Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Update on Katy & Liz

To help Liz & Katy: Please send a check to:

Elizabeth Hughes
PO Box 111525
Campbell, CA 95011

or send Paypal funds to:

[Update 1/2: I was able to open a Paypal account in Liz's name, so I have deleted my account from this post. Check the post for Jan. 2 to see the Paypal account to now use.]

I am making sure Katy & Liz receive all Paypal funds quickly.

For background on this story, please read the past couple posts here, then visit Katy's blog. Liz Hughes has been a reader of my suspense novels for about four years now. When I heard she and her talented artist daughter, Katy (16) had become homeless, I knew I had to help. I jumped on Twitter and Facebook, and posted about their plight here--and the story began to spread.
I've just returned from seeing Katy & Liz. I got them into a motel room for a couple nights and took them all the Paypal donations to date--$971.

We watched the two local news shows--ABC & NBC--together. We are praying this media will spark more help for Katy & Liz. They need housing, and Liz needs a job. She desperately wants to be working again and to provide stability for Katy.

Liz and I

With Katy

Katy and Liz watching one of the news shows.

Watch the ABC news show on KGO.

More information on KGO's web site.

I will post NBC links when I get them.

Please consider helping Katy & Liz! You can make a difference.

Update on Homeless Girl & Mom

Yesterday was quite a day to watch events unfold for Katy and Liz. Online media is an amazing tool! Today many of your efforts will start coming to fruition. And I hope more people will get on board to help. Here's a few highlights of yesterday's events:

7:20 a.m.: Katy posted on her blog, grateful that I had talked of their plight in my own post for the day. She and her mom felt so blessed. Already Katy had seen close to 200 hits on her blog. (She'd started out at around 25.)

9:30 a.m.: I sent out first tweet about my post regarding Liz and Katy. I would continue to tweet throughout the day, linking to my blog post and Katy's. These tweets feed to Facebook. I asked people to retweet.

9:40 a.m.: I received an email from someone on Twitter who'd taken it upon herself to email the Mercury News, the local San Jose paper, alerting them to my blog post and Liz and Katy's plight.

11:00 a.m.: Katy's blog had 465 hits.

12 noon: By this time responses to my tweets and Facebook updates were coming in steadily. Many people were picking up the story, re-tweeting it and putting it on their own Facebook pages. People were leaving comments on my blog and on Katy's blog. Plus a group of Christian novelists in the San Jose area were stepping in to help. One offered her garage for storage space. Another got her church involved in providing food. Another said she had an SUV to help Liz and Katy move their belongings from their old apartment on the following day (today).

3:30 p.m.: Received a tweet from a gal saying she'd contacted three local radio stations and six local TV stations about the story. Many more tweets were coming in with notes of people praying and wanting to help. I also received numerous private questions about whether I knew these homeless people. Folks were afraid of being scammed. That saddened me. The reality is, we live in a world of so many con artists, it's hard to know when someone really does need our help.

5:00 p.m.: Received a tweet from another gal saying she'd sent a note to Mike Huckabee through Twitter regarding the story.

5:30 p.m.: Katy's blog had over 1200 hits. Even so, only $160 in Paypal donations had come in to my account. I tweeted again, begging for more help. Only after I tweeted did I remember that people could also be sending checks directly to Liz and Katy's P.O. Box, as I had already done. That made me feel better!

7:00 p.m.: A local Christian novelist/attorney direct mailed me on Twitter, offering his services should Liz want to fight her eviction proceedings, and to help her find a job. I gave him Liz's email address, and he contacted her directly.

10:00 p.m.: Katy's blog had 1645 hits. By this time I knew various people had sent personal checks to the P.O. Box address. I'd gathered $235 through Paypal, which I am putting in the mail today.

I don't know what today will bring. I hope some--at least one--message to larger media such as radio or TV will snag some interest. Katy is an amazing 16-year-old. Smart, computer savvy and very talented as an artist. She is putting a face on the plight of the working class falling into homelessness. Also this is a great testament to the power of online media. That's another angle for some newspaper article, should one be willing to pick up the story.

I hope you all will help me continue to spread the word. By your efforts, Katy and Liz will not spend tonight in their cold car. They'll have some dollars for an inexpensive motel room while they try to gather their belongings and start rebuilding their lives. Liz hopes she can land a certain job with the government in January that she's been trying to get. She just wants to work and provide for Katy. At 2:00 p.m. she wrote this to me:

I can't believe how many counts are on Katy's blog, this is a miracle. I keep crying, but these are tears of joy. All these months and nights that we have cried out to the Lord and I have prayed why have we been forgotten. I have wondered if we had been cursed for some reason. When we say grace before we eat I pray God Help Us. I did a needlepoint a couple of months ago and wrote "God Help Us" on it. I didn't want my faith to falter. I wanted it to stay strong and show my daughter that God does answer prayers, but it was getting hard. Thank you so much yet again.

To send a check directly, mail to:

Elizabeth Hughes
PO Box 111525
Campbell, CA 95011

To send through my Paypal account, please log into and send to:

[Update 1/2: I was able to open a Paypal account in Liz's name, so I have deleted my account from this post. Check the post for Jan. 2.]

Katy's email address is:

sophiepeaches (@) gmail (dot) com

Katy has just joined Twitter. Follow her here. Read updates of her blog here. She is picking up free wifi when she can. Plus she has to find some place to recharge her computer battery now and then.

Thanks to all of you for caring. And--Happy New Year.

Update: Shortly after posting this (I always post at night for the following day), I learned through Twitter that someone in the San Jose area had met up with Liz and Katy and given them enough money for a motel. No cold car on Tuesday night for them after all, as they wait for more funds to come in!

Update 9:30 a.m.: Just heard through @juliebonnheath on Twitter that NBC called her this morning in response to her emails about this story. They said they would call Katy. Let's see what happens! Also, I received more funds through Paypal. This morning those funds are at $730. I'm hoping for more to come in.

Update 10 a.m.: NBC has now contacted Katy and Liz at their motel room. Let's pray for a story!

Update 10:20 a.m.: NBC has just confirmed they will run a story on Katy and Liz on the local 6:00 news.

Update 11:30 a.m.: The local ABC station has also said it will be running a story on Katy and Liz tonight. I will do what I can to find video links to these stories.

Update 1:30 p.m.: Spoke to local ABC reporter, who was with Liz and Katy at the time. Looks like both ABC and NBC stories are a go.

Update: 3:30 p.m.: I'm leaving to drive to see Katy and Liz. (I've been without a car for the past two days--just got it back.) I'm taking them $946 in Paypal donations. They received $300 in checks in their P.O. Box today, and that's already in the bank.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Homeless Mom and Daughter Need Help

In this season of giving I've just become aware of a sad situation in the lives of one of my loyal readers. Liz is a Christian mom and widow. Her daughter, Katy, is now 16. They live in the general area of San Jose, California. They've been teetering on the brink of poverty for some time now, and have just fallen over the edge into homelessness. They are living in their car.

Last night I received an email from Liz, telling me that Katy is blogging about their experience. Katy loves art, and the drawings on her blog are her own. Please visit her blog here and start from the beginning. (There aren't too many posts yet; you can quickly catch up.) This is an unfortunate example of how the working class can fall into homelessness.

I encourage you to leave a comment on Katy's blog. They would be so encouraged by that. I've emailed Liz regarding how she might receive funds and have yet to hear back from her. I'll update this post when I do. If you'd like to send some money to this struggling mom and daughter, please check back here for updates. Or leave a comment on Katy's blog, asking her to contact you with info.

For a number of years now I have sent Liz a free book every time one of mine releases. She has always graciously written back with thanks and much praise for the story. She's been a real encouragement to me. I'm hoping to now help her through my online network of blogging, Facebook and Twitter. I'd appreciate any way you can help spread the word through your own networking.

Update 9:00 a.m.:
Katy has put a P.O. Box number on her blog, where money can be sent. I have also looked into homeless shelters/programs in their area and made some calls. So far there are no openings, but we're still working on it. The problem is that many offices will start closing for New years. We will be trying to get Liz and Katy out of their car and into beds right away, while they gather some funds and work with agencies who can help get them on their feet.

Update 11 a.m.: People are getting involved, helping spread the word about Katy's blog. A homeless girl artist blogging her experience is quite a story from the human interest point of view--and people are following the links to view Katy's blog. If you are on Twitter, Facebook, Shoutlife, have your own blog--please post about Katy's blog and send people there. Her blog counter has gone from very low numbers to 465 overnight, and those numbers are climbing. Help us get the word out! And if you can spare a little money for these two, please send a check to their P.O. box (address on Katy's blog.)

Update 11:20 a.m.: As people are getting involved to help Liz and Katy, it's becoming clear they need an easier way to send money. Liz doesn't have a Paypal account. If you'd like to send funds to Liz and Katy, please send them to my account, and I'll make sure every cent goes to them. Please put in the subject line: For Liz and Katy. My account is under my email address: brandilyn (@) brandilyncollins (dot) com

Monday, December 29, 2008

From Snow to Green

Weather shock is leaving Idaho and returning to California. Leaving piles of snow measuring five feet and more, and returning to green. Off go the fur boots, on go the running shoes.

I love my Idaho home. I think it's paradise. But man, we had enough snow there in the last ten days to last a lifetime.

We got back to California yesterday. Before we left Idaho I took these two pictures. The first is the view through a master bath window into the snow-covered forest--looking through the icicles hanging from the roof. The second is a testament to my rebellion. It's the view outside one of my office windows--taken during one of the few sunny hours we saw. The snow-covered hills and lake lie in the distance, with the bay half frozen. In the foreground--my silk flowers, with bits of snow blown in on them. I know, only an idiot hangs silk flowers in the dead of winter. Yup, that would be me.

By the way, the pile of snow beneath the hanging basket was about five feet high.

Sometimes California ain't so bad. :)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas, All

Merry Christmas, BGs, from our winter wonderland to you and your family. Wishing you blessings and joy during this celebration of Christ's birth.

Do you have a Christmas shot of your home and/or family? Leave a comment and link to it.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

To Market, To Market!

Today I received three marketing books I'd ordered from Amazon: Guerilla Publicity, by Jay C. Levinson, Rick Frishman, and Jill Lublin; Twitter Means Business, by Julio Ojeda-Zapata; and Permission Marketing, by Seth Godin. Yeehaw, can't wait to dig in.

Anybody read any of these? They're not all new. Godin's book was copyrighted in 1999. (His most recent is Tribes.) By the way, if you're not reading Godin's blog, you're missing out. He always has something interesting to say.

To give you all a quick peek, I turned to page 25 of each book and looked at the penultimate paragraph on that page (Alliteration, anyone?) Here are the results:

Permission Marketing: "Advertising is not why we pay attention. Yet marketers must make us pay attention for the ads to work. If they don't interrupt our train of thought by planting some sort of seed in our conscious or subconscious, the ads fail. Wasted money. If an ad falls in the forest and no one notices, there is no ad."

Guerilla Publicity: "Generally you won't see immediate results because these types of relationships [with the media] must be nurtured. It's a slow, deliberate process like erecting a brick wall: firmly and precisely placing, aligning, adjusting, and mortaring one brick at a time, row after row, until the wall is complete. However, unlike a brick wall, your relationship with the media is never complete--you must always continue building."

Twitter Means Business: [This paragraph requires a set-up. A man named Jonathan Fields is waiting for a JetBlue flight and twitters about waiting at the gate. Immediately after that, he learns via email he's being "followed" by @jetblue. His resulting tweet is the paragraph.]

"jonathanfields: Using JetBlue wifi to access twitter, 10 seconds later, I get a follow request from JetBlue on twitter. Half freaked out, half awed."

Hmm. All three books sound interesting to me.

I'll report on these books as I read them.

Monday, December 22, 2008

My Christmas Confession

I am a grinch through most of the season.

Not that I show it on the outside. But inside, I'm grinching all right.

It's just that I'm a busy enough person already, and Christmas comes with a long to-do list. I feel the weight of that list every December. (1) Write/design the family Christmas letter complete with pictures and get them all mailed out. (2) Do three personalized calendars with pictures on the computer for the coming year. One for our extended family, which get mailed out as gifts. One for our personal family, with a copy for us and one as a gift to each child. And one for "The Three Amigos"--my husband and his two lifelong friends, who each get a copy as presents. (3) Buy gifts for everyone. (4) Decorate the house.

Most of you probably have your own to-do Christmas lists. And like mine, they represent hours of extra work. I don't need extra work. And so in my head I complain.

Then one blessed day--usually only about four or five days before Christmas, all the work is done. We're settled into our Idaho home with Christmas lights everywhere and a tall tree. The calendars are done, printed and mailed out. Ditto with the Christmas letters. All gifts are bought. The kids arrive-- our son now with his own family, and our daughter from college. And every year I feel myself relax. I smile. I think, "Oh yeah, this is why I do all that extra stuff." And I enjoy Christmas.

But Christmas isn't really about any of that. It's about remembering that Christ came to earth for us. For me. He knew I'd think Grinchy thoughts for most of the season, all wrapped up in my petty little problems of having "too much to do" rather than thinking about His birth. And he came to earth for me anyway.

Thank You, Lord, for coming. For giving up your throne for a time and taking on humanity with all its frailties. (Can you imagine choosing to do that?!) Thank You, God, for putting up with me. Especially during the Christmas season.

Friday, December 19, 2008

It's Winterfest, and DJs Don't Need to Eat!

Sorry for the no-post yesterday. We arrived at our Idaho home--finally--at 11:30 p.m. Somehow our plane managed to land in a major snowstorm. We made it to our house, but we're not making it back out until the snow plower comes. It was too late to write a post for the following morning.

This was the view from my office about 2 p.m. yesterday. Is there a lake out there somewhere? The world looked almost whited out. Not until I posted this picture did I see the concentric circles of ... whatever. (Certainly not sun rays.)

On our travel day another Forensics and Faith reader sent me the following Christmas story to post:

My husband is a public assistance specialist level II (works for county welfare) and has been there for nearly 7 years. He is well liked by nearly everyone and is considered the county's pastor. But two years ago, he was on the company Christmas party committee. Of course, no one was allowed to call it Christmas. It was Winterfest. Dave being Dave--he called it Christmas. This drove the program director nuts. But Dave persisted. Didn't score any points with her, but he wasn't trying to.

At their final planning meeting, Dave gave his report on hiring DJs for the party. This was a $25.00/plate dinner, with employees having to pay for their spouses. That alone was annoying many employees. But when the matter of feeding the DJ's came up, the program director refused to provide meals for them. She insisted the two DJ's would be too busy to eat, and they should eat before they came. Keep in mind they were to arrive to set up at 4 p.m. and would be playing music until midnight. Dave not only saw this as unreasonable, but unChristian as well. So he spoke up. The program director shot him down.

Finally, having had enough of this Winterfest nonsense, Dave responded, "It's Christmas, the season of giving. I think the least we can do is shell out for two dinners!" The DJ's got their dinners. But Dave was forever on the program director's hit list.

Dave is retiring as of January 16th, 2009, to pastor our church full time--the first full-time pastor this church has ever had in the last 20+ years. It's a huge leap of faith for us and the church. Now the county is begging Dave to stay. But he's refused to reconsider. So now he's being persecuted for his stand. Makes me happy knowing we're doing God's will and the enemy is taking his last shot at Dave at that job.

Have a Christmas story you'd like me to post? Email it to me (link on my web site).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bestseller Lists for November

Here is a comparison of the bestseller lists for fiction from CBA and ECPA. Both of these current lists generally reflect sales in the month of November. CBA's is titled the January list--their list always reflects sales two months previously from the title. This January list includes data gathered through November 29. ECPA's is titled December, their list always reflecting sales of one month previous to the title. (Confused yet?) ECPA doesn't note the exact days included on their list. Sometimes their list can "round the corner" into the previous month as much as a week. So these two lists aren't a comparison of the exact same days, but they generally cover the same time frame.

I have highlighted books appearing on only one list in blue.

CBA (Numbers in parenthesis reflect place on CBA Top 50 list, which includes fiction and non-fiction.)

1. (2) The Shack, William P. Young, Windblown Media
2. (4) Every Now and Then, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
3. (10) Fireproof, Eric Wilson, Thomas Nelson

4. (19) Sunset, Karen Kingsbury,Tyndale
5.(22) Sinner, Ted Dekker, Thomas Nelson
6.(29) White Christmas Pie, Wanda E. Brunstetter, Barbour
7. (49) The Longing, Beverly Lewis, Bethany/Baker
8. Rachel's Secret, B.J. Hoff, Harvest House

9. Jessie, Lori Wick, Harvest House
10. Circle Trilogy, Ted Dekker, Thomas Nelson
11. Adam, Ted Dekker, Thomas Nelson
12. Forever Christmas, Christine Lynxwiler, Barbour
13. Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers, Multnomah/WaterBrook
14. Deeper Water, Robert Whitlow, Thomas Nelson
15. Dead Heat, Joel Rosenberg, Tyndale
16. The List, Robert Whitlow, Thomas Nelson
17. The Christmas Candle, Max Lucado, Thomas Nelson
18. Home to Holly Springs, Jan Karon, Harvest House
19. Texas Legacy Christmas, DiAnn Mills, Barbour
20. One Perfect Day, Lauraine Snelling, Faithwords (Hachette)


1. The Shack, William P. Young, Windblown Media
2. Sunset, Karen Kingsbury,Tyndale
3. Every Now and Then, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
4. Fireproof, Eric Wilson, Thomas Nelson
5. The Christmas Candle, Max Lucado, Thomas Nelson
6. White Christmas Pie, Wanda E. Brunstetter Barbour
7. The Longing, Beverly Lewis, Bethany/Baker
8. Dead Heat, Joel C. Rosenberg, Tyndale
9. Sinner, Ted Dekker, Thomas Nelson
10. Jessie, Lori Wick, Harvest House
11. The List, Robert Whitlow, Thomas Nelson
12. Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers, Waterbrook/Multnomah
13. Rachel's Secret, B.J. Hoff, Harvest House
14. Rebecca's Reward, Lauraine Snelling, Bethany/Baker
15. Miracles, Terri Blackstock, Thomas Nelson
16. When the Soul Mends, Cindy Woodsmall, Waterbrook/Multnomah
17. Deeper Water, Robert Whitlow, Thomas Nelson
18. Until We Reach Home, Lynn Austin Bethany/Baker
19. Full Circle, T. Davis Bunn, Thomas Nelson
20. The Last Jihad, Joel C. Rosenberg, Tyndale

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Cubicle Christmas Story

In response to the Christmas posts from last week, another Forensics and Faith reader wrote me with this one. I'm running the letter with permission, without the name of the school.

Your post from yesterday made me think of an incident my daughter told me this past week. She lives in ____ and works at ______ University in a new department position. I think she's been in this office for a little over a month. Anyway, her manager told everyone they wouldn't be able to decorate for Christmas this year, and then soon after her supervisor called a meeting for her group and asked each of them to play a song they liked in an effort to get to know everyone better. She'd taken some Christian music to play in case there were others who did the same, but also took a Journey cd. When it came her time, she played Journey and later felt so ashamed that she'd forsaken Christ for fear of possibly losing her job or being targeted by management. So ashamed, that when she returned to her cubicle, she broke down in tears. She felt so alone.

Now here is the really cool part . . . her supervisor called her to his office. She'd been in her cubicle so didn't think anyone would have seen her crying. But when she went to his office, he immediately asked her if something was wrong or if she needed to call someone. She said no, and he said, "Does it have anything to do with this?" He then began playing a Christian song on his computer. She nodded and he then told her "Welcome to the club."

Turns out he studied at the Lutheran seminary (same denomination as us) and that there were a handful of Christians in her office that banded together for things. Only God could have pointed her out. They talked for quite a while, and because of their visit, he went to management and was able to get them to lift their rule so that people could decorate "within their cubicle." She was so relieved to know there were other believers that she could talk to who understood the pressure and turmoil she felt.

It's sad that this is what things have come to in the United States, and I fear/know it will only get worse in the coming days. I have been enjoying your posts this week and wanted to thank you for speaking out on some of these issues. Brandilyn, you do not know the impact you've had on my life, just the little I've been around you. I first visited with you at the KC conference, and you exuded such peace and dignity, I said to myself . . . "I want to be like her." I know that this is God speaking through you, and I can only pray that I'm able to give a portion of what you've given to others.


Do you have a Christmas story to share? Please email me (you can do that through my web site). As long as I keep receiving Christmas stories, I'll keep running them. 'Tis the season, after all.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Happy 92nd Birthday, Mama Ruth!

Please join me in wishing my mom, Ruth Seamands, a happy 92nd birthday. Many of you know Mom as Mama Ruth. And she truly is "mama" to many.

Mom was a missionary to India for twenty years with Daddy, who has now passed on. She's an incredible hostess, a lover of people, has a great sense of humor, and is hands down the best mom on the planet.

Her determination to stay young and active is legendary. She parasailed at 85. Decided at 88 her teeth had been crooked long enough and got braces. (She has lovely white, straight snappers today--her own.) She made a TV commercial at 90 for her dentist, who was so amazed at the results of her Invisalign braces. And she took her first motorcycle ride after her 90th birthday party.

To this day Mom still does half an hour of floor exercises every morning. She can lean over and put her palms flat on the floor. Her reactions are so quick she can drop an egg and catch it before it hits the ground.

Mom remains the beloved doyenne of
ACFW. She's never missed a conference. Her last book was written in her 80's--a tribute to three generations of women in her family, titled Cast a Long Shadow.

Age 85--Parasailing

Age 86--Skipping rope on a sidewalk colored for her
when my novel Color the Sidewalk for Me was released.

Age 89--Head to the knees, part of her daily floor exercises.

Age 90--Motorcycle ride after her birthday party bash.

Age 90--Dressed in Indian sari at the awards banquet during the ACFW conference. (Pictured with agent Chip MacGregor in his kilt.)

Age 91--with me at ACFW Conference this past September.

Happy birthday, Mom!

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Christmas Song of Political Correctness

In response to yesterday's post a BG emailed me with a story too long for a comment here. I'm running it today with his permission. Do sing loudly at your desks when you hit the lyrics.

In my community we have a bed-and-breakfast inn full of charm--history, antiques, artwork, etc. About 2 years ago, right before Christmas, the inn was taken over by the state park system, to be managed in conjunction with our local state park.

I was in the Dollar Store checkout line one day behind two workers from the inn. They explained to the cashier that they were buying new Christmas decorations because the new management allowed no references to CHRISTMAS. They could decorate with snowmen, "happy holidays" signs, etc., but nothing even remotely alluding to CHRIST. They weren't even allowed to say "Merry Christmas" anymore.

As I left the store I ranted to God about how shameful it was that people were taking Christ out of His own birthday celebration. I prayed for Him to do something about the "PC" attitude at this particular business. A year later, a new manager arrived and was looking for community involvement. She first instituted a program where churches would decorate a particular area of the inn, complete with manger scenes, angels, etc.--as long as there was a sign identifying the sponsoring church. Then she found out that I was doing a musical as my youth Christmas play. It was called "Church Christmas Musical," and I wrote it as a spoof/tribute to "High School Musical." She invited me and my kids to perform our CHRISTIAN MUSICAL at the SECULAR INN. The message of Christ was woven throughout the play, and we didn't have to water down one word.

Even with the world's obsession with political correctness, God is still on the throne!

Before the happy ending to this story occurred, I wondered what would happen if political correctness continued to run rampant in our society. I began thinking of Christmas songs, primarily THE "Christmas Song (Chestnuts roasting . . . )." My mind began to wonder what that song would be like if the PC police got hold of it. I began singing. Before long I had the centerpiece of the play. I had been struggling with the theme, but, there in the car, I felt moved to write about the secularization of the season and about the utter silliness of it all. I actually sang the song during our play, and it was a big hit:

The Secular Alternative Politically Correct Holiday Song

(Sung to the tune of The Christmas Song)

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,
Jack or Jill Frost nipping at your nose.
Secular songs being sung by culturally tolerant singers

Folk dressed up like native Alaskan-Americans.
A segment of the population knows some tofu and organic plants
Can help make the non-religious season bright
Tiny youth-oriented individuals with their eyes all aglow
Will find it hard to sleep without Ambien tonight.

They know that a weight-challenged individual is on his or her way.

He or she has lots of environmentally-sound purchases on his or her sleigh. And every mother and/or father’s child is gonna spy
To see if reindeer were injured or harmed in any way trying to fly.

And so . . . I’m offering this non-offensive phrase

To individuals from one to an upper non-discriminatory number.
Although it’s been said not many times, not many ways
Merry secular alternative politically correct holiday to you.

Lyrics rewritten by Carlton W. Hughes © 2006


Let's hear a Bravo for Carlton!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Just Let Me Live

I am tired of political correctness.

This time of year we have "holiday trees" in public places and "winter shows" in schools. God forbid that the word Christmas be used. It might offend non-Christians. Forget the fact that Christmas is the national holiday we're celebrating.

A Christian family in our California neighborhood has their house on the market. Every year this family has beautifully decorated their front porch and lawn with a variety of Christmas lights. This year--nothing. Why? Because the realtor said no. What if nonbelievers--or Muslims or Buddhists or whatever--drove by as potential buyers and were offended? This family had to fight to even put up a Christmas tree in their living room.

Bulletin to realtor--the nonbelievers, Muslims and Buddhists I know still celebrate Christmas. They put up trees and give gifts. They don't believe in the Christian origins, but they do take part in the secular celebrations of our national holiday.

Still, oh dear, those who might be offended ...

This politically correct climate is insanity. Why can't we live and let live? If I were in Israel, I wouldn't be offended by the nation's celebration of Hanukkah. If I lived in a Muslim country, I'd understand their celebration of Muslim holidays. I wouldn't agree with their religion. But I wouldn't demand some watering down of their celebration to suit my beliefs.

You have an anti-Christmas story of your own? Today's your day to rant. Have at it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Can Ya Dance?

The 2008 videos at Christmas at the Goods are up! Do yourself a favor and watch all four. My favorite? Hands down as always--Wizards in Winter. They've got a really cool new wall of lights this year--and the Wizard song uses that wall very creatively. Break dancing, anyone?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Called Out of Darkness

I want to tell, as simply as I can-and nothing with me as a writer has ever really been simple-the story of how I made my decision of the heart.

So here is the story of one path to God...

If this path to God is an illusion, then the story is worthless. If the path is real, then we have something here that may matter to you as well as to me.

So says Anne Rice in her memoir, Called Out of Darkness, released in October. (You can read the first chapter here.)

Anne's novels about Christ, and now her memoir, make me smile. What a great testimony this incredible writer is giving to the world. has a thorough, thoughtful (and very positive) review. I agree with the reviewer that learning more about Anne Rice--and how much of her personal angst wound up in her novels--makes me want to re-read some of her work.

As this post was written, Called Out of Darkness was sitting at #1484 on Amazon. It's available in hard cover, on audio and on the Kindle.

Visit Anne's web site to read reviews of her memoir, and to hear her interview with James Dobson. (Now there's a combination that also makes me smile.)

A week ago here we discussed the trend of general houses publishing Christian fiction--and not through their Christian imprints. Anne's future books will be a part of that trend. According to her web site she will not be doing the Christian Lestat novel that so many of her fans have suggested. After "prayer, meditation, and much pondering" she "doesn't think such a novel is possible." However, she has announced she will be writing a new three-book Christian fiction series of metaphysical thrillers called Songs of the Seraphim. Read more at this page of her web site.

Waytago, Anne! I applaud you.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Another Abingdon Contract

Yes, we have another writer to congratulate for selling to Abingdon! Richard Mabry--I call him Doc--has sold his first novel, Run Away Home, to be released in spring of 2010.

Doc says: "I was going to submit my novel to Barbara Scott at Abingdon in response to your blog announcement, only to find that my agent, Rachelle Gardner, had already done so." Waytago, Rachelle! (You can find Rachelle at WordServe Literary. Read her blog, Rants and Ramblings, here.)

Doc Mabry is a retired ear, nose, and throat specialist. After the death of his first wife in 1999, he began writing about his journey through grief. These writings evolved into a book, The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse, which was released in 2006 by Kregel.

I first met Doc and his second wife at Mt. Hermon a couple years ago. What a great couple. Doc is just one of the nicest guys--always makes me smile. I wrote him once, asking him about some medical issue I had (nosebleeds). He wrote back a long letter, giving me all sorts of advice on how to stop nosebleeds, then asked where I lived--maybe he knew a doc in the area who could help me. I told him. Next thing I know, he's forwarding an email from the department head of a huge nearby hospital. This physician is telling Doc, hey no problem even though his practice is closed to new patients, I can call anytime. Any friend of Richard Mabry's is a friend of his, after all Dr. Mabry did to help him way back when...

Sheesh. I hadn't known the powerhouse I was dealing with. This Mabry man makes things happen.

Congrats, Doc, for landing a contract with Barbara Scott! Congrats, Rachelle, for selling it!

Friday, December 05, 2008

How NOT to Compete in the Marketplace

What is up with this?

On the southern side of our town in California, an Arco's gas price--$1.83--and the Shell across the street--$2.37.

On the northern side of our town, a Chevron--$1.89--and the Shell across the street--$2.89.

Oh. And the starting gas price at another Shell in town, with no other stations in sight?


Any creative minds out there want to take a stab at explaining this one?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Three Cheers for Christmas Letters

About time to write the ol' Christmas letter. I do one every year for our family. It's sent to a fairly small list of around 100 addresses--family members and friends. It's our chance to give the highlights of the year on each member of our family, with little pictures scattered throughout. This year's no doubt will have photos of our son's wedding in our Idaho home. Pics of our sorority daughter at college. It'll mention the books I've had released this year, and highlights from my husband's work. I try to make it visually appealing and entertaining. And no--I don't end it with a hook!

I like receiving Christmas letters. I don't mind that they're impersonal. To me they're far more personal than just sending a card. For those people whom you don't keep in touch with regularly, it's a good way to know what's happened in their lives. And we'll often write a short personal note on top of the typed letter.

I've noticed something interesting, though. So many of the letters we receive from couples in their 50s and 60s talk about their many travels. "We frolicked in Japan, rode a camel backwards in Egypt. Camped on the African veldt. Stuffed ourselves on tamales in Guadalajara."

What did we do? We worked.

What's wrong with this picture?

All the same, one of the coolest things I've included in our letters came two years ago--and it had to do with work. That year my husband (in executive search) was ranked #1 in the world in customer satisfaction in the huge, international search firm he works for. (It's the world's biggest search firm.) Don't you know this proud wifey did some braggin' on her man. He'd never have done it. So I made sure everybody knew.

Your turn. Do you send a Christmas letter? If so, what's one or two of the best news items you've been able to include?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Dec. Christian Fiction Online Mag

Just got back to California for two weeks. We'll return to Idaho for Christmas.

This month's CFOM (Christian Fiction Online Magazine) has been released. Take time to browse this issue. The magazine is always packed full of interesting articles.

In my article this month--titled "Hatching a Plot"--I tell the behind-the-scenes story of why I wrote Dark Pursuit. A story that began 30 years ago...

Dark Pursuit begins its tour with the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance (CFBA) today, running through Friday. If you're out surfing the web, you just might run into a review or two. Over 90 blog reviewers are participating. You can read the list of blogs on the CFBA site.

News around the Blogosphere

1. From Christian Retailing: CBA has announced it's shortening next year's ICRS (International Christian Retail Show) from five to four days. Sounds like a good move. Read the complete story here.

2. Writers--want your rejection letters published? Sure ya do! Hey, if you can't sell the manuscript ... Or how about other kinds of rejections? Turned down by a college? Received a Dear John letter? Any such negativity is fair game. (Don't worry, you will remain anonymous.) The proposed Other People's Rejection Letters is a follow-up to Bill Shapiro's Other People's Love Letters. Read this announcement for details.

3. The terrorists in Mumbai used Google Earth to learn their way around their targets. Details here.

4. I'm waiting impatiently for the 2008 videos of the Good house in Tyler, Texas. Once they're up I'll be letting you know. Great way to get in the Christmas spirit.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Mainstream Houses and Christian Fiction

Happy December. (Can you believe it?)

The new Publishers Weekly has an interesting article about mainstream ABA houses publishing Christian fiction--rather than releasing the titles under the houses' Christian imprints. Clearly the market for Christian fiction is expanding. Read the article


I wonder about the fiction titles Nelson says it will market as mainstream. How well will that work? Some bookstore shelvers may look at the genre on the back and follow that, shelving the book with other mainstream fiction. Others may notice the publisher, know that it's a Christian house, and automatically shelve the novel with other Christian fiction. In other words, I didn't think simply taking "Christian" out of the genre listing on the back cover fixed the age-old shelving problem. Anyone have any insights on this? Please speak up.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

CBA/ECPA Fiction Bestseller Lists

Here's a comparison of the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists reflecting sales in the month of October. Titles appearing on one list and not the other are highlighted in blue.


1. Sunset, Karen Kingsbury, Tyndale
2. The Shack, William P. Young, Windblown Media
3. The Longing, Beverly Lewis, Bethany/Baker
4. Jessie, Lori Wick, Harvest House
5. Fireproof, Eric Wilson Thomas Nelson
6. When the Soul Mends, Cindy Woodsmall, Waterbrook/Multnomah
7. Dead Heat, Joel C. Rosenberg, Tyndale
8. Sinner, Ted Dekker, Thomas Nelson
9. White Christmas Pie, Wanda E. Brunstetter, Barbour
10. Until We Reach Home, Lynn Austin, Bethany/Baker
11. Rebecca's Reward, Lauraine Snelling, Bethany/Baker
12. Miracles, Terri Blackstock, Thomas Nelson
13. Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers, Waterbrook/Multnomah
14. The Parting, Beverly Lewis, Bethany/Baker
15. Rachel's Secret, B.J. Hoff, Harvest House
16. Full Circle ,T. Davis Bunn, Thomas Nelson
17. The Forbidden, Beverly Lewis Bethany/Baker
18. Kidnapped, Dee Henderson,Tyndale
19. The Last Jihad, Joel C. Rosenberg, Tyndale
20. Someday, Karen Kingsbury, Tyndale

CBA (Numbers in parentheses reflect standing on CBA Top 50 list)

1. (2) The Shack, William P. Young, Windblown Media
2. (4) Sunset, Karen Kingsbury, Tyndale
3. (6) The Longing, Beverly Lewis, Bethany/Baker
4. (7) Fireproof, Eric Wilson & Alex Kendrick, Thomas Nelson
5. (14) Jessie, Lori Wick, Harvest House
6. (21) White Christmas Pie, Wanda Brunstetter, Barbour
7. (22) When the Soul Mends,
Cindy Woodsmall, WaterBrook/Multnomah
8. (23) Sinner,Ted Dekker, Thomas Nelson
9. Rebecca’s Reward, Lauraine Snelling, Bethany/Baker
10. Dead Heat, Joel Rosenberg, Tyndale
11. Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers, Multnomah/WaterBrook
12. Until We Reach Home, Lynn Austin, Bethany/Baker
13. Miracles, Terri Blackstock, Thomas Nelson
14. Anathema, Colleen Coble, Thomas Nelson
15. Rachel's Secret, B. J. Hoff, Harvest House
16. Full Circle, Davis Bunn, Thomas Nelson,
17. The Parting, Beverly Lewis, Bethany/Baker
18. Where the Heart Leads, Kim Sawyer, Bethany/Baker
19. Unexpected Love, Tracie Peterson & Judith Miller, Bethany/Baker
20. The Forbidden, Beverly Lewis, Bethany/Baker

Monday, November 24, 2008

Another BG Sells First Novel

Congrats time again! Cynthia Ruchti has sold her first novel--to Abingdon. They Almost Always Come Home will be released in the spring of 2010. Here's her email to me:

Thanks to you, Brandilyn, I was encouraged to request an appointment with Barbara Scott, Abingdon Press fiction acquisitions editor, at the recent ACFW conference. I wouldn't have thought to do that without your suggestion. Barbara is so warm and enthusiastic, and obviously passionate about her role in developing Abingdon's fiction line.

Like a good girl, I followed through and sent her the requested proposal shortly after conference. She read it immediately and literally within a couple of hours emailed to ask me to send her the whole manuscript. (This is the story that took second place in the 2008 Genesis Contest in women's fiction).

From the minute I began working on this story in the spring of 2007, I had a sense that I'd finally found my writing "voice" and a compelling story coupled with the author vulnerability so many talk about. Was I willing to go deep enough to write the story the way it deserved? Yes. On my knees.

Although the main characters' issues are vastly different from anything I've experienced, I do know the pain of wondering if my husband would come home from a trip he took to the Canadian wilderness, as does Libby. Libby would leave her husband...if she could find him.

So many lessons here. Because the manuscript was completed and all the hard work done to get the synopsis and blurbs and market analysis and back cover ideas, I was able to send her the full manuscript within a few minutes, after praying hard but quickly!

I signed with Wendy Lawton (my dream agent who is perfect for me--great mix of business acumen and a momma's/sister's heart) the day Barbara told me she wanted to take it to committee. And here we are! In far more ways that just this one, I owe a lot to you. How many hundreds of novelists say that to you every day? Thanks. Now, the work begins!

Blessings and deep gratitude,


Congratulations, Cynthia. We are thrilled for you!

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Look at December's CBA Retailing

Yesterday my digital issue of December's CBA Retailing + Resources arrived in my inbox. I usually receive this e-mail a week or two before the printed version comes in the mail. Three things to note in this issue:

1. On a personal note, it was great to see Dark Pursuit as this issue's featured fiction review in a 2/3 page spread. "Lean style and absorbing plot ... Brandilyn Collins is a master of suspense." I didn't know Dark Pursuit would be featured like this. Nice surprise and review.

Congrats to Jeanne Damoff for her book, Parting the Waters, being chosen as the nonfiction feature.

2. In "Where Have the Customers Gone?" Verne Kenney, Zondervan's Executive Sales VP, talks about the movement in music and book sales to digital versions. A few statistics he notes: In 2000 Americans bought 785 million albums. Last year that number fell to 588--including downloaded albums. Why? Because now folks are buying singles, whose sales rose 65% from 2005 to 2006. As for books, e-book sales have increased 42% since 2002. Last year Amazon released the Kindle, with sales now over 245,000 units. And Sony has its Reader. (See F&F posts on the Kindle vs. Sony here, and Zondervan's distributorship agreement with the Sony Reader here.) Kenney advises Christian bookstores that "incorporating a digital center in a high traffic area will help position your store as relevant and as a cutting edge business."

The digital age of book sales has just begun, methinks.

3. Last month CBA R+R began a column on blogs and the impact they have on Christian retail. This month the columnist talked about four levels of blogging, as learned from a webinar CBA staff members attended, sponsored by Avectra Academy. The levels go from "unengaged" blogging--those who blog but don't follow others' sites--to fully engaged, in which you are actively listening to what's going on in the blog community and creating your own helpful and unique content. Of course, the goal is to get to that fourth level.

You can help strengthen the Christian retail blog community. The columnist is making a list of blogs within CBA that relate to the industry. If your blog does this, or if you read blogs that do, send an e-mail to the columnist with the blogs' names and URLs. Put "Blog Roll" in the subject line. In subsequent columns I'm sure we'll be hearing about some of these sites.

CBA Retailing + Resources is a helpful magazine that will help you keep an eye on the industry. A yearly suscription for non-CBA members is $59.95. You can review a sample digital issue here. Go here to buy a subscription.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Keep That Bible Rollin'

Today the Bible rolls into Tulsa, Oklahoma.

From the
Bible Across America web site:

Bible Across America is a one-of-a-kind, cross-country promotional tour honoring the 30th anniversary of the New International Version (NIV) translation, the most trusted, most read Bible available today.

The Bible is America's favorite book of all time. And because of its accuracy, clarity and literary quality, the NIV has become the most successful Bible translation of all time. Zondervan believes that a completely handwritten version of the NIV Bible by people from all across our country will help America rediscover the Bible in a fresh, new way.

Bible Across America is a symbol of Zondervan's commitment to make the Word of God more accessible and more relevant to more people. What better way to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the NIV Bible than by inviting Americans to participate in this monumental tour and open more hearts to the Word of God.

The 15,000-mile journey will directly reach 90 cities in 44 states during the course of five months. Bible Across America is currently making stops at churches, universities, retail stores, American landmarks and special events between September 30, 2008 and February 11, 2009. More than 31,000 people are being invited to contribute a verse to complete an entirely handwritten Bible -- America's NIV.

Go here on the BAA web site to see when the tour may be near you.

Follow the tour on Twitter.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Egad, a Pecking Tom at My Window!

Need your entree for Thanksgiving dinner? It's strutting on my deck.

The wild turkeys are everywhere. They run all over the yard, looking for food. But come break time, they're on the deck right outside my office windows. The gal turkeys are content to stay down. Not so with the macho men. They like to fly up to the railing and sit there like they own the world. This afternoon a bunch were congregated at the side view out of my office, and suddenly I heard this banging noise. What in the world? I walked around my desk to catch a fat tom pecking the heck out of the glass. He caught sight of me and backed off, only to return and start pecking again when I sat back down. Whadya suppose is his problem? I figured he saw himself in the glass and didn't like what he saw. (Egad, a competitor tom!)

In the front yard we have a tree, now barren of leaves but loaded with red berries. Well, half loaded. The turkeys work on it every day. Trouble is they've eaten all the lower berries so now have to fly higher up in the tree. They are the most ungainly flyers. Bad enough going up. Coming down they tend to beak plant half the time.

Be my guest, BGs. Come on over and bag yourself a turkey.

Turkey view from my desk (looking straight ahead).

Left side view from my desk. Roostin' on the railing.

Dining at the berry tree.

Pecking tom at my side office window.


Winners from yesterday's drawing for copies of Unpretty: Jason and Kristi Golden. Congrats! Jason and Kristi, please contact me with your street addresses.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

UNPRETTY: The Truth of Evil

Recently I read Unpretty, a newly released suspense novel by Sharon Carter Rogers. I found the book interesting because of the reasons Sharon wrote it (see below). My own latest release, Dark Pursuit, was written because of a phrase and scene from John Milton's classic book, Paradise Lost, that had stuck in my head for 30 years. Sharon's Unpretty rose from her viewing a classic painting. In her guest post today, Sharon gives us the background on her novel:

Sometimes I wonder why I write suspense/thriller fiction.

It’s not like I set out to dream up scary stories for someone else’s entertainment. In fact, I just wanted to write stories…I didn’t think much about whether or not they’d be frightening, or even suspenseful. And my life is remarkably mundane for someone who dreams up macabre things to print. Somewhere in the back of my mind, though, when I started writing novels I must have been thinking about a quote attributed to Stephen King, “I just write about things that scare me.” I do that too, I think. And because I am Christian, things that scare me sometimes have to do with eternity.

Enter Michelangelo Buonarroti.

A few years ago I visited a bargain bookstore (yes! I’m cheap!) and saw a beautiful coffee-table book on the life and work of Michelangelo. I was instantly transfixed, so much so that I bought the book on a whim, brought it home, and immediately began churning through its pages. It was here that I first discovered Michelangelo’s scary/beautiful masterpiece, the Last Judgment – his depiction of the literal end of the world at Christ’s return.

This violent, graphic, huge painting actually adorns the altar wall of the world famous Sistine Chapel in Italy. If this painting were a movie, it would be rated NC-17 on the basis of nudity and violence alone. Yet it also breathtakingly depicts an artist’s interpretation of literal events described in the pages of Scripture itself.

The Last Judgment achieves an impression on the viewer that is both repugnant and holy. Terrifying and fascinating. Thrilling and peaceful.

This apparent juxtaposition of values was fascinating for me—and it sparked within me an exploration of the concept of God’s presence in darkness, in suffering, in art, in beauty and ugliness, in life, and in eternity. The result, as you can guess, was my latest suspense novel Unpretty. (Hey, I’m a novelist! What else did you expect?)

As I was writing Unpretty, I drew the most frightening literary scenes directly from the artistic scenes that Michelangelo included in his painting of the Last Judgment. And occasionally, while studying particular areas of the master’s artwork, I found myself asking questions like, “Wow, is it really appropriate to graphically display a nude man having his privates poisoned by a large snake on the altar wall of arguably the most famous Christian church in the world?” I can’t imagine the thousands of people who attend Saddleback Church or Willow Creek Community Church putting up with having to stare at THAT artistic vision while their pastors spoke each Sunday morning!

But I also realized that there was an honesty to Michelangelo’s depiction of evil. Judgment for sin is a messy, revolting thing. So much so that for me (and you) to be spared, it required the torture, humiliation, and naked execution of the Son of God himself.

So, I wrote Unpretty under the instruction of Michelangelo’s tutelage. Evil is real. Evil is ugly. Evil carries an element of truth, and when depicting evil you must tell the truth about it. It’s not the writer’s (or the artist’s) responsibility to glorify evil or to demonize evil. It’s the writer’s responsibility to tell the truth about evil – and its consequences – and then let that truth speak for itself. And to remind that, in the midst of that evil, the beauty of God’s redeeming presence still exists for those who will see it.

I’ve discovered that in the Christian publishing industry this can be a difficult approach to take. It seems we feel obligated to make sure the reader knows what’s “good” and “bad” in a story. We assume that if we aren’t startlingly clear on those topics, the Christian reader is too ignorant and easily offended to figure it out on her own. But I’ve found that most Christian readers are much more intelligent than we give them credit for being. (And, interestingly enough, several publishers turned down Unpretty because they were personally offended by the scenes drawn from the Michelangelo painting, saying those scenes were “too dark” and “not appropriate for Christians.” I was amused that my recreating scenes from this classic painting could be thought of as “not appropriate” for Christians when, for centuries, this huge image has been displayed prominently behind the pulpit of one of Christendom’s most revered churches!)

Which brings me back to the question I asked at the beginning. Why, I wonder, do I find it so necessary to write about scary things (like the Last Judgment) in the suspense/thriller genre of fiction? If my agent is correct, I could certainly make more money writing romance, or “women’s” fiction instead. And I would save myself the pain of getting hate mail telling me that my writing is “sadistic” and has “no redeeming value” for Christians!

But there is a certain truth in fear that I can’t avoid. And truth matters. It’s only through truth that I am able to enter an intimate relationship with the Spirit of Truth in Christ Jesus. This life is not always filled with sunshine and puppies; but it is always filled with the presence of God – even in darkness, even in pain, even in the moments of suspense that make the heartbeat drum in the ear and bring the faint smell of blood into the nostrils.

So, for now at least, I will write of the unpretty things. And I will hope that through those thriller/suspense stories, some reader somewhere will also get a glimpse of that which is eternal – and the One who makes all things beautiful.

Thanks so much for reading!

-- Sharon Carter Rogers

Sharon has donated two copies of Unpretty as giveaways to F&F readers. If you'd like a chance to win a copy, please leave a comment stating why you'd like to read it. I'll announce the winner's names tomorrow.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dark Pursuit In Stores

My latest novel, Dark Pursuit, started shipping Friday, Nov. 7--ten days ago. By now they will be showing up on shelves across the country. If you check a store and the book's not there yet, you can always pre-order. Its arrival is imminent.

Thanks to many ARC giveaways from Zondervan, Dark Pursuit has already been reviewed all over the place on the Internet. New reviews come in each day. And on December 3-5 it will appear on the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance tour.

I'm very happy to see how extremely positive the reviews are. It's particularly gratifying to read reviews from people who haven't read Christian fiction before, stating how exciting and twisting they found the story to be. As for me, I had a fun time writing this book. Imagine a suspense author writing about a suspense author who's having trouble coming up with a plot. :) Might I be mixing a little reality and fiction there? And then, of course, the story mixes reality and fiction in its own way ...

Between the blog tours and ARCs, I've given numerous opportunities for you F&F readers to receive a free copy of Dark Pursuit. If there are some out there who still haven't gotten a free copy, you have more chances. Right now through the
Fans of Brandilyn Collins group on Facebook, I'm giving away 10 copies--winners drawn Friday. If you're not already a member of the group, join and add your post to the drawing. Just answer the questions (1) Why do you want a copy of Dark Pursuit, and (2) Who would you loan/give the book to when you're done reading?

You can also subscribe to my newsletter, Sneak Pique, which includes chances to win books in each issue. The next Sneak Pique will be released in the beginning of December.

Finally, if you've bought Dark Pursuit and want it signed (or any other suspense novel of mine, for that matter), please go to the Free Stuff page on my web site to request a bookplate. Might make someone you know a nice Christmas present.