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The Afterverse Relaunch: Explaining My New Tagline

 

As you've probably already noticed, one of my changes to this site is the new tagline beneath my logo: “Clean content. Perilous tales.” My previous tagline, “Writing the stories you're looking for,” was good, but…a little too Star-Wars, to be honest. Also, it didn't adequately communicate the unique branding and emphasis of my fiction.

So, how does the new one do that?

As many of you already know, I'm a Christian, but I don't write “Christian” fiction. Yes, there is a Christian worldview reflected in the Afterverse and its underlying mythology, but an explicitly Biblical message is never the overt subject of my books. I don't believe that readers should have to navigate philosophical debates of any kind when they read my fiction. This is one of the reasons why controversial themes involving politics, sexuality, and racial tension do not feature in my stories. There is racial diversity among my characters, but it's not central to the story.

Even though I don't put a Christian label on my books, I still keep my stories very clean and family-friendly, with no profanity, sexual scenes, or gory violence. My stories are often scary and intense, but I don't use graphic content to achieve that. I don't always market my books as “young adult” because few of my main characters are young enough to fit that genre. All the same, I do want adults to be able to share my books with their kids without having to shield them from any objectionable material. Plus, there are many adults (myself included) who enjoy their own reading material more when such content is left out.

I don't believe that “clean” stories have to be “safe”. They're not predictable or boring by definition. Gore, swearing, and sex isn't necessary to keep a reader's interest. The key to that is good storytelling, and nothing more. I don't want to offend my readers, but I do want to make them laugh, gasp in astonishment, hide behind the sofa, and possibly even tear up a little here and there. After all, it's safe to say that most of us read fiction for an emotional experience of some kind, and we speculative fiction for wonder, excitement, and a bit of danger. There's no reason why a book can't have those elements without being unsafe for kids or agenda-driven. Hence, “Clean content, perilous tales.”

There are a few things I want to clarify here. First of all, I'm not dismissing or criticizing Christian writers who choose to either include overt Biblical themes or a certain degree of edgier content in their own stories. There are many great books that fit into these categories. I'm just fulfilling a different part of the market, targeting those who have more stringent guidelines about what they choose to read or who are looking for books to read with kids and young adults.

Second, since it's impossible to cater to everyone's unique, individual sensibilities, I don't expect all readers to agree that my books are sufficiently “clean”. There are those who consider magic in fantasy to be problematic, but I'm not planning to change that aspect of my stories. I personally don't agree that magic should not feature in books written or read by Christians, so long as it's handled properly and doesn't in any way promote real-world witchcraft. And given the wide range of views on content, there are possibly other elements in my books which could rub people the wrong way; things which wouldn't even occur to me. But I choose not to worry about that. The basic definition of “clean” which I adhere to when I write is “no swearing, no sex, and no gore”.

Third, there are some brief, mild instances in the original drafts of my stories which some readers have taken issue with, and which do not feature in the relaunched versions that will be released on October 31. I'm referring to just a few scenes where characters say “Oh my God” or some variation of that phrase. I don't personally consider this to fall outside the realm of clean fiction, but enough people disagree that I've decided to make a change here. These lines can be altered without affecting the stories in any significant way, and most readers probably won't even notice the tweaks. As such, my books will no longer feature misuses of God's name in any way whatsoever.

I think that covers it all. Thanks for bearing with me for this post; I don't normally get this philosophical. It'll be back to business as usual with mythical creatures running amuck from here on out, I promise. If you have any thoughts on the new tagline, feel free to share them in the comments.

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Comments (12)

I take major issue with people who say there can’t even be a hint of anything “not clean” (meaning not absolutely, blindingly pristine) in Christian fiction – which often means it is more boring than literally watching paint dry – as well as with people who claim that Christian fiction is automatically “boring.” One of the best vampire novels I’ve ever read was written by Ted Dekker, without a single swear word or sex scene – and it was about *vampires*. And it was certainly not boring. Nor was it non-Christian – it was all about good vs. evil, and while he didn’t spell out the actual Bible verse he was inspired by, I spotted it easily, and the reference was beautiful and so impactful. Basically this inspired me that not only could Christian fantasy fiction could be done, but that it could be done in a way that would satisfy the “congregation” and reach outside the “expected” audience.

That’s exactly how I’ve felt after reading similar books. Stories like that opened my mind to different ways to write engaging fiction that still glorifies God. The essays I’ve read from Tolkien and Lewis imply perhaps there does need to be some kind of genuine menace, or hardship, or evil in a story in order for it to be truly effective, and I definitely agree with this. Someone–I think it was James Scott Bell–once said that the way to write a good story is to figure out who your protagonist is and then answer the question, “What’s the worst thing that could happen to this person?” I have a hard time getting invested in a story unless there is actually some real conflict involved, and yes, sometimes that does require a story to veer outside the bounds of what certain Christians consider to be “clean”–at least, those who think a story isn’t clean if there’s the slightest hint of blood or danger. Profanity and sex, however, really aren’t necessary.

Yeah, when it comes to how “clean” a story is, this is a sadly controversial topic, and personally I think such a debate is ridiculous. Has anybody who makes this argument actually read the BIBLE, for crying out loud? It is not a book of sunshine and rainbows; there are hardships upon trials upon struggles upon suffering, and violence and peril and bloodshed galore. But these matters are stated as facts, so that we can understand certain situations or lessons, and the more nasty human experiences aren’t glorified or stressed to be an acceptable way to live – quite the opposite. And that is indeed what makes the difference when it comes to fiction that presents a spiritual message, too. Honestly, I’ve found that having no swearing, or even an indication of less than stellar language, when characters are upset or in danger – but you’re right, we don’t *have* to write out really strong terms, especially ones that aren’t considered polite for the general public. I think it speaks towards a sense of decency that used to be prevalent in our society, regardless of the religious demographics in various communities.

*I mean, not having any indication of strong language when characters are upset or in danger isn’t realistic (when will my family learn to leave me alone when I’m typing!!!)*

LOL, no problem. XD Yeah, I agree on the sense of decency thing. And in the end, each person has to make his or her own decisions about the discernment they apply to what they and/or their children read, which is why I have “disclaimers” on my site and elsewhere about not endorsing every word of everything I review. It’s impossible to make everyone happy on this issue. I’ve run into Christians (granted, they were from really weird churches) who made a fuss about the words “darn”, “heck”, and “gosh” (not in my books, but in other media). They said “minced oaths” were still wrong. *eye roll* There are occasionally times when I feel a stronger word would come in really handy to communicate a character’s emotion in a particular moment, but then again, it can be a fun challenge to find other ways to communicate the mood of the scene. I tend to worry more about how violence and/or scary imagery is going to be received, but I haven’t gotten a significant number of
complaints about that stuff so far. Plus, I’ve read children’s books which were wayyyy over the top in that regard, so I think I’m still keeping things relatively tame.

I definitely think the standards for what’s “acceptable” in terms of blood and horror have changed a LOT in a very short time. When I was a teenager, the first R-rated movie I saw shocked me — and its content is considered mild to moderate by many R movies that came out in 2016 and ’17. It really rankles me that the same has happened to children’s media/literature. There are books/films that I won’t let my kids touch with a ten-foot pole, though the “official” status is that it’s “appropriate” for their ages. It’s why I keep my own writing to a very strict set of guidelines when it comes to scenes that require violence, since I decided I want my kids to be able to read their mom’s work — before they’re 21. By the views of many readers/writers/publishers, my books are “too tame” for YA, but I honestly don’t care (because I can sleep at night!).

“I don’t believe that “clean” stories have to be “safe”.” <—PREACH IIIITTTT! I by no means think Christian fiction should be all fluff all the time. I mean, good grief, the Bible isn't exactly all peaches and cream! I am perfectly fine with my Christian fiction getting a little dark. I write that myself.

BUT there is definitely a line. And we DO need some balance between the two. I absolutely LOVE what you do with your books. I have zero qualms with recommending them to people, and if I had children I'd totally be reading these stories to them! And there's not many books I can say that with, especially books that aren't Middle Grade. I love how yours aren't really MG, but not exaaactly YA either. They're absolutely perfect for a broad audience with both some fun, lighthearted scenes but with plenty of in depth plots as well. It's a hole in the literary world that you're totally filling.

ANYWAYS. Allll that to say, I think the new tagline perfectly indicates what you're doing here. I applaud you, sir!

(Oh, and I appreciate you taking out the "Oh my God's". I'm pretty chill about most things, but I'm just not wild about how our culture uses God's sacred name so flippantly these days. Just one of those things that kinda bugs me. It's very nice of you to respect your readers so much that you'd make that change. ^_^)

Thank you!! You’re so kind. I’m very glad you like the new tagline, and that you’re pleased with the little changes I’m making. 😀 Yeah, I have a hard time figuring out how to market my books sometimes, because so many people consider them to be YA, but then there are those who say that YA novels *have* to feature teenage protagonists…it’s a business question I’m still grappling with. XD

I like this explanation! I gotta say, I wasn’t that thrilled when I first read the tagline. It’s a pet peeve of mine when Christian writers go out of their way to brand themselves as ‘clean,’ because it often feels like they equate a lack of questionable content with a Christian message.
But that’s clearly not what you’re doing here- and I like how you emphasize that you’re filling a certain corner of the market. I can definitely get behind that philosophy. Keep up the great work!

Thank you! I really appreciate it. Yeah, I haven’t even liked using the word “clean” with regard to my books in the past, for the reasons you mentioned. But looking at it from a purely business-focused perspective, I realized there was an opportunity I could take advantage of by marketing under that umbrella.

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