paraclete press

Books + Stories
If you’re looking for your next novel, enter to win Katherine James’ prize-winning one!
February 27, 2018 at 6:00 am 0

Friends! Books are totally my BFF's.

Kate James's novel, Can You See Anything Now?, is one of those novel BFF's. You will not want to miss it. For forever, I have lamented the sad state of Christian novels -- or most novels that have any Christian storyline. Many don't reckon with real feelings, real people, and real doubts. Kate James' book totally delivers -- it's a book that takes faith seriously with full-bodied, broken and beautiful characters. You won't want to miss it!     Katherine James has an MFA in fiction from Columbia University where she received the Felipe P. De fellowship and taught undergraduate fiction, and while her concentration was in fiction, she enjoys writing poetry and essays just as much. Some of her poetry and narrative non-fiction is published in various anthologies and journals. You can find her at her website, and purchase her book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.  

And I get to give away a copy!!!

I'm switching things up -- all you need to do is COMMENT ON THIS POST TO ENTER.

  Want to know more about Katherine James's debut novel? Did I mention it won the 2018 award at Christianity Today for fiction?! Can You See Anything Now? follows a year in the small town of Trinity where the tragedy and humility of a few reveal the reality of people's motivations and desires. This is a story without veneer, and for readers who prefer reality to sanitized fiction--this book is unsentimental, and yet grace-filled. The characters here are complex and intriguing -- the suicidal painter, Margie, who has been teaching her evangelical neighbor, Etta, how to paint nudes; her husband, the town therapist, who suspects his work helps no one; and their college-aged daughter Noel -- whose roommate, Pixie, joins them at home for a winter holiday, only to fall prey to tragedy.     My take -- (I ate it up in a few days):

Dear reader, if you want a calm, cool, collected veneer of a story this is not it. There's real stuff in her novel: cutting, attempted suicide, curse words. But you know what else there is? There is an honest look at real life as well as a hopeful, redemptive narrative of the lives of men and women (and a town). Go buy this book.


Want in on the process of writing a novel? Kate James was kind enough to answer some questions about the book.

So you wrote a novel. Why? There were certainly moments when I asked myself this very thing—especially when I was a few chapters in and my characters were about as exciting and complicated as astro turf. However, when something I'm working on starts to gain traction and the characters, rather than standing in line waiting their turn to make it to the page, begin splitting off in their own directions to do their quirky things—for example, one guy takes a leak in the middle of a street at midnight, another can't stop applying for a spot on The Cupcake Wars—I honestly start to have a blast. It's fun. I like writing.   What was the inspiration for Can You See Anything Now? It began with an image. There's a lake in the neighborhood I live in now. It's a small lake and I pass it every afternoon when I take a walk. I usually try to pray while I'm walking but sometimes my mind will wander because there’s so much beauty around me. About half a mile into my walk, there's a short bridge that crests at a hill and once over it a valley suddenly appears and you see the lake, like an enormous silvery puddle, before you. There's also a swimming raft in the middle of it. So there it was, the beginning of Can You See Anything Now?    Whats next? Good question. I’ve just completed a memoir, Notes on Orion, so as far as writing goes, I’m in a short stall at the moment. Presently, I’ve enjoyed spending more time teaching and leading writer’s workshops. As far as my next writing project, I have a manila envelope full of notes for another novel. I think a lot about what the general plot will be and what the characters will be like. The novel will take place in Trinity, the town I wrote about in Can You See Anything Now? and includes many of the same characters.

Get yourself a copy on Amazon now.

The opening scene is amazing. Haunting, enigmatic, tersely written.

Enter the giveaway by commenting on the post! Give Kate James some love on social media, too.


Books + Stories
Trees & Wanderers: Sneak Peek of Everbloom! (Jen Pollock Michel)
April 27, 2017 at 5:59 am 0

Do you feel like a wanderer who has yet to put down roots?

What does it look like to trust in a God who promises roots when you don't have any?

How do we long for and look towards home?

  Jen Pollock Michel is the author of Teach Us to Want and the forthcoming, Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home. She is a dear friend, a sharp thinker and writer, and a wife and mother of 5 in Toronto, Canada. If you're looking for thoughtful books that engage your heart and mind, Jen's books fit the bill. Be sure to pre-order her book Keeping Place, and stay tuned because I'm going to have an exclusive interview here on the blog in a few weeks! (Insert all the celebratory emojis!) You can find Jen at her website, Twitter, and Facebook.  

Here's Jen Pollock Michel's excerpt, "The Tamarisk," from Everbloom!

It was dismembered in a morning. Before I had returned from driving my children to school, the crew had assembled. They were severing limbs with alacrity when I arrived. Weeks earlier, when a city arborist had knocked on the front door, conveying they’d “need to take her down to the stump,” I had nodded and feigned sadness. But the truth was: I had no attachment to the diseased tree. Three years in our Toronto rental home was not adequate time for loyalty or grief, not when the future would uproot our expatriate life. Indifference was one luxury of our impermanence. But when the chainsaws were loosed unexpectedly on a gray October morning, my detachment was felled like timber. I was angry that no one had informed us of the scheduled surgery, saddened that no one had insisted on good-byes. When the hard-hatted men broke the tree’s brittle skeleton, I thought in alarm of the picture my youngest daughter had hoped to take. “I want to remember what it looked like.” Before we could devise proper burial rites, the tree was mulched. ... Sometimes we moved for career; sometimes for the dim sense of a call. Usually it had felt right. Always it had seemed necessary. But now that we’ve lived in Toronto for five years and our bureaucratic paperwork has been renewed twice, I’ve begun to grieve the roots we have failed to plant. The children have grown tall and lean. And still— we have no permanent address. I find it immensely hopeful that Abraham, the hero of our faith, might also have been called a wanderer. He was called by God, quite insistently, to leave Haran: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house” (Gen. 12:1 esv). Despite God’s simultaneous promise of a new home, Abraham spent the remainder of his years wandering. His life replayed the same song, like a narrative needle catching a groove. Abraham pitched tents and pulled up stakes. At the time of his death, the only land Abraham owned was the cave of Machpelah, which he had purchased as Sarah’s burial site. Even Abraham’s nephew, Lot, managed more stability than he (that is, before brimstone and fire hailed on Sodom). While Abraham was a man of tents, the author of Genesis notes that Lot’s house—a more permanent structure—had a roof beam (Gen. 19:8). Genesis 12 records God’s sure promise of land and family to Abraham. I’ll give you roots, God said. But if we’re honest, throughout the course of his life, Abraham endured constant threat of instability. ...

Make sure you enter to win your own copy or pick up a few on Amazon! All proceeds go back to Redbud Writers Guild.

Stay tuned for ONE MORE sneak peek this week!

Enter to win a copy here.

Giveaway closes tomorrow!

Books + Stories
Red Lips & Lady Danger: Sneak Peek of Everbloom!
April 26, 2017 at 8:38 am 0

What does it mean to grow up biracial in America?

What does it mean to wear red lipstick and use beauty as rebellion?

What does it mean to be fully made in the image of God and not be a poster child for the white majority?

What does it look like to do it all with grace and fire in your bones?

  Alia Joy is a gorgeous writer and a dear friend. She writes for (in)courage, GraceTable, and the Mudroom, and other various and sundry places around web. You do not want to miss her voice. You can connect with Alia on her website and Twitter.  

Here's an exclusive first peek of her essay in Everbloom:

Red Lips, Holy Rebellion, and Lady Danger

By Alia Joy

Oh, honey, you are much too yellowcomplected for red, plus red draws attention to your teeth. I always tell my customers to work with what they’ve got. For you Orientals, I always say stick with your eyes, they’re so . . . exotic.” She purses her lips at me, her fuchsia lipstick bleeding into the tiny wrinkles along her mouth. She tells me which parts are worthy of being seen and which parts aren’t. I leave the makeup counter with mascara. I spend my twenties wearing colorless ChapStick and lip balm because my teeth don’t line up white and brilliant. I don’t line up white and brilliant. I learn to smile with my mouth pressed shut. When I was a girl, I had never seen an Asian American model. There were no shows featuring prominent Asian American actors. There were hardly any books about Asian American characters. Our leaders were white, our television shows were white, our neighborhood was white. To be white was to belong, to be beautiful, to be someone who could smile with her whole mouth and open it and be heard. But I was just a girl. I hadn’t yet learned that I could own my story, that it could help me become someone. ... These days I don’t listen to the women at the makeup counter. I choose my color. MAC makes my favorite red lipstick. I twist it from the bullet, and it rises up in brazen scarlet and smears across my lips. Lady Danger on my lips is holy rebellion. I smack them together and lean into the mirror. I see all of me. I am a biracial Asian American woman, and I am beautiful; I am worthy of being seen. The strength to believe it is something I fight for every day. These lips were created to speak truth. I’ve got fire on my lips, blazing red. This holy rebellion says, I will be seen. I’m learning to harness my voice even when it strangles in my throat, because these things need saying. ...
You will want to read the rest!!

Pick up a copy today at Amazon, or enter to win my giveaway!