Is There Sex in Christian Fiction?

book coverChristian fiction sometimes has a reputation for being prudish or stuffy. And I suppose it can be. But it can also be passionate, moving, and yes . . . even sexy.

This blog sees occasional spikes in traffic as posts particularly resonate with readers, but most posts fade into anonymity pretty quickly. Except for one. The 2011 post I wrote about sex in Christian fiction STILL gets hits EVERY week.

Which leads me to believe folks are interested in the subject. I was inspired to write the original post after reading a scene in Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz. Here it is:

“He took his time, his mouth moving along the damp wisps of her hairline to her ear. Breathless, she freed his hair of its leather tie till it spilled like a black waterfall onto the thin fabric of her nightshift. Oh, but she’d forgotten how sweet he could be . . . how unerringly gentle, even gallant. She felt like a bride again and shut her eyes, remembering how he’d held her that very first time, beside all that rushing water. Only now, with time against them, it was sweeter still.”

This is a passionate scene between two people who are deeply in love, who long for one another, who are . . . married. And frankly, the fact that they’re married makes this scene even sexier in my opinion.

So how do you incorporate romantic sex while still staying true to expectations for Christian fiction?

  • First, it should be appropriate. As I mentioned, the couple in Laura’s passage is married, which means sex is part of the arrangement. God designed physical intimacy to be a blessing to married couples—let’s celebrate that!
  • Second, all Frantz gives us is kissing, unbound hair, and a thin nightshift. There’s no mention of specific, sex-related body parts or acts. Instead, she hints at what’s happening and leaves readers to fill in details as they choose.
  • And finally, the scene focuses on the mind and the emotions stirred more than the physical act. “How sweet he could be . . . even gallant . . . she felt like a bride again . . . how he’d held her that very first time . . . sweeter still.” Sigh.

I don’t know about you, but I find this MUCH sexier than descriptions of body parts and the actual mechanics of the sex act. There’s nothing scandalous, nothing titillating. Nothing like the romance novels I used to sneak when I was in high school. And I vastly prefer Frantz’s love scenes to those much more explicit ones.

Is there sex in Christian fiction? Absolutely. Just like there’s sex in Christian marriages. Our jobs as writers is to work to return God’s precious gift of physical intimacy to its rightful, holy and blessed place.

And if you need inspiration, read the Song of Songs.

Appalachian Thursday – Walnuts

I’m not really a fan of walnuts and that makes me a little bit sad since they’re such a prolific food source in Appalachia. This year’s crop is, ahem–nuts–which might be a sign of a hard winter ahead. We can hardly walk around the driveway for rolling on walnuts.

I remember being in the Strawberry Festival parade one year, riding on a float dressed in “pioneer” clothing with my parents. To keep us busy and to look vaguely authentic we had a stump, a hammer, and lots of walnuts. Apparently I liked them better back then.

If you have a walnut tree and are wondering how to make use of all those free nuts, here’s what you do:

  1. Put on stout gloves and old clothes.
  2. Gather fallen nuts and process them somewhere you don’t mind getting dirty.
  3. To remove the green husk, roll them under your foot (or car tire) and peel the husk away. If the husk has turned black, you can still remove it and eat the nut, but it won’t taste quite as good.
  4. Dispose of the husks in a spot where you aren’t trying to grow anything. They contain a compound called juglone that inhibits growth.
  5. Rinse the nuts several times to remove any last bits of hull.
  6. Lay out or hang (in a mesh bag) the cleaned nuts to dry. The longer they dry, the more the nutmeat will pull away from the shell and the easier it will be to remove. Start with at least a week.
  7. Shell with a a hammer–tap, tap, tap until the shell cracks. Beware of flying bits of shell which are hard and sharp.
  8. Pick out the nutmeat and enjoy!

The hulls can also be used as a strong, color-fast dye in a rich brown. If you try to husk the nuts without gloves, you’ll found out just how strong and color-fast it is.

 

The Sound of Rain 11.7.17

My wonderful editor sent me an early copy of The Sound of Rain over the weekend. There’s always something special about holding the actual copy. At last, the story I’ve been living with for more than a year is REAL.

This story was inspired, in part, by a tale my great uncle Harry used to tell about being in a mine cave in. So that’s where the novel begins–with Judd Markley trapped in a mine. The part about him having a boot pressed against his cheek is true to Uncle Harry’s story.

If you click below, I’ll read you the opening pages.

And if you want to know whose boot it is–I hope you’ll go out and get a copy of the book when it releases three weeks from tomorrow!

Judd Markley is a hardworking coal miner who rarely thinks much past tomorrow until he loses his brother–and nearly his own life–in a mine cave-in. Vowing never to enter the darkness of a mine again, he leaves all he knows in West Virginia to escape to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It’s 1954, the seaside community is thriving, and Judd soon hires on with a timber company.

Larkin Heyward’s life in Myrtle Beach is uncomplicated, mostly doing volunteer work and dancing at the Pavilion. But she dreams of one day doing more–maybe moving to the hollers of Kentucky to help the poor children of Appalachia. But she’s never even met someone who’s lived there–until she encounters Judd, the newest employee at her father’s timber company.

Drawn together in the wake of a devastating hurricane, Judd and Larkin each seek answers to what tomorrow will bring. As opposition rises against following their divergent dreams, they realize that it may take a miracle for them to be together.

Appalachian Thursday – 10 Things Mothers & Daughters Should Do Together

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Mom and me taking our porch-sitting seriously.

I was winding down the other evening and came across an article link on Facebook with 40 things every mother and daughter should do together. Cool. I clicked. I got about 12 deep and gave it up. Several activities included drinking wine (Mom doesn’t drink). Most were expensive–spa visit, trip to the big city. And some just made me laugh. My mom is SO not doing yoga with me.

So, here’s a list for Appalachian mothers & daughters. Ten things (cause who has TIME for 40?!?) they should do together.

  1. Snap beans or pare apples on the back porch. Ideally, you should have a metal bowl or a dented pie tin for the leavings. And Mom should peel her apples with a paring knife while Daughter uses a vegetable peeler because she’s “modern.”
  2. Make grape jelly. This will begin with picking Concord grapes from the vine and will proceed to a hot stove, a jelly bag, and finally to Mason jar lids happily pinging away. If your fingers aren’t purple, you didn’t do it right.
  3. Pick wildflowers in a meadow. Well, okay, in the edge of the meadow because Dad will holler if you mash down the hay he’s going to cut to feed the cows this coming winter. Arrange your flowers in a Mason jar.
  4. Make a quilt. Warning–this takes a looooong time even if you machine quilt. If you get all Romantic and decided to set up a frame and quilt by hand–hoo boy–we’re talking some serious bonding time for Mother & Daughter.
  5. Go to the swimmin’ hole. You’ll probably have to take the boys with you, too. They can’t resist splashing around in the creek. Take soap (Ivory floats) and shampoo to kill two birds with one stone.
  6. Prepare wild game. My mom taught me how to parboil and fry squirrel, then to make gravy out of the drippings. Yours should, too. If neither of you knows how, find someone who does and learn together!
  7. Go to church. Preferably the same church your grandmother and great-grandmother went to. Sit close to each other and hold hands during the prayers.
  8. Churn butter. They have all kinds of fancy butter churns these days. Mom had a glass one with a crank that turned wooden dashers. After she made the butter she’d spread some on a piece of bread and sprinkle it with sugar for us kids. Soooo good!
  9. Go for a walk. People call it hiking now, but really it’s just tromping around in the woods looking at the trees and the streams and the plants and maybe even the critters. Moms have a knack for finding and pointing out interesting stuff.
  10. Porch sit with a glass of lemonade. This is the time to hash out the meaning of life because mothers and daughters can totally do that. Do this one more than once. Way more. And if you want a glass of wine instead . . . fine by me.

Book Review – These Healing Hills

healing hillsI try to keep up with books set in Appalachia, so I was excited when I saw that fellow Baker Publishing Group author Ann Gabhart was writing a book about the Frontier Nursing Service in Kentucky in the 1940s. These were women who went into remote hills and hollers as nurse-midwives.

Ultimately, These Healing Hills is a sweet story of a healing romance between a jilted nurse and a soldier returning home from WWII. But what utterly charmed me about the story, was Gabhart’s use of Appalachian language and phrasing unique to eastern Kentucky. While there are some commonalities to Appalachia, there are certainly regional quirks. Here are a few Ann uses:

  • Sass patch – Nope, I’ve never heard a garden called that, but I loved learning how native Kentuckians refer to their vegetable patch.
  • Shank’s mare – I want to use this one! It means your own two legs. As in, he traveled by shank’s mare. I looked it up, and it’s of Scottish origin, referring to the bone in the lower part of the leg that was once called the shank.
  • Punishing – Used to mean someone is hurting really bad. A woman in labor is said to be “punishing real bad.” I’d heard it before, but had forgotten it.

It’s the use of language and phrases like this that I think gives Ann’s writing an extra dose of authenticity. She writes Appalachia well because she knows it and loves it–warts and all. I definitely recommend These Healing Hills for a true-to-life peek into an important part of the region’s history. Plus, the story is just plain GOOD!

Appalachian Thursday–Rubber Boots

bootsMud boots, gum boots, rain boots, rubbers, wellies, or, you know, plain ole rubber boots.

I don’t suppose they’re uniquely Appalachian, but they certainly are ubiquitous to every mountain farm I’ve ever set foot upon.

Some evenings, when I’m short for time, instead of taking Thistle for a tromp in the national forest, we simply cross the creek behind the house, follow a critter trail along the water’s edge, and come out in a neighbor’s pasture where we happily trespass. I wear my rubber boots for such excursions for most of the reasons someone invented rubber boots.

  • They keep my feet dry if it’s been raining or is a dewy morning.
  • They’re ideal for crossing creeks that aren’t too high, but lack strategically placed rocks for hopping.
  • They protect against mud and other squishy stuff found in pastures.
  • They keep the poison ivy at bay.

Plus, they make me happy.

There’s just something about clomping through the pasture with my blue jeans tucked into a pair of rubber boots that makes me feel, well, countrified.

Tuesday I donned my boots on a perfect, early-October afternoon for just such a walk. The forest was cool and shady still, the creek gurgled happily along, and the sun slanted throuCreeksidegh the trees into the pasture in a way that made me glad to be alive. A soft breeze played with my hair and Thistle chased squirrels, real and imaginary. Goldenrod nodded in the edge of the field while the birds sang God’s glory.

I have an author photo of myself sitting beside the creek in a dress, wearing rubber boots. That, I think, captures my Appalachian brand and my books. Even fancied up, there’s an element of practicality–of the everyday–that keeps everything grounded. Just like walking in the beauty of the woods and the grasses and the waters in my rubber boots.

Five Weeks Until Release Day!

are Organics(1)The Sound of Rain officially releases on November 7, which means it will likely be available a little earlier than that (it’s often in book stores and on Amazon a week or so early). Which means I’m getting pretty eager to introduce you to Judd and Larkin! As the countdown continues, here’s a graphic I’d be delighted for you to share.

The book also received a four-star review from Romantic Times:

“Thomas is a master storyteller, and her latest novel does not disappoint. Readers are quickly invested in the lives of the characters as their stories unfold. The juxtaposition between Judd (hardworking and a little rough around the edges) and Larkin (a bit spoiled, pristine, and naïve) keeps their relationship interesting. Beautifully written and rich with atmosphere, The Sound of Rain is a novel readers won’t want to miss.” -RT Book Reviews

Sigh. That’ll gladden a writer’s heart!