J. Mark Bertrand


  • J. Mark Bertrand is the author of Back on Murder, Pattern of Wounds, and the forthcoming Nothing to Hide, crime novels featuring Houston homicide detective Roland March. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Houston and lived in the city for fifteen years. After one hurricane too many, he and his wife moved to South Dakota. Mark has been arrested for a crime he didn't commit, was the foreman of a hung jury in Houston, and after relocating served on the jury that acquitted Vinnie Jones of assault. In 1972, he won an honorable mention in a child modeling contest, but pursued writing instead.

Books by Bertrand

Historical Note

  • Write About Now is the successor to my original fiction blog called Notes on Craft. The archive there is still online and dates from March 2004 to September 2007. Feel free to explore it at your leisure.

« A Dialogue with Becky Miller, Part 1 | Main | Thoughts on This Week's Dialogue »

October 09, 2007



Both of you have made insightful comments. Let me add just this. While each writer must have that "freedom to fail", I do think if they think they can reach the lost somehow with a vague reference to God in their so-called Christian worldview writing, they are probably mistaken. The world is filled with vague references to a god not found in Truth. There is no reason to assume a reader with no accurate depiction of who He is will find Him from an obscure hint.

Some writers, however, insist they have no "ministry" in mind with their writing but are certain their worldview will prevail.

Nathan Knapp

Thanks for the thought provoking dialogue, Becky and Mark! Always worth the time.

Rebecca LuElla Miller

Nicole, I agree with you that vague references to God will not bring a reader to Christ, but I don't believe every writer is called to evangelism. Writers that want to spell out the way to salvation--showing a sinner made aware of his sin and then bringing him to a point of repentance--have a huge task. It's a familiar story and fraught with pitfalls. Some few pull it off well.

I think there is more for us to learn about God, however. The thing we seem to neglect is that Jesus came as The Way to God. In other words, Jesus is the beginning, not the end, of the relationship.

One more thing many others have noted. Some writers in writing from their Christian worldview without spelling out the plan of salvation are still doing the grunt work--the weeding and feeding that needs to take place if a vine is to flourish and eventually bear fruit. Can any of us point at another writer's book and say, God won't use that. And if He uses it even in the life of one person, angels in heaven will rejoice. How great is that!

That being said, I still think it is incumbent upon us to write the truth about God, which, in my opinion, is a much harder thing to do than to write the truth about the world. So much emphasis on writing the truth about the world ... so little put on writing the truth about God.



I'll go out on a limb here in light of some of yesterday's comments. Shoo Fly Pie and Chop Shop are two novels written by Tim Downs and produced by Howard Publishing before Simon & Schuster bought them. In the front of Shoo Fly Pie, Howard Publishing printed its mission statement. (The mission statement did not appear in Chop Shop.)

I've read all four of Tim Downs' novels and happen to think he's a good writer. The "Bug Man" books have one of the most exceptional and unique characters I've ever had the pleasure to read about. However, out of his four novels, the only one which even remotely could be "classified" as a "Christian" novel is Plague Maker. The other three could best be described as "agnostic" if we had to find a semi-spiritual qualification.

A lot of people have "fox-hole" prayer times and then when danger or crisis pass, they are no more closer to truly knowing the Lord than they were before they threw up their desperation prayers. Does reading a novel which reflects that same obscure "relational" approach to God enhance their comfort zones of being "okay" in this world?

And if God has given us the ability to write, our relationship with Him will most likely determine how we write our fiction to glorify Him.

Christopher Fisher


As always, half the time I'm right there with you, the other half I'm standing back scratching my head.

You wrote:
"if I were running a publishing company, I would only accept novels that agreed with my theology..."

I was wondering if you could clarify this. Because on the one hand, I'm thinking, "Of course!" If I were the publisher I would not want to print something blatantly anti-Christian. And it's not because I think such a book could in any way damage the cause, but simply because I wouldn't want to be associated with it.

On the other hand... if we aren't talking about rejecting blatant and severe deviations from the traditions of the Church (i.e., heresies) but merely rejecting points of view with which we happen to disagree, then I'd have to say this attitude is a big part of the problem. "Theology" is such a broadly-encompassing term these days, no longer refering to a larger Christian creed but to the countless personal takes on non-essential issues not clearly laid out in scripture. Though I believe you and I share the same faith in Jesus Christ, I'm sure our own personal "theologies" will difer considerably. And for me, or you, to run a publishing house on the standards of our own narrow, limited take on a larger Christianity seems a bit... well, arrogant. The result of such an approach is not a publishing house, but a propaganda mill. Which is, one could argue, exactly what we have in the CBA today.


Excellent discussion and I applaud you, Mark, for this new forum!

I have two quick comments:
1. I think to whom much is given, much is required. Or in other words, those who understand deep scriptural truths are accountable to God (and unfortunately, not to us) to find a way to communicate those truths.

2. I strongly believe that some writers may appear to be writing "fluff" or presenting a light-handed gospel, but they may in fact be used mightily by the Lord to reach people as a first wave, like Becky mentioned, "the weeding and feeding." I think we need to allow fantastic writers to write for ABA and sometimes toss in a Christian reference, and at the same time, allow fantastic writers to write for CBA and not put in a strong reference at all. I believe God can use what we offer Him, when we do it with a pure and completely committed heart.

I think for Christian writers, in any genre, the first essential element is a relationship with God. And I whole-heartedly agree with what has been discussed here today. Spending time in God's word is critical if we want to accurately represent who He is to others.

Jason Joyner

Perhaps this is a timely post per the dialogue above? Of course, it is easy to say what it does in numbered points. The discussion here was a thoughtful wrestling.


Rebecca LuElla Miller

Nicole, I think Merrie has hit upon the point I was trying to make. We really can't answer for other writers, just ourselves. I know what God has called me to. I want with all my heart to show Him in a fresh way that will help Christians and non-Christians alike think about Him anew. It may be a lofty goal, one I'll never attain, but I'll get a lot closer by aiming for it rather than saying it's impossible and not trying. But what if God has directed someone else to write a novel that will prepare the hearts of readers, or even A reader, to be able to hear His call? What if their novel is exactly what the Holy Spirit will use to show readers their own empty life? The point is, we don't know what God has called other writers to write, nor how God intends to use what they write.

My intention is to present an alternative to what some writers THINK will make their fiction more viable. They say the problem with Christian fiction is the restrictions that keep them from showing the world as it is. I want to suggest that we should care as much or more about showing God as He really is--and in the process, we will show the world as it is.

Chris, you have a valid question. I'll give you the long answer. ;-) Recently Chip MacGregor posted a list of trends on his blog. One was more charismatic books, I think he called them. He said 10 years ago CBA stores wouldn't touch them. Now they couldn't survive without them. He may have mentioned Joel Osteen and a few other authors. A friend of mine took issue with the idea that such books "have" to line shelves. I thought it was high time I found out what the fuss was about, so I turned on TBN and watched a sermon--or talk. I even took notes.

Here are a few lines from one of these authors:
"God is limited by your thinking."

[To an auditorium seating thousands] "God was saying this is your season of favor that I'm announcing to you. You're about to enter into a time of ease. You're about to enter into a season of vindication. You're about to enter into a season of increase... I can sense this is my season of favor. I have a feeling down here [pointed to his stomach] That's God talking to your spirit."

He then used the example of Elijah telling Ahab that it would rain when there wasn't a cloud in the sky. "He could sense it down in here" [pointed to his stomach].

"It's good to remind God of what you've done. At the time of difficulty its good to call in your seeds ... Every time you come to church or watch you are storing up mercy ..."

"With our faith we can change God's mind."

[Said of Hezekiah when he was healed after the prophet told him he would die.] "When did his season of favor begin? When he began to believe, when he began to expect God to work."

Chris, this is the kind of false teaching I was thinking of when I said I wouldn't publish books with theology I don't agree with.

"Theology" to me isn't personal preferences or traditions. It is the study of God--His work, His word, His person, His plan.

In a culture that has more and more religious people, matched by more and more false ideas of spirituality, Christians need to become passionate about what matters most. As I see it, that means we should be about telling what we know about God.


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