Thursday, September 30, 2010

September 2010 List of Today's Word

We've got some cool words for the month of September. I'm partial to rugose, secern, Achates, megillah, and raillery. Anyone care to try using at least six from this month's list in a sentence?

MILITATE (MIL-uh-tate) int. verb--to fight for a cause or a principle; to have weight or effect.

MAFFICK (MAF-ic) intrans. verb--to celebrate with boisterous rejoicing and hilarious behavior.

ACHATES (uh-KAY-teez) noun--a trusted friend. (Capitalized--from Achates, friend of Aeneas in the Aeneid.)

WELTANSCHAUUNG (VELT-ahn-show-oong) noun--world view; a philosophy of life.

DIRIMENT (DIR-eh-ment) noun--a disability that makes void a marriage contract.

INTER ALIA (in-ter A-lee-uh) adv.--among other things.

NIDICOLOUS (ny-DIK-uh-lus) adj.--reared for a time in a nest; living in a nest.

ECESIS (i-SEE-sis) noun--the establishment of a plant or animal in a new habitat.

EXSANGUINATE (ek-SANG-wen-ate) trans. verb--to make bloodless; drain of blood.

INCUNABULA (in-kyeh-NAB-yuh-luh) noun--earliest stages.

JACKLEG (JACK-leg) adj.--characterized by lack of skill or training.

FRANGIBLE (FRAN-juh-bul) adj.--capable of being broken.

SELVA (SEL-vuh) noun--tropical rain forest. 

RUFESCENT (roo-FES-ent) adj.--reddish. 

ARGOT (AR-gut) noun--a special vocabulary and idiom used by a particular underworld group.

RUGOSE (ROO-gose) adj.--full of wrinkles. 

VOLITATION (vol-uh-TA-shun) noun--the act or power of flying.

SUPERABLE (SOOP-ur-uh-bul) adj.--capable of being overcome or conquered. 

LURDANE (LUR-dun) noun--an idle or lubberly fellow.

COTERMINOUS (co-TER-min-us) adj.--having the same or coincident boundaries; covering the same area. 

FAVONIAN (fuh-VO-nee-un) adj.--of or pertaining to the west wind.
JEREMIAD (je-ruh-MY-ud) noun--lamenting and denunciatory complaint; a doleful story; dolorous tirade.

UPREAR (up-REAR) trans. verb--to lift up; to raise the dignity of. 

RAILLERY (RAIL-er-ree) noun--good-natured ridicule; pleasantry touched with satire. 

MANTIC (MAN-tic) adj.--of or relating to the faculty of divination. 

PALADIN (PAL-eh-den) noun--a champion of a medieval prince; a person of outstanding worth or quality. 

SECERN (seh-SERN) trans. verb--to discriminate in thought.

MEGILLAH (meh-GILL-eh) noun--a long involved story or account.

LIMACINE (LIME-eh-sine) adj.--of, relating to or resembling a slug.

JAGGERY (JAH-ge-ree) noun--unrefined brown sugar made especially from palm sap (as in India).

Read October ‘10

The Mayan Apocalypse

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Mayan Apocalypse
Harvest House Publishers(September 1, 2010)

Mark Hitchcock & Alton Gansky


Mark Hitchcock is the author of more than 17 books related to end-time Bible prophecy, including the bestselling 2012, the Bible, and the End of the World. He earned a ThM and PhD from Dallas Theological Seminary and is the senior pastor of Faith Bible Church in Edmond, Oklahoma. He has worked as an adjunct professor at DTS and has served as a contributing editor for the Left Behind Prophecy Club for five years.

Alton Gansky is the author of 30 books—24 of them novels, including the Angel Award winner Terminal Justice and Christie Award finalist A Ship Possessed. A frequent speaker at writing conferences, he holds BA and MA degrees in biblical studies. Alton and his wife reside in Southern California.


On the heels of Mark Hitchcock’s prophecy bestseller 2012, the Bible, and the End of the World comes a suspenseful novel (coauthored with bestselling novelist Alton Gansky) about the supposed expiration date of planet earth—December 21, 2012.

Andrew Morgan is a wealthy oil executive in search of the meaning of life. In his quest for answers he encounters the ancient Mayan predictions that the world will end in 2012. That the claims seem supported by math and astronomy drives him to check on them. Then he meets Lisa Campbell, an attractive Christian journalist also researching the Mayan calendar. When he learns that she is a Christian, he quickly dismisses what she has to say.

As the time draws closer to December 21, 2012, a meteorite impact in Arizona, a volcanic eruption, and the threat of an asteroid on a collision-course with earth escalate fears. Are these indicators of a global apocalypse? Will anyone survive? Does Lisa’s Christian faith have the answers after all? Or has fate destined everyone to a holocaust from which there is no escape?

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Mayan Apocalypse, go HERE.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"Slippery Slope" Letter from a Reader

On my Facebook fan page, a reader left this comment about my latest release, Deceit:

I have read and enjoyed most of your novels, including Deceit, which I found very thought provoking. However, I think you may have ventured unto a "slippery slope" in your epilogue where your main character ponders the morality of "pretexting" in her work as a skip tracer. Perhaps one can raise legitimate questions about the ethics of deceiving those who have skipped out on their bills. But, what about the policeman confronting a hostage taker with a knife at the throat of a child? Or, what about Corrie Ten Boom? Should she have told the Nazis "I cannot tell a lie, I have Jews in the attic?"

Some day we will dwell in a place where God's truth prevails. But, we're not there yet. In the mean time, someone has to do the "dirty work" in a fallen world. The trick is knowing where to draw the line. Hopefully, that's where the Holy Spirit comes in.

Thanks, and God Bless your work!

I like the insight of this reader. And actually I agree with his arguments regarding deceit, although I don't agree that my novel Deceit starts down a slippery slope in the wrong direction.

Sometimes my challenge as an author is to raise questions for the reader to consider--not to provide all the answers.
Deceit is bottom line a tale of suspense. At the same time the theme that arose as I was writing the book focused on deceit in each of our lives. Has deceit stolen into my life in such a subtle way that I've allowed it to remain there? And--is deceit ever okay? In the epilogue my protagonist, Joanne, wonders if the lying or "pretexting" she uses in her skip tracing is all right for a Christian. She doesn't answer the question but knows she will be pondering it, and that God will lead her accordingly. However she does note that a good friend tells her it's absolutely okay--in the same way that police interrogation tactics include lying to the suspect to get him/her to confess. They're catching the bad guys, and therefore the end justifies the means, the friend says.

I think of Rahab in the Bible, who hid the two Israelite spies Joshua sent into Jerico, then lied to her king, saying the men had slipped away. God saved Rahab and her family because of her deed.

Deceit is not a light-handed book. Once the story is said and done, I wanted it to provoke self-reflection. The obvious and worst deceit in the novel is not relegated only to nonChristians, but very much to professing Christians, including a respected church elder.

What do you think? If you've read Deceit, do you agree with all the observations of the reader above? (Please don't give away any plot points in your comments.) If you haven't read the book--do you think there is ever a time when lying is okay? And how do you decide in your own life where to draw that line?


On another note--winner of this month's Photo Friday is Richard Mabry, with this caption: You men are all alike. "Oh, I don't need directions!" Congrats, Doc. Please email me with your choice of book (as long as we have it in stock) and address.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

E-Reader Tidbits and Other News

1. Hey, you Kindle lovers! Do you also love Scrabble? Now you can play on your reader. Buy the app for $4.99 from Amazon. You can play solo, challenge the Kindle, or play against a friend. Way cool. Let the games begin!

2. Target has announced it will begin selling six models of Apple Inc.'s iPad, on Oct. 3. To date Target will be the largest retail chain to carry the iPad. Models, starting at $499, will include 16-, 32-, and 64-gigabyte versions of both the Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + 3G.

On the home front:

3. My latest release, Deceit, (came out in June) is now in its third printing. Thanks to all you buyers for helping make that happen!

4. My adult suspense novels (excluding Deceit) are on sale on the Kindle for $5.99. Go to my home Amazon page and click on "Kindle Books" to see the complete list and prices.

Friday, September 24, 2010

It's Photo Friday!

It's that special Friday of the month once again. Write the best caption for the crazy picture--win a book. Come back over the weekend and vote for your favorite caption. Winner announced next week. Facebook friends, be sure to leave your caption here, even if you also put it on Facebook.

Without further ado ... this month's photo:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

ACFW Conference Photos

The conference was wonderful. Just terrific. So many great people gathered in one place. I took a few photos when I could. Much of the time I was running from one appointment to another. But here's a taste of the cool folks gathered for the conference and banquet.

With pal Jim Bell.

Terri Blackstock and Gayle Roper

With Harry Kraus

Chip MacGregor speaking at morning devotional

With Terri Blackstock

ACFW President Cynthia Ruchti and my mom (Mama Ruth) at banquet

With my mom and sister Sheila at banquet

Two great women--Janette Oke and Mama Ruth

Two gals who love each other a lot--Mama Ruth and Kim Sawyer

With the two most dashing men at the banquet--Randy Ingermanson and John Olson

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

In My Next Life I Want to Come Back as a Pantser

Today I'm happy to welcome suspense author Lisa Black, whom I met at Thrillerfest this past July. Lisa spent the five happiest years of her life in a morgue, working as a forensic scientist in the trace evidence lab. Eventually her husband dragged her to southwest Florida. Now she toils as a certified latent print analyst and CSI at the local police department by day and writes forensic suspense by night. Her books have also been published in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain and Japan.

Lately Lisa's been thinking about this whole seat-of-the-pants thing...
Having hung around authors for several years now, I have learned that they fall into two basic types: outliners and pantsers. Outliners plot the book (to varying degrees of detail) from beginning to end. They know who the killer is going to be. They know what major events are going to take place, they know most of the main character’s major attributes, and the location in which all this is going to occur. They’re comfortable with all this stuff in advance and less prone to writer’s block because they always know where they’re going.

Pantsers, called thus because they “fly by the seat of their pants”, sit down to write without any of these things decided. Their creative juices flow, their muse speaks, and they create.

This is not a red state/blue state thing; there’s no rivalry about this. Each group has nothing but admiration for the other. Pantsers wish they could be more organized about their process, more logical and avoid writing themselves into corners. Outliners wish they could be more flexible, always wondering that if they let the story take them where it would they might produce a great work of art, and not leave them (as they suspect it would) painted firmly into the farthest corner in the farthest room.

Whether you’re one or the other, of course, doesn’t matter. All that matters is that your technique works for you. But that doesn’t mean you can’t borrow what you’d like from your opposites’ habits. I am an outliner. I have to know the story from beginning to end. This isn’t even a choice, really, since I often start with the end. I can still change my mind about something, go back and change a location or a point of view. The consistency police will not fire a tear gas canister into my office and haul me off in plastic handcuffs.

But there are a lot of things about pantsing that I think would help me write richer and deeper stories. I should take the time to get to know my characters, see what they think and do when they’re not racing the clock to solve a crime. Because pantsers often don’t know who the killer is, they can’t give it away to their readers. They have to write as if any person could be the one. I’ll still have a plan in mind, I’ll just take each step of that unfolding a little slower, look around my imaginary scene, let my character poke into those nooks and crannies she usually rushes by carrying a clipboard and a fingerprint kit.

Yep, definitely going to give pantsing a try.

What do you think? Do you wish you wrote a different way than you do? Methinks the grass is always greener. I'm a plotter with room for discovery somewhere in the middle--and I actually don't like that at all. I wish I could plot out every detail in advance so I knew exactly where I was going. But I can't do that. Simply can't. And I suppose if I did, my characters wouldn't drive the story.

Check out Lisa's latest release, Trail of Blood, featuring forensic scientist Theresa MacLean.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

At ACFW Conference

Yup, I'm now in Indianapolis. Flew in yesterday. The ACFW board meeting is today--the reason for my coming a day early. Tomorrow the conference begins. Once again I'm serving as emcee and will be spending many hours in the prayer room, praying with some wonderful folks.

I basically go from appointment to appointment all day but will post pictures as I'm able. Look forward to seeing many of you here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Immanuel's Veins--Ted Dekker

Update 9/23: The comments are now closed. Thanks to all who participated. Lollipops was the randomly chosen winner to receive the T-shirt for Immanuel's Veins.
Ted Dekker's latest release, Immanuel's Veins, is now on shelves. (Published by Thomas Nelson.)


The marketing copy about this book (see below) gets it right--this story isn't for everyone. But many suspense and fantasy lovers will enjoy it. How would I label it? A vampire/Nephilim crucifixion allegory. How's that for a mouthful. And a bookful.
There's a "Share The Love" T-shirt to go with the book that I'm able to give away. Color--dark gray. If you'd like to have a chance at winning it, please leave a comment. Winner will be chosen at random.


Ted Dekker is a New York Times best-selling author of more than twenty novels. He is best known for stories which could be broadly described as suspense thrillers with major twists and unforgettable characters, though he has also made a name for himself among fantasy fans.

Early in his career he wrote a number of spiritual thrillers and his novels were lumped in with ‘Christian Fiction’ a surprisingly large category. His later novels are a mix of mainstream novels such as Adam, Thr3e, Skin, Obsessed and BoneMan’s Daughters, and fantasy thrillers that metaphorically explore faith. Best known among these is his Circle Series: Green, Black, Red, White and The Paradise Books: Showdown, Saint, and Sinner.

Dekker was born to missionaries who lived among the headhunter tribes of Indonesia. Because his parents’ work often included extended periods of time away from their children, Dekker describes his early life in a culture to which he was a stranger as both fascinating and lonely. It is this unique upbringing that forced him to rely on his own imagination to create a world in which he belonged.

After leaving Indonesia, Dekker graduated from a multi-cultural high school and took up permanent residence in the United States to study philosophy and religion. Upon earning his Bachelor’s Degree, he entered the corporate world and proceeded to climb the proverbial ladder. But his personal drive left him restless and, after many successful years, he traded corporate life for wide range of entrepreneurial pursuits that included buying and selling businesses, healthcare services, and marketing.

In the early nineties while visiting a friend who had just written a book, Dekker decided to pursue a long held desire to be a novelist. Over the course of two years he wrote two full length novels before starting from scratch and rewriting both. Now fully enamored by the the process and the stories, he realized that storytelling was in his blood and a new obsession to explore truth through story gripped him anew.

He sold his business, moved his family to the mountains of Western Colorado and began writing full-time on his third novel. Two years and three novels later his first novel, Heaven’s Wager, was published.

Now, Dekker’s novels had sold over 3.4 million copies worldwide. Two of his novels, Thr3e and House, have been made into movies with more in production. Dekker resides in Austin, Texas with his wife Lee Ann and two of their daughters.


This story is for everyone--but not everyone is for this story.

It is a dangerous tale of times past. A torrid love story full of deep seduction. A story of terrible longing and bold sacrifice.

Then as now, evil begins its courtship cloaked in light. And the heart embraces what it should flee. Forgetting it once had a truer lover.

With a kiss, evil will ravage body, soul, and mind. Yet there remains hope, because the heart knows no bounds.

Love will prove greater than lust. Sacrifice will overcome seduction. And blood will flow. Because the battle for the heart is always violently opposed. For those desperate to drink deep from this fountain of life--enter.

But remember, not everyone is for this story.

If you'd like to read the first chapter of Immanuel's Veins, go HERE.

Watch the book trailer.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

CBD Launches E-Bookstore

Great news in a press release from CBD:

Christian Book Distributors (CBD) has launched a new e-book store through its Web site. In addition to offering thousands of Christian digital books, the Peabody, Mass.-based company has also introduced a CBD Reader for computers, smart phones or Apple's iPad.

"We are very excited to offer a deep selection of Christian e-books, while also providing an e-reading platform in the CBD Reader that gives our customers the ability to read on devices they already own," CBD President Ray Hendrickson said. "Instead of purchasing another expensive electronic device, our customers can read on their desktop and laptop computers as well as many popular mobile devices and dedicated e-readers like the (Barnes & Noble) nook and Sony Reader."

Without downloading any special software application, readers can choose to access e-books with just a few clicks, Hendrickson added. Targeting e-book newcomers and tech-savvy users, CBD is also offering a handful of free e-books in addition to free samples of every digital book offered on its Web site.

"Every day we are adding new titles to our already deep title selection," Hendrickson said. "We will have the best selection of Christian e-books available."

Digital books--which generally cost less than hardcover books--are the fastest-growing sector in the publishing industry. As of June, year-to-date e-book sales were up more than 200% on 2009, according to the Association of American Publishers.

The catalog arm of, CBD is the largest religious catalog company in the world, sending out more than 65 catalogs to millions of customers each year, company officials said. CBD's customers have access to more than 300,000 books, Bibles, CDs, DVDs, gifts, toys and games.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Comparison of Bestseller Lists for August 2010

Here is the comparison of CBA's "October" list and ECPA's "September" list, both reflecting sales of fiction in participating Christian bookstores in the month of August. (Sometimes the days counted within the month vary a little between CBA and ECPA, but in general this is a month-to-month 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 post.

Special congrats to James Rubart, who made the ECPA list with his debut novel, Rooms. I was fortunate to be on the B and H Thriller Tour with Jim and watch him sign copies.

CBA (Numbers in parentheses reflect book's standing on CBA's Top Fifty list)

1.(14) Take Four, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
2.(23) The Shack, William P. Young, Windblown Media
3.(28) Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers, Multnomah/WaterBrook
4.(31) Predator, Terri Blackstock, Zondervan
5.(32) Her Mother’s Hope, Francine Rivers, Tyndale
6.(33) The Bishop, Steven James, Revell/Baker
7.(36) Lydia’s Charm, Wanda Brunstetter, Barbour
8.(41) A Lineage of Grace, Francine Rivers, Tyndale
9.(43) Twilight’s Serenade, Tracie Peterson, Bethany/Baker
10.(47) Take Three, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
11. The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis, Zondervan
12. Oceans Apart, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
13. The Telling, Beverly Lewis, Bethany/Baker
14. Take One, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
15. Shades of Blue, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
16. Edge of Apocalypse, Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall, Zondervan
17. Take Two, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
18. Kelly’s Chance, Wanda Brunstetter, Barbour
19. The Gathering Storm, Bodie Thoene and Brock Thoene, Summerside Press
20. The Way to a Man’s Heart, Mary Ellis, Harvest House

ECPA (Numbers in parentheses reflect book's standing on the ECPA Top 50 list.)

1. (6) Take Four, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
2. (17) The Shack, William P. Young, Windblown Media
3. (26) Her Mother's Hope, Francine Rivers, Tyndale
4. (28) Predator, Terri Blackstock, Zondervan
5. (30) Take Three, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
6. (32) Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers, Waterbrook/Multnomah
7. (33) The Gathering Storm, Bodie and Brock Thoene, Summerside Press
8. (36) Twilight's Serenade, Tracie Peterson, Bethany/Baker
9. (38) A Lineage of Grace, Francine Rivers, Tyndale
10. (44) Lydia's Charm, Wanda E. Brunstetter, Barbour
11. (46) Take One, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
12. (47) Edge of Apocalypse, Tim LaHaye/Craig Parshall, Zondervan
13. (49) The Bishop, Steven James Revell/Baker
14. (50) Take Two, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
15. The Telling, Beverly Lewis, Bethany/Baker
16. Shades of Blue, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
17. Rooms, James L. Rubart, BandH Publishing
18. The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis, HarperCollins
19. Amish Gathering, Beth Wiseman, Thomas Nelson
20. The Pawn, Steven James, Revell/Baker

Friday, September 10, 2010

Webbed Toes and the Apocalypse : Meet Author John Robinson

I’d like to thank Brandilyn for turning over the floor to me; I trust she won’t regret it. With her kind indulgence I’m going to talk a little bit about what it’s like being a hairy-legged man-type male person writing testosterone-filled novels with a Christian slant, someone with a mouth much smarter than he is, someone with a deeply bent sense of the absurd while he recklessly explores themes that—I think—no one else is.

But first some quick bona fides: I’ve been married for thirty-seven years to my lovely and longsuffering wife Barb. We have two grown sons (one of them married, a missionary with a family of his own), and a little daughter waiting for us in heaven, and probably driving Saint Peter to distraction. For the conspiracy theorists among us (and you know who you are), I’m director of business development for a large company that does medical contracting work for the military and the federal government.

My favorite movie is Open Range, my favorite musical is The Phantom of the Opera, my favorite band is Yes, my favorite color is blue, and my favorite meal is country ham, greens beans with fatback, cathead biscuits with clover honey, spoonbread, chocolate pie, and good, but not great, coffee. Due to a brain injury when I was nine I’m dyslexic, and can only type with my thumbs and index fingers. I also have syndactyly, giving me webbed toes.

Now, aren’t you glad you’ve read this far? I know I am.

As a boy I was reared in a denominational church, but it never really took. By the time I’d entered high school I’d become a secret, hardcore atheist—the secret part being Southern boys from nice Christian homes outwardly have to show at least the letter of piety, if not the law—wink, wink, nudge, nudge. I had no idea as a high school geek my dark mindset would change in just a few years, and in a big way.

In the spring of 1975, and through a set of bizarre circumstances I won’t bore you with, I became a born again, spirit filled Christian. Boom. Done. In this I was following my dear wife, who’d made the same decision a few months earlier. Not surprisingly, in short order we lost all our friends and drinking buddies, and set about making new ones … friends that is, not drinking buddies. From there things settled into a routine, although I’ve found to my consternation nothing is routine to God; He delights in the “gotcha!” moments. I was to discover He had quite the rabbit up his sleeve, but wouldn’t reveal it until over two decades later.

The time was New Years Day 1999, and as is my wont, I was watching one of the bowl games on TV when suddenly an odd thing occurred: I started seeing something different on the screen. Don’t laugh, but it was almost like I was watching a really good movie with drama, laughs, thrills, and explosions, just the way I like ‘em. I was unaware of the passing of time.

When at last I roused myself I found only a few minutes had passed, but during that time I had the entire plot of an unusual, apocalypse-with-a-twist thriller completely lined up in my head. I called it Heading Home. Please understand, this waking dream business was new territory for me; my childhood church looks askance at any “weirdo stuff” from God (“ya know, boy, we don’t hold much with that heebie-jeebie junk.”)

Even stranger, I’d always liked to write, from my early teen years on, and when I was in college I was student affairs editor for the school paper. But the years passed, and with a wife and three children and working out my salvation with fear and trembling, that love seemed to fade. And now here it was, back once more, chuckling with unfeigned merriment and sporting an “ah, my friend, we meet again!” insolent grin. After getting over the shock, writing down the bones of Heading Home took about a year, and then another year was spent in painstaking editing, learning as I went.

Finally it was ready, and I began sending out query letters, waiting for the “good gravy, son, stop the presses, we gotta publish this masterpiece!” phone call which I knew was coming any day now … hah, and hah again. It wasn’t until 2008 it was sold to Sheaf House Publishers, and it’s now out and doing very well, thank you. During those intervening years I wrote and sold the Joe Box novels, and began the Mac Ryan series.

As an aside, for those who’re interested in the plot of Heading Home, the easiest way to describe it is to just quote the back cover copy:

The Bible makes it clear no one knows the day or the hour of Christ’s return. But it doesn't say we won’t know the month.

Or the week.

When every Christian simultaneously receives a message that Christ will return sometime in the coming week, the world is thrown into stark panic. Two old friends, hardened combat veterans from the closing days of the Vietnam War, set out on a suspenseful quest to redeem that time.

What they don’t know is they and their entire church have been targeted for satanic annihilation.

So far the reviews have been good, and no one’s called me a heretic (yet).

My three Joe Box novels—Until the Last Dog Dies, When Skylarks Fall, and To Skin a Cat—are a little more down to earth, featuring a protagonist who’s a Vietnam vet and former Cincinnati cop, now working as a down-at-the-heels private investigator.

In the first story Joe’s just recently come to the Lord, but given his violent past he’s not really sure how, or if, it’s going to work out for him. He’s a Cincinnati resident, an unwillingly transplanted Southerner with a strong code of honor and an almost pathological need to right wrongs, but he also has a dark side and a sarcastic mouth. To my knowledge Joe’s an anomaly in the CBA, and was a real kick to write. Out of print for a few years, the Joe Box novels will be on Kindle soon.

As I said, in addition to those books I have another series started, featuring a modern day soldier-of-fortune named Mac Ryan. Mac’s a spiritually and physically wounded Army Ranger captain who’s trying to atone for a disastrous mistake that wiped out his entire command in Iraq by performing extraordinary deeds for hopeless people, gratis (the burgeoning Christian elements will be explored bit by bit in each deed).

With Mac I wanted to take a man who was a little like Joe Box, but give him a darker past and take him in different direction. The result is the Christian spirituality is still there, but much more subtle; think the movie Signs, or Dean Koontz’s later works. I knew this approach wouldn’t fly within the CBA parameters, so Narrow Road Press, which specializes in crossover novels, will also be doing those.

Relentless, the first of the series, will be out August 2012. The sequel, Burning River, has a good start but it’s not nearly done yet.

Finally I have a stand-alone crossover speculative fiction work, The Radiance, due out next fall, also from Narrow Road. I had a lot of pure-D fun writing that one too.

Now bear in mind, when I set out to write these tales I was trying to come up with something new and different for Christian men to read. Because let’s face the truth: the CBA is chock-a-block with romances and relationship treatises and bonnet books, but not a lot of grim, hard-edged action novels, especially ones penned by men. I think I was as shocked as anyone when the distaff side seemed to like them as much as the males. For some reason they struck (and strike) a chord with the ladies, but I’m not complaining.

Because of its rough theme and unconventional main character, Until the Last Dog Dies was, like its brother Heading Home, a booger to get published. For months my agent shopped it tirelessly, but kept coming to me back with stuff like “they love your writing, John, but the character of Joe Box scares them to death; they’re afraid women won’t buy it.” To which I would respond, “jeeze Louise, it’s not written for women!”

More months passed, and at last my agent said they’d done all they could, but couldn’t place it with anybody. That was in December of 2002.

Flash forward to July of 2003.

The CBA trade show was in Orlando that that year, and my agent was attending, hoping for a miracle. And it happened. As the story was told to me, one night the head buyer of one of the largest Christian bookstore chains was speaking with one of the marketing directors for Cook Communications, which owns RiverOak Publishing. They were talking about this and that, and the buyer said in an off-hand way, “Say, I heard you’ve bought a novel featuring a Christian private investigator; that sounds intriguing.” The Cook guy frowned and said no, he’d heard wrong, they took a pass on it. To which the buyer said, “That’s too bad; we could probably move a lot of units of that.” Not needing a board upside his head—as we crackers say—the Cook guy took that info to his people, and they told him, “Okay, see if it’s still available.” The Cook guy found my agent and asked if Until the Last Dog Dies was still on the table. Stunned, my agent said yes, and they proceeded to verbally cut the deal on the floor of the CBA. True story!

In closing I’d like to tell a story I once heard about former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The time was either the late fifties or early sixties, and by then Churchill was quite elderly when he was asked by the provost to give the commencement address at a large university. He agreed.

The day came, and the auditorium was packed with students and alumni wanting to hear strong words of wisdom from the man who’d basically saved Britain during the darkest days the country had ever known. Slowly Churchill took the platform. Standing behind the podium, he peered out at the sea of faces with rheumy eyes.

Then setting his famous bulldog jaw, he ground out these words: “Never give up. Never, never, never, never give up.” He fixed them with a gaze of iron. “Never.”

And then he sat down.

A beat passed, and then the place erupted in praise. Yowza.

That’s what I try to tell people: in today’s times of peril and crazed uncertainty, “Never give up.” Just that. And great is the joy therein.

For anyone who’d like to read my blog or the first chapters of any of my novels, they can do it for free on my website.

Thanks again for having me, Brandilyn. It’s been a pleasure!

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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Bookshare® -- Bringing Books to the Blind

Recently I received this letter from one of my readers:

I just wanted to let you know I finished Deceit and loved it, as I've loved everything I've read of yours.

I just wanted to say that I particularly like the character of Joanne. I'm a 47-year-old widow, and I like the way you portray your characters as real people, not Barbie-dolls. I feel like you expressed the heart of a widow so well in Joanne, without making it the central point of the story.

I also enjoyed the single mom character of Annie in the Hidden Faces series. I have a teenage son, and you just hit upon so many challenges of a single mom.

Thanks for making real the people you write about. And for including women with special sisters, I have one of those, too!

In subsequent contact I learned that this reader is blind. She has access to my novels through Bookshare®--an online library of digital books for people with print disabilities. If you're a published author, chances are your books are available through this site.

Bookshare® operates under an exception to U.S. copyright law which allows copyrighted digital books to be made available to people with qualifying disabilities. In addition, many publishers and authors have volunteered to provide Bookshare with access to their works. By requiring individuals to register as Members and provide a Proof of Disability, Bookshare ensures that only qualified individuals use the service.

Bookshare Members download books, textbooks and newspapers in a compressed, encrypted file. They then read the material using adaptive technology, typically software that reads the book aloud (text-to-speech) and/or displays the text of the book on a computer screen, or Braille access devices, such as refreshable Braille displays.

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Beauty of Things Unsaid (Advice for the 2nd Draft)

Freelance editor Steve Parolini, better known as noveldoctor, writes insightful posts on his web site, as well as some finely worded short stories. Steve has graciously allowed me to run the following post. Take it away, Steve.
Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. --Anton Chekhov

Words are a writer’s currency. But too many words – or the wrong ones – will devalue a written work faster than an oil spill devalues an oil company’s stock.

This isn’t news to you. You know all too well the struggle to find the right words to tell your story. (Put down the thesaurus. That’s not what I mean. Have you even been reading this blog?) And so you write. And write. And write some more. And you finally finish your first draft.

And yet when you go back to read what you’ve written, it just doesn’t “feel” right. It’s not like you’re missing any key ingredients. The characters are believable. The plot is moving along just fine. There’s plenty of lovely description to set the scene.

But something’s wrong.

Now, it could just be that your writing sucks. (This is where you look around the room to see who else I might be talking to, because surely it isn’t you. I mean, your crit partners loved your short story about the fruit fly that preferred vegetables. “It’s a work of literary genius,” “a powerful metaphor about love and loss,” “like Animal Farm, but with insects,” they told you. Well, their actual words were, “it didn’t make me want to vomit,” but that’s essentially the same thing, right?)

Or it could be that you’re simply saying too much.

There are lots of ways “too many words” can steal the power from a story. Here are the three most common that I run into:

The Telling

I love the Chekhov quote at the top of this post. I haven’t found a better one to describe the difference between “telling” and “showing.” But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. You already know why showing is generally better than telling. So why, then, do you have an entire paragraph dedicated to telling us what the protagonist is anticipating immediately preceding paragraphs that so beautifully show us exactly what happens?

There’s nothing wrong with some internal thoughts here and there. Nor is there anything wrong with the occasional telling. But there’s rarely a need to have both the telling and the showing. I bet you can find at least a dozen places in your first draft where you do this. Yes, showing usually takes more words than telling (not always). But the showing words aren’t the problem. Trim the redundant telling. Your readers will thank you. (In their hearts.)

The Describing

There are very few writers who can do detailed description well. I’m talking about the sort of detail that reveals every shadow and wrinkle on a bruised white rose lit by twilight, or the font (and foundry it came from) that graces the title page of the book buried beneath a pile of similarly dust-deviled tomes that the protagonist reaches for with paint-stained fingers (Sherwin-Williams Rookwood Amber). (See? I’m not one of those writers. I’m okay with that.)

But just because we don’t have that skill doesn’t mean we don’t attempt it. What happens, though, is we end up with wordy descriptions that tell us stuff we don’t really care to know (or need to know). For example, if you simply tell me that a bowling ball rolls off the top shelf and lands on your hero’s head, that paints a clear enough picture for me to see it happen. Do I need to know that it was a 15 pound red and black Brunswick Evil Siege bowling ball? Well, maybe I do. Does the specific brand/weight/color play into the story elsewhere? Or are you being intentionally over-descriptive because it makes the scene funnier? In those cases, fine. But otherwise? I’ll paint the bowling ball black (or green if I actually owned one of my own that happened to be green) and assume it’s heavy enough to do the necessary damage.

I know what you’re thinking. All those writing books tell you to be specific. Hell, I’ll tell you that right here, too. Be specific. But…learn when to leave the rest of the picture to the reader’s imagination. If it’s not critical to the story (or the writer’s voice) that the character uses a Rachael Ray blue porcelain 10-inch skillet to kill the spider, just let the character use a plain ol’ skillet.

The Dialoging

I love this one. Dialogue is one of my favorite things to write (and edit). Let’s start here: Take a minute to listen to real-life dialogue. Now, imagine transcribing that verbatim. It doesn’t quite look right, does it. One reason for this is the fact that you can’t actually layer multiple conversations on top of each other. If two people are talking at the same time, you can say so in your novel, but you’ll still have to run their words one sentence after another because you can’t stamp them on top of each other. (Well, you could, but that would look like a printer error.) Because of this, if you include every actual spoken word, dialogue that only takes a moment to speak in real time can stretch on for pages when written. Think of your written dialogue as spoken dialogue that’s been edited not only for content, but also for clarity and rhythm.

Also, real conversation has lots of non-words and repeated-ad-nauseum words in it, things like ums and ers and likes and plenty of unintelligible grunts and groans. Put all of them on the page and your readers will wonder what sorts of drugs you abuse.

But I still haven’t gotten to the biggest wordiness problem with dialogue: hijacking the character to deliver information readers should get elsewhere. You’ll recognize this dialogue by the way your character suddenly appears to be a puppet for the plot rather than a real human being.

“Is the sword shaped like a cross with a sharp dagger end that’s dangling over your head making you nervous, Edward?”

“No, Jacob. But you should be scared because I’m baring my fangs right now and they’re really menacing because they’re sharp and I’m smiling at the same time which is ironic and therefore underscores my obvious lack of fear.”

Please. Don’t. Go. There.

Instead, establish the scene so we know Edward is standing under the cross with the sharp dagger end. Then all you have to write is this:


Edward looks up at the cross then back to Jacob. He smiles, then bares his fangs.

“Not even a little.”

I know, my example is over the top. I did that on purpose. But you get the idea. If you need to deliver information to the reader about something in a scene, only use dialogue if it’s the sort of information the character would organically include in the course of the conversation.

Well, that’s all the questionable wisdom I have for you today, friends. Now get back to that second draft and start chopping.

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Monday, September 06, 2010

Happy Labor Day!

On this auspicious day thou shalt go out and commit acts of non-labor.

(Okay, do as I say, not as I do. I have a rewrite to attend to.)

Friday, September 03, 2010

Rewrite Your Man: A Clever Ad Campaign

It all started when I was looking for recipes online. I ended up on a site with a little ad over on the right--one too clever to ignore. The ad was for Frixion erasable pens, by Pilot. (Never heard of 'em before.)  How do you make erasable pens interesting? Here's how:

The bottom center link says "See the creation of the perfect man. Watch the video." Click on that and up pops a cute, short trailer. Go to the ad here to click on the video and other links.

The ad was well placed--on a recipe site where women would tend to gather.

I'm off to buy some Frixion pens. First, any ad campaign this good deserves a sale. Second, I love fine-tipped pens for signing books. Imagine an erasable one. If I misspell someone's name--voila!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

August 2010 List of Today's Word

Any brave soul care to try using at least six of these in a sentence?
CALEFY (KAL-uh-fy) trans. verb--to make warm.

ARGENTINE (AR-jen-tine) adj.--relating to, containing, or resembling silver. 

FRIVOL (FRI-vul) int. verb--to act frivolously.

LOGY (LO-gee) adj.--marked by sluggishness and lack of vitality; lacking resilience. 

PANEGYRIC (pan-uh-JI-rick) noun--a eulogistic oration or writing; a formal or elaborate eulogy. 

EDENTULOUS (ee-DEN-chu-lus) adj.--lacking teeth; having lost teeth previously present.

HOLUS-BOLUS (HO-lus-BO-lus) adv.--all at once; altogether.

YAWP (YOP) int. verb--to make a raucous noise.

DIRDUM (DUR-dum) noun--uproar, fuss; rebuke, scolding; a piece of bad luck. 

SETACEOUS (se-TAY-shus) adj.--set with or consisting of bristles; resembling a bristle.

OBVIATE (OB-vee-ate) trans. verb--to meet or anticipate and dispose of; make unnecessary.

PAWKY (PAW-key) adj.--artfully shrewd.

KICKSHAW (KICK-shaw) noun--a fancy dish in cookery; something elegant but trifling.

WAMBLE (WAHM-bul) int. verb--to feel nausea; to move unsteadily or with a weaving or rolling motion.

GLAUCOUS (GLAW-kus) adj.--of a pale yellow green color.

PROGENITOR (pro-JEN-ed-ur) noun--an ancestor in the direct line; a biologically ancestral form. 

PERCIPIENT (per-SIP-ee-unt) adj.--capable of or characterized by perception. 

ANIMADVERSION (anuh-mad-VER-zhun) noun--criticism that is usually adverse and prompted by hostility. 

BEDIZEN (beh-DIZE-un) trans. verb--to dress or adorn with gaudy and meretricious vulgarity.

EMOLUMENT (eh-MOL-yuh-ment) noun--profit or perquisites from office, employment, or labor. 

IDIOPATHIC (id-ee-uh-PATH-ik) adj.--peculiar to the individual.

ZOANTHROPY (zo-AN-thru-pe) noun--monomania in which a person believes himself changed into an animal. 

IMPONE (im-PONE) trans. verb--to put upon, impose. 

FULGURATION (ful-gyu-RA-shun) noun--the act or process of flashing like lightning. 

TOSSPOT (TOSS-pot) noun--drunkard, sot.

VILIPEND (VIL-uh-pend) trans. verb--to hold or treat as of small worth or account. 

COMITY (KAH-muh-dee) noun--kindly courteous behavior; friendly civility.

MELISMA (mi-LIZ-muh) noun--a group of notes or tones sung on one syllable in plainsong. 

ERUCT (i-RUCT) trans. verb--to bring up (gas) from the stomach by belching.

RACKLE (RACK-ul) adj.--impetuous, headstrong.

PARURE (pah-ROO-er) noun--a matched set of jewelry or other ornaments worn together.
Read September ‘10