Thursday, November 30, 2006

Research Factoids Can Be Strange

Awhile ago we had a group of friends over for dinner, and as usual, I had a research question for one of the folks. This time I hit up the resident doc. I’d been researching hematology issues—which types of blood from parents can make which types of blood in the children. Due to recessive/dominant issues, for example, two A parents can make an O child (O is the most common blood type), but two Os can’t make an A. Did you know that? I didn’t. How fascinating. (Doc Mabry—I know you’re out there. If you find something wrong with this research, better tell me quick.)

Anyway, I ran this past the doc at our dinner party, who confirmed my research was correct. Another man at the party looked at me and said, “I understand why he knows that, but why on earth should you?”

Because I’m a novelist, that’s why.

It’s amazing the factoids I’ve gathered. I know tidbits on all kinds of things. Sometimes the weirdest of things. All because at one point or another, I’ve needed them in a book. I got to thinkin’ about some of the information I’ve needed and questions I’ve asked of experts for various books. The entire list would take me a week to type, but here’s a few off the top of my head.

1. Do teeth ever float? (dentist question, of course)

2. Who’s present at a C-section? (doc question)

3. The moon phase on a certain night one year in the future, when my book is taking place. (online research. Great web site at:

4. What time the sun will rise/set on a certain day in a certain town a year in the future. (online at: This site also gives moon phases.)

5. What times the tide will go out/come in on a certain beach on a certain day a year in the future. (online:

6. How does strychnine kill you?

7. What would a judge do if he/she heard someone had threatened a jury member?

8. How does a forensic artist recreate a face from a bare skull?

9. How does a detective make a mold of a footprint?

10. How does a mass spectrometer microscope work?

11. What are the exceptions to the hearsay rule in law?

12. What’s the procedure for doing a sweep of a room for bugging devices?

13. What are the various ways to bug a phone?

14. How can you track someone’s whereabouts through their cell phone?

15. How many officers serve on the police force of a town of 1700 people, and how do they run their shifts?

16. How do night vision goggles work, and what are the choices in buying a pair?

17. Does a car rental agency ever make a copy of a renter’s driver’s license?

18. In Idaho, can you tape record a conversation when only one person in that conversation knows it’s being recorded? (Answer: yes. This is not true of many states.)

19. How is Pitocin (drug used to induce labor) administered?

20. How long before a cigarette in a couch burns a house down?

21. What’s the frequency for Oakland, California air space?

22. How do forensic anthropologists determine gender/age from scattered human bones?

23. What’s the procedure for a private adoption?

24. How long before wild animals eat a corpse in the woods?

25. At what stage of development was DNA in 1992?

26. What kind of little wild animal might steal bones?

27. On car dealership lots, where are the keys kept for all the new cars? (Answer: in a lock box on the car. The sales person carries a key to get into the lock boxes.)

28. Are the windows in the parking lot shuttles at a certain airport tinted?

29. Where do out-of-state media get their big news trucks?

30. Under what conditions can a single hair yield useable DNA?

Okay, better stop.

Readers—did you ever stop to think of all the things novelists have to learn just to write one book? Writers—you have some interesting research questions of your own? Lay 'em on me. Who knows, maybe you’ll mention a factoid I'll need to know some day...

TODAY: Jake Tremaine--Big Boy Buck, Part 1

In bow-hunting season this year I decided I'd move my tree stand 'cause it seems Big Boy Buck (B3 for short) is moving over on the west side of the forest near the creek that runs into the lake (well, eventually). I decided to put it in a tree next to the little clearing, figuring old B3 would slip up one these days this season. I get the stand outta the old tree, no problem. Haul it over with my truck that Leslie keeps threatening to send a picture of to "Pimp my truck," whatever in tarnation that is. Get it to the new tree and everything's good. I get it all secure cause I don't wanna be fallin' outta no tree when B3 walks by. I climb up it and notice there's a few branches need to be cut so I can take my shot...

Blour for Landon Snow and the Island of Arcanum

Christian parents are finally offered a true Potter alternative. All the adventure of Harry Potter ... None of the sorcery. Landon Snow and The Island of Arcanum by R.K.Mortenson, published by Barbour Publishing (October 2006). A Landon Snow short story is appearing in Focus on the Family's Clubhouse magazine for kids in December. The story is already online at their Website here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Stranger Than Fiction--The Movie

Okay, who’s seen it? For you writers out there, this a movie that’ll make you laugh. You know, those—Oh, sheesh, I know just what she’s talking about kinda laughs. I laughed louder than anybody else in the theater. I even laughed at places no one else did. You just gotta be a novelist to understand. For you readers, this will give you a little insight as to what it’s like to write fiction day after day.

The movie trailer tells so much of the story, that I won’t be giving anything away here. The novelist—a literary sort played by Emma Thompson—can’t figure out how to kill off her main character. (Yes, she kills them in the end—can you imagine?) She’s having conniption fits because she’s totally stuck and can’t finish the book. She’s “researching” by watching people and trying things and smoking a lot. I don’t smoke, but when I’m stuck, I do wander around my office and talk to myself and generally kick cabinets. Well, the cabinet-kicking is a metaphorical thing, but one of these days ...

At any rate, when the novelist finally decides how to end her book—eureka! She’s euphoric! She got the answer? And how did you finally come by it? asks her assistant. The answer that follows is my favorite quote from the movie:

“As with anything worth writing, it came inexplicably and without method.”

Now I’m not an SOTP (seat of the pants) writer, but I can still identify with that line. In this last book I just finished (Crimson Eve), I hit a place where I didn’t know what to do next. I knew where I had to get my character—just wasn’t sure how to get her there. I kicked cabinets and generally felt miserable for a good number of days. This is the time when my ever-loving husband starts to give me sympathetic looks and pats me on the head.

Then we were on a drive. In fact we were on a drive researching where my character would be driving—my husband behind the wheel while I took copious notes. We stopped at a business—and eureka! There it was. The answer came while my husband, son and a third man were talking. I was sort of standing in the background, not listening to them at all. Listening to the wheels turning in the head. Then—there was the answer! Without thinking I threw up my hands and cried, “I got it!!” All three heads turned my direction. Huh?

How did I get my answer? Heck if I know. As the character in the movie says--inexplicably and without method.

And the idea worked, too. I was able to get over the hump after that, and in a few weeks had finished the book.

Writer BGs—what can I say? We’re strange folk. Reader BGs—hey, if you didn’t have us odd ducks in this world, who’d write the books for you?

TODAY: Bev Trexel--Love at First Sight

... But Angie ... she rattles around that big, old house on Third Street, and while her son's return should help, she's still living alone. She needs a good steady man. Or if not a steady man, at least a good, strong dog. Look at what happened this summer! But no, she still refuses to listen to reason.So this week I took matters into my hands and drove over to the animal shelter in Coeur d'Alene...

Blour for Landon Snow and the Island of Arcanum

Christian parents are finally offered a true Potter alternative. All the adventure of Harry Potter ... None of the sorcery.

Landon Snow and The Island of Arcanum by R.K.Mortenson, published by Barbour Publishing (October 2006).

A Landon Snow short story is appearing in Focus on the Family's Clubhouse magazine for kids in December. The story is already online at their Website here.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

News from the Christy Awards

Very interesting news from the Christy Awards. They will have two new categories for 2007. (1) Young Adult—written for the 12-17 age range, and (2) The “Lits” category, classified as follows: “Light in tone, [Lits] novels are colloquial in voice and culturally relevant, featuring characters struggling with ordinary issues of life. Subgenres include chick lit, mom lit, lad lit, and lady lit.”

The Lits have been around awhile, so it seems to me the Christys’ new category is a reflection of our current CBA marketplace. The young adult category surprises me somewhat. I know this is a much needed genre in CBA. I also know new lines at publishing houses are being developed. But as of yet, doesn’t seem there are many books out there for young adults—at least not in the older age range of 15 and up. Two years from now, there will be many more, however. Good to see this category of the Christys being established now.

The other Christy categories will remain the same: General/Contemporary Fiction (Stand-alone, full-length novels); General/Contemporary Fiction (Sequels, novels in a series and novellas); Historical (including biblical, biographical and western); Romance; Suspense (including mystery); Visionary (including allegory, fantasy, futuristic and science fiction); and First Novel.

Submissions to the Christys are due from publishing houses December 7. Winners will be announced next July during the Christy banquet in Atlanta.

TODAY: Jared Moore--Christmas Season is Here!

Jared here, saying Merry Christmas everybody! It isn't too early to start saying that, is it? If it is, I don't care. One of the best things about writing on this blog is that I don't have to be as politically correct as I do when putting the newspaper together. Here I don't have to do that "inoffensive" Happy Holiday thing ...

Monday, November 27, 2006

Post Thanksgiving

Man, aren’t holidays the best. Hangin’ out with family. Eating. Laughing. Eating. Resting. Eating. Not blogging. Eating.

I typed the last word of Crimson Eve at 11:30 Wednesday night. I was determined to finish before Thanksgiving so I could take the whole weekend off and just be with family—and dadgum, I did. Even if the thing did turn out 10,000 words longer than I expected. I think I wrote and edited about fifty pages those last three days. Wednesday I started around 6:30 a.m. and went until 11:30 p.m.

On Saturday I indulged in a one-hour deep tissue massage on my neck, arms and upper back at a local Coeur d’Alene spa. “Yup,” the masseuse said, “you’re tight all right.” No kidding. My neck felt like iron.

Today I am reading through the manuscript for a final time. It’s all really been edited, so this is the read-through to get the flow of the thing. Then off to the editor it goes. I’ll receive the editorial letter in about a month. Then the fun begins in easing out all the kinks in the story. The books are always so much better after rewrite. I’ve had a chance to get away from the manuscript, so I can see flaws in it by then. And the editor’s insights are invaluable.

So—the weekend. Friday night after Thanksgiving is my favorite night in Coeur d’Alene. It’s the annual holiday parade and light show. First a parade down Sherman Street, with entrants all decked out in Christmas lights. Where else are ya gonna see a lovely cart pulled by llamas with blankets covered in white Christmas lights on their backs? The Red Hot Mamas are doing their dance routine, much like the Fourth of July, but they’re wearing their holiday finery. Floats in lights, cars in lights, back-roading Jeeps in lights. Hey, it’s a cool parade. You just have to dress warmly.

Then it’s across the street to the huge front lawn of the Coeur d’Alene Resort for my favorite part—the holiday light show. The owners of the Resort have been sponsoring this show since 1996. Every year it gets a little bigger. First the crowd (and I do mean crowd—the town turns out) lights candles and listens to Christmas carols, ending in Silent Night. (Isn’t it nice with a town event includes actual Christmas carols.) Then the countdown from 10. When the crowd cries one, Christmas music with a beat blasts out of huge speakers, and fireworks burst into the air.

The fireworks are set off from barges just off the beach and behind the Hagadone building (corporate offices for owners of the resort). I love those fireworks and the music. I clap my hands and dance around and have a terrific time. Embarrass my teenage daughter no end. (You’d think she’d be used to me by now.) When the firework show is over, the 1.5 million lights of the Resort blink on for the first time. Lights on the trees, on the buildings. Scenic displays of lights strung down the lake, with large boats to take folks on cruises to view the displays. This year’s addition was a larger Christmas tree on top of the Hagadone building. Actually, let’s make that the
largest living Christmas tree in the world—161 feet, with a 10-foot star on top. Yeehaw.

I’m always saddened when I walk away from that show. Thinking, “Drat. Three hundred sixty-five days before it comes ’round again.” We were right down front, as close to the fireworks as possible. It was great to turn around and see the huge crowd—all ages. It’s a wonderful holiday tradition for Coeur d’Alene.

Tomorrow—I suppose it's back to posts about writing. Sigh. Meanwhile, I'd love to hear about the Event-to-Remember of your holiday. Pet chihuahua fell into the soup, Mom burned the biscuits, the turkey up and flew away--lay it on me.

TODAY: Angie Brendt--Our Thanksgiving Guest

...Just then Reggie walked in the kitchen and whispered to Melissa, "Aren't you going to come out and meet Milt Waking?"

Darlene said, "Milt Waking? That hot FOX news reporter?!"

I looked at my son and glared in a very un-Thankgivingish way, "Are you trying to tell me that man is in my house?"...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Coeur d'Alene at Thanksgiving

On this day before Thanksgiving, I am practically brain dead, finishing Crimson Eve (third in the Kanner Lake series). We are in our Coeur d'Alene home for the holidays. My wonderful husband has been doing all the food shopping, all the errands and running around while I've been writing. One thing I'm thankful for is an incredible husband!

It looks like fall here, not yet winter. Sometimes we have snow by Thanksgiving, but not this year. The temperature has been very mild--getting up to about 48 degrees.

And so I leave you with some pictures of fall, taken on our property. Trees on various sides of the house, those that have lost leaves and those who boast them all year 'round. Spindly branches waiting to collect snow. And the view from our backyard at sunset. (See why I named the first Kanner Lake book Violet Dawn?)

At Thanksgiving, I am grateful for many, many things. One of the wonderful things in my life are all you BGs. You are my fellow writers, my readers, my partners in crime, my friends. On this Thanksgiving I wish you and your families health and hope and happiness. Most of all I wish you the personal faith and knowledge that whatever happens on this earth--Jesus remains Lord.

And that is truly something to be thankful for.

BGs, I will be back next Monday. Happy Thanksgiving!
TODAY: Sarah Wray--Happy Thanksgiving and Dominoes

As this Thanksgiving is almost upon us, I have to say that being the owner of Simple Pleasures is an enormous blessing for me. My store is a gift from God. It's a beautiful place to visit with old friends when they come in to browse. I've also met plenty of new friends who turn into old friends when they fall in love with Kanner Lake and decide to come back year after year...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

What's Up With Comments?--Part 2

Well. Twenty-three comments on comments. Thanks, all.

Here’s what I gleaned from the discussion, and what I think it all means:

1. In general, folks agree posts that tend to garner the most comments are either controversial or hit on some personal issue with which people can identify—like a confession or a weakness.

2. Lurking ain’t personal. Either Blogger’s acting up, or people are just busy, or they have nothing to say, although they may have enjoyed the post. Sometimes another person has already made the point they would have made. Posts on craft and industry often present a lot of information, and the reader needs to go away and think about it.

3. Some people are typical comment-leavers. They do this to show the blogger they’ve showed up for the day, and because they feel the blogger appreciates the comments (which they appreciate on their own blogs).

These quotes particularly struck me:

“Yours is a regular, daily visit for me, BC, because it's informative, humorous, emotional, and thoughtful.”

Thank you, Nicole. It’s the combination of the four words that stood out to me. These four words seem to sum up the various things readers look for in a blog, whether they choose to comment or not.

Patricia: “I think the more conversational posts get more comments because it's more like having a conversation, even if it is in Cyberspace.”

Kristy: “I like blogs where the author(s) responds. It lets me know the author cares about what his/her commenters say.”

Eden: “It's hard to leave comments if you are not emotionally touched.”

These last three comments touch on what I’ve discovered lately from my own blog reading. Cyberspace has become the new community. It is a place to gather, to reach out to others, especially for those who work alone—like writers—or for folks like moms who stay home with their children. Me—I’m a hermit most of the time. Sometimes I’m in my house for days on end without leaving (except to go jogging). But through the blogosphere I can still converse with friends. And I can make new friends.

Lately I’ve made a concerted effort to do just that. It’s akin to deciding you’ll visit a new church, or attend a neighborhood picnic, or go someplace you’ve never been just to expand your outlook. I’ve followed some links and found a whole community of blogs from Christian moms. This is how I found Susanne’s blog. From hers I found many others. I’ve stopped to leave a comment at numerous sites. It’s my way of reaching out to meet someone new, see a little bit of life that I don’t usually see. (Many of these moms have young children, and I’m beyond that now.) My husband and I are extremely busy. We’re certainly not out partying to make new friends. But I can read blog posts. In this way I can meet a Susanne or an Eden—people who live around the country and who I’d probably never come in contact with, were it not for a little blog surfing.

And so my own behavior on visiting blogs fits with all your comments on yesterday's post. It’s about community. It’s about exchanging thoughts. Expressing opinions. Making new friends. That’s why the “personal type” posts are the ones that get the most comments.

Posts on craft and the writing industry are important—after all, that’s what F&F is all about. I’ll continue those. But these posts won’t tend to receive lots of feedback, for all the reasons already discussed. That’s OK. They’re about information, not conversation. And that makes all the difference.

TODAY: S-Man--Saurian Tech--Karn Light Infantry Gear: Armor

Book Update from S-Man: Nothing like exploding Chihuahua-lizard-like-creatures to make things interesting. I'm in the final chapters of Starfire now. And there has been surprise after surprise cropping up. It seems like every time my fingers start typing one of the characters does something I wasn't expecting! But that just makes things even more exciting. Really can't wait until all of you get to experience this story first hand...

Monday, November 20, 2006

What's Up With Comments?

Those of you who run blogs (and I know you are many)—will you comment on your comments?

I have been following this phenomenon for some time. I swear there’s a sociological book in here somewhere, just waiting to be written. About why some posts garner lots of comments, and others don’t.

Let’s back up a minute. First, I’ve noticed the difference in comments from one blog to another. Granted, usually a blog has more comments because it has more readers. But not always. Some blogs just have chatty readers.
Girls Write Out—now there’s one chatty blog (and fun, too, btw). Those gals over there (well, mostly gals) always have something to comment about. Yet readership of that blog, as I’ve gathered from its writers, is pretty equal to Forensics and Faith.

Here, comments range wildly from day to day, even though readership doesn’t. Sometimes I’m surprised as to what garners comments, and what does not. Take a look at some of the posts from this month, and their number of comments:

My Love Affair With Halloween—NOT (a light look at why I hate the day): 23

Oh, Blogger, Where Art Thou? (a rant on the constant failings of blogger): 17

My Dear Gobdrip (the Haggard scandal, a la Screwtape): 16

New Fave Compliment (short post about a one-liner a fan sent me): 17

Preaching to the Choir (Robin Lee Hatcher guest blog on why she writes what she writes): 18

Not Too Proud A Californian (reacting to the failure in California to pass the parent notification act for abortion): 25

Bestseller Lists, Take 2—Part 1: 6

Bestseller Lists, Take 2—Part 2: 9

Bestseller Lists, Take 2—Part 3: 7

Bestseller Lists, Take 2—Part 4
: 5

Man. Look at the fall-off of comments on that last series. Yet that series took a lot of research for me and probably presented a lot of information that readers did not know. Certainly a lot more information than the Blogger or Halloween posts. The final post alone (Part 4), after all the research, took 2 ½ hours to pull together. (I couldn’t run a blog if I took that kind of time every day.) Yet it garnered the least amount of comments.

The Gobdrip post was popular. My readership nearly doubled that day, due to email links, and generally people telling people to read it. It was a good amount of comments, but they certainly didn’t double, so they actually ended up representing a smaller percentage of readers.

Overall, from looking at many months, it seems the F&F posts that get the most comments are either: controversial topics, my style of rant, or one of my humorous stories. None of which take the longest to write. I have a feeling (at least I’d like to believe) that the various series on craft are appreciated, but they don’t tend to get many comments either. Although they, too, can be buggers to write.

Even in the case of a lot of comments, they still represent a small percentage of total Forensics and Faith readership. Most BGs apparently like maintaining their lurker status. Although some will surface occasionally if the right button is pushed.

So there you have it. I’m still not quite sure what to make of the patterns. I’d love to hear what you’re experiencing on your blogs, or what your thoughts are about the sociology of the issue in general.

Now won’t it be interesting to see how comments this one gets.

TODAY: Bailey Truitt--Feeling Worn

...The cafe needs a good toothbrush-cranny cleaning job. Maybe I'll get Wilbur to pitch in since he spilled his coffee all over the countertop and floor the other morning. Thank goodness he drinks it black. It also happened to douse him a good one in his lap. Never, ever, have I seen Wilbur move quite that fast. The out-of-towner who entered the shop about that time took one look at Wilbur fanning the front of his pants and busted out laughing...

Friday, November 17, 2006

Messy Fiction

I am on the countdown to finishing Crimson Eve, third in the Kanner Lake series. About forty pages left, then one last read-through with some editing. Maybe four days of work.

I have never written a book quite like this. The end is messier than the beginning.

Oh, sure, the suspense plot will be solved. I don’t think readers would be satisfied if I left them hanging. But underlying that plot, this book is really about our past. And how our choices in the past can affect our future. Of course, the past is past, and we can’t change it. But we are creating a past every day by the choices we make in the present. And those choices direct what happens tomorrow.

The problem is, the repercussions of all the events in Crimson Eve are huge. A lot of people’s lives will be shockingly changed, inextricably intertwined. All this will cause major upheaval, months, even years of tears, of soul-searching and regrouping. Sounds like the beginning of a book, right? Nope, this is the resolution.

Well, there’s simply nothing to be done but tie up the suspense ends and leave the rest where it lies. I will infuse hope, of course. I really don’t care to become a darkly minded, existential writer. But there’s no way for this to be a happy, all-is-well ending. All is definitely not well.

But isn’t life like that. And really, that’s the point. That when the past raises an ugly head and bites the present, people suffer--many times people other than just ourselves. Answers and fixes don’t come easy. God can help us through, if we’re willing to let him, but we still face serious debts to pay.

When I was a teenager, a woman said a very wise thing to me: “God will forgive you, but nature won’t.” Nature’s not going to forgive my characters, either.

Sigh. Somehow I have to make this all work. To bring a satisfying conclusion to the suspense, yet depict life in its messy consequences without leaving the reader feeling cheated...

It’s going to be a long four days.

TODAY: Leslie Brymes--New Food Critic in Town

Leslie here. I might have a future as a food critic. I visited a restaurant in Coeur D'Alene recently with one of my friends, and the chef recognized me from the media coverage this past summer. She thought she'd try some new dishes on me and then had the bright idea that I should write out my thoughts so she could review them later and make any necessary changes. I didn't like the sound of it. What if I insulted her by my reaction to the food? And yet I wasn't sure how to refuse without sounding rude. It didn't help that my friend was all for the idea and encouraged the chef to send us any "culinary experiments." My friends are so helpful...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Bestseller Lists, Take 2--Part 4

Here’s the best I can figure as to how secular bestseller lists are put together, according to my research. If anybody out there can add something, or certainly if you see something I’ve gotten wrong, please let us all know. You can’t just go to some site and see all this info. You have to look around and piece bits of data together.

There is no one secular list that covers all data. Each gathers from different sources, and as a result, on any given week, you’ll see different books as #1 on different lists.

The most inclusive data-gathering device is Nielsen’s BookScan, started in 2001. BookScan compiles point-of-sale data, and boasts that it can account for nearly 70 percent of all book sales in the United States. (Some would put this figure closer to 65 percent.) "Point-of-sale" means when a customer in a store buys the book. Each week, participating retailers-- online sellers such as; chains such as Borders, Waldenbooks and Barnes & Noble; independents; and some discounters like Costco and Target--send Nielsen a sales file of data scanned during purchases. However, these places do not report to BookScan: Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, smaller independents, drugstores, supermarkets, and all Christian bookstores. (Obviously, BookScan is therefore not a good source for sales of Christian books.) As you can see, these nonreporters can make a huge difference. For example, a certain kind of book may do real well at Wal-Mart, but those sales won’t be counted.

BookScan data is reportedly very expensive—although nobody’s allowed to say just how expensive. (Secrecy abounds.) BookScan's subscribers are mostly publishers and distributors who use the data for sales and marketing purposes, inventory control, author acquisitions, etc.

But these data are not being used to make most of the bestseller lists. Newspapers and magazines prefer to gather their own data, based on differing criteria.

Periodicals that create their own national lists typically collect data from only a sample of representative stores, then extrapolate that data. Some of these lists are national, some merely regional. An example of the latter is the Los Angeles Times, whose list is based on a sample from about 30 Southern California booksellers. Obviously, what sells in Southern California isn’t necessarily going to be selling equally throughout the country. And even for their regional focus, the LA Times’ extrapolation of data apparently isn’t all that accurate. Steve Wasserman, the Book Review editor at the Los Angeles Times, is on record with the Washington post in saying the Times’ data is a “deeply unscientific … compilation, which has a veneer of a certain kind of science."

USA Today says it uses data from 4,700 sources across the nation, including online bookstores, which many other lists don’t include. This list is different in that it ranks its 50 bestselling titles together, without breaking them into categories. Publishers Weekly lists are based on data from 3,000 chains and independents, which also is then extrapolated. Thing is, no list will tell you how the data are extrapolated, or who their source booksellers are. They say this secrecy is important, so no underhanded author can go to some bookstore that reports data and buy 10,000 copies of his/her own book. Maybe so, but it also leaves a lot of questions as to how these samplings are weighted.

What stores are used can also make a huge difference. Independent bookstores, for example, may tend to sell more literary novels than the chain stores like B&N. This fact is why the San Francisco Chronicle’s list, which uses data from many independents, looks a lot different from other newspapers’ lists.

The New York Times list draws from almost 4,000 bookstores nationwide, plus wholesalers. The NYT divides its best sellers into hardcover and paperback lists and then divides each of these into fiction, nonfiction, and a third category called "Advice, How-To, and Miscellaneous." But the NYT ignores certain types of books altogether. For example, it doesn’t track “primarily religious” titles. (There’s that Christian thing again.)

Here’s the stunning news on how the NYT—the most prestigious bestseller list in the USA—is made. The Times sends a form to bookstores that includes titles they are "tracking" as potential future best sellers. Whoever fills out these forms (perhaps a clerk or assistant manager) records the number of books sold of that title. There’s a place to write in names of books that aren’t on the form. But you have to wonder how many of these folks will take time to do that. The Times says this tracking form is drawn up from information from bookstores, but publishers say they routinely call up the Times to tell them about selling with increasing momentum so that they can be added to the form.

In other words, the NYT list is driven at the very outset—before sales are even recorded—by titles the Times thinks will become bestsellers. This prognostication apparently is derived by the sell-in numbers of a title (how many copies a bookstore buys up front). These sell-in numbers can be supplied by stores and publishers (the latter of which certainly have a vested interested in supplying titles). And what books have high sell-in numbers? Those written by big names, or those with high marketing budgets.

You can see how hard it is for a “regular” book to appear on the NYT. A lot of diligent clerks are going to have to enter its title onto the tracking form. And even then, a spokesperson for independent stores has complained that titles indies write onto the forms are routinely ignored.

Of course, all of these periodical lists merely rank books. They don’t tell how many copies a title sold. (Wouldn’t we all love to see this!)

None of these lists gather data from Christian bookstores, just as Christian bookstores don’t gather data from secular stores. The closest thing to accuracy is BookScan, but most lists don’t use their data. Plus, 70% accurate means almost one-third not accurate. And as I’ve pointed out, BookScan has some huge holes in its gathering of data, (Like our entire industry of stores.)

So. Bottom line, the Christian book industry may have a difficult time with data-gathering and lists, but we’re sure not alone. At least our lists aren’t driven up front by write-in-the-number-sold forms sent to the bookstores. And I don’t think the data are extrapolated, either. Nothing but straight sales, recorded at the cash register. It’s just too bad those stores reporting are such a small number.

These articles were used in researching this post:

The Book Industry’s Bestseller Lists
Making Books (Washington Post)
The Problem with Bestsellers
Book Clubbed
BookScan: Acceptance and Questions Grow (Publishers Weekly)

TODAY: Wilbur Hucks--Longfellow of the Lake

...Before I can open my yap, S-Man hands me a sheet of paper. "Take a look at this."

It was a printout for a poetry contest. Some place I never heard of:
Dragons, Knights and Angels Magazine.

"What, where's your entry?" I asked.

S-Man grabbed the biggie coffee Bailey started pouring when he walked through the door.

"Don't have time to enter, gotta write my book. Thought maybe the Longfellow of the Lake could do something with it..."


Blog tour today through Friday for: Scoop, by Rene Gutteridge. A funny, enjoyable book!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Bestseller Lists, Take 2--Part 3

So some of you aren’t feeling all that hot about the bestseller lists anymore, I see. Having a little more of a tainted view of the things? Darcie asked yesterday (in the comments) if the general market is any better in collecting their data. Afraid not. (More on this tomorrow.)

Julie asked, "Do you know of any plans to get actual sales of books from all (or most) outlets? I'm thinking Walmart, B&N AND Family...all melded into one big sales pot. Would be nice."

I don't see this happening, as Christian booksellers seem to want to control their own data, and of course, they can only use what they're gathering. They'd have to go to an outside source like Bookscan for data in the secular stores. But even Bookscan doesn't get data from big box stores like Walmart (who won't seem to let anyone have their sales data). Neither does Bookscan gather data from Christian stores. So, you see, looks like never the twain shall meet. And no, there is not one entity that gathers all. But we will look at this more tomorrow.

Tina said, “I hate to sound cynical here, but then why do we watch the CBA listing so closely...?”

Because the lists are all we have. Are all the bookstores have, actually. Booksellers want to see what books are moving the most. They tend to use the list to “pull out” the bestsellers—at least those up toward the top—and give them a special display in their stores. In this way, the bestseller list begets publicity, which begets more sales. This is why the lists are important to authors, too.

On Monday, November 6, when the posting of the November lists (other than the Top 50, which was up) was almost a week late, I wrote the good folks at CBA, asking them what was up with this whole situation in general. Here is my letter to them, followed by CBA’s response:
Greetings in Christ:

What's happened to the Nov. bestseller lists? (Other than the Top 50.) This isn't just a short-term question, but also a more general question of what's happening. I have a blog with a good readership in which I try to keep authors/readers updated on various issues in the industry (among discussing many other things), but I'm at a loss to explain what's up. Neither my agent nor even my publisher, Zondervan, can explain.

From what I understand, CBA answered ECPA's STATS with their own data-gathering: CROSS:SCAN. Many booksellers, including all of Family, pulled out of reporting to STATS and began reporting only to CROSS:SCAN, while others reported to both. The ECPA was supposed to replace STATS last May with the new Pubtrack. Am I right so far? I was hoping Pubtrack might provide a compromise that would negate the need for CROSS:SCAN and bring those who jumped ship (like Family) back into the fold. (Now there's an interesting mixed metaphor. :)

However, I see no evidence that Pubtrack ever started. Bestseller lists in Aspiring Retail and on still say the data are coming from STATS. Which means the lists are skewed, because so few booksellers are reporting. For example, a book that's appeared in the Family catalog and had a large promo at the 350 Family stores = nothing for the bestseller list.

Truthfully for us authors, it's all so very frustrating. I understand the data aren't ours--they belong to the booksellers. But may I just say, "I wish we all could get along." The tension between various methods of reporting leaves our industry without a solidly-based bestseller list. Plus we have to wait so long to even see the lists that are generated. Meanwhile these lists, skewed as they may be, are used by booksellers for "bestseller" promotion in their stores. Which is understandable; these lists are all they have to work with on the matter.

I'd love to think that the current slowness in posting all the lists is due to some great change in the wind. ?? But since the Top 50 is listed, seems you'd have to know the rest of the lists.

In our industry, with a formal organization for the booksellers, and one for the publishers, we authors, who produce the product, sometimes are left feeling rather discombobulated. I'd love to really understand this issue, what the plans are for the future of data-gathering and the lists, so I can explain it fairly and accurately to others. I'd really appreciate any time you can give in helping me understand this matter.

Blessings and joy on your journey,

~ Brandilyn Collins

CBA responded:

Hello Brandilyn,

Thank you for your email. I think you hit the nail on the head, as well as could be done as the nail is really doing some dancing currently. (You like my metaphor?) The November lists are posted as of today, I am not sure what caused this delay, and hope it was a one-time occurrence.

You are correct that the situation is currently unclear where the future of CROSS:SCAN, STATS & PubTrack may or may not intersect in the land of data collection and data sharing. CBA is continuing to pursue options that will provide the best overall gathering of data from as many Christian retailers as possible, ensure the protection of this data where necessary, develop tools for Christian retailers to use this important data, and share what we can with the public and industry partners such as authors and publishers.

The best I can say is stay tuned, we should have some more news to report in January during Advance 2007!


Eric Johnson CBA Member Services Manager


Hey, you gotta love a guy who picks up on mixed metaphors.

Bottom line, I don’t know any more than before I wrote the letter. Except that perhaps change is coming. Of course, if I hear stuff about this issue from Advance, I’ll pass it along. (Advance is a yearly convention-like gathering of booksellers and publishers in January. The main, bigger convention for the industry is held in July.)

Tomorrow—wanna hear how the secular lists are put together? Oh, my. Now that’s a tale …

Read Part 4

TODAY: Carla Radling--What Do Your Belongings Say About You?

Here's Carla talking at you. I have this writer friend who lives down in Arizona. I met Jennifer Cary at a hotel in Denver a few years ago. She was there for a writer's conference and I was town for realtor's workshops. Jennifer had such a charismatic personality. I was quite intrigued. I found out she was a teacher and a published author. Before we both left, we decided to exchange e-mail addresses, and have kept in touch ever since.

After visiting her blog, Abundant Blessings, I realized that some of those writer types, while odd, usually have some interesting things to say. (Take our own S-man, for instance.) Recently Jennifer had a post on her blog about
"What our purses say about our personalities." She asked some of her writer friends to display their purses. I thought it was kind of cute. I had no clue who the purses belonged to, so I went back to see the answers this week...


Blog tour today through Friday for: Scoop, by Rene Gutteridge. A funny, enjoyable book!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Bestseller Lists, Take 2--Part 2

So here’s a quick review on data-gathering within Christian publishing. The bestseller lists have been based on STATS—a database compiled and sold by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA). STATS uses ISBN codes to track actual sales to customers at participating bookstores. The number of bookstores reporting to STATS is now down to only about 650. Some stores, including the entire chain of Family Christian—around 350 stores—pulled out of reporting to STATS when the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) came up with their own data-gathering mechanism, called CROSS:SCAN.

Then ECPA, in response to CROSS:SCAN, decided they’d come up with a new mechanism of their own. Last May, ECPA was supposed to scrap its old STATS program for the “newest generation of channel-wide sales collection and interpretation” called
Pubtrack. According to ECPA, Pubtrack “is specifically designed to improve data collection and analysis for both publishers and retailers while simultaneously protecting data integrity and confidentiality.”

The hope was that booksellers who had pulled out of STATS might come back to report to Pubtrack. In this way, gathered data on book sales would be more complete. Bestseller lists would benefit, too, as they would better represent sales.

Only problem—apparently Pubtrack never happened.

If you check bestseller lists now at, you’ll see that every list still states it’s compiled from data gathered through STATS. Which means we’ve still only got those 650 or so stores reporting, including none of Family Christian. As a result, data aren’t always as complete as they should be, and lists can be skewed. I see this with my own books, and I’m sure other authors out there have their own stories. Some times I might benefit; other times I may get knocked.

For example, Violet Dawn showed up in the last position on the current list despite the fact that during September (when data were gathered for the November list) it was heavily promoted in the largest Christian chain. However, that chain was Family—which doesn’t report. Violet Dawn’s Lifeway promotion didn’t start until October. Lifeway does report to STATS, but October sales will be reflected on next month’s (December) list.

At the same time the mass market paperback version of Eyes of Elisha—a one-time 30,000 promotional printing—showed up around #2 in STATS data at the end of the month. (The book was priced el cheapo at ninety-nine cents, and could be bought for that price along with the purchase of any other fiction title.) However, this book is not on the list at all. No doubt someone made an executive decision that a promo at a price this low did not warrant making the list, even though sales numbers would put it there. So, yeah, I lost in that the mass market paperback version of Eyes of Elisha wasn’t included on the list—and it would have been way up there. At that level, it would have been pretty high on the Top 50 list, too. On the other hand, if they had included Eyes of Elisha on the fiction list, it would have knocked Violet Dawn off entirely.

Ya win some, ya lose some.

Tomorrow—Part 3.

Read Part 3
TODAY: Hank and Janet Detcher--The Land of Mao

Occasionally one of our overseas friends will invite us to be a part of their mission. Such was the case this summer when we were invited to participate in a Bibles for China outreach. The trek began on a Wednesday when we flew out of Spokane heading for Hong Kong (via San Francisco, Honolulu and Manila). That was one long trip. In Manila we stayed overnight with missionary friends George and Stacy Barlow. We spent hours reminiscing about our lives together in Bible College. We left Manila the next day and finally arrived in Hong Kong on Saturday. Kurt and May Jansen met us and explained the nature of the Bibles for China outreach. We would join a group of eighteen others to carry the scriptures into the mainland ...

Monday, November 13, 2006

Bestseller List, Take 2--Part 1

Anybody out there notice that the current bestseller list for fiction wasn’t posted until around November 8? It was very late, along with all the other lists, except for the Top 50 list, which was put up around the end of October, as it should have been. Fiction continues to make a good showing on the Top 50 list. The top twelve spots on the fiction list all made it to the Top 50. (The Top 50 list represents all books—other than bibles—sold within the Christian market, both nonfiction and fiction.) Unlike the general market, in the Christian market nonfiction has traditionally outsold fiction by far. But for the last 1 1/2 or so years, I've been watching fiction make a better and better showing on the Top 50.

Remember some months ago when I posted about the bestseller lists, how they’re put together and based on what data? (These posts started May 3, '06.) Data-gathering was supposed to change, but apparently it hasn’t. I asked questions of my agent and my publisher, neither of whom could tell me what’s happening. So I figured—go to the source. I wrote CBA, asking what’s up. Tomorrow my letter, and CBA’s answer. Plus some insider info on the placement of my novel Violet Dawn on this list, and another of my books that should have been on the list, but isn’t.

Sigh. It’s all so very convoluted.

November Fiction Bestseller List (representing sales in the month of September)

(The number in parentheses refers to the title's placement on the Top 50 list.)

1 (3) The Brethren: Beverly Lewis, Bethany House (Baker)

2 (5) Found: Karen Kingsbury, Tyndale

3 (9) Before I Wake: Dee Henderson, Tyndale

4 (18) House: Frank Peretti & Ted Dekker, WestBow (Nelson)

5 (32) Night Light: Terri Blackstock, Zondervan

6 (33) Redeeming Love: Francine Rivers, Multnomah (WaterBrook) (#6 was a tie)

6 (33) The Bishop's Daughter: Wanda Brunstetter, Barbour (Tied with Redeeming Love)

8 (37) Leave a Candle Burning: Lori Wick, Harvest House

9 (39) A Merry Heart: Wanda Brunstetter, Barbour

10 (40) Like Dandelion Dust: Karen Kingsbury, Center Street (Hachette)

11 (45) The Ezekiel Option: Joel Rosenberg, Tyndale

12 (50) The Copper Scroll: Joel Rosenberg, Tyndale

13 The Englisher: Beverly Lewis, Bethany House (Baker)

14 The Last Jihad: Joel Rosenberg, Tyndale

15 The Prophet: Francine Rivers, Tyndale

16 One Tuesday Morning/Beyond Tuesday Morning: Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan

17 Last Light: Terri Blackstock, Zondervan (#17 was a tie)

17 The Witness: Dee Henderson, Tyndale (Tied with Last Light)

19 Forgiven: Karen Kingsbury, Tyndale

20 Violet Dawn: Brandilyn Collins, Zondervan


Read Part 2
TODAY: Bev Trexel--The Other Twenty-Five Percent

Hello, Bev Trexel with you today. After four months of interruptions, I've finally made it back to my original topic: why I am writing for this blog. Four months. My goodness. I knew I should have never agreed to this. But it is too late now.

As I made very clear in my first post, I hold my friend Angie mostly responsible for my participation in this activity (although what type of friend would write such slanderous things about me as she has might be brought into question). But to be fair, I cannot blame her one hundred percent. Twenty-five of it sits squarely in my husband's lap...

Friday, November 10, 2006

Fabulous Friday!

Whew, haven’t we had some heavy topics this week. They’ve been thought-provoking, and your comments have been great. But for the sheer sake of balance, I’m thinkin’ Forensics and Faith is about due for another crazy story. Problem is, being Friday, my brain is fried.

Perhaps I shall just babble.

Here’s the thing. I am finally within spitting distance of my current book. About 60 pages away from the end. Should be done with the draft—I’d say by a week from tomorrow. Not too long a spit.

Then it’s off to Coeur d’Alene for Thanksgiving. Yay! I will be editing for the first couple days of Thanksgiving week, then doing all final editing after Thanksgiving. THEN—off to Zondervan goes my manuscript.

You writers out there--remember the old days when we had to print out all the pages and mail ’em? What a pain. Plus it was costly. Either in the overnight shipment, ’cause I’d push it to the last minute, or in number of writing days. Now it’s an e-mail, and we’re done!

I have a routine after I hit “send” on that auspicious e-mail. I crawl outta my chair (yes, definitely it is crawling, because I’ve no doubt pulled an all-nighter), get down on my knees and pray. My prayer is quite erudite and literary. It goes something like this:

"Thank you, God, for getting me through another book! Oh, God, thank you! Thank You, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you …"

When I am done with this procedure (which might take some time), I push to my feet, shake myself off—and look dazedly around the office. Wow. So this is where I’ve been all this time. Then I’ll stumble into a vacant-eyed walk through the house. Man, look at all the rooms! Look at all the stuff!

Look at all the ironing!

(I have things to confess about ironing, but I shall leave this for another day.)

Look at the world and all the people!

I must have been glazed out of my mind for the past couple months.

Ah, the sensations. I can almost feel them now. Can’t wait!

But no, I must pull back. I still have pages to write and pages to edit.

Meanwhile it occurs to me I have absolutely no idea what I’ll be cooking for Thanksgiving. Sigh. Ah’ll think about that tamarrah.

For now I’m hangin’ in there, teeth gritted, jaw clenched. Counting the pages to the end. Homestretch, here I come.....!

TODAY: Angie Brendt--A Nutty Thanksgiving

Hey folks, Angie here again. I had forgotten how nice it was to have my boy here as Thanksgiving approaches. I'm so excited; I've already started planning the feast. Boy, oh, boy is it ever going to be a good one. The pressure is on to make it the best ever, if only to make up for last time. I don't think Frank has been home for Thanksgiving for five or six years.

Back then he brought a girl with him from Chicago for a week-long visit. What was her name again? Suzanne, or Sharon, something like that. One of those big city types, with a cell phone hanging from her ear at all hours of the day. She was nice enough, but right away I could see she wasn’t "wife" material. She was just too frilly and fancy for my Frank, Jr. How would she be able to keep house and cook with those nails?...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Not Too Proud A Californian

My daughter is a senior in high school. She carries over the counter pain medication in a small pill case in her backpack because, if she gets a headache during the day, no one at school is allowed to give her so much as one aspirin. I couldn’t even get on the phone with a teacher or administrator at school and say, “Hey, will you give her two Aleve?” No can do. They cannot dispense medication to a minor, period. For who knows how that medication might harm the child?

However, thanks to the election on Tuesday, any minor girl in California who wants an abortion can have one without the parents ever even being notified. Forget parental consent. We’re talking mere notification. Proposition 85, which called for parental notification, was defeated about 55% to 45%.

How illogical is this? A girl can’t be given aspirin, but she can undergo an invasive out-patient procedure in a clinic. One that has far more potential to cause her physical (not to mention emotional) damage than an aspirin.

Ads against Prop 85 showed an apparent loving mother telling us she knew if her daughter was pregnant, the girl would come to her and talk. But many girls “don’t have that kind of relationship with their parents.” At that point in the ad, background noise switched to yelling voices and breaking glass. The ad ended with urging voters to “think outside their bubble” and vote no.

Do voters really fall for that kind of spin?

Maybe some. But I tend to think it’s simply a part of the rigidity of pro-abortionists. (No, I will not call them by their fave moniker, “pro-choice.” They are pro getting rid of fetuses that grow into full-term babies.) Pro-abortionists don’t want anything that, in their view, encroaches on total rights to an abortion by anyone at any time. Logic doesn’t matter.

To be fair, I could be called rigid, too. I’m rigid in believing that the fetuses have a right to live and grow. In all the spin about girls in abusive households who might come to harm, and women who might die if abortion was outlawed, nobody on the pro-abortionist side talks about the thousands, millions of fetuses who absolutely, positively DO die every year.

Forensics and Faith has never been a political blog, and I’m not going to turn it into one. Tomorrow we shall return to talking about writing and the writing life, and I’m sure many of you will breathe a sigh of relief. But I’m speaking up today and saying--I'm angry. And I’m sad. Sad for California. Sad for our whole country.

Before my daughter left for school, I asked her if she still had enough aspirin in her backpack. Wouldn't want her to run out.

TODAY: Jake Tremaine--Puppy Tails, Part 2

As I was saying yesterday, I got to the end of the row, and here's this puppy looking at me with old man's eyes. Looked like he'd lived a lifetime, but his paper said he was only ten weeks old. Something about the pooch grabbed my heart. Told me he needed a home and mine was as good as any...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Preaching to the Choir

Today I'm pleased to give you guest blogger Robin Lee Hatcher. She's a pal of mine--even if she doesn't read my books (she's a card-carrying member of the Big Honkin' Chickens' Club).

Robin began writing her first novel in 1981 and saw it published (with all its imperfections intact, she says) in 1984. Fifteen years and thirty books later, she followed God's call on her heart to write Christian fiction. In October 2006, her 50th book was released. A Carol for Christmas is a story about the desires of our hearts and how God wants to change and use them for His glory.

A week or so ago, I saw a post by Robin on an author's e-mail loop. I liked what she said, so I invited her to post something similar here on Forensics and Faith. Take it away, Robin.


Discussions on Christian writer blogs and in email groups turn frequently to matters of quality, "writing real," reaching our audience. Said discussions frequently include complaints about what CBA publishers (and readers) will or will not accept in books published by them.

Some of those discussions can put a real twist in my knickers. Others challenge me and cause me to consider once again my audience, why I write what I write, what I feel called to do.

These discussions usually include comments regarding reaching the lost. What are seen as restrictions by CBA publishers (i.e. more graphic language) are also viewed as barriers for reaching those readers who don't know Christ. Accompanying this, there seems to be a disparaging attitude about writing for the Christian audience who makes up the vast majority of CBA readers. It's a negative attitude toward "preaching to the choir."

Since I published 30 books in the ABA before coming to the CBA, I know something about that attitude. It was a wall I built as I felt God calling me to a new commitment to Him, including in my career. "But, God, can't I reach more lost people with what little bit of gospel I can slip in to my secular books (read "Christian worldview") than I can writing for those who are already Christians? Isn't writing for the CBA preaching to the choir?" To which He answered, "Yes. And the choir is sick."

I so totally understand this. I was a born-again, on-fire-for-the-Lord, Jesus-Freak, carry-my-Bible-everywhere, living-for-God Christian in the 1970s and early 1980s. But I let the cares of the world ensnare me and I drifted, grew lukewarm. I was still a member of the choir, but I was a "sick" one. I've been one of the "walking wounded" in the body of Christ. I knew what a total screw up I was. God had a whole lot of teaching and healing to do in me, and He did it in amazing ways, beginning with Francine Rivers' Redeeming Love.

So when He called me to "write for the choir" I understood why. I'm part of the choir. I'm a flawed Christian. I need to learn constantly. Salvation happens in an instant; sanctification takes a lifetime. That's why I look forward to my pastor's sermons on Sundays and why I want to read Christian fiction and why I do Bible studies. It's why I pray and why I worship. Because I need to be constantly challenged and taught. I don't write fiction for the purpose of evangelizing the lost (although the Holy Spirit has used my books in that way a time or two). I write fiction to challenge and encourage and build up the body of Christ on their individual journeys of sanctification. I write about flawed believers and I write about the One who loves them.

Paul said, "But my life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus -- the work of telling others the Good News about God's wonderful kindness and love." (Acts 20:24)

If God has called a person to write evangelistic fiction with the hope of winning souls for Christ, then that person should do so. If God has called a person to write "Christian worldview fiction" where truth and grace are demonstrated without naming the name of Christ, who am I to say that writer should not do so? But those writers called elsewhere should not disparage those who have been called to write "for the choir" in the CBA. After all, we are in good company. Paul wrote the epistles to the "choir," in order that they might be built up in Christ. He spent a great deal of time helping believers learn how to grow and mature in Christ.

Acts 18:23 says, "... Paul went back to Galatia and Phrygia, visiting all the believers, encouraging them and helping them to grow in the Lord." In Acts 20:28, Paul says, "And now beware! Be sure that you feed and shepherd God's flock -- his church, purchased with his blood -- over whom the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders [and others as writers of Christian fiction]."

Paul didn't just evangelize unbelievers. He encouraged the believers and helped them to grow in the Lord. Then he encouraged others to feed and shepherd God's flock, the church.

I'm a writer who is called to create fiction about and for the body of Christ, and my life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned to me by the Lord Jesus.

In the grip of His grace,
Robin Lee Hatcher
Eph. 2:10

TODAY: Jake Tremaine--Puppy Tails, Part 1

I mentioned some time ago that I might go down to the SPCA one of these days to see about getting me a dog. Well, I did ...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

New Fave Compliment

Recently I received an e-mail from a new fan. She’s a fan of my books, a fan of this blog—hey, don’t you just love this woman? She included a one-liner that’s become my new favorite compliment. Talk about a quotable quote. (We shall ignore the fact that it takes a rather twisted mind to consider this a positive statement.) She wrote:

I didn't know how to connect serial killers with salvation..... until I met YOU!

Makes my heart sing, I'm tellin' ya.

How about you BGs? Anybody out there receive an interesting compliment? Or perhaps give someone else one? Come on and share the glory.

Today: Leslie Brymes--What I Love About Fall

My mom has been organizing again, and she came across a few mementos from my childhood days, some of which she has posted on her refrigerator because they make her smile. Her favourite is the following two-line "essay" from my grade three class with Mrs. Campbell...

Monday, November 06, 2006

My Dear Gobdrip:

It is with much applause and mentoring pride that I congratulate you on the recent public humiliation of your patient. You were given an immensely important assignation, one that not just any fiend would be awarded, and I am pleased to see the depths to which you’ve taken it. You bided your time well as I suggested, working within the patient’s secret mind, even as you allowed him to lead the hue and cry for the Enemy. Some of your younger fellow fiends may have questioned the methods, but now the proof of our cunning is clear. High accomplishments in the name of the Enemy, and over many years, can be blackened in one stunning moment. And, as you know, this particular success ripples far beyond merely you and your patient.

First, all humans who have succumbed to the Enemy are affected. By their very stance in the Enemy’s camp, they stand readily accusable by those who serve Our Father. See—another hypocrite fallen. Are not all of them as such? Humans are most predictable in this regard: they will forego judgment of all the earthly gluttonies put together in the face of hypocrisy. As a result, the accusations against your patient can ring around the world with little to no thought as to the inherent behavior of the human making those accusations. And your own patient stands far less condemned for his apparent gratifying of passions than for his concurrent loud denouncement of the same.

Second, many who follow the Enemy, particularly those brought into his camp by your patient, may be led to feel a sense of betrayal. This can quickly be followed by doubt of the Enemy and all for which he stands. Such progression occurs when a patient is taught to focus on the disturbing actions of the fellow human rather than the qualities of our Enemy himself. There is nothing logical in this, of course. Why should the betrayed feel any less vulnerable to passions than his fallen fellow? And why should human weakness--hardly a new discovery--alter the personhood of the Enemy, who existed long before man? Little wonder we have become expert in guiding our patients to dwell not in reason, but darkly stirred emotion.

Third, those who follow Our Father are awarded serendipitous proof that they are right. In the shining light of your patient’s public disgrace, all other followers of the Enemy who have demonstrated true “life-changing” behavior now pale. How quickly these are forgotten in the singular focus upon the one fallen. As a result, the Enemy himself is once more put into question. If his offering of eternal life were so blessed, why would a follower abandon such promise for ephemeral indulgence? If the Enemy were so mighty, why would he even allow this to happen? These questions, too, would not stand the test of reason, as the issue of man's free will has been left out of the equation. But such issues seem of little consequence in the giddy, heady celebration of being right. Happy day indeed for us, dear Gobdrip, when Our Father’s servants can wield the two-edged sword of an Enemy proven both faithless and flimsy.

Let me remind you, however, that your work is not finished. It has merely shifted to another challenge as your patient goes on from here. Undoubtedly the Enemy will sidle in with his wiles of redemption and humility. These offerings, though failing to appeal while your patient reveled in his duality of public holiness and private indulgence (a duality that for centuries has afforded us some of our highest victories) may now rise as bright promise. Your job will be to focus your patient on all that he has lost. Fame, success, and earthly glory, particularly when gained through claims of direct access to the Enemy’s infamous power, can be most dazzling to humans. Remind your patient of these losses daily. (This will not be difficult due to the many means of communication covering the events.) The danger is that such loss can turn a human’s thoughts to questions of the soul—for what else has he left? You must not give an inch here. I need not remind you, my dear Gobdrip, how the Enemy loves such questions.

In the coming days my colleagues and I shall meet with you and your fellow fiends to discuss ways in which to best exploit your success. We will not fail to use followers of both the Enemy and Our Father alike in our pursuits. Each has his particular weaknesses which, with the right guidance, can prove equally useful.

Once again, my deepest commendations on your victory.

Your affectionate Uncle,



Bailey Truitt: Idaho Novelist Stephen Bly

Hello, it's Bailey today. Have you heard about the Idaho novelist Stephen Bly? He lives in Winchester, Idaho and has written 100 books. Now he's doing something really fun. He's so gotten into his newest character that he's caught up in looking for her in real life. Her name's Juanita, the girl of rodeo cowboy Hap Bowman's dreams. (Another of Bly's characters.) They are both in Bly's novel One Step Over the Border...

Friday, November 03, 2006

Oh, Blogger, Where Art Thou?

So what exactly is the deal with blogger?

One BG wrote this at the end of her comment the other day: I'm going to sign in as either other or anonymous here because as a fellow blogger I can't post comments because I'm on beta with Bloggers new system and right now they don't talk to each other. Very frustrating.

Yes, I know blogger’s in the middle of doing this beta gig, although I’m not quite sure what the deal is. Apparently some have been invited to do the beta twist and some haven’t. I possess no enlightenment as to what sorts of behavior the beta-ites have engaged in that I have not. To this date, I and Forensics and Faith remain uninvited to the party.

Maybe I’m the last to know this, but it wasn’t long ago that I even learned blogspot is owned by google. Could have knocked me over with a feather. So what’s google’s excuse? How many times do you go to the google home page and find it slow to load, or totally unavailable? Uh-huh. That's what I thought. Now how many times to you try to load a blogger post, or comment to a post—and find nothing happens?

I have found a helpful site to see what’s what if you run into problems:
blogger status. Just take a look at this site's postings for the past few days:

Thursday, November 02, 2006: Photo uploading is having problems currently on We are working on fixing the problem. Update 2:45 PM (PST): The issue has been fixed.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006: There are currently problems with photo uploading, we are working on fixing them. Update 11:40 AM(PST): This issue has been resolved.

Monday, October 30, 2006: We have been working through a series of publishing issues since Saturday morning. The problems have been transient: for some users they were more frequent than for others. We are still working to resolve this completely and will post updates. Blogger beta has not been affected. Update: this has been fixed.

Sunday, October 29, 2006: There are problems with publishing to blogs. We are working on fixing this. Blogs on the beta are not affected. Update 9:14 AM (PST): Publishing works now, expect some slowness though as we wrap up fixing this issue. Update 16:52 PST: Blogger is inaccessible due to a problematic piece of networking hardware - it should be fixed soon. Update 17:00 PST: The networking issue has been fixed.

Thursday, October 26, 2006: Sincere apologies for the short notice but we will take down both and at 2 PM PST today to replace the piece of network equipment that was causing the outages…

I read this and wonder if the poor blogger geeks ever get any sleep. They are fixing things practically 'round the clock.

Any BGs out there know the scoop? Why can’t we bloggers just blog and upload photos and generally behave like blog hogs in blog heaven? Will the google glitch madness ever stop?

P.S. I tried loading today's photo five times and gave up. An hour later, it worked.


Sarah Wray: Love That Raspberry Salsa!

I don't know about you, but my church doesn't always get out at the same time every week. I try to put lunch on the table quickly when we get home so that husband of mine doesn't become a bear, growling over the kitchen bar, waiting and watching with persistent questions. Sometimes he's worse than a four-year-old...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Two Web Sites For You

Two updated web sites for you—both worth checking out. I love the writing from these authors.

1. Dean Koontz. I’ve signed up to receive updates about him. Here’s the latest:

Dear Readers,

Hi! It’s Dean Koontz here inviting you to visit my new and improved Web site — While it may not rock your world or explain black holes in the universe, it’s a lot better than listening to elevator music or getting a root canal.

There’s plenty of news about the third and latest novel of Odd Thomas, an unlikely hero and short order cook from Pico Mundo, California, who attracts the lingering dead. The new book is called BROTHER ODD and it takes Odd to an isolated monastery in the western mountains where he seeks refuge. Unfortunately, peace and quiet on not on the menu and Odd must overcome the greatest force of evil he’s ever encountered.

The second Odd novel, FOREVER ODD, is out in paperback this week, and the first book, ODD THOMAS, is already in stores in trade paperback.

Don’t miss CSI starting Thursday, November 16 on CBS at 9 p.m. EST to see the first in a series of commercials on BROTHER ODD. For a sneak preview on the Web, check out on November 13.

The new site is loaded with fun features including interviews, insights, podcasts, videos and book excerpts. Ten Questions is a section dedicated to readers. The answers are informative and even funny. There’s also a special section just for my dog, Trixie. She insists on writing her own books and reviewing mine when she feels like it. This month she shares her opinion of BROTHER ODD.

I hope you enjoy the new site and will visit it often. Our goal is to continue to surprise, inform and entertain you.

See you on!

The fun thing about Koontz, besides his great suspense, is how funny the man himself is. Quite entertaining to read news from him and watch his videos. You’ll get a taste of an “Odd” video just by clicking on the site. And if you haven't read the Odd Thomas novels--what's the matter with ya? BHCC members--I think even you can handle 'em. Well, on second thought-you Big Honkin' Chickens' Club folks are scared of your own shadows.

2. Travis Thrasher. His update:

On this Halloween night, I wanted to take the time to email you to let you know about my overhauled website. Please check it out when you have a chance:

I've made it more simple and straightforward.
[Brandilyn--trust me, it needed it.] That means I'll be updating it more and will have a blog I will add to weekly. [A Travis Thrasher blog, way cool.]

2007 will be a busy year for me, with three releases scheduled to come out. I'm also less than three weeks away from becoming a father for the first time, so life will definitely be very exciting and interesting in the coming months!

Hope you enjoy the new site and have a chance to check out some of the new books. As always, I'd love to know what you think.

And as always, I look forward to reading Travis’s next novel.