Sunday, March 23, 2014

Life Can Be Messy

When life is too easy for us, we must beware or we may not be ready to meet the blows which sooner or later come to everyone, rich or poor. (Eleanor Roosevelt)

For the rainbow to appear in the sky, there has to be rain. Storms come in all our lives. Little dashes of rain sometimes and then at other times big floods of sorrow and trouble. We like to think about everything going along smoothly, but most all of us have stepped in a few mud holes as we traversed the roads of our lives.


For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. ~Matthew 5:45 (NKJ)

Life can be messy. Even for believers. Even when you pray diligently and fervently. Accidents still happen. Betrayals still come our way. We still make mistakes. We give in to temptations or our loved ones do. We say something that injures. We do something we shouldn't. We're human. We might wish we were perfect, but we're not. 

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. ~Romans 3:23 (NKJ)

What has me thinking about all this is a review I saw for one of my Heart of Hollyhill books. Can't remember for sure which title now, but the reader was upset about things that happened in the story. The person wasn't specific about what bothered her, but whatever it was she didn't think such things should be in a Christian book. I don't know what offended the reader. I'm not really worried about that or upset that the person didn't like my story. This isn't about an unhappy reviewer. Her comment just got me to thinking about how life can be messy. 

The characters in my stories are generally Christians or are seeking the Lord. But they aren't perfect. They often have messy lives. Just like the real people around me. We get old. We get sick. We see our kids and grandkids make mistakes. We lose our jobs. We slip on ice and end up on crutches. We back our cars into trees or other people back into us. We stub our toes on the roots of temptation. We shoot for the winning goal and miss. We mess up. And if we don't do the messing up, those we love do. That can hurt just as much or even more.

So I'll probably keep writing stories with some things that might offend the gentler reader. And while I never want to upset a reader, I do want to write a story about people who aren't perfect and who sometimes step in a few mud holes while living their stories.

How about you? Have you ever been so disappointed by a book you were reading that you didn't finish the book and/or wrote a bad review? Editors and publishers do generally make sure the books they publish in the Christian market meet certain moral standards. Do you think those standards are getting too loose as my unhappy reader did?  

I'm going to be a guest on The Bookclub Network this week and my publisher is giving away some copies of Summer of Joy. If you're a member of the Bookclub Network, check it out on Tuesday. Easy to join up to take part in the fun each week.




13 comments:

  1. Ann, just recently another author posed the question, "have you ever not finished a book and why" or it was something of that nature. As I told her, I can get through most any book as long as it "grabs" me in the first couple of chapters. The one and only book I put down after reading the first couple of pages was from a favorite author (not a christian writer). Those few pages upset me so much, that I haven't picked up one of his/her books since. It was off base for this writer. I can tolerate quite a bit as a Christian reader, I always have. Since she wasn't specific about what upset her, I can't think of what it might have been. I've read your books and can't think of a single thing that would upset someone so. As you said, "life can be messy" and so often is for people. You continue writing as you do. Be well Ann ~

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have to admit that I have not finished books that didn't catch my interest or that the language or situation was too raw for my taste, Shirley. I used to hate giving up on a book, but then I got older and my to be read stack got taller. I think the reader might have been upset because in my Hollyhill books, the father is divorced. Through no fault of his, but still divorced, and because there's an unwed mother in the story. All things that some might consider inappropriate in Christian fiction. And then there's my talk about Wes being from Jupiter. That might not set well with some readers. I wasn't upset with the reviewer. It just made me think about how life can be.

      Delete
  2. There have been a few times I haven't finished a book for different reasons. Sometimes I pick it up several times and just can't get into it. Then I've tried the same books several months/years later and been fine, so it might just be whatever is going on in my life at the time it just didn't draw me in. The other reason I've dropped books is for too much gore. There was one series that I had heard great reviews on. At first the gore didn't bother me too much, but the more books I read the more intense and graphic the writing became until I decided I was better off just leaving them alone. I haven't read the Heart of Hollyhill books yet, but I can't imagine you have anything truly terrible in them. Perhaps there was something that just hit too close to home for that reader. I would much rather have book characters with realistic lives rather than a fairy tale where everyone lives happily ever after in a world of perfect bliss.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Right, Amy. Sometimes we just aren't in the mood to read certain books. I once got a really awful review from a person who had loved my previous books. I always wondered what made her look at the new story that wasn't all that different from the others I'd written to make her not enjoy the story. And I can't read a lot of gore either. I have read very few Stephen King books even though I think he's a marvelous writer because I don't want to imagine what he wants to make me imagine. My characters in Hollyhill are just ordinary small town people trying to figure out their way in life. Thanks for the encouraging words.

      Delete
    2. P.S. Amy, I put your prize books in the mail today. You should get them before the end of the week.

      Delete
  3. I'll take a book with "real life" characters in it any day over, a fairy tale type book. I love your books and the way you display your characters. Actually my daughter ,my mom and I were discussing your books yesterday and we said we love the way you write and describe your .We even said if we met one of your characters on the street, we think we would recognize them! Oh and I always finish a book that I've started. Some I like better than others but I'll finish all of them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How neat that you were having a family book talk about my books, Lisa. I'll have to share that remark about meeting my characters on the street on my Tuesday mailbag day. That's a great comment. You have me smiling. But I'm not as diligent as you. These days if I don't like a book, I try a different one. Too many books and not enough reading time to read a book I'm not enjoying. Oh, and I put your prize books in the mail today.

      Delete
  4. Hi Ann, I just can't imagine anything in your books being offensive and since the person wasn't specific I don't put much stock in her complaint. When I read a book I usually finish unless there is something PRETTY graphic but I can honestly say that is not the case in any of your books that I've read. Life happens and I don't want a book that glosses over that fact. I don't usually write a review saying a book is bad. I generally can find something that I like about the book. Reviews are subjective and you can't make everyone happy. Hope you have a blessed week. Linda

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wasn't trying to give the reviewer a hard time. She has a right to her opinion and if something bothered her, then it did. Her comment just got me to thinking about how life can be messy and how writers tend to make their characters lives even more messy than most in order to have conflict. I appreciate your kind words about my books, Linda. Reviews are definitely subjective, as you say. Different kinds of stories for different kinds of readers.

      Delete
  5. There have been books I did not finish - usually the characters were not people I liked or the atmosphere was too dark and sad. I do not give bad reviews, if there is a book I do not like, I simply do not write a review. I figure that just as there is more than one flavor of ice cream, there will be books I do not like that someone else will love. Writers work too hard for me to give a scathing review. And finally, unfortunately, no matter how well we try to live, there are pitfalls in life. Bad things happen, we make choices that are not the best, or there is a human being who hurts us. I believe that if we as Christians were promised a perfect life, two things would happen: There would be no one who did not join up to gather a perfect life for themselves, or we would not appreciate the wonderful times in life because we would have nothing to which we could compare. If I remember correctly in the most well known Christian book of all, bad things happened to good people. One of God's favorites made bad choices, he was forgiven and God loved him very well. That is the promise. God will love us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know, Annette, that's probably my number one reason for not liking a book - not being able to like any of the characters. I like having somebody to root for in a story. And I don't like depressing stories that end badly. I've read some of that kind and wished I had picked a different story to read. I'm like you in that I don't want to give a bad review, because as you say, just because I don't like something doesn't mean lots of other people might not like it.

      You have interesting thoughts about everything being perfect. You know that's the kind of life the Shakers that I write about wanted to make in their villages. They thought they could bring heaven down to earth and live perfectly, but of course, they couldn't. Why? Because they were human. And David, a man after God's own heart, did make bad choices and was forgiven and loved as you say. Good lessons from the Bible about the human condition of imperfection.

      Delete
  6. Ann, in the 12 books of yours, that I have read, I have never found anything offensive, you just keep on writing like you have, I love all your books! I agree with Linda McFarland, you can't make everyone happy, some people have their own problems and issues about something,and will write a bad review, but I see it as their problem.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for your encouraging words, Janie, and for reading so many of my books. I do appreciate you. I'm not upset with the review. The reader had a right to say whatever she thought. However, it did get me to thinking about life and the life of my characters. And now I've gotten these cyber hugs of support. So all is good!

      Delete

Thanks for joining the conversation. I like hearing what you have to say. Thanks for dropping by.