Friday, October 29, 2010

Oh, Joy--Halloween Again

I hate Halloween.

I know, I know. I’m a suspense novelist who kills people and writes about things that go bump in the night. You’d think Halloween would be my favorite day. Nuh-uh.

Can’t say when I grew to hate it so. I certainly did my share of trick-or-treating as a kid, collecting my sackful of candy and hogging it down for weeks afterward. And when my kids were little, I did the dutiful mom thing and took them around. Never liked doing it, though. I was already slipping into my hate mode.

Our kids are spread seven years apart, so when our son was twelve, I allowed him to start taking his little sister door to door. I wiped my hands of that task forever—and quite happily. Only thing was, I found myself stuck at home answering the door for all the other trick-or-treaters. Didn’t like that either.

I guess you could call me the Grinch of Halloween. (I suppose that would be the Grinchoween.)

I just can’t find anything particularly good about the day. I know some people really abhor the idea and will have nothing to do with it. I don’t go that far, although much of the reason I don’t like the day has to do with its less-than-desirable origins. On the practical side, kids simply don’t need all that candy. I have a theory that dentists (and we all know how evil they are) invented trick-or-treating.

So years ago when our kids were still both trick-or-treating, I came up with an idea. It was brilliant on numerous fronts. First, it infused some positive spin on Halloween—for me, of course. Second, it immediately diminished some of my kids’ candy stashes, which was more than needed.

My idea? Parent tax.

I called it tax, when in reality it was more like a tithe. Following that wonderful biblical principle of first fruits belonging to God—ten percent off the top. Although in this case the ten percent didn’t go to God; it went to Mom.

I’d wait by the door for the return of my hapless children. (My excuse was, I was stuck there anyway, having to answer the bell so often.)

They’d sidle in, holding their bulging bags behind them. My arms would reach out, my voice clipped and authoritative. “Parent tax.”

Their shoulders would droop. Exchanging sighs, they’d hand over their loot.

I always took the chocolate. Mini Baby Ruths, M&Ms—plain and peanut—Twix bars, Snickers. This wasn’t as hard on the kids as you might think. If they complained too loudly, we compromised. But most of the time, they were into all the sugary stuff that’s not worth eating anyway. Gummi bears, licorice (what insanity led to the invention of that horrible stuff!), sour tarts. Blah. They could have that rot.

Now the kids are grown and gone. On Halloween night hubby and I turn off the porch lights and pull down the shades. “We’re not home!” our house screams. “Stay away!” Such total party-poopers. But tell you the truth—most of our street’s the same way. It works. We don’t have to buy candy any more. Not one visitor on Halloween night. I cackle about that all evening.

But, man, I seriously miss that parent tax.

(This is a repost from 2009. Seeing as how I haven't changed my mind in the past year.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Nook and Kindle News

In the never-ending cycle of trying to keep up with all the news about e-readers and e-books, I bring you these tidbits.

1. Amazon is going to start allowing users to lend e-books. There are some rather stringent parameters, to be sure, but still this is a new concept for Amazon. It wasn't that long ago when the company's Jeff Bezos was reportedly talking down B and N's lending capabilities on their Nook. Now, apparently, Amazon feels the need to keep pace. So--starting later this year, Amazon users will be allowed to lend a certain e-book once for a period of 14 days. And while that book is being lent, it cannot be read by its buyer/lender. (Just as a paperback version couldn't be in your hands if you lent it to a friend.) Sharing will work for Kindles as well as users of Kindle apps for the iPhone, iPad, etc.

Not all of Amazon's 720,000 e-books will be lendable. That privilege will be up to publishers or other rights holders to grant.

2. B and N has announced it's launching a digital collection of over 12,000 books under the new name Nook Kids. This will include picture books and novels aimed at children age 8 to 12. In addition, B and N has procured agreements with over 15 children's book publishers to create enhanced digital editions of some titles. How good will picture books look on a black and white screen, you ask? See #3.

3. B and N just unveiled its new Nook Color. The touch screen of this new device is 7 inches--larger than its original Nook. The color LCD does cut battery life to 8 hours, and the device doesn't have 3G. But hey, it's a step. Nook Color goes on sale November 19 for $249.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Three Generations of Readers

Last week I received this letter from a reader. This is my favorite kind of fan letter--one that speaks of three generations within the same family all reading my novels.

My family loves your books! This is a picture of three generations of fans! My Mom, my sister, my daughter and my daughter-in-law love reading your books! We are constantly passing them around to each other and anxiously awaiting your newest book! Thank you for giving us the wonderful experience of sharing our love for your books!

Debbie Carroll

How kind of Debbie to have this picture taken and sent to me. Note that each person is reading a different book. :] Later I learned that Debbie works at the Lifeway bookstore in Myrtle Beach. Gotta love those fan booksellers!

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Very Private Grave

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
A Very Private Grave
Monarch Books (August 1, 2010)
Donna Fletcher Crow


Donna Fletcher Crow is author of more than thirty-five novels. She has twice won first place in the Historical Fiction category from the National Association of Press Women, and has also been a finalist for "Best Inspirational Novel" from the Romance Writers of America. She is a member of The Arts Centre Group and Sisters in Crime. Find out more at


"History and mystery and murders most foul keep the pages turning ... A fascinating read." –Liz Curtis Higgs, bestelling author of Thorn in My Heart

“A Knickerbocker Glory of a thriller, a sweeping, page-turning quest served up with dollops of Church history and lashings of romance. Donna Fletcher Crow has created her own niche within the genre of clerical mysteries.” – Kate Charles, author of Deep Waters

“As in Glastonbury, Donna Fletcher Crow’s descriptions of the English and Scottish settings in her new mystery are drawn with real artistry. Lovers of British history and church history will be impressed by her grasp of both.”—Sally Wright, Edgar Award finalist and author of the Ben Reese Mysteries


Felicity Howard, a young American studying for the Anglican priesthood at the College of the Transfiguration in Yorkshire, is devastated when she finds her beloved Fr. Dominic bludgeoned to death and Fr. Antony, her church history lecturer, soaked in his blood.

Following the cryptic clues contained in a poem the dead man had pressed upon her minutes before his death, she and Fr. Antony—who is wanted for questioning by the police—flee the monastery to seek more information about Fr. Dominic and end up in the holy island of Lindisfarne, former home of Saint Cuthbert.

Their quest leads them into a dark puzzle...and considerable danger.

If you would like to read the Prologue and first Chapter of A Very Private Grave, go HERE.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Read How You Want--Helping the Blind

Over a month ago I posted about Bookshare, an organization that makes book content accessible for the blind. After that post I received a letter from Michael Covington, Information and Education Director for ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association). Michael had further news about what ECPA has done to help the blind and seeing impaired be able to read. He was glad to have me share his info with you.

I appreciated your post-script about bookshare and making content accessible for the blind. The information on is something many publishers are not aware of, because as you mentioned, this service is allowed under the law to copy the texts and convert them to digital for consumption by blind readers without permission, and many visually impaired readers take advantage of this (there is an annual subscription necessary). The challenge with bookshare, particularly in the Christian genre, is the limited number of titles available. Because bookshare (as well as services like the National Library Service) operates based on demand or on user provided content, finding the exact title you're looking for, when you need it, is not always possible. This means that people who are reading disabled (including those with conditions such as dyslexia) cannot always participate in book groups, bible studies or even common place "water cooler" talk in the work place, simply because the content everyone else is reading is not available.

ECPA has been working with a company called ReadHowYouWant for the last few years to help remedy this solution and to give publishers greater incentive to make new/popular content available for those with reading disabilities. As there is no revenue stream for publishers (or royalties for authors) generated by accessible-content services such as Bookshare, most publishers will only occasionally license their content for large-print distribution (meaning 16-point font) with companies such as Thorndike Press. Unfortunately, for many people affected by reading disabilities, a barely-larger font size doesn't solve the problem. Keep in mind that while Bookshare and NLS provide digitally produced audio files, not everyone has the equipment necessary to consume this media. Sometimes a person can read larger font, but is in need of a more readable font, with darker ink on whiter paper. RHYW has worked through all of these issues to provide a print-on-demand solution that allows the reader to pick the style of book they want (multiple font-styles are available), have it custom printed and delivered right to their door, at or slightly above the same price as the original title. They also provide a digital file option (DAISY or Braille) similar to Bookshare, for those who want that as well.

This model allows for additional revenue which is then shared with the publishers of the content. There is more that could be written about this, but you can check out our current online offering of RHYW Christian titles at

Thanks again for helping to promote awareness.


Michael Covington
Information and Education Director

On another topic, the winner of the month's Photo Friday is Peggy Phifer with this caption: "I've finally lost my grip on reality." Congrats, Peggy! Contact me for your free book.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

While We're Far Apart

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
While We're Far Apart
Bethany House (October 1, 2010)
Lynn Austin

Even though historicals are not typically the genre I choose to read, I really do enjoy Lynn's books. This one was no exception. From the beginning I cared about these characters and wanted to see what would happen to them. I do recommend this novel.


It was during the long Canadian winters at home with her children that Lynn made progress on her dream to write, carving out a few hours of writing time each day while her children napped. Lynn credits her early experience of learning to write amid the chaos of family life for her ability to be a productive writer while making sure her family remains her top priority.

Along with reading, two of Lynn's lifelong passions are history and archaeology. While researching her Biblical fiction series, Chronicles of the Kings, these two interests led her to pursue graduate studies in Biblical Backgrounds and Archaeology through Southwestern Theological Seminary. She and her son traveled to Israel during the summer of 1989 to take part in an archaeological dig at the ancient city of Timnah. This experience contributed to the inspiration for her novel Wings of Refuge.

Lynn resigned from teaching to write full-time in 1992. Since then she has published twelve novels. Five of her historical novels, Hidden Places, Candle in the Darkness, Fire by Night, A Proper Pursuit, and Until We Reach Home have won Christy Awards in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008, and 2009 for excellence in Christian Fiction. Fire by Night was also one of only five inspirational fiction books chosen by Library Journal for their top picks of 2003, and All She Ever Wanted was chosen as one of the five inspirational top picks of 2005. Lynn's novel Hidden Places has been made into a movie for the Hallmark Channel, starring actress Shirley Jones. Ms Jones received a 2006 Emmy Award nomination for her portrayal of Aunt Batty in the film.


In an unassuming apartment building in Brooklyn, New York, three lives intersect as the reality of war invades each aspect of their lives. Young Esther is heartbroken when her father decides to enlist in the army shortly after the death of her mother.

Penny Goodrich has been in love with Eddie Shaffer for as long as she can remember; now that Eddie's wife is dead, Penny feels she has been given a second chance and offers to care for his children in the hope that he will finally notice her and marry her after the war.

And elderly Mr. Mendel, the landlord, waits for the war to end to hear what has happened to his son trapped in war-torn Hungary. But during the long, endless wait for victory overseas, life on the home front will go from bad to worse.

Yet these characters will find themselves growing and changing in ways they never expected--and ultimately discovering truths about God's love...even when He is silent.

If you would like to read the first chapter of While We're Far Apart, go HERE.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

My New Fave Quote

My fave new quote is actually an old one--from Cato, written by Joseph Addison in 1713. I love quotes from classic literature and have kept a notebook of them since I was 22 years old. Somehow I missed this one. On the other hand--this one wouldn't have become significant to me until I embarked on this crazy suspense-writing career of mine.

Now tell me if this quote ain't just perfect for me:

O think what anxious moments pass between
The birth of plots, and their last fatal periods.
Oh! Tis a dreadful interval of time,
Fill'd up with horror all, and big with death!

What with all the cabinet-kicking and anxious moments that pass between my birth of a plot and typing its final sentence, I can attest that it's a "dreadful interval of time." And--as my stories would have it-- "big with death" to some of my characters ... and often nearly to this poor author as well.

Fact is, these lines in the play aren't really about some novelist trying to write. The plot here refers to the plans to overthrow Cato,  a Roman statesman who took sides with Pompey in his unsuccessful civil war against Julius Caesar. But I shall happily quote out of context.
And yes, these days I'm in that "dreadful interval of time," writing my next book, which is due at the end of January.
Fill'd up with horror all, and big with death!...

Friday, October 15, 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, October 14, 2010

You Can't Make Lightning Strike

Recently on an authors' e-mail loop a discussion ran about marketing our novels--what the publishers should do and what an author should do. Brad Whittington, author of the Fred book series, wrote an interesting response to the question, "Why don't publishers market?" I absolutely loved Brad's coming-of-age series set in Fred, Texas. And I've always found Brad to be a witty and insightful guy. He didn't let me down with his answer to this particular question (which I agree with, by the way).

When the Fred books came out, I was puzzled by the lack of marketing. I pestered my publisher and made a nuisance of myself for a few years. I'm surprised they still talk to me. They're good folks.

As a product marketing manager in the hardware manufacturing sector, I couldn't figure out why they would spend money to produce a product and then do only marginal marketing.

But by the time the last Fred book came out, I finally figured it out. And I'll pass this info on to you for free! ;-)

Like investing, publishing is about risk tolerance. A risk-averse investor wants a diversified portfolio. You put the bulk of your money behind the solid performers, blue chip stocks and such. But you also put some money in with a handful of more volatile stocks. If one of those minor investments suddenly takes off, you back it. But you don't try to make it take off. In fact, you can't make it take off. You can't make lightning strike, you just take advantage of it when it does.

Same with book marketing budgets. Publishers are risk averse because they have dozens or hundreds of employees who depend on them to pay their mortgages. They can't afford to funnel money into an under performing or moderately performing book in a gamble that they can get it to the tipping point. Because most of the time, money alone isn't enough to do the trick. So they back the solid performers that have a much higher probability of delivering a return on the investment.

I've talked to a few publicists through the years and observed the industry and I've come to the conclusion that there are well-known guidelines for marketing non-fiction, but nobody knows how to market fiction.

If there is the chance of some kind of target market tie in, you can try. For example, a detective book with a motorcycle-riding protagonist can be marketed to bikers. And maybe enough bikers read novels for that to work. Or maybe not. A novel about abuse can be marketed to support groups. But I don't think there's a way to target-market a coming of age novel with no particular demographic (dog lovers, bow hunters, whatever), or a literary novel like The Help.

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What Question Would You Ask?

Yesterday when I posted about the premier issue of FamilyFiction magazine, I had no idea I'd soon be asked to participate in the magazine's "Ask the Author" feature for next month. Now I hear FamilyFiction has posted this on their Facebook page:

What question would YOU ask Brandilyn Collins? Post your question BELOW -- if we pick it, she'll answer it in the pages of FamilyFiction digital magazine!

So, F&F readers--got an insightful, thought-provoking, burning question you'd love to ask me? Post it here. (It's okay to leave it in a comment on this blog if you like, but please also post it at the above link I gave you. That's where FamilyFiction will look when it chooses its five questions.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Family Fiction Magazine's Debut

Take a look at this debut issue of Family Fiction, which will be released every other month. The magazine does a great job of highlighting all genres of Christian fiction, including reviews, an author highlight and news about upcoming releases in each genre.

Go this this main page to sign up to receive the FamilyFiction email newsletter and site updates.

Oh, and don't miss the Thriller Four's pic on page 26. (They actually got a picture when we were all behaving.)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Comparison of Bestseller Lists for September 2010

Here is the comparison of CBA's "November" list and ECPA's "October" list, both reflecting sales of fiction in participating Christian bookstores in the month of September. (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.

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

1. (4) The Thorn, Beverly Lewis, Bethany House/Baker 
2. (15) Lydia's Charm, Wanda E. Brunstetter, Barbour
3 (16) Her Daughter's Dream, Francine Rivers, Tyndale
4. (32) Take Four, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
5. (39) The Shack, William P. Young, Windblown Media
6. (44) Her Mother's Hope, Francine Rivers, Tyndale 
7. (48) Immanuel's Veins, Ted Dekker, Thomas Nelson
8.  Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers, Waterbrook/Multnomah
9.  A Lineage of Grace, Francine Rivers, Tyndale 
10. Within My Heart, Tamera Alexander, Bethany/Baker 
11. The Bridge of Peace, Cindy Woodsmall, Waterbrook/Multnomah
12. The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis, HarperCollins
13. Predator, Terri Blackstock, Zondervan 
14. In Every Heartbeat, Kim Sawyer, Bethany/Baker
15. Take Three, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan 
16. Gathering Storm, Bodie and Brock Thoene, Summerside Press 
17. More Than Words, Judith Miller, BethanyBaker
18. A Hand to Hold, Kathleen Fuller, Thomas Nelson 
19. The Telling, Beverly Lewis, Bethany/Baker
20. Take Two, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan

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

1. (4) The Thorn, Beverly Lewis, Bethany/Baker
2. (8) Her Daughter's Dream, Francine Rivers, Tyndale
3. (27) Predator, Terri Blackstock, Zondervan
4. (29) Lydia’s Charm, Wanda Brunstetter, Barbour
5. (32) Take Four, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
6. (33) Her Mother’s Hope, Francine Rivers, Tyndale
7. (35) The Shack, William P. Young, Windblown Media
8. (41) Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers, Multnomah/WaterBrook
9. (47) Immanuel's Veins, Ted Dekker, Thomas Nelson
10. A Lineage of Grace, Francine Rivers, Tyndale
11. Edge of Apocalypse, Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall, Zondervan
12. The Bridge of Peace, Cindy Woodsmall, WaterBrook
13. The Bishop, Steven James, Revell/Baker
14. Take Three, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
15. Twilight’s Serenade, Tracie Peterson, Bethany/Baker
16. The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis, Zondervan
17. The Telling, Beverly Lewis, Bethany/Baker
18. Shades of Blue, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
19. Embers of Love, Tracie Peterson, Bethany/Baker
20. Lightkeeper's Daughter, Colleen Coble, Thomas Nelson

Friday, October 08, 2010

Pantser Writing and NaNoWriMo

Recently on a published authors email loop, the subject of an upcoming NaNoWriMo and writing "seat-of-the-pants" came up. An author who's more used to outlining wondered if pure pantster writing could be accomplished when one isn't used to it. This author asked for others' opinions. What followed was an interesting discussion on techniques of writing.

You would surely recognize the names of these authors, but I have purposely left off all names and genres so I could retain permission to post the discussion here. I'm running the original email and answers in order that they were posted on the loop.

I turn in book 1 in a series on Oct. 15. I am thinking of writing book 2 as a NaNo, since NaNoWriMo is coming up in November. For those of you unfamiliar with it, that's an annual challenge to write a 50k word
novel in one month, November. You can go here for more info.

Now, I've never done a complete pantser novel. But I'd like to try. My theory is that structure is so wired into me now I'll be able to do pretty much what I need to do. And second, I've always said that a fast, panster first draft is usually a "super outline" for the book that is to come. IOW, there will be a lot of editing, etc., but you will have "discovered" the book you are to write this way.

Now, outline people (OPs) do this before they write, in a more structured way, which is fine. Whatever works. I'm sort of a 'tweener. I've never done a complete pantser draft, but the timing seems right
and I thought, what the hey?

So to you pure pantsers out there (and you know who you are.) How much do you know before you start to write? Have you done any character work? Do you have numerous scene images in mind? Or do you
just fly completely blind?

I'm more of a pantster with every book. I just hate to outline because it ruins the book for me. No fun of discovery. :( I often even change who the villain is. I start off with an inciting incident and that's about it now as long as that inciting incident is strong enough. I do a little character work but that often changes as the novel goes on. I THINK I know where I'm going to land but even that often changes.

Cut the ropes holding you down. Fly free! :)

I'm a complete pantster, and I have to admit there are times when I hate it. Usually two weeks after I've missed my deadline. But I don't miss my deadline because of the lack of outline. It is usually something physical small things like almost dying. I told my very understanding editor that I think deadlines make me sick.

So I usually know the beginning scene, the inciting incident, and the final scene. I identify my main characters with either actors in a particular role or with people I know. I don't have any scene images in my head barring the three I mentioned. If I get stuck, I lean back, close my eyes, and imagine I am watching my book as a movie. That almost always works.

I have oodles of teen friends and some adults who do the NaNoWriMo. Go for it. If it doesn't work, you've only lost a month.

I usually know the opening scene and my main characters. I often have already done my autobiographies of those two characters so that I know their history. I write first person stream of consciousness autobiographies from birth to the moment my story opens. This is when I let my imagination play. By knowing their history, I know their motivations and how they will react when surprises come along (and for a pantser, everything's a surprise ).

I start out with a Scripture verse and plan to write a story around that theme that is relevant to life in the twenty-first century. Then I blindly type a prologue. I honestly have no idea what's going to come out of me at this stage. This is actually the most fun part of writing a book for me. I might work on it for days until I'm pleased with it and have an idea where the story is going. Then I choose a setting, make up a cast of characters (this changes but it's a good start), and begin brainstorming until I have a pretty good storyline--at least one that would work. I work on a basic synopsis worthy of turning in to the publisher, but it ALWAYS changes. As I write the story (from start to finish, editing as I go), the characters develop and drive the story, and there are usually a number of twists and turns I had no idea about--and a deeper message than I started with. But when I'm finished, it's always a better story than what I presented to the publisher. I've done many novels this way and not had the publisher disappointed yet.

I will say that this is a much riskier (and sometimes stressful) approach than working from an outline I could actually follow. But I've tried sticking to an outline. I get to B and everything starts to change. It's truly a waste of time for me. I ENVY the OPs!

I'm pretty much a pantser. Just about the only thing I have before I start writing is the proposal that sold the idea. Usually a short blurb (synopsis that's more like a back cover idea) and the first three chapters (generally written off the cuff that need serious editing and all total are about 10 pages long.) Once the proposal sells, that's when I spend the time getting to know my characters a little more. I start with Randy Ingermanson's character sketch (thanks Randy), fill that out in detail, then go from there. I generally have an idea of the scene that I want to start the book with and that's about it. The scenes come as I write. It's kind of like transposing a movie that I'm watching in my head. And while it's fun to see where my characters take me, I wish I were more of a plotter. {Shrug} But I'm not and whatever I do seems to work for me. Being a pantser isn't the worst thing you can be.

"If Mr. Keats and myself are strolling in a meadow, lounging on a sofa or staring into a wall, do not presume we're not working. Doing nothing is the musing of the poet."

That quote from Bright Star applies perfectly to how I write as a pantser. I think I don't have ANYTHING done on my book, but once I finally sit down to actually write, I realize I've actually been getting to know my characters and even some of my plot while I do laundry, go for walks, and play Lineup on my iPhone. ; )

With my last few books, I have been trying to outline a few chapters ahead, and I can see the value in it, even though my story RARELY follows that outline. The value come in tricking me into thinking I have a compass pointing a certain direction (so I'm not facing a blank page). Once I start putting words on the page, walking the path my outline has told me to, I can veer off on any stinkin' trail I choose, but at least I don't feel like I'm lost in the middle of a forest with no way out when I first sit down to my computer each day.

As a pantser, I end up chucking hundreds if not thousands of words because a particular direction I took didn't work, but I don't think those words are any different than the words you outliners write in planning your story. I just accept backtracking and re-dos as part of the writing journey.

How about you? Ever purposely tried to change the way you write? I've given up trying. What ultimately works for me, works for me. Even if it gives me fits along the way.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

"Good Book, But Hard to Put Down."

It's been awhile since we checked in on Amazon reviews for my suspense novels. I get such a kick out of them. The 5-star raving ones are great, of course. But sometimes the low-star ones are quite entertaining. Some are just plain strange, some funny. And for a few--those who mention nothing specific about the story but say it's awful, awful, awful--I have to wonder if the person read the book at all.

The following are excerpts. You can read the full reviews on Amazon. The data in quotation marks after each title refer to total number of reviews and average of stars. Overall, my ratings are very good. But here I'm not excerpting the raving ones. What fun would that be? Let's look at some of the more ... unexpected reviews. By the way, all excerpts appear as is.

Violet Dawn (66 reviews, 4 1/2 stars)

short and sweet. was exciting from beginning. 4 stars. [Me here: Violet Dawn--sweet?]

I really enjoyed this book. It wasn't the best suspense book I've ever read, but it was good. 4 stars.

The cover looks like a bad romantic novel, but inside is a fast paced thriller. 5 stars

I downloaded the FREE copy of this and I couldn't get past the first 25 pages. Horrible writing. Beyond boring. I felt like I was reading a paper that some 14 year old wrote. Two stars because I like the purple cover. Even the title is stupid. 2 stars

Good book, but hard to put down. 4 stars [Huh?]

Crimson Eve (23 reviews, 5 stars)

Honestly, I don't know how the realtors market in Kanner Lake but you won't see me trying to buy a house up there. 5 stars

Web of Lies (45 reviews, 5 stars)

Four stars, but only because of the spiders. I HATE spiders.

Exposure (80 reviews, 4 stars)

Out. Standing. I Bought this book for $5 for this book! TOTTALLY WORHT IT! 5 stars

This one is NOT recommended for church libraries. 1 star

Dark Pursuit (84 reviews, 4 stars)

The writing itself isn't -bad- really, and the book was free so I did give it two stars.

This is probably one of the worst books I have ever read and I am an avid reader. Her writing is jumpy and fragmented. No lead in from sentence to sentence, absolutely no character development, or plot for that matter. I am seeing good reviews and cannot believe it!! 1 star

Deceit (23 reviews, 4 1/2 stars)

Please Brandilyn, give us back some of your older quality books and plots. This one dwelt too long on murder. 2 stars

Ah, me. Those readers can be tough on a novelist. 

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Birthday #54

Didn't somebody say a lady should never tell her age?


My mom's pushing 94, and she doesn't mind saying so. (Besides, she's earned the right.) So why should I mind saying I'm turning 54 today?

I do therefore set aside this F&F post as B.C. self-aggrandizement day. Now accepting all birthday wishes from friend and foe alike. Have a clever one? A limerick. Mixed metaphor? A crack one-liner? Okay, then a 900-word tome. For each one my heart shall fly on a sea of gladness.

Monday, October 04, 2010

New Christian Fiction Blog from Lifeway

Lifeway Christian Stores has just launched a blog dedicted to fiction. It will cover all genres, with new posts Monday through Friday. Here's what the site has to say:

We're excited about fiction at LifeWay Christian Stores — so excited that we've created this blog devoted entirely to these stories of faith, love, mystery, and more! Hosted by Rachel McRae, "A Novel Bookshelf: A LifeWay Fiction Community" offers you insights about what Rachel is reading, new releases, upcoming events, sales and specials, and so much more. If you're a fiction reader, you're going to love this site. So join us here in this new community, created just for you — our loyal customers and friends.

The Lifeway chain has over 160 stores in 28 states.

Check out A Novel Bookshelf: A Lifeway Fiction Community.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Lies, Money and Monsieur X

Today I'm pleased to host this guest post from fellow suspense author Rick AckerRick is a Deputy Attorney General in the California Department of Justice. His unit prosecutes corporate fraud lawsuits of the type described in his brand-new release, When the Devil Whistles. He has led confidential investigations into a number of large and sensitive cases that made headlines in and out of California. Rick holds law degrees from the University of Oslo and the University of Notre Dame, where he graduated with honors. In addition to his novels, he is a contributing author on two legal treatises published by the American Bar Association. Rick lives with his wife and four children in the San Francisco area.  

Take it away, Rick.
“Is that really true—or did you make it up for your book?”

I get some version of that question every time one of my suspense novels comes out: Is it really possible that there’s an Ebola-smallpox hybrid virus that could kill millions? Did berserkers really walk the forests of ancient Norway? Is there really a secret network of free-lance corporate spies who make millions uncovering fraud in government contracts?

Yes, yes and yes. I put as little fiction as possible into my novels. The truth is always better than anything I could make up.

My new book, When the Devil Whistles, is no exception. It takes place in the very real world of bounty-hunting whistleblowers who can make fortunes by catching corporations who get money by lying to the government.

Want a quick tour of that world? Keep reading.

It’s not always a safe or pleasant place to live, but it has its benefits. It’s inhabited by whistleblowers, their lawyers, and the hard-knuckled companies they sue. They’re all players in complex cat-and-mouse games in and out of the courtroom, and the stakes are high. If the whistleblower wins, the prize is a percentage of whatever the government recovers in a fraud prosecution—which can run to billions of dollars. If the whistleblower loses . . . well, we all know what happens when a mouse loses a game with a cat.

Allie Whitman, the whistleblower heroine of When the Devil Whistles, sues dirty companies under a real law. It’s called the False Claims Act, and it’s one of Congress’s most brilliant achievements (I know, that’s not saying much). Here’s how it works: Anyone who discovers that a company has lied to the government and gotten money as a result can file a lawsuit on behalf of the government. The company then has to pay triple what it stole, plus penalties of up to $10,000 for each lie. The whistleblower gets to keep between 15% and 50% of the proceeds of the lawsuit, plus attorney fees.

Whistleblowers usually want to keep their identities secret to avoid retaliation by the companies they sue. So, like Allie, they often form shell corporations to file suits on their behalf. As Allie discovers, sometimes that works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

Here’s a real life story from Allie’s world: The very first false claims case I worked on was brought by a Frenchman known only as “Monsieur X,” who used a shell company called RoNo to protect his identity. He sued one of the biggest, most politically-connected, and dirtiest banks in France, alleging that the bank had ripped off California taxpayers to the tune of $3 billion. Telling American authorities about wrongdoing by a French company is a crime in France (yes, really), so Monsieur X was one of the most wanted men in France.
Monsieur X was able to hide behind his shell company. For a while. Then someone broke into his lawyer’s office. His car was next. And then he began to suspect that his phone had been tapped. Finally, he took his family and fled the country.

But don’t feel too sorry for Monsieur X. He’s alive, free and living happily in Switzerland. And he collected a bounty of over $50 million when the case ended.

As for Allie, you’ll have to read When the Devil Whistles to find out what happened to her. :-)

When the Devil Whistles on Amazon, paperback ($10.11)
On the Kindle ($9.99)
Paperback on ($11.99)
Barnes and Nobel, paperback ($10.11)