Wednesday, March 31, 2010

March '10 List of Today's Word

It's interesting--whenever I travel to conferences (as I just did) so many people tell me, "I really enjoy your Today's Word." Glad to hear that. It's also fun on my Facebook page to see what sentences people make of the word every day. So if you found a great word this past month and have already forgotten it--here's the list to prod your memory. All past monthly lists are archived here under Craft and Industry Posts.

Anyone up to creating a sentence using at least six of these words?

PSITTACISM (SID-uh-SiZ-um) noun--automatic speech without thought or the meaning of the words spoken.

STERNUTATION (STERN-yuh-TAY-shun) noun--the act or noise of sneezing.

IGNESCENT (IG-nes-unt) adj.--capable of emitting sparks; inflammatory or volatile.

TROPOLOGY (troh-POL-uh-jee) noun--a figurative mode of speech or writing.

GRABBLE (GRAB-ul) intrans. verb--to grope; to lie or fall prone.

ELDRITCH (EL-dritch) adj.--weird, eerie, uncanny.

MEGRIM (MEE-grum) noun--a migraine; vertigo; a random or unbidden thought/feeling.

EXANIMATE (ex-AN-i-mut) adj.--lacking in animation; appearing lifeless.

CACOGRAPHY (ka-KAW-gru-fee) noun--bad handwriting; bad spelling.

PHILIPPIC (fuh-LIP-ik) noun--a discourse or declamation full of acrimonious invective, a tirade.POLYGLOT (PAHL-ee-GLOT) noun--one who speaks several languages; a mixture or confusion of languages.

ASPERSE (uh-SPURS) trans. verb--to attack one's reputation with foul reports or false charges.

CORUSCANT (kuh-RUS-kunt) adj.--glittering, sparkling.

ACIDULATE (uh-CID-yu-LATE) trans. verb--to make acid or acidic.

LENITIVE (LEN-uh-tiv) adj.--alleviating pain or acrimony, soothing.

THRENODY (THREN-uh-dee) noun--a song, poem or speech of lamentation for the dead.

INTENERATE (in-TEN-uh-RATE) trans. verb--to make tender or sensitive, to soften.

SAPONACEOUS (SAP-uh-NAY-shus) adj.-resembling soap; liable to slip away--ingratiating but evasive.

NIVEOUS (NIV-ee-us) adj.--of or relating to snow; resembling snow.

RHONCHUS (RONG-kus) noun--a rattling sound like snoring, caused by partially blocked air channels.

APOSIOPESIS (AP-uh-SI-uh-PEE-sus) noun--the sudden breaking off of a thought in writing or speech.

COLUBRINE (KAL-yuh-brine) adj.--relating to, or similar to a snake.

GLABROUS (GLAY-brus) adj.--have a smooth, even surface; having hairless skin.

FULIGINOUS (FYU-lij-uh-nus) adj.--relating to or containing soot; having the color of soot.

RIDENT (RI-dunt) adj.--broadly smiling.

INUNCTION (in-NUNG-shun) noun--act of applying an oil/ointment on the skin for therapeutic purposes.

NOVATION (no-VAY-shun) noun--the substitution of a new legal obligation for an old one.
(DAW-go) adv.--slang. Quietly, especially in concealment. Typical use: to lie doggo.

SUBFUSC (sub-fusk) adj.--having little brightness or appeal. Drab, dingy.

VILIPEND (VIL-uh-PEND) verb--to treat as of small worth or account; to speak of disparagingly.

TRADUCE (tra-DYUS) trans. verb--to shame or blame by uttering falsehoods; to make a mock of.

Read April ‘10

Monday, March 29, 2010

Mount Hermon Pictures

I've been on faculty at Mount Hermon Writers Conference since last Thursday--a wonderful conference at which I teach every year. However, with all the business of conference life, plus not having Internet access except in certain locations on the conference grounds, it's made posting here a little difficult. The conference ends tomorrow.

Meanwhile here are photos of a few faculty members and attendees.

Mary DeMuth, novelist

Karen Ball, fiction editor at B&H (and now my editor)

Yours Truly with novelist Deb Raney

Jeff Gerke, editor at Marcher Lord Press,
and novelist Tracy Higly

Novelists James Scott Bell and Rick Acker
(two lawyers on one couch--yikes)

Me again, with novelist Bill Myers

From left to right:
Bill Myers, novelist Angela Hunt,
novelist Dale Cramer, and
Nick Harrison, editor at Harvest House

Thursday, March 25, 2010

What Changes will the iPad Bring to Ebooks?

April 3--the day the Apple iPad is available (preorders have already been occurring)--is fast approaching. Once this new device is in owners' hands, it will be interesting to see what happens next in the ebook world.

A new kind of book?: Aptara--a knowledge process outsourcing corporation--says of the iPad, "Its anticipated ability to incorporate color, video, interactivity and sound into the ebook experience, along ith its user-friendly touch-screen interfact, means publishers may be able to move beyond the model of simply reproducing printed pages on an electronic screen." The prognostication is that the future may bring a new kind of ebook--one with video, graphics and sound. For a graphic of the different things the iPad may be able to do for an ebook, go to Aptara's site here and scroll to the bottom of the page.

Choosing your store:
iPad owners will be able to choose which online bookstore they want to use. Amazon and B&N reportedly are working on iPad apps for their own bookstores. The Amazon Kindle app will allow Kindle users to download their current library of books to the iPad. The same is expected for the B&N app. Current users of these two bookstores may choose to continue using those stores in order to have this kind of flexibility on various reading devices. Which makes it even more interesting when you think about pricing. With all the pricing battles going on with Amazon, will readers continue to buy ebooks there, even if they have an iPad?>

Anyone out there preordered an iPad? Anyone rushing down to buy one on April 3?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sagging Middles and Desire

If the novel you're working on suffers from the middle saggies, the problem most likely lies in the beginning of your book.

It’s a common error for writers to assume that wherever some symptom crops up, therein lies the problem. Not necessarily so, when we’re talking about story structure. Consider your storyline as a rope that you want to pull taut. You find that the rope is sagging in the middle. Is that where the problem will be fixed—by shoring up the middle? No. You have to go to one end of the rope (in this case, the beginning of your story), and pull it tighter. Then, voila, up comes the middle.

In my how-to book Getting Into Character I talk about the basic story structure I call the Four Ds (Secret #2—Action Objectives). Those Ds stand for Desire, Distancing, Denial and Devastation. The foundation of your novel is the first D—the character’s Desire. This Desire—what the character Wants, with a capital W—is what pulls your character through the story. It is the path upon which the character has set himself and wants to keep on as conflicts come along that want to push him off that path.

We all know that our stories must have conflict, or they’ll be really boring. When it comes to story, the word conflict means obstacles in a character’s path as he/she tries to pursue something. Well, if you’re throwing out obstacles that stand in the way of some pursued thing, it might help to know exactly what that thing is. The more you know about that thing, and why the character wants it, the more possibilities for conflict in your story.

What’s typically happening in a saggy middle? The story runs out of gas (to bring in another metaphor). In other words, you run out of conflicts to throw at the character. When folks come to me with their saggy middle tales of woe, I always take them back to the Desire concept. Nine times out of ten, I find that this is where the problem lies—the author does not fully understand the character’s Desire.

The Desire makes that “rope” of your storyline taut. It pulls the character through the story. No matter what happens, the character doggedly pursues this Desire (whether he realizes that’s what he’s doing or not). You’ve got to fully understand what your character’s Desire is if you’re going to have a taut storyline with no sagging middle.

A couple guidelines about discovering your protagonist’s Desire:

1. It needs to be stated in the form of an action verb. What does your character want to do? State of being verbs are too general to give rise to specific action. For example, Jill’s Desire: to be successful as a realtor. Be successful—what does that mean? Success means different things to different people. Does it mean make a certain amount of money each year? Does it mean sell more houses than her competitive cousin? Does it mean make just enough so she doesn’t have to worry about putting food on the table? You’d need to define success for this character, then state that in the Desire. Perhaps after success is defined for Jill, her Desire would be: to sell enough houses to make $1 million a year. Okay, now you’re getting somewhere. Ideas for conflict start to pop. Maybe Jill sells lots of houses, but the commissions are too small to equal $1 million. Maybe she finally hits that amount of money, but some huge bill, like medical costs for an injury, sets her back financially, or she gets swindled out of some money. Etc.

2. The Desire needs to be very specific. You might think that the more general your character’s Desire, the more possibilities you’ll have for introducing conflict into the character’s path as he pursues that Desire. The exact opposite is true. The more specific the Desire, the more you’ll understand about the exact actions the character must take to obtain that Desire. And the more you know about exact actions the character needs to take, the more ideas you’ll have for possible conflict against each of those actions.

Sometimes a character’s Desire will be two-pronged, with one prong leading to the next. Example: to sell enough houses to make $1 million a year so that I can send my three teenagers to the colleges of their choice. Two prongs give you more possibilities for conflict. In this example, the protagonist, against many odds, could make $1 million a year, only to have one teenager decide not to go to college, and one not get accepted into his choice of university.

3. The Desire needs to be absolutely correct. One small tweak in the Desire will make for a very different story, just like two lines that begin together but proceed just a tiny bit away from each other will grow farther and farther apart as they go on. In Getting Into Character, I use the analogy of a flawed female protagonist whose Desire is: to build a trusting marriage by never again lying to her husband. Now look at this small tweak: to build a trusting marriage by never again being caught in a lie by her husband. The outcome she wants is the same, but the possibilities of actions and choices that may arise from the two Desires are very different indeed. The result would be two very different stories.

BTW, we are talking here about your protagonist’s conscious Desire. Sometimes characters have an unconscious Desire also, but that’s another subject.

So—what is your protagonist’s conscious Desire? State it in active verbs, make it very specific (two-pronged if possible), and make it absolutely correct for the story. When you figure out this Desire, you’ll have more ideas for what your character must do to pursue it (action), which will lead to more ideas for obstacles that can stand in the way (conflict). And with more ideas for possible action and conflict, the less likely you’ll be to deal with a saggy middle.

Writers: what is your protagonist's Desire? Readers: think of a novel you've read that was weak. Can you trace the weakness back to a lack of a clear Desire on the protagonist's part? Or on the contrary, can you think of a novel that was strong due to the protagonist's clear, strong Desire?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Breaking News on My New Contract

Yup, I'm up to something new, but I haven't been able to say a word--until now. Here's the press release that's just been sent out.

Brandilyn Collins Signs With B&H Publishing Group

NASHVILLE, Tenn--Brandilyn Collins, bestselling novelist known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense®, has signed with B&H Publishing Group. Her first book with B&H is the story Collins says she was “made to write”—a tense novel based on Lyme Disease and the stunning medical battles over its treatment. Brandilyn herself fought the illness seven years ago and well knows the fallout across the nation of the “Lyme Wars.”

Collins’s first book, A Question of Innocence, was a true crime novel published by Avon in 1995 and resulted in appearances on radio and national TV talk shows. Her novels have garnered critical acclaim and awards, including ACFW Book of the Year (three times), Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice. Collins’ readers have come to expect her novels’ fast pace and twists—the brand elements that lead to her tagline, Don’t forget to breathe®.

“We’re thrilled to be working with Brandilyn,” said Karen Ball, Executive Editor of Fiction for B&H. “She’s known and respected throughout the industry, not just for her skill as a writer, but for her understanding of the market. Brandilyn’s stories thrill you and keep you turning pages. This is one writer who just keeps getting better. In addition to her novel about Lyme, she brought us two other concepts equally as intense and exciting. We can’t wait to get all three books on the shelves.”

Collins’ first novel with B&H releases in May 2011.

I'm working on that first novel now. Current title--Over the Edge. I'm very excited about it. So many people have Lyme--and don't know it. They're undiagnosed and untreated--and very sick. Over the Edge will shed light on their plight and the surrounding "Lyme Wars." What are these battles about? Why is the medical community so seemingly afraid of this disease? And to what lengths might one embittered man, who's lost a wife to Lyme, go in order to change the situation?...

Monday, March 22, 2010

ACFW Conference "Sneak Pique"

I've just returned from the spring joint boards meeting for American Christian Fiction Writers. Our spring meeting is always held in the hotel where we'll meet for our writers' conference in mid September. Have to say--the hotel is wonderful!

The conference is set for September 17-20, held at the Hyatt Regency, downtown Indianapolis. This Hyatt is the biggest hotel in which our conference has ever been held. We will have the second and third floor meeting rooms off the large central atrium area--all very easily accessed and connected by an escalator. The hotel is connected by walkway to the downtown mall and the Indianapolis convention center. Many restaurants are in the area. (Yes, there is a Starbucks in the hotel lobby.) Conference attendees won't need a car to go out to dinner or go shopping. Also, the hotel is convenient to the airport--about 15 minutes away.

Our keynote speaker this year is Christy Award-winning Tim Downs, author of Plague Maker and the Bug Man novels. Tim's crime/drama "Bug Man" series, featuring forensic entomologist Dr. Nick Polchak, includes the books Shoofly Pie (2003), Chop Shop (2004), First the Dead (2007), Less Than Dead (2008), and Ends of the Earth (2009). Tim is also the founder of the Communication Center, a communication training and consulting ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ and has authored numerous books on Christian relationships and communication both on his own and in conjunction with his wife, Joy.

Once again the conference will have five levels of teaching--from beginning "A" level to professional "E" level. Continuing morning tracks will cover all levels, as will the many workshops in the afternoon. On Sunday the Book of the Year and Genesis Awards banquet will be held.

Last year we had 550 attendees at the conference. We've grown every year, and it was amazing to see how many more came last year even with the down-turned economy. The ACFW conference is the conference to attend for fiction. You won't see the line-up of fiction editors and agents at any other conference that you'll see at ACFW.

Registration begins in early May. Continuing tracks, workshops, and teachers will soon be announced on the ACFW web site. I will once again serve as emcee. Hope to see you all at the conference.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dont Miss LIFE

Are you the huge fan of Discovery Channel's Planet Earth that I am? If so you won't want to miss the follow-up series called Life, premiering this Sunday at 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific times. Turn on your TIVO and tape it.

Here's the line-up of the 11 episodes.

You can
preorder all the series' DVDs for $59.95 from the Discovery Channel. I don't see any page for it yet on Amazon. Perhaps that will come after the series. Amazon is selling Planet Earth for $55.99, which portends that its price for Life won't be much less than the Discovery Channel price. If you've never watched Planet Earth--these DVDs are worth buying. My husband and I bought the series and haven't regretted it. The photography of wild life is simply amazing. I can't watch these DVDs of nature without wondering anew at the amazing creativity of God.

You Know You've Had a Bad Day When ...

... decides to create a T-shirt based on your latest and greatest public relations disaster.

Buy the T-shirt here. now lists Toyota in its "PR Hall of Shame"--the worst PR disasters that put public health at risk.

And we authors complain about having to deal with this whole branding marketing thing.

Mind you, I love the Toyota brand. We've been a two-Lexus car family and have sworn by them. Drive them out of the showroom--and they're perfect. Run forever. So I'm really sad to see all this happen. Still, I have to shake my head over Toyota. I'm not sure they're getting this PR disaster issue. Have you seen the new rash of TV ads they're running? Showing all these different happy people buying their cars. I'd like to know who the brilliant marketing mind was that came up with the tagline at the end of one of those ads:

Moving forward.

On Another Subject:

My goodness. We forgot to pick a winner for last Photo Friday. Many captioned but few voted. Please read the captions and place your vote now.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bruce Springsteen on Writing

Last September Bruce Springsteen appeared with Elvis Costello for a taping of "Spectacle," Costello's talk/music show on the Sundance Channel. The show was taped at The Apollo Theater in Manhattan before a live audience. In his interview, Springsteen had more than a few words to say about writing songs. His insights are just as relevant to writing novels:


"I’ve always believed the greatest rock and roll musicians are desperate men. You’ve got to have something bothering you all the time. My songs are good because … it’s like in art and love, hey, one and one makes three. In music, if it makes two, you’ve failed, my friends. You know, if you’re painting, if all you’ve got is your paint and your canvas, you’ve failed. If all you got is your notes, you’ve failed. You’ve got to find that third thing that you don’t completely understand, but that is truly coming up from inside of you. And you can set it any place, you can choose any type of character, but if you don’t reach down and touch that thing, then you’re just not gonna have anything to say, and it’s not gonna feel like it has life and breath in it, you’re not gonna create something real, and it’s not gonna feel authentic. So I worked hard on those things."

Writers, what do you think about this? Do you find that "third thing" as you create your fiction? Readers, do you sense that "third thing" in novels you enjoy?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Comparison of Bestseller Lists for February 2010

Here is the CBA "April" list and the ECPA "March" list, both reflecting sales in the month of February. CBA just posted its list yesterday, so let's take a look at the comparison. Books appearing only on one list are highlighted in blue. For a reminder of how these lists are put together by ECPA and CBA, please refer to the first few paragraphs of this F&F post.

CBA (Numbers in parentheses reflect book's standing on CBA's Top 50 list, which includes fiction and nonfiction.)

1. (12) The Shack, William P. Young, Windblown Media

2. (23) A Lineage of Grace, Francine Rivers, Tyndale
3. (24) Shades of Blue, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
4. (28) Take Three, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
5. (35) Take Two, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
6. (40) Burn, Ted Dekker & Erin Healy, Thomas Nelson
7. (41) Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers, Multnomah/WaterBrook
8. (42) Take One, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
9. A Cousin’s Challenge, Wanda Brunstetter, Barbour
10. Morning’s Refrain, Tracie Peterson, Bethany/Baker
11. Beguiled, Deeanne Gist & J. Mark Bertrand, Bethany/Baker
12. The Hidden Flame, Davis Bunn & Janette Oke, Bethany/Baker
13. Measure of Mercy, Lauraine Snelling, Bethany/Baker
14. Intervention, Terri Blackstock, Zondervan
15. Never Far From Home, Mary Ellis, Harvest House
16. An Amish Gathering, Beth Wiseman & Kathleen Fuller, Thomas Nelson
17. The Silent Governess, Julie Klassen, Bethany/Baker
18. Fireproof, Eric Wilson & Alex Kendrick, Thomas Nelson
19. Abigail, Jill Smith, Revell/Baker
20. The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis, Zondervan

ECPA (Numbers in parentheses refer to placement on the ECPA Top 50 list)

1. (11) The Shack, William P. Young, Windblown Media
2. (17) Shades of Blue, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
3. (20) A Lineage of Grace, Francine Rivers, Tyndale
4. (32) Take Two, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
5. (34) Burn, Ted Dekker/Erin Healy, Thomas Nelson
6. (43) The Hidden Flame, Davis Bunn/Janette Oke, Bethany/Baker
7. (45) Take One, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
8. (50) Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers, Waterbrook/Multnomah
9. Beguiled, Deanne Gist/J. Mark Bertrand, Bethany/Baker
10. An Amish Gathering, Beth Wiseman/Kathleen Fuller/Barbara Cameron, Thomas Nelson
11. Never Far from Home, Mary Ellis, Harvest House
12. Silent Governess, Julie Klassen, Bethany/Baker
13. Intervention, Terri Blackstock, Zondervan
14. The Choice, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Revell/Baker
15. Kelly's Chance, Wanda E. Brunstetter, Barbour

16. The Missing, Beverly Lewis, Bethany/Baker
17. Fireproof, Eric Wilson, Thomas Nelson
18. Abigail, Jill Eileen Smith, Revell/Baker
19. Kiss for Cade, Lori Copeland, Harvest House
20. Green, Ted Dekker, Thomas Nelson

Please note the comment from Michael Covington from ECPA: "We recognized pre-sales activity for Karen Kingsbury's new title "Take Three", however at Zondervan's request we have excluded pre-sales (this book releases 3/23) for purposes of bestseller rankings."

Monday, March 15, 2010

Hook 'Em & Book 'Em

Today I'm interviewed at the new Hook 'Em & Book 'Em blog written by Mark Young, an aspiring novelist with 30 years' experience in law enforcement. Hook 'Em & Book 'Em is a good blog for all you writers to follow. Even if you don't write suspense, chances are sometime in your novels one of your characters will deal with law enforcement in some way.

In interviewing me about my novel Exposure, Mark asked: Fear is a debilitating emotion that most people face at some point in their lives. Kaycee’s struggle with this issue—starting with the opening line, “She’d forgotten to turn on the porch lights”—continues until the last page. How did you research this topic and what did you learn about ways people cope?

My answer: Frankly I didn’t have to go far to research this topic ...

Read the entire interview here.

Friday, March 12, 2010

It's Photo Friday!

Here we are with Photo Friday for March. (Can you believe it's March already?) PF runs monthly on Forensics and Faith. For you new readers, here's the scoop: Write the best caption, win your choice of one of my novels. Enter as many captions as you like. Come back over the weekend to read all the captions and vote on your favorite. Winner will be announced next Tuesday. Facebook friends--make sure to leave your captions here, even if you put them on Facebook.

We have budding photographer
Ryan Collins to thank for this photo.

If you've submitted a picture for Photo Friday, I may still use it for another month. If you'd like to submit a picture for possible use, please send it as an attachment in an e-mail to: brandilyn (at) brandilyncollins (dot) com. If your photo is used, you'll also win one of my novels.

All right, we're off with our crazy photo. What in the world is going on here?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Starfire Wins an Eppie!

Major congratulations to Stuart Vaughn Stockton, who has won this year's Eppie Award in the science fiction category for his debut novel, Starfire. Many of you know Starfire is dear to my own heart. Stuart allowed me to use Starfire as the novel written by my character S-Man in the Kanner Lake series.

Wilbur, Bailey, and all the other folks at Java Joint in Kanner Lake are thrilled for S-Man. Er, Stuart. "I always knew that boy was gonna be a star," Wilbur told me. "Tell you what, he wins a second award, I'll let him sit on my stool for a day."

That's a huge offer, coming from Wilbur.

The Eppies are given by EPIC, the Electronically Published Internet Connection, a professional organization for published and contracted e-book and print authors. EPIC was established to provide a strong voice for electronic publishing. Its Eppie Awards for ebooks began in 2000.

"I'm so proud of Stuart's accomplishment with this award," said Jeff Gerke, who runs Marcher Lord Press, which published the novel. "Not only did he beat out every other Christian science fiction in the contest, he beat out all the science fiction novels of all kinds. This is a terrific affirmation of Stuart's grand, alien vision and excellent fiction skills."

Here is the complete list of 2010 Eppie winners. Note that Marcher Lord Press saw a second win--in the fantasy category. Jill Williamson won for By Darkness Hid. And the publishing house also took away awards for two covers--one for By Darkness Hid and one for Summa Elvetica. Not bad for a small, independent press.

"I'm thrilled that Starfire has won the Science Fiction category of the Epic Authors award," said Stuart. "It's very cool to see Starfire engaging audiences from many different walks of life."

A biggie latte toast to you, S-Man!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Try Reading This Fan Letter Without Smiling

Some of my most fun fan letters have come from younger readers. This one is particularly young to be tackling one of my books. You can't read the letter without smiling. I'm running it here as is--no spelling/grammatical fixes. I have blocked out certain plot details, using underlining in their place.

Dear Mrs. Collins,

I am a big fan of you wrightings, I am currently reading your book Eyes of Elisha. Well you will prob. laugh when you read this but, thats the only book of yours I read! But from that one book I am a huge fan! The reason I picked up your book because it had a nice cover with a knife which makes me whant to know whats going to happen! It is very well written! I have no idea if __________ or what!! It is very suspencful and makes me want to know what happens next.... ________ what side to believe. Im at the part where ____________.... Im not geting mixed up with ______... But I love that book. There are very few books that when i read and want to finish it that I do finish it, but this one i am 100% sure i will finish it! Where do you get these ideas of these books? Do you enjoy writing murder mistories? Keep it up with your Crime novels! I go to a Christian school and we have your whole series! Im going to start reading all of them! Thanks soooo much again! :) Ok well I got to go..... Thanks for writing these books!

_______ age 11
( Please exuse the misspellings and stuff..only 11 :) )

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Effect of Free E-Books on Sales

Yesterday Publisher's Lunch linked to this interesting paper: The Short-Term Influence of Free Digital Versions of Books on Print Sales, by John Hilton III and David Wiley. I'm interested in the topic after two of my novels, Dark Pursuit and Exposure, were offered free on the Kindle for about the first three weeks of 2010. (The free offer put them at the top of the Kindle bestseller list for nine days, and kept them on the list for a total of a month.) Since then I've seen numerous other Christian novels offered for free. Obviously this is done for marketing purposes and to raise awareness of the author among readers. So--does the free offer ultimately lead to higher sales? This is the first scientific look at the subject that I've seen.

Overall, in looking at four different groups of books (including fiction and nonfiction), the authors found that in three groups sales rose in the 8 weeks after the freebie giveaways between 5% and 9%. Of course there are still numerous unanswered questions and variables. Interestingly, the fourth group saw a decrease in sales. The parameters of this group’s giveaways were different. Was the decrease caused by that variable or by other factors?

Do take the time to read the paper to see the whole story. It's not overly long.

It strikes me in reading this paper, due to all the variables (correlation does not necessarily mean causation) how hard it is to measure how effective a certain marketing campaign is when it comes to leading people to buy product from a bookstore. It's far easier if you're, say, a health supplement company and selling product from your web site. But it's much less direct to conclude that a certain campaign sent people to online or brick-and-mortar stores to buy your novel.

At any rate, I continue to do all the marketing I can, believing that in total it does have a positive effect on sales.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Should the Message Be Hidden?

Recently on an author e-mail loop someone raised the question about the spiritual message in Christian fiction. The writer wondered if the message should be "hidden" in order to better reach non-Christians. This writer's manuscript, as described, had little Christian message until the very last. That tactic had been criticized. Still, the writer wanted to create a story that would be entertaining to Christians and non-Christians alike. Was it wrong to take the tactic of saving the message until the end?

The question received many answers. This one from
Randy Ingermanson I particularly liked and am running it here with his permission.

WARNING LABEL: My response may make some people angry. My response is my opinion only. My response may even be wrong. Read at your own risk.

This is a little like the question, "Should I write a romance novel or an action-adventure novel?" This presupposes that there is one and only one right answer to the question. There isn't. You can write a fine and excellent romance novel, and it's going to appeal to a certain class of reader. You can write a fine and excellent action-adventure novel, and it's going to appeal to a very different class of reader.

There will be some small amount of overlap between those two classes, but not a lot. So the real question is what kind of book you actually want to write, because either is a valid choice. If you prefer to write romance, then write romance. If you prefer to write action-adventure, then write that.

The hazard is to try to write a book that is secretly an action-adventure novel, but which pretends to be a romance novel for the first 90% of the book. You may "know" in your heart that all those pesky romance readers "ought" to like action-adventure. You may decide that you'll sneak in all your action-adventure at the end, after luring them in with a book that's mostly romance. You can do that, and if you do, your readers are going to justly complain that you switched genres at the end. They're going to think you're a very lame author. They'll be right.

If you do the opposite, and write a book that's mostly action-adventure, but then at the end, you shoehorn in a gushy romance ending, because "it's good for your reader," then once again, your readers will think you're very lame. And once again they'll be right.

If you're going to write a "message" novel, then write a message novel and don't hide it till the end. Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye wrote a whole slew of message novels, and they did very well, and a fair number of non-Christians read those books. Jerry and Tim didn't try to deceive anyone by hiding the message. They made sure it was blatantly obvious. They were right to do so.

Likewise, Dan Brown wrote a message novel (The Da Vinci Code) that appealed to an entirely different core audience. Dan's message was clear and blatant from the beginning: "Everything you ever believed about Jesus is wrong." Dan did pretty well with that novel, and a fair number of Christians have read it. His book even inspired a whole genre of nonfiction books that center around the theme, "Everything Dan Brown believes about Jesus is wrong."

What Jerry and Tim didn't try to do is to write a novel that is overtly and blatantly Christian until the ending, at which point they reveal the hidden message that everything people believe about Jesus is wrong.

And Dan Brown didn't write a novel that was overtly and blatantly revisionist until the ending, at which point he revealed that, hey, it was all a joke and the real hidden message is that you need Jesus or you're going to hell.

Readers dislike being misled about theme, and rightly so. (They don't mind being misled about plot or characters, so long as you mislead them honestly.)

A novel that is neither fish nor fowl is both foul and fishy.

>But if I write Christian fiction for people who are already Christians... isn't that... lacking, somehow? >

Randy sez: Why? Are Christians such complete and perfect people that they don't ever need to be entertained with good, powerful, fiction designed for them? Are non-Christians the only people who need entertainment?

On a related note, is it OK to deceive non-Christians by snookering them into reading a book with a Christian message, but hiding that fact till the end? Will a book like that send the meta-message that Christians are willing to lie to make converts?

One final note: I have nothing against a novel with a deep, subtle meaning which needs to be dug out. But you need to do the thing honestly. If you don't know the deep, subtle meaning of the book before you start writing it, and you discover the true deep, subtle meaning of the book as you write it and rewrite it and rewrite it, well then you've done the thing honestly.

But if you go into the story right from the get-go, and you already know the deep, subtle meaning of the thing, and you hang the plot and the characters on it so they exactly fit that deep, subtle meaning, then at the end of the day, when the book is done, the theme will be neither deep nor subtle and the only person you will have fooled is . , . you.

And while it's merely wrong to deceive your reader, it's lunacy to deceive yourself.


What do you think about Randy's statements?

Last week when I ran the February list of Today's Word I promised to choose a winner from those who used at least six of the words in a sentence. That winner is Donna De, with this sentence:

You didn't have to be LYNCEAN to see that the PHILTER didn't work, as he jumped up from the SUBSELLIUM in angry EBULLITION, his arms and head all QUAQUAVERSAL--but what else should I have expected considering the CADUCITY of the gypsy DOYENNE who concocted the brew.

Donna, congrats. Please contact me with your address for your free copy of Exposure.

Friday, March 05, 2010

When You Don't Know the Word--Make It Up

Ever needed just the right word to explain something--and the word didn't exist? It may now--through The Unword Dictionary.

As purveyor of Today's Word on Twitter and Facebook, I love learning new words. Even so I often find in my writing that as my fingers fly I make them up. I'll noun a verb, verb a noun, or just create something that sounds right. Then I'll stare at the word and think, "Wait a minute." A quick online dictionary check will show me I've been at it again--creating a new word.

By the way there's an actual word for a newly coined term that hasn't yet entered mainstream use. It's neologism. From the Greek neos, meaning new, and logos, meaning word. Neologisms are often created by combining two words.

About The Unword Dictionary:

The only reference that collects words which are too new for dictionaries but absolutely perfect when heard in context, this collection of 1,000 "unwords" contains plenty of indispensable terms. What to call yucky slime at the tip of a lotion dispenser? Accumulotion, of course! How to refer to a receding hairline? A former forehead is now a fivehead. Children complaining when their peas roll into their applesauce at dinner? At last there's a name for that errant pea: it's a foodgitive. Word-lovers will laugh at the ingenious names for as yet unnamed things, which will surely find their way into readers' personal lexicons.

The author of The Unword Dictionary is Steve Kiehl, webmaster of At his site you can submit your own neologism.

How 'bout you? Have a neologism or two? They're fun to make up. Here are a few from me:

Rapiditease: the speed at which a hairdresser can fluff up hair

Dreadline: when the book's due--and you're not done

Ostenspacious: overbearingly large and flamboyant, as in a tasteless mansion

Deneyeall: A man's insistance that he never looks at other women

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Galleys of Deceit

Heard from my publisher yesterday that I'll be receiving the galleys for my next adult suspense, Deceit, on Friday. Which means I'll have to put in about six hours' work over the weekend to proof said galleys. I can't take the time during the regular work week, as I have to make word count on my current manuscript.

I always love receiving galleys, as they present the text as it will be laid out in printed form. Galleys are a "sneak pique" at how the novel will look inside once it's published.

We're not supposed to make many writing changes at the galley stage, which is intended for proofreading. Writing changes should have been completed by copy edit stage (which at my publishing house is the third stage of editing). However, I typically see a few things that need fixing in the galleys, as well as typos.

As I proof, others at the publishing house willl be proofing as well. Still, with all those eyes sometimes typos slip into printing. The greatest chance for this is during the keying-in of changes. If at that last moment the typist makes an error and doesn't catch it herself--on it goes to print. Other times myriad people can overlook a typo because our eyes tend to "fix" misspelled words.

If you ever see a typo in one of my printed books, I am always grateful to hear from you about it. I send such e-mails on to my copy editor, who can see that the mistake is fixed for the next printing.

About Deceit:

Sometimes the truth hides where no one expects to find it.

Joanne Weeks knows Baxter Jackson killed Linda--his second wife and Joanne’s best friend—six years ago. But Baxter, a church elder and beloved member of the town, walks the streets a free man. The police tell Joanne to leave well enough alone, but she is determined to bring him down. Using her skills as a professional skip tracer, she sets out to locate the only person who may be able to put Baxter behind bars. Melissa Harkoff was a traumatized sixteen-year-old foster child in the Jackson household when Linda disappeared. At the time Melissa claimed to know nothing of Linda's whereabouts--but was she lying?

In relentless style, Deceit careens between Joanne's pursuit of the truth--which puts her own life in danger--and the events of six years' past, when Melissa came to live with the Jacksons. What really happened in that household? Beneath the veneer of perfection lies a story of shakeable faith, choices, and the lure of deceit.

Deceit releases in July.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Follett's The Pillars of the Earth to be a Miniseries

The Hollywood Reporter has announced that Starz Entertainment has bought the U.S. television rights to The Pillars of the Earth, an epic novel by Ken Follett about the building of a cathedral in 12th century England. The eight-part mini-series will begin airing this summer.

The Pillars of the Earth is a wonderful book. Published in 1989, it was a real departure for Ken Follett, who until that time was known for writing thrillers. Pillars of the Earth became his best-selling book, topping 14 million copies. In 2007 it became an Oprah Book Club pick. I remember reading this thick novel when it first released. Our daughter was a newborn. My. Can't believe it's been 20 years.

New Starz CEO Chris Albrecht (joining the company in January of this year), who acquired the miniseries, has overseen such large productions before. As former head of HBO he produced the Emmy-Award winning Band of Brothers. Starz will launch The Pillars of the Earth miniseries in July with a two-hour premiere, followed by six one-hour episodes.

In our household we don't receive any pay-TV stations such as Starz. But no worries. Eventually this miniseries will find its way to DVD, as Band of Brothers did. The Pillars of the Earth will be worth buying if it's anywhere near as good as the book.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Do You Know Where Your Characters Are?

Recently I sent this tweet to Twitter, which fed to Facebook: Novelists: it's 1:30 p.m. PST. Do you know where your characters are? My, we authors are hard on our characters. Here are the answers I received:

Mine are in cryogenic suspension waiting to be resurrected by me. (Suzanne Fortin)

Mine's on a train from Omaha to Sacramento and just got accused of pushing a man off and into a deep canyon. I'm so sure he didn't do it, but you never know. . .he's got a compelling motive. (Stephen Bly)

Mine are stuck in a very difficult conversation in a bar. It's not going well. (Kika Rose)

Left mine talking to his trainer, who may or may not be a killer. (Ron Estrada)

Mine's @ a murder scene. (RobinCarroll)

Mine are heading to the hospital too--maybe they will see your character! (Debra Clopton)

At a birthday party! No blood or bodies. (Danica Favorite)

Mine's getting interrogated by the homicide detective. Another one is getting shoved into a body bag. Bad day for him. (Lorna G. Poston)

Searching for her family in an earthquake ravaged city. (Karen Dunmire Barnett)

Mine's getting her character arc tweaked to make her more interesting to an agent (no one in particular yet, but I don't want a faulty character arc preventing her from getting the nod from an agent!) (Liberty Carty Speidel)

Mine are sleeping, just finished editing the MS. Theyre taking a well deserved nap. (Gregg Endless)

She's scraping the flesh, fat, and tissue from a moose hide. (Kim Vogel Sawyer)

My heroine just got out of the hospital after going through a hail storm and tornado. (Sharon Gillenwater)

On the cutting room floor of my video program. (Tracy Darity)

Mine are running away from a foster home. (MaryGrace Dansereau)

On her porch, sipping sweet iced tea with her aunt. (Vickie Price Taylor)

Depends on which draft we're talking about. She may have just hit the sandy floor of the Gulf of Mexico. Or watched her cabbie from the top of the Eiffel Tower as he tore up his traffic ticket. (Margo Carmichael)

In an ER family meeting room. She has just been told her twin brother is dead. (Heather Kreke)

Just finished a nice kiss, first peak in budding romance. Too bad I have to rip them apart now, it was more fun leading up to that kiss. Now for some realistic obstacles and thickening subplots, and every reason why they shouldn't be together. (Anne Reed Love)

Mine are in Havens Hope! (Lisa Stowell)

Mine just fell off a ladder, played the piano at a funeral, got stuck in the rain, and argued with God. (K Grubb)

Somewhere on I-5 near Modesto, heading to San Francisco. (Bob Mueller)

At a crime scene about to be questioned by the Detective Salvador. (Dee Stewart)

Malibu. (Carrie Padgett)

Sitting on a bench, about to read a letter that will change her view of who she is, and where she came from! (Lisa-Anne Wooldridge)

Vacationing in limbo and need to get, back darn it! Course it's my own fault. (Rebecca Beckylbows Bowen)

Mine has gone back in time and is playing basketball against the high school guys, and he's only thirteen. (Duncan Prescott)

Mine just got a gun barrel shoved against the back of his head. (Janelle Mowery)

Mine is busy working with the homeless and trying to figure out what is going on with her boyfriend - this time. He really needs to be DUMPED! (Mary Ann Chidlow)

Hey, mine's about to go to the emergency room. Maybe we'll meet up there? (Lisa Wingate)

Mine's getting a personality transplant. (Christy Kyser Truitt)

Mine just discovered a dead body and got blood on her petticoat (Jaime Wright Sundsmo)

Mine is on a cliff watching his house burn down. He has just discovered that someone didn't like his opinion (he is a talk show host) He plans to try to rescue his sister from the flames. Little does he know he is headed for a big fall! (Jessie Gunderson)

Mine is reluctantly revealing the family secret to the Queen Faery of a retirement home for old (no one under 1000 need apply) faeries. (Bill Tillman)

I just talked mine off a ledge. (Emily Ann Benedict)

Mine found a magic book in the attic and some crazy witch is after it...not good, (Apryl Fox)

Mine is in a park turning down a lover and about to make a very baaad decision. (Lucile Barker)

Mine is in Royan, France. (Jim Toner)

Mine is on her way to a murder scene!! (Pam Pruitt Cowart)

Mine are pulling off a flat tire. In the first version, they were in a coffee shop. Flat tire has more action. (Gail Gaymer Martin)

Mine's on horseback in a snowstorm. (Yvonne Blake)

They were all locked in a mall waiting for the zombies to attack. It's 11 PM and I'm off work, so I can release them now. (Darlene Reilley)

Swine flu. And because they are on the run, they can't go anywhere out of their hideout. However it's always good to have contacts in the CIA who can help! Figure I have all sorts of info on how to treat it and avoid getting it for home remedies--might as well use them. Though this is a new strain so there will be a few complications; of course. (Dale Eldon Szewczyk)

A fictional place where the wonders of horrors and horrors of wonders never cease. (Lori Munnoch Gaudet)

Mine is getting attention from two men at once and is confused. (Nancy Sonneman)

Getting kidnapped. (Naomi Musch)

Mine is in tent city. (Diane Homm)

All my characters are at a hospital, 1 is a patient, 1 is his GF, the rest are in front of the hospital where a shootout just occurred with the Antagonist just getting killed. (Matt Bordtello)

And finally, this one:

Mine are hopefully seducing an editor to publish their story. (Diana Prusik)


Do you know where your characters are?

Monday, March 01, 2010

Feb. '10 List of Today's Word

Feeling a bit quaquaversal?

Here's a list of Today's Words that ran in February. (For previous months' lists, check the Craft and Industry archives.) I challenge you creative types to use at least six of these words in a sentence. Best sentence (chosen by me) wins a copy of my novel Exposure. Ready, set, go:

QUAQUAVERSAL (kway-kwa-VER-sul) adj.--turned in whatever way; going off in all directions at once.

ASPERITY (ah-SPER-uh-tee) noun--roughness of surface; roughness of manner or temper.

HEMIDEMISEMIQUAVER (HE-mi-DE-mi-SE-mi-KWAY-ver) noun: the sixty-fourth note.

APHONIA (ay-FOH-nee-uh) noun--loss of voice.

LYNCEAN (LIN-see-un) adj.--sharp-sighted.

ESEMPLASTIC (EH-sem-plas-tik) adj.--having the power to shape disparate things into a unified whole.

CONDIGN (kun-DINE) adj.--no more and no less than what is deserved or merited.

SEICENTO (say-CHEN-to) noun--the 17th century, specifically 17th century of art/literature in Italy.

ANOSMIA (uh-NOZ-mee-uh) noun--loss or impairment of the sense of smell.

DOYENNE (DOI-yun) noun--the senior female member of a body or group. (Male version: doyen).

CADUCITY (cuh-DYU-sud-ee) noun--feebleness from old age, senility.

AUTARKY (AH-tar-kee) noun--national economic self-sufficiency and independence.

ASCESIS (uh-SEE-sus) noun--rigorous training; self-discipline or self-restraint.

PERICOPE (puh-RIK-uh-PEE) noun--selection from a book, esp. a selection from the Bible, used as text for a sermon.

PHILTER (FIL-ter) noun--a love potion.

EBULLITION (EB-uh-LISH-un) noun--a boiling or bubbling up; sudden, violent outburst or display.

LITOTES (LIDE-uh-TEEZ) noun--understatement using a negative to express a positive: "He's not a dumb kid."

AGRESTIC (uh-GRES-tik) adj.--of or relating to the fields or country.

HUGGER-MUGGER (HUG-er MUG-er) noun--the act or practice of concealment; a disorderly jumble.

CHILIASM (KIL-ee-AZ-um) noun--theological doctrine of Christ's return to earth to reign for 1000 years.

SUBSELLIUM (sub-SEL-ee-um) noun--a low seat or bench.

PELAGIC (puh-LAH-jik) adj.-relating to, or living in the open sea.

RASORIAL (ruh-SOR-ee-ul) adj.--habitually scratching the ground in search of food.

RAMENTUM (ruh-MEN-tum) noun--something scraped off; a minute particle.

MISPRISION (muh-SPRI-zhun) noun--misconduct by a public official; a misunderstanding.

USTULATION (us-chu-LAY-shun) noun--the act of burning or searing.

ARENICOLOUS (air-uh-NIK-uh-lus) adj.--inhabiting or burrowing in sand.

CORBAN (KOR-ban) noun--an offering to God in fulfillment of a particular vow.

Read March '10