Friday, March 30, 2007

Thursday, March 29, 2007

2006 Bestselling Books


The March 26 issue of Publishers Weekly ran statistics on the top-selling books of 2006, and includes some interesting figures. In their compilation of books selling over 100,000 copies in the categories of hardback fiction and nonfiction, trade paperbacks, mass markets, and children’s books, they report that “inspirational publishers accounted for over nine million” books sold.

Data for this compilation were gathered from publishers and reflect shipped and billed book units through December 2006. This is different from many bestseller lists, which reflect actual sales to customers at the bookstore. Publishers were asked to deduct projected returns on the books within January 2007. Of course, we all know February and on can continue to see returned books, so if these numbers err on any side, it’s probably by being too high. At any rate, here are some highlights of the Christian books’ performances. As you’ll see, nonfiction outperformed fiction, with two Christian books ending up in the 2006 Bestselling list (goes up to #15).

Hardback Fiction—selling from 100,000 to 200,000+ units:

House, Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker (Thomas Nelson). 234,041

The Rapture: Countdown to the Earth’s Last Days, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins (Tyndale). 231,877

Saint, Ted Dekker (Thomas Nelson). 102,269


Hardback Nonfiction:

#11: The Purpose-Driven Life, Rick Warren (Zondervan, 10/02). 800,000. Amazing staying power for a book published in 2002.

#13: Inside My Heart: Choosing to Live with Passion and Purpose, Robin McGraw (Thomas Nelson, 8/06). 663,585

#20: Your Best Life Now, Joel Osteen (FaithWords). 498,489

#26: The Journey: Living by Faith in an Uncertain World, Billy Graham (Thomas Nelson). 427,104

Selling from 100,000 to 300,000+ units:

The Confident Woman, Joyce Meyer (FaithWords). 351,568

Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul, John and Stasi Eldredge (Thomas Nelson). 325,486

Look Great, Feel Great: 12 Keys to Enjoying a Healthy Life Now, Joyce Meyer (FaithWords). 303,194

Facing Your Giants, Max Lucado (Thomas Nelson). 295,813

Woman to Woman: Candid Conversations from Me to You, Joyce Meyer (FaithWords). 227, 674

For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men
, Shaunti Feldhahn (Multnomah). 220,233

The Way of the Wild Heart, John Eldredge (Thomas Nelson). 201,452

Mama Made the Difference, T.D. Jakes (Putnam) 191,370

Heaven, Randy Alcorn (Tyndale). 137,645

Scriptures and Meditations for Your Best Life Now, Joel Osteen (FaithWords). 134,469

Cure for the Common Life, Max Lucado (Thomas Nelson). 117,098

God’s Power to Change Your Life, Rick Warren (Zondervan). 104,500

God’s Answers to Life’s Difficult Questions, Rick Warren (Zondervan). 104,410


Trade Paperback (fiction and nonfiction):

90 Minutes in Heaven, Don Piper (written by Cecil Murphey) (Revell). 799,233

Jerusalem Countdown, John Hagee (Frontline/Strang). 824,500

Blue Like Jazz, Don Miller (Thomas Nelson). 686,250

The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman (Moody). 507,867

Battlefield of the Mind, Joyce Meyer (FaithWords). 346,707

Wild at Heart, John Eldredge (Thomas Nelson). 338,159

Dinner With a Perfect Stranger, David Gregory (Waterbrook). 335,067

The Englisher, Beverly Lewis (Bethany). 306,443

Found, Karen Kingsbury (Tyndale). 239,000

Searching for God Knows What, Don Miller (Thomas Nelson). 210,203

Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis (HarperSanFrancisco). 200,000

Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis (HarperSanFrancisco). 180,000

The Witness, Dee Henderson (Tyndale). 168,000

Like Dandelion Dust, Karen Kingsbury (Center Street). 166,626

Leave a Candle Burning, Lori Wick (Harvest House). 157,430

Before I Wake, Dee Henderson (Tyndale). 149,000

The Power of a Praying Wife, Stormie Omartian (Harvest House). 132,920

Battlefield of the Mind for Teens, Joyce Meyer and Todd Hafer (FaithWords). 129,638




Howdy, Wilbur here. I decided to break the silence since nobody else around her feels like posting. Not that I do much, either. But I do have some things to say.

Before all hell broke loose last week, I was working on a post, and Carla was typing for me. I threw that one out for now, though. After everything that went on here, it just ain’t important.

Mostly I wanted to say that Vesta Johnson was a friend of mine...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Equipped


In my California office hangs a sign that I’ve made--an encouraging message God gave me about a year ago. At that time I had just finished writing Coral Moon. That novel was a real bugger to write, and when I finished, I was exhausted. I needed to start on my next book; I needed to come up with fresh plot ideas for a new contract with Zondervan. I couldn’t do either. There waited my terrific publisher, ready to buy more books from me—but I had nothing to offer. I felt depleted. For weeks I couldn’t produce a single idea.

Then one morning I was reading in Exodus, and the story of Bezalel jumped out at me. Bezalel is the first artist the Bible records as being specifically called to use his creativity for God. In this case, Bezalel’s talents would be used for making the tent of meeting, the ark of the covenant, and all the accoutrements.

Chapter 31: 2-5: See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship.

God’s voice surged to me that morning: “Brandilyn, I have called and equipped you in the same way.”

Wow. What an encouragement when I needed it. Not that I didn’t know I’d had a specific calling to write fiction for Him. But this reminder was just what I needed at the time. Perhaps I’m not as talented in my field as Bezalel was in his, but that doesn’t matter. The bottom line is simple. God called Bezalel to do what He needed him to do—and equipped him to do it. Didn’t mean Bezalel’s job would always be easy or fun. But he could rely on being EQUIPPED BY GOD.

I jumped on the computer and made my sign, adapting these verses to apply to me.

See, I have called by name Brandilyn.
I have filled her with the Spirit of God,
In wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge,
And in the craftsmanship of writing—
To create artistic characters, in the shaping of plot,
and in the design of sentences,
that she may work in the craft of Story.


In whatever God calls you to do—know that you are equipped.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Mount Hermon Blues

Well, it’s about that time. Numerous BGs are now getting ready to go to Mount Hermon Writers’ Conference. Wish I could be with you.

I haven’t missed an MH conference since I started attending in 2000. In 2004 I started teaching there and have been on the teaching and critique staff ever since. Every year when I go to MH, it feels like old home week.

After my accident I waited and prayed about 10 days to figure out what I should do. It became obvious to me I needed to pull out for this year. There’s a lot of walking at Mount Hermon, and the ground is hilly and very uneven. In 2003 I attended in the middle of my Lyme disease battle by driving around in an electric cart. Thing is, as sick as I was, at least I could hobble off that cart into the dining room, etc. Now I’m completely on crutches with no weight-bearing on the left leg. It just seemed like too much for me to try to get around the campus.

So I will miss all of you. Hope you have a wonderful time. While you’re sitting around in the lounge at night, think of me and send me an email, okay? Write something entertaining about the conference, and I’ll run it here. Just don’t go killing off anybody without me. Although I don’t know who you’d kill. I managed to bump off every Christian chick lit author last year—so who’s left who deserves to die?

Maybe the agent or editor who turned you down. Or some nasty critiquer. Hm. A tale of revenge …

So who’s going?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Borders' Focus Turns Online

Last Thursday The Wall Street Journal reported that Borders, the #2 book retailer, announced its plans to reopen its own online store in 2008, ending its current alliance with Amazon.com. At the same time Borders is stopping its efforts to expand internationally, and will close almost half of the Waldenbooks outlets it owns in the U.S.

The reason? Online sales of books are rising, capturing a growing share of the book market. Figures from Bowker put online sales of books in 1998 at a mere 2%. In 2006 that number grew to 13%, while sales at traditional retail stores fell from 42% to 38% in the same timeframe. Volume of dollars spent for books online rose from just under $1.5 million in 2000 to around $2.7 million in 2006.

Borders first teamed up with amazon.com in 2001, shortly after the dot-com bust. The company put its dollars into expanding stores, increasing the number of U.S. superstores from 290 at the beginning of 2000 to a current 499. As business trends changed, doing exactly opposite of what Borders expected, the company was hit hard. Ergo the company’s decision to put its expansion dollars into online selling.

Meanwhile Borders’ main competitor, Barnes and Noble, has operated its own online web site for some time. But it’s had a difficult time competing with Amazon.com due to the latter company’s discount rates. Amazon is able to sell books at a cheaper price because it sells so many other items as well. Ditto with cheaper book prices from such places as Sam’s and Costco. Barnes and Noble’s fiscal year ending February 3 showed its online sales fell 1.1%. In recent years its online sales have been flat—at about 10% of total revenue.

The bottom line for authors—don’t forget marketing efforts at online stores. Frankly, I had. I’d done a couple posts on Amazon.com when its whole author blog thing began, but hadn’t put up anything new in a year. This article prompted me to write a new post for Amazon.com and to promise myself to do so on a more regular basis. I made sure the post has plenty hyperlinks to my web sites, this blog and the Scenes and Beans blog.

Ever noticed the percentage numbers on the page for any book at Amazon.com? They’re listed under the heading: What do customers ultimately buy after viewing this item? For example, on the
Coral Moon page, 41% of viewers of the page buy the book. (Percentages are also listed for what other books a viewer of the Coral Moon page will also buy.) The Violet Dawn page shows that 64% of viewers buy the book. It’s my theory—based on the highly unscientific fact that I do it myself—that many people use Amazon.com as a way to find out about more a book, even if they’re not ready to buy, due to all the information Amazon.com now offers about the product. You can see reader reviews, who published the book, how many pages it is, see the link to the author’s other works, and sometimes get a sneak peek inside the first 15 or so pages. I figure with so many people checking out any book of mine on Amazon.com, I should have a consistent marketing presence on that page.

If you’re a published author and haven’t set up your profile in order to blog on Amazon.com, I suggest you go through the process. It takes a few days to set up, as another party has to verify that you are the author of the books you claim. I had gotten so slack about this I hadn’t even claimed Violet Dawn yet. So the new blog post I wrote shows up on all my other books, but won’t show up on Violet Dawn and Coral Moon until the author verification goes through.

How about you? Do you visit Amazon.com for information about books? If you’re an author, are you using its blog program? Or as a reader, do you take time to read the author blog posts?


It's Bailey with you this morning. Wilbur was supposed to be up, but as you know, we've had a very difficult weekend, and I felt I'd better say a few things. Before all of this began last week, Wilbur was working on his post. (And giving me trouble about it--can you imagine that?) I will put it up in the next few days.

So many of you left concerned comments to my post on Friday...

Friday, March 23, 2007

Looking Into a Mirror...


Happy Friday, BGs.

Here's another reader letter I received recently. (Run, as always, with permission.) This one shows a different side of reader letters. How some can be harsh ... but what's really behind that apparent harshness? Has the book touched something inside the reader that he/she doesn't want to look at? As Christian writers, we need to know how to respond--and if we should at all. God prompted me to respond to this one, and I'm glad I did. Following are the original e-mail to me, my answer, and the reader's response. (I've used lines to replace plot points the reader mentions, and to replace the reader's name.)
------------------


Subject Line: Eyes of Elisha

Dear Brandilyn,

I really loved your book from the start, intriguing great suspense. But when it came to the ending it was terrible. I hate that _________________. It made my feel really angry that ______________. It made me really dislike the whole entire book. Right now I hate your ending and Chelsea for not waiting on God. Man, I'm sorry for ragging on you but I'm so disappointed in the ending that it makes me feel like the time I read your book was a total waste of time. I just really pray that your other books have a Great ending to compensate this horrible one.

Sorry, but that is how I feel.

p.s. I'm sure other people love it, but not me.
-----------------

_____, thanks so much for writing. I LOVE your name. ____ ____. It just sort of rolls off the tongue.

Ah, endings. Some love 'em, some hate 'em. As for __________, I worked closely with a prosecutor on this book as far as researching what would happen. And this is what the prosecutor said would be likely. In the eye of the law, ___________. So that part was really out of my hands if I wanted to stick to believability.

"Hate Chelsea for not waiting on God." Well, that's a strong word. Have you ever jumped ahead of God? I sure have. I think most Christians have. For Chelsea, her "jump" didn't look so big a thing at the time, because it all looked so right. Yet that little assumption on her part had huge consequences--for her and others.

In a way, I think it's good that you "hate" the ending. Because this ending is real life--and it shows the consequences of our not waiting on God. So many readers of this book have written to tell me just that--how reading this story showed them of some of their own "jump" decisions. It's made them more careful for next time.

Is Eyes of Elisha the first book of mine you've read? (Good choice--since it's my first suspense, and they do build.) I think you'll find in all my books the depiction of reality--and sometimes that's pretty raw and not all sweetness-and-light. The wonderful, awesome news is--God is there with us in the midst of that raw reality, if we want Him to be. And there is always something to learn from it.

I'm trying to think if there's anything in the ending to Dread Champion that you wouldn't like. I don't think so. You ought to give that one a try. Then, if you want, you can move to my Hidden Faces series, which features a forensic artist, Annie Kingston. But in the fourth book of that series, Web of Lies, Chelsea Adams joins Annie as a duo, so the two series mix together.

Again, thanks so much for writing. It's always good to hear from readers. And I hear passion behind your voice, which is a very good thing. If this book made you feel passionate enough to write and "rag" on me, as you put it, then at least it stirred up emotion. And who knows, maybe at some point in your life when you're about to jump ahead of God, you'll remember Chelsea, and think, "Oops. Wait a minute..."

Many blessings to you, ______.

~ BRANDILYN
-----------------------

Hello again,

I reread my message to you and I'm sorry. I was really harsh. It was pretty late and I was PMS-ing. Thank you for the time that you wrote to me even though I was pretty mean. I now have an understanding in why you wrote what you did, and why. Thanks for putting up with my harsh criticism. You're right about everything I complained about.

P.S. I again apologize for my letter. I sometimes say before I think, which is what Chelsea did. So thank you, I really appreciate it.

I was looking into a mirror without even realizing it.



Hello, this is Bailey. Just a short note, as we are all still in shock. I'm writing this Thursday evening, to post for Friday. Thanks to those of you who've been asking about us. We have lost a very dear friend today. Vesta Johnson, a wonderful saint. A woman in her seventies whom everyone loved. I can't give details. The police are still investigating. I can only say that this is beyond our understanding, in many ways ...

Thursday, March 22, 2007

This Morning in Kanner Lake ...





Today in Kanner Lake, Idaho, young reporter Leslie Brymes is not having a good morning. What happens to her is chronicled here, in Chapter Two of Coral Moon. You all are getting the first read.

Coral Moon releases tomorrow.
----------------------

Leslie Brymes awoke to a promising day of argument and scorn.


She stretched, groggy eyes roving the master bedroom suite of her newly rented house. Sunlight seeped through her pink curtains, casting the walls and carpet a hazy mauve. Her flannel sheets were soft and warm, coaxing her back toward slumber...

She resisted.

As sleep morphed into awareness, her mind began to pop with names and work-day duties. Eleven a.m.—interview Bud Grayson by phone. Two p.m.—Myra Hodgkid at her house. Leslie smiled, imagining the arguments of these opponents and the article she would write. Nothing like a little controversy to sell newspapers.

She slid out of bed and made her way to the bathroom, interview questions trooping through her head. Mr. Grayson, how much did publicity from the country’s fascination with the Edna San murder have to do with your decision to build a hotel in Kanner Lake? Ms. Hodgkid, why do you oppose the hotel when it promises new tax revenue for the town? As hot water in the shower hissed and pounded, Leslie considered others she might talk to, the word count she would need. Above all, how to push her story from the Kanner Lake Times pages into bigger newspapers and onto TV. The national interest hook might still have some life in it, especially with the recent airing of her interview about the Edna San case on Crime America.
For that, she had to give her roommate a lot of credit. Paige hadn’t wanted a thing to do with any public appearances, yet didn’t try to stop Leslie from being on the show. Paige knew how much Leslie wanted it to boost her career.

The twenty-five thousand dollars hadn’t been bad either.

Leslie stepped out of the shower, anticipation zinging through her veins. She donned a bathrobe and towel-turbaned her wet hair, then parked herself in front of the closet, considering what to wear. She pulled out jeans with sequins and little pearls on the thighs, laid them on the bed, then eyed them critically.

Perfect for the sweater.

Leslie headed down the hallway toward her roommate’s door. She knocked hard. “Hey, Paige. You gonna let me borrow that sweater today?” Her movement sent the towel turban into a slide until it covered one eye. She pushed it back in place. “Paige!”

The door swung open. Paige stood before her, clad in black jeans—and the teal sweater Leslie wanted to wear. Set off by the top, Paige’s vivid blue-green eyes were stunning. Even with no make-up and her brown hair uncombed, the girl looked gorgeous.

Leslie thrust a hand on her hip. “You rat. How did you know I’d want to wear that today?”

Paige shrugged. “I didn’t. But you can have it. I’ll wear something else.”

Leslie’s turban slipped again. She gave up and pulled it off. Wet hair slapped against the back of her neck. The cold sensation shot a frisson between her shoulder blades. Ooh. Sudden willies rattled her body, and the hair on her arms raked up.

She shivered harder.

Something touched the back of her neck.

Leslie gasped and whipped around, eyes stabbing the hallway.

“What’s wrong? Leslie?”

She barely heard Paige’s voice. Felt only the prickle of her nerves, the lingering sensation of icy fingers on her skin. A strange, indefinable heaviness descended, thick and dark. Leslie trembled, wanting to run, unable to move. Waiting for...

What?

The feeling sucked away, a shadow on a fast-ebbing tide.

She blinked, senses assimilating. Double-checking.

It was gone.

Her fingers cramped. Leslie realized how hard she was clutching the wet towel. She eased her grip, turned around to face her roommate. Paige stared at her.

“Are you okay?”

Leslie drew a breath. “Did you feel that?”

“Feel what?”

“You telling me you didn’t feel anything?”

Paige looked right and left. “What are you talking about?”

Leslie’s shoulders relaxed a little. Okay. Fine. She was just a little spooked this morning, that’s all.

But she could have sworn . . .

“Never mind.” She slipped the towel around her like a shawl, pulled her wet hair on top of it. “I just...went off for a minute.” She forced a smile, knew it came out crooked. What had they been talking about? “Oh, the sweater. Don’t worry about it. I’ll wear it another day.”

Paige’s eyes rounded. “I swear your face went white. You sure you’re not sick?”

Leslie managed a laugh. “Sick in the head, maybe.” With a flutter of her hand, she headed back down the hall. She could not tell her friend what had just happened—whatever it was. Paige had been through enough, and the last thing she needed was any more weirdness in her life. In the past month she’d begun to blossom, her shy smile quicker, her confidence on the rise. Leslie wasn’t about to put even the smallest speed bump in her roomie’s road to recovery.

In her own bedroom, Leslie chose a blue sweater and slid into her jeans. She pushed the strange occurrence from her mind.

Twenty minutes later in the kitchen, Leslie dropped a bagel in the toaster. While it cooked she slipped outside to fetch the Spokane Review off their front sidewalk. She snatched it up, the cold March air already seeping through her sweater, and hurried back into the house. Blessed spring, come soon.

Her bagel spread with cream cheese, Leslie settled at the table to peruse her competition. Dratted Big City daily. Hitting the streets once a week on Wednesdays, the Kanner Lake Times couldn’t cover news anywhere near as fast as the Review did. What’s more, the KLT was only six pages long. Leslie took a large bite of bagel. Well, so what? Neither could the Review cover Kanner Lake news as thoroughly as her paper. Fortunately, most of the townsfolk subscribed to both. Besides, how many of those reporters had been on national television? All she had to do was keep her nose to the grindstone, and she’d skip over bigger city newspapers altogether, go straight to TV.

Yeah, girl, keep believing it.

She checked the cat-shaped clock on the kitchen wall, its black tail ticking away the minutes. Just before nine. Time to head to the office.

Leslie shoved the last bit of bagel in her mouth, chewing as she rinsed her plate and knife, and stuck them in the dishwasher. Within minutes, teeth brushed and lipstick applied, she was headed out of her bedroom, bearing her small briefcase and a camera slung over her shoulder. The day beckoned, and Leslie Brymes would take it by storm.

“Bye, Paige!” She drummed pink fingernails across her roommate’s door as she walked by. Leslie knew Paige would be reading the Bible—a habit she’d picked up lately. Paige didn’t have to be at work at Simple Pleasures until ten.

“See ya!” Paige’s voice muffled through the wall.

At the front closet Leslie stopped to slip into a puffy jacket, pushing the camera back on her shoulder. She walked out to the porch, ensuring that the door locked behind her, and tilted her face toward a hazy blue sky. Kanner Lake had half a chance of seeing some sun today. Thank goodness the temperature had climbed into the mid thirties, just warm enough to have melted recalcitrant patches of snow. It had covered the ground since the beginning of December.

Leslie stepped off the porch and veered right, following the branch of sidewalk that led to the driveway, which curved up to the double-car garage on the far end of the house. Thanks to full boxes in the garage, she and Paige were parking outside until they unpacked everything. As Leslie approached the driveway, the rear right bumper of her bright yellow VW edged into view, followed by the pink daisy petals on the passenger door.

Someone sat in the car.

Leslie pulled up short. She leaned forward, frowning. The frame between the passenger door and windshield blocked the person’s face. Who was that?

She ventured three steps, watching the form materialize into full view. The person didn’t move.

Over his head—hers?—draped a green towel.

Fear spritzed Leslie’s nerves, followed by quick denial. It was just Paige playing a joke.

Somehow she’d proved Wonder Woman enough to beat it out the back and slide into the car before Leslie stepped through the front door . . .

Three thoughts hit Leslie in rapid succession. Paige didn’t play jokes. Her towels were blue. And she never could have made it out here in time.

What was going on today? First that feeling in the hallway, now this.

Leslie moved two more steps. Was this a new neighbor, looking for a few laughs? Some kid, who should be in school?

The figure remained still as stone. Leslie couldn’t even detect a breath.

Spider-fingers teased the back of her neck.

A year ago Leslie could have convinced herself this was a practical joke. Lots of people knew she and Paige had just moved here. Any number of her friends could have staged this prank. After all, she hadn’t locked her car. But after the events of last summer, Leslie Brymes was no longer the na├»ve twenty-year-old she had been. Life—even in quiet Kanner Lake—had proved it could explode with the vengeance of a volcano.

Leslie eyed the cataleptic figure and felt the tumble of rocks in her chest.

Slowly, she set down her briefcase. Slipped the camera down her arm and laid it on the cement. Hands free, she forced herself to the end of the sidewalk.

Where the driveway began, she stood within six feet of her VW. Close enough to make out the narrow-shouldered torso, wearing a white blouse, emerging beneath the towel. The covered head was quite a few inches away from the ceiling. A woman? Short, diminutive.
Still.

Leslie refused to dwell on the possible reasons for that.

Maybe this was a trick. Maybe it was a life-sized doll. If someone was looking to spoof Paige’s terrifying find of last summer, they’d done a good job. Leslie glanced over her shoulder, seeking a snickering culprit, but saw only empty street.

She turned back toward the car, eyes catching a streak on the passenger door. Dark red, about three inches long, over the edge of a pink daisy petal.

Leslie’s feet rooted to the pavement. She dropped her gaze to the concrete, seeking . . .. Spatters of blood? Footprints? She saw nothing. Honed through her recent coverage of crime-scene evidence and the testimony at last month’s trial, the reporter in Leslie spewed warnings. Notice everything, touch nothing. Grab the notebook and pen from your briefcase, take notes—

“No.”

This wasn’t real. Couldn’t be. It was a sick prank, nothing more, and when she got her hands on the person who’d set her up, she’d strangle him. Or her.

Propelled by her indignation, Leslie strode forward, grabbed the door handle, and jerked it open. “Listen, whoever you—”

The figure didn’t flinch.

All sound died in Leslie’s throat. Her stunned gaze fell on thin legs in blue polyester pants. Gnarled and bloodied hands curled in the lap. Pinned to the person’s chest, a piece of plain white paper, with the number one on it, circled in black felt-tip pen.

Leslie froze, screaming at herself to back away. Her legs wouldn’t move.

She knew then. Even so, she sought hope. Swallowing hard, she reached out a finger, poked the woman’s arm.

Stiff.

Experience and terror cried for her to stop. This was a crime scene, and nothing should be touched. But fear of the unknown overcame her resistance. Leslie lifted her hand—and jerked away the towel.

Blood crusted a battered head and cheeks. Open, glazed eyes. The face—Leslie knew it.


Her feet back-stepped, hand flying to her mouth. Leslie stumbled, sought the breath to scream and found none. Strangled into silence, her lungs swelling shut, she fled to the porch and pounded on the locked front door.

TODAY: Leslie Brymes--Checking In

Hi, all, Leslie here, taking a quick moment to check in.

I can't say spring is yet here in Kanner Lake, but it's coming. The snow is pretty much gone, and the weather's beginning to warm. Oh, come, spring! This town is so in need of sun and fun.

For the past number of days, (I'm writing this Wednesday afternoon to run Thursday morning), Paige and I have been very busy moving. Yup, we've found a great little house to rent at the end of a cul-de-sac, so now we're going to be roommates...

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Tonight in Kanner Lake ...



Tonight--Wednesday, March 21, 2007--an unfortunate event will happen in one man's life ... an event that will change the face of Kanner Lake.

For your "Sneak Pique" on this auspicious day I give you Chapter One of Coral Moon. (I have run the beginning of this chapter before, in an editing exercise. This is the complete chapter.)

Coral Moon
releases Friday.

-----------------------

Kill tonight—or die.

The words burned, hot acid eating through his eyes, his brain. Right down to his soul.

Only a crazy person would obey.

He slapped both hands to his ears, squeezed hard against his head. Screwed his eyes shut. He hung there, cut off from the world, snagged on the life sounds of his body. The whoosh of breath, the beat of his heart.

The words boiled.

His skull hurt. He pulled his hands away, let them fall. The kitchen spun. He dropped into a chair, bent forward, and breathed deeply until the dizziness passed.

He sat up, looked again to the table.

The note lay upon the unfolded Kanner Lake Times newspaper, each word horrific against the backdrop of a coral crescent moon.

How did they get in here?

What a stupid question. As if they lacked stealth, as if mere walls and locked entrances could keep them out. He’d been down the hall in the bedroom watching TV, door wide open, yet had heard nothing. Hadn’t even sensed their presence as he pushed off the bed and walked to the kitchen for some water.

A chill blew over his feet.

His eyes bugged, then scanned the room. Over white refrigerator and oak cabinets, wiped-down counters and empty sink. To the threshold of the kitchen and into the hallway. There his gaze lingered as the chill worked up to his ankles.

It had to be coming from the front of the house.

His skin oozed sweat, a web of sticky fear spinning down over him. Trembling, he pulled himself out of the chair. He clung to the smooth table edge, ensuring his balance. Then, heart beating in his throat, he forced himself across the floor, around the corner, and toward the front door.

It hung open a few inches.

They were taunting him.

He approached, hands up and fingers spread, as if pushing through phantoms. Sounds of the night wafted on the frigid air—the rustle of breeze through tree limbs, distant car tires singing against pavement. He reached the door, peered around it, knowing he was a fool to seek sign of them. The air smelled crisp, tanged with the purity of pine trees. The last vestiges of snow dusted his porch, bearing the tracks of his footprints alone.

He closed the door and locked it. As if that would do any good. He sagged against the wall, defeated and sick. How stupid to think they would leave him in peace. Hadn’t he seen this coming? All the events of the last few months . . .

Shoulders drawn, he made his way back to the kitchen and his inevitable fate. Each footstep drew him away from the life he’d built, reasoning and confidence seeping from him like blood from a fatal wound. His conscience pulsed at what he had to do.

The message sat on his table, an executioner beckoning victim to the noose. He fell into the chair, wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. He read the words, fresh nausea rising in his stomach. No misunderstanding their commands. They had a chess score to settle. He was their pawn.

He pushed back against the chair, arms crossed and hugging himself, the way he used to do as a boy. Dully, he stared at the window, seeing only his own pitiable reflection. For a long time he watched himself, first transfixed in fright, then with the evolving expression of self-preservation.

If he just did this one thing, his debt would be paid. They’d leave him alone.

For another hour...two…he sat, forcing down the queasiness as he thought through dozens of details. How he should do it. What could go wrong.

By the time he rose near midnight, he’d laid his plans.

Gathering the necessary items, shrugging on a coat, he slipped out into the cold and soulless night.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Think You Wanna Slack on Research?


I received this letter recently from a reader and got such a kick out of it, I asked permission to run it. For those of you out there who are tempted to just make something up in your novel ... a note of friendly advice. There are readers like this out there. :)

--------------------

Hi,

I just picked up Violet Dawn and read the first chapter. I'm eager to read the rest but wanted to make a couple comments.

At times I have made the wisecrack that the first 12 pages of some novels should be thrown away, so I was surprised to see this novel start on page 13. Good move! (I suspect from that that maybe my 12-page idea was not really original; I forget my sources and think I thunk up the ideas.)

The other thing is this: I read on page 14: "A slivered moon hung askew." No way, I thought, but I was wrong. I thought one couldn't see a slivered moon in the middle of the night ("almost 2:00 AM"). But I forgot to take into account how far north Idaho is. And I didn't realize that northern Idaho is in the Pacific Time Zone.

I checked. I found an "interactive sky chart" from Sky and Telescope. Sure enough, on July 22, 2006, the moon was a sliver (almost 3 days until new moon) and at Coeur D'Alene it rose at 2:06 AM PDT in the NE. Now a little ways north, say one degree, it rose at 1:57, so if Paige lingered in getting up and getting wrapped in a towel and her deck is high above the "forested hills," then she would have barely seen the slivered moon above the trees.

The basin of the big dipper would be NNW, but would not be spilling. It wouldn't be "tipped backward" even a tiny bit until 2:15, so I suspect either Paige fell back asleep or got some warm milk on the way to the deck. It might have been 3 AM by the time she got to the deck, but after 3:30 she might have noticed Venus. And I suspect Kanner Lake is north of Coeur d'Alene.

In any case, I'm impressed. Either you were up that night, used some software, or asked Randy Ingermanson. Or you may have just asked Paige.

Such scrutiny is, of course, completely unfair and unwarranted, but I had fun. Back to the novel...
--------------------------

I wrote this guy back and told him of the web sites I used for determining the phase of the moon on that particular night last July (keep in mind I wrote the scene well over a year earlier). I also checked star charts for the sky. Better yet, while in our home in Coeur d'Alene, I checked the Big Dipper in the middle of the night around that day in July. The book was practically written by then, but I could have changed the part about the Big Dipper's tilt. It does start out spilling forward into the lake, but ends up tipped backwards.

For moon phases, you can google that exact phrase and come up with plenty of sites. MIght want to check more than one in case one's info is erroneous. For times of sunset and sunrise (also very importantly timed in Violet Dawn), I use this naval site.

A number of years ago when I wrote Dread Champion I needed to know the times of tides on a particular night on a particular beach--again over a year in advance. I found a great site to tell me what I needed. Of course, that was numerous computer crashes ago, and now I can't find it again. If anyone out there comes upon a great site like this, let us know.

In short--before you mention a tide time, a sunset time, a moon phase, a whatever--better check it out first. Because "Some old guy on the Rio Grande," as this man dubbed himself in his e-mail, is going to hit a phrase like "a slivered moon hung askew" and get all hung up himself. And this reader ain't gonna be able to continue with the book until he/she satisfies himself that such slivered moon is right and true.

Final thought about this e-mail: This guy would mention Randy Ingermanson. Suddenly it all made sense.


TODAY: Bev Trexel--Birthday Shopping

Bev here, wondering: What do you get for a stubborn old lady who has everything except the one thing I can't give her?

I've visited every shop from Kanner Lake to Coeur d'Alene--it was worse than one of those all-day shopping trips on which Angie dragged me. Or used to, before she got so caught up in that woman's health club thing ...

Monday, March 19, 2007

PubTrack Launch


According to the recent issue of Christian Retailing, PubTrack, the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s (ECPA) new data system launched last month, almost a year after its original launch date. PubTrack had been put on hold while ECPA and the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) discussed data practices. CBA had launched its own data-gathering system called CROSS:SCAN due to retailer concerns that STATS data was being fed to competitors (such as secular bookstores).

We have discussed PubTrack before here (check sidebar for previous posts on best-seller lists). PubTrack is intended to replace ECPA’s STATS service. Currently over a dozen publishers and around 500 Christian retail stores have signed up for the program. The article did not say who these booksellers are (that is, what large chains may or may not be involved).

The article quotes CBA President Bill Anderson as saying that “serious progress” has been made in discussions between ECPA and CBA regarding some sort of collaboration between the two organizations’ data systems. Meanwhile Michael Hyatt, Publisher/CEO of Nelson and current chairman of ECPA, has called for a
“better bestsellers list” that would entail data from many different venues, not just the minority of Christian bookstores participating in one current system or another.

And so the issue continues. Your guess as to what happens in the future is as good as anyone else’s.

For the current bestseller lists (remember, this is only due to data from bookstores participating in STATS), go to
www.cbaonline.org.

TODAY: Carla Radling--Wilbur Takes the Challenge

...Yesterday I was at Java Joint in the morning as usual. And, of course, there sat Jake and Wilbur at the counter. Bev and Angie at their table. And S-Man, still typing away on his manuscript. Anyway, Wilbur and I got into it. Actually he got into it. Wilbur growls and carries on; I just "discuss." So he starts in on this harangue about how the towns getting too big, and this new hotel might go in, yada, yada. I said, "Wilbur, what's the big deal? We're not talking about that much growth. And a few extra tourists will mean more people you can jabber at in here every morning."

He sniffed. "All the more people gonna want to sit on my stool..."

Friday, March 16, 2007

Oops


Sorry, folks, for the lack of a post. I realized in the middle of the night that I hadn't written one.

We traveled from Idaho to California yesterday, and as soon as we hit home here I was going through two weeks of mail and trying to figure out how to navigate this house. I've ordered some things to help but they haven't arrived yet. Oh, except for the shower seat--which didn't fit our extra large bathtub. And the cast coverer--which also didn't fit. Sigh.

So, uh, talk amonst yourselves, okay? Tell a joke, write a rhyme, do something. It's Friday!

See you back here Monday.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Reader Letter


Recently I received this e-mail from a reader of Dead of Night. I'm running it anonymously, with permission.

Dead of Night released two years ago this month. I run this letter as an encouragement to all you writers of Christian fiction, published or not. This is why we write what we do. It's one thing to write a novel everyone's reading on the beach, that everyone touts as a great plot. That's all well and good. But God brings to us the ability to touch a reader through a plot--even years later. That's the Holy Spirit's work, not ours, so we can certainly take no credit. How wonderful to team up with God through Story.
------------------
I picked up Dead of Night last week in my church's bookstore ... It's amazing how timing works out so perfectly. I'm being bogged down with never-ending headaches from dawn to dusk, countless college papers and tests, work, playing in my church's band, fighting temptations that the devil is taunting me with, and to top it all off my best friend is moving 3 hours away this weekend to start a new career. I know that my life will change drastically with him leaving and it couldn't have come at a worse time.

I used to talk to God incessantly, like a child would speak to an imaginary friend, just better because I know He's real. In the past couple years, though, I've noticed that has changed. Sometimes I may forget to pray all day, and then at night I'm trying to make up for it. But lately, just as Annie felt the urgings to pray and listened to the P.U.S.H. sermon, I've been praying more and with fervency. Yesterday, our church service was extremely powerful and everyone was prayin' up a storm. Usually I pray as much as I can, but it was different yesterday. I commanded the devil to take his hands off of my life and I commanded with faith and authority. When I couldn't think of anything else to pray, I began praying in the Spirit and it was stronger than I've felt in who knows how long.

... I just wanted to let you know how God was using your book to really speak to me. It's a comfort above all because I know that even though I'm feeling alone and abandoned, He is there and sees every situation and cares enough to remind me in my time of faithlessness.

---------------

If you've received a reader letter like this recently, or perhaps wrote one, I'd love for you to share the highlights and encourage all of us. (If you wrote the letter, you can post anonymously.) This kind of feedback is what keeps us all going when the writing gets tough. Which happens to me about, oh, every day.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

John Robinson--PI Guy

Think there are no "hard-boiled PI" novels in CBA? Let me introduce you to John Robinson ...


I met John about a year and a half ago at Glorieta Writers Conference. Basic scoop: He's fifty-four years old, and proclaims he’s married to the finest woman on the planet, his wife Barb. The father of two grown sons and grandfather of two, in 2003 John retired after thirty years as owner of a successful financial planning firm. He’s author of the acclaimed Joe Box suspense series, and says he has made some good friends in the Christian publishing world. These include Karen Kingsbury, Al Gansky, Wanda Dyson, James Scott Bell, and somebody by the name of Brandilyn Collins. John says, "All of these fine folks have selflessly used their talents to help me hone my craft." His works include Until the Last Dog Dies, When Skylarks Fall, and To Skin a Cat, all published through RiverOak.

John, thanks for coming on my site to chat. So what's up with you?

Brandilyn, thank you for inviting me here to publicly pry open my brainpan. Let’s see what oozes out! My latest book, To Skin a Cat, is the third in the Joe Box series. This one features our intrepid PI going up against a porn king, who’s taking his twisted view of sexuality to a new—and dangerous—low. It was released on September 1, and so far, like the others, the reviews have been good. Thank God.

How long had you been writing before you had a publishing contract? How did that come about, and what went through your head when you got the news?

Oddly, I believe I received the writing call on my life in early childhood. I loved spinning stories; sometimes I’d get in trouble for it! But I didn’t get serious with the craft until I was nearly forty-seven, in 1999. That’s when I got the idea of an end-times novel with a twist. Without going into too much detail, the thing turned out to be a trunk novel in the truest sense of the word … so far. But I feel my obedience to the Lord in sitting down and pounding out the recalcitrant beast was rewarded in His giving me the Joe Box character.

How I got the contracting call was interesting, to say the least. My former agent had been shopping Until the Last Dog Dies around, including to Cook Communications, and getting some positive feedback. But no contract. In mid-July of 2003 she was at the CBA (now ICRS) trade show in Orlando. It would take more space than you have here to tell it, but through a miraculous set of circumstances one of the head honchos at Cook (which owns RiverOak) sought her out. He said that after speaking to a senior buyer at one of the major book chains, Cook had reconsidered their position. Long story short (see? self-editing!), they ended up cutting the verbal deal for the book right there on the floor of CBA. My agent called me that same night, and coyly asked if I was sitting down. Then she sprang the news. I started screaming. I told my wife; she started screaming. We began jumping around like a couple of The Price is Right winners while our cat gazed up at us with that bemused and superior expression cats do so well … it was a wild evening.

What's your process for writing draft copy and editing?

There are at least two schools of thought about that. The first says to get the entire work down, and then go back through and edit. The second, and the one that seems to work for me, is to edit as I go. Sometimes that’s at the end of a chapter, sometimes a bit longer. What I absolutely must do every day before a session begins is to check out what I’d written before. Many times (too many!) what looked like tight, compelling and red hot and ready to rock prose at 11 p.m. seems likes so much cold gray gruel at first light. After that initial rush of “Robinson, you eediot!” (Ren and Stimpy voice) despair, I set about fixing the problems before moving on.

Speaking of despair, have any such difficult moments in writing now?

Absolutely. Any writer that says they don’t have those seasons of doubt is living a fantasy. I just need to keep reminding myself exactly Who it is that’s guiding the task. As the Word plainly says, He who’s begun a good work in me is faithful to finish it (my own paraphrase).

On your journey did you hit any major bumps? Speed traps?

Oh geez, yes. My very first Joe Box novel, the one before Dog, was shopped around without an agent (these days for fiction especially I feel that’s a bad move). Every house that saw it took a pass, saying it was “too dark…too edgy…too…everything.” That’s when I made the mistake of going with a certain secular outfit which trumpets itself as a “traditional publisher” (their own meaningless phrase; bear in mind, this was in early 2000, when there was very little on the 'Net concerning them). “Kid, we’re gonna make you a star!” That’s almost verbatim what they told me. Needless to say, that didn’t happen.

Later, after acceptance, I found out to my horror they were not only a print-on-demand outfit (the kiss of death in fiction), they literally take on everything that comes to them. Again, long story short, it took time, prayer, and the aid of a certain toothy lawyer, but I finally got the rights to that book back in February 2006. The whole experience was a hardcore, drippy-fanged, full-tilt-boogie nightmare. I’ve since heard stories of their dealings with other writers literally killing those writers’ desires to ever write again. That’s plain evil.

That book has since been rewritten, with a different main character, and my new agent has been shopping it.

Was there ever a time you thought of throwing in the towel?


Sure. What time is it? (laughs) Seriously, I have to battle that bugaboo constantly. It’s like there’s a nasty little man living deep inside my skull who constantly whispers stuff like, “Just who do you think you are, fake-boy? Breathing the same air as your ‘favorite writers’…you’re pathetic. Why don’t you just hang it up and forget it?” Keeping his pie-hole shut isn’t an easy task. Has to be done, though.

Any good advice you've heard that you'd like to pass on to others who are trying to get published?

Two things. One, always keep plugging away; writing really is as much a test of endurance as anything else. And two, remember that the publishing industry is a very small fraternity (yes, even the CBA), so never burn your bridges.

What’s something about publishing you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you time or grief?

I really wish the critique group I’d been a member of early in my writing career had boasted more fiction writers. Some serious feedback would have helped.

What kinds of books/authors do you like to read?

ABA non-fiction, I’d say anything penned by P.J. O’Rourke or Tom Wolfe. CBA non-fiction, T.D. Jakes and Cec Murphey (everyone please pray for him, by the way; he’s just gone through a tragedy, losing his son-in-law and house in a horrific fire). For ABA fiction, I love Dean Koontz and Robert A. Heinlein. For CBA fiction, I have several favorites. Brandilyn, Al Gansky, Jim Bell, oh man, a bunch...

What piece of writing are you particularly proud of? And why?

I’d say the first Joe Box novel that was commercially published, Until the Last Dog Dies. As I said earlier, I suppose that’s because it was such an absolute God-thing that it was ever picked up at all. Why in 2003 and not earlier? I dunno. Maybe the CBA market had changed enough they were ready for a guy like Joe.

Yeah, I think that's probably true. So. Now that you're on the published side, what drives you crazy about the business?

Everything about it is so…freaking…slow-w-w-w…! Lord, sometimes I feel the shifting of the tectonic plates beneath our feet is the Indy 500 compared to the process of getting a book out...

If you could possess one singular strength of another writer, what would that strength be?

That's easy. I'd take the productivity of either Dean Koontz or SF writer Harry Turtledove. How those guys can hammer out so much incredibly-good writing in the same 365-day year I occupy drives me bats. But I’m glad they do; more good stuff for me to read!

What’s your favorite part of writing?

My favorite part is probably the re-writing of a piece. In other words, I now have the skeleton down; it’s time to flesh the dude out.

Oh, I'm the same way. The blank page is definitely the hardest. What's your least favorite?

Beginning a new novel. Like you say, that blank white screen staring back at me can look as desolate as the blind side of the moon.

Any insider stuff you’re willing to lift the lid on?

Yeah, I have a new PI series started. The first one, Consumed, is done, coming in at about 90,000 words. I’ve also begun work on the sequels, Engulfed and Devoured (cool titles, what? I’m a sucker for grabber titles). My agent is shopping them, and has gotten some nice words back from several solid houses. Plus I’m writing a stand-alone piece of speculative fiction called A Certain Slant of Light. That one not only is a mind-bender, it’s also a lot of fun. Happily, he has a house interested in it as well.

Okay, on the marketing side. How much would you say you do?

I have a website and a blog; does that count? Plus when asked I’ve made myself available for radio interviews and book signings. In addition, I post a lot on writers’ online groups, making sure I include my website in my sig line. Also this year will be my third time teaching at the Glorieta Christian Writers Conference. That, I love.

Yup, gettin' out and about with colleagues is always fun. So John--your last word for all us BGs?

Keep on keeping on. God isn’t a respecter of persons; if He did it for me, He can do it for anyone.

I say amen to that. Thanks, John.

Thanks again to you, Brandilyn. This has been rather cool!




...Anyway, the latest thing around here is the hotel. Or maybe hotel. Some slick developer from outta state has come in and wants to build one near the city beach. That would put it just a couple blocks from Java Joint. A hotel full of tourists would be a good thing for businesses on Main Street, no doubt. But what about the other issues, like a building taking up the skyline where only the sky used to be?...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Captured on Camera





So, here’s the gal all suited up and ready to snowmobiling. Ain’t she cute.

Everything was fine as long as we went on wide roads. But we ended up on this trail that quickly turned very narrow. There were two or three moguls in a row like humps of a camel, each about four feet high. Being the hotdog I am—not—I went up the first one at about minus two miles an hour. Down the other side. It happened so fast. I think I hit a bump at the bottom. That jounced my body up and forward, and forced my thumb against the throttle. Which basically floored the snowmobile up the next hill.

Two things amaze me about this photo. One—I’d figured the snowmobile was on its left side, because I fell off to the left. But it’s on its right side. Second, I’m exactly parallel to it, but facing 180 degrees the opposite direction.

There are runners on each side of the snowmobile to rest your feet on. At the front of those runners is a portion that has an outside panel, so your foot can be in this three-sided area. Evidently the snowmobile veered over the hill and tilted to the right. I got thrown to the left. With my left foot caught in that compartment, and the weight of that big machine careening in the opposite direction, my body was wrenched fully backward. Somewhere in that process (apparently not nearly soon enough) the foot came free
.

Owie.

This is why the outside break in my ankle is not a clean break. In fact the bones are pulled apart. And why the inside ligament is so badly torn. And why I had to have a plate and eight screws, six holding on the plate, one at an angle to hold the two parts of the bone together, and a long one going all the way from the fibula to the tibia.

And I swear, the whole thing happened in two seconds.

In my Psalm reading this morning I was in the 140’s. Psalm 147:10-11 says:

He does not delight in the strength of the horse;
He does not take pleasure in the legs of a man.
The Lord favors those who fear Him,
Those who wait for His lovingkindness.



I like that verse 10.

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Read Part 7


Monday, March 12, 2007

I Get Around


Interesting life, learning how to get around on one leg. My left busted foot can’t touch the floor, so I’m doing a lot of interesting maneuvering.

I came home from the hospital with a light aluminum walker—two wheels at the front and regular legs at the back. Easy to glide along hardwood floors and hop behind. Also came home with a pair of crutches. I’m getting better on them, but any way you slice it, I can’t be up on ’em for long. All my weight resting on one leg—even if it’s a strong runner leg—makes for a hip burn pretty fast.

So. Ingenuity time.

First, exercising. I’m used to running five miles a day. Can’t take sudden total inactivity. So my first full day at home I started “running” in my chair. Knees bent, lifting the legs straight up and down, like working an invisible pump organ. I’ve always heard 2000 paces is a mile, so I count off that much for now. This uses all upper leg muscles—rather different from running. Can work up a sweat. But I can only do 100-150 in a row without stopping for a minute. I'll work up to doing a mile at a time, eventually hoping to get up to three miles. Keep in mind, by the way, my left leg is heavy with the splint and padding and bandaging. (Wednesday I get stitches taken out and a cast put on for six weeks.)

Then it’s on the floor on each side for leg lifts. Then some stomach crunches.

Second necessary ingenuity--buying accoutrements. Mark brought home a rolling workshop stool from Home Depot. Great for perching on at the sink and generally rolling around the bathroom. Here in Idaho we have a two-person tiled, walk-in shower in the master bath, but in California we have only tub showers. No can step into bathtub with one leg. I found a handy-dandy shower seat with an extension that reaches over the edge of the tub. You just plop down, swing your legs over—and you’re in. I also ordered a plastic thingy for covering the cast and keeping water out during showering. (Right now I'm taping a garbage bag around my leg.)

One more purchase—a physician’s-type rolling chair, with a footrest ring and a back. This will be great for scootin' around the hardwood floors in our California kitchen, where I'm having it shipped. I can make coffee and divine meals sitting on that thing. Be a regular holy roller.

Third, challenges. Saturday I got up and thought, “I know, I’ll bring Mark coffee in bed.” He deserves it, don’t you think—after all the wonderful care he’s been taking of me. Now I had no idea how I was going to accomplish carrying coffee up 24 stairs (yes, 24!), and using crutches. But hey, I’d figure it out.





(See what I mean? The stairs--16 on the first part, then around the corner to the right and up another 8 to the master suite. Cornering left leads to the other side of the greatroom and more bedrooms.)

So I crutched to the staircase. Went down the steps on my rear, leaving my crutches at the top of the stairs. At the bottom I picked up my walker and walker-hopped into the kitchen. The coffee was already made—it goes off automatically, being set the night before. I poured some into Mark’s Starbuck’s silver keep-it-hot-mug—the kind with a rubber top with one area left open for drinking. Then I hopped over to a drawer for some masking tape. Taped up the mug’s drinking hole. Put the mug in a plastic grocery bag. Wrapped the grocery bag tight around the mug and taped it. Took the handles of the plastic bag and tied 'em over the front brace of the walker.
So far so good. I walker-hopped back to the stairs. Now how in the heck to get the coffee up stairs, when I needed both hands to lift my rear end to the next step, all the while holding up one leg?

Aha! I untied the plastic bag from the walker and tied it around my neck, with the coffee mug hanging down front. Tada! I felt like one of those St. Bernard rescue dogs with the neck keg.

I butt-reversed up the 24 stairs. Pushed up on one leg at the top, grabbed my crutches and crutched into the bedroom. Sat down on the bed and untied the plastic bag. “Your morning coffee, sir.”

I tried to be nonchalant about the whole thing but couldn’t keep a wacky grin off my face. Mark just shook his head and smiled. One more antic from his dear wifey.

Speaking of Mark, he misses you all. Keeps asking if I’m telling you that he’s taking great care of me. Which he is. He’s been Mr. Step ‘n’ Fetch, Mr. Chef, Mr. Launderer and Mr. Errand-Runner.

I could get used to this.


Before we get back to our regularly scheduled programming, tomorrow I will show you some pictures. Yes, dear hubby was snapping 'em even as I languished in the snow after the accident. Oh, my. I hadn't figured out how I managed to do such a terrible number on my ankle. Then I saw the photos.

I don't wonder anymore.

--------------------
Read Part 6


TODAY: Janet Detcher--Moving Mountains

... Surrounding the box was a variety of rocks. Creek rocks, really. Some large. Some small. Some smooth. Some jagged. The point of all this was: God can move mountains, even if it's one stone at a time ... . When my friend shared this with me, it struck a chord. And the next day, I went out to Kanner Lake, and found a rock. I picked a pretty good-sized rock, because God had begun to stir some things in my heart about trusting Him. And I knew that in some ways, that was a big rock to move ...

Friday, March 09, 2007

In High Places

Thanks to all of you wonderful folks for your kind comments over the last few days. Your care and concern--and inimitable humor--has done much to lift my and Mark's spirits. You BGs rock!

Now for today--a recommendation. Rarely do I step out and speak this strongly in favor of a book. But I'm doing just that for Tom Morrisey’s brand new book, In High Places.

From the book jacket:


A Breath From Tragedy, a Whisper from Glory

For Patrick Nolan, every climb tells a story. And now maybe it's his own. He's right at the rim, staring over the cliff's knife edge and wondering how things went wrong so quickly.It all started after arriving home from a weekend climbing trip with his father, Kevin. That's when word reached them. In a silent moment, they'd lost the person most important to them--her death raising unanswerable questions and dangerous doubts ...

This book is beautifully, hauntingly written in first person. Its characters will live with me for a very long time. The story brought me to tears more than once, and after a certain chapter I simply had to close the book for awhile, unable to read on as the strength of the scene washed over me.

Tom is a rare breed in a writer. First, he’s a man’s man—a certified full cave diver, rock climber, second-degree black belt in Karate, and a competitive semiautomatic pistol shooter. Second, he’s a novelist who, as Athol Dickson says in his endorsement for In High Places, “knows the human heart” and “who can write with such a well-balanced combination of sensitivity and adrenaline-charged adventure.”

In addition to writing novels, Tom is executive editor of Sport Diver magazine. Tom’s previous novels include two featuring cave diver Beck Easton (Deep Blue and Dark Fathom), Yucatan Deep, also about cave diving, and Turn Four, featuring stock car racer Chance Reynolds. Tom’s nonfiction title, Wild By Nature, tells nine true adventure stories from a Christian perspective (finding the way out of a flooded cave, without light; going into a spin in a private plane…). All of these works have been extensively researched. Tom is well-known in Bermuda for his research travels there during his writing of the Beck Easton novels.

Do visit the
Backstory page on Tom’s website to read more about him and how he began his spiritual walk. His moment of recognition happened at a little deeper place than for the rest of us.

Opening scene of In High Places:

It was not the rock—it was never the rock; it was the air. Air: gusts and threads of it, rustling my hair at the edge of my faded red rugby shirt collar. Air: swaying the thin red climbing rope that dropped beneath me in a single, brief, pendulous loop. Air all around me and above me and behind me, open and empty and unsubstantial, drying the sweat on my dread-paled, beardless face, an entire sea of air, an ocean of it, lying vacantly beneath my jutting, quaking heels.

By fingertips and the thin toes of my shoes, I hung over a deep pool of nothing, a drop one could pass through for an eternity before being swallowed by the bright green, spring-leafed treetops of the Monongahela National Forest.

The Gendarme was an exceptionally airy place, a thirty-foot, twenty-ton, top-heavy block of Tuscarora quartzite perched tenuously upon the soaring, thin, cloud-feathered notched ridge that joined the twin summits of Seneca Rocks.

From the valley floor, hundreds of feet below, it seemed very nearly insubstantial, a blip in the naked stone skyline, the slightest thin twig of stone. But from its base, it was a gray, orange-lichened obelisk, a tower, soaring high into the stark, blue West Virginia sky.

You didn’t step onto the Gendarme; you boarded it, a stretching traverse to the initial foothold, a tentative and overbalanced tiptoe, like stepping into an empty canoe...

Rock climbing plays an important part in In High Places both literally and symbolically. As you see in the opening scene, sixteen-year-old Patrick is clinging to a rock—as he is to life itself. So often life can seem like empty air, a free fall. We cling to it with mere toes in a crack, clawing fingers. At the beginning of each chapter is a brief nonfiction excerpt from works about rock climbing. A reader can get so to into the story that he/she will be tempted to overlook these excerpts. Don’t. Each one is full of symbolism for events in that chapter.

Besides the exquisite writing, the effective use of symbolism, the characterization—In High Places also showcases great pacing. And coming from me as a suspense writer—it’s got terrific chapter hooks. No doubt those hooks come from Tom’s cave diving suspense novels. He’s sure got a handle on how to use them effectively. They kept me turning pages long after I should have turned out the light and gone to sleep.

In High Places resonates with readers because of its realistic depiction of life. No easy answers, no everything’s-perfect ending. It’s real and heart-tugging. It’ll make you cry and make your heart soar with hope. It depicts God’s mercy, although I can’t remember that word ever appearing in the book. It shows God the Seeker, God the Merciful. God the Rock.

Do yourself a favor and buy this book. Any of you out there who’ve decried the lack of quality in Christian fiction—you can put your money where your mouth is on this one. Writers, read it to learn great craft. Readers, read it to be enthralled. As Lisa Samson says in her endorsement, “Beautifully exciting, haunting, and satisfying. Morrisey leaves you hanging by your fingertips.”

I agree. I read the book over a week ago—and I’m still hanging.

TODAY: Bev Trexel--A Post About Nothing

Well, have we been quiet enough around here for you? Everybody seems to be flying in different directions. This hotel controversy (Jared mentioned it in his post some time ago) has really heated up. But I am not writing about that. I am writing about nothing ...
I can't write about the recent trial, for that subject Bailey has banned. And the hotel issue--whether or not to build one at the city beach--rather bores me. My life will go on whether a hotel joins the Kanner Lake skyline or not. As for Angie--she's so into going to that gym now that she's become rather boring as well. Although she is losing weight, and I am happy for her ...

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Hospital 101


And she’s back. Although Mark was such a hit, I’m thinking of giving him a full-time job with Forensics and Faith. Tuesday saw one of the highest-read days of this blog ever. I think it was a combination of Mark’s reporting and everyone coming over here to get their fill of my accident. Now how’s that supposed to make a gal feel?

So how did I do at the hospital, you ask. Oh, hospital, how did I flunk thee? Let me count the ways.

1. Okay, let’s get this one over with. I flunked Bedpan 101. Actually, I got the hang of it (haha) on the second try. But the first time what I mostly got was the bed. Which then had to be remade.


Hey, the pan was a small one.

Made for a two-year-old.

With a very tiny butt.

I simply refuse to go into more detail on this one.

2. I flunked Entering the Operating Room 101. Yes, I was in pain. No, I didn’t like what awaited me. But I just wrote a book with a scene in an operating room, see, so I had to ask the docs a few questions. Was this what most rooms look like? (I was rubbernecking on the gurney.) Is this the normal size? Bigger? Smaller? I think the docs expected me to get up and take measurements, then hand ’em a card for decorating.

3. I flunked Going Under 101. Or maybe you could say I passed with flying colors. Here’s the thing. I do not do prescribed pain medication. Period. I told the docs this. I also told them I’d go out like a light. I mean it—they could hold up a bottle of the stuff, and I’d see it and go out. The doc “started” with an IV. “Now this is just a preliminary until we get the real meds going.” Before he was done talking, I felt the stuff race through my body. Managed to hold up one hand. “Bye … bye…”

4. I flunked Waking Up 101. I was in a recovery room, that I know, because I heard voices around me. But I never opened my eyes—no energy. I knew I was being a terrible pain in the neck. But I couldn't help it. They put something down your throat to help you breathe during surgery, so I woke up coughing to beat the band. And groaning. Everything hurt. And drat it all, nobody seemed to be paying the least amount of attention to me. Some soft-spoken guy on my right was getting it all. What's with that? So I did the only thing a self-respecting patient would do. Groaned louder. This eventually worked. Although I doubt the post-op people want to see me again anytime soon.

5. I flunked Pain Pills 101. Reference #3, above. No pain pills. I told the nurses I’d take the pain meds because I knew I’d be seriously hurting. But I also told them I can’t function on the things. Which means—are you hearing, nurses—I CAN’T get out of bed. I will faint. And every sound sends shock waves through me. So the wonderful nurses wean me off the morphine drip—“This’ll be so much better”—and hit me up with two powerful pain pills. Not one. Two. Saying I am down for the count is like saying water is wet. About an hour into this the physical therapy guy comes by. Very cute. Totally bald (he shaves his head). I rubbed it just to be sure. He wants me up and moving. I say no. This guy doesn’t take no for an answer. I happily inform him of myriad torturous ways I will kill him off in the next book. He doesn’t blink an eye. (The PT schools graduate ’em rough these days.)

It takes two people—PT guy and a nurse—just to sit me up and on the edge of the bed. With legs hanging over the edge. Otherwise it "doesn’t count."

I’ll have you know I didn’t get up again until I said I was ready to get up. Which was after the pain meds were totally out of my system. (In other words, the next day.)

6. While we’re at it, I flunked Eating on Pain Pills 101. Yup. Nothin’ would stay down. This does a world of good when you’re trying to gain strength. They already took away food from me for 15 hours before surgery. (I was a slide-in to the regular schedule, and in case I got in at 8 a.m.—yeah, right—I had to stop eating and drinking at midnight.)


Enough said about this one.

7. I flunked Crutches 101. This is simply not my fault. Totally due to another PT person—this one a gal. She wanted me to show her I could go up and down two stairs before she let me go home with crutches—since there are stairs in both our homes. I thought this particularly funny in light of my mother’s insistence over the phone that “whatever you do, don’t go up and down stairs on crutches.” Imagine her dismay to hear that hospitals teach that stuff. Well, it was a no go. It was morning. I still couldn’t eat much. I was just getting my strength back. I looked at those stairs, felt those wobbly crutches and imagined a second broken ankle. Nope, I said. I ain’t doin’ it.

Well, she is the sneaky one. Only then did she tell me I couldn’t take the crutches home. I’d just have to stick the walker.

"Why can't I take 'em home and just not use 'em on the stairs?"

No go.

Well I fixed her. I waited until we were ready to go. Volunteer gal ready to wheel me out and everything. But then I had my strength back. Or at least returning. So I said I’d retry the crutches. They found Miss PT. I went up and down the stairs. Take that!

I got my crutches.

I’m lousy on ’em, though. At home, how did I go up all those steps in our great room to the master suite? On my butt, one step at a time.

And it fit just fine.

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Read Part 5

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Recovery


From Mark (written last night)

9:30 am, Ortho Neuro ward nursing station: (husband) "So how is THE patient this morning?" (nurse) "Well, let's say she has made it clear to us what she will and will not do." (husband) "This is promising, she never leaves you guessing. She must be getting better." (nurse) "I guess so, but I wish we could get her to wake up and take some food. She just wants to sleep, keep the lights out and shades drawn. She needs to wake up. You go in there and wake her up. She has made it clear that we are not to do that."

So starts the first day of convalescence. Brandilyn is the type of person who is blessed with a very strong personality. Even when heavily sedated, she can make her feelings known with just the look in her eye. Those big lovely green eyes can communicate volumes. I found her half asleep in a drug induced state of mind. Her speech was very weak and she was asking things like "What day is it? What time is it?" When I told her it was only 10 am, she couldn't believe it. She thought that it must be at least early evening, if not later. She felt like she had been awake all day long. I perked-up at this thinking about that old adage "time flys when you are having fun." As you can see, I was proving no help at all. I couldn't get her to wake up, sit up or do much of anything else.

The nurse came in about then (I expect) to see what progress I was making. She looked at me, shook her head and then made a comment to Brandilyn something like "how are we doing?" Brandilyn gave her a look that said "what do you mean WE?" I decided that I would be more help just stroking her brow and saying nothing. That worked! Someday I will get the hang of all this subtle communications stuff. (husband) "You realize that she will never wake up as long as you are giving her pain medications. They always knock her out." (nurse) "Well 'Dr. Welby', if we take her off pain meds her foot will be very painful. Just what do you suggest that we do?" (husband) Err, uh, well, maybe I better go run some errands." (husband exits stage right)

3:30 pm, Ortho Neuro Ward Nursing Station: (husband) "So how is our patient this afternoon?" (nurse) "She is doing much better. She actually let us in the room and is coming out of her meds beautifully." I go in the room and Brandilyn is sitting up in bed, eyes open, drinking water with the window shades open. She tells me what great nursing talent they have in the unit and then describes each one by name. She has now acquired a room mate. She said that the pain medication that they had her on was making her so sensitive to noise that when the patient was being moved into the room it "about drove me crazy." She had them take her off pain meds entirely and give her just Ibuprofen (Do I know my wife or what?). She was feeling much better and had minimal leg pain.

I am now going to end this edition of the "Recovery Blog" and get back to the hospital. I expect that she will be discharged tomorrow. I do need to point out that the nursing staff at this hospital is first rate. I took a little, but not too much, liberty in my rendition of the events. Thank you all for the wonderful responses to yesterday's post. She may let me do the one for tomorrow. I expect that getting situated on crutches will be an experience worth sharing with you all. Thanks so much for your well wishes and prayers. I don't know how God is going to use all of this, but it's a major event in her (our) lives, and I am sure that it will lead us somewhere we would never have gone otherwise.

Good night all and God Bless,

Husband

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Read Part 4