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The John Grisham of Christian Authors

I want to be the John Grisham of Christian authors. Now…what exactly does that mean? And isn’t John Grisham a Christian? Doesn’t that make John Grisham the John Grisham of Christian authors?

Ok, that’s a lot of questions, so let me break that down bit by bit. First of all, yes, John Grisham professes to be a believer. However, as he writes secular novels, I believe 100% that there is space in the Christian market for a John Grisham-like writer.

Now, what does it mean to be the John Grisham of Christian authors? First, let me discuss what it isn’t. It doesn’t mean that I want to sell 275-300 million copies of my books. I’m not against it, mind you, but it’s not necessary. The truth is, I can’t actually fathom what that looks like, nor can I see myself having so many movie deals. So, what being John Grisham isn’tis being one of the richest and biggest sellers in history. Point of fact, even John Grisham said the meteoric rise in fame and fortune was “unsettling.”

It also isn’t about law and lawyers, though I include them in some of my stories. While they are immensely popular, I don’t have much experience in law or courtroom drama, so that isn’t going to be my main focus.

What I mean by wanting to be the John Grisham of Christian writing is that I want to create crisp plots that move quickly and keep people engaged. I want to be more organized in my fiction, so that when I sit down to write, I know exactly what I want to say. Mostly, it’s about churning out good quality books with concise plot lines, twists only when necessary, and only delving into the human condition when necessary to advance the plot.

Sounds so…un-literary. Well, John talked about that too, and I agree with him. And let me say this about literary writing when it comes to Christian authors: Why? My mission is to use my writing to advance the gospel. I’ll let you in on a little secret about the human condition as it relates to the gospel: Without Jesus Christ, we’re screwed. We’re just too muddied by sin to be of any eternal use without God’s intervention. Ok, side note over. Back to the main point.

As you can see, being the John Grisham of Christian fiction is more about the writing style and production than it is a level of success. I can’t even foresee that level of success anyway, so I need to focus on what I can see: A well-written, concisely-designed plot that keeps readers turning pages. I’d love to have you along on this journey. A great starting place is to sign up for my newsletter.

Books of John’s that I’ve read in the order I think I remember reading them (affiliate links):

The Rainmaker

The Street Lawyer

The Testament

The Broker

The Racketeer

The Rooster Bar (Current Read)

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Death’s Sting

d70s-longline-ll13-108542-hI’ve lived just long enough on this earth to have responded to death in most of the imaginable ways. The recent death of a former shipmate has brought many of those responses back to the forefront. I must deal with them, and so I write.

One way that I’ve never been able to respond to death is with joy. When people say, “They’re in a better place now,” I want to throw something. “Oh death, where is thy sting” trips me up every time I hear it. I feel stung by death, or the thought of death, often, and so I respond by glossing over the words. I recently felt that sting again when my former shipmate, Navy Chief Andrea Washington, died (She’s third from the left in the back row).

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I had the day off on Guam when I found out she was most likely murdered. I drove around the island that day, processing the recent death of a person I hadn’t gotten to know well enough to grieve and found myself grieving anyway. In my last sermon on the ship, Andrea had raised her hand to rededicate her life in Christ. She had always supported my efforts to share Christ on the ship, and I wish I had both shared him more and better taken advantage of her faith while I was stationed with her.

I spent some time remembering how angry I had been when my friend Chris died. It took years for me to get over his death, and even now I feel there are conversations with God I haven’t had yet that I’ll need to have someday before I, too, fall asleep in the Lord.

I’ve learned that hope is a tough thing to have when death arrives. The emotional venting that often takes place saps hope like a suction pump. Yet hope is all I had to work with when my little sister died, just a few short days before her 16th birthday. And it’s all I have now, when I think back to a woman who meant so much to so many on our ship.

Despite all of my confusion and pain, my faith COMPELS me to believe that God is in control. It FORCES me to consider that he is in charge of every situation…that Andrea’s death didn’t catch him by surprise. It fences me in as I struggle through varied emotions. All of them are acceptable as long as they lead me back to the same conclusion: God cares.

I am drawn to the book of Matthew now, even as I was when my sister passed: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

And in this my hope is restored. It is in these verses that my anger, frustration, and confusion melt away in the knowledge that God is sovereign over all things. That he will see to justice, even if we never see it here on earth. That somehow, Andrea, Meghan, Chris, and all of the other deaths I’ve responded to poorly meant something in the grand scheme of things…his grand scheme. It is in these verses that death loses some of it sting. It hurts less when I trust God with my loved ones.

I am humbled by this. And I am grateful.

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A Vision for Writing

Back when blogging was cool (it’s been a few years, I know), the big piece of advice for people starting out was always to find your niche and stick to it. Unfortunately for me, I got into blogging late and I didn’t have a niche. I wanted to write about everything under the sun. Then I started my new website about my published writing and guess what? I don’t have a niche there either.

I’ve been published nearly 20 times since my first article in 2000 (mostly full list here), with most of those articles coming in the last three years. I’ve written about my daughter’s hospital stay, praying for the military, theology, and churches in action. I’ve even written about writing! If that isn’t a wide smattering of topics, I don’t know what is!

What ties almost all of those stories together, however, is an honest desire to see the gospel go out and be fruitful. When I wrote about multisite churches presenting a consistent gospel message in June (read it here), and the accompanying blog post (here), I wrote with the mind that the gospel message is important, so how do I confirm that the God’s word will not return void at these churches?

It’s questions like that that motivate me. I hope they motivate you too. If we, who are believers, begin to ask ourselves if our actions further the gospel, or take away from it, I think we’ll be better off, and so will God’s church. For example, I’ve curtailed my science fiction writing to where it barely exists. Mostly, it’s just for fun now when I’m struggling with writer’s block. Why? Because most of those stories didn’t further the gospel message and bring glory to God. They were neutral, for the most part, and that isn’t good enough anymore. So, even though I had a dream of being a sci-fi writer in addition to my Christian writing, it’s much less of a priority for me now, if it is at all.

I want to hear from you! If you’re a budding writer yourself, if a piece touches you, if a piece angers you, or you just want to reach out, write me at dan@navychristian.org. My writing gets better if I know what people think of it. So don’t hesitate to write me!

Remember, God’s message of salvation is key to just about everything in life. I’m just here to write about it!

Of Nike and Chick-fil-a

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Photo taken from Chick-fil-A site.

Do you remember, in 2012, that all liberals were going to boycott Chick-fil-a? Remember how all of the conservatives went to their local restaurant in droves to support the chain? Fast forward six years and the shoe is on the other foot (see what I did there?). Now the conservatives hate Nike and the liberals can’t heap enough praise on them. Guess what? Nike isn’t going to go down either. Just like Chick-fil-a, supporters will march into those stores and buy Nike shoes like they’re going out of style.

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Photo from Nike as published in USA Today.

News flash, white people don’t buy as many Air Jordans as minorities. Oh, and here’s another newsflash, conservative people love Chick-fil-a and Hobby Lobby. And by conservative people, I mean people like me.

Meanwhile, conservatives get riled up by Colin Kaepernick and liberals hate Trump. Here’s another newsflash…they both love the hate and the love. Both of them, and all of the other people stirring up controversy, get to keep hearing themselves talk.

If I may delve a little more into this current controversy…

Nike paid Kaepernick who knows how much money to be in their ad campaign. That ad campaign will spur shoe sales, undoubtedly buoyed by minorities (my son wears Nike running shoes for cross country, BTW). The ad suggests that Kaepernick gave up “everything” when he began taking a knee during the national anthem.

I wrote a huge post on that protest. I even walked away from football for a while. It was ugly (my brothers and father can tell stories of heated text exchanges). And Colin hasn’t had a football contract since. Now, I was mad at him since he took Alex Smith’s job away from him, so my disdain goes back a ways. Never mind that for now.

A lot of social media attention focuses on whether Nike should have gone with someone like Chris Kyle or Pat Tillman (the NFL connection). It is true that these men, and so many thousands like them, made the ultimate sacrifice. As a career Navy Chief Warrant Officer, I am the first to want to put one of our military folks above an athlete.

But could it be…just could it be…that Colin Kaepernick did actually sacrifice a lot when he started taking a knee? All of the extraneous issues aside, such as whether he started it for the purist of reasons or not, could it be that he did make a sacrifice?

And couldn’t it be that all of those who have given “the ultimate sacrifice” also…well…sacrificed?

I wouldn’t compare Colin Kaepernick to the likes of Rosa Parks and MLK, but I wouldn’t compare my “sacrifice” to that of anyone who passed in the line of duty, whether that was military, police, fire, etc.

And most of all, I hope that good-natured, intelligent folks on both sides of the arguments realize that we have to treat each other with more respect or this is all going to fall apart at some point. I do actually think that America’s future depends on this, though I am encouraged to know that the real America doesn’t exist like the America of Facebook.

I interact with people of many races each day. We have civil conversations and we keep things at a reasonable distance. Real life isn’t the anonymous firefight that Facebook is. I’m grateful for that.

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The Dirty Campaign: One Week till Launch!

The Campaign Cover Draft 4The official launch is still one week away, but blog readers and subscribers can get your copy today! Click HERE now for your free copy!

Political intrigue has overtaken the town of Sunset, Kansas. When protests threaten to close down the town, can the gospel message prevail? Or is it already too late?

From a reader: “When I read a book the story has to grab me within the first few pages. It needs to make me “experience” the characters. THIS BOOK HAS TOTALLY DONE THAT!!!” Christi K, Andover, Kansas.

I’m so excited about the future of this story, the characters, and the setting. I want you to share in my excitement, but I don’t want you to take my word for it. Here is another review from one of my test readers:

“In this short story, Dan highlights some of the tensions experienced by a small-town pastor during election time, causing the reader to think deeply. An excellent read!” Dale Viljoen, Missionary in Japan. 

Sunset, in my mind, might as well be a cross between my hometown of Girard, Kansas, and the other towns nearby. If you’re from Southeast Kansas, or you’re from another rural part of the country, then you know what I mean!

I can’t wait for you to read this story. Click now for your free copy!

My Hopes for The Dirty Campaign

Special note: Sign up at this link to get your free copy of The Dirty Campaign, which will be released on Aug 27th to current subscribers. 

The Campaign Cover Draft 4

I’m just over two weeks from launching The Dirty Campaign. Can you believe it? I’m very excited about this story, which puts the reader in the middle of Sunset, Kansas during the 2018 election cycle.

I have several hopes for this novelette. Some of those hopes are for my writing career and some are for my ministry. Let’s start with the ministry desires.

  1.  I hope I can help people make good political decisions this coming cycle. I can’t know all of your reasons for voting the way you do, and the opposite is obviously true, but I believe I can help you focus your energy on the overall picture through the characters in my story. Each of them has a reason for voting the way they do, just like each of us does, and I hope that by presenting that, I can help you make good decisions in November.
  2. I hope I can help Christians realize that they represent God when they talk about their election choices. One of the minor characters in the book makes things worse because he forgets that he’s an ambassador for Christ instead of a bullhorn for conservative values. We have to be better and I hope we can all use his example to fuel a correct posture toward others.
  3. I hope I can help unbelievers see that politics isn’t a black and white issue, that there are many nuances that we struggle with just as much as they do. I have a lot of friends who are unbelievers. Some are more hostile than others (just like believers can be), and I hope that they can see, should they decide to read this story, that we are multifaceted just as they are.

The Dirty Campaign was written with a couple of career hopes, and I’m going to be upfront in the hopes that you won’t judge me as I do.

  1.  Entertain you. Fiction exists to entertain. Yes, it teaches, encourages, enlightens, convicts, and all the rest, but it exists to entertain. I hope you are entertained by The Dirty Campaign.
  2. Build a subscriber base. Part of offering the story for free in the beginning is to build a subscriber base. I’m very confident that the Sunset series will stick around for a long time, and I want people on board who will be interested in receiving information about the story for years to come! With Facebook, Amazon, Google, and other major social media players changing algorithms, email remains the best way for people to receive updates about the series.
  3. Create fans. My biggest career hope for this story is that it successfully introduces you to the main characters of Sunset and that you fall in love with them. Not my writing, not my tone or style, but with my characters. I want you to love them as much as I love them. This is the first big step in that process.

I would love for you to partner with me on this project, first by downloading and signing up for the Sunset newsletter, and by sharing it with your contacts. I’ll share more about that in a future post.

To get on the list now, sign up here. Your free link for the story will be in your in box the last week of August! You can unsubscribe at any time.

The Dirty Campaign Cover Reveal

Time is flying by the summer. Before long, the upheaval of the mid-term elections will be upon us! It’ll be the only thing Twitter and Facebook will focus on, not to mention the pundits on your television.

But how does it affect small towns across America? That’s the question The Dirty Campaign seeks to answer. I can’t wait to share the novelette with you! Wow! I’m excited!

Ok, it’s coming in September. Are you ready to see the book cover? Scroll down!

The Campaign Cover Draft 4

What do you think? Let me know in the comments! Subscribe here for updates on the story and to find out when you can download it for free!