J. Grace Pennington

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An Awesome Black Friday Sale



I know that’s a lame post title, but I wanted to be straightforward and let y’all know what was up so you can take advantage of it!

It’s that time of year. The time for buying presents, making wish lists, and planning New Year’s Resolutions. If any of those activities involve books for you, Indie Christian Authors has a perfect event for you.

From Nov 27 (that’s today!) through Nov 30th, more than 70 independent Christian books, including all five of mine, are on sale. You can find free shipping, $.99 ebooks, package deals, and more! And if your budget is depleted from Christmas shopping, they’ve got you covered with some freebies.

Think 70 books is overwhelming? Narrow it down and find the perfect books for you or someone on your Christmas list by using this quiz to generate a customized book list.

What awesome reads of 2015 are you grateful for? What books are you looking forward to reading in 2016?

A note on the Ebooks Only page. All books are listed as “Sold Out.” This only refers to paperback copies of these titles. Please click onto the product pages to find descriptions and links to discounted or free ebooks.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Leah E. Good for her work organizing this sale, Gloria Repp for completing the time consuming job of uploading book info to the sale website, and Hannah Mills for her fantastic design work on the website graphics. Hannah can be contacted at hmills(at)omorecollege(dot)edu for more information about her design services.

50,000 is a Lot of Words

For those who don’t know, this is National Novel Writing Month. Known affectionately to the initiated as NaNoWriMo. The goal of this venture is the writing of 50,000 words in one month, specifically, the month of November. As I furiously pound out words for the fifth Firmament book, I can’t help thinking back to my previous involvement (or lack thereof) with NaNo.

I first encountered this tradition back in 2010. I decided to participate last minute, but I had no internet access, so it was basically just me and my word processor. No word wars. No pep talks. No writing buddies. (Fellow NaNoers will recognize all these conventions.) It was just me, plugging along through a novel, trying to write more than I’d ever forced myself to write in one month before. I got so far behind I ended up having to write 10,000 words on the last day. Which I did. To this day, I have never written that much in a single day since.

That book went on to become Never, the second novel I published, which many friends think is my best book thus far.

In 2011, I was excited to try it again. I planned out another western, got on the website (I had internet by this time), and was all set to go at midnight on November 1st. The only problem was, I got about 1000 words in and realized that my story was really really boring. I panicked, looked through my scores of novels abandoned before they reached page five, and selected a supernatural thriller called The Devil’s Workshop. I got all of 30,000 words into that one before I had to admit that it too was incredibly boring.

I finally gave up on that one and used the last 19,000 words on Firmament: Machiavellian, becoming what’s known as a “NaNo Rebel” but still technically winning.

In 2012, I again had a story all planned out. Well, sortof all planned out. I had several scenes vividly in mind, of an experimental story where the main characters were versions of people I knew, but raised differently. I wrote the different scenes I had ideas for and again got about 30,000 words out of it before I ran out of ideas (including ideas about how to connect the bits I had left).

So I turned to Firmament again and wrote the first 20,000 words of Reversal Zone, the fourth book. Again, I was reduced to NaNo Rebel status, but I won.

Then there was 2013. I had enthusiastically planned to finish Reversal Zone, and I reached about 27,000 words this time before something happened in my personal life that brought the writing to a halt. Without going into it, suffice it to say several close friends were pulled abruptly from my life, and I grew so discouraged that I just gave up. Something I’ve very rarely done.

I sat by and watched as my younger sister and much younger brother completed NaNo, but it was a long time before I did any writing myself after that.

November 2014 came shortly after another sister ran away from home, and I didn’t have the heart to write for NaNo or much of anything else. I half-heartedly put the finishing touches on Reversal Zone but didn’t try to do more beyond that.

Thus this month, NaNoWriMo 2015, is more than just a writing challenge. It’s about more than just an impressive wordcount or the next novel in the Firmament series. It’s a renewal of my motivation. It’s my way of proving to myself, despite the hard things that have happened, the changes, the losses, and the pain, that I can drum out more than just introspective free verse poetry and be a real writer again. I’ll be honest–beyond a couple of short stories, I haven’t done any serious writing in well over a year. Getting into it again is hard. It’s painful in some ways. But there’s also the joy of wordsmithery, the comfort of revisiting my beloved characters, and that simple feeling of being home.

Here’s hoping that this time, I can keep on until the 50,000th word, stay strong, and not give up. This time, I’m going to make it. This year, I’m going to succeed.

It’s good to be back.

Feedback, Please!

I’ll be posting some thoughts on NaNoWriMo soon, but for now, have a survey! Some of my fellow indie authors and I are trying to gather data for a mega black Friday sale we’re having later this month–looks like there will be at least seventy-one books on sale! Woohoo! Please fill out the survey for us, and start getting excited!

Everybody Lies

It was during the research for Firmament: Machiavellian that I first realized that there was a difference between a godly character and a biblical character. The research in question was reading The Prince by Machiavelli himself. While reading, I had the epiphany that the reason Machiavelli’s ideas were so powerful was his extraordinarily accurate understanding of human nature. Yes, the book definitely shows a man whose priorities are more than a little skewed, but faulty character didn’t seem to translate to faulty ideas.

As I recently mentioned, I’ve been watching the show House, MD. And watching it has driven this point home to me all over again.

On its face, it’s definitely not a Christian show. House himself is a lying, manipulative, self-centered man who cares for no one but himself and doesn’t believe in the existence of goodness or virtue. He consistently objectifies women and does outrageous things just for the purpose of annoying people. His medical ethics are downright illegal, and usually involve him playing god to a level that no one should be able to get away with. And the team he works with is, with a couple of exceptions, almost as equally debauched. They tend to be selfish, immoral, and/or serial adulterers with no moral backbone.

And yet, as I watch, I can’t shake the conviction that it’s actually one of the most biblical recent shows I’ve seen.

A godly character portrays virtue. A biblical character portrays truth. They conform to a biblical worldview which, unfortunately, includes sin and depravity. While a story that portrays evil as good is not biblical, nor is a story that portrays perfection. There is sin in the world, people are deeply flawed, and a story which exemplifies truth will show that.

So here’s what I mean when I call this selfish, immoral jerk a biblical character.

There are two things that make House a brilliant doctor. His incredible intellect, and his deep understanding of human nature. It’s not just his ability to solve puzzles, it’s his understanding of sin and motivation and how they work in a person’s life. He knows what makes us feel guilty and how that makes us react, he knows we are always looking out for ourselves, he knows that everybody lies.

But there’s another layer to this.

House scoffs at virtue and steadfastly denies any meaning to life or the world. But at the end of the day, his own life never can quite match up to his own profession. If there’s no meaning, and if connection and goodness are unnecessary evils, then the lack of meaning, connection, and goodness in his life should not make him miserable–but they do. He’s the most miserable person you’re likely to ever come across. And it’s not just him. Meaningless, casual sex leaves other characters feeling empty. Dishonesty only digs them into deeper holes. Adultery causes their lives to crumble.

Beliefs and actions have consequences.

It’s not a perfect picture, by any means. The show has no condemnation for homosexuality, bisexuality, or monogamous fornication. And while usually trumpeting the value of preserving life, a couple of episodes justify abortion in some circumstances. But overall, I’m always surprised at how accurate the morality–and immorality–is shown to be.

Perhaps most interesting are the handful of episodes that delve into religion. Most of the characters are staunch atheists, but at the end of the day, sometimes they can’t help catching a glimpse of something bigger than themselves. There is the occasional circumstance that simply cannot be explained. There are the patients, few and far between, who slap House’s worldview in the face by being truly courageous, selfless, and forgiving. And there are those poignant moments where even the most committed atheists, staring death in the face, begin to pray–because when medicine finally fails, what other hope is there?

House’s worldview of sin and debauchery may be correct–but it is incomplete. He’s put the world into a tiny selfish box that he intimately understands and can predict and work with. But sometimes–just sometimes–something comes along that doesn’t fit inside the box of human nature. Something that can only be called supernatural. And that’s when he is lost.

And until he looks outside himself and his beloved tangible, scientific facts, he always will be.

Open Letter to TV Producers

Dear producers of my current favorite TV show,

I think there is a misunderstanding between us. I just finished the season finale of your show, and I was deeply bothered by your breach of the unwritten contract between us. As you know, I watch television to see a world that is different from my own. There are portals through which we can see the world we do actually live in. They are called mirrors, public places, and social media. If I wanted to see my actual life, I would have turned to any of these outlets. You should know this. You should know that when I turn on Netflix, I am expecting to see a world where nothing is broken beyond repair. Read the fine print of any standard agreement between content creator and audience member. It’s all there in black and white.

The more I think about it, the more I think I know where you went wrong. You probably heard a lot of us talking about “realism.” You probably, keeping your ear to the ground as you do, heard chatter about wanting honesty and true-to-life plotlines. But I think you forgot one of the basic rules of human nature, which is that people don’t know what they want. There should be a manifest difference between what we watch and what we live. Else what is the point?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against injecting sadness into your show until it runs out our eyes in the form of those particular sorts of tears we reserve mainly for Christmas movies, Hallmark romances, and stories about dogs. That is perfectly acceptable. The problem becomes when you cause us to cry actual real tears–the ones that steadily wear chasms in our hearts that can scar, but not quite heal. The ones that make us feel a lingering weight of unfairness long after the credits roll. Don’t you know the difference?

Life is not fair. Fiction should be. Life is not always meaningful, not in a way that can be detected. Fiction, on the other hand, should always, always have detectable meaning. If someone dies, they must either A) come back to life in some manner, or B) bring about some greater good by their death.

Don’t you understand? We don’t like that aspect of the world. You know, where things can be broken in such a way that they are eternally unfixable. The part of life where problems sometimes can’t be solved. We like our media to be like our math tests–clear answers, always working out in the end in some way. You’re the experts. Why don’t you know this?

It’s almost like you thought, rather than providing an escape from life, entertainment was there to teach us about life. Haven’t you been alive long enough to know yet that people don’t like the world? That we are impossible creatures who want to get what we deserve only when it pleases us, who like to be sad but only just barely long enough to remind us why we like to be happy, who like to be attractive and brilliant and talented without having to work or wait too long for any of it, and who like to always be right but not always be true.

Please try to remember this in the future. To reiterate, the world is a swirling globe of tears continented with broken pieces of joy. Stories should be the other way around. Balls of meaning with sadness sprinkled here and there for dramatic effect.

If you continue to confuse the two, I may have to take my business elsewhere.


~ Unsatisfied

Prompted after a particular season finale of the show House, MD, which was so sad it reminded me of sad things in my life, and got me thinking about how unreasonable we as audiences can be at times.