Monday 28 November 2022

Novel Review: The Boy Who Cried Christmas by Dennis Bailey.

The Boy Who Cried Christmas. 

9-year-old Logan Ailshie, the only son of well-to-do parents, was used to getting his way, especially during the holidays. For him, Christmas wasn’t just about making a list but making sure it was long enough. He also had a reputation for embellishing the truth. That is until a chance meeting with an angel on the streets of Manhattan ends with a journey back in time to the birthplace of Christianity. Eventually, he makes his way home with a story that could change all their lives. He only has one problem . . . no one will believe him.

Perspective by Peter: 

I don't have much time nowadays for written reviews so I thought I would try my hand at video reviews. This is my first attempt. The Boy Who Cried Christmas is one heart-warming, moving and tender story. It would be a great start to your Christmas reading. 

If you would like to investigate this novel further, click on the link below: 

Readers and reviews are an author’s best asset, so I encourage any reader, to consider reading The Boy Who Cried Christmas and submit a review on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest (or any other social media you subscribe to).

Reviews help promote an author’s novel to potential readers and encourage the author to keep writing. Reviews also help get the author’s message (and God’s message) to the reader, whether Christian or not, who may need encouragement and support in their lives while being entertained by the story.

Please note: As an Amazon Associate, I am required to disclose that book cover images or titles of novels in this post are paid links if they are linked to Amazon and result in a sale.

Saturday 26 November 2022

Guest Blogger: Fear Not: Why Christians Do Not Need to Avoid Horror by Jess Hanna

Today I am reproducing (with permission) an article published by Christian novelist, Jess Hanna who writes in the genre of Christian Horror.

Wait, what did you say, Christian Horror? Is there such a thing? Is this a genre? This sounds heretical and blasphemous! These have been some of the questions and statements I have had aimed at me from fellow Christians when I stated I read (and reviewed) Christian Horror.

This has always been a controversial and divisive topic in Christian circles. However, when you look at the Bible, there is so much horror contained therein, that there is no basis for the controversy surrounding this topic. It is here that we see the origin of horror.

I always like to know why a novelist writes in the genre(s) they do and the topics they address in their novels. So I was excited when I came across this article by one of my favourite novelists, Jess Hanna.

So without further ado, I will let Jess explain to you why he writes Christian Horror.

Fear Not: Why Christians Do Not Need to Avoid Horror.

Jess Hanna  Post published: October 20, 2022. 
Reading time: 9 mins read.

It feels almost like a cliché to discuss the taboos surrounding Christians writing horror, but perhaps that is only because I have been a Christian horror writer for many years now. To begin, I can tell you that I have never been confronted about my affinity for horror outright, scolded for doing something wrong, counseled about my interest in the supernatural, or called a heretic. I don’t know if it is because some people think these things and don’t say them, or I surround myself with people who are strange, like me. I like to think that perhaps it is because of how I explain why I do what I do when asked about my writing. Then again, some people may just express themselves with passive-aggressive criticism.

I am first and foremost a born-again Christian. Jesus Christ is my Lord and my Savior. I am also an avid fan of the horror and supernatural thriller genres in all formats, including books, movies, television, and even video games. This may seem like a dichotomy to some, but I would argue that the Christian faith is nothing if not supernatural first. The Bible is filled with miraculous healings, dead people coming to life, the blind who can suddenly see, an entire nation of people walking through the Red Sea, the raising of the dead, and Jesus Christ’s own resurrection.

There are also events of a darker nature so terrifying that barely anyone talks about them. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but there are depictions of angels of death, a young boy who cuts off a giant’s head after killing him with a stone (the “children’s” story of David and Goliath), a prophet who consults with a witch, a valley of dry bones rising up to become an army (it was a vision, but it counts), and many other horrors.

Growing up, as a young believer, it never occurred to me to think there was anything wrong with horror until others pointed out that these things may be unhealthy or potentially sinful. That caused me to reflect and examine my motives for consuming horror. Was I simply interested in seeing ghosts terrorize people or serial killers torturing and slicing up their victims, or was there another reason why I was drawn to stories of a dark nature?

As I thought about the topic, I recalled the first scary movie that left a strong impression on me, A Nightmare on Elm Street. This was probably not what I should have been watching as a nine-year-old boy, but my curiosity for unusual stories was already activated, and boy did this film deliver.

Think for a moment about how creative that story truly is. A serial child murderer is burned to death by vengeful parents and comes back to haunt the dreams of their children, continuing his murderous rampage. While the premise is not reality, the very concept was terrifying and gave life to a monster that scarred an entire generation. But do you want to know what interested me in the story? It was not that I wanted to see Freddy Krueger on the screen. He was terrifying! And I certainly did not want to see anyone be horribly killed, although there is plenty of Freddy and killing in the movie. No, I wanted Freddy taken down, for evil to be destroyed by good. I wanted to see Nancy and her friends beat him. I wanted the good guy to win.

The lesson I learned from A Nightmare on Elm Street and of horror, in general, is that evil never sleeps. It also never stops inventing new ways of doing evil. But the clearest message is that, with courage, evil can be defeated and that even in the darkest hour all is not lost.

While I do enjoy horror, I do have my personal limits. I shy away from nihilistic or hopeless horror, or portrayals of torture for its own sake. I also have no interest in graphic portrayals of real-life serial killers (aka the current Dahmer Netflix series). Call it a choice of personal taste. There are plenty of people who have almost no interest in horror but can’t peel themselves away from true crime. I’m not sure how those people justify the distinction between that and horror, but many do.

While I enjoy a wide range of terrifying entertainment, my own personal writing falls into a category I refer to as “redemptive horror.” It is not horror for its own sake. The stories I write have a purpose. Even the squirm-inducing gore and the building sense of dread are crafted for the sake of something greater. I don’t feel the need to shield readers from the ugliness of the world. The Bible does not sanitize the depiction of evil, and neither will I.

Throughout these stories, though, is a light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, one of the aspects of writing in this genre that is particularly challenging to me is depicting the fight between good and evil. As a Christian, I believe that evil can be banished at even the slightest mention of the name of Jesus. This puts me in the position of telling a story from the perspective of those who are without God. It is the only way I feel I can tell an authentic supernatural tale.

Even though I think I can write a scary story, there is no one who can expose the horror of evil like God. In fact, the most terrifying aspect of Christianity is the ultimate exercise in horror for those who do not accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. There is nothing I or anyone could ever write that compares to the torment of hell and separation from God for all eternity. I think it is impossible to capture the breadth of that experience in a way that humans can fully comprehend, even though I tried to do so with my first book, The Road to Hell. Our minds, even the most warped among us, cannot come close to imagining the devastation in store for those who refuse Jesus.

Most importantly, Jesus faced the ultimate horror for us and he did not turn away. He was crucified and took on the full wrath of God for our forgiveness. While he asked his father to take the cup away from him, he did not resist the terror of the cross. No, Jesus faced the full wrath of God and beat death so that we could live.

As with all great horror, the word of God included, there is a persistent thread of redemption woven throughout that appeals to our unconscious acknowledgment of the redemptive salvation we could never earn on our own. My goal in writing is to create vivid descriptions of a lost and dying world, desperate for a savior that it fears will never come, and to contrast that with the glorious light of that promised salvation that comes to rescue the suffering among us who cry out to God.

A common verse often quoted to admonish horror creators and fans is Philippians 4:8 “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” What could fulfill the admonition of this verse more than imagining a crushingly hopeless scenario where all human effort fails to drive out evil, the darkness appears to be winning the fight, certain death is near, and the only true good we will ever know pulls us out from our lowest circumstances without hesitation when we call on Him, welcoming us as friends, brothers, and sisters.

Jesus modeled how we should respond when faced with unfathomable horror. He faced the crucifixion and mortal death with full knowledge of the consequences and did so willingly knowing that God would equip him with the ability to defeat the power of the grave. As followers of Christ, we are the best-equipped people in the world to face the horrors of Satan and all the powers of hell and crush it beneath our feet with the power of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

We do not need to be afraid of the dark. The darkness needs to be afraid of us! And that is why I write horror.

Interested in exploring more redemptive horror, be sure to pick up a copy of Jess Hanna’s The Road to Hell and the brand new sequel, The Road to Redemption, available in paperback and ebook!

Jess is not the only Christian who writes Christian Horror. Thomas Smith is one other that I have read and reviewed. And there are others. Mike Duran is another and he has also written an account supporting Christian Horror. 

I posted about Christian Horror in this blog in 2015. For your interest, the link to that post is below. It is worth reading, especially now that you have read Jess' POV on this topic. Jess' novels are also worth reading and also Something Stirs by Thomas Smith and which is outlined in this post below:

Thomas Smith, Christian Horror -- Is there such a thing? 3rd May 2015.

And another great resource is this podcast from Lorehaven: 

Do Christians Really Need Horror?