Monday, April 30, 2007

BHCC Prez Victorious


A couple weeks ago in this post I told you all that Big Honkin Chickens Club President Deb Raney had responded to my challenge to read Web of Lies (which I dedicated to her and BHCC VP Robin Lee Hatcher). If she did that, I’d send her five pounds of DeBrand chocolate. Of course I expected a "No Way!" Web of Lies happens to be one of the creepiest (literally) books I’ve written. But sometimes those BHCC people can fool you. Deb replied:

Okay, I’ve responded to your challenge, Brandilyn, and to prove my intentions, I’ve just finished the prologue and Chapter 1. Okay...I gotta admit it: you’re good and I’m hooked. (Even though that first scene is WAY too much like the murder I witnessed in a grocery store 13 years ago!) I’m also home alone right now, so may hold off on chapter 2 until Ken and Tavia get home...

Not until it was too late did I learn that one Debrand chocolate truffle costs $2.50.

Hey, no sweat. Chicken Deb would never finish.

Later I received this email:

I’m on page 185, and here’s where I read yesterday. SCARY! I went with Ken on a rock hunt in his 97-year-old grandpa’s pastureland in the Smoky Hills. We were out here on this windswept Kansas hill by an old abandoned stone house with the rattlesnakes and jackrabbits and centipedes. Didn’t see ONE spider (or a snake for that matter), but unearthed a centipede that CREEPED me OUT! If you don’t have a nasty creature for your next HORROR novel, this would be a GREAT choice.

Okay, now I started to sweat.

Yesterday—another email from Deb:

I FINISHED I!! And you won’t believe this: Friday I was 35 pages from the end and things were really heating up. I was bitin’ my fingernails and forgetting to breath. But I was scheduled to speak at a women’s retreat at a campground near Kansas City this weekend. I couldn’t wait until Sunday night to find out how things end! No way! I’ll take the book with me, I thought. If I have some free time, there’ll be a whole cabin of women there to hold my hand while I finish.


But no! This lovely group puts their speaker up in a PRIVATE cabin all by herself. There goes that, I thought. But the program wound down by 9:30 Friday night and the women gathered in groups with their own churches, so I was free until my sessions the following day. I went back to my cabin (which was LOVELY with a full, modern bath.) I kept glancing at my book, thought about the stories I’d heard of more rustic cabins in this campground, where a group of boys had actually seen a SNAKE crawl out of a hole in a mattress. I shrugged. “What’s a little spider?” So I sat up in bed with the covers pulled tightly around me and read to the very end!

I did it!! I’m so proud of myself! It was a GOOD book! I came to care for all the characters and loved the romantic thread. Okay...I left the bathroom light on all night, but I actually slept like a baby! Woke up feeling refreshed and ready for the day. Not a hint of a nightmare.

Um...until... just before leaving to come home from the retreat yesterday, I went back to my cabin to pack. I pulled back the covers to strip the sheets off my bed... and a creepy black spider scurried out from under the quilts!! I couldn’t even scream! I was laughing too hard. ; )You may have the chocolates delivered to (her address). Now why do I think I’M the BIG winner all the way around in this deal?!! : )

P.S. I hope this doesn’t disqualify me, but I did NOT read the blurb at the end of the book for Violet Dawn! I know your blurbs are TERRIFYING! ; }

Deb, president in good standing of the Big Honkin’ Chicken Club

Fortunately, Deb in all her chicken kindness said I’m off the hook for sending DeBrand chocolates, which would have cost me hundreds of dollars. For this I’m grateful. But she shall receive five pounds of some good stuff, nevertheless. She’s earned it.


Friday, April 27, 2007

New Christian Fiction


In the latest issue of Aspiring Retail, there’s a long article about some of the newest authors in Christian fiction. It’s wonderful to read through. Many of the people I know, some I don’t. I was struck with how diverse the topics of their novels are, and how every genre has new authors. There’s a lot to choose from here, folks. Something for everybody.

Read Christian Novelists on the Rise
here.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Short But Sweet


Here's an email I received this past Monday. God knew I'd need it to get through the week.

hello i just wanted to say how much i enjoyed "eyes of Elisha" it really helped me to be more open and obeying to god and his call on my life...i would buy the rest of your books but i dont have a job...im only 16 but i just wanted thank you for letting god use you in this way.


Sure made me smile.


TODAY: Bev Trexel--A Surprise Birthday Party, Part II

Bev here again. As I was saying a few days ago, Kanner Lake threw a surprise birthday party at Java Joint for Angie. I left off my story with the presents.

The best part. It took several minutes to calm the ruckus down. Goodness, I honestly don't know how Bailey deals with it every day, running everything so smoothly, keeping everyone happy, and always holding onto that smile and sweet disposition of hers. And without her, I don't think we ever would have gotten to the presents...

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

More Time To Write

If you ever break an ankle and have surgery and the works, don’t ever let anybody tell you that you’ll have “more time to write.” More than one person has said this to me.

Hah.

I’m on deadline, as you know. I need to be sitting at the computer all day. Not. Why? Last Friday I started physical therapy.

I have to go three days a week, between Monday and Friday. Each time the whole process—getting there, doing the therapy, getting back—takes about two hours. That’s a big chunk out of a work day. Plus they want me to do this hot/cold process on my ankle because it’s so very swollen. (No wonder it is—I’ve been sitting at the computer all day with it down.) I’m supposed to do ten minutes hot, then then minutes ice. Then exercises and massage. This process takes about 40 minutes with the set-up of getting the ice, heating the pad, etc., etc. I can’t type while I’m doing it, because I have to lie down with the foot up higher than my heart. The therapist told me she wanted me to do this five to six times a day.

I just laughed. “No way. That would take all day.”

So I’m doing it twice, morning and evening. In addition to the physical therapy trips. Plus, you have to put in the equation the fact that it’s hard getting around. Everything takes longer—from walking across the room to taking a shower. (I still have to sit down on the plastic chair in the shower, since I can’t put weight on my bare foot.)

Fortunately, my wonderful editor has moved my deadline back one more week. It’s now at May 16. It cannot be moved any more—neither for her sake, nor mine. We both have projects right behind it.

Yesterday my Forensics and Faith post was late. Around 11:00 my assistant called, scared I’d up and died. You all probably thought so too. Not. The night before when I’d just collapsed into bed, I remembered I hadn’t posted my blog. The thought of getting up, putting the boot back on, going down to the first floor, across the house, up the five stairs into my office—uh-uh. Way too much work. The post would just have to wait until the next morning. And then, of course, in the morning, I had to do the hot/cold, eat something, yada, yada. I didn’t get up to my office until late.

Meanwhile, I must say, the therapy is working. My foot is much less swollen, and doesn’t hurt so much. But when I get to the computer, I really have to make the time count to get in my allotted pages.

Despite all this, I can only thank God the accident wasn’t worse. To think that a snowmobiling accident could have left me with two broken legs, or paralyzed …

I’m so grateful for God’s care. And a helpful editor. And a wonderful husband. And all you BGs and your prayers. And so many other blessings, I could never count them all. God is faithful.

Uh—about those prayers. Please keep ’em coming for my deadline.

--------------------
Read Part 11

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Shake-up


Recently a review of the Broadway play Blackbird ran in The Wall Street Journal. Blackbird, by David Horrower, is a two-actor show that runs in a straight 90 minutes of real time, starring Alison Pill and Jeff Daniels. The story is about Una, age 27, showing up unexpectedly in an office to confront Ray, 55, about his molestation of her when he was 40 and she was 12. At first she’s furious at him, and he’s terrified to be found these 15 years later. But as the play moves on, as the reviewer puts it, we “learn that Ray and Una are still obsessed with one another” and soon start reminiscing in explicit language exactly what happened between them.

The reviewer, Terry Teachout, quotes Harrower as saying he wanted “people shaken up.” But Teachout wonders—to what end? He says that Harrower “suspended his characters in a moral and factual vacuum.” As a result of the “absence of any moral frame for the events,” the play offers nothing more than “shock for its own sake.”

Teachout was not calling for “stopping the action” to “insert an audience-comforting sermon.” But, he says, “moral points can be made in vastly more artful ways.”

That last paragraph sound familiar?


I keep coming up against a truth as I read about Story in its various forms in the general market. Those authors/screenwriters/playwrights face the same issues we do. Previously I posted about the issue of reviews. Now it's how to make moral points in an “artful way.” How to present real, sometimes raw life without doing it for mere shock value. It's good for us to realize that the issues and challenges we face aren't just in our industry. Too often we can talk about them and bemoan them as if the issues are only found within CBA. In fact, they are found within the world of creating Story.

As for making a moral point, the very raison d’etre of Christian fiction is to depict Christian truth, whether obviously or subliminally. So I don’t see that any of our novels as a total package would fall into the “mere shock value” category. But this point is something to remember as we struggle with how much reality to use, what scenes to include, how much graphic detail to include. Scene to scene, paragraph to paragraph, we can ask the same question: is there a moral value to this part of the story, or is it here for “mere shock value?”


I find Harrower's quote about shaking up people interesting. Almost as if he started with a result in mind, then set out to create a shocking story to achieve that result. We face that temptation in CBA, too, whether it's to push the envelope as far as possible just for the sake of pushing, or whether it's to hammer home a Christian theme, thereby ending up with a didactic-sounding story.

Either way, the danger seems to lie in focusing too much on what we as writers want to achieve and forgetting how our readers may respond to the resulting story. Both sides of that equation are important, and one side may need to temper the other.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Books That Made A Difference


Recently fellow Sta Akra author and pal Creston Mapes received this letter from a reader. We can all rejoice over this one, folks.
--------------------------

Dear Creston,

My name is __________. I'm currently in a ____ (state) prison. I've read both of the Dark Star books, in order. My mom and step father sent the first one about two months ago. Then Full Tilt last week. I'm 26-years-old so both of the books caught my attention. I don't know if it was the ideas of the rock concert in Dark Star or the references to meth in Full Tilt, but God is what I'm after now. Since I read Dark Star I've been x'ed outof the Arian Circle, in other words, I'm no longer apart of it. I've also become less of a presence in the day room, where all the fighting and trouble seem to start from. I've got one year done on a five year sentence. I should be out on parole some time late in 2009. My 4-year-old daughter, _____, will be 7 by then. I'm writing all this to say "thank you." I love the books. My daughter would thank you too. I've given my life to God now. I'm slow but it's all taking affect. If you knew how I used to live, and what kind of person I was, you would know that angels are singing at the top of their lungs. I love the books. I'm patiently waiting for the next one. If ya'll have anything you could seen me that would tell me when the next one is coming to stores, I could in turn send it to my mom (she's a Christian too). Your book has helped me a great deal with my meth problem. I have the strength I need now. God bless you and yours.
------------

I’ve read both Full Tilt and Dark Star, and I’m not surprised that these books helped a twenty-six-year-old man. Creston’s novels are suspense--with a lot of God woven in.

His next novel,
Nobody, releases in September.

Waytago, Creston. Thank You, God!

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

Carnival of Christian Writers Happening Today!

TODAY: Bev Trexel--A Surprise Birthday Party, Part I

Hello, everyone. Bev Trexel with you today. It has certainly been a trying few weeks. First the ruckus about building the hotel. Then those horrible murders here, and everyone looking over their shoulders. (See, Angie, I told you having a dog was a good idea.) Now the shooting at Virgina Tech, where one of my friends used to teach. After all that, who couldn't use some cheering up?

So Kanner Lake threw a surprise birthday party for Angie...

Friday, April 20, 2007

Radio Spots


Currently radio spots are running for Coral Moon on Christian radio stations across the country. The promotion, run by Westar Media Group, includes advertisements as well as taped interviews with me, and book give-aways. Details:

1. Mega weekend: April 13, 14 & 15. Participating radio stations promoted Coral Moon once every hour the entire weekend. Promotion included the radio host mentioning the book and asking listeners to call in to win a free copy, plus a brief clip from me. In the week leading up to the mega weekend, stations promoted the weekend’s events: “Be sure to tune in this weekend to win a chance for a free copy of the latest book, Coral Moon, from bestselling author Brandilyn Collins.” Or something to that effect. As I understand it, sixty-five stations took part in this program. I think all those who participated had five books each to give away.

2. The mega weekend led to this week, 4/16 – 4/25, of paid spots (two 30 second spots running back to back) that are running on seven of the stations four times daily. (I think these are some of the bigger stations.) Each is also doing on-air book giveaways. Most will be doing some additional excerpts from the interviews I taped. The stations are:

WFFH/WFFI (Nashville)
WRVI-FM (Louisville)
KGBI-FM (Omaha)
KXOJ-FM (Tulsa)
WJBZ-FM (Knoxville)
WJQK-FM (Borculo, MI)
KBIQ-FM (Colorado Springs)

I recorded the stuff over the phone, but I haven't heard how it was put together for airing. I answered a bunch of questions for the interview, and each of my answers had to fit with a certain amount of time. I think it was 45 seconds. Which meant I had to write each answer carefully and time myself before the recording. Then, of course, when I'm recording, I'm supposed to sound totally natural, as if I'd never practiced at all. I recorded the 30-second spots, too, but at the last minute they had to be redone by a radio announcer because, over the telephone, I didn't sound clear enough for an advertisement. The interviews worked fine, since listeners are used to hearing people being interviewed over a phone line. The problem with the 30-second spots was not Westar's fault. They had planned to have me record in a local studio. But at the time, with one good leg and crutch-hopping with one arm, I couldn't get around well enough, so we just did it from home.

Anybody heard any of this on the radio? (If you're like me, you're not listening to radio during the work day.) Was it an interview, the two thirty-second spots or what?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Agh!


Okay, here's the deal. I'm two and a half weeks from deadline on Amber Morn, fourth and final in the Kanner Lake series. I was doing great until the accident. Surgery, serious inability to sleep, pain, not moving easily, etc., etc. has taken its toll on the ol' brain. I must make this deadline.

Such is my tale of woe. But I'm just one writer in many. We all seem to bewail our deadlines as they approach, as if we didn't know they were coming. Here's your chance, BGs. Bewail away. Tell me the woes of your current deadline, or one of your worst in the past. If you're not published, have you ever set a true deadline for completion of a manuscript? Did ya make it?

Do tell. Make me feel I'm not alone.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Antagonist


I've been thinking about bad guys.

A number of weeks ago there was a discussion on the ACFW loop about bad guys in fiction and the tendency in recent novels to make them understandable. That is, to explain their background or childhood as a way to show how they came to be what they are. Some people opined they didn’t like this, as it tended to smooth over the evil or make excuses for it.

I found the discussion interesting because it occurred not long before Coral Moon released. In CM the bad guy’s background is revealed. Indeed, I show do why he is the way he is. I found it surprising that some wouldn’t like this, as one of the historical complaints about the suspense genre in general is the tendency to make a bad guy “all bad.” That this leads to a shallow, one-dimensional character, which is unrealistic, because all people have some good in them. This concept has given rise to the so-called “pet-the-dog” concept in the characterization of bad guys, in which you have a scene in which the evil one shows compassion to someone or an animal. Thought being that the evil he then embarks upon looks all the more evil in contrast to his humane acts.

In Violet Dawn, first in the Kanner Lake series, the bad guy is all bad. The challenge there was to create an interesting “all bad” guy—a man who fancies himself as wily and deadly as the legendary black mamba snake. Verbs and adjectives for this character were those that would be used in describing a snake. I even sprinkled in words ending with “S” sounds that would lend the subliminal hiss. Some readers got this, some didn’t. Some complained he was “one-dimensional” or “flat.” Others liked him. Well, for a bad guy, anyway.

In Coral Moon I did something entirely different. I wanted the reader to understand the bad guy even as he/she feared and hated his terrible acts. I chose to begin the book in his POV, showing how he didn’t want to do what he felt he had to do. However, this inner angst made him no less a cold-blooded killer, for he pushes down whatever conscience he starts out with to commit the murders. This look into his psyche forms one of the more subtexted themes of the book—how closely evil and good can coexist, and how, through certain circumstances and without God, the former can rise in a person’s life to trump the latter.

Last week’s blog tour of Coral Moon brought forth various reader reviews. One BG reviewed the book and mentioned that because she understand the bad guy’s background and almost felt sorry for him, she couldn’t fear him as much in the crisis/climax scene. I found this fascinating. It wasn’t a reaction I’d expected.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised. Nearly thirty years ago I read Tennessee William’s play Camino Real. In his foreword to the play, he makes a statement that so struck me, I remember it to this day. He says, “Hatred is a thing, a feeling that can only exist when there is no understanding.”

And so I am left to ponder: must a reader thoroughly hate a bad guy in order to fear him? And if understanding lessens the ability to hate, then should we writers of suspense stick with the “one-dimensional” all-bad bad guy?

Where is the balance? Tell me what you think. (Those of you who’ve read Coral Moon, please be careful in your comments not to include any spoilers.)


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Keyless Entry


If I have any gumption or perseverance at all, it comes from my mother, Ruth Seamands. She may be 90, but she's as independent and determined as ever--with a lot of humor thrown in. Here's one of her latest escapades, written last summer. This one occurred right at home in her retirement village...

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

Tonight I slammed the back door and headed for the hose. I love squirting water and my personally-planted swamp cypress trees were begging for some. Soon long cypress branches and round green tomatoes dripped in appreciation. Two tiny basil plants swayed in glee and swallowed their drink in one gulp.

A pain streaked down my arm so I turned off the hose and sagged into a lawn chair. The soothing splash of my pool’s waterfall lulled me to the edge of La-La Land. Better go inside.

My hand on the door. Oh, no! I’d locked myself out. I knew the front door was locked—hadn’t wanted any boogiemen visitors. Grrrrr—now they could grab me outside. Had to get a master key from the village office.

Running through the front yard in twilight, I nearly fell over a big, black mountain. My startled heart jumped into my throat. What was THAT?

Oh, silly Ruth! It’s only a pile of black garbage bags holding yesterday’s bush clippings. They looked mighty spooky, all humped in silence.

Blundering past my garage door, I saw the answer to my homelessness. The door was up about fourteen inches. How brilliant of me to leave it partly open. Could I slide underneath that door and ignore the key?

Sure. I’m not fourteen inches thick!

I lay flat on the tarmac, pulled in my stomach and stretched my legs as long as possible. Nothing to do about my sticking-up feet except to flip 'em sideways. I edged under the door, an inch at a push, head and shoulders leading. Next--bottom, then heels and toes.

What if suddenly that door rolled down and cut me in two? Longways.

Nah. That little light stops it.

When I was halfway through, a giggle started in my stomach and nearly choked me. Were any neighbors watching? Me. Nearly ninety, dignified, on a Sunday slinking into my garage like a Kentucky polecat. I kept scooting and laughing through the opening, legs and waving feet in last.

Success! I raised my head and bumped it on the tail pipe of my car. Ouch! How stupid to park so close to the door.

Squirming around, trying to stand, I slid my back up the door. As I walked around my car, I had to be careful. If I got too close to a shelf on one side of the garage, bush trimmers would fall on my head. If I got too close on the other side, a huge old cooking pot would jab my let-out stomach. (Precious heirloom pot. My mother used to cook apple butter in it. My brother and I loved to feed the fire, stir the pot and taste.)

Squeezing past the car, I closed the garage door, brushed off my pants, drank some iced tea and sank into a chair inside my locked house. Sinister black bags still in the yard, but no boogiemen.

I’ve just combed a bunch of leaves out of my hair. Tomorrow, I’m hiding a key in an old flower pot.

TODAY: Jared Moore--Prayers for Virginia Tech

... I am writing this post on Monday the 15th, my heart laden with sadness, as I watch the news.

I've been a newspaperman all my working life. In fact, even in school. I've posted before about my childhood foray into printing a newspaper. As a reporter and owner of a paper, I have covered crime and tragedy for many years. Indeed, it's a sad truth that trauma--not good news--is what people have come to expect in watching or reading the media. But I have never seen such senselessness as these school shootings. Each new such crisis leaves us to weep and volley why? questions at heaven ...

Monday, April 16, 2007

I Got The Boot


In this case, gettin' the boot ain’t such a bad thing. Well, now it isn’t. I wasn’t exactly thinking that as I sat in the doctor’s office Friday morning. Doc wasn’t around at the moment. Ever notice how they get the nurses to do their dirty work?...

So I’m sitting on the same gurney where I got my cast put on over four weeks previously. Mark’s in the same chair over by the wall. A pleasant-faced nurse in a blue-and-pink uniform approaches with her handy-dandy tool. Looks like a vacuum cleaner hose with a saw blade on the end. I look at Mark; he looks at me. One side of his mouth rises. He knows what I’m thinking.

My eyes pull back to Nurse Blade.

“So, uh.” I rub the underside of my chin. “You’re gonna demonstrate that thing first, right? Like on your own arm.”

“Oh. You’ve never had a cast taken off before?”

I shake my head. My eyes are so wide, the motion takes extra energy.

“No worries. This can’t cut skin.” She turns the blade on and whirs it back and forth over her palm. “See?”

I lean in close, squinting for blood. Not a drop.


I straighten. “Okay.”

The tremble in my voice says I'm not totally convinced.

She starts in at the top of my blue cast. “Now you’re going to feel the vibrations, but that’s all.”

The blade cuts into the cast and moves downward, toward my foot. I’m feelin’ those Good Vibrations all right. I don’t like this one bit, but I’m not about to show any fear.

I start singing the Beach Boys song. Mark rolls his eyes.

Nurse Blade cuts all the way down one side around my foot and up the other. Then she uses a wedge tool to crack the cast. Slowly it comes apart. She lifts it away.

Oh.


Wow.

Is that my foot? That swollen, scarred, purple shoe box? And the leg. It’s ghostly pale, covered with two inches of dried skin. My calf—that huge runner’s muscle I used to have, hangs like jelly clinging to an upturned bowl. I raise a tenuous finger, give it a poke. It jiggles.
Fifteen seconds later, it’s still wiggling.

I look at the nurse, swallow hard. She smiles. “Don’t worry. It’ll come back.”

Uh-huh.

I crutch off dejectedly to take X-rays. Doc appears to read the results. Good news. The bone has healed nicely. He puts me in this gray boot thing that I can take on and off. Says I can start putting weight on the leg, as long as I’m wearing the boot.

My face lights up. “Really? I thought I’d have to wait weeks for that!”

Immediate weight-bearing is the good news. Bad news is—6 weeks in the boot. That’ll put me near the end of May. June 25—another surgery to take the long screw out that goes clear through the ankle. “You can wait longer if you have to,” Doc says. “But eventually the screw will break, and then we got to go in from both sides to take it out.”

The only thing worse than one new hole in my ankle is two. I say June 25 is just fine. Doc says recovery from that won’t take too long. Let’s hope not. Ten days later I’m supposed to fly to Atlanta for the ChiLibris retreat and ICRS. I’m imagining those humongously long convention floors, wondering if I might better rent a wheelchair for the day…

Now, three days after seeing the doc, I’m walking around with the boot, using crutches for support. Soon I think I can get rid of the right crutch. It’ll be nice when I don’t need either of them. When the boot is off, I’m exercising the ankle. Stretching it right, left, up, down. It’s a weird thing, feeling the ligaments under my skin. They feel like inch-thick rubber bands. With attitude.

As for the plate in the ankle and all the other screws, they can come out in another year and a half or so—if I choose. That’s another major surgery, followed by crutches all over again. All those holes in the bones could make for an easy new break until they’re healed. Great thought--yeah, let's start this process all over again

A pox on snowmobiles.

--------------------
Read Part 10


Friday, April 13, 2007

New Avon Inspire Fiction Line


The latest issue of Christian Retailing includes an article on the secular publisher HarperCollins’ new venture into the Christian fiction market. Through HC’s sixty-five-year-old imprint, Avon Books, the new Avon Inspire line will first feature contemporary and historical titles, and later offer suspense as well.

Launching Avon Inspire on May 8 is Tracey Bateman’s historical, Defiant Heart, first in her “Westward Hearts” series. Next comes Linda Windsor’s Wedding Bell Blues, first in her “Piper Cove Chronicles,” releasing June 26. These two are followed by titles by Lori Copeland and Lyn Cote. Defiant Heart and Wedding Bell Blues are planned for initial printings of 75,000 copies each.

Avon’s Senior Vice President and Publisher Liate Stehlik says Avon Inspire plans to release from six to ten titles a year.

Avon Inspire is partnering with HarperSanFrancisco, which it providing its editor Cynthia DeTiberio for the titles. HSF will also handle marketing the books to Christian stores. (Interesting, that HSF is doing this and not sister publisher Zondervan. They did not explain why.) HSF Deputy Publisher Mark Tauber notes, “This partnership recognizes what we have witnessed happening in the (Christian) industry over the last few years. Namely, that Christian fiction is no longer a sideline in (Christian) and general trade stores, but (it) has become a mainstay.”

Stehlik noted that Avon had noticed many general market customers were buying Christian books. The publisher sensed that this wasn’t “just a Christian thing,” but that more traditional ABA readers were also becoming fans of Christian novels.

Who wants to say a hearty Amen!?

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

Coral Moon blog tour continues today.

Coral Moon Blour


The Coral Moon blour (blog tour) can be found on these sites. I encourage you to check out these blogs, not just for their Coral Moon reviews, but to meet some new people in the blogosphere. You’re likely to find a few blogs you’ll want to put on your favorites list.

Richard Mabry

Marci

Deena

The Curmudgeon's Rant

Cee Cee

L. Diane Wolfe

Rel

Cara Putman

Todd

LaShaunda

April Erwin

Valerie Comer

Andrea Graham

Erica Vetsch

Deborah

Jim Thompson

Jason

Sabrina L. Fox

So Many Books...

Jenny

Christy LaShea Smith

Jackie Castle

Kelly Klepfer

loves to read

Hisart777

Dineen A. Miller

Jim (The Bedford Review) Black

Elaina

Camy Tang

CeCe Lane

Georgiana

Becky Miller

Thursday, April 12, 2007

News Flash! BHCC Takes Major Hit!

Could the BHCC be unraveling? In a few days’ time, three events have occurred:

First, I received this email:

Brandilyn, I wanted to drop you a note to say hi. I have been a card carrying member of the Big Honkin' Chickens Club for years. I'm also an aspiring writer who has enjoyed reading your blog. I finally broke down and read one of your books. I was reading it to discover how you tied faith with suspense. I read Brink of Death. I must admit that I didn't hate it. In fact, I read it in one evening and was turning the pages so quickly at the end that it was ridiculous. So while I'm not a huge fan of the genre, I am a fan of your writing.

Imagine that. A BHCC member who read one of my books, and reports no nightmares. And actually enjoyed herself.

Then to further weaken the club’s foundations, its very Vice President, Robin Lee Hatcher,
posted about Coral Moon on her own blog yesterday. Ever the chicken, she admitted to not reading the book, but did highly tout my writing to others.

In her post, Robin mentioned BHCC President Deb Raney. These two share a common entry into the club. Since they had enjoyed my previous women's fiction novels, both forced themselves to read my first suspense, Eyes of Elisha. Both had nightmares. In her comment to Robin’s post, Deb claimed she gained 10 pounds after reading the book because she could no longer walk the path she’d once used for exercising. From then on, both of these dear pals of mine swore off my books.

Naturally I did the only thing a self-respecting suspense author/pal would do. I eventually dedicated a book to them. The creepiest one of all: Web of Lies. Surely these two weenies would read a book dedicated to them.

Not.

I answered Robin’s post and Deb’s comment with this challenge:

Deb and Robin, you know I love ya both. And yes, I am such a forgiving soul. But I'd send ya both five pounds of chocolate--your choice of brand--if you'd read Web of Lies--the BOOK I SO THOUGHTFULLY, GRACIOUSLY, CONSIDERATELY AND WITH ABSOLUTELY NO TEASING INTENT OR ILL WILL--dedicated to both of you.


Heh-heh.

I thought that would be the end of it. But these BHCC members can fool you sometimes. Deb replied in an email:

Okay, I’ve responded to your challenge, Brandilyn, and to prove my intentions, I’ve just finished the prologue and Chapter 1. Okay...I gotta admit it: you’re good and I’m hooked. (Even though that first scene is WAY too much like the murder I witnessed in a grocery store 13 years ago!) I’m also home alone right now, so may hold off on chapter 2 until Ken and Tavia get home. Or maybe I’ll take it to the hospital and snuggle next to my dad and read it where spiders are regularly exterminated and medical help is close at hand, just in case I have a stroke or something. ; ) But I can already taste the DeBrands. Hey! Wait a minute! This book is going to make me gain 10 pounds, too, isn’t it??? You sneaky thing, you...

Deb concluded by noting: I even stooped to putting you in my ‘What Deb’s Currently Reading’ feature on my website.


That's a might deep stoop all right, Deb.

BHCC, you just might lose your president. Either she’ll come over to the dark side or be hit with a major coronary. Either way she’ll be two sizes bigger after eating all that chocolate.

DeBrands, huh. Better start savin’ my pennies. That is, if she finishes the book.

Who's bettin' she won't get through it?

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Coral Moon blog tour continues today and tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Announcing a BG Contract


I’m pleased to make a contract announcement for a great writer whom many of you know. Mary DeMuth, author of the novels Watching the Tree Limbs and Wishing on Dandelions as well as numerous nonfiction titles including Building the Christian Family You Never Had, has signed a three-book fiction deal with Zondervan.

Here’s what Mary has to tell us about her Defiance, Texas series:
One mysterious tragedy. Three stories. Young Daisy Chance's abrupt disappearance spins three lives out of control--Jed Pepper, whose guilt over not protecting his friend Daisy strangles him; Emory Chance, who blames her own choices for her daughter's demise; and Ouisie Pepper, who is haunted by dreams of Daisy while pierced by the shattered pieces of a family in crisis. The dusty streets of Defiance, Texas provide a haunting yet hopeful backdrop for human depravity and beauty, for terrible secrets and God's surprising redemption.

Mary tells me the first manuscript is due in October, the second in April '08, and the third in October '08. The books will release six months apart.

Agent on the deal is Beth Jusino of Alive Communications. The acquiring editor is Andy Meisenheimer.

That Andy. He’s gettin' around.

Mary’s one busy girl. In the meantime she has other books in the works. She just finished a novel for Tyndale, currently untitled, co-written with a marriage author. It should release next year at this time. She also has a nonfiction proposal circulating right now titled Thin Places—"a spiritual memoir about those places in our lives where the veil between God and us seems thinner, more translucent." Third, Mary has a book releasing this summer at ICRS titled Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture, published by Harvest House. “They're giving it their full media and publicity treatment, so I'm pumped about that,” she says.

Mary just got through teaching at Mount Hermon. She led a track called "Inner Guts," which focused on "the importance of getting our hearts right as we pour them out on the page."

Three cheers for Mary’s new contract! She’ll be a fellow Zondervanite!




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Coral Moon blog tour runs today through Friday.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

That Spring Reading Thing


Update: Thingies and Thing Authors unite!

Katrina over at Callapidder Days reports that as a result of my post/announcement last Friday, over 55 authors have signed up to give away a total of around 110 books.

Katrina will be doing the giveaways on her blog every Saturday for the next ten weeks.

You Thing Authors who hear from the Thingy who received your book--do let me know. It would be fun to post some of the e-mails (anonymous e-mailer, and with permission).

Monday, April 09, 2007

Updates

After being down to only one leg and one arm for a couple weeks now (that is, I lost the use of my right arm for crutching two weeks ago), I’ve gotten pretty doggone good in getting around. Well, okay, so I don’t go that far. Any major excursion takes a wheelchair. But as for one-crutching around the house and getting up and down stairs, it’s working. Thank goodness I work at home, and the commute to my office (in California) is only five stairs.

I’ve been doing exercises for the upper injured leg. Of course, the lower leg can get nothing, being in a cast. I have these large calf muscles from all my years of running. The left one’s gonna look a sight when the cast comes off. I’ll have this huge bunch of hanging skin, I’m afraid. Already, even with the upper leg exercises, you should see the difference between my right and left legs. My right one is muscular, with a clear bump where the muscle starts above the knee. My left leg looks scrawny. Looks like you’re looking at the legs of two different people.

Thursday we fly back up to Coeur d’Alene for a doctor’s appointment Friday to get the cast off. Then I go into a boot for, I don’t know, at least another month. Don’t know when I can start putting weight on the ankle in the boot. So I may be one-crutching it for a few weeks yet.

I’m not one to complain, and I always try to find the humor in everything, but in all honesty, this has not been fun. Can’t wait until this is all behind me. It has, however, made me more empathetic for others who suffer sudden injury. It’s a real shock to the body, and even if you know the time will pass and you will be well again—in the meantime the days rather drag. And the loss of endorphins from exercising is a major hit to the emotional system.

Methinks I shall start a new annual event: Injured Person Day. Anybody you know with an injury, you send a card to, like Mother’s Day. Hallmark would love it.

Meanwhile wonderful Mark—you remember, my pinch-hitting blogger—has been taking great care of me. Best thing about all of this—he’s making dinner every night, and I get to sit on the couch and have it brought to me. Totally cool. The guy can cook too. Makes better dinners than I do. I keep telling him he cooks so great he might as well keep doing it when I’m better. He doesn’t seem too keen on that idea, however.

While I’m updating, I have to tell you the latest news on G.G. (If you don’t know who G.G. is, you can read about him
here and here.) Yesterday while we were out I asked Mark to drive me by my running route. I wanted to see if G.G. was still on the porch.

He’s gone. Totally.

Not on the porch in his wicker chair, although now not one, but two chairs are there. Both empty. I focused through the large window, where I first saw G.G. in the armchair, wearing his green tank top. Not there either.

How can a life-sized gray gorilla just disappear?

I’m thinkin’ maybe he broke his ankle …

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Read Part 9

TODAY: Jake Tremaine--A Doggy Tale

Hi, Jake here. Thought I'd tell you what's up with our pup, Duke. He don't look like a little puppy anymore, that’s for sure. He’s over seven months now, with paws about as big as a house. Maybe one day he’ll grow into ’em. Remember, Duke is part Lab and part who-knows-what.

So Mable got the bright to teach him how to fetch, since that's what Labs do. Only she thought he might as well fetch something significant. Like the newspaper off the front yard. Little did we know the trouble it would bring us ...

Friday, April 06, 2007

Critic Woes

In the recent issue of Publishers Weekly, editor-in-chief Sara Nelson talks in her regular column, Foreword, about the state of reviewing books in the general market. Seems a certain novelist has written an article in Harper’s that bemoans the lack of real literary criticism. According to author Cynthia Ozick, Nelson reports, “publishing and the public are awash in book chatter, thanks to book clubs, the Internet, the trade, the consumer press, not to mention publishers themselves.” But where, laments Ozick, are the real critics?

Nelson doesn’t totally agree. She does point out that the amazon.com reviewers tend to be “na├»ve and untutored.” But, she asks, so what? “No serious reader” takes amazon.com reviews as valid literary criticism. These reviews merely reflect what the reviewer does or does not like to read.

Does the lack of literary criticism matter? Nelson asks. Well, yes, to those who want to “view literature in the larger context.” But to most readers? No. Nelson points to an upcoming Oprah interview with the author of her next “Oprah Pick” (Cormac McCarthy, The Road). Oprah may not do a highfalutin’ literary criticism of the book, but just ‘cause she likes it—it’s gonna sell tons. In fact, to meet the expected demand, PW reports, the publisher has fast printed 950,000 paperback copies.

Nelson’s ending: “Oh, that hoi polloi: they may have trouble placing authors in the literary landscape, but they’re pretty good at putting them on the map.”

My, my. And I thought CBA fiction held the rights to such angst.


Thursday, April 05, 2007

An Opportunity Too Good To Pass Up


Before we get to today’s topic, a bit of housekeeping. I recently discovered that my computer has been dropping quite a few emails. Actually, Norton has been eating them. I had no idea Norton was that hungry. (Down, Norton, down!) I think I now have this fixed. At any rate, if you’ve emailed me in the past two weeks, and I haven’t responded—I never received your email. Please resend.

Now for today--an opportunity for you novelists to gain new readers.

Over on Callapidder Days, one of the Christian mom blogs I enjoy reading, Katrina has set up a "Spring Reading Thing." Yes, not a Club. A Thing. Let me tell you, these moms stick together. When Katrina announced her Thing, asking folks to comment about the books they plan to read this spring, 204 people responded. Read the post and their comments here.

Well, next thing you know, Bethany House gets wind of the Thing thing and ships Katrina a box of nine books to give away to participants (hereafter called Thingies). Each week she will post a blurb about a book, and those Thingies interested in reading it will leave a comment. The lucky Thingy will be chosen randomly to win the book.

Not to be left out, I asked Katrina if she wouldn't mind a few authors honing in on her Thing. She said the more Thing Authors the better. So here's the deal. They're readers. We're writers (well, most of us, anyway). If you have a published book or books you'd like to give away through the Thing to interested Thingies, all you need to do is email Katrina and tell her so. Your book will be blurbed on her site, and salivating would-be readers will come rushing to comment. (Yes, readers do salivate--especially when there are free books involved.)

To become an official Thing Author, visit Callapidder Days to find the link for Katrina's email. In your email include:

1. Title(s) of your book(s)

2. Blurb about the book(s)--back cover copy, if you like.

3. Book's genre

4. Links to your web site and/or blog

5. Where you are willing to ship your books. This is important. Some readers are international. If you don't want to pay for international shipping, Katrina needs to know that.

Please respond by Monday the ninth. Katrina will see how many books are made available and will portion them out over the next couple months for give-aways. She will email the Thing Author with the address of the Thingy--and it's up to you to get the book out.

Now, really--is there any reason not to participate? We love readers, don't we? And what's a better way to market than to give away our product and gain a new reader? Let's show these readin' moms what awesome writers and sisters in Christ we are. Let's load 'em up with books!

If you choose to participate, please leave a comment here to say so. Know that you'll be speaking to the readers in your comment, as Katrina is sending her Thingies over here today to see what we're up to.

Do try to behave, BGs. We have a reputation to keep.




...I still shake my head and wonder how such darkness could have here in Kanner Lake, much less anywhere else. We've all had our share of introspection. I've also noted people giving sidelong glances to others passing on the street, as if they don't trust anyone anymore. It saddens me to think we are living like this...

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Surfin' the Jet


Good news for all you traveling writers. Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. airlines will begin offering in-flight Internet connections early next year. Personal cell phone use may not be too far behind, although there are more issues involved. Some folks aren’t too keen on the idea of cell phone use. Imagine the loud conversations throughout the cabin. However, with current technology, the article reports, only about fourteen people could chat on a cell phone at one time. The fifteenth caller would get a “no service” message.

AirCell paid $31.3 million at an FCC auction last year for radio frequency that can be reallocated to Internet and cell phone service. The Internet service has already been approved by the FCC and the FAA. AirCell says it will cost about $100,000 to outfit a plane with WiFi hotspots in the cabin, and the job can be done overnight.

The reason airlines like this deal is that they’ll share revenue with AirCell. The service will be sold at no more than $10 a day, and will offer discounts and tie into existing services like T-Mobile, etc. Internet speed is supposed to be as fast as on the ground.

As for cell phones, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin seems to be in favor of keeping the ban in place. A two-year investigation into possible interference with ground tower has proved inconclusive. And apparently Martin has already received many complaints about the possible use of cell phones. Meanwhile in Europe cell phone usage has been approved from a telecommunications perspective but still awaits approval from air-safety regulators, who’ve been studying whether they would interfere with aircraft navigation equipment.

Personally, I could take a pass on the cell phone thing. But Wifi? Bring it on!


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Page Games


Over the years as I’ve written books, I’ve tried various ways to parcel out my daily writing. It’s only in writing this current book—my fifteenth—that I think I’ve hit on my favorite.

And let me say--in hitting that daily count, man, have I played games.

For the first few years I typed in single space and had a daily word count. The single space made for less scrolling. As I plugged away, I’d constantly have to highlight the words I’d written that day and run Word Count. Oh, the joy when I hit 2000!

No real way to cheat here. But that was to come.

Next try—double-spaced page count. I thought, “This is silly, always having to highlight and do that word count thing.” So I looked at my past few manuscripts, saw how many pages they were, and figured my current wip would be about the same. Took those pages and divided them up into the working days I had, and voila—the daily page count.

All this time I always had Word’s orphan and widow control on. Now these were real helpful when it came to page count. Because if you figured the paragraphs just right, one line on a page could actually count for three, since it shoved those lines onto the next page. Heh-heh. Plus at the beginning of chapters, my habit was to space to line three for the Chapter Number, then space to line six to begin the chapter. More cheating.

Then I got hard on myself. I turned off widow and orphan control. Now one line meant one line, so when it came time to edit, deleting one line didn’t roll three lines to the previous page, making me lose a bunch of pages. I also started typing the Chapter Number on line one, and the first sentence of the chapter on line three. Wow. No more line cheating. However, this did reduce the final page count on my manuscripts to about 330. (After the rewrite, which typically shaves 15-20 double-spaced pages as I'd tighten the writing.)

On this current book I tried something different. Back to single-spaced lines—but still counting pages.

I had to do a little figuring on this, using the last 330-page manuscript. When I single-spaced it, the thing came out to 190 pages. (You don't get an actual half, because not all of those double-spaced pages were completely full.) I divided the 190 up—and a new voila. Number of single-spaced pages I must write in a day. These pages still have orphan/widow control turned off and start the chapter at the very top of the page. In short, they're the most crammed pages I can get, still using the adequate left and right margins. (That's one thing I won't mess with--editors like those margins.)

I like this format a lot. It’s not any less to write, of course, but it makes it seem less to me, dealing in smaller numbers. And it is way less scrolling when you single space. Even less if you get rid of the spaces between pages. (Put your cursor between two pages. Two little arrows and a “Hide White Space” will pop up. Click the cursor once, and the space disappears.)

I have one of those way cool 20-inch Gateway monitors that rotates 90 degrees to give you a long screen. With my new page format and this monitor, plus hiding the space between pages, I can see over a page and a half on the screen. That’s time-saving.

But there's still a game to play, oh yeah. If I can just s t r e t c h that chapter out enough to go, say seven lines to the next page--voila! The fastest page written ever.


Monday, April 02, 2007

Various Updates


Happy Monday, and a shout out to those of you at Mt. Hermon. Haven’t heard from a one of you folks. Is somebody killing off all the BGs this year in my absence?

Sundry items for you on this first work day in April:

1. When it rains, it pours. A week ago I was just getting the hang of crutching around, including going up and down stairs. Then another problem. I have this weak right arm, see. I never lift anything heavy with it, or it “goes out” on me. When it does, it hurts like crazy and I can’t put any weight on it at all. I even lose some rotating motion in the arm. That’s what happened a week ago, as a result of so much body weight being supported by my arms. So I’ve been down to one arm and one leg. One good arm doesn’t do the trick for crutches.

My chiropractor/kinesiologist can always get the arm back into place for me, and I have an appointment set for tomorrow. Still, I won’t be able to use it like before, or it’ll just go out again. So I have another two weeks of basically hopping on one foot, supported by one crutch. Sheesh.

Fortunately my handy-dandy rolling physician’s chair has been awesome for the main floor. But in my office or in the bedroom, it’s true Hop-Along Cassidy.

2. I’ve just learned (rather late) that my Hidden Faces series has sold to a large print publisher. The first two books in the series, Brink of Death and Stain of Guilt, are now available. The other two will release by the end of this year, I think. They’re published by Thorndike Press in hardback and with different covers. I’ve had people ask me about this availability every once in awhile, and I’m glad to say it’s finally getting done. My mom’s real happy about this one.

3. Coral Moon is now available at amazon.com and christianbook.com. They originally had listed the availability dates as late this month, but they’ve now received their shipments. Amazon.com is selling it for $10.39, and christianbook.com for $9.99. However, on amazon.com if you combined Coral Moon with some other book in the free shipping program for an order of at least $25, you won’t have to pay for shipping. Of course, best of all worlds is that you support your local Christian bookstore by buying it there. Copies should now be on shelves.

4. Next issue of Sneak Pique, my e-mail newsletter sent every other month, will be going out in a day or two. If you’re not signed up and would like to be, visit
this page on my web site. Sneak Pique includes a list of newly released CBA novels in all genres, so it’s a great way to keep up on the industry in general. Each issue also features a behind-the-scenes look at another novelist, and a contest as a way to win a free book.

5. One month from today I shall be turning in Amber Morn, fourth and final in the Kanner Lake series. Agh! Better get writing.



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Read Part 8

TODAY: An Announcement from David Clanton (Angie's Friend)

I asked Bailey if she would help me with this post, and she kindly consented. I'm just not used to public writing, especially when it involves personal topics. Angie was not comfortable posting this, so you get to hear directly from me. Rumors have been flying locally, and I wanted to set the record straight for Angie and myself.

Last week, after renewing our friendship over six months ago, Angie consented to move our relationship from just friends to dating...