Christian Fiction for Boys and Men

If you look at the novels in Christian fiction, you get the impression that Christian males are illiterate. So many of the genres are aimed at women: women’s fiction, contemporary romance, historical romance, amish romance and just to change things up, romantic suspense. As a mother of sons, I was pleased to discover the books by James R. Hannibal, Christian fiction for boys and men. But don’t take my word for it. My oldest is providing his recommendations today for just a few of Mr. Hannibal’s books.

Section 13–Middle grade series

The Lost Property Office, The Fourth Ruby, and The Clockwork Dragon

Jack Buckles is a tracker and member of the Ministry of Trackers. He and his fellow trackers use their special powers to protect the world from ancient artifacts and defeat those who seek to use them.

“I like this series because of the elaborate world-building and the various surprising twists. This is also one the few series with teenage protagonists that I have been able to stand.”

Lightraider Academy–Teen series

Wolf Soldier and Bear Knight

Connor Enarian and his fellow Lightraiders work to defeat the evil dragons who intend to enslave humanity and conquer the world of Dastan.

“I like this series because of the complex plots and well-developed world as well as the Christian themes it contains. I was able to make connections between the themes and my Bible study in youth group. This is also one the few series with teenage protagonists that I can stand.”

Talia Inger Novels–Adult series

The Gryphon Heist and Chasing the White Lion

Talia Inger and Eddie Gupta are CIA agents. Together with a mysterious man named Adam Tyler, they recruit a team of elite thieves to commit a high stakes heist with the fate of America hanging in the balance.

“I like this series because of the very complex plots as well as the surprising twists the books contain. These keep the reader wanting to know what happens next.”

Elysium Tide–Adult standalone

Neurosurgeon Dr. Peter Chesterfield, while on a forced vacation, finds himself entangled in a series of mysterious events related to the growing gangs on the island of Maui.

“This book is excellent because of the unique structure and surprising twists as well as the unique and entertaining characters.”

My oldest is now a one-man, James R. Hannibal fan club. He’s converted two of my nephews into fans and he’s working on his friends at school.

To learn about other Christian fiction authors, click here.

What Christian fiction for men and boys do you recommend?

What Themes Work Best in Christian Fiction?

While reading On Writing (and Writers): A Miscellany of Advice and Opinions by C.S. Lewis, which is a collection of quotes from his writings, I discovered a passage in which Mr. Lewis discusses writing blatant or latent themes in Christian fiction. It got me to thinking about what themes work best in Christian fiction

Blatant Theme or…

“Blatant” means obvious, so Christian fiction with a blatant theme is one that presents itself without any disguises. Francine Rivers’s Redeeming Love is obviously a reworking of the Book of Hosea, set in the American West. The main male character is named Michael Hosea. Christian readers know what to expect.

Latent Theme or…

Latent themes are the ones you have to dig for. Such as the Christian themes in The Lord of the Rings. Gandalf’s death and resurrection mimics Christ’s. The people of Gondor have long expected the return of a king, like the Jewish people awaiting the Messiah.

Both Blatant and Latent Themes

My stories so far fall in this category. On the one hand, my main character and many of her close relatives are Christians. It makes sense for them to discuss problems in light of their faith.

The main character of my YA mystery series is Rae Riley. She’s turning twenty in my next novel, working title A Storm in Summer. She’s still getting to know her father Mal and his family. Tension between Rae and Mal rises when Rae wants to help people in trouble and her father wants her to stay safe. He sees she has a gift for mercy and suggests they both read up on that in their Bibles. This makes sense because they are Christian characters.

But I like working with latent themes much more. In all my Rae Riley mysteries, Rae’s journey to know her father can be seen as a similar journey Christians take to know their Heavenly Father. I don’t have Rae think things like, “Wow. Trusting Dad is as hard as trusting God.” My characters don’t comment on the latent theme. I present it and hope I do it in a way that makes readers think and encourages them to uncover the theme themselves.

That’s something else l like about latent themes. The author gives the readers room to make their own discoveries, rather than spelling out every letter of the theme for them. The reading experience is more meaningful if the author regards readers as partners in the process of unveiling the hidden gems in a story, rather than as students who have to be instructed on the theme.

Preachiness Can Be Found in Secular Fiction Too

I read a YA mystery in the last few years that included in the wrap up a speech from the main character about the case she just solved. She lets readers know exactly how they are supposed to judge the victim and the guilty parties. I wish the author had trusted readers to come to their own conclusions.

What themes works best in Christian fiction in your opinion? Why?

Defining Christian Fiction

Since this month’s theme is Christian fiction, I thought defining Christian fiction would be helpful. Below is my post from last year, explaining the basic elements of the genre. My definition here is based on my own writing process and thinking and the definition used by many professionals in the Christian fiction industry.

Christian Worldview

Many times when I visit a page for a Christian writers group or publisher, they post a list of what they publish or represent. Often this includes they are looking for stories that demonstrate “a Christian worldview.” One publisher I found puts “Evangelical Christian worldview.” Since the Bible is a big book, what does that mean? Below are the basics of that worldview.

  • Theres is a God and He created the universe and all the people in it.
  • Sin is disobedience to God, and it cuts us off from Him.
  • Jesus is God’s son and God himself. His choice to take the punishment for our sins gives us a chance to reconcile with God.
  • When we accept the gift of forgiveness, we spend the rest of our lives learning about God and growing closer to him as well as telling other about the gift.
  • When we die, we go to live with Him forever.

Christian fiction publishers will likely expect more from a manuscript, such as no graphic content, but if at some point, it deviates from the above list, it’s not a Christian worldview.

Two Approaches

As I’ve written in the genre, I’ve discovered two approaches to writing Christian fiction. One is deciding at the outset to that you’re going to write about a Christian theme. Author Francine Rivers took the book of Hosea and moved it to the American West in Redeeming Love. Someone else might want to put a modern spin on the story of Paul. Or construct a plot to demonstrate God’s love or mercy in any genre, whether it’s historical, speculative fiction, or thriller.

The second approach is to write a story with Christian characters, or characters who will become Christian, and see how they handle the situation they are in. This is how I write. I’m a character writer first. I build my main characters and then concoct plots that will test them, develop them, and are a ton of fun to write. My teen detective, Rae Riley, is a Christian because I am and it’s easier for me to imagine how she does life as a Christian. As I write, a Christian theme may emerge. Or I may start with a theme in mind but it has to work naturally with the story. When I wrote “A Rose from the Ashes,” I’d thought the theme was mercy and forgiveness. That’s there, but about 18 months after I wrote it, I realized it was also a spin on the parable of the Prodigal Son.

Clean Reads 

Clean reads are not Christian fiction, although most Christian fiction would qualify as clean reads. What are clean reads? These are stories without graphic sex or violence and little to no bad language, but they don’t have Christian themes or characters. Most cozy mysteries in the secular market could be called clean reads because readers expect the violence and any sex to take place off stage and not described in nitty gritty detail. Sweet romance stories fall into this category too.

If you read or write Christian fiction, how do you define it?

Mixing History and Fantasy, Part 1

I have yet another new author to introduce to you this month. Betty Kulich has a novella in the same anthology my inverse mystery short story “Bovine” appears in, Ohio Trail Mix. Her story, “The Mask”, is genre-bending, mixing history and fantasy. Tell us all about your story, Betty!

How can someone write creative fiction based on historical facts? Good question and one that I had to answer to write a short novella for an anthology assignment for my Ohio Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers. It all started with two independent elements: first, a creative fictional concept of a mask possessing supernatural powers and second, how to link its fantasy with facts about the Ohio Literary Trail. How would I create the connection?

I started by gathering history about various Ohio Literary Trail sites (homes, farms, and estates), and why they were relevant to the Ohio Literary Trail. It took several visits to different locals before I found places and facts that intrigued me enough to write about them. I was always fascinated with the Civil War and loved the romance of the era since I watched the epic cinematic production of Margaret Mitchell’s novel – Gone with the Wind. My research revealed several Ohio Literary Trail locations had ties to the Civil War and the Underground Railroad. With these Ohio historical connectors, a fictional story began to gel in my mind.

The House of Four Pillars in Toledo along the Maumee River intrigued me. The appearance of the home and its architecture spoke Civil War era to me. Internet searches and information from both old newspapers and historical societies documented that the house existed during the Civil War era and had been used as a station for the Underground Railroad. It became easy to imagine a trunk full of long forgotten items in the attic of the House of Four Pillars. An old steamer trunk was perfect for a supernatural mask to rest, maintaining its secrets until the time of revelation for its next heir! Now I had a relevant element to begin weaving a story. The image of a dusty old trunk would transport readers back in time. Now I could begin interspersing history with fictional characters around an intriguing story line that could connect the past to the present—all connected to the supernatural mask. 

My continued research took me to the Harriet Beecher-Stowe house in Cincinnati, followed by a full day trip to Ripley touring the John Rankin House, museum, and the Underground Railroad Museum. These venues provided contextual historical information—details that I could use as the backdrop for my fictional story of a supernatural mask that somehow appeared in Ohio during slavery times. With the historical side of the story line developing, I now had to ponder on how the mask was supernatural, why had it become supernatural, who had created it, and for what purpose? What would happen when the mask was worn?

To learn the answers to these questions, come back next week for the second part of “Mixing History and Fantasy” by Betty Kulich.


Ohio Trail Mix

Ohio is full of literary connections. Libraries, museums, homes of authors, historical sites.Did you know Superman was born in Ohio?Did you know Harriet Beecher Stowe lived in the Cincinnati area?Check out the Ohio Literary Trail, compiled by Ohioana, for more interesting facts.

But before that, we invite you to enjoy some stories inspired by visits to a handful of Ohio Literary Trail sites in the last year. Your imagination might be sparked. Or at the very least, your curiosity!

“Mazza Mystery” by Bettie Boswell: Just who was the woman pretending to be a known artist? Why?

“Bovine” by JPC Allen:  An elitist author comes to a backwater Ohio county, thinking he’s found the perfect setting for the perfect crime.

“Between Semicolons and Plot Twisters” by Rebecca Waters: An author finds more in common with Harriet Beecher Stowe than she ever would have guessed, when modern-day slavery comes close to home.

“The Mask” by Betty Kulich: A gift of true love is passed through the ages.

“Books: Caged and Free” by Michelle L. Levigne: On a moonlit night, old books come to life to share their stories.

BUY LINKS: AmazonGoodreadsYe Olde Dragons Books


Betty Kulich is an ordained pastor and serves as an Associate Pastor with her husband,

Rick of 50 years at Redeemer’s Church, Columbus, Ohio. Betty is the Director of Women’s Ministry for Harvest Preparation International Ministries (HPIM) of Sarasota, Florida for Mexico and Central America. Winner of the 2021 CIPA Book Award for General Fiction (The River & El Rio). Author of The Mask: A Historical Fiction Novella for an anthology based around the Ohio Literary Trail. Devotional author for Guidepost Books & Abundant Books. Winner of the 2020 Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition to being an international speaker & author, she hosts short vlogs on Facebook called “Life Outside the Pages” and a YouTube ministry channel for Hispanic Women. Betty is a certified P.O.W.E.R. speaker through AWSA. Member of AWSA, WW, ACFW, CIPA, Blue Ridge. Connect with Betty on her website, FB page, or contact page.

Step into the Past with Historical Fiction

It’s always a pleasure to introduce a new author to you. To kick off this month’s theme, step into the past with historical fiction and author Gretchen Carlson. Take it away, Gretchen!

What’s your favorite book genre? Fantasy, mystery, western, thriller, romance, science fiction?  I enjoy these, but my favorite (drum roll, please) is Historical Fiction. 

While history books cover facts of what happened, historical novels dig into how events felt. I find it incredible to slip into the past and live history through an author’s characters.   

Author Caroline Wood writes “Historical fiction brings people out of history and sets them beside you at the table—whispering, laughing, and fearful.”

Over and over historical fiction novels become New York Times best-selling novels. Why? 

Readers are more than entertained—they are often inspired. Historical fiction shows the nitty gritty of true life and survival.  

Some authors place fictional characters in a real historical context. Kristin Hannah’s best seller The Nightingale is a story of two sisters in France and the desperate paths they take to survive and combat the Nazis who occupy their country. Using fictional characters, Hannah captures the struggles of women caught in World War II. 

An opposite approach to historical fiction is to research a real person and write their story in a fictionalized account. The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn is based on the true story of a Russian woman who was a deadly sniper during World War II. 

Both approaches require research in order to remain accurate to the historical events and details of the time period. Historical fiction authors must convey authentic living conditions, food, clothing, technology, entertainment, and language for the era of their novel. 

My first historical novel, More Than Grit, is based on my grandmother’s true story which takes place in rural Kansas during the Great Depression. As I outlined my novel, I researched and created a timeline of national and international events for 1939. The website History Skills is one of many online sites that provides links to historical sources of information. Wikipedia is helpful for general information, but I double-checked Wikipedia with other sources to be sure the information was credible. Another valuable source of information is through the Smithsonian, The National Museum of American History

My timeline went beyond major worldwide events and included tidbits about sports, movies, popular books, inventions, cars, fashion, and prices of household items. This gave me a rich layer of details for that era which I wove into the plot. 

For example, “The Wizard of Oz” was the first movie to debut in technicolor in 1939. Desperately poor, my protagonist hears about the jaw-dropping film, but she fears her dreams will never come true, even on the other side of the rainbow. 

To avoid using modern language that doesn’t fit a time period, historical authors keep their nose in The Oxford Dictionary which provides the origin of words. Was the word “pickup” for a truck used in the 1930’s, or did that evolve in the 1940’s? My local librarians at the historical reference desk helped me find the answer through newspaper advertisements. Yes, I could refer to the farmer’s truck as a pickup.

Museums, antique stores, and car shows also gave me hands-on information. I was surprised to see how small a Model A Ford farm truck was, so when I described a family driving to church, they sat cramped and on top of each other. 

Looking for a page turner? Historical fiction breathes life into the dry bones of forgotten history. Step into the past. You won’t be disappointed. 

If you’d like historical fiction book recommendations or writing tips, contact me:

For previous posts on writing historical fiction, click here.


When do secrets become lies? When is grit not enough? 

A story of broken lives and deep friendship, inspired by true events from1939, when the shadows of World War II lengthened. 

Scarred by burns from a kerosene lantern, twelve-year old Sissy knows electricity is more than her farm family’s dream. It’s vital. She also knows they can’t afford the required deposit to be connected to electric lines, so she wrangles a secret deal to help her parents. As she faces danger and sacrifices to support her family, Sissy’s best efforts fail. She’s blind to what she needs most, and when she tells her secrets, she fears it’s too late. 

Set in Kansas farmland, More Than Grit is an unforgettable story of determination to succeed against all odds that will appeal to middle-grade and teen readers, their parents, and anyone who roots for the underdog. Award winning author Gretchen Carlson fills her characters with grit and grace as she shares the story her grandmother kept secret.


Gretchen’s background in journalism and education fed her heartbeat for writing and sharing stories of hope. Her debut novel, More Than Grit, won the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writer’s Genesis award for the young adult category and the 2017 First Impression’s award. Growing up, she spent vacations on her grandparents’ farm in Kansas where she collected memories and heard stories of hard times and strong friendships. Her grandmother waited for decades to share the family secret of how they got electricity, and it was this story that inspired More Than Grit. She is a member of Front Range Christian Fiction Writers, American Christian Fiction Writers, and The Storyteller Squad.She is available and loves interaction with public schools, book clubs, homeschool groups, and readers of all ages. Contact Gretchen: and follow her at




More Than Grit


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