Posts made in September, 2014

Recommendation: Anomaly by LeCrae

Posted by on Sep 29, 2014 in Reviews & Recommendations

I am picky when it comes to music. The last full album I purchased was Hans Zimmer’s extraordinary Man of Steel: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, but that was in summer 2013. So, it’s been a minute.

Then I heard that Christian rapper Lecrae was number #1 on Billboard last week–a fact I could not fathom. I knew of LeCrae, and I had a few of his singles–I got love for “Background” and “Hands High”–but even with Christian rappers, I get singles, not albums.

But I wanted to see what cause the fuss, and I listened to the album preview on iTunes. The 90-second glimpses were hit and miss, but I added a few songs to my wishlist. I later discovered that  Reach Records’ Youtube Page has lyric videos for each song, allowing a person to legally sample the entire album if they chose. And I did.

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How are You Living Life Loving Christ When You Talk Movies and Toys?

Posted by on Sep 22, 2014 in Writer's Diary

It’s a fair question but one that nobody has actually asked, which I take as a compliment. The lack of such a direct inquiry implies trust, and I hope that below I prove that trust is well placed.

Yes, of late I’ve been blogging/linking about toys, conventions, films, and updates; but where are the Scripture Memory posts, the sermonesque thoughts, and the reflections on pressing current events

 
Well, the truth is that the last of these three has taken a toll on me emotionally, and the only post I started–particularly gauging the events in Ferguson, MO, felt late and needless given everything else that’s been written (the most telling to me have been here, here, and here—but especially here).
 
As far as anything Sermonesque, well, I am prepping for my first speaking engagement this Saturday, and that’s taken a lot of my “pulpit energies”; my hope is that I can provide the content here in some shape or form after the fact. 
 
And with Scripture memory, my last focused passage was back in July, and this month my Bible reading is reviewing the passages I’ve already memorized as well as diving into 1 Timothy, thanks to the admonition of my local pastor.

So what’s with the pop culture stuff? How in the world does outlining a movie list from this past summer show me living life loving Christ? 
Well, when it comes to films specifically, I still hope to be involved in making one again at some point, and every viewing experience is like a class for me–I feel that a focused effort on a film is a study session for my storytelling, writing, and possible later film endeavors–endeavors that I hope will have “kingdom impact”. 
 
As to the toys, well, the truth is that I committed to Figures.com to give them a monthly article, and I honor God by making good on that promise. 
 
Further, I am working through the “purpose” of my collection. Why am I even bothering with owning all these trinkets? Do they have any spiritual worth? Any kingdom value? In and of themselves, certianly not, they are plastic, but I often wonder, “Can they have kingdom value? Is that even a possibility?” These are real questions with which I wrestle, not to cling to what I own as treasure but rather to see if it is dross in life that can be God-honoring and useful. Time will tell.

Needless to say, I am wholly aware that the blog has looked a lot less Christ-focused, and I own that failure. In truth, I hope to get to a point wherein all of these posts are more intentional in that regard. In fact, I am making plans for 2015 with that end in mind, each day. Again, time will tell. 
 
And in the interim, I will try to do better; the very fact that this post exists is a testament to my failure to do so. Here’s to correcting that as we close out 2014 together in the coming months.

As always, thanks for reading!

 
 
 
 
 
 

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In God’s Image: Author & Publisher : Art Ayris

Posted by on Sep 18, 2014 in In God's Image Interview Series, Interviews

Art Ayris is living my dream. He’s the founder and CEO of Kingstone Media, where he and his team have created some of the best comics with a faith-based message to hit the market. His work has resulted in adaptations of Biblical classics as well as original ideas. The quality of Kingstone’s releases and the success they’ve garnered have enabled to team with studios such as Sony Worldwide while also working with heavy hitters in the evangelical culture like Ravi Zacharias. At the end of the day, Art has led his team to produce a library that is sure to contain something for any comic fan. I have already had the pleasure of reviewing standalone comics retelling the stories of Jonah and Job, as well as the original graphic novels, Book of God and Echoes of Eden; and I look forward to reviewing several more graphic novels from Kingstone this fall.

Art was willing to participate in 3LC’s ongoing “In His Image” series, and I invite you to join me in getting to know Art Ayris, Founder and CEO of Kingstone Media.

 

1. Define yourself in one word (Disciple, Christian, American, Man, etc.)

Creative

 

2. Why do you choose that term?

Reflection and homage to the Creator and a real-time shot of who Kingstone is as well.

 

3.  In two sentences, tell us about Kingstone Media, what you produce and who you see as your audience.

‘Marvel’ and ‘DC Comics’ quality faith-oriented comics and graphic novels. Our initial target was boys 10-14 but we quickly discovered that the swath is much wider than that.

 

4. What is your latest release and what led to its creation?

The Lamb and the Fuhrer, the first graphic novel by Dr. Ravi Zacharias. One of our investors was very passionate to see this project done. It was a great fit for a graphic novel.

 

5. How has the development of Kingstone Mediarequired you to sacrifice?

Time with family and friends, guess we’ll have some sweet times in heaven. I serve as a pastor at a blowing and going church and also run a growing comic book company.

 

6. What is your primary goal as a publisher? How about as an author?

Build faith in the hearts of people and capture their imaginations for the Kingdom. Ditto.

 

7. What is your largest hope for those who engage Kingstone’s products?

That they will share them with the unchurched and then engage them in conversation.

 

8. What are two key ways in which you believe Kingstone Mediabenefits readers today?

One, an outreach resource for churches and Christians to share with unchurched in a safe format to begin investigating Christianity and the Bible.

Two, a resource for kids who are maybe reluctant reader to be able to discover the richness of the Biblical and Christian story.

 

9. How have you seen God’s goodness and faithfulness in your work with Kingstone Media?

Reports of teens in juvenile facilities coming to Christ. God’s supply and provision.

 

10. How can readers learn more about you and your work?

Visit www.kingstonecomics.com
 

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Review: Echoes of Eden: from Kingstone Media

Posted by on Sep 15, 2014 in Reviews & Recommendations

Note: I received a copy of Echoes of Eden in digital format for this review from Kingstone Media.

Echoes of Eden

Written By: Marvin Olasky

Echoes of Eden is a multi-faceted thriller akin to the incredibly successful The DaVinci Code. The graphic novel follows a professor who believes his brother, a celebrity archeologist, may have been murdered by a secret cult once believed to be myth. With the help of a young woman who works with the International Justice Mission, the professor travels across the globe in search of answers.

Echoes of Eden succeeds in regard to the basic beats and rhythms one would expect from a research-thriller; and thanks to adequate art and overall design, the book can be read as quickly as any work of suspense should. On more than one occasion the reader has no idea how the heroes will survive their quest, and one bold story choice at the end gives the book a different type of surprise ending, one that  many conventional thrillers lack.

This final choice withstanding, Echoes of Eden is not necessarily breaking new ground. For most of the work it is serviceable entertainment, but no more so than the thousand similar stories that came before it.

However, it does have two major aspects going for it that other thrillers do not. Echoes of Eden contains a spiritual component wherein the hero’s arrogance is challenged by unexplainable phenomena and an answer to that phenomena in the form of God’s moving. Whereas the average reader will dismiss this dynamic (despite the tendency of readers and moviegoers to blindly accept coincidence or “luck” in these stories), the spiritual reader likely will value the story’s conceits and assertions. The other major aspect is the nature of the content, which is relatively clean for the teenage crowd. Though one panel of violence against a woman is shocking and some of the art feels sexualized (though fully clothed), the overall book is suitable for the 13 and older crowd.

For this reason, I think that Echoes of Eden will work well for a certain type of reader who will enjoy not only the successful thriller conventions but also the spiritual touches. For other readers, I think the experience will be mixed–particularly if they are unwilling to accept the book’s spiritual connective tissue. Regardless, I challenge anyone to predict the book’s final pages, and I certainly applaud it for such an ending.

Echoes if Eden is available in both print and digital formats from Kingstone Media.

Other 3LC reviews of Kingstone Media products:

Job and Jonah standalone issues

Book of God Graphic Novel

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Review: The Trail by Ed Underwood

Posted by on Sep 12, 2014 in Reviews & Recommendations

NOTE: I received a copy of this book from Tyndale House in order to provide a review.

The Trail
by Ed Underwood

 

Pastor Ed Underwood frames a sermon series on finding God’s will into a narrative in The Trail, a novel published in mid-July from Tyndale. The story focuses on a wife, husband, and their weekend mentor as the three characters reflect on their needs to trust in the Lord for guidance and wisdom while they also hike through the wilderness in upstate California. Revelations and heartbreak lead to repentance as the trio seeks to find God amidst the dangers of not only the wild but also human nature.

I will admit at the outset that I felt immediate kinship to the The Trail as soon as I read the summary. I realized quickly that I was getting a creatively packaged sermon more than a novel focused on narrative, and knowing this covered over a few storytelling shortfalls. Given that my second novel, To Retreat From Romance (coming 2015, Lord-willing), is a somewhat similar work to The Trail, I gave it some grace; and in the end found myself enjoying it.

However, the book is not without its issues. For one, the characters do not seem entirely realized in that they speak very little of anything other than their spirituality. Given the amount of time we are told that they spend together, one would think that they would’ve had more conversations about a variety of topics, such as the every day things or ancillary interests that inform their current, respective plights. Additionally, the dialogue seems to be a means of conveying bullet points more than portraying organic conversation. This dynamic creates odd rhythms initially, but I think that some readers will have no problem adjusting to it.

But given that so much of the book is characters talking, the shortcomings in the dialogue make The Trail feel less organic than one might expect.  While the story itself has a sort of “indie film” sensibility, the end result feels very telegraphed.

In its favor, The Trail is a fast read, albeit a longer one then may have been necessary. Because the book’s intentions are quite evident and obvious from the outset, one is forced to accept its conceit (sermon framed as story) or simply dismiss it outright. When judged on its own terms, The Trail works well in what intends to accomplish. As I said, this is a methodology that I myself employed initially for my second novel, so I find the goal to be admirable to some degree and believe it can be done well.

This is the type of book that will appeal to the same evangelical audience that enjoys films such as Fireproof or Facing the Giants–artistic endeavors that may fall short in style and craft but hit viewers within the intended demographic at the core of their souls by touching on the deep matters of their hearts. A market for The Trail exists, and a subset of readers will find it to be exactly what they want (see the other reviews on Amazon). I think Ed is writing to that particular group and has done a fine job doing so, even if it is not entirely successful from a narrative perspective.

Overall I liked The Trail, and I would probably recommend it to several, specific individuals that I think would value its intentions and execution; but I also know that some readers will not get past the pitfalls resulting from the novel’s goals.

But that’s just my opinion. Want to give The Trail a look for yourself; click on the link below:

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