequent passes.

There are two types of Foreshadowing

  • Direct Foreshadowing
    This is intended to be recognized by the reader as such and points to an impending situation or problem. This future circumstance isn't spelled out in great detail (or it wouldn't be foreshadowing) but there is enough information to lead the reader to author-directed suppositions. You can do this in a number of ways, including:

    Use of dialog – have characters discuss upcoming events, character attributes, or plans.

    Use of objects – show a weapon, letter, mask or other such item that is an obvious portent of something to come.

    Use of character reactions – have a character react to something or someone in such a way as to indicate there is more than meets the eye
  • Subtle or Covert Foreshadowing
    This is foreshadowing that you want the character to miss until the event it was building toward actually occurs. You can accomplish this by

    burying your foreshadowing breadcrumbs amid other details

    by having the information presented as trivial or in an offhand manner,

    by having the hint presented in a context that hides its true meaning or importance. The movie Sixth Sense provides a masterful example of this.

The mechanics
  • Do your foreshadowing as early in the story as possible.
    The farther the breadcrumb is dropped from the actual event or reveal, the more impact it has. And also make sure you scatter those breadcrumbs throughout, don’t drop them all in one place. But remember to use moderation – use just enough to make certain your reader doesn’t feel cheated by a twist she could never have seen coming, but not so much that your twist loses its punch.
  • Make sure the payoff fits the buildup
    If you’re going to foreshadow something, the readers, especially those who have been doing the work of finding your hidden breadcrumbs, are going to expect those breadcrumbs to not only lead somewhere, but to lead somewhere that wows them. Don’t disappoint.

Check it again - Is it relevant and organic
  • Does this bit of foreshadowing have the intended effect: If you’re trying to build suspense have you been explicit enough? On the other hand if you’re trying to lay groundwork for a plot element down the line, have you been subtle enough not to tip your hand? 
  • Either way, have you woven in your foreshadowing element seamlessly or does it feel forced? You need to make certain you are staging things appropriately for the intended payoff.


So that’s a quick overview of the art of foreshadowing. Foreshadowing is a skill that requires practice and finesse. If not done carefully it can do more harm than good to your story, rendering it melodramatic, overly predictable, lacking believability or too forced.
So what other tips do you have to offer on this topic? Or do you have any fabulous example from either books or film that you’d like to share?

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Weekend Edition


If you are not familiar with our giveaway rules, take a minute to read them here. It keeps us all happy! All winners should send their name, address, and phone number to claim prizes.  Note our new email address and please send your emails to

Monday: Last Monday Mary Connealy talked about Setting the Scene. The winner of a signed copy of Aiming for Love is Samantha!

Wednesday: Oh, sorry! I was on the farm and forgot to post our two winners for our #ownvoices talk! Winner of Toni Shiloh's "Once Upon a Christmas" is Dalyn! And winner of Belle Calhoune's "Reunited at Christmas" is Lila!

Friday: Carrie hosted our very own 'Kaybee', aka Kathleen D. Bailey to celebrate her debut novel & share some of her journey and what God taught her along the way. The winner of an ebook of Westward Hope and a basket of New England goodies is Jeanne Takenaka!

Monday:  Winnie Griggs is popping in on a special day to discuss Foreshadowing - what it is and how to incorporate it into your work effectively.

Wednesday:  Pam Hillman will be our hostess today.
Friday:  Missy Tippens will be posting about a wonderful, inspiring story she heard recently at a conference! She'll also be talking about how we get our story ideas (with thanks to a blog reader who wrote to the Seekerville email addy with a question). And so you can keep track of all the wonderful and interesting story ideas that strike you, she'll be giving away a dot-journal to one commenter!

Winnie Griggs is excited to announce she has a new release coming November 1st.  

Sawyer Flynn vows to see that the man who murdered his brother pays for his crimes, but becoming the sole caretaker of an orphaned infant sidetracks him from the mission. Sawyer can’t do it all—run his mercantile, care for the baby, and find justice for his brother. He needs help. But not from Emma Jean Gilley.

When her father flees town after killing a man, Emma Jean is left alone to care for her kid brother, but her father’s crime has made her a pariah and no one will give her a job. Learning of Sawyer’s need, Emma Jean makes her case to step in as nanny. 

Sawyer is outraged by Emma Jean’s offer, but he’s also desperate and he reluctantly agrees to a temporary trial. Working together brings understanding, and maybe something more. But just when things heat up between Sawyer and Emma Jean, the specter of her father’s crimes threatens to drive them apart forever.

You can learn more or pre-order HERE

Friday, October 11, 2019

Don't Nickel-And-Dime This by guest blogger Kathleen D. Bailey

Happy Friday, Seekerville!

Carrie here - I have the utmost privilege of welcoming 'the author formerly known as kaybee' to the blog today. That's right, Seekerville's own Kathleen D. Bailey (a faithful commenter under the handle 'kaybee') has just released her first novel, and we are thrilled at the chance to help her celebrate!

Michael once betrayed Caroline in the worst possible way.
Can she trust him to get her across the Oregon Trail?
Can he trust himself to accept her forgiveness and God’s?

Take it away, Kathleen!


For years, my father-in-law drove a vehicle which we famously referred to as the “Chinese Junk.” It was a 1960s station wagon that, with judicious replacing of parts, he had kept functional well into the 80s. He eventually got a better car for himself, but he kept the Chinese Junk as a spare and his children and extended family drove it when we were between vehicles or having our vehicles worked on. (We do not go to the kind of places that have loaner cars, sigh.) Toward the end of its life you had to connect two wires under the hood to start it, but there was no question in any of our minds that the Chinese Junk worked.

My father-in-law nickeled and dimed that car for years. The Junk gave up its particular ghost when the mechanics in the family couldn’t FIND parts, but even then it refused to die and it’s rusting somewhere in a secluded part of my brother-in-law’s property. Now that was a car. And also, probably by today’s standards, not legal.

You can nickel-and-dime a car, but only for so long. Trust me on this. Eventually even the Chinese Junk had to be retired, though family members still raid IT for parts.

But there are other areas of our lives where we can’t take the nickel-and-dime approach, and we shouldn’t.

Not Depressed Enough?

I stood up with eagerness as the medical researcher came back into the room, but her expression told me I had nothing to be eager about. “You didn’t qualify for the depression study,” she told me. “The doctor said we need someone who’s actively depressed.”

She said she’d try to get me a check for the time I spent on the screening, and as I walked out to the reception area she patted me on the back. “Look at it this way, at least you’re not depressed.”


For several years my husband and I have done medical research trials to help with an ever-expanding budget and ever-shrinking paychecks. I had had my eye on this one for catching up on our property taxes. But as I started my car, I knew that God would provide for the taxes in His own way and His own time.

It wasn’t always that way.

We have struggled financially for most of our marriage, from Dave’s college days to the Great Recession, which never receded fast enough for me. I clipped coupons, looked for deals on everything, and found secondary ways to make money. When I had full-time jobs, I always freelanced around the side; and when I lost one of those jobs due to budget cuts, I never collected a dime of unemployment. At one point during the laid-off years, I had six different income streams. At once.

But they never did what I hoped they would.

I would plan on a certain check to come to take care of a certain need, and when it came, another, more urgent need nudged it out of the way. So I’d roll the need over to the next freelance check, bonus or medical trial compensation. And the “need” would get eaten up by something else, a still more urgent one.

There was never enough to go around, and my plans for what there was always fell through.

This financial patchwork quilt, with plenty of holes, extended into our sixties. When friends paid off their children’s student loans and their houses, I continued to scramble for freelance jobs. Sometimes I got them, sometimes I didn’t.

Until the day I was grousing about yet another need going unmet because another need had superseded it. And the Lord spoke to me. Not a burning bush thing, I’ve unfortunately never had those, but it was clear enough: “Kathy, you are never going to nickel-and-dime your way out of your financial problems. If you could, you would have done it by now.”


Was that what I had been doing? I’d thought it was Good Financial Planning.

And maybe it had been, but God had a bigger plan. A spreadsheet I couldn’t argue with. I still plan, but I’m a lot more flexible in allowing Him to meet our needs. Because He will. In His time and His way.

I asked myself what else I’d been approaching this way, or seeing other people dealing with in the nickel-and-dime way.  

Mysterious ways

Could you nickel and dime a marriage? Could one go into that most intricate of human relationships with a checklist?

Only if one or more of the parties walked away with a broken heart.

If Dave or I had had a checklist, we wouldn’t be here today. Not together, anyway. There is no earthly reason why we should be married, or even a couple. But God wanted it that way, and the three of us are greater than the sum of our parts.

In writing (yes, I knew we’d eventually get here), I held to a punch-list format for years and years. If I did everything right, whatever “everything” was at the time, I would snag THAT editor, THAT agent, or THAT door would open and I’d walk in and not look back. I schmoozed and slaved. Boxes were checked. Formulas got followed, disciplines observed. But formulas and checklists don’t always follow the patterns of an industry in flux. Because there aren’t any patterns. Houses close or merge, agents burn out, trends flow away from my genre.

There is no formula for being published. There is only writing, hard work and God.

Being “anxious for nothing”

But God wasn’t done with me even then, as He pointed out that we can’t nickel-and-dime our salvation, either.

I thought I’d mastered that one. Raised in a liturgical church, I’d looked for salvation through sacramental observances and good works for most of my childhood and teen years, and thrown that off in the tumult of the 60s. When the Lord found me, a drugged, directionless little hippie girl, I learned that the road back wasn’t paved with good works, and I joyously accepted salvation by faith.

But there was still a lot to learn, and as with my finances, the idea of doing it myself wouldn’t go away. When there was a need I tried to fill it, even when He had other plans. I was Doing and not necessarily Being.

Until I couldn’t. Age caught up with me, along with a demanding job, and I couldn’t necessarily Do. Who would Do if I Didn’t?

I could never be good enough, smart enough, “Christian” enough for God. And He knows that. He knew it when I was born, He knew it on that fateful Friday 2,000 years ago. But that’s never been what He wanted.

We can’t nickel-and-dime the way to heaven. But when faced with the sacrifice of everything He was in spite of everything we are, really, who would want to? Wouldn’t you rather be loved with an Everlasting Love than check off, or be checked off a punch list?

He wants me, and you, to Be first.

And He’ll take it from there.


Kathleen Bailey, known locally as “Kaybee,” is a journalist and novelist with 40 years’ experience in the nonfiction, newspaper and inspirational fields. Born in 1951, she was a child in the 50s, a teen in the 60s, a young adult in the 70s and a young mom in the 80s. It’s been a turbulent, colorful time to grow up, and she’s enjoyed every minute of it and written about most of it.

She attended a mixture of public and parochial schools, graduating from the University of New Hampshire in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature. She married the Rev. David W. Bailey in 1977, and they lived in Colorado, Wisconsin and Michigan before returning to their home state of New Hampshire. They are the parents of two adult daughters.

She has worked as both a staff and freelance journalist. She semi-retired in 2017, in order to devote herself to a growing interest in Christian fiction. She has won or finaled in several contests, including the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis contest.

She blogs on other writers’ sites and on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. She is involved in an active critiquing relationship with another author. A member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, she participates in continuing education, judges writing contests, and continues to enjoy the world of words.

Bailey “sailed off the island” Sept. 20 with the publication of her first novel, “Westward Hope,” by Pelican/White Rose Publishers. She is contracted for the second book in the series, “Settler’s Hope,” and also has a novella with minor characters from “Settler’s Hope” to be published in Pelican’s “Christmas Extravaganza.”

Bailey’s work includes both historical and contemporary fiction, with an underlying thread of men and women finding their way home, to Christ and each other.

For more information, contact her at; @piechick1 on Twitter; Kathleen D. Bailey on Facebook and LinkedIn; or at  


What about you?
What's something that maybe you've been trying to nickel-and-dime in your writing or in life?

 Comment for a chance to win an ebook of Westward Hope by Kathleen D. Bailey!