In some online circles I follow, there’s regular hand-wringing about the state of Christian fiction in general, and Catholic fiction in particular. Some pine for a “Catholic Literary Revival” – which, so far as I can tell, seems to be a wish that Graham Greene or Evelyn Waugh would rise from the grave and take up pen again. Others stand in such awe of the towering achievements of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis that they seem to await one or more successors, and will settle for nothing less. Others seem to await the next priest detective to pick up where Fr. Dowling left off, even as Fr. Dowling followed Fr. Brown. Still others seem content with “sanitized” romances, known in some circles as “bonnet fiction”, which simply retell the same set of stock plots with slight variations in locations and names, but always in either eras or locations where the morals are simpler and cleaner – which usually means either at least 100 years in the past, or in Amish country (or both).
As a Christian author with several books in print, I find this discussion a bit disheartening. I know I’ll never measure up to the standard set by a classic such as The Lord of the Rings, because nothing ever will. I’ll forever disappoint the Catholic Literature crowd, because I don’t write literature – I write stories. And I won’t scratch the nostalgic itch of some Catholic readers who long for nothing more than to return to the days when Fr. Scrimby minded his parish and solved the occasional mystery with the help of his grouchy but golden-hearted housekeeper, his multi-talented handyman, and the district detective. My stories tries to examine matters from new perspectives, be they Scriptural accounts, family relationships, or current social conditions. Not all of them explicitly involve clergy, and though I try t avoid writing morality tales with a “message”, I do try to follow the guidelines for good storytelling. I’m doing my best to improve the state of Christian fiction, and most people who’ve read my stories seem to think I’m doing a passable job of it.
I realize that my recent works are self-published, which puts me at a disadvantage when it comes to publicity. But, to be honest, neither publishing house I worked with did a stellar job of promoting my works. I understand this – fiction wasn’t what either one of them majored in – but it means that haven’t lost much by going the self-publishing route. I certainly try to ensure the quality of my books meets publishing house standards, both in content and presentation.
It boils down to is this: the best advertising is word of mouth – “buzz” in modern parlance. Even the publishing houses concede that one solid review, or a smattering of online enthusiasm, can have more impact than either print or online ads. Thus, I’d like to issue a challenge to my readers and followers: I’d like to send a copy of one of my books to anyone who will read it and write an honest review. Publishers commonly send out review copies to those who request them, so I’d like to try it as an author. The review can be an Amazon review or (even better) in an online space such as a blog or website. It doesn’t have to be a positive review, just an honest one. Here are the books I’m offering to send out:
The Accidental Marriage: my love story that’s not a romance. It’s a deeply personal story of the deep meaning of love, marriage, and humans helping one another.
From Afar: far and away the popular favorite, this is Scriptural fiction that reads like high fantasy, yet is firmly grounded in not only the brief account of the Magi found in the Gospel of Matthew, but in historical and astronomic research.
Under the Watchful Sky: the first book in the Watchful Sky series, this near-future dystopian novel examines where our society might be in another decade or so – and has proven alarmingly accurate since it was written ten years ago.
The Ghosts of Midgard Manor: though short stories aren’t as popular now as they once were, they are a good chance to get to know an author’s writing. Interestingly, this work was accepted by a major Catholic publishing house, and I signed a contract for it – they just never did anything with it, so I regained the rights and self-published.
Here’s the challenge: I’m willing to send out review copies of any one of the above books on a first come, first serve basis to the first ten readers willing to write a review. If you, or anyone you know (especially if that person is lamenting the state of Christian fiction), would be willing to accept this challenge, drop me an e-mail at PrinceOfTheWest@gmail.com, and I’ll mail you a review copy (sorry, international readers, I can only do this for U.S. addresses). All I ask is that you write an honest review and post it on at least Amazon, and any other online spots that you might control. You can get to the Amazon pages for the books from my author page. Only one book at a time, but if you finish one and want to try another, and I haven’t sent out all ten yet, send me another e-mail and we’ll see what I can do.
I’m doing my best to try to improve the state of Christian fiction. Maybe I’m not a good enough author for the task; if so, I can live with that. But I’d hate for people to bemoan that there are no good offerings when I know full well that there are several good authors out there just itching to be read. Whether that list includes me is for others to judge, but there are certainly candidates waiting to be given a chance.