Fictional Ethics

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12

In keeping with the above verse, I have decided to not post any further 1 or 2 star reviews.  If I have posted any in the past I will probably delete them as I find them.    From now on, I will only post 3 stars and up, which means I like the book enough to recommend it to family and friends.  Otherwise, I intend to just ignore books that before I would have maybe reviewed with 1 or 2 stars.  I have decided that if something is important enough, which most times it probably isn’t, I will try to email the author directly in order to discuss whatever problem I find in the text.  If I can’t find an email for the author, then like I said I will just ignore them.  Books I have added to my profile on Goodreads that have no stars means I haven’t gotten around to reading or reviewing them, yet.

So then I ask myself, what happens when I really like the story, but there is also something I really hate about it?  That is a problem, because I would not be honest if I just wrote what I loved about the book and didn’t also mention what I didn’t like about it.  I think I will have to make the call on an individual book basis, depending on the importance of the subject matter of the thing that I hated about the book.  More often than not, what I hate about a book is the slant, the mindset or the conclusion an author makes regarding the said issue.  Also, more often than not, it is not really that important when you look at the thing objectively and when I analyze why it was that I hated it; turns out it probably hit a personal nerve of mine.  Sometimes, it is nothing more than that the book made me feel very depressed while I read it.  A fictional book should lift my spirits and make me wish I was living the life of the fictional characters, so I can live it along with them as I read the book.  I don’t need to live someone else’s fictionally depressing life.  That is just too much for me.

Then there is the question of doctrine.  Do I have a responsibility to point out “the error of someone else’s ways”, and if I remain quiet am I not just condoning the perpetuation of a fallacy?   We are all responsible for our own choices in regards to matters of doctrine.  It is the responsibility of each person to search out the truth for themselves.  However, if a person is only presented with one option, what choice do they have but to believe the lie they are being spoon fed?  Is it not a kindness to at least present a contrary option?

Oh, you may say, “It is only fiction, what is the harm if the doctrine is in error?”  The Chronicles of Narnia are only fiction, however they have taught me more doctrine and more about the character of God — who He really is, how He really thinks, how He disciplines those He considers to be His — than I ever learned in church.  I would never have grown to love God in the same way, had it not been for C.S. Lewis through his fictional character of Aslan.  So to me, it is very important how doctrine is portrayed in fiction.  Basically, if an author is marketing their fiction as “Christian Fiction” then they have a responsibility to make sure it is in fact Christian.  Anything that does not draw us closer to Christ moves us just that much farther away from Him.  So, it is very important indeed.

I understand that there are wolves in sheep’s clothing, and that many so called Christian writers are in fact not practicing Christians at all, and label their books “Christian Fiction” simply as a marketing strategy.  Of course this is not ethical, but it is done nonetheless.  I come back to the same question; do I call them out on it, or do I remain quiet on this issue, and does that not make me an accomplice to their lie?

Now I look at the above verse through the eyes of the reader, and I would in fact like to be told beforehand of such a thing, and yes it would definitely affect my choice to buy a book if I knew beforehand that the author was pretending to be a Christian for the sole purpose of selling more books.

There is a feeling out there that is gaining momentum, that if a book trashes a Biblical character that is ok, if done under the guise of Christian Fiction.  Even Jesus Himself is not immune to such degradation, as is evident in such popular books like The Da Vinci Code.  Now I have to be honest and say that although I never read the book, I did watch the movie.  Had I not known what I believe, I might have been persuaded to believe the lie.  However, I knew full well before I watched the movie what it was about, so I watched the movie fully prepared.  I knew precisely because someone had the guts to call the author out on it in reviews and made such a big stink about it that it was on the news.  I commend the person who had enough courage to do such a thing, it is not easy to stand up for what one believes and take all of the guff and backlash of such a stand.  People are not nice about it and can be very cruel when someone points out an error of doctrine like that.  The double standard is staggering, and can cause even the toughest and strongest Christian to keep silent in such cases.

On a personal note I take my Christianity very seriously, and I would rather die than bring dishonor to the Word by corrupting the Truth, especially for the sake of a fictional story.  So many authors take great pains to do research on some historical battle or person of history.  Why can they not take the same pains to make sure that if they use a character from the Bible they at least have the same respect as they do for any other historical persona?  Or at least have the decency to not try to sell it as Christian Fiction if they change it or slander a person’s character.  These are the same people who are horrified by the portrayal of President Abraham Lincoln as a Vampire slayer, but have no qualms when portraying a Biblical character as less than or even opposite from his/her Biblical persona.  Talk about hypocrisy!

When so many alternative genres are being invented, such as Young Adult and others, maybe a new genre should be invented for authors who want to twist Christianity for their own gain.  They can call it Alternative Christianity or even Anti-Christian Fiction or some such thing, so readers can know from the onset that the book is not pretending to be true to Christianity.  Of course, the wolves have no interest in being honest, so that wouldn’t work at all.

It’s too big of a problem for me.  All I can do is do the best I can with what I have, and that means I will try to stay away from such books, so that I do not have to wrestle with my own conscience trying to figure out if I should or should not call them out on it.  Right now, I have made the decision that I will not read Biblical Fiction for that reason, unless it was originally published a long time ago (40 or 50 years ago) when authors actually respected the Bible.  It’s too bad, because Biblical Romance used to be one of my favorite genres.  Stories written by authors like Patricia St. John and Sallie Lee Bell will always be favorites of mine.  Although both of these authors did take a few liberties in their Biblical stories, they always explained them in their introductions in order to alert readers to the changes, and none of those changes were slanderous to the Biblical character or to the teachings in the Biblical story.  They simply changed minor things.   You can see for yourself an example of this author’s integrity in the below foreword.

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Romance Novels

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The best definition of love that I have ever heard is:

“My determined effort for someone else’s good.”

True love is a choice, a decision, not an emotion.  It is an action that involves the giving of yourself for the good of the other person.  It is a personal sacrifice, but a good and rewarding one.

My favorite genre has always been romance, along with any other accompanying genre – Historical Romance, Christian Romance, Mystery Romance, Suspense Romance, etc.

I have never enjoyed explicit or crude novels, however.  It is surprising to me that the romance has gone out of the romance genre and has been replaced by sex.  Since when did romance come to mean sex?  In fact, romance is the opposite of sex.  Passion or lust is about succumbing to animalistic and base urges.  The satiating of those impulses is not what the original romance reader is seeking.

It is interesting to note that even as late as the 1940’s, the term “making-love” was not about having sex.  Emilie Loring and Grace Livingston Hill both wrote from 1915 through the 1940’s and when they used the term it meant the man was speaking of love to a woman, not physically making love to her.

“John, I believe you are making love to me.”
“That I am, my dear.”

When I read the above in one of Emilie Loring’s books when I was a teenager; I thought it was funny that she had to “believe” he was making love to her and wasn’t sure if that was what he was doing.  A woman, even an innocent woman, knows when the thing is getting physical, no confusion is possible then.

Now we need a specific genre known as Sweet Romance in order to identify any books that are currently being written in the tradition of the works of Jane Austen, since we can’t call the new books classical romances. Romance novels are now first thought to be smutty unless it is accompanied by the word sweet or clean.  How backward is that?   In order to find actual romance in books, it is safer to only read books published before 1950 or Christian Romance, but then we would miss out on a lot of good books that are being published.

Romance is all about the wooing – the courting.  And I am glad that word is no longer used today, for no one courts anymore.  Dating is not the modern word for courting, as dating does not resemble courting in actuality.  Back when a person was courted, it was done with the sole purpose of finding a life-long spouse.  Not to mention it was originally done in court, hence the name; meaning it was done out in the open where everyone can see that you are courting. There are several places where the word court could be used.  One is “holding court” which is the place where a person would receive multiple visitors and would hardly be a term for an intimate setting.   Back then, a couple didn’t just spend time alone together casually, and if they were interested in each other it was given an extra level of importance, hence the need for chaperones.

Romance is a very complicated and time consuming thing, which is why a lot of people didn’t even marry for love during Jane Austen’s time.  I think the romance novel was invented primarily to get girls to think for themselves and begin to want something more than just settling for a loveless marriage.  True love means that two souls are falling in love with each other and that is why the term soul mate was invented, not body mate.

Contrary to the belief that today everyone wants sex and not romance in their novels, I have seen many people in the forums who are looking precisely for the romance aspect of romance novels.  There is a great demand for clean romance novels.  It is also nice as a parent to be able to recommend a clean romance to a young girl.  I am not talking about the books labeled young adult, I mean traditional romance novels.  I feel sorry for girls nowadays if they have to read books only in the young adult genre.   When I was a girl there was no young adult genre and I read real romance novels; they were not smutty, they were romance.

Personally, I don’t have any daughters, but if I did I would like to think I would have had book nights where we read romance novels together and then discussed them.  I remember how much my boys enjoyed reading boy friendly books, like Louis L’Amour, Pilgrim’s Progress, Holes and others.  I won’t take the time to list them all here.

No way! -Or- Absolutely!

What turns you off or attracts you to a book?

I am attracted by the cover, but cover design is not really the topic of this post.

I was just reading some comments on a forum describing what kind of things quickly turned people off from reading or finishing a romance book.  While I agree with some of them – rape, Bdsm, etc. – as those things have nothing whatsoever to do with romance.  I found a few of those commenting were very closed minded and full of preconceived prejudices and misconceptions.  As this forum was on a major reading website I can’t think that these people were novice readers.   It seems that today, some people want to read only certain kind of books that are exactly like all of the other books that they have read, they seem less open to a variation within a genre let alone a different genre altogether.  And yet, these are the same people who complain that a book is stereotypical or cliché.  I even agree with them to a certain extent.  There is a lot to be said for comfort reading; books that you are familiar with they type even if you haven’t read that particular story.  I have some comfort reads, I admit.  I also like to read some books that I am not so comfortable with, when I am in the mood for a change.

I have to laugh as sometimes the very same people write contradictory comments.  Example:  the commenter who first says they won’t read a book if they get the impression from the description that they know which two characters end up together from the onset, because that takes all of the mystery and conflict away from the story.  Later, that same commenter says they won’t read a book where either the Hero or the Heroine is supposed to marry someone else before they end up marring the Hero/Heroine, because they want the book to only mention the romance between the Hero and Heroine.  They didn’t want the characters having conflicted feelings.

Although, I can understand that the reader wants to retain some mystery and suspense, I say that knowing which people end up together at the onset doesn’t ruin the story, not if done well.  I think what the commenter forgets is that each author is different and while yes it is true that some authors cannot keep the suspense going if they let us know who ends up together from the beginning.  There are in fact, some authors who can pull this off very well, as they make the suspense about finding out “how” the couple gets together and not “if” they end up together.

As I read so many of these forum comments, and they are all so different from each other, my basic impression is solidified that while one person loves this thing and hates that thing, yet another person’s loves and hates are completely the reverse.   As a writer, you can’t write to please your readers, for just when you start to think you know what they want, it turns out that is the book of yours that they like the least.  You can’t write for the masses, they are fickle and possibly they don’t even know what they like until they read it, and they may never pick up your book in the first place.

I think a writer has to write for themselves.  What kind of book would you like to read that you have never read before?  And once you can answer that question, then go ahead and write it.  That is what I did with my book, Dear Tiz.  I combined certain elements that I liked from books in varying genres, essentially making my book a conglomeration of many genres.  As I had to pick only one genre for listing purposes, I chose Christian Historical Romance.  It is that, but it is also so much more than that.

In my reading experience, each book has to stand alone and on its own merit.  As I do not like every book written by my favorite authors, sometimes I like a solitary work by an author I would normally stay far, far away from.  One such author is Stephen King.  I don’t like his mindset, I don’t like his underlying agendas, and I don’t like his writing style, but sometimes I really like one or two of his stories almost in spite of the man himself.  Would I buy any of his books?  I have in the past bought a few, even though I knew I didn’t like him.  Do I regret the purchase?  No, because I purchased them with my eyes wide open and knowing full well that I would not like some things about his books.  Why did I purchase them instead of borrowing them from the library.  So I could read them on my Kindle, of course.

The Ideal Floor Plan

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Mostly I daydream about stuff – new story ideas, floor plans for the perfect house, stuff like that.  My idea of the perfect floor plan keeps changing though.  When my husband and I were newlyweds, we could pretty much live in the back of a pickup truck.  The floor plan of a house is very important when you begin to have babies, and one size definitely does not fit all.  Some parents want their baby in the same room, some want a room next door, and some want their baby on the other side of the house, separated by several floors.  Ok, so I have only known that last one to happen in a novel, but you get the idea.  Different parents have different needs.  Then the babies begin to grow and you find that the “ideal” floor plan is no longer ideal for your needs.  This happens much faster than a person can plan for, not to mention that I have never had an ideal floor plan in my life.

Now that my needs are different, yet again; I  haven’t been able to decide if I would rather live in a minimalistic type house, and then the setting of said house is all important.  Or maybe, I want an all-inclusive house, in which case I would never have to leave said house.  Yeah, there is a lot of the hermit in me.

The attraction of an all-inclusive house is when a person is forever living in less than desired living conditions, always having to make-do.  A person begins to fantasize about the ideal living conditions, what do you really want in a house.  I guess if we are succumbing to flights of fancy then I would like a big Victorian type mansion.  I know I am not the only romance reader or writer who wishes for one.  I think one can almost assume that if you read or write romance novels, you will like big Victorian houses.  However, I prefer my houses made out of stone and I think most of the Victorian houses in the US are made out of wood.  I have to laugh at myself, “my houses” as if I had several when in reality I own none.

That being said, I do like simplicity versus huge houses.  In fiction novels, a writer can always give the house as many servants as is required for the hugeness of the house.  In real life, this becomes harder.  I think the ideal situation would be to own a huge house and rent it out to someone who can afford it, yet because I own it I could use it if I need to at any time.  Instead I would live permanently in a very small house, maybe not quite as rundown as the one in the above photo, but you can’t beat the scenery.

As a mother of 3 small children, I have always needed more space and as they grew up and turned into 3 huge young men, even more space was needed.   I say to myself that I would rather live in a very small house, but reality is such that it will never happen.  Even though only one of my sons is still a teenager, eventually I will probably have grandchildren who will want to come and visit and yet again I will need a bigger house.  However, the idea of cabins like the above photo is really quite attractive. I think it would be wonderful if each of my sons can have their own cabin when they come to visit me.

Below is a picture of the cabins we stayed in when we went to Narvik, Norway.  These were nice.  Each one had a kitchen, living room, dining area, bathroom and two bedrooms.

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Star Ratings

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This is my first post in the “Soap-box” category.  Today, I will rant about ratings.

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I really wish there was a way to give 10 stars instead of 5.

As it is, 5 stars makes for bad feelings.  If you give a book a 4 star rating there might be someone would could feel slighted.  And yet, most books written today, if they are good, deserve the 4 star rating.  I myself am perfectly happy with 4 stars.  Why?  Because I know I don’t deserve the 5 stars.  I don’t think my book is absolutely and completely perfect.  Every time I re-read it I see places where I can make it better.  Problem is, that if an author like me were to hold off on publishing until it was 100% perfect, it just never would get published; not to mention that my writing will probably never be considered by the professional literary critics as 100%.  So yeah, I am very happy with a 4 star review, I am even glad for a 3 star review, which might be a more honest evaluation of my work.  That’s honesty and it is very valuable to a writer so that they can grow; if they begin receiving only 5 star ratings for their debut work, then how will they know when they have written something truly awesome?  It does nobody any good to give unusually high marks at the beginning of a person’s career as an author.

Having said that, I really would rather a person stop there and just not post a bad review.  I understand with the amount of one and two star reviews some authors get; and not always because their work is not good, many times bad reviews are posted by bitter and envious trolls to get their kicks.  In those cases, a few 5 star reviews, however unmerited the book might be, are necessary to offset the troll reviews.   A private email is much more to be preferred if someone hated my book.  As a reviewer there are times I would like to be able to send a private communication to the author with my concerns, only to find I cannot find a way to contact the author privately.   I have included my email at the back of my book if anyone wants to vent or actually be helpful by sending me some constructive criticism.

Enough about my book.  The thing is that the 5 stars has become corrupted.  If we could reserve the 5 star rating for truly exceptional books.  Books that could not be any better, ever, no matter how much the writer studied to improve themselves, and no matter how many times they rewrote it, it just could not be improved upon.  If 5 stars were reserved for the best of the best of the best; then it would mean something again.  Sadly, 5 stars has come to mean that you got all of your friends and relatives to rate your book.  Basically, a 5 star review means nothing about your ability to write.  It means you have friends.

What if we left all of the 5 star ratings alone, and added an additional 5 stars for excellence?  A 5 star rating within the 5 stars.  Ok, so you think it deserves 5 stars, but do you think it deserves one 5 stars or two 5 stars?  Which books do you think deserve five 5 stars?  Can we keep that reserved for true classics like Charles Dickens and his ilk?  I think so, if people were honest. What if the 5 stars within the 5 stars didn’t affect a book’s standing on sites like Amazon?  It only served to advise readers.  Yeah, I know I am skeptical, too.  It’s a thought.

So, I just got done giving my own book a 4 star rating.  I think that is what it truly deserves.  It was never my intention to write a masterpiece of literature, and it isn’t.  It is a simple story, told simply for the fun of it.  Is it a good story?  Sure it is.  Does it deserve to be read?  Absolutely, at least by a certain number of people who enjoy that kind of a story, yes it does.  Does it deserve 5 stars?  No, it does not.  Well, except for my mother’s opinion.

Quiet Spot

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This is just the kind of place I would like to own.  Sure, I would also like to vacation there, but I would rather own it.  I don’t know who the artist is, but this is a wonderful drawing.  If anyone knows, please let me know and I will credit them.

I can imagine I am sitting off camera, actually I am taking the picture from where I am sitting, in a comfortable chair that is inducive* to writing.   Instead of having to go home again after my vacation, I could just sit there and ponder and write, or daydream and not write.  Then I could walk over and sit down in one of those chairs, definitely the closest one, and drink a cappuccino.  Or if it gets too cold, I could find a window side table indoors.  Or I could go upstairs to my apartment and sit at my computer, as I gaze out over the river.

Seriously, what more could I possibly want?  Well, maybe something hot and buttery right out of the oven.

*Note:Yes, I know spell check doesn’t like that word and wants to make it inductive, however that word means something completely different than what I want to say.   I like the word inducive, even if technically it is not a word.  Induce is a word, however. The definition is: “influencing someone to do something.”    As in, a doctor can “induce labor”.  So why can’t a specific chair and a specific setting and atmosphere induce you to write? Of course it can, and that is the way you are supposed to use that word, but I still like inducive better.