Friday, September 28, 2007

Begrudging a Book

I get such a kick out of Dean Koontz's newsletters. The guy may not read his own e-mail, but he's sure got somebody doing some online marketing for him. The latest one talks about writing his novel Phantoms. Apparently he was rather arm-twisted into it. Years later, does he love the book--or hate it? You decide.

Writing Phantoms was one of the ten biggest mistakes of my life, ranking directly above that incident with the angry porcupine and the clown, about which I intend to say nothing more. Phantoms has been published in thirty-one languages and has been in print continuously for fifteen years, as I write this. Worldwide, it has sold almost six million copies in all editions. It has been well reviewed, and more than a few critics have called it a modern classic of its genre. Readers write to me by the hundreds every year, even this long after first publication, to tell me how much they like Phantoms. I enjoyed writing the book, and when I had to reread it to create a screenplay for the film version, I found it to be just the thrill ride that I had originally hoped to produce. Yet it is this novel, more than any other that earned for me the label of "horror writer," which I never wanted, never embraced, and have ever since sought to shed ...

Read the rest here.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Flannery O'Connor on Christian Fiction

In the June 30 issue of World Magazine, the late novelist Flannery O'Connor was "interviewed" regarding her thoughts on Christian fiction. This "interview" was taken from her Mystery and Manners, which was published in the 1960s. World Magazine calls it "an exceptionally clear book that reads almost as if the author were answering questions." Amazing to see that the issues of her day are not far from our own.

Note this excerpt:

O'CONNOR: The novelist is required to open his eyes on the world around him and look. If what he sees is not highly edifying, he is still required to look. . . . What he sees at all times is fallen man perverted by false philosophies. Is he to reproduce this? Or is he to change what he sees and make it, instead of what it is, what in the light of faith he thinks it ought to be . . . to 'tidy up reality'?

Read this intriguing full article here.

This week's CFBA Blour: Remembered, by Tamera Alexander (third in the Fountain Creek Chronicles)

Tammy is a good pal of mine and an excellent author. For all the awards and kudos she's garnered, you'd think she had a slew of books out. Nope. Remembered is only her third. (I could tell you stories about the crazy plots Tammy didn't write--thank goodness--but we won't go there.) Tammy has won multiple awards, including Romance Writers of America’s 2007 RITA® for Best Inspirational Romance, the 2007 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, 2007 Bookseller’s Best, and Library Journal’s Top Christian Fiction of 2006. In addition, her books have received acclaim from Library Journal, True West Magazine and Historical Novels Review. And Rekindled, her very first novel, made the CBA fiction bestseller list.

Check out Tammy's website for chances to win a three-volume set of her Fountain Creek Chronicles.

I highly recommend Remembered for those who enjoy historical romance. Tammy's writing just gets better and better. She has a beautiful use of language and multi-layered characters. This gal's goin' places.


Crimson Eve

Coral Moon

Violet Dawn

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Lesson Both Ancient and New

This is the day--Wednesday, September 26, 2007. At sunset, the latest drama begins to unfold in Kanner Lake--this one changing the life of realtor Carla Radling forever.

Or were the choices she made years ago the actual catalysts?

This book released less than three weeks ago, but I have already heard from quite a few readers. (Some of these, to be fair, were reviewers who were sent galleys.) So far to a person their responses have been the same. Crimson Eve is "the best" or "one of the best" books I've written.

This feedback has surprised me. Oh, I like Crimson Eve, don't get me wrong. In fact, I think it's a doggone good story. But I would not have predicted this continuous "best book" response.

Why am I hearing this?

The story has twists, but so do all my books. It's fast-paced, but again that's nothing new for me. Multiple story lines, eventually dovetailing--not new either. As for the suspense, Crimson Eve is not as intensely scary as some of my other stories. (BHCC members--this is one for you to try. Yes, even you, greedy chocoholic Deb Raney.) As Doc Mabry pointed out in his interview with me, I even manage to get through the entire first chapter without a dead body.

So what's going on? In pondering the reasons for readers' reactions, I've come to a conclusion both ancient and new.

Before I go into that--here are a few excerpts from emails I've received. They're kind of redundant, but, well, that's the point.

"[Before Crimson Eve] I don’t recall ever ... that I thought about the characters for hours later."

"This is the best book you've ever written. I could not stop reading."

"I read Crimson Eve all in one sitting. This is my favorite of yours!"

"Collins tops herself by creating a suspenseful nonstop thrill ride." (Library Journal, starred review)

"I didn't think Brandilyn could outdo herself after Coral Moon. She did." (

"I've never edited a more tightly crafted, deftly woven, compelling written book." (One of the editors who worked on Crimson Eve, with 20 years' experience.)

"This is your best ever!"

"I love this the best of your Kanner Lake books."

"I was going to say this one was the best one ever also, but I didn't want you to think the others were chopped liver!!!"

"My absolute favorite of yours."

"In all your books I've read (and that's almost all of them) this is my favorite."

"This is the best you've done."

Intrigued with this feedback, I've probed the readers further: "What's the deal? Why is this book resonating so with you and other people?" I mean, as novelists we need to understand this kind of thing, right? I wanna package ... whatever it is. Do it again.

Some of the readers couldn't quite tell me why. The story just "grabbed" them. Others pointed to certain events, certain twists. Others to the characters. I've continued to think about this as objectively as possible--because I so want to learn. I want to understand.

What have I come down to--the lesson both ancient and new?

"It's the characters, stupid."

Not that I didn't know characters are important. Not that I don't always try to characterize deeply in my suspense. But my genre is about action, about peril and surprise. I focus on these as well as characterization when I write. What I'm seeing though, is that it's not the level of scariness that puts readers on the edge of their seats. It's the level of caring about the characters caught in the trauma that does so. There are more women's fiction type of elements in Crimson Eve than in many of my other suspense novels. When writing the story, I thought these elements might harm the story by toning down the tension. Apparently not. Apparently they only ratcheted up the tension because readers are drawn into the bittersweet, desperately desirable, wrong, savored, rationalized, moth-to-flame choices the characters make.

At least, this is the best I can figure. I'm still studying on it.

Did I know characters are the ultimate in importance? Yes. But with Crimson Eve, I'm learning it all over again.

TODAY: Hank Detcher--Fishing With Wilbur

... Our lines started dancing over the water, testing the fish to see what they'd bite. All the while, Wilbur couldn't stop blowing his schnoz. I couldn't take it any more after awhile. "Wilbur, you're gonna scare the fish away a mile around if you keep it up!" I declared. He glared at me as if to say, "You young pup, who are you to be telling me to hold my honker..."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Conference Pics and Winners

First pictures--at the banquet. Mom in her sari with Chip MacGregor in his kilt.

Mom and me at the banquet.

The skit parody about the operating and advisory board members was very funny. Mike Ehret in a shoulder-length blonde wig played publicity officer Cara Putman great. To every problem presented:
(Think perky, perky.) "A problem? I can handle it. I've already written a press release for that and ...

Gina Holmes as me, wearing a "breathe" T-shirt, a seatbelt belt and carrying a glitter purple purse. Not to mention the red wig. After every other board member is seated, she "made her entrance." Her solution to every problem?
"I know what we'll do! Let's kill somebody..."

D'Ann Mateer did a wonderful Deb Raney. Why, she was just so sweet, with all that head-shaking and worrying about ...
"Oh, pleeeaaase! Do we have to kill somebody?
Can't we all just get along?"
And later:
"Well, maybe if you send me five pounds of DeBrands chocolate ..."

And on a more serious note--major congrats too all the Book of the Year winners!
Contemporary Novella:

3rd Place: Diamond Place by Robin Lee Hatcher
2nd Place: A Carol for Christmas by Robin Lee Hatcher
1st Place: Home for the Holidays by Christine Lynxwiler…Barbour Publishing, Rebecca Germany, editor.

General Fiction, which includes Sci-Fi and Young Adult:

3rd Place: Feather by Susan Page Davis
2nd Place: A Bigger Life by Annette Smith
1st Place: DragonKnight by Donita K. Paul….WaterBrook Press, Shannon Hill, editor

Historical Novella

3rd Place: Reuben's Atonement by Lynette Sowell
2nd Place: To Do Justice by Cathy Marie Hake
1st Place: Joie de Vivre by Lynette Sowell…Barbour Publishing, Rebecca Germany, editor


3rd Place: Front Porch Princess by Kathryn Springer
2nd Place: The Secret Life of Becky Miller by Sharon Hinck
1st Place: Hot Tropics and Cold Feet by Diann Hunt.…Westbow Press, Ami McConnell, editor

Long Historical

There was a tie for second place in this category.
2nd Place: The Measure of a Lady by Deeanne Gist
2nd Place: William Henry is a Fine Name by Cathy Gohlke
1st Place: Waiting for Summer's Return by Kim Vogel Sawyer, Bethany House, Charlene Patterson, editor

Short Contemporary Suspense

3rd Place: Strictly Confidential by Terri Reed
2nd Place: Stormcatcher by Colleen Coble, writing as Colleen Rhoads
1st Place: Hearts on the Line by Margaret Daley, Steeple Hill, Diane Dietz, editor

Short Contemporary

3rd Place: That Wilder Boy by Kim Vogel Sawyer
2nd Place: My So-Called Love Life by Allie Pleiter
1st Place: A Season for Grace by Linda Goodnight, Steeple Hill, Allison Lyons, editor

Short Historical

3rd Place: Bayou Dreams by Kathleen Miller Y'Barbo
2nd Place: Spoke of Love by Cathy Marie Hake
1st Place: The Prisoner's Wife by Susan Page Davis, Heartsong Presents, Tracie Peterson, editor.


3rd place winners with a three-way-tie are:
Hazardous Duty by Christy Barritt, Fire Dancer by Colleen Coble, and Alaska Twilight by Colleen Coble
2nd Place: Widows and Orphans by Susan Meissner
1st Place: Dangerous Depths by Colleen Coble, Westbow Press, Ami McConnell, editor

Women's Fiction

There was a two way tie for second place in this category.
2nd Place: Reclaiming Nick by Susan May Warren
2nd Place: Watching the Tree Limbs by Mary DeMuth
1st Place: The Fragrance of Roses by Nikki Arana, Revell/Baker Books, Jennifer Leep, editor

Monday, September 24, 2007

Post Conference

Well, the ACFW conference is over and it went terrifically. Around 500 attendees, a huge faculty, more agents and editors than we've ever had, and some great teaching. It was wonderful having Jim Bell as keynote. I roomed with Mom which is always a treat. We hung around Sunday afternoon and rested and are flying back to our homes today.

I wanted to post photos, but I couldn't get the download to work to my computer. It's always worked on my California computer, so I'll try to download some tonight. One of my favorites is Mom and agent Chip MacGregor at the banquet. Mom was dressed in a sari, one of the fancier kinds that would be worn to a wedding. It's bright red silk with many threads dipped in melted gold and woven into the fabric. Beautiful. She's had it for years and brought it home from India. Chip was dressed in a kilt with full regalia. He just looked smashing. The two of them together are quite something.

I met a new great friend at the conference. Teacher Margie Lawson wowed her students in the early bird session with her unique characterizing and editing techniques. Keynote speaker Jim Bell sat in her class and was quite impressed--and he knows a few things about characterization himself. Margie is a psychologist and uses much of that knowledge in her ways of characterizing. And she's a fun gal. Check out her website and various online classes--and see all the places she's teaching. ACFW was her first Christian writers conference, and as Margie says, "I'm coming back!"

The prayer room was a highlight for me again this year. I spent many hours in there, having the privilege of praying with people and watching God heal in amazing ways. What a joy to be around to see that happen.

Have you heard the news for next year? The conference is moving to a much larger convention hotel in Minneapolis, MN, near the Great Mall. The huge Barnes and Noble at the Mall will be hosting our bookstore sales during the entire convention. Plus B&N will be hosting our booksigning in the rotunda of the Great Mall, turning it into a major public event. The larger hotel will accommodate our continuing growth in both attendees and amount of classes offered. It will be an awesome conference.

I don't see a list of winners yet for the Genesis and Book of the Year Awards. I'll try to find that and point you all to it tomorrow.

See you tomorrow with photos.


Crimson Eve

It’s hard to believe over a year has slipped by since our lives were forever changed July 22, 2006. It is one of those dates that I’ll always remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news. It’s just as etched in my mind as other major events, such as the day that JFK was shot. My, how things have changed in Kanner Lake, and even my own life, this past year...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Doc Richard Mabry is running an interview with me about Crimson Eve on his blog. Check it out for some behind-the-scenes info and humor.

Today I want to tell you about pal Creston Mapes' new book, Nobody. (Creston is one of the Sta Akra authors--see link at left.) First, a bit about the book, then the endorsements. I have to tell you--I'm running a small percentage of the numerous endorsements. Lots of people are saying you should read this book.


When reporter Hudson Ambrose hears an early morning call on his police scanner about an injured person at a bus stop on Las Vegas Boulevard, he rushes to the scene to get the scoop.

His world is blown off its axis when he discovers a murdered homeless man with a bankbook in his pocket showing a balance of almost one million dollars. Should he wait for the police, knowing the case will get lost in reams of red tape, or swipe the bankbook and take the investigation - and perhaps a chunk of the money - into his own hands?

With sirens bearing down on the scene, Hudson makes an impulse decision that whisks him on a frantic search for answers, not only about the mysterious man in the black Converse high-tops, but about the lost soul lurking within himself.

Uncovering bizarre links between a plane crash, a Las Vegas pit boss, a dirty cop, and a widowed Atlanta business mogul, Hudson is forced to find out, who was Chester Holte, what was he doing on the streets, and why are his homeless friends convinced he was an angel in disguise?


...multidimensional characters in a captivating mystery. Mapes' latest novel will draw readers in fro the first few pages." --Christian Retailing

Nobody was absolutely riveting from the opening scene to the final page. With compelling characters, a plot that surprised me at every turn, and a subtle, yet profound message that moved me to tears, this book goes straight to the top of my highly recommended list. - Deborah Raney, author of Remember to Forget and Within This Circle

A taut, entertaining novel of mystery, intrigue and spiritual truth. Creston Mapes deals a winning hand in Nobody. — James Scott Bell, bestselling author of No Legal Grounds and Try Dying

Nobody had me fascinated from the first paragraph and kept the surprises coming to the very end. Somehow, as the pages flew by it also managed to convey a beautiful picture of faith the size of a mustard seed. From now on I’ll read anything by Creston Mapes the instant it hits the shelves. — Athol Dickson, Christy Award winning author of River Rising and The Cure

Once again, Mapes gives us a thought-provoking story, a challenge to every churchgoing reader. Told in the style of a mystery, Nobody is a modern parable full of life-affirming truth and eternal consequences. — Eric Wilson, author of A Shred of Truth

With Nobody, Creston Mapes once again demonstrates what happens when writing talent, an intriguing plot, and won’t-let-you-go characters converge: You get a thoroughly entertaining read that’s tough to set down. Nobody is for everybody who enjoys gritty noir with heart. — Robert Liparulo, author of Deadfall, Germ, and Comes a Horseman

NOBODY was more than a terrific mystery novel--which it was. It also made me look at my own life and how I put my faith in action. This is a book that everybody should read. — Colleen Coble, author of ABOMINATION

4 STARS. Compelling ... page-turner. -- Romantic Times

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Hi, all from California once again. I've been in Idaho for the past ten days. Went back up there soon after taking the daughter to college. My goodness. Since June, I've been in California all of seven days or so, scattered here and there.

We had the perfect ending to our time in Idaho. Mark and I went for a boat ride Saturday night, going over to a quiet bay to barbeque steaks on the portable grill on the boat. As we came back the sun had set and the moon was rising. One with a very captivating color. You guessed it--a slivered Coral Moon.

Now in California, I'm not here for long. Tomorrow I fly out early for the ACFW conference in Dallas. Be back Monday. I'll try to post some from there. Jim Bell will be keynote speaker this year, and you never can be quite sure how he'll behave.

Actually, I can be sure. Which is exactly the problem.

Heard this on an email loop yesterday. A senator is suing God. I'd love to be on the jury for this one.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Crimson Eve Earns Starred Review

Library Journal has awarded Crimson Eve a starred review, calling the novel "Collins' best suspense thriller so far" in an article about this fall's Christian novels. LJ is the magazine "bible" for libraries across the country. Books with good reviews are recommended "buys" for libraries, and the buyers for these libraries do pay attention to the reviews as they make their purchasing decisions.

The full review:

Real estate agent Carla Radling is showing a private estate to a dashing and charming British gentleman when he reveals himself to be a hit man who has been hired to kill her. Barely escaping, Carla goes on the run. Meanwhile, a woman from Carla's past is trying to get to her before the hit man to give her information that will change everything. In the third book of the "Kanner Lake" series (after Violet Dawn and Coral Moon), Collins tops herself by creating a suspenseful, nonstop thrill ride. As the lives of Kanner Lake citizens are drawn into a game of cat and mouse, Carla fears that the secret she has kept for 16 years is about to get her killed. Truly the best CF [Christian Fiction] suspense title so far this year, this book deserves a place in all collections.

I must tell you why this book has earned the coveted starred review. If I don't tell you, my sister, Sandy, certainly will. You see, the book is dedicated to her. Each of the Kanner Lake books has been dedicated to one of my phenomenal sisters, starting with the oldest. The Crimson Eve dedication:

For Sister #3,
Sandy Sheppard,
a.k.a. "Perfect Sister."
Because you are.
(It helps that you prayed for me to be born.)

Sandy has teased me that I just had to get that last line in there, since obviously the world "is really all about you." (Meaning me.) Well, with this raving review, she's now changing her tune: "Of course it got a starred review! It's my book! See, it really is all about me."

Also of note, pal Angela Hunt's latest book, Doesn't She Look Natural, was awarded a starred review:

When Jennifer Graham learns she has inherited real estate in Florida, she never imagines it is a funeral home, especially one in need of so much repair. Thomas, Jennifer's husband, recently left her for their nanny, and she is at a crossroads in her life. A newly single parent with two boys, she sets off to settle her uncle's estate and sell the Fairlawn Funeral Home, but things don't go so smoothly, and Jennifer may find that this new life God has thrust upon her may be the answer to her prayers. Award winner Hunt's latest book (after The Elevator) is a topnotch inspirational tale that maintains a lighthearted touch. Anyone who has had to rebuild a life after an unexpected loss will appreciate the honesty of Hunt's characters and uplifting plot. Highly recommended for CF and women's fiction collections.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Fact Vs. Fiction

Is this crime novelist a real killer? Or did he simply write a little too well ...

(Housekeeping note: are any of you seeing the left banner of this blog pushed way down? If so, anybody know how to fix it?)

Friday, September 07, 2007

Crimson Eve Release

Today is the official release date for Crimson Eve, third in the Kanner Lake series. A release date is always an exciting day--the payoff for months of work.

Each of the Kanner Lake books has had a bit of a different feel. I suppose this is because each book features a different protagonist from within the town. Crimson Eve's main character is realtor Carla Radling. She's been a minor supporting character in the first two books, one of the Java Joint regulars. She's rather sassy. Loves to argue with crotchety ol' Wilbur. She's also very private. No one--not even her pals at Java Joint--really gets close to Carla.

There's a reason for that.

This book will take the reader out of Kanner Lake for most of the story. I structured that purposely, knowing what was coming in the fourth and final book of the series, Amber Morn. Kanner Lake has endured enough trauma in the first two books--and the disaster in Amber Morn will top them both. I figured the town itself needed a break in book three. So I chose to wreake havoc elsewhere.

Like the previous two books, Crimson Eve interweaves a past story into the present one. You will see my women's fiction roots in this book. It is a suspense, no question. But the issues and events in the past subplot might enlarge its audience to those who would not usually pick up a suspense. BHCC (Big Honkin' Chickens Club) members--you might give this one a try. Just leave the light on.

After you read Crimson Eve (for surely you shall), I encourage you to visit my Web page of discussion questions for the story. (URL included in front of book.) These questions are designed to help you see more deeply into the story, beneath the main suspense plot. Don't read the questions until you've read the book.

In light of the errors in the first printing that we recently discussed, I am offering those who purchase the book a chance to get a free copy of Amber Morn when it releases next spring. Many of you reading this blog already receive the books free due to being on the influencer list or as a member of the CFBA, or as a reviewer. But you might pass the word on to buyers of the book. The first ten purchasers to email me, pointing out the errors, will receive the next one free.

Hey, I figure when the book sells a million copies, the first printing containing the errors will become a collectors' item.

Those of you attending the ACFW conference in two weeks--I will have copies to sell there at a discounted price.

Sushi for One!

This week's CFBA tour is Sushi for One, by Camy Tang. Published by Zondervan. Some of you will be happy to know Camy is alive and well even though I've tried to kill her off twice. I strangled her at our co-signing at ICRS last July. And in 2006 at Mt. Hermon I ... forget what I did. Choked her with sushi?

At any rate, this is a fun book with an Asian flair. Zondervan is very excited about Camy and her stories. Buy this one!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


Yesterday marked six months since my snowmobiling accident. And guess what I did in the morning? Jogged three miles!

Okay, so I wogged. And even walked part of the way. But I was out there, basically jogging. Give me a little time, I might be up to five miles a day again soon.

I tried jogging a few weeks ago in Coeur d'Alene, just going one-third of a mile to start. Didn't work too well. Hurt my foot, and after three days of working up to one mile, I nixed the idea for the present and went back to the illiptical machine. The broken bone isn't the problem. That's long healed. It's all the ligament damage I did. Those suckers take a long time to heal. Yesterday I thought I'd try just a little distance again, but my shoes felt good and nothing hurt, so I went for it. Apparently, it is all in the shoes. My pair in California are much newer than the ones in Cd'A. Better support.

To top the day off--I see G.G. Yup, our favorite lifesize Gray Gorrilla was sitting on his front porch, as fine as he could be. He sported a bright green top and pants and wore one of those orange life vests over his wide shoulders. No doubt he was enjoying a little skiing over the holiday weekend.

And--while I'm chatting on in this personal post--daughter Amberly is now ensconced in college. Man, those rooms are tiny. I walked in and gulped. A girl who's used to occupying four bedrooms is now reduced to one-half a little-bitty room area. But she didn't blink an eye. She was far too excited. The space is hers, see. All hers.

Except Mom and Dad are paying for it.

In work news (since this is supposed to be about the fiction world)--I started a new book yesterday. A stand-alone adult suspense. Due December 15.

Yikes Better go write!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Industry News--a New Magazine and a Tour

The new issue of
Christian Retailing reports that Strang Communications (publisher of Christian Retailing) is launching a new magazine for Christian book readers this month--and it's free. The magazine--Christian Book Reader--will be published every other month and will feature author profiles and interviews, publishing trend articles and previws of major upcoming titles.

Christian Book Reader will be available to readers through Borders book store and libraries.

Ah, the ol' book tour--is it worth it? Often they're not. However, the summer Fantasy Fiction Tour featuring Wayne Thomas Batson, Christopher Hopper, Bryan Davis and Sharon Hinck seemed to create an awful lot of buzz. The coolest--and most crucial--marketing aspect of this tour was that each author represents a different publishing house. This unusual teamwork of promoting each other spoke volumes to the stores they visited.

Their books (with links to their blogs/websites):

Batson: The Door Within trilogy, Thomas Nelson

Hopper: The Lion Vrie, Tsaba House

Hinck: The Restorer, NavPress

Davis: Oracles of Fire series, AMG Publishers

No fancy rides or digs for the Fab Fantasy Four. Traveling in Bryan Davis's van, the authors visited 17 cities in about 10 days. They stayed with volunteer families, rather than in hotels.

The authors did some individual marketing for the tour through their personal blogs. They also established a tour Web site, which reportedly received 10,000 hits a week.

Sounds like each author put a lot of work into this tour. I'm glad to hear it was successful. And yay for the fact that the word about Christian fantasy is finally getting out!