Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Here's a behind the scenes look in World Magazine at Bella, a faith-based movie with a pro-life view, that opened in 30 U.S. cities last weekend.
World Magazine is a weekly publication with a Christian worldview that can be received online or in print. Subscribe here.
This week's CFBA blour:
The Return, by Austin Boyd
Austin's a great guy and an incredibly hard worker. He applied that work ethic to learning fiction--and watch out. Austin don't mess around.
Austin Boyd writes from his experience as a decorated Navy pilot, spacecraft engineer and an astronaut candidate finalist. Austin lives with his wife Cindy and four children in America’s “Rocket City”--Huntsville, Alabama, where he directs business development for a large NASA and defense contractor. His creative talents include inspirational fiction and poetry, finely crafted reproduction colonial furniture, archery and long distance cycling. He serves his community as an advocate for a crisis pregnancy center and as a motivational speaker in the area of lifestyle evangelism.
The Return is part of the Mars Hill Classified Series with The Evidence and The Proof
About the Book:
IS SEEING BELIEVING?
Six years after completing a manned mission to the Red Planet, Admiral John Wells is set to make another journey to Mars. But this time his crew is not alone, as John's team encounters a secret colony comprised of individuals pursuing John Raines' strange religion, the "Father Race."
While John begins to uncover a web of lies on Mars, his wife and daughter are struggling for survival on earth. Now John must survive his dangerous mission and find a way back home, even as a shocking plan begins to unfold millions of miles away on earth.
Austin Boyd is back with his third thrilling novel in the Mars Hill Classified series, full of high-tech intrigue, memorable characters, and adventure that transports readers to another world.
From the Back Cover:
With nothing left for him on Earth, Rear Admiral John Wells didn't hesitate to lead a third NASA team to Mars, but he never dreamed that one day they'd look out their laboratory module into the lights of a slow-moving vehicle not their own. In the third installment of the Mars Hill Classified series, life on Mars becomes increasingly more unpredictable as the past collides with the future and nothing, not even the dead, is as it seems.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, the fate of hundreds, including John Wells' family--presumed dead these last six years--rests precariously in the hands of Malcolm Raines, self-proclaimed Guardian of the Mother Seed and Principal Cleric of Saint Michael's Remnant, and his insidious plans for the Father Race.
Wells will find himself in a race against time and all odds to expose the truth: about Mars, about Malcolm Raines, and, if he's very brave, about himself.
Monday, October 29, 2007
I recently read James Scott Bell's latest novel, Try Dying, and enjoyed it very much. Here's a little inside scoop from the man himself as to what the book's all about.
Hey, Jim, thanks for coming over to Forensics and Faith. So tell us about this latest book of yours.
Try Dying involves a highflying lawyer--Ty Buchanan--whose fiancée is killed on page one. It looks like an accident, but maybe it wasn’t. Maybe it was murder. When he tries to find out, he gets in bad, bad trouble. He’s befriended by a fallen priest and basketball-playing nun, and other characters who will recur.
You went over to Center Street, part of the Hachette Book Group, to write this one. Try Dying is more for the general market than for inspirational. Why'd you do that?
I haven’t been happy about some of the trends in contemporary, secular suspense. And I think the audience out there is getting tired of the gratuitous elements. I believe you can write page-turning suspense without that, like some of the great crime novels of the 40s and 50s. I wanted to offer that, because I see the need for it.
Tell us about the next Ty Buchanan novel. When will it be released?
Try Darkness is due to be released in July of '08. This one involves the murder of a woman in a transient hotel, and her six-year-old daughter, whom Ty must protect.
The book jacket on Try Dying calls this novel "modern noir." Define that term for us.
Noir is generally about a struggle to survive in the big city, where cons and crime abound. Good and bad meeting on the mean streets. It's a post-WWII genre of film and novel, very American.
The opening of the story sets up that noir feeling immediately--the "news-story" sounding narrative then immediately turned to become personal for the main character.
Yes, I've done this before. It gives a kind of feel of a 50s crime film, with those narrators. Then we see it is the lead character who is narrating.
Where does your love for noir fiction come from?
I was a film major in college, back when film noir was just becoming appreciated. Paul Schrader had written a seminal study of noir for Film Comment magazine and came up to UCSB and I got to interview him. We were all studying these films. I just fell in love with them. Especially the ones that took place in Los Angeles, my hometown.
Noir is really a spiritual journey. The characters have to decide which side -- good or evil, law or crime, truth or lie -- they are going step into, with commitment. You can't be on the fence. If you are, if you try to play both sides, you usually end up dead. Or in jail.
Sometimes, you face down your dark side and come out into the light. Like Glenn Ford does in The Big Heat, one of the all time classic noirs. That's sort of the feel I want for the Ty Buchanan books.
You did a wonderful job of creating the dark, "cement jungle" atmosphere of Los Angeles--to the extent that the city itself almost became a character. What are some techniques you used to do this?
That's part of the noir style. The city does become a character. It adds to the mood, the texture, the plot, the inner life of the characters.
One technique I use is to visit every location I write about. I take pictures and walk around and feel the atmosphere. I talk to people and listen for interesting stories.
One of your trademarks is your crisp, fresh dialogue. How do you create that? Do you hear the characters talking in your head?
I've always loved dialogue. Maybe this goes back to my acting days, when I did a lot of improv. I was always mimicking other actors, too.
I have to be able to "hear" my characters first, so I spend time getting a feel for their voices. I edit my dialogue a lot, cutting out words, tightening. Looking for places where I can replace dialogue with something else -- action, reaction, silence.
The rave review from Booklist says you are "very good at keeping secrets." How do you do that? Do you plan well ahead or make them up as you go along?
Part of the fun, and challenge, of modern suspense is creating surprises. We've had so many movies, books and TV shows that do this.
I'd say that one thing I do is make sure that every main character has a personal secret, one that would give them a motive to lie. Then I try to create webs of relationships between the characters, that I don't reveal until near the end. Surprises seem to happen naturally that way.
Thanks so much, Jim.
Here's the review buzz about Try Dying.
Publishers Weekly: "[an] engaging whodunit ... Readers will enjoy Bell's talent for description and character development."
Booklist: "An appealing and series-worthy protagonist ... Fans of thrillers with lawyers as their central characters—Lescroart and Margolin, especially—will welcome this new addition to their must-read lists."
Friday, October 26, 2007
I am highly recommending Tosca Lee's debut novel, Demon, A Memoir. This is a novel that will stick with you. That you'll think about for days later. I still ponder it and see new layers of meaning. This is one book you should not miss.
Demon is beautifully written. Lovely prose. Great use of emotion. Tosca Lee describes ethereal scenes we know happened--because the Bible says so--in ways that will make you understand them, see and hear them, like never before.
I was completely drawn in by this book. I learned things about the Bible, about myself. I will not read the Creation story, or the story of Lucifer's fall again without picturing the scenes described in Demon.
Back cover copy:
One night changes everything.
Recently divorced and mired in a meaningless existence, Clay drifts from his drab apartment to his equally lusterless job as an editor for a small Boston press—until the night Lucian finds him and everything changes with the simple words: “I’m going to tell you my story… and you’re going to write it down and publish it.”
What begins as a mystery soon spirals into chaotic obsession as Clay struggles to piece together Lucian’s dark tale of love, ambition, and grace…only to discover that the demon’s story has become his own.
And then only one thing matters: learning how the story ends.
Ah, yes, and how does it end? I had no idea. And I think it ends brilliantly.
BHCC members--this is not a scary book. It's labeled "contemporary," not "suspense." No excuses here. Read it.
Read the first chapter.
In addition to reading the first chapter--and you'll be glad you did--check out this "Story behind the story."
Tosca is now at work on her second book, Havah: the story of Eve.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Here's an interesting article from the New York Times about the formation of its bestseller lists.
This week's CFBA blour: The Illuminated, by Mat Bronleewe.
IT'S BEEN 500 YEARS IN THE MAKING...PREPARE TO BE ILLUMINATED...
August Adams has failed his family before. He's sacrificed relationships in pursuit of adventure, fame, and money. Now the very lives of those he loves depend on his ability to decipher a centuries-old puzzle encrypted in the colorful hand-painted illuminations that adorn three rare Gutenberg Bibles.
It's a secret that could yield unimaginable wealth, undermine two major religions, and change the course of Western civilization. Two ruthless, ancient organizations are willing to do anything to get their hands on it. And August has the span of one transatlantic flight to figure it out.
If he fails, those he holds most dear will die. If he succeeds, he'll destroy a national treasure.The clock ticks, the suspense mounts, and the body count rises as August pits his knowledge and his love for his family against the clock, secret societies, and even Johannes Gutenberg himself.
"...this rare breed of suspense thriller combines mysterious hidden clues, secret societies, buried treasure, double agents, and the Knights Templar...if you turned National Treasure into international treasure, traded DaVinci codes for Gutenberg Bibles, married it to Indiana Jones, and added the pacing of 24 you'd be in the neighborhood of Illuminated...on a scale of one to 10, this one goes to 11." -Aspiring Retail Magazine
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Here's the CBA November bestseller list, reflecting sales in the month of September. It includes many of the usual suspects, but note the incredible placement for Cindy Woodsmall. Cindy has only two books published so far--and they're both on the list. Notice that her latest, When the Morning Comes, is also number eight on the Top Fifty list. What a terrific accomplishment for a new novelist!
Kudos to Cindy; her publisher, Waterbrook; and her agent, Steve Laube.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Saturday, October 20, 2007
As of Saturday afternoon, thanks to the CFBA blour, Crimson Eve was #2 on Technorati's "most popular books" list, and Violet Dawn and Coral Moon were #4 and #5.
Seventy-one members of CFBA took part in the Crimson Eve blour (blog tour), with 50+ members leaving comments at the CFBA blog with links to their posts.
I offered a free copy of Crimson Eve to those who'd never read one of my novels--up to the first 50 responders. Responses poured in and all 50 books are now spoken for. My assistant's gonna be busy mailing those out.
The first day of the blour (Wed., Oct. 17), Crimson Eve's amazon ranking was 12,910. By the third day it had fallen in ranking to 27,670. (Remember, a few books sold can make a big jump in amazon rankings.) In the five days before the blour started, rankings were between the 14,000s and the 20,000s. So all in all, not a big change during the actual tour.
When it comes to blours, amazon rankings aren't the main concern in considering how well the tour went. It's good to climb up high in technorati numbers, because that indicates anyone searching that "most popular" page will have at least seen the cover of the book. Better indications will be down the road, although hard to document (as marketing ventures so often are). I used the opportunity to give away copies to folks who've never read my books, and I think in general that's one of the best marketing tools for a book. Get the product in new readers' hands. Especially if the product is being very highly rated by folks who are used to reading the author.
Thanks to all the CFBA members who posted for me. And thanks most to Bonnie Calhoun, who runs CFBA and is a true saint for all she puts up with in keeping members in line, including me.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Okay, all you computer folks--help me out, will ya. I have Adobe Photoshop, see. It's great for pictures and is my default way to open up photos. That's all well and good. But somehow it's also gotten to be my default for opening up pdf files. I don't want that. Reading a pdf file in Photoshop can be a total pain.
So--how do I change the pdf default in my computer to Adobe Reader while keeping the photo opening default with Photoshop?
And while I'm at it, you computer folks have any other handy dandy morsel tips to send my way? Chances are I or some other BG don't know about them.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Today through Friday the CFBA blour of Crimson Eve is running. Crimson Eve is third in my Kanner Lake series, following Violet Dawn and Coral Moon.
A few weeks ago Deena Peterson reviewed Crimson Eve on her blog. I thanked her for the review and mentioned that this book was getting exceptionally strong reviews/reader feedback--and frankly I wasn't quite sure why. I'm blessed that my books are typically favorably received, but what is it particularly about this one? Deena sent me back her thoughts. I found them insightful and intriguing. Before I comment further, here's what she had to say:
I think [Crimson Eve] strikes a chord within all of us. I mean, I absolutely LOVE the thrill ride I get from each and every one of your novels. But watching Carla deal with her past, her secrets, and watching those threads collide...
It was seeing how hiding from our sins, our mistakes holds us in such bondage. Watching her live in such fear because of keeping this thing quiet, and thinking it would never come out was POWERFUL for me.
And reading how everyone who knew her NOW loved her and cared about her so much, fought to find and rescue her...like Jesus did for us...that came through so loud and clear.
I think, in this story, it was the power of the human element that we all struggle with. Who we once were, what we once did, and where we came from, and how it tries so desperately to cling to us and keep us from being all we can be in Christ.
Not everyone finds a dead body. Not everyone craves a career like Leslie did in Coral Moon. Not everyone is running from danger like Paige was in Violet Dawn.
But everybody longs to escape their past and find redemption and rescue like Carla did in Crimson Eve.
You kind of said it yourself in the note at the beginning of the story. This was a thrill ride, but of a different kind. And you were so dead on (no pun intended:-)!
Not that the human element doesn't make itself known in your other books....in the others, it is the melody of what you write. But in Crimson Eve...it was the symphony.
What intrigued me most about Deena's response was how much the story meant to her personally because of its spiritual message. Yet Crimson Eve has the least amount of "overt Christianese" than any of my other novels.
I'm not therefore advocating that Christian writers should always say "less is more" when it comes to an overt Christian message in our stories. As I always say, the characters and situation need to drive the particular level that's needed. But I am saying that toning down the overt message doesn't necessarily lessen the spiritual impact upon the reader.
This is not rocket science. I know this in my head. But with every book there's something deeper to be learned--the things I did right, the things I could have done better. I'm still looking at this whole response thing to Crimson Eve and thinking--how can I pull that kind of response from readers again? What kind of story do I want to tell ?...
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
This was sent around on an email loop yesterday. Do you see the dancer turning clockwise or counter-clockwise? If clockwise, then you use more of the right side of your brain. If counter-clockwise, you use more of the left side.
I was amazed at the folks who said they saw the woman turning counter-clockwise. Are they crazy? She's obviously turning clockwise. I cannot see it any other way no matter how hard I try. So supposedly I'm a right-brainer. Weird thing is, all the personality traits for left brain are the ones that fit me best. I'm an ISTJ on Myers-Briggs, for heaven's sake.
I must have one mixed up brain.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Feeling down lately about how few people visit your blog? Never fear, the delightful folks from www.despair.com are here. The best way to make yourself feel better--is to put others down! Check out this latest demotivator T-shirt from the folks with the best customer disservice around.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Boy howdy, am I glad the surgeries are over.
A pox on snowmobiles.
But the surgery went well and easily. I wasn't so nervous this time. Heck, I'm beginning to feel old hat at this stuff. Unlike in June, when I went in to have the long screw taken out, I didn't get all antsy this time when the folks acted like they'd never seen me before, had to ask why I was even there, and queried if I'd ever had surgery in the past. ("No, nurse, the hardware you're about to take out just grew there.")
Nope, none of that this time. Consider me a veteran. I answered their questions without making one wisecrack, pointed to my LEFT ankle oh, about a dozen times for a half-dozen different people before they were sure they got it right. Even after one nurse double-booted my right foot as a barrier and wrote "YES" in big green letters on my left ankle, they STILL asked me what side they were supposed to do. But I took it all in stride. Metaphorically speaking.
Okay, well, I had one slip-up. In my defense I was totaly drugged, do not remember a word of the event, and am beginning to think it's all a lying conspiracy. After I woke up in recovery, the nice nurse laughingly told me I called the anesthesiologist a "monster." Immediately followed by my giving him a very kind "thank you and good job."
Now really, can you see me acting in such a schizophrenic manner?
I'm not even sure when this supposed affront took place--while I was going under or as I started to come out. Last thing I remember is the needle going into my arm, and that feeling. That ucky "whoa, am I feeling those drugs race through me" sensation. I asked the anesthesiologist, "You got stuff goin' in me already?"
"Yes, I do."
"Yo, baby. No kiddin'."
Perhaps it was immediately following that when I turned on the guy. I'll never know. Next thing I knew I was waking up.
Here's what they took out of me. The plate's three inches long. Six screws of various lengths. The longest one was put in at that odd angle in order to bring the two parts of my separated bone together.
Of course the doc sent me home with pain meds, even though I told him I can't take them. It makes him feel better knowing I have them, he said. In case the pain just gets too bad. Thanks, Doc. But I remain macho as ever, and the bottle still sits in the nice little green paper tote bag the nurse gave me.
Take a look at my yellow leg. It's the soap they use. I think it sets off the red flowered toe nails quite nicely, don't you? The bandage will stay on until the stitches come out in 10-14 days. Actually I can reduce the bandaging to big bandaids in a week if I want. The area can't get wet. I'm back to covering the leg and sitting on the plastic bath chair to take showers.
Well, hey. If the south can rise again, so I can I. Just give me a few weeks.
So today I got pages to write. Tomorrow too, in order to make up for surgery day. On account of the fact that I came home yesterday and slept/watched TV all day on the couch in a doped-up haze. I also have to tape interview questions about Crimson Eve by phone this afternoon--to be used on various radio shows. I'll try not to call the radio guy names.
As for the getting around the house part, I'm a veteran at that too. Had everything perfectly positioned for myself when Mark brought me back home. Crutches in the garage. Then up the stairs using my left knee. Handy-dandy rolling physician's chair parked right at the propped-open kitchen door. Yup, this babe's got wheels.
In closing--Just in case the nurse's very unbelievable story about my "monster" comment is true, I do hereby graciously apologize to all anesthesiologists everywhere. It's the drugs, docs. It's the drugs.
Read Part 15
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Today I'm going in to have my third and final surgery of the year for the broken ankle thing. This one's to have the plate and screws removed. That'll put me back in the boot for about a week. And off running for a couple of weeks, then I'll slowly get back into it.
The boot's okay to walk in after a cast. Not so great after surgery. No matter how much I pump it up to stay firm, the thing rubs against the incision. At least that's what happened in June when I had the big screw out (pictured) --and that incision was a lot shorter than this one will be. So I'll probably be parked in the house for awhile.
Prepared for that, I ran around yesterday trying to do everything I needed to do. Plus get my page count done for the day. Was a stressful day. But onward and upward. I am happy to say I'm right on target with my page count. I'll miss today, being woozy this afternoon from the anesthesia. But I'll be back at it tomorrow, and I'll use Saturday to make up the pages I missed today. By then I'll be 1/3 through this current manuscript, due Dec. 15.
So call me Ol' Gimp again. Tune in tomorrow. If I'm with it enough, I'll post a picture of the hardware. What did you say? Of course I'm asking for it! Paid for it, didn't I?
This week's CFBA Blour: Nobody, by Creston Mapes. Read my September post about this book here.
Read Part 14
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Two days ago I asked the ACFW American Christian Fiction Writers) e-mail loop: what's the one most important thing a novel needs to have in order for you to enjoy reading it?
Not so easy to answer as it may seem. Most of us want to say two or three or four things. What's a good plot without effective characterization? What are deep characters with a weak or unsatisfactory plot? It's all in the beginning ... oh, wait, and the end!
Nope, I wanted one answer. I was curious about the responses. I'm always looking for various kinds of reader feedback in writing my own books. And I thought the discussion might be helpful for each writer on the loop. For me anyway, when I stop to figure out what I really want to read in a novel, it helps me create my own stories.
About 62 different people responded (some had various thoughts/questions and wrote in more than once). A lot of the responses easily overlap, but I did my best to sort them into logical categories. Here are the four basic categories that arose and their numbers:
Reader response (25)
The breakdown of each category is where it all gets interesting:
~ Strong beginning hook
~ Good hook at each chapter
~ Don't know how the book will end/unpredictability factor (6)
~ Satisfying ending/not ending with a hook for the next book (3)
~ Uplifting ending with hope for the future (2)
~ Rollercoaster along the way, but with an expected ending
~ Fast-paced (2)
~ Intriguing plot
~ Twists and surprises throughout, starting on first page
~ True to genre
~ Believable protagonist/pulled into his or her world/identify with him or her (5)
~ Strong motivation to overcome all obstacles
~ Rugged hero from past century
~ Intriguing, likable characters (2)
~ Need to see scenes/feel the emotions (7)
~ Story seems real/reality factor (5)
~ Swept away into a different world/swept away into storyworld (5)
~ Care about characters (3) (One respondent added--"enough that their struggles change me")
~ Deep characterization (2)
~ Need to be quickly engaged (2)
~ Rollercoaster of emotions
~ A book that can be enjoyed when read again and again
~ Captures heart and imagination
~ Trust in author to satisfy me with good story and right ending
~ Reader grows with main character, is touched by new insight, becomes aware of humanity in a new way
~ Clarity--through logical plot points and in character growth
~ Spiritual depth and emotional integrity
~ Back cover copy without obvious questions as to how book will end
~ Setting as character
The reader response category is tricky. We all want to respond to a story, but what is it that makes us respond? Seems most of these answers had to do with being pulled into the world and emotions of the story. That requires scenes that are multi-layered, scenes that a reader will feel, not just read. There are a lot of tricks to creating such scenes. Certainly easier said than done.
Your thoughts on the survey?
Monday, October 08, 2007
Yesterday the Woodhouses came home to "move that bus!" and see their new home. The show will air in January.
Here's a local news story about the project, dated Oct. 7. And another, dated, Oct. 5.
Link to news videos, including the final "move that bus" day. (Scroll down a bit.)
Thank You, Lord, for answering our prayers for this family!
Friday, October 05, 2007
This week's CFBA Blour: The Trophy Wives Club by Kristin Billerbeck
TTWC is about the gut-wrenching throes of grief, self-doubt, love/hatred and the desire for revenge. Why all these emotions at once? The main character, Haley, has been cast off by her husband for a younger wife. Her reactions aren't pretty, but they're quite understandable.
Still, you can't live the rest of your life drowning in the negativity. There comes a time to move on, quit blaming, start taking hold of your own life. That's what Haley needs to learn. And there's a God who is oh, so willing to help, if she'll only let Him.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
1. Here's a new idea among novelists. Some of the biggest names in thriller writers have gotten together to create an audiobook "serial thriller," each writing a chapter. This project, The Chopin Manuscript, is sponsored by International Thriller Writers.
2. Traveling? Planning an outdoor picnic in your town? One of my favorite sites is www.weather.com. Type in any zip code and see the weather for up to the next ten days.
3. Here's another very helpful site for authors. I just signed up and encourage you to do the same. BookTour.com allows authors to enter information about their latest books and upcoming appearances. Readers can log onto the site and/or receive emails to hear about who's coming to their area. The author who refers the most people on any given day is rewarded with a feature on the home page for a day. So do me a favor--if you want to sign up, please use this link, which will give me credit for the referral: http://booktour.com/authorsignup?referrer=4424. Sign-up only takes a minute (click the link at the top right of the page).
4. Have you visited the Suspense Zone? Quite a great site for checking out the latest in Christian suspense. The site has just posted reviews of Crimson Eve and an interview with me including a behind-the-scenes peek at writing the book.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Monday, October 01, 2007
My, my, check out the front page article from USA Today last week. It's about the whopping growth rate of Idaho, including one specific town in the state--Coeur d'Alene. This photo from the article looks mighty familiar to me. Inch the camera a smidgen to the right to take in a little more of that forested hill, and you'd see our house in the middle of it. (You can enlarge the photo at the USA Today site.)
Coeur d'Alene is growing very rapidly. Now that we have a house there, it's kinda funny. We tend to join with all the other Idahoans and say, "Welcome to Idaho. Now go home."
In our defense, we've done nothing to change the landscape. One family moved out of the area, we bought their home on around 11 acres, and moved in without changing a thing. It would be a different story if we broke up that acreage and made five two-acre lots out of it. That's the kind of thing we're seeing a lot of in Cd'A. The prairies are really being eaten up. New developments everywhere.
When you click over and read the article, look at some of the comments. Idahoans are knocking themselves out tearing down the article. "Aah, they don't know what they're talking about. Believe me, it's terrible here! Overcrowded, ugly. Do yourself and favor and move to Nevada instead!"
Gotta love those Idahoans.