Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Spirit of Sweetgrass

The Spirit of Sweetgrass is on blog tour this week. I really enjoyed this novel. Great main character. Wonderful, fresh writing. The story has plenty of humor. There may be some issues that make you start wondering about the author's theology of heaven. Stick with the story and let it all play out before you make your judgments.

One note: this novel has gay supporting characters and makes no moral judgment about the lifestyle. That issue is not what this book chooses to focus on. I think this is true to life. Most of us have friends and/or relatives who are gay, and we simply love them. They may not agree with our belief on the subject; we may not agree with theirs. But we can still love each other, and our lives can still be happily intertwined.

Endorsement by Pat Conroy, author of The Prince of Tides and other bestselling novels: "Nicole Seitz joins a long line of distinguished novelists who celebrate the rich culture of the Lowcountry of South Carolina. Like most of us from around here, she grew up watching the sweetgrass basket weavers who ply their ancient craft from Beaufort all the way up to Georgetown. She joins Josephine Humphries, Anne Rivers Siddons, Sue Monk Kidd, and Dorothea Benton Frank in her fascination with the Gullah culture. Her character, Essie Mae Laveau Jenkins, is worth the price of admission to The Spirit of Sweetgrass."

About the book:

Essie Mae Laveau Jenkins is a 78-year-old sweetgrass basket weaver who sits on the side of Hwy. 17 in the company of her dead husband, Daddy Jim.

Inspired by her Auntie Leona, Essie Mae finally discovers her calling in life and weaves powerful "love baskets," praying fervently over them to affect the lives of those who visit her roadside stand.

Relations are strained with her daughter Henrietta, who thinks Essie belongs in a retirement center. If Essie can't pay $10,000 in back taxes to save her home, she may have no choice. More tensions: her grandson EJ wants to marry a white girl, Essie discovers that a handsome man she's trying to find a girl for is gay, and her daughter carries a hidden secret.

When she's faced with losing her home and her stand and being put in a nursing home, Daddy Jim talks her into coming on up to Heaven to meet sweet Jesus--something she's always wanted to do.

The Spirit of Sweetgrass is published by Integrity, a division of Thomas Nelson.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Korean DMZ

After Memorial Day, an apropos story from Mama Ruth's life in 1991. When she sent it to me for posting, she said, "Sixteen years later, I still can't read this story without crying." Me either.

(Officers names have been changed)


Are you all right, Honey?"

"I’m okay," was all my chattering teeth would allow me to say.

A fierce, biting chill numbed my fingers even though I was wearing two pairs of gloves. My chin and nose felt as if they’d been filled with novocaine, but now and then when the January sun peeked through clouds, a faint warmth touched my face.

J.T. and I, with our seminary tourist group, had just climbed up to the top of the most forward army post at the border of the Demilitarized Zone in Korea. Lt. Col. Bob Bailey, Chaplain in the United States Army stationed there, had secured clearance for us to visit the post. Not everyone has a chance to visit this area. My heart beat a little faster when I realized that I was within shooting distance of the North Korean Communist forces.

We were led to a bunker where the video/radio crew live and work. Constantly, twenty-four hours a day, they monitor whatever is going on in the Demilitarized Zone itself and just across the North Korean border. Even if a rabbit, or dog, or bird moves in that area, these American soldiers see it. They are very well screened and trained for this job. The thing they hate most is the constant blaring of communist propaganda over a loudspeaker located just over the no-man’s-line.

We clambered up out of the bunker and over a narrow catwalk to the lookout room where a powerful swivel telescope, manned by several U.S. servicemen, keeps the North Korean area in view. They allowed us to look through the telescope at the barren wasteland which is the four-mile-wide Demilitarized Zone.

At that point on the line, the DMZ arced northward like a horseshoe bend, so the Communists had three perches from which to survey us—from our left, in front, and to the right of us. Studying their hard, unsmiling faces through our telescopes, we could see them scrutinizing us.

We each took a turn at the telescope, then Lt. Col. Bailey asked, "Would you all please come out and stand on the platform beside the catwalk? I’ve arranged something for you."

We stood close together, each drawing warmth from the others, on one side of a plank platform, about eight-feet square. A two-by-four banister around three sides kept us from falling onto a ridge ten feet below. Wedged into a corner formed by the banister, and serving as a make-shift tray, lay a large, stiff laminated map of the area. On the map was a small brass cup without a handle, and the canteen cup the Chaplain had unstrapped from his hip. In the small cup were Communion wafers, and in the canteen cup was Communion wine. Between them sat a small, brass cross. From my viewpoint, looking straight beyond the cross toward the watchtower north of the lifeless DMZ, I could not see the North Korean flag. The cross blocked it out.

Facing us, Chaplain Bailey said, "I have never done this before—never served Communion under such circumstances. I’ve asked Chaplain Carl Foster and Chaplain James Henry to join us."

What followed was the most heart-moving Communion any of us had ever experienced.
Chaplain Foster passed out small, well-worn laminated cards on which was printed a brief Communion Liturgy, saying, "These cards mean a lot to me. I have used them in Communion on the battlefields in the Persian Gulf and Panama. Now I use them here in Korea."

I looked at my card and seemed to feel an aura from it—an urgent, overpowering of Christ’s presence there in Camp Ouelette. I could barely see the small print for welling tears. In quavering voices we read the short, responsive lines of our Lord’s Last Supper, and stood with heads bowed while Chaplain Bailey put into each hand a Communion wafer. Chaplain James Henry held the dull, gray-colored Communion cup and blessed us as we each dipped our wafer into the wine. If the cup had been gold, it would not have been held with more reverence.

We stood in silent prayer for a few minutes. I prayed for myself that the Lord would help me forget that my fingers were nearly frostbitten, and remember only His mercy and grace which brought me there. I prayed for the American and Korean soldiers on duty—they live in this cold all winter long.

Chaplain Bailey said, "Now I want to read the Twenty-Third Psalm." His voice was strong as he began to read those beautiful words:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies ...

Bob’s voice broke and tears streamed freely down every cheek as the truth soaked into us: We were in the presence of our enemies, and we were at the Lord’s table. Bob wiped his eyes, cleared his throat and continued for the blessed promise:

Thou anointest my head with oil, my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Holy silence echoed our "Amen."

Laurie DeWire’s sweet voice broke the hush when she began to sing, "The blood that Jesus shed for me . . . will never lose its power." Our soldiers in full combat uniform, standing nearby along the catwalk, hummed with her and I heard the rich bass of my husband’s voice accentuate the beautiful words. No one wanted to break the spell of that moment when God’s grace overflowed in each heart.

But we could not stay in that cold. So we went over to the soldiers—lonely for home—and hugged them all. I was the oldest mother, and I could imagine they were all my boys. All fine looking, standing straight and wiping their eyes as we were. Different backgrounds, different races, but we were all together in the Lord. As I hugged a handsome black soldier I said, "God bless you, I know your mother is praying for you!"

With tears on his face, he hugged me too, and said, "Thank you, Ma’am. I’m sure she is."

At that moment I wished I could say to the mothers of all those young men, "I’ve just seen your boy at Camp Oulette, and he is fine. He is thinking of you."

While we were saying goodbye to the service men, Chaplain Bailey wrapped the brass cross and cup in a piece of dark cloth, and stowed them in a bag. He poured the rest of the wine over the banister, and it spread out in a dark, crimson stain in the Korean snow. Jesus’ blood poured out for all of us. Then Joe strapped his canteen cup back into place on his hip and we were ready to go back to Seoul.

Filing stiff-legged down the narrow flight of steps on our way to the vans, we were suddenly stopped cold in our tracks with a bugle blast. We turned to see the cause and quickly understood.

Along with the service men, we stood at attention as our Flag—our wonderful American Flag flying over Camp Oulette—was lowered for the day. At 5:00 p.m. No other emotion can compare to the choking pride I felt as I watched the Stars and Stripes on foreign soil. And I thanked God that the freedom our Flag makes possible permitted the Lord’s Supper in the presence of our enemies. I prayed that some day, in God’s time, those enemies will become our brothers and sisters in Christ.

TODAY: S-Man--Send Off

Shnakvorum, rikoyoch! (Welcome, friends).

The day has come. Finally I'm ready to send my completed novel, Starfire, off to the agents I've targeted. Who would have thought there were agents out there in this day and age who still wanted you to correspond with them via snail mail? But there are, plus a few publishers I figured I'd try as well...

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

Forensics and Faith is taking off Monday and Tuesday for Memorial Day weekend.

To all our veterans, as well as our present troops--much gratitude and many blessings to you for your service to our country. We applaud and honor you on this special day.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Planet Earth

Have you seen the Planet Earth series on the Discovery Channel? I discovered this show as I’ve been stuck in front of the TV every morning and evening for an hour each time, doing my physical therapy exercises and icing my ankle. Not a fan of TV, I turned to our Comcast “On Demand” system and found some of the Planet Earth shows available. Produced by the BBC, this 11-series show had a budget of $25 million and took five years to film. Each show features a different part of our planet, such as rain forests, caves, fresh water, the ocean, the jungle, etc. The photography of plants, animals, birds and fish are absolutely stunning. I’ve been enthralled by every show. And what it took the poor photographers to get the shots! How about hiding every day, all day for 8 weeks just to get a shot of a bird in the tropical forests doing its mating dance? And, oh, what a bird! You’ve never seen anything like it. Don’t tell me God doesn’t have a sense of humor.

The DVD series is
available through amazon for $54. Well worth the money. It would make a great gift—for all ages. Adults and kids can watch these shows together and marvel at God’s creation. How can anyone see these shows and not believe there’s a God behind the perfect balance of this planet? As I watch, I find myself reciting the beginning of Psalm 19:

The heavens are telling of the glory of God,
And their expanse is declaring the works of His hands.
Day to day pours forth speech,
Night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are their words.
Their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out to all the earth,
Their utterance to the ends of the world.

Yes, without audible voice, creation does cry to us about God. And Planet Earth captures those cries like no other series.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Writing the Dream Sequence

Using a dream in a novel. Some say never do it. Some say never start a book with a dream. Some say dreams in novels are boring. I don’t think they’re boring if they’re written right. Out of 13 written novels, I’ve used a dream in five of them. And in one of those novels the dream was the opening scene.

Sometimes the better choice is simply to say in prose form (and in a few lines) that the character had a dream the night before about x,y,z. I’m talking here about actually showing the dream sequence. There are certain criteria/techniques I use when incorporating a dream. These are my guidelines--not firm rules. Always room for the exception.

1. Make sure the dream moves the plot forward. Even though a dream is not a real occurrence, it can still enhance the plot in numerous ways such as: (A) It may push the character, after he/she awakes, to make a decision. (B) It may instill further fear in a character, which down the road will hinder his/her ability to make a logical decision. (C) It may provide backstory for better understanding of the character. But beware—this one’s tricky, as it’s all too easy to stick in a dream to tell the reader past events. If a dream’s going to be used for this purpose, the dream itself has to be compelling both in content and in the way it’s written.

2. Be careful of the placement of the dream within the story. A dream is not going to go over well with the reader if it’s placed in the middle of an action sequence. Believe me, the reader will skip over it and get back to the real story. So I wouldn’t place a dream in the crisis/climax section of a novel, for example.

I’ve seen an agent or two rave about not using a dream as the opening. I imagine this “rule” has been applied because the agents in question have seen so many manuscripts misuse this device. You have to be very careful about opening a novel this way because it does delay real action. The one time I opened a book with a dream was in Color the Sidewalk for Me (contemporary genre). The dream is from the protagonist’s (Celia’s) real life and is one of numerous recurring, haunting dreams about her grief-stricken past. Because this book is a past/present story, with alternating parts of current events and events in Celia’s teenage years, the dream is a way of setting up that format by combining the two—as Celia dreams of her past, then awakes to face another difficult day in her present.

3. Make the dream short! This is an important one. I see no point in page after page of a dream sequence. And if it is long, it’s probably not written in true “dream format.” (See next point.)

4. The dream scene should have an “otherworldly” aura to it. You know how dreams go. They make sense while we’re having them, even though things that happen are totally far out. Things and people morph. You’re here, and suddenly—you’re there. One person turns into another. Emotions and actions don’t jive. That is, what might mortify you in real life is perhaps only a bit embarrassing in a dream. For a reader to “buy” the dream you’re writing, it needs to have this strange quality. Therefore, I suggest …

5. Write the dream in present tense. Doesn’t matter that the rest of your book is in past tense. Dreams always happen in the moment. They are present tense. Your reader instinctively knows this. He/she may not be thinking about it consciously, but I do believe you’ll evoke better emotion in the reader through the use of present tense, but unconsciously, the reader thinks, “Yeah, this really feels like a dream.”

6. Use italics for the dream. This is a visual way of setting it off from the rest of the text. If the dream is written well, the use of italics is the final brush stroke that completes the painting. You’ll then have a sequence that both visually and aura-wise makes it a little “world” unto itself. And isn’t that how dreams are? They are detours from our real world. They can seem very real as they’re happening, but the minute we awake, we’re jarred from that world to reality. For me, the movement from italics back to regular print provides a visual for that re-entry into the real world.

In one suspense novel I did not follow guidelines 5 & 6 for a dream sequence—but I had a specific reason. I didn’t want the reader to immediately know it was a dream—because the beginning of it could have been real. But then, in keeping with guideline 4, the sequence morphed into strangeness—to make the reader go, “Huh?” Through that strangeness the reader begins to realize it’s a dream—and right after that the dream ends as the protagonist awakes, scared out of her wits. In this way I wanted the reader to experience that sense of reality-turned-bizarre along with the protagonist. (In keeping with guidelines #1, this dream moved the plot forward by further scaring the protagonist, which ultimately affects the decisions she makes.)

7. Make sure the dreamer’s re-entry into reality is believable. For example, I’ve seen too many books in which a person, upon awaking from a bad dream, bolts upright in bed. This doesn’t ring true to me. Have you ever done that after a bad dream? I sure don’t think it’s common. A person might jerk awake—to a runaway heartbeat. May be sweaty or breathing hard. But I don’t know many people who can go from true dream stage to the amount of movement needed to suddenly bolt upright. (Sleepwalkers aside.) Neither do I think it’s common to scream from a dream and wake yourself up. Have you ever tried to scream during a dream? I have numerous times. In my dream I may be screaming. But in reality all I’m doing is pushing air through my throat in a hollow sort of sound. Or at most, moaning. That sound will awaken me, but it’s certainly far from a real scream that would bring others running. At any rate, even if these extreme reactions happen to you—what’s most likely to ring true with the majority of readers?

What do you think about dreams in novels? Like them? Dislike them? Ever used one in your own writing?

On blog tour this week: Snitch, by Rene Gutteridge

I haven't read this yet, but plan to, as I really enjoyed the first in the series, Scoop.
Quirky characters and a humorous touch. I recommend this series.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Christian Fiction Celebrated in PW

The new Publishers Weekly has a whole section on Christian fiction--in books and movies.

Hollywood Gets Religion--Christian movies are really happenin'!

Sparkling Debuts-- Five new novelists and the openings of their novels

It's a Fantasy--Speculative fiction

In Profile--Angela Hunt, Tracey Bateman and Athol Dickson

Books in Brief--What's New in Christian Fiction

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

June Fiction Bestseller List

The CBA June bestseller lists are up. I was looking for this one to see if Coral Moon made it. (I have to laugh that it's #13--how apropos.) These lists represent sales in the month of April. Remember that they’re based on data from participating Christian bookstores only. That means all those great sales for some titles at WalMart, Costco, B&N, etc. won’t get them on this list.

So often lately the 20 slots in this fiction list has been dominated by three or four authors. This month’s list has more varied names on it—and that’s always good to see.

Kingdom Come, Tim LaHaye & Jerry Jenkins
This is the last book in their Left Behind series.

Forever, Karen Kingsbury
Firstborn series #5

Bygones, Kim Sawyer
I am very happy for Kim! This is the first in her Sommerfield trilogy, featuring Mennonite protagonists. (Amish and Mennonite-type stories are sure selling these days!)

Deception, Randy Alcorn
I thought this one was a May publication, which would mean these sales are based on preorders. That’s really doing well to hit the list in such a way. But Randy’s made quite a name for himself with his novels. I look forward to reading this one.

Skin, Ted Dekker (hardcover)
Ted’s latest thriller.

White Chocolate Moments, Lori Wick
A stand-alone novel.

The Copper Scroll, Joel Rosenberg
This is the paperback version.

Ever After, Karen Kingsbury
Sequel to Even Now.

Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers
The most ubiquitous novel on the bestseller list ever since it was published—and for good reason.

The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Rolling, Neta Jackson
Great to see Neta on here. This is #6 in the series—and the final one, I think. (Unless she’s signed yet another Yada contract.)

Sixth Covenant, Bodie & Brock Thoene
A.D. Chronicles series #6.

Family, Karen Kingsbury
Firstborn series #4.

Coral Moon, Brandilyn Collins
Kanner Lake series #2.

House, Frank Peretti & Ted Dekker
This is the newly released paperback edition.

Bittersweet, Cathy Hake
I’m so glad for Cathy! This book has a great cover.

Before I Wake, Dee Henderson
First book in her new series.

In the Company of Secrets, Judith Miller
Historical fiction.

Fame, Karen Kingsbury
Firstborn series #1.

The Last Sin Eater, Francine Rivers
The movie tie-in release of this novel.

There was a tie for the 20 spot.

Where Willows Grow, Kim Sawyer
Another one for Kim!

The Hope Chest, Wanda Brunstetter
Brides of Lancaster County #4

Monday, May 21, 2007

Broken Ankle Photos

Yeehaw, got my medical records. Nothin' like a few photos to remind a gal why her ankle's sore.

Here's the break. X-ray's not real clear, but if you look to the right bone (fibula) just a little above where the bigger bone (tibia) ends, you'll see it's not a nice, clean break. If you mess up your ankle, might as well pull the bone apart, dontcha think?

Photo two's a nice shot of the plate and screws that hold it to the fibula. The crooked screw is placed that way to bring the two parts of the pulled-apart bone together. (Yeah, yeah, I've already heard all the jokes about having a screw loose.)

And last but not least, the extra long screw that goes all the way through the tibia and fibula. I'm guessing shots 2 and 3 were taken during surgery. The long screw was added because there was too much ligament damage to give the plate and smaller screws any stability.

This Friday I get out of the boot. Been in it six weeks, following four
weeks in a cast. Then one week later on June 1, I have another surgery to get the long screw out. That'll put me back in the boot for 7-10 days. Meanwhile the PT appointments continue. (No, PT does not stand for physical therapy. It stands for pure torture.)

Rest of the hardware will come out after a minimum of six months. I'm thinking maybe October, after my fall traveling is done. That will be another surgery and will put me back again--either in the boot or on crutches.

What a pain.
TODAY: Wilbur Hucks--Wilbur's Eight

Howdy, Wilbur here. In the last post Bev wrote this crazy list of "eight random facts" about herself. I got to say that's the most boring list I ever read. I told her as much, and naturally she got all huffy on me. Said I should write my own list rather than "impugn" hers. (I have no idea what that word means or how to spell it. Good thing Carla's typing this for me.)

I'm answerin' Bev's boring list so she'll get off my back. Here’s my eight...

Friday, May 18, 2007


Last week The Wall Street Journal ran an article about a discovered “link” in the wiring of our brains to morality. According to the article, results from an experiment by neuroscientists at Harvard, Caltech and USC suggest that our convictions of right and wrong come not from our principles but from the “brain trying to make its emotional judgment felt.”

The scientists discovered if certain brain cells are missing due to something like a tumor or stroke, the ability to understand some issues of right and wrong can be “permanently skewed." In other words, there is a “neurobiological basis for morality.”

Of course, decisions are based on one’s family values, beliefs, heritage, etc. These tests weren’t refuting that. But the scientists found these results by studying six men and women who had injured neurons in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. These people appeared normal and intelligent, yet they also proved not as easily embarrassed or likely to feel guilty when they answered certain questions: To save yourself and others would you throw someone off a lifeboat? Or smother a crying baby? Or push someone off a bridge? They answered a total of 50 moral dilemma questions, and their answers were “essentially identical” to other participants, except for these “to save yourself or others” questions. To those questions they displayed no moral compunction in sacrificing one life for the good of all. Their inhibition to make such a choice had been lost.

Neuroscientist Marc Hauser looks at this and other experiments as evidence that the brain may be hard-wired for morality. Testing his theory, he gathered data from thousands of people in many countries and found that all display a remarkable unanimity in their basic moral choices. The article says he came to the conclusion that “a shared innate capacity for morality may be responsible.”

Many scientists think the theory needs more proof. Even so, the article concludes, “it would be curious if, in the neural substrates of morality, we find common ground.”

C.S. Lewis when ya need him?


On blog tour this week: Orchard of Hope by Ann Gabhart

Thursday, May 17, 2007

New Database

The May 7 issue of Christian Retailing reports that R.R. Bowker, the leading database regarding book sales, has unveiled to Christian bookstores and publishers its new PubTrack Consumer—a service designed to provide information about book readers’ habits and preferences.

PubTrack Consumer will track participating media and people across the country, gathering information such as how long folks spend consuming different kinds of media, where they shop, what makes them buy, and how they feel about their shopping experiences. The information will be gathered into weekly surveys.

Currently CBA uses data based on sales at the cash register. (We’ve talked about the gathering of data from STATS for bestseller lists numerous times.) PubTrack Consumer could help Christian sellers and publishers understand what makes a person go to that cash register and buy. Where did they first learn about the book? A magazine ad? The Internet?

Bowker began gathering the data in January, with an eye toward releasing its first report last month. Monthly updates will be provided, plus quarterly analyses and annual reviews. Of course, this will all be for a subscription fee. How much, the article didn’t state. The article does report “some level of interest” from Christian retail.

It’ll be interesting to see where this goes.


On blog tour this week: Orchard of Hope, by Ann Gabhart.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Last Word

I typed the last word of Amber Morn yesterday. My 15th book. (Thirteen novels, two nonfiction.) Then I did what I always do upon completing a manuscript. Well, not quite what I usually do. I typically kneel, but right now my foot won't flex that much. :) So I leaned way over in my chair, dropped my face in my hands, and prayed "Thank you, Jesus; Thank you, Jesus; Thank you, Jesus ..."

This one's bittersweet. It's the end of an entire series for me. The last book I'll write of my Kanner Lake characters. Although they all will live on in their blog posts on Scenes and Beans for the next year.

Today I'm going back over the manuscript, tweaking, making sure of details. (Not that I'll catch them all. In truth, I don't ever think my stories are worth much until after the rewrite.) All my books have a lot of details to wrap up--about the crime, the characters--but this one has to wrap up a four-book series. And it stars an ensemble cast of--I don't know, I lost count. Fifteen people, maybe. Plus all the supporting cast, which is large. Plus the three Big, Bad Guys. That a lot of characters. A lot of POVs.

A lot of headache.

I didn't realize until I was 3/4 of the way through the book that I'd sorta bitten off even more than usual this time.

But I made it.

My deep gratitude to all who have been praying for me. I'll tell you--I felt the prayers. God is so good. I couldn't handle this business without him.

So--praise from me. A hallelujah! How about you? Got something to praise God for lately--in your business or personal life? Let the BGs hear it! We'll celebrate 'em all at once.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

"No Good Deed Goes Unpunished ..."

I'm one day from deadline for Amber Morn. In the interest of keeping my nose to the grindstone, I send you today to this interesting article about endorsing books, featuring Scott Turow--known to many as the author who began the legal thriller genre with his novel, Presumed Innocent.

Monday, May 14, 2007

An Interview & Great Quotes

Today on her blog, She Plants a Vineyard, Tina Forkner is running an interview with me. Tina is a newly contracted author. Last August she happily signed a two-book contract with Waterbrook. Ruby Among Us is coming out in early 2008. The tentative title for book two is Rose House and will be out six months later.

Excerpt from the interview:

2) You are a Christian, but while your books deal strongly with the spiritual realm, your books seem almost mainstream like Stephen King’s or John Grisham’s. Do you write just for Christians or a wider spectrum of readers?

I write mostly for Christians. When I think of my defined target reader, I think of Christian women between the ages of around 35-65. That said, the “target reader” is only the beginning. I have nonChristian readers, male readers, and they’re of all ages, ranging from 13 to over 90.

However, when I sit down to write a story, I don’t think at all about the spiritual content. I think only about what will make a compelling suspense. I set out to write that story, and along the way the spiritual content presents itself. Sometimes I can be well over half through a book before I even know what the Christian thrust of the story is. But when I do find it, I don’t hold back in presenting as much of it as would naturally occur to the characters in the story. (I may have to go back and start weaving some of that in.) For example, in the Kanner Lake series, Violet Dawn has light Christian content. That’s because the protagonist isn’t a Christian, and the bulk of the novel takes place in a day, so she’s not going to have a lot of spiritual growth in that amount of time. But in Coral Moon, I present much more Christian content, because I’m dealing with a theological subject that must be approached from a biblical perspective. A suspense lover who really doesn’t want to read about Christian perspectives would have a harder time than a Christian reading most of my books, because of all the “spiritual parts” he/she would want to skim over...

Please click on Tina's blog link above to continue the interview.
-----------------------------------'s Mother's Day post contains quotes on "My Mom's Best Advice" from many authors. This is a great post. Check it out.

Since the tagging comment was left on my post (what was that person thinking?), everyone at Java Joint insists I must go first. As if I want to play some silly electronic game of tag. But Angie, in typical fashion, won't let me be until I do. So here it goes...

Friday, May 11, 2007

Who We Are in Christ

For a number of years I’ve had a list stuck in my Bible titled “Who We Are in Christ.” Don’t even remember where I got it. The list is a great reminder for us all.

We have been transferred into the kingdom of Jesus. (Col. 1:13)
We have been redeemed. (Col. 1:14)
We have been forgiven. (Rom. 5:1)
We have been justified. (Rom. 5:1)
We have been made holy and blameless in God’s sight. (Eph. 1:4)
We have been made righteous. (Eph. 4:24)
We have been adopted as part of God’s family. (Rom. 8:15)
We have been cleansed from all sin and guilt. (I John 1:7)
We are seated in heavenly places. (Eph. 2:6)
We are co-heirs with Christ. (Rom. 8:17)
We are transformed into Christ’s likeness. (Rom. 8:29)
We are new creations. (II Cor. 5:17)
We are complete in Christ. (Col. 2:10)
We are more than conquerors. (Rom. 8:37)
We are God’s ambassadors. (II Cor. 5:18-19)
We are God’s chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. (I Pet. 2:9-
We have peace with God. (Rom. 5:1)
We have Christ’s love. (Rom. 8:35)
We have the mind of Christ. (I Cor. 2:16)
We have the will and power to obey God. (Phil. 2:13)
We have access to God. (Eph. 2:18)
We have a spirit of power, of love and calm, a well-balanced mind, discipline and self-control. (II Tim. 1:7)
We have eternal life. (Rom. 5:23)
We can do everything through Christ, who gives us strength. (Phil. 4:13)
We are overcomers. (Rev. 12:11)
We can drive out demons. (Mark 16:17)
We can speak in tongues. (Mark 16:17)
Jesus intercedes for us. (Heb. 7:25)
We cannot be separated from the love of God. (Rom. 8:35)
God transforms our mind. (Rom 12:2)
God will carry on His good work in us to completion. (I Pet. 5:10)
God gives us His Holy Spirit. (John 14:16)
The Holy Spirit lives with and in us. (John 14:17)
The Holy Spirit will teach us all things and remind us of everything Jesus said. (John 14:26)
The Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth and tell us what is to come. (John 16:13)
The Holy Spirit will never leave us. (John 14:16)
The Holy Spirit intercedes for us. (Rom. 8:26)
The Godhead lives in us. (Col. 2:10)

Have any others to add?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Advertising on Virtual Communities

The latest issue of Christian Retailing reports on yet another alternative to the Internet communities such as MySpace and Facebook.

Some of you already use
ShoutLife, a Christian community site. This new one is called Lights Together, which launched just last week. Lights Together takes a different approach by allowing the forming of “Webchurches” that will create “virtual congregations.” The site will enable churches to build their own Web sites, which will allow their members access to Lights Together. “Instead of coming in as individuals, they can come in through their church,” said Larry Carpenter, senior vice president of Send the Light, which is handling advertising sales for the site.

Lights Together has gone after sponsors for its site. Tyndale was the first Christian publisher to sign on, although their sponsorship was promised only for the site's beta testing period. LT will be announcing other sponsors soon.

Both ShoutLife and Lights Together provide new Internet sites for advertising within the Christian community. And it looks like the kinds of advertising will only expand with time. For example, in addition to national advertising, Paul McLellan, president of ShoutLife, says his site is implementing a geographic-based advertising program. In this program a local Christian bookstore could target its own clients.

Of course, as far as ShoutLife goes, advertising for books, music, etc. can simply come through establishing your own Web page. I recently put up my own ShoutLife page, but other than that, I've spent little time on the site. Too busy finishing a book right now. I asked the ACFW loop about folks' experiences with ShoutLife, and they were very positive. However, not all you BGs are on the ACFW loop. If you have a site and would like to give us the link, please do. And let us know how your experience with ShoutLife is going. Do you like the community? Do you get traffic? If you're an author, do you have any trackable data that shows it has helped book sales? If you're not an author, why do you have a ShoutLife page? Have you connected with people as you expected?


Ransomed Dreams by Amy Wallace on blog tour this week.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

CSI and Forensics

The April 30 issue of The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting article about TV’s CSI dramas—and how they “glamorize” and “oversimplify” the use of forensics in trials. Most importantly, these shows are believed by some judges to be influencing juries.

The article cites that job applications at the Las Vegas criminalistics bureau have jumped in recent years due to all the attention forensics is getting these days. As my own daughter is applying to start college, we heard the same thing from the university she’ll be attending, regarding their own forensics department.

Trouble is, on the CSI-type shows, all the forensics results are certain. This hair definitely matches the hair of so-and-so, and this fiber is exactly the same fiber as somebody’s carpet. In real life, results often aren’t so certain. While DNA is considered reliable, hair and fiber samples often rely on the judgments of individuals in the lab. What’s more, I know that many times the results are simply along the lines of—“This hair cannot be ruled out as a match for that hair.” (If you can match the mitochondrial DNA of two hair follicles, that’s a different story.)

According to the WSJ article, judges are seeing the CSI effect in the courtroom. At one Louisiana conference of judges, when a speaker asked if they thought CSI had influences their juries, every judge in attendance raised a hand.

I don’t watch any crime dramas on TV because I can’t rely on the information they present. These dramas have to connect all the dots in 46 minutes, and to do that, they often skew the forensics details in numerous ways. One way is to have the protagonist(s) of the show doing all the work. In reality, a lot of people are involved in processing a crime scene. Those collecting evidence aren’t the same as those conducting all the lab tests, for example These shows can’t possibly handle all the characters it would take in real life, so for the sake of story, they’re compressed into a few individuals. In addition, as the article says, the way the tests are conducted—and the results—aren’t always correct. If I watched these shows too much, I’m afraid that info would settle into my subconsciousness. I do watch the real-life shows such as Forensic Files and Cold Case Files.

If turning fiction to reality can be dicey, sometimes so can turning reality into fiction. When I was writing Eyes of Elisha, I had to do a lot of research—everything from attending murder trials and talking to defense and prosecuting attorneys to interviewing homicide detectives and researching all the forensics. I toured the local county forensics lab, guided by its director. We passed a young woman carefully scraping a gigantic pair of men’s underwear. “Whatcha doin’? the director asked. The gal looked up, her eyes shining. “I’m scraping for semen samples. Getting some great ones!”

The sight was so incongruous to me—this lovely little gal and the horribly awful task she was doing—and she was so enthused about it. I put the exact scene as a short tidbit in Eyes of Elisha. When I gave the manuscript to that same lab director to read for correctness, he pointed out that scene to me and said, “I don’t think anyone would really be scraping underwear like this.”

I had to remind him we’d seen exactly that in his own lab.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

BHCC Prez Caught on Camera

Members of the BHCC club, you already know that your president, Deb Raney, took a fall by reading Web of Lies in return for five pounds of chocolate. You might not have believed this, but now--see for yourself.

First two pictures show her with the DeBrand "tower"--two pounds of assorted DeBrand chocolates.

The final photo is Deb after her second delivery arrived--three pounds of Hersheys chocolate. She wrote:

"Well, the Hershey’s tower got disassembled (and half eaten!) before I could get a photo, and now I’m in my jammies with trackmeet-flattened hair, but I got you a shot with the whole five pounds, some of which is already IN me. Do what you must. ; ) Oink oink!

BHCC Vice President Robin Lee Hatcher has written Deb a serious letter regarding her tenuous standing as prez. It seems Deb fell just a little too easily ...

By the way, after paying for that five pounds, I am now broke. So don't any of you other BHCC members go getting any ideas. You want to read one of my books, you're on your own.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Itch

Another tidbit from the life of Mama Ruth--this one from the year 1924.
"Ruth! Stop that scratchin!" Crises usually started at the supper table. "You’ve been scratchin’ ever since I got home from work." Between bites of hot biscuits smothered with his favorite mixture of butter and sorghum molasses, Daddy looked sideways at me. And he frowned. "What’s the matter with you?"

"I ITCH, Daddy."

"I do too, Daddy," Arthur, my little brother chimed in. I was eight and he was six.

"Don’t see how they could get mosquito bites or chiggers in the wintertime," Mom handed Daddy another biscuit from the warm pan in the coal stove oven.

"Did you ever itch like this, Mommie?" I wasn’t only scratching, I was wiggling in my chair, too.

"Probably did when I was little, but I don't remember it." Mom passed me a biscuit too, and I passed it to Daddy because I wanted some of his butter and sorghum mixture. "Well, maybe you didn’t, but I can’t help it, Mommie. I just want to scratch all the time."

Daddy said, "Pearl, you don’t think they’ve got. . ."

Mom sighed a long sigh and shook her head. "Not impossible, Henry. I’ll look them both over after I get the supper dishes done.

She stood me up in front of the kitchen stove and helped me undress. She turned me around and around, and looked at me from head to feet. My little brother got the same examination.

"Henry, get the washtub in here. These kids’ve got ITCH! Get out the sulfur salve. They’ll have to have baths first, then put the salve on. Don’t know how long it’ll take to cure ’em. What a mess!"

Into the big round washtub of warm water I went, and Mom scrubbed me all over. Out I came and in Arthur went. Same water for same contagion-–water was scarce. After she dried us off, she smeared on the age-old remedy for scabies. If there is any medicine anywhere in the world that smells worse than sulfur salve, I’ve never met up with it. Sulfur is grayish-brownish color, thick and stinky. And now it was all over our bodies.

"Go in the front room and stand behind the stove so its heat can put that salve to work. Some of it will go inside your skin and kill the infection.."

"Mommie! Do we have to just stand there all naked?"

"Yes, you do for a while. Turn your backs to each other."

Anybody who’s ever had scabies will never forget it. And anybody who’s ever tried to scratch an itch inside long winter underwear knows what it’s like. Itch didn’t just last for a day or a week; we scratched nearly all winter. We had to do the bath and sulfur cure every night. And we had to stand at least ten minutes naked behind the heating stove every night. Mom always hung our home-sewn pajamas over a small line stretched behind the heating stove in winter. So when we put on those warm pajamas, they felt good even if we did scratch.

No doubt we caught scabies at school. It might have gone through every room. I have no idea about that, but lots of kids had it in my room. We scratched and scooted all over our seats. The teacher scraped her arms up and down, too.

Not long ago, my sister Irene and I flew to California to visit our brother, Art. And in our laughing about the "olden days" Art said, "Hey, Ruth, remember when we had itch?"

"Sure do. Get jerky just thinking about it."

"Remember about the wall paper?"

"No. What about the wall paper?"

"You mean you don’t remember that one night when we were plastered with the sulfur salve, you backed up naked against the wall and left the print of your bottom on the wall paper?"

Irene shrieked and I bent double. When I could talk again, I rasped, "No! How long did the print stay there?"

"Years! Mom got her soap and water and washed the paper, but that cure had already gone inside the wall and left its stain. And they couldn’t afford to re-paper the room. So every night when we all sat in the living room, we could see twin prints of two greasy little buns on the wall paper behind the stove."

--Ruth Seamands

TODAY: Bailey Truitt--A T Comes to Visit

Hello, Bailey here with you today. Last Saturday we had fun meeting one of our blog readers. I will call her T--the name we use around Java Joint for tourists.

T is from Mississippi, and her accent shows it. She's absolutely darling. She brought in her husband and two children for coffee drinks and pastries, and they ended up staying in the cafe for almost two hours, talking to the various people who post. T brought in a printout of posts--one from each blogger--and had as many signed by the author as possible...

Friday, May 04, 2007

Tribulation House

Tribulation House is the latest from
Chris Well, one of my fellow Sta Akra suspense authors. (For previous posts on all the Sta Akra members, go here.) Like Chris’s other books, this one is a fun read. Publishers Weekly gave it a great review, calling it a “quirky apocalyptic gangster novel and naming Chris as a “genre-breaking faith fiction writer.” The review continues, “Well's hilarious gangsters are only outdone by the evangelicals he lovingly lampoons, and his clever dialogue will leave readers in stitches.”

Here’s the book blurb:

Mark Hogan has it all. The job. The family. A position on the board at church. All he’s missing is a boat. Not just any boat—a 2008 Bayliner 192.

When Reverend Daniel Glory announces that the Rapture is taking place on October 17 at 5:51am, Hogan realizes his boat–buying days are numbered. So he does what any man in his situation would do—he borrows a load of money from the mob.

Not that there’s any risk involved: After all, when the Rapture comes, Hogan will be long gone. The mob will never find him.

But when Jesus fails to come back on schedule, Mark Hogan finds the mob is in no mood to discuss the finer points of end–times theology...

In addition to writing novels, Chris is a contributing editor to CCM magazine. Check out the
myCCM page to see how Chris is telling others about Sta Akra.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Raising Cane

Well, I must say—physical therapy is one major pain (literally), but it sure works. All the heat/ice, massaging, and ankle exercising has brought my swelling waaay down, and I can move my ankle more. One fine day I shall have complete range of motion and strength. Oh, for that day.

Turns out my physical therapist is a Christian. Didn’t know that until the fourth time I went. This is because the first three times I was too busy saying, “Ow, ow, ow”—loudly. The PT actually told me (I swear this is a direct quote):

“I will hurt you, but I will never harm you.”

I was not in the finest of moods when she said this, seein’ as how the statement was in the middle of one of the “Ow” sessions. I gave her a look and told her my most evil bad guy on his worst day couldn’t have said anything more diabolical. I mean, really. Can’t you just imagine a chilling, psychotic smile with those words?

Some day I shall use the sentence in a book.

At any rate, I’ve graduated from hobbling in the boot with two crutches (trying not to use my right arm too much), to one crutch—to none. Major accomplishment. I get out of the boot three weeks from tomorrow. Supposedly then I can hobble without it. Might need a cane for awhile. Next up in June—surgery to remove the longest of screws in the ankle. No doubt I shall regress for a time after that. And in July I have to travel to the ChiLibris retreat and ICRS in Atlanta. Lots of walking. I shall need a cane.

Not just any cane will do.

I used a cane four years ago—when I had Lyme. Well, when I walked at all. It was the basic brown hooked kind you can buy at Walgreens. Not this time. I plan to cane around in finery.

Naturally I first looked for bling. Amazing, but you just don’t find many canes with sparkles. I managed to find this one from Fashionable Canes, but it wasn’t enough bling for me. Besides, black is not my color.

So I looked at site after site. Found this really cool one—Creative Canes—where a gal makes customized canes. Only problem is they can get pretty expensive (up to $250 for the one I’d choose), and they have to be made, which takes awhile. The most gorgeous one—a peacock—I’d love to carry, but it’s only for cane collections. (I didn’t know people collected canes.) The handle, with plenty of bling, isn’t made for real use. But isn’t it a beauty?

I found other interesting styles on Fashionable Canes like this exotic wood one.

I finally settled on
this one from Fashionable Canes. Not exactly bling, but handpainted and with mother of pearl in the flowers. And the price is right.

Here’s to raising cane at ICRS.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Insults With Class

"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire." -- Winston Churchill

"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure." -- Clarence Darrow

"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary." -- William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway)

"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it." -- Groucho Marx

"I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it." -- Mark Twain

"He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends." -- Oscar Wilde

"I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend... If you have one." -- George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill...

...followed by Churchill's response: "Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second, if there is one."

"I feel so miserable without you; it's almost like having you here." -- Stephen Bishop

"He is a self-made man and worships his creator." -- John Bright

"I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial." -- Irvin S. Cobb

"He is not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others." -- Samuel Johnson

"He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up." -- Paul Keating

"He had delusions of adequacy." -- Walter Kerr

"Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?" -- Mark Twain

"His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork." -- Mae West

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go." -- Oscar Wilde

Lady Astor once remarked to Winston Churchill at a Dinner Party, "Winston, if you were my husband, I would poison your coffee!"

Winston replied, "Madam if I were your husband I would drink it!"

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Massive Rewrite

Ah, those rewrites. All authors face them.

Consider this from last Friday’s edition of The Wall Street Journal. It ran an article about novelist Michael Chabon and his latest book,
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, a “murder mystery set in a fictional Yiddish-speaking Jewish homeland in Alaska.” The novel releases this week. Chabon, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, was about to turn in the manuscript for The Yiddish Policemen’s Union when his editor “slammed on the brakes.”

Apparently the manuscript wasn’t good enough.

And this was after working back and forth with his editor, Courtney Hodell, for months, with manuscript pages being overnighted back and forth. Chabon would receive the pages with so many editorial notes, he smilingly referred to the pages as “vandalized.”

When the editor delayed publication, Chabon consulted with her, then spent another eight months reworking the entire story. He added flashbacks and changed the way the characters spoke, inserting a “Yiddish-inflected patois.” All in all, the novel took five years, four drafts, two trips to Alaska and a title change to reach publication level.

Publisher HarperCollins won TYPU in a four-way, seven-figure auction in 2002. At the time it was a mere one-and-a-half page proposal. TYPU has an initial print run of 200,000 copies. The stakes are high for both publisher and author.

“I do overwrite,” Chabon said. “And this book needed a lot of chopping.”

TODAY: S-Man--The S-Man Posteth

Shnakvorum, rikoyoch. (Welcome, friends) I apologize for the long silence from me, but I've been buried up to my tail in editing Starfire to get it ready for submission to agents.

I must admit I wasn't ready for just how much work there was to be done after writing Starfire. I really do feel like I've re-written almost the entire thing...