Why I Emphasize Ministry in my Christian Fiction

I’ve published seven Christian novels and every one of them has one common thread.

The settings include Taiwan, New Zealand, China, Montana, Idaho, and Minneapolis. I’ve lived many of these places, but not all of them.

Two of them are written for pre-teens, two for teens, and three for adults.

Six of them deal with cross-cultural relationships. The one that doesn’t deals with an unbeliever trying to fit into a world of unbelievers.

Six have some connection to missionaries or missionary kids.

But every one of them has a strong connection to ministry. If you read a Deb Brammer book, you’ll read about ministry. Why do all my books have such a strong link to ministry?

Ministry is who I am.

I grew up in a pastor’s family. As a teen I helped my dad start churches. My husband and I have served as missionaries for forty years, first in Taiwan (1980-1996) and now in New Zealand (1998-today.) I not only feel called to ministry. I can’t image being anything else but a fulltime missionary or pastor’s wife.

I feel a strong passion for ministry.

After all God has done for me, why would I want to do anything else? Serving God and others is the main purpose God put us on earth. While it is possible and necessary for non-vocational Christian workers to serve the Lord, there’s no higher calling than serving the Lord in fulltime ministry. It allows us to take part in drawing people to Christ and helping them grow to maturity. Though the Lord doesn’t call everyone to this kind of life, we need more Christian workers. We need to challenge more people toward vocational ministry.

It’s hard to find ministry in Christian fiction.

When you think about it, isn’t that a bit strange? Scan current Christian novels and you’ll find lots of detectives, law enforcement and search and rescue workers, medical and legal professionals, but few pastors and missionaries. For some reason, Christian stories about Amish abound. Lots of characters are involved with house renovation. Christian celebrity protagonists are fairly common. But books about vocational Christian workers are rare.

Don’t Christian workers read fiction too? Wouldn’t they like to find fiction that resonates with their experience? One of my readers, a pastor’s wife, wrote this review of Broken Windows:

Now THIS is Christian fiction. “Broken Windows” is recognizable to me. These are the situations and conversations that I am familiar with. These are the people that I know and love in churches and Christian homes and colleges all over the nation. Deb weaves through her stories an uncanny way to my own issues I’ve dealt with either in the past or right now.

I believe many Christians would enjoy and profit from Christian fiction about characters involved in ministry. So I include ministry in most of my writing.

When you find vocational ministry in Christian fiction, it can be disappointing.

Stories about pastors seem to feature mega-church pastors involved in moral failure or who are in ministry for the power trip. Stories of current day missionaries usually feature some strong social evil like terrorism, slave trade, kidnapping or hostage taking. As if missionary life isn’t worth reading about unless lives are in danger.

I do understand that writing about church life can be tricky when your readers may come from a broad range of backgrounds. No wonder so many authors write historical novels with only one church in town.
I also understand that authors often aim for the most suspenseful stories they can tell, with life-and-death stakes. True-to-life stories about pastors and missionaries don’t usually fit into the suspense genre.

Personally, I yawn at scenes with car chases and blazing guns. I love books with great characters who I can identify with. And though pastors and missionaries all have their flaws, I like to see them presented as good role models.

In my Art Spotlight Mysteries I featured Jordan, whose parents were missionaries. In Broken Windows, the characters were involved in a kid’s Bible club. In Deja Who? Jordan is involved in a Bible study group for Internationals at Minnesota State University. In I Scream the ministry aspect is not as obvious, but the main characters are active in church and reaching out in a personal ministry to Destiny Champion.

I’m currently working on a ministry series that involves ordinary people on a mission field. I can’t really find anything out there that is like it, but I feel some will want to read about characters who are true-to-life missionaries. If you continue to subscribe to this Book Blast, you’ll hear more about that in the future.

Everyone should be involved in ministry as they serve others as a way of serving God.

Ministry is for everyone. I like these books by other authors because of the sense of personal ministry that is strong in them.

Doesn’t She Look Natural by Angela Hunt (Fairlawn Series)

I love this book because in it Jennifer Graham inherits a funeral home, which is a great situation. Though she initially wants to sell it immediately, she finds that running a funeral home can minister to people in a time of great need.

Deception on Sable Hill by Shelley Gray (Chicago World’s Fair Mystery Series)

In this lightly Christian book, rich girl Eloisa hates being in a position where social class defines her and expectations dictate who she can marry. Class expectations sentence her to a life of triviality until she breaks with tradition to work at Hope House, a place where she can make a positive contribution in spite of her social class. She chooses to serve others over serving herself in the privileged lifestyle to which she was born.

Cape Refuge by Terri Blackstock (Cape Refuge Series)

I loved this series because, although it is a mystery series, it deals with people in ministry who make it their business to help people in need.

And now, for my giveaway for this Book Blast:

Truth- Stained Lies by Terri Blackstock (Moonlighters Series)

This well-written mystery features brothers and sisters who come together to find out who killed their sister-in-law. They need to clear their brother’s name and reunite him with a 5-year-old son he has lost in a custody battle. The stakes are high and the resolution is satisfying. It’s a great mystery in its own right, but I especially like it because it deals with forgiveness and serving others. It has a strong Christian message without being preachy.

And the winner is:

Ruth Grosse! Her husband is a pastor in Dillon, Montana. Ruth is an excellent pianist and busy, caring pastor’s wife.

4 Ways to Reach Out to Your Unsaved Husband

  1. Make a list of things about your husband you wish were different.

If there are issues you can’t accept, work to resolve them.

Burn the rest of the list.

  1. Make a list of things about him you’re thankful for.

Thank God for these things.

Then thank your husband.

When things about him bother you, replace those thoughts with things you’re thankful for.

  1. Study your husband.

What foods are his favorites?

What makes him feel loved? (Think love languages.)

What does he like to talk about?

What activities have you enjoyed doing together in the past?

What activities would he enjoy doing by himself or with his friends?

What has he wanted to do for a long time but hasn’t been able to do?

  1. Build Bridges

Use the things you’ve learned about him to find ways to show love for him.

Do something that he would enjoy even if it doesn’t interest you.

Make good memories together. Laugh and have fun.

Make home a pleasant place for him.

Find areas of commonality that you can agree on and talk about.

Bring him into decisions about the kids.

Agree on family rules.

Look for ways to support him.

Show him who God is by reflecting God’s image.

Share the gospel in a positive way as he gives you opportunity.

Be an attractive Christian.

 

 

15 questions a Christian girl should ask before she says, “Yes, I will marry you.”

  1. Is this the man God wants me to marry?
  2. Is he a Christian?
  3. Is he growing as a Christian and becoming a spiritual leader?
  4. Are the things that are most important to me also important to him?
  5. Do we share common goals, dreams, and values?
  6. Do we share similar backgrounds? If not, are we prepared to face the differences?
  7. Are we going the same direction?
  8. Do our personalities work well together?
  9. Have we built a strong friendship together?
  10. Can I trust and respect him?
  11. Are we stronger together than we are apart?
  12. Do our parents and trusted Christian friends approve of our relationship? Why or why not?
  13. Does our relationship make good sense as well as bring us happiness?
  14. Have we given enough time for our relationship to be sure God is leading us into marriage?
  15. Are we both convinced God is leading us into a lifetime relationship?

My Writer’s Journey through the Art World

Instant Winner!

Four times this year I’ll give one blessed Deb’s Book Blast subscriber a free ebook by another Christian author. You don’t have to do anything to be in the draw to win! Being a subscriber to Deb’s Book Blast automatically qualifies you.

My March giveaway features another art mystery by another Christian author. I’ll announce the winner who will receive A Fool and His Monet by Sandra Orchard at the end of this Book Blast. If you don’t win this time, you have three more opportunities to win other Christian ebooks during 2018.

A Writer’s Journey

In this Book Blast I’m going to use the books in my Art Spotlight Mysteries to take you into my writer’s world and show you an example of how authors live their fiction before they write it.

Broken Windows

Early in the plotting process for this first book I chose graffiti as the predominant art form. I figured graffiti would be the ultimate insult to any serious artist. For inspiration I studied the work of Banksy, the foremost graffiti artist on the planet. Then I designed a character, Zaxx, a Banksy copycat, to make Jordan’s life miserable.

Now, even though I gravitate easily to crafts, I’m definitely not an artist. Still, I needed to come up with fictional art to go with my fictional character. I needed very specific graffiti to fit my plot. I didn’t just want to describe the images, I wanted to include real images in my book for the reader to see. Starting with silhouettes I downloaded from the internet, I doctored some images and crafted others, cutting them out of red and black paper. The result was six graffiti images which you can view in the book or on my Pinterest board. My efforts turned me into a copycat artist telling the story of a fictional copycat.

As I sat at my desk in New Zealand, I took a desk chair journey to Boise, Idaho to search for art Jordan would love. It didn’t take me long to find gorgeous sculptures of children by Ann LaRose. I contacted the artist and received her permission to include her pictures of them in my book. After the book was complete (but before an extensive revision), I returned to the States and, in 2011, I actually saw the real statue with my own eyes. I borrowed a broom from a nearby Subway, brushed the leaves from “Keepsies,” and snapped photo after photo of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My research had turned into writing and, in the end, actual on-site experience. It’s sort of a backwards way to experience art, but it makes writing possible from a distant location. In 2018, I was back in the States again. I searched out an Ann LaRose statue in the public library in Loveland, Colorado. Here I am sitting beside “C is for Cat.”

See the graffiti images and Ann LaRose’s statues on my Pinterest board.

Déjà Who?

 The second book in this series is all about real vs. fake. Forgeries and illusions form the art backbone of the plot. I needed a fictional forgery of a real painting, which you read about in the end. More than that, I needed a fictional forgery of a fictional painting by a fictional author. Of course, crafting a likeness of “In the Garden” by Helen M. Brady, or even locating an image to represent it, was way beyond my skill. I leave the reader to imagine it.

Much of the art I describe in the book can be viewed online. My research showed me real Lego reproductions of M. C. Escher drawings which are illusions in themselves. (Like Escher, the Lego artist had to “cheat” a bit to make the image work.) Jordan and Felipe weren’t the only ones who loved these. This author was grinning as she wrote about them in this story.

I did, however, take another backward journey into experiencing the art of Déjà Who? The book would be incomplete without a mention of Minneapolis Institute of the Arts. Here Felipe fell in love with art. Andrew Wyeth’s “Bronco Buster” inspired him to become an artist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Among the illusions in MIA, Jordan found a peculiar exhibit, a historical office filled with real objects that told a fictional story. It was here he met the redheaded Rafael Romero, an FBI agent who himself “fooled the eye.” In 2018, after my book was complete, I saw the “real” painting and exhibit, as you can see from these two photos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I find it a bit surreal to stand for the first time before a work of art about which I’ve already written, described, even pretended to be an expert on. It makes me wonder about the fine line between real, fake, and copied. Writing about it first and discovering it last seems wrong. And yet I praise God for the world that opens up to me now as I sit at my desk in Invercargill, New Zealand. (Invercargill is not quite the end of the world, but not far from it. It’s the southernmost English speaking country in the world and boasts the southernmost Starbucks.)

See amazing illusions from Déjà Who? on this Pinterest board.

I Scream

 As I came near to finishing this third book, I found I had made a near fatal error for my book. I was using the term “abstract art” for what was actually “contemporary art.” In art circles, abstract art is usually considered to be art that separates itself from how something really looks and originates from about 1860 to 1970. Contemporary art is not just current art, but especially applies to edgy art that challenges traditional boundaries and isn’t easy to define. I had written the entire book about abstract art when Destiny Champion’s work was actually contemporary.

Carrie Stuart Parks, forensic artist and award-winning author of the Gwen Marcey Series, helped me sort out the terms and fix the problems in my book. She and another author from ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) gave me valuable input. I am so thankful that the Lord helped me to find my mistake in time and sent art experts who were also writers to help me.

As I was nearly ready to launch I Scream I was sitting in prayer meeting in our sending church in Montana when three words popped in my head. I knew I had the perfect way to celebrate my book launch. Ice Cream Social. This would give local readers a way to taste a bit of writer’s logic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My foray into contemporary art showed me how classic abstract art influenced contemporary artists today. I gained new appreciation for “The Starry Night” by Vincent van Gogh and “The Scream” by Edvard Munch. I found some interesting Paul Klee’s, but I have to admit, I still don’t get anything out of Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings.

I couldn’t stop with merely knowing more about contemporary art, however. I had to produce Destiny’s fictional art. This time I felt only slightly intimidated creating art that was supposedly produced by a very skillful six-year-old.

The first painting by Destiny Champion was a stock photo. For the second I resorted to cutting out another silhouette and pasting it over a stock photo. For the third, however, I started with a blank canvas and a few tubes of acrylic paint. I spent hours ogling Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” blending colors, and trying to figure out how much of what I was doing would be able to be produced by a six-year-old art student. Thankfully, this painting only made it onto the back cover of the book and my Pinterest page. The cover photo, a stock photo altered by a designer, was not intended to reproduce Destiny’s image.

Recently I’ve begun to think about how digital images blur the line between fact and fiction. Today art can be created and displayed without a canvas and paint, paper and ink, or any “real” material you can touch, feel, or smell. In the same way I am witness that some fictional art is real whether it exists only in the mind or it is made of paper or canvas that is created by a real person for fictional purposes. So now I not only write fiction. I paint it as well. And I’m not even an artist!

The writer’s journey gives the author a much deeper experience in the world of her book than the reader will ever get. A writer sometimes sees, touches, smells, hears, and tastes a world before it ever gets passed on to the reader. Some of that book world is real, but an author gets to create some of it herself. It’s one of the joys of writing.

See more about art mentioned in I Scream on this Pinterest board.

Now for the free drawing!

I have randomly picked a winner from my subscribers list to receive the ebook version of A Fool and His Monet by Sandra Orchard. I’ve read the book and found it to be a fun read. Don’t you love her title? Others in this series are: Another Day, Another Dali, and Over Maya Dead Body.

And the winner is (drum roll, please) …  Mary van Everbroek!

I plan to give out three more books this year to subscribers of my Book Blast:

June: Truth Stained Lies by Terri Blackstock,

September: A Cry from the Dust by Carrie Stuart Parks

December: Not in the Heart by Chris Fabry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waiting for Publication

As someone who has published four books with a traditional publisher, and self-published five, I can list many advantages to self-publication:

  • I can publish any book I can write.
  • I’m not dependent on agents and editors.
  • I can bring a book to print faster than with traditional publishers.
  • I can keep a much higher percentage of the sales price of each book.

Of course, there are advantages of going with traditional publishers, too. For one thing, they set a publication date much farther in the future, but they can be assured of publishing on that date. Meanwhile, I had hoped to publish my new book, I Scream, on Thanksgiving weekend. I can see that’s not going to happen. I’m currently waiting on CreateSpace to finalize publication of the paperback version. Then I have to wait for the Kindle conversion.

I Scream Social

(Secret #1: I don’t have a print copy of the book yet. The picture has a cover printed on paper, taped to another author’s book.)

Right now I’m planning an I Scream Social on Sunday afternoon, December 3, our last Sunday in Montana. This will allow some of my readers in area churches one last chance to buy a paperback directly from me at a discount price.  And eat ice cream. If the books haven’t arrived by then, they’ll receive the books soon thereafter.

The good news is the complete Art Spotlight Mystery set should definitely be available for sale by Christmas. Paperbacks will be available at Amazon. Ebooks will be available on Kindle, iBooks, Nook, and Kobo. (Actually they are already available on iBooks, Nook, and Kobo, but let’s keep that as our little secret #2.)

In the meantime we are finishing our time in Montana with Thanksgiving, a harvest dinner, being guests and inviting guests. In 10 days we’re guests for 4 meals and we’re hosts for 3. That involves huckleberry cheesecake. If you’re looking for a good, gluten-free, berry cheesecake recipe for the holidays, here’s mine.