Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Book Reviews 4! The End (For now)

Okay, it's totally Tuesday, but I hadn't finished reading yet! So, today:

Provocative Faith
by Matthew Paul Turner
2005, Fleming Revell

First of all, you just gotta love that his name is Matthew Paul. I mean, I trusted him just because of the apostolic name. Turner was raised, like many of us, in a legalistic church that made him basically crazy. Like many of us, he went through the motions, making all those appropriate Christian noises of survival that mark us as viable church members, all the while craving more. Unfortunately, he chose a rather unsavory way to fulfill those needs. His downfall, however, opened him up to the amazing grace one gets when we come to the end of ourselves. Amen and amen.

Seven years later, Matthew Paul emerged having learned to live an authentic faith: loving recklessly and relentlessly, living in relationship, and being honest about our journey.

Hey, that sounds familiar. If only I'd written that book.


But, I digress. So, here is a book that ragamuffin diva fans will find most familiar. He's honest, and relevant (he writes for the magazine, for heaven's sake), bringing a freshness to the gospel message that too often grows stale.

I think you'll dig it.

And finally,

90 Minutes in Heaven
by Don Piper
2005, Fleming Revell

I'll admit it. I wasn't thrilled about the prospect of reading this book. It reminded me of so many other, "I went to heaven for three days" or "I spent my summer in Hell being tormented relentlessly by the evil spawn of Satan." These books are usually met the kind of histrionic fervor that is the stuff of my nightmares. Remember "Pigs in the Parlor"? I don't. I blocked it from memory, thank God.

So, I pick this book up reluctantly and couldn't help but fall into the story. It's compelling, I mean, he was like, dead, for 90 minutes, and this guy is praying for him and the next thing you know he's back, and jacked up at that.

Now it's one thing to get a glimpse of heavenly bliss, it's another to find your body wracked with pain with a grueling recovery awaiting. I don't know if I'd have been relieved or ticked off, and honestly, I found his recovery more compelling than the heavenly stuff. Maybe that's just me. I think I want to be surprised. I don't want Home to be described to me. There's a comfort in knowing that Jesus will be there, and His mom, and all my favorite Bible people. My great-grandma. That's heaven enough for me.

But, I think it will be comforting to people who get into that kind of thing, as well as inspiring to those who are in chronic pain.

Whew, I suck at book reviewing, but I tried. Thanks ladies who sent the titles to me, for giving me the opportunity.

Much love,

Friday, September 23, 2005

Book Review 3: Post Rapture Radio

Post-Rapture Radio
by Russell Rathbun
2005, Jossey-Bass
San Francisco, CA

This book also brings the fondest Emergent Church Convention '05 memories. I got to meet Russell at his booksigning at the convention. Jossey-Bass did it right, with good quacamole and beer, and funky music.

Let it be said that prior to Emergent '05 I neither drank alcohol, nor smoked. However, I was initiated into those mysteries in the penthouse suite I described in book review #2, and was eager to attend Rathbuns signing for the free beer. The fact that a really cool book was involved was a plus.

I could describe what an emergent man looks like using very few words. Gotee would figure prominately, and those glasses. Yes, Russell wore those little black square framed glasses that every emergent young man in the whole wide world wears. Don't get me wrong, you don't particularly have to be original with facial hair and eyewearto be cool, and Russell is most certainly cool. But he was more than cool, and when he stood to read and all that sparkling prose came out of his mouth I was hooked. I knew right then Post-Rapture Radio was a winner.

In P-RR, the narrator finds a box full of journal entries and sermon's from a Reverend Richard Lamblove (now that's a cool character name). Lamblove lamblasts (I couldn't resist) contemporaryculture (evangelical culture, absorbed like an independent being by the Borg) for its shallowness and greed. It's awfully familiar territory. We get to vicariously watch the good Reverend's attempts to process all that he sees before he mysteriously vanishes.

The book is laugh outloud funny, smart, and scathing. It's also a clarion call for us to check ourselves, and our lack of authenticity at the door. If you like to laugh and be challenged, this is a great read.

As the good reverend would say: Foward Ho!

(The first time I heard him say that, I thought he had some insight into my life).

We'll do the last two on Monday. A couple of interesting new titles from Revell.

Until then,
and have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Book Review 2: The Seeker's Way

The Seeker's Way:
Cultivating the Longings of a Spiritual Life
Dave Fleming
2005, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco

Okay. I'm feeling a little Emergent Church Convention '05 nostalgic. Imagine you are in the penthouse suite and Marko of Youth Specialties is your host. Everyone has a glass of wine or a brew, and a cigar, and you're in the company of some of the most interesting Jesus people you will ever meet this side of heaven.

That's the kind of book The Seeker's Way is, only Dave Fleming is our host, and instead of wine and smokes, you get pages and pages of interviews with amazing people, and lemme tell you, Dave Fleming is quite the host with his gentle prods, and thoughtful insights.

His basic premise is this: we seek for what we do not possess. He calls this need to seek the "centerpiece of our experience" placed in us by Divine Mystery--that means God to the uninitiated. And you can rest assured that all the contributors are initiated, each interview, along with Flemings wise and humble comments, give us a bit more of that mystery, making us both wiser for having read this book, and more foolish. Isn't that how mystery works--the closer we come to it, the more of ourselves we lose, ruining us for the world.

His choices of subjects and seekers are intriguing. Each interviewee seems Holy Spirit handpicked, and all offered surprising insight to a spirtual life. These weren't your garden variety Evangelical voices. There is a broad range of Christians represented, and each bring a certain quiet strength and vulnerability to their interviews.

In The Seekers Way, Fleming pairs Longing with Seeker with chapters that deal subjects such as:

From Answers to Experience, with Wayne Teasdale, a Catholic monk. From Activity to Meaning, with Alan Jones, Dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, and several others.

This book is it's own parlour, and the company is fine, indeed. Phillip Gulley and Jim Mulholland, Lauren Winner, Marcus Borg, and Joan Chissiter all contribute their unique takes on their experience as seekers (and finders).

I say, pull up a chair and join the party.

Much love, and see ya tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Book Review I: My Faith So Far

Okay, I totally wasn't here Monday because my ibook power cord shorted out and I had NO JUICE! I had to order an outrageously expensive adapter from the Apple Store, which did not arrive until this evening. Hence, no book reviews on Monday and Tuesday, but the week is still relatively young, no? Shall we proceed.

My Faith So Far by Patton Dodd
2005, Jossey-Bass
San Francisco, CA

The first book I got to review was a charming spiritual memoir by Patton Dodd called, My Faith So Far. The book charts the faith journey of a young man from conversion, to doing church, to what we say in the hood, "trippin', which simply means he acted out or experienced what he calls charismania, and finally through his search for an authentic experience of God.

Don't we all want that? An honest, authentic experience with God.

No, you say, we don't all want that?

I think you're right, and some of the most poignant and hilarious moments in Dodd's book are about the insanity that insues when we get ahead of the Holy Spirit and go off on our own little tangents. His description of his first attempt to speak in tongues is worth the price of the book. My next favorite passage describes a charismatic experience facilitated by Richard Roberts, son of Oral Roberts himself, the quintessential charismaniac. I'll never think of the words, "Fresh" and "Joy" in the same way, again.

All in all, I think you'll enjoy this fantastic book. It has the kind of fearless honesty and grace that makes for a classic. Buy it, and put it on your bookshelf right next to Blue Like Jazz.
Yeah, it's good like that.

See you tomorrow. Lord willing and the power cord stays powerful.


Thursday, September 15, 2005

Book Review Week

Hey everyone,

Next week we're going to have some fun. We're going to review and talk about some books.

Now, I'll tell you why. See, someone got the idea that I was "important" and they started sending me books. For free! Really. I'm supposed to read them, and review them, and then you are supposed to buy them. That's how that works, only there are stacks of books by my bed, and I haven't had time to read even the ones that I paid for, much less the free ones. Anyway, I do like to work with people, especially book people willing to send me books. Sooooo, we're going to do a little reading and discussing.

Some of the titles released a few months ago, but we're gonnna talk about 'em anyway.

They include:

Post Rapture Radio
My Faith So Far
90 Minutes in Heaven

And more!!!! Weeeeeeeeee!

We'll start Monday. See you then, okay? And hey, have a luvalicious weekend.


Thursday, September 08, 2005

On magic and stories and changes

This week I've been adding a few scenes to book that I've made much ado about this week. It's been strange. My husband walking around with his chest poked out and telling everybody, and I do mean everybody, that his wife got a book deal. Obviously, it's a slow news life around here.

I had another fibromyalgia/migraine-whatever-fresh-hell-my-body-doles-out-day today. So, I begged someone to take me to my doctors office because I felt too weak to go on the bus, and besides, it really bites to be sick and go to the doctor on the bus. I get there, and she's so kind and sympathetic, and there's not much she can do, so she ends up giving me a shot in my butt, and I do have to take the bus home, and go all loopy, and dreamy, and medicated.

So much for working on the book.

I decide to finish reading a book I started a few weeks ago, The Annunciation of Francesca Dunn. It's a good story. It is in turn, funny, and sad, troubling, and hopeful. I have mixed feelings about it. I looked a few times at the author on the back. She's Janis Hallowell.

And then, as my self-absorbed nature dictates, I thought about me.

Dear Lord. My photo on the back of a book. Do I go with my thoughtful picture, the one on the ol' raga-d blog here? With my face raised a bit, maybe to God, eh? And that cool light that Ken photoshopped behind me. How 'bout the picture with me smiling on the Alive site. It has that mudcloth in the background that used to cover my bedroom window until it got too hot, and now a rainbow colored sari covers it. Honestly, I like the sari better. And my smile looks forced on that picture. But they seem to like it. How 'bout that strange Chrismation miracle photo that I have seen all kinds of places. It has a life of it's own that picture, and seems to be the only worthwhile contribution that I've made to the Orthodox Church, and what's worse, the first thing that comes to mind when I see that picture now is HOW BIG MY BUTT LOOKS!!!! HOW BIG IT ACTUALLY IS!!!! I know, that's a horrible admission, but it's the truth, Lord have mercy on my soul.

God forbid that I take a picture with these blondilocks. And my nose stud. Twenty pounds heavier and salty as hell about that. I don't know. I don't really want to think about author photos, or marketing, and promotions and covers. I'm a little bit scared of all this. It was a lot easier being a ragamuffin diva. I just showed up and told stories. I liked that somebody read them. I liked that somebody liked them enough to show up again, and again. You know, I wouldn't write if nobody read. It's like a trade off. I don't care what they say, all writers need readers. They don't need money as much as they need readers. I wrote with no money, but no readers and the story shrivels and dies because all stories need those that have ears to hear. Eyes to see, and hearts wide open allowing for the possibility a story gives them to become something other than they were before they read.

When I was a girl, I think I had that teen laziness and I didn't write much, but I had this friend, Keysha. She was a few years younger than me. Prettiest thing you'd ever want to see. Long, black wavy hair. Just amazing. Her brother had a crush on me, but when he took me home I met my family, and I still love them all like that, but I haven't seen them for awhile. I used to tell Keysha my stories. Whole novels spinning off my tongue, and we would sit together for hours cocooned in a girlish story world. This was in the early eighties, just when crack cocaine exploded into our neighborhood leaving all kinds of bodies in it's wake. It was just before the gunshots and sirens every night. It was when we still had our innocence, in as much as you can have that in the ghetto. It was a sweet time, that kept us out of trouble. Me, and Keysha, and stories. It was magic.

I would do this if I didn't have a contract, and you know what, I don't ever want to lose that innocence. I want a good deal, sure. I have a big family, and my husband is disabled. Truth be told, I'm disabled, too. I just don't get a social security check. The money is a blessing (well, it will be. It hasn't reached us yet), but I don't want to lose the love I have of a good story, skillfully told. Words strung together, creating worlds where people feel so real that you want to pick up the phone and call them. A few hours of fun, where you can count on things being a little neater than real life. I'll take a cheap read if it's a good story. I can't resist a good story. It doesn't have to be a nobel prize winners think piece.

I've had these lofty thoughts of sales numbers and Christy nominations, but you know what, it doesn't really matter. I'll tell you a secret, and don't tell my agent, but I'd be happy as Christmas Eve if I was a dime store novelist and all I did was write silly love stories that went out of print the month after they hit the stands and nobody ever remembered my name. As long as somebody got a little bit of joy, and a little bit of happiness in those 270 pages I put together. I'd be thrilled to spin a soft cloth around some soul to keep them warm when life gets a little cool, or downright cold. That's all. God, I'd like to take care of my family, and I'd like to tell stories. It's not much to ask.

The thing is, I can ask, but I don't know what God will do. I say, what if I can't work because I'm getting sicker and sicker? What if I have to get on disability, and nobody sends me big checks for books, ever again? Donna told me that I have to keep my arms open, ready to take what God wants to give me, and ready to let go of what God takes back. He can take it all back if He wills. He's God, and I'm just His ragamuffin, but even if He takes it back, and a day comes when big announcements and author photos and thoughts of awards and dreams of a writers life fade like the scent of a plucked flower, I will remember, God willing, how magical it was to sit here, and tell a tale, a give a little bit of happiness, and a little bit of hope where there is so much darkness, and so much pain.

I don't know what these changes in my life will bring. I'm taking a deep breath, opening those arms, and we'll see. But if it all falls apart, as longs as I am here, and there is a Google and Blogger, you'll find me here. Telling tales. Talking about Jesus. Listening for the sounds of your voices saying, "Yeah. I hear you."

Thanks for coming,
I love you,

Friday, September 02, 2005

It's Official!!!!!

Drumroll, please.

I'm thrilled to announce that today I signed the contract for the three book deal with NavPress. The series is called The Amanda Bell Brown Mysteries. First in the series:

A Fling and a Prayer, releasing July 15, 2006.
All that's Jazz, releasing February 15, 2007
and Between Rocky and a Hard Place, releasing October 15, 2007.

The books are smart, breezy and what my friend Marilynn Griffith calls "serious fun" www.marilynngriffith@typepad.com.

Thanks all you ragaphiles for your encouragement, support, and patience with me during the process in this amazing writing year I've had. Special thanks to Lisa Samson, Don Pape, Marilynn Griffith and Dave Long. All of you helped me to dream this series possible, and Mama Brown, thanks for being an unforgettable woman, and the inspiration for my character Bell.

And above all

Thank you Jesus, author, and finisher of my faith, and lover of my soul.

One more thing. I have to use that name on my driver's license, Claudia Hawthorne-Burney on my books. How boring is that name?????
still Mair,
(inspite of what my drivers license says, and that fact that NOBODY can actually pronounce Mair. It's MY-ur darn it!!!! Not MARE!!!!!! For real.)