Joseph Lacy and Mountain Reign


Joseph Lacy's 'Mountain Reign'High in the hollers of ’50s-era Kentucky, God’s grace rains down on a team of boys and one determined coach in an Appalachian school destined for destruction. In Mountain Reign, author Joseph Lacy blends the best of sports fiction with a touch of the divine as he follows the hardcourt exploits of roundballers who don’t know when they’re outgunned.

Guard Veacher Phelp’s rude upbringing in a coal mining town beset with poverty and darkened by days in the belly of the earth only spurs him onto hopes of victory in Lexington. But his Hazelwood High School Flyers, in their last year as a school, have little hope of beating the powerhouse suburban Kentucky schools—until a Melungeon outcast joins the team.

Coached by Slade Greyman, a WWII vet with a dark secret, the Flyers begin their unlikely rise to the upper echelons of Kentucky basketball in a series of heart-stopping games. But then a litany of injuries, the antagonism of the the local coal honcho, the lure of the opposite sex, the call of the mines, and the revelation of the Coach’s hidden sin threaten to undo Hazelwood’s last chance at glory.

Author Lacy packs his first novel with court-pounding action, glorious mountain scenery, heartbreak, and hope. He portrays a way of life few people know, weaving elements of Coal Miner’s Daughter and Hoosiers into the quintessential Kentucky basketball novel. And his effortless skill at hill country metaphors can’t be matched. Whoever coined the term “turn of a phrase” surely was thinking of Mountain Reign.

If you want evocative writing that epitomizes what sports fiction has to offer, Mountain Reign is a book you’ll adore.

Joe Lacy is a good buddy of mine, the perfect Kentucky gentleman, and one of the quartet that makes up The Write Brothers, my writers group. I had the privilege of reading Mountain Reign as it took shape, and I was continually amazed at Joe’s scholarship and deft phrasing. I hope soon to post Joe’s thoughts on writing in response to my rant on the state of Christian fiction. An interview here may follow.

If you’ve got a sports fan in your household or you get horse rooting for the underdog, you can pick up Mountain Reign from Amazon (just click the link or the book cover). A fine Christmas present and the perfect read to start a new year.

Notable Authors You (Regrettably) Never See Mentioned on Christian Blogs


A random walk through the Christian blogosphere is an enlightening experience that effectively takes the pulse of the technically-abled side of the Church. From even a short visit to a few blogs, one could argue that Christian bloggers don't seem to span the gamut of Christian thought and that's probably close to the truth. In the wake of GodBlogCon, a few brave souls have asked whether or not the Christian blogosphere is in a homogeneous funk, and I would have to agree that it is.

As one of the precious few charismatics actively blogging, I'd like to remedy this just a tad by suggesting that perhaps there is more to read out there than flows from the pens of C.S. Lewis, N.T. Wright, D.A. Carson, John MacArthur, and C.H. Spurgeon. As much as they are routinely quoted by what seems to be 97.5% of the Christian blogosphere, there are outstanding authors who are never mentioned, yet they had profound ministries that stretched across the globe.

For the betterment (and broadening) of Christian thought, I present three authors whose underrepresentation in the Christian blogosphere only serves to diminish our conversation.

R.A. Torrey
For anyone attending the GodBlogCon, it was sponsored by the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University. Considering all the hoopla around this event, R.A. Torrey Picno one bothered to shed some light on the man who lends his name to that Institute, Reuben Archer Torrey.

A gifted author, teacher, pastor, and evangelist, Torrey not only served as Dean of Biola for twelve years, but was also D.L. Moody's handpicked successor to that great evangelist's church and what later became Moody Bible Institute. (An outstanding bio can be found here and at Wikipedia.)

Torrey, a true charismatic, penned an outstanding treatise on the Holy Spirit that I've routinely recommended to people, The Person & Work of the Holy Spirit. Many have commented that his works on prayer are some of the finest written, and you can find a free version of one of those prayer writings and a few of his other works at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library (a site everyone should have bookmarked.)

Torrey authored over forty books, many still in print. Such a talented and gifted man of God we'd all be hard pressed to equal. He deserves to be read and quoted from liberally.

Andrew Murray
While many of the writers that are usually referenced in the Christian blogosphere have a fiery and impassioned message along the lines of the Apostle Paul, Andrew Murray is more in the gentle, loving, and profound mold of the Apostle John. Andrew Murray PicPerhaps it is because of Murray's soothing pastoral heart that he's not ripe for controversy, but I contend that in an age when so many Christians are at odds, Murray's vast output of writings are more needed than ever. (Bio of Murray here and at Wikipedia.)

This post came about because of yesterday's reference to abiding in Christ. For those seeking to do just that, there is no equal in books on the subject than Andrew Murray's Abide in Christ (free online version here.) He, too, penned a classic on prayer, With Christ in the School of Prayer. I'd also recommend his book Humility, one of the best ever written on the topic. And like Torrey, Murray endorse modern day charismata, having overseen the miracle-filled South African Revival of 1860, an event that changed his life. He later was a key player in the Keswick movement that fueled both the great missionary thrust at the turn of the 20th century and the Welsh Revival. You can find free versions of many of his writings scattered thoughout the Internet, but the CCEL, again, is a fantastic resource for Murray.

Watchman Nee
I can think of few great men of the Faith whose writings have eluded more people than Watchman Nee. Perhaps it's his distinctly Asian view of Christianity, but no matter the reason, Watchman NeeNee is a man wholly surrendered to the Lord and his writings have profound depth. What else can be expected from a man who spent the majority of his Christian life locked up in solitary confinement in a Communist prison cell? Many today would claim that Nee's devotion to the Lord is the reason the Chinese house church movement is still going strong. (Nee bio here and at Wikipedia.)

Nee's The Normal Christian Life is a book every Christian should read, and it's one of the scant few worthy of inclusion in the Essential Reading sidebar of Cerulean Sanctum. Packed with wisdom on living out faith in Christ, it's a classic exposition of Romans. (CCEL has a free online version here.) I also heartily recommend his look at Ephesians, Sit, Walk, Stand. Having read several of Nee's books, I can promise that anything he writes will be fresh and will challenge you with godly wisdom from a different perspective than what you might be used to. A tragically underrepresented author in Christian blogging.

Other great writers do exist. C'mon folks, let's put a few different players out on the field!

Rock { Christian Author } Hard Place


Mightier than the swordI'm a writer.

I know it may not show in the slapdash blog posts I toss up here, but it's true. As part of a testosterone-laden men's writing group—The Write Brothers—I have actual published authors attesting to the fact that I can string a few words together intelligibly. Even more to that point, I own a freelance writing company that covers everything from tech manuals to marketing copy to s/f novels. You name it; I write it. I've even been known to pen a highly regarded poem now and then. (Although the state of "poetry for cash" is more like "You pay us and we'll publish your poem." Somewhere, a red wheelbarrow is rusting.)

The allusion in my not-so-subtle title does not mean I will go the way of Hemingway, but it does mean that to be a Christian writer is to be a denizen of a tiny world on which a civil war rages. Piper, Sproul, Grudem, Warren, Hybels, and all those name authors don't have a clue because they're writing NON-fiction. They're oblivious to the artillery, the bloodshed, and the cries of the wounded. But as for me, well, I got drafted into the the war simply for my desire to write novels. And it ain't pretty.

I've got three novels at various stages of development, with one soon to see the conclusion and final edits, so even writing this on my blog could forever doom my work to the dark drawers of my Sixties-era desk. Yet I have to say it: being a Christian fiction writer is a lesson in compromise and multiple personality syndrome.

The irony of all this is that the market for Christian fiction is absolutely booming. These are the glory days for anyone trying to sell into what is known as the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) market. Publishers are scrambling to pump up the Christian novel jam, so if there's a genre you like to read, expect to see it soon. Someone realized a couple years ago that Christians actually READ fiction, and with the Lord of the Rings series of movies/books reaping big press in Christian circles, two and two fused together. Mix in a little Mel Gibson movie and even the secular publishers starting thinking, You know, that's a pretty substantial market we've been ignoring. They're even starting up Christian imprints just to tap the 22 million people who bought a copy of that little book called The Purpose Driven Life.

So Dan, why the "tortured artist" schtick?

My current novel project started out in the secular counterpart to the CBA, the American Booksellers Association (ABA.) I was hoping to write a science fiction title that would bring strong Christian themes and symbolism to secular readers first and Christian readers second, all without suffering from what I call "The Sledgehammer Effect." If you read enough Christian fiction, I don't have to explain this. Wink, wink—we've all had that little Gospel train steam out of the book and roll right over our cerebrums.

But along the way, this novel changed. Every time I wanted to portray my believing heroine doing the kind of things that Christians regularly do—pray, read the Bible, and so on—the scene automatically excluded the book from the secular market. Any editor reading the work would say, "But this belongs on our Christian imprint!" and there it would be sent to be branded a work of "Christian fiction," forever shuttled out of reach of the very readers I was trying to capture. The mere mention of the devoted acts we do every day and that's all he wrote.

It struck me that if C.S. Lewis were writing his Space Trilogy (the inspiration for my market ploy) today, there would be no chance that a secular publishing house would touch the books. Out of the Silent Planet would be on Tyndale or Zondervan faster than you could say, "Peretti," and that would be that. Despite the fact that your average Barnes & Noble or Borders has been increasing their Christian non-fiction titles, Christian fiction still has a long way to go for shelf space in a secular market.

So I quit the battle and went for a CBA title. It's so CBA right now that Stephen King himself could not modify it into an ABA title. However, while I managed to avoid The Sledgehammer Effect magnificently, I only opened another can of worms.

The ABA is tough for Christian novelists to crack unless they're willing to veil all their religious references. But the CBA presents its own problems because now you have to be all things to all Christians. I think you can already see the problem.

Even as the romance genre has an iron-clad list of essentials, both do's and dont's, the Christian fiction list of acceptable novelist behaviors resembles the U.S. Tax Code in its complexity. The list of traps is endless and just finding an audience that won't stab you with your Mont Blanc for violating a key doctrinal belief of theirs is nightmarish.

Want to write a novel that features a positive Christian character who speaks in tongues? Well, if you think that being tarred and feathered on John MacArthur's Web site is great PR, then go for it. Or how fast and loose do you want to play with doctrine when it comes to fantasy or s/f? My wife just read a novel that asked, What if Jesus first came in the 22nd century AD? What would His first advent look like in an age of interplanetary space travel? Although that's a great premise, you know someone out there would object. As much as I want to embody the mythopoeia that Lewis and Tolkein championed, I don't want my publisher to deal with irate letters and bad reviews on Christian Web sites because I asked "What if?" of a treasured doctrine and people felt that my treatment of it was "off." (In my novel, I do explore a major doctrine by envisioning a more drastic expression of it than what the Bible states, adding s/f elements and conjecture.)

Even Lewis is not sacrosanct. I know he'll come under new scrutiny if Disney makes references to alcoholic drinks in their upcoming Narnia films. Any readers of that series will recall that Lewis was a virtual spokesperson for breweries and vintners. So how many teetotalers have objected to Lewis's world? Quite a lot, if a quick Googling of this issue is any indication. Well, I guess I would at least be in good heretical company.

Recently, I read a post on the Brandywine Books blog from a published author who no longer seeks publication. I was told to write the very best book I had in me. That's the best kind of advice, but sadly, I don't know if that advice belongs to another, less picky age. With publishers dwindling every hour, and market realities forcing every title to be a bestseller, the pressure to appeal to most of the people most of the time is enormous. Where that leaves Christian novelists is anyone's guess. Lowest common denominator is what I fear. The Christian fiction I've read lately surely bears that out.

Truth be told, I've been utterly incapable of making it through any of the Christian fiction I've bravely attempted in the last three years. A few folks contend that the quality is rising, but I can't see it. From my perspective, should some Christian publisher decide to purchase my novel, I can view this as my joining the larger pool of books I cannot bring myself to read to the end OR I can see it as my attempt to bring something better to the pool. I guess only a publisher can determine that direction. Considering what I've said so far in this post, my chances of getting that letter that sets every hopeful author's heart a-flutter have probably already dropped at least fifty percent.

Here's another truth: this post has been sitting in draft form on Blogger since April. Only this and the previous two paragraphs are new. Why you ask? For the very reason I just stated. Biting the hand that potentially feeds at a time when publishing houses have consolidated down to the number of toes on my left foot is not all that bright. But given that some are trumpeting the new wave of Christian fiction…well, I had to add my two cents.

I'm a writer; it's what I do.