Friday, April 28, 2006

Blour du Jour--Take 3

Happy Friday!

I hope some of you got more work done this week than I did. I’m supposed to be putting together a couple of ideas for new books after the Kanner Lake series for my next contract with Zondervan. Do you suppose I’ve come up with anything?


In my next life, I shall have ideas boinging from my ears.

In this life—I kick cabinets.

Formal Update #1: Would you believe it—The Photo Shoot didn’t work. We just weren’t happy with the pictures (we meaning I, agent and publisher). So—I get to do it again. Oh joy. This time, inside—studio shots. Hopefully with some interesting shadows, etc. The photographer is coming (a different one this time), make-up artist in tow, to our California house. At least I won’t have to deal with the wind.

I told my publisher I feel like I've flunked first grade and have to take it over.

I shall be very glad when this is behind me.

Formal Update #2: The cover for Coral Moon is in! Nice, with that touch of mystery. When it prints out on glossy photo paper, the greens really become vibrant. Another great cover from the Zondervan art director.

No, I will not tell you what happens in the cabin.

For a reminder of what the Violet Dawn cover looks like, here’s
a gander.

Coming Monday: Serious business, BGs. I have in my possession the one and only, absolutely exclusive photo from a well-known, notorious scandal. It will be revealed for the first time—nationally—right here at Forensics and Faith on Monday morning.

And now, for the last day of the Blour du Jour for Web of Lies:

New Today:

So Much Stuff I Can’t Recall:

Issues about character arcs and scene setting
Is Mike Snyder really all that smart?

CCM Magazine interview:

Musings from the Windowsill:

What I like best about being a writer
One of the dumbest things I’ve ever done (and it’s pretty dumb)

The Savvy Christian Writer:

My first response when my editor said I needed a blog
Do my stories give me nightmares?

Reading, Writing . . . and What Else is There?:

What my mother would like you to know about me

Refreshment in Refuge:

What I learned in writing Web of Lies.

A Christian Worldview of Fiction:

Why I am feeling the need to lie down . . .

Christianity 4 Life:

The basis of my calling

Reviews of Web of Lies:

Open Book:

Bonnie Writes:

Scraps of Me:

Mimi’s Pixie Corner:

The Curmudgeon’s Rant:

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Blour du Jour--Take 2

Before I forget--tomorrow I'll unveil a new cover. It's way cool. I'll also drop a hint as to what you'll find here on Monday. Ya won't wanna miss out on it, BGs, trust me.

Well, this blour du jour stuff is quite interesting. I hadn’t realized how it all works. The links help move a book up on the Technorati (Web search engine) list of most talked-about books. At time of this posting, Web of Lies was #6 on that list, just a few behind The DaVinci Code. Amazing! The links apparently are counted by number of blogs using this URL to Web of Lies on

The Technorati most talked-about book list can be found at:

This Christian Fiction Blog Tour idea was created by T.L. Hines, author of Waking Lazarus, which releases this summer (and is a great read!)

Here are links for today. Some of yesterday’s interviews have now gone into Part 2. Chris Mikesell’s Interview is new today (So Much Stuff I Can’t Recall). At some of the blogs you'll need to scroll down to yesterday's post. And there are some new links to reviews.

(Now who's gonna be first to tell Mike Snyder we're talkin' about him?)

1. So Much Stuff I Can’t Recall:

Issues about character arcs and scene setting
Is Mike Snyder really all that smart?

2. CCM Magazine interview:

3. Musings from the Windowsill:

What I like best about being a writer
One of the dumbest things I’ve ever done (and it’s pretty dumb)

4. The Savvy Christian Writer:

My first response when my editor said I needed a blog
Do my stories give me nightmares?

5. Reading, Writing . . . and What Else is There?:

What my mother would like you to know about me

6. Refreshment in Refuge:

What I learned in writing Web of Lies.

7. Part 2 on A Christian Worldview of Fiction:

Why I am feeling the need to lie down . . .

8. Part 2 on Christianity 4 Life:

The basis of my calling

Reviews of Web of Lies:

Bonnie Writes:

Scraps of Me:

Mimi’s Pixie Corner:

The Curmudgeon’s Rant:

Blour du Jour

Blour = blog tour. Kudos to Laura Domino for coming up with the cool phrase “Blour du Jour.”

And yup, the BdJ for Web of Lies runs today through Friday. Lemme tell you something about these things. They take a lot of time. I’ve spent hours answering other blogger’s questions. And they’ve asked some really interesting stuff. Very few questions overlapped. Good for the reader—you’ll learn something new. Time-consuming for me. But I’m so appreciative of these various bloggers who are giving of their space to my book, and I wanted to make each interview as interesting as possible.

Side note, before I give you some links. I’ve noticed a certain phenomenon regarding blog hopping. When I blog somewhere else—e.g., do an interview, or post on Charis—and ask you readers here to hop over to read my post for the day at that location, consistently only about 20% do so. (How do I know this? By tracking the “outclicks” in my site meter.) I chalk this up to numerous reasons: (1) Person is doing a quick scan of various blogs he/she reads daily, and doesn’t want to take the time to hop over to yet another one. (2) Quick scanner above figures he/she knows enough about me already, so why in the heck read another interview. (3) Same person figures he/she knows far too much about me and would just as soon forget some of it. (4) Same person figures I’m not all that interesting in the first place. (5) Person has already been to the “hop-over” blog before coming here, hoping to catch a second brilliant and witty post from me in the same day.

I like reason #5 best. I figure reasons 3 and 4 are most accurate.

So, for those of you of a mind to hop to another site (and do try to take in a couple, for the poor bloggers’ sake), here are a few. Some are running 3-part interviews today through Friday. Some are posting all of the interview today and will leave it up for a few days. Other than that, I have no idea what they’re saying about Web of Lies. They could be dissing it royally for all I know. Also there are myriad other sites who are supposed to be a part of this Blour du Jour (the writers requested a free book from me for that very purpose) who never asked me any questions at all. What does this mean? Did they hate the book? Are they just ignoring me and planning on making up my life history? No telling. I don’t even have all their URLs to check this out. My name could be total dog meat in cyberspace, and I’ll be none the wiser.

Why did I ever agree to this?

At any rate, I’ll be posting these interviewer sites tomorrow and Friday, too, so you can do a few a day, if you’re of the mind. I’ll also be posting Forensics and Faith updates, so do check back here tomorrow and Friday to see what else is afoot. Coming soon—a photo you won’t want to miss. And answers to some of the questions left in the comments during the past week.
Musings from the Windowsill:

A few hooks (Come on, you knew I’d have hooks, didn't ya?):

What I tell boys who want to date my daughter
One of the dumbest things I’ve ever done (and it’s pretty dumb)

The Savvy Christian Writer:

My first response when my editor said I needed a blog
Do my stories give me nightmares?

Reading, Writing . . . and What Else is There?:

What my mother would like you to know about me

Refreshment in Refuge:

What I learned in writing Web of Lies.

Part I on A Christian Worldview of Fiction:

When I lose myself in my own maze . . .

Part I on Christianity 4 Life:

Is that creepy guy with the spiders a part of my own personality?
Reviews of Web of Lies:

Bonnie Writes:
Mimi’s Pixie Corner:
Posting Thursday: So Much Stuff I Can’t Recall:

Issues about character arcs and scene setting
Is Mike Snyder really all that smart?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Unconventional God

First, a news update. Web of Lies missed the May bestseller list (reflecting sales in the month of March). No surprise—I’ve known for a couple weeks that it didn’t, thanks to its delay in posting online. I also discovered that the promotionals in bookstores that I thought could keep it on the list did not start until near the end of March, going until mid-April. Which means maybe it’ll have a better chance of hitting next month’s list, which reflects sales in April. Then again, one of the big chains doing a promo is Family Christian, which no longer sends sales data to STATS-- which creates the bestseller list. Sigh. Besides that, these lists can be notoriously fickle, as you can see.

’Tis a convoluted publishing world out there.

However, my biggest Snoopy dance for my pal Tamera Alexander, whose debut novel,
Rekindled, made the list! Many, many congrats, Tammy! It’s every novelists dream to make the bestseller list on the very first book.

Second, thanks to those of you who left comments for the anonymous BG whose letter I used in yesterday’s post. This person wants you to know how much your comments are appreciated.

For today, I give you—again with permission—another letter from an anonymous BG. (I will call this person ABG to avoid the pronoun issues.) This is someone else who could really use your encouraging comments and prayers. I find this letter, as with the one from yesterday, very humbling. God seems to be saying, “Hey you, cabinet-kicking novelist! So what if writing’s hard for you, so what if you’ve got a long way to go in this craft? I’m big enough to use your writing anyway!”

ABG, to put it mildly, has had some serious struggles in life due to a highly abusive childhood. Knowing this, I had advised ABG to not read my books. I feared that the violence level in them was something that could hit too close to home. To my amazement (and God’s mercy), ABG is devouring my suspense novels, with God speaking through each one. It helps, certainly, that this person is a dedicated Christian, open to all that God would want to say. ABG just received one of the Violet Dawn ARCS and read the first chapter right away. Excerpts from ABG’s letter:

[Note—Psalms 68:6 is the verse for Violet Dawn: "God makes a home for the lonely."]
Wow, Brandilyn, God’s timing of reading Violet Dawn is uncanny. I just finished Jesus poking my heart through Stain of Guilt when I got back home to find your book waiting for me.

Jesus doesn't dink around does He! Psalm 68:6 pierced my heart to the core so much, I fell into the chair. Forget sitting. A whisper of air left my lungs on the way down. "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Heb 4:12.)

"Lord, could my heart please have a day off or something? I haven't even unpacked."

And what does He do? He makes me turn the pages until I reach page 14: "Surrounded by people who belonged." ????? Where's the stupid Kleenex box?

I've lived [here] since last July. Often with a wondering ache, 'where do I belong?'

"LORD, am I gonna get through this book in one piece? Or a million teeny tiny pieces?"

Well, this ought to be an interesting read. I don't think you have to worry about the violence, Brandilyn. There's stuff deeper in a heart longing to "belong" that takes me past any violence that comes up in your book. Violence and violations sometimes unearth people like us. (The "us" being Paige and me.) Gee, too bad Paige is just a character in your head. I'd like to meet her.

I've only read the first chapter but my heart senses things are going to hit home in unconventional ways.

I’m amazed that I should receive such a letter about Violet Dawn from just the few first pages. But then, God's often surprising, isn't He? This story has far less overt Christian content than my other suspenses. As I’ve noted before, the level of such content is dictated by the story, and this suspense plot just didn’t lead to as much (mostly because everything except the resolution takes place in about 14 hours).

As ABG notes, our God can be quite unconventional.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Never-Ending Saga Lives On

Happy Monday, BGs. (What happened to the weekend?)

Thanks for the comments and ideas for topics left on Friday's post. I'll be looking into those topics to see what I can come up with. Now, an update. The Scenes and Beans Gang (SBGs for short, naturally) is now complete. All ARCS of Violet Dawn are gone. Today I’ll post an update on the Scenes and Beans blog that says so, in order to stop the flow of e-mails from people wanting to audition. ARCS went out last week to most of the auditioners.

Sunday I received an e-mail from one gal who’d already received the ARC and read the whole book! Now that’s fast. Here’s what she had to say about the first chapter:

I once read a book by Mary Higgins Clark called Daddy’s Little Girl. One scene in that book was so honest-to-goodness scary it had my skin vibrating. I experienced that same sensation this afternoon while reading your hot tub scene. That is by far your most realistic and creepy EVER! Never again shall I set foot in a hot tub without checking it first!

Sorry, folks, if Violet Dawn takes your hot tub away from you. I mean, it's one thing to cast aspersions on spiders. But hot tubs? Maybe I should pull out the ol’ Jaws line: Just when you thought you could go back in the water . . . heh-heh

Over the weekend I received a letter from a new BG (stands for bloggee, or blog reader, for you newbies) that did my heart good. I am using it with the person’s permission, having taken out all pertinent names.
I just finished reading your NES. [Never-Ending Saga—the story, titled “How I Got Here,” of my journey to publication in fiction, found on this blog.] Your story has really ministered to me this week.

I've talked with you a couple of times at Mt. Hermon, this year included, and I enjoy your books. I've had a couple of "close encounters" with pub boards, the latest of which came this week. [Recently] I was thrilled to get an email from [an editor] saying my suspense novel would be taken to committee on Wednesday April 19. But I'd been disappointed before so I was trying not to get my hopes up.


Wednesday came and nearly went, and when I didn't get an email from [the editor] I had a feeling the news was not going to be happy. When instead I got an email from [my agent] with the word "drat" in the subject line—well that said it all. It seemed my story was too disturbing. [The editor] was disappointed, [my agent] was disappointed, I was certainly disappointed, but the answer was still no.

Having gone through this same type of thing two years before with a manuscript that [another editor] took to committee, and having seen my first contracted book go unpublished a year before that when the company filed bankruptcy, I was beginning to feel that maybe God hadn't called me to be a writer of Christian fiction even though it's been my passion for two decades. I was feeling pretty down when a good friend and fellow writer sent me a link to your blog, saying I should read your "How I got here" never-ending saga.

It was not an accident that she came across it, and not an accident that she sent it. And all I can say after reading it is, "Please God, please God, please God, NOT THAT!" Ha.

But I've been encouraged by your story. And the thing I came away with tonight is that I'm not going to buy into Satan's lies anymore. God has called me to write. I write for Him and the results are in His hands. So thank you for sharing.
I am so encouraged to received e-mails like this one. We serve an efficient God. He can use one person’s difficulties to reach many people. That's why we should tell others about our struggles whenever it's appropriate. Never know who may be helped along the way. Long live the NES!

Friday, April 21, 2006

A Psalm of Praise

Happy Friday, BGs.

Lots of fun comments yesterday. Congrats again to you Genesis winners who logged in. And I really thank you for the encouraging things you said to me. They were well timed—on a day when I needed to hear ’em.

However, not one of you gave me a single topic idea. Sheesh. Is everybody brain dead out there? I thought it was just me.

Anybody else have less than a stellar day yesterday? On such days, my stubborn human nature would have me wallow in the difficulties. Then after plaguing myself for a time, I’ll think—Wait a minute. Why am I not talking to God about this? Then I’ll wonder what’s wrong with me. Praying should be my very first response.

“Jesus, I’m upset about this. Help.”

And then—I’ll do what He’s taught me to do out of sheer will. Doesn’t matter if I feel like it or not. Grab the Bible and pray a praise psalm. Because He is Lord, whether I’m down or not. Besides, a temporary down—what’s that, in light of eternity? Here’s the Psalm I prayed yesterday--#145. In the BPV—Brandilyn’s Prayer Version (taken from the New American Standard). When you’re down, pull it out. Let God lift your spirit through it.

I will extol You, my God, O King,
And I will bless Your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless You,
And I will praise Your name forever and ever.
Great are you, Lord, and highly to be praised.
Your greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall praise Your works to another,
And will declare Your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of Your majesty,
And on Your wonderful works, I will meditate.
And men will speak of the power of Your awesome acts.
I will tell of Your greatness.
I will eagerly utter the memory of Your abundant goodness,
And shout joyfully of Your righteousness.

You are gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness.
You are good to all,
And your mercies are over all Your works.
I will give thanks to You, O Lord,
I and all Your godly ones will bless You.
I will speak of the glory of Your kingdom
And talk of Your power,
To make known to others Your mighty acts,
And the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.

You sustain me when I fall,
And raise me up when I'm bowed down.
I will look to You,
Knowing that You give me my food in due time.
You open Your hand,
And satisfy all my desires.

You, Lord, are righteous in all Your ways,
And kind in all Your deeds.
You are near to me because I call upon You.
I call upon You in truth.
You will fulfill my desires, because I fear You.
You will hear my cries and save me.
You keep me because I love You,
But the wicked You will destroy.
I will speak Your praises, Lord.
I will bless Your holy name forever and ever.

Amen and amen!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Sundry Items

First, the Scenes and Beans blog update. ARCs of Violet Dawn have gone more quickly than I expected. I now have only 7 left. I’d planned to send an announcement to ACFW today, but nixed that idea when I saw how few ARCs remain. With the hundreds of people on ACFW, I’d be inundated with requests for so few slots. So I’m asking you BGs to e-mail writer friends of yours whom you think would be interested. (Why they’re not reading this blog is another matter you might want to take up with them.) Who might enjoy this project and need the extra publicity for their own sites? Send ’em here to read Monday’s post and e-mail me in a hurry. Seven ARCs aren’t gonna last long.

Second, major congrats to those BGs who have finaled in
ACFW’s Genesis contest! I know there are numerous of you, and I don’t want to leave any name out—so if you’re a finalist, please speak up and tell us so, and in what category. We applaud you! For those of you not familiar with this new contest for unpublished novelists, it’s a biggie. The top five scorers’ entries go to pub board at Warner Faith for consideration.

Third--Web of Lies goes on blog tour next week, so I hear. I don't know much about these things, so as I hear more, I'll give you links. So far I've done two e-mail interviews. Interesting that they asked totally different questions--not one repeated.

I'm thinkin' with these new blog tour thingies, we need to coin another word. About that time, I'd say. It's been a whole month or so since we came up with "deadling" for deadline. At any rate, I say a blog tour should be called a "blour." Whadya think?

Fourth—what next, BGs? Do you have a topic you’d like to cover? We’ve gone from marketing plans to bumping off chick-lit authors to Zondervan’s new audio Bible to PW statistics and more—and that’s just since the beginning of this month. Ya can’t say we ain’t eclectic. So speak up if you’ve got a burning topic.

Finally--Gonna miss ya, Ace. Sigh.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Industry News--Part 2

In more news:

From RT BookClub Magazine: A new African-American fiction line. Urban Books is launching a line of Christian titles called Urban Christian. The house, now actively seeking authors, says, “Through this divine journey of moving stories, Urban Christian is the voice that will take the Urban Books readers to another level, the spiritual side of the craft.” The line is expected to launch this fall.

From Christian Retailing: WestBow Press goes mass market paperback. In offering some of its top titles in this size, WestBow joins Tyndale and Barbour in trying out mass markets. (I don’t think it has worked well for either house. I seem to remember that Multnomah tried this before, also. But the market is different today, so let’s hope it goes better for WestBow.)

The mass markets are priced at $7.99. WestBow releases about 40% of its titles in hardcover, from $19.99 to $25.99. Because of this, the mass market price should be extra appealing to WestBow readers. The plan is to place original hardcovers (and some original trade size) into mass market size about one year after release. This size will not replace WestBow’s current trade paper novels. The first six novels to go to this new format are The Visitation (Peretti), Three (Dekker), A Time to Dance (Kingsbury), Wrapped in Rain (Martin), What a Girl Wants (Billerbeck), and The Lazarus Trap (Bunn).

In December, Monster (Peretti), Comes a Horseman (Liparulo), Showdown (Dekker), Jimmy (Whitlow), A Time to Embrace (Kingsbury), and The Dead Don’t Dance (Martin) will also release in mass size.

Allen Arnold, WestBow’s senior V.P. and publisher, says he hopes that retailers will offer both trade and mass sizes of a title.

If this works well for WestBow, it’ll be interesting to see whether other publishers follow suit.

From Christian Retailing: An interesting feature article on the “cultural trendsetter” C28 chain of Christian stores. Aurelio Barreto III, a businessman who founded C28 in 2000, doesn’t call them stores. He calls them “lifestyle centers.” Currently C28 encompasses six centers in Southern California, with more planned for across the country.

According to their website, "C28 is a Christian retail store chain, offering an alternative to the mainstream mall stores. The Christian clothing, music, jewelry and accessories reflect a clean and positive Christian lifestyle. C28 stands for Colossians 2:8, Not Of This World (NOTW), and all about Jesus! C28 donates a certain percentage of all purchases to youth ministries. The mission at C28 is to share the life changing gospel message of grace, truth and love of Jesus. So far, 5262 people have come to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior since opening 4 years ago. All praise goes to God!"

“We are still learning and developing, and our customers are helping us define who we are,” Baretto said. “For example, our stores are packed on Friday nights with teenagers just wanting somewhere good to hang out.” So they’re looking to expand their centers to 4,000, giving room for a coffee lounge.

C28 centers are in malls, “in the heart of the contemporary retail scene.” Products are aimed at Christians, but many unbelievers enter the store, not even knowing at first what the store’s all about. “When they realize we’re Christian,” says Barreto, “they say, ‘You aren’t like other Christian stores we know. They’re old fashioned.’”

C28 centers are “true to Who they believe in.” They develop many of their own products. They carry only a couple different kinds of Bible versions, and few books. The look is youth-oriented, but all ages visit the store. One older visitor said, “I don’t get it, but I like it!”

The store are “places of ministry.” The staff are “bold, in-your-face believers who want to share their faith.” They know that talking about Jesus is “part of the job.” Job applications even ask what experience a person has in praying with people, because that’s going to be expected of them. “We are looking for radicals,” says Barreto. “Many of our frontliners have piercings. Some have tattoos. But it’s not those things that make them radical, it’s their attitudes, their hearts. They are not in retail, they are relating.”

Barreto adds that he “had no idea what spiritual warfare was until [he] got into the Christian retail industry.” From problems with leases to personnel issues, he’s had to rely on God for answers. "Stores have been the target of Wiccans and others opposed to Christianity who have tried to curse our efforts.”

Barretto received CBA’s Innovations in Christian Retailing Award last year for his C28 stores.

C28 stores are found in Riverside, Temecula, Santa Ana, Escondido, El Cajon, and Palm Desert. Any of you Southern Californian BGs been in one? Visit their website at:

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Industry News--Part 1

Had a good response to yesterday’s post, with quite a few folks requesting Violet Dawn ARCs. The number’s right about what I expected. I still have some ARCs left. We’ll let it sit one more day for any more BGs to chime in, then I’ll announce it on the ACFW loop tomorrow. So if you’re interested and haven’t sent out the e-mail, better jump on it today.

Interesting addendum to this Kanner Lake marketing idea of mine. I thought this up way last year—in time to write something about the blogging into the story of Violet Dawn. At the time I’d never heard of a character blog and believed my idea would be the absolute first. In the interim between thunk-up and announcing, I began to hear little bits about character blogs—I guess mostly for TV. (I don’t watch any TV dramas, so what do I know?) I am highly offended that anybody would steal my idea before I could even go public. Not a doubt in my mind, however, that anybody else’s lame attempts could hold half a shine to Scenes and Beans. After all, S&B’s gonna be written by you.

Now, in no particular order over the next couple of days, some interesting industry news.

From the weekend edition of USA Today—Hollywood Turns to Divine Inspiration.

According to the cover article, studios, inspired by such hits as The Passion of the Christ and Chronicles of Narnia, are looking to produce more “religious-based stories” and are marketing them particularly to the church-going crowd. Producers are pitching to ministers. One studio has created a “faith division” for marketing. Not until the success of Passion did the studios see the light. Twentieth Century Fox even has a new division—Fox Faith. The studio markets DVDs and feature films to pastors nationwide, and offers churches movie trailers, posters and even Bible study guides for home videos such as Hangman’s Curse.

Producer Reuben Cannon “discovered the power of the divine at the box office” when he attended the annual "Woman, Thou Art Loosed" conference. He was astounded to see 60,000 women come each day for the three-day convention. “Rock stars don’t draw . . . that kind of audience,” he said. Cannon ended up producing the film adaptation of T.D. Jakes’ novel, Loosed. He built momentum for this and other films through pitching ministers and private screenings for church members. This is “why people are paying a lot more attention to the mega-pastors,” Cannon said. “When you’ve got thousands of people who listen to you every week . . . you’ve got a powerful voice.”

Director James March said, “Instead of mocking religious people or portraying them as hypocrites, you’re seeing a more straight-up examination of how hard it is to be righteous.”

The article mentions The DaVinci Code movie numerous times, as if it’s part of the faith-based film crowd. Hm. The article adds that Sony Pictures, already bracing for possible backlash over DaVinci, has set up a website, that “essentially distances Sony from the film’s message by presenting counterarguments to the drama. The site features essays by religious scholars about the historical beginning of Christianity and invites readers to chime in.”

Overall, I’m delighted with this new trend. First came the highly successful Christian music market, then fiction, now movies. Terrific! But how do you feel about this “powerful voice” of the “mega-pastors?” Will marketing to churches create a similar kind of gatekeeper we find in the more conservative CBA book buyers? Will churches back a movie that’s relatively Christian, but not totally theologically sound, or without an overt message? Where do you see this all going?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Kanner Lake Marketing Project

Dear BGs (for you newcomers, that stands for bloggees, or blog readers):

As many of you know, my Kanner Lake suspense series launches in August with Violet Dawn. This series is a departure from my current Hidden Faces series, injecting elements of my Seatbelt Suspense into a small-town community with eclectic and colorful characters. Each of the three books will feature a different protagonist from within this group.

The Story Behind the Story

Kanner Lake is a fictional town, population 1700, around a fictional lake of the same name, in the panhandle of Idaho--a pristine area of mountains, lakes and forest. A friendly town, a great place for community. Tourists stay in the B&Bs around the lake, coming for snow sports in the winter and water sports in the summer. The first few blocks of Main Street host numerous shops, patronized by locals and tourists alike. The fave hangout is Java Joint, run by Bailey Truitt.

Some interesting folks hang out at Java Joint. There’s Ted Dawson, known as S-Man, aspiring science fiction writer who’s so buried in his world of Sauria that the cafĂ© could practically burn down around him and he wouldn’t realize it. S-Man looks like Stephen King in his early thirties. Wilbur Hucks, seventy-seven-year-old town curmudgeon, is mighty proud of his lengthy scar from recent heart surgery—and insists on showing it off to everybody. Good ol’ boy Hank Detcher is pastor of New Community Church. Carla Radling, a savvy realtor in her late twenties, is forever arguing with Wilbur. Retired Jake Tremaine, buggy-eyed and big-eared, loves to gossip. Leslie Brymes, twenty-year-old newspaper reporter is gunning to go TV national—and ain’t nothin’ gonna stop her. And of course there’s mother hen Bailey, Java Joint owner in her fifties.

In June of 2006, young newcomer Paige Williams quietly slips into town, looking to build a new life.

Bailey’s wonderful husband is unable to work due to health reasons. And she desperately needs more business at Java Joint to pay the bills. In early July she hits on an idea to draw more tourists to her beloved Kanner Lake and thereby increase her business. She sets up a blog, Scenes and Beans: Life in Kanner Lake, Idaho, brought to you by Java Joint coffee shop on Main. Bailey enlists the help of her Java Joint regulars and other town denizens to write entertaining posts about their lives. The first post, written by Bailey, goes up Wednesday, July 5.

Then, on July 22, tragedy strikes.

Back cover copy to Violet Dawn:
Something sinuous brushed against Paige’s knee. She jerked her leg away.

What was that?

She rose to a sitting position, groped around with her left hand. Fine wisps wound themselves around her fingers.


She yanked backward, but the tendrils clung. Something solid bumped her wrist.

Paige gasped. With one frantic motion she shook her arm free, grabbed the side of the hot tub, and heaved herself out . . .

Paige Williams slips into her hot tub in the blackness of night—and finds herself face to face with death.

Alone, terrified, fleeing a dark past, Paige must make an unthinkable choice.

In Violent Dawn, hurtling events and richly drawn characters collide in a breathless story of murder, revenge and the need to belong. One woman’s secrets unleash an entire town’s pursuit, and the truth proves as elusive as the killer in their midst.

Suddenly Kanner Lake becomes national news, all right, but hardly in the way Bailey had hoped. People across the country, fascinated with the Kanner Lake trauma, become avid readers of Java Joint’s Scenes and Beans. Bailey is more than a little upset about the negative publicity. She doesn’t want the blog to become a lurid reporting place for insider news on the crime. She lays down the law to all her friends who write posts—they’re not allowed to comment on any of the crime events in Kanner Lake, other than obliquely. “Life in Kanner Lake goes on,” she tells them. “Write about your own experiences.”

And so they continue to write their posts, in real time according to events in the three books of the Kanner Lake series. These posts, while they may vaguely mention the triple traumas that eventually hit the town, major on the bloggers’ own escapades—whether recent or in childhood. In no way do they give away any of the plot points within Violet Dawn or the next two books in the series.

Of course, much of the above backstory does not appear in Violet Dawn. That story is far too busy with . . . other things. Some of it will become clear, however, through the Scenes and Beans blog.

Your Part and Perks

The Scenes and Beans posts will be written by readers of the Kanner Lake series (with final editing done by me). Posts will be fun, creative, highly entertaining. In the beginning, ten or eleven characters will trade off writing Monday through Friday, meaning each will post about twice a month. The blog will look completely real. It will have a link to the Kanner Lake Web site, which will feature information on the suspense series and blog.

To launch this real-time “play,” I’m looking for actors who are willing to commit to writing no more than two posts a month for a particular character from July to December of this year. After that time, the blog will open up to readers of Violet Dawn and subsequent books in the series, and any reader can submit a post for possible use on the site.

Zondervan is providing 50 galleys of Violet Dawn to be sent to those who’d like to audition for a character role by submitting a post. These galleys are now ready, which means those 50 who audition will get a three- to four-month-early read of Violet Dawn. Those who land a role will also receive:

1. a cobalt blue coffee mug with the Java Joint logo
2. two signed copies of Violet Dawn when it releases
3. credit for the role on the Kanner Lake Web site, with a link to their own Web site or blog

Auditioning posts will be judged on creativity and entertainment factors. It’s possible that a character role could be awarded to more than one auditioner, which would mean less posts for those actors to write. However, the perks mentioned above would remain the same.

Zondervan is highly committed to nationally publicizing the Kanner Lake series. They have hired an outside publicist for Violet Dawn. (One of the possibilities the publicist and I have discussed is a catered, invitation-only launch party in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho in late August.) Much of the media attention for Violet Dawn will center around the “real-time” Scenes and Beans blog. The more that publicity drives people to read the blog, the more those “actors” involved will benefit by having their names and personal sites listed as participants on the linked Kanner Lake Web site. So--want your name and Web site/blog noticed by new people? Write some dynamite posts for Scenes and Beans that get folks talking.

The Scenes and Beans blog will continue through publication of all three books in the Kanner Lake series.

Scenes and Beans is now up with a temporary look until it goes live. (Once the Kanner Lake Web site is professionally designed and launched, Scenes and Beans will have a similar appearance.) You will see the Java Joint logo at the site now—that much will stay. If you’re interested in auditioning, please go to
Scenes and Beans to see additional information and the steps involved. Step one, of course, is reading Violet Dawn to get a feel for the characters. I promised you BGs first chance at participation in this idea. That means you’ll be the first to request the 50 galleys for auditions. After a few days I will open up auditions to others if there are any remaining galleys.

Wanna step into the Kanner Lake experience? See you over at
Scenes and Beans.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Two Common Writing Weaknesses

A few things before we get to our topic for today.

Congrats to Jennifer, who nailed all eight titles plus the “Christian meeting place” yesterday. Dee, you were very close—basically got the books, just forgot to mention the meeting place. I say you both deserve a free book from me. E-mail me with your request, okay?

In other news--yesterday was The Photo Shoot. Took a hike on the Tubbs Hill trail in Coeur d’Alene to get some head shots and full body shots of me by the water and boulders and brambles, etc. ’Twas rather breezy, to say the least. Not good. Some lucky gals get that sexy mussed up appearance. I look like I’ve been dragged through a wind tunnel. Next week I’ll view the results. Oh, boy.

Finally—don’t forget to check back here Monday for the announcement of my marketing plan for the Kanner Lake series. Spaces will be limited for reader participation, so it’ll be first come, first served.

Okay. Yesterday I mentioned that in critiquing manuscript after manuscript at the Mount Hermon Writers’ Conference, I saw two areas of weakness crop up just about every time. Those two issues are (1) not starting the story fast enough, and (2) waaaay too many words (lack of tight writing).

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’re now saying, sheesh, tell me something new. True, you’ve heard of these issues before. Problem is, it’s one thing to talk about them and study how to overcome them; it’s another to spot them in our own manuscripts.

1. Too slow a start. Yes, I’m a suspense writer, admittedly writing for readers with little patience. Suspense readers tend to want the story to start on page zero. I realize that some genres can allow themselves a first page without a dead body. But you still need to get to your story quickly—whatever that story is. For new novelists, the safest bet is to put the inciting incident in the first chapter, with a strong hook at the end of that chapter. Yes, inciting incidents can sometimes be delayed, but that’s a tricky business. That “delay” has to be compelling in itself. For many new novelists, that delay ends up being mere set-up—explanation of the characters, the motivation, the setting, etc.

We have discussed how to handle backstory on this blog before (check the archives at left) so no need to revisit it all here. Just remember the basics. Questions keep the reader turning pages. Therefore, don’t fill in all the information up front. The best backstory imparts a bit of information and raises another question.

It’s particularly tempting to try to get away with lots of set-up when you’re writing in first person, especially first person with attitude. After all, the appeal of a strong first person voice is the voice itself. But don’t weaken that strength by having the character tell page after page of set-up. That strength will shine even more (hah! a new mixed metaphor) when the voice and attitude are revealed through action.

What is the inciting incident to your story? Is it in the first chapter? (A “yes” answer doesn’t count if you’ve added a prologue with a bunch of backstory.) If it is in the first chapter, do you take pages building up to it? Does your first chapter have a strong hook to compel the reader to turn to chapter two?

2. Too many words. This is something all novelists face. Really, the only way I know to learn tight writing is just to keep writing. It takes a number of years at the craft to be able to see this weakness. It’s particularly hard to see in our own writing. Even when someone sits down and edits to show us tighter writing, we’re likely to think, “Oh, no, I gotta have that line!” Well, if it’s a telling line, you probably don’t.

I also saw way too many words in the necessary sentences. Good information/characterization/whatever in the sentence, but 50% more words than necessary to convey it. The goal is that every word in your sentence should count.

Ask yourself: (A) What is the essence of this sentence? What information must I convey? (B) What is the aura/tone I want to convey? Then play a game—find the shortest number of words to convey A and B. Too many words bog down the sentence. It’s like asking the reader to wade through mud to get to the meaning.

Check the archives for our Action Scene Edit last June for more discussion on tight writing. That scene was edited for five or so different issues, tight writing/sentence rhythm being two of them.

And that’s enough for one day. (Another long post, huh, Becky.)

Have a blessed Easter, BGs.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Real Mount Hermon Report

Thanks to all of you who read and commented on the Mount Hermon debacle. I feel your support. Goodness knows I needed it after such high trauma.

In yesterday’s conclusion I managed to weave in titles/references to eight CBA novels. Anybody catch ’em all? (Hint—one is just being written—but is so good it will be contracted before summer, I prognosticate. Another is contracted but not on shelves yet.) In addition to these books, there’s also a reference to a CBA gathering place. First person to tell me all these eight titles, and the place gets . . . a free book.
Hey, I’m feelin’ magnanimous.

In real Mount Hermon news—
Susan Meissner won Writer of the Year! The grand Meissner is writing about two books a year for Harvest House, and her writing has been heralded as “lyrical” by Booklist. Her latest is titled In All Deep Places.

I hope other published novelists in attendance at MH will tell about their experience in the career track. I was sorry to miss that track—heard it was wonderful.

I spent my mornings with ten folks in a fiction mentoring clinic. Randy I. and Gayle Roper did the same. These clinics are a great way to go for receiving a good critique for your synopsis and first 20 pages of your manuscript—not only from the teacher but from everyone else in the class. All participants receive the submissions ahead of the conference and agree to read everyone else’s stuff and comment. It’s a good learning experience, with fiction techniques/concepts being taught as they’re needed for use in the stories.

I also served on the critique team. One of the things that Mount Hermon provides is an hour and a half session every day when all critique team members are available in one large room for folks to meet with--first come, first served. The meetings run about 15 minutes. Critique team members also receive manuscript submissions to review as soon as they arrive at the conference. For the first couple days, all our spare time is spent critiquing these manuscripts. So all in all, between the critique team and my own mentoring clinic, I saw a lot of submissions. In practically every manuscript I saw, two issues arose again and again. I’ll talk about those tomorrow.

Then—on Monday I will be announcing the aspect of the marketing plan for Violet Dawn that calls for volunteers’ participation. Only 50 people will be chosen nationwide to launch the project. (Perks included for them, of course.) I promised to give you BGs first chance at enlisting yourselves if you’re game. So here’s fair warning to not miss Monday’s post.

Okay—now who can name those hidden references from yesterday?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Serial Killer at Mount Hermon--Part 3

As the nation mourns the loss of chick-lit authors Kristin Billerbeck, Meredith Efken, Camy Tang, and Sharon Hinck, the Mount Hermon conference grounds lie silent this morning. Such was not the scene yesterday morning . . .

As conferees fled for their lives, only the seventy-member writers’ conference faculty remained. Inspector Ingermanson and his trusty sidekick, Rich Bullock, prowled the grounds, questioning agents and editors. Trying to piece together the quadruple murder puzzle.

“I didn’t do it!” Chip MacGregor smacked a Band-Aid on his cheek. “I swear this is just a paper cut! Some wannabe James Frey went off when I questioned some of the details in his memoir, My Life Among Mohican Aliens and Their Floating Body Parts—and threw a few choice pages in my face.”

“I didn’t kill ’em!” Jeff Gerke gave Inspector I. a look of utter astonishment. “I’ve been too busy watching the tree limbs. I ain’t into murder, mayhem, and a fine man am I!”

“You’re nuts if you think it’s me!” Steve Laube wagged his head. “Why would I knock off my own clients? I do not have a secret life! A Strangle And Hang Man I am not!”

“Ain’t me.” Michael Snyder spread his hands. “I’m no fink. Just ask my clairvoyant dog.”

“If you believe I did this,” cried Dave Long, “you’ve got far too much faith in fiction. Just visit my discussion board! My groupies will chew you up and spit you out!”

On and on and came the denials. Inspector I. had plenty a premonition, but no one would own up to the heinous transgression.

“This is getting us nowhere!” cried the suspense authors. “Will no one untangle this web of lies?”

Dineen Miller whipped out an evidence bag. “Look what I’ve been hiding. Scrapings from underneath Sharon Hinck’s fingernails. DNA evidence will lead us to our killer!” She stalked the grounds, waving the bag over her head. “Come out now, you chick murderer, and confess—or the evidence will doom you!”


Dineen stood with her feet wide apart, a fist in the air. “This is your last chance! John Olson has invented a superfast DNA conductor/detector. We will know the results within minutes. Come out now or face the death penalty!”

A stir in the bushes.

Dineen laser-focused on the trembling branches. Slowly approached. She bent down, parted the leaves.

The ugliest woman in the world leered back. Wild red hair. Fire in her eyes. She shot to her feet and ran.

“Rich, help!” Dineen raced after the woman, took a flying leap—and tackled her by her skinny, hairy legs. Flipped her over on her back.

“No, no, no, no!” The woman bucked and screamed. “I didn’t do it, I didn’t do it!”

Rich sprinted over, snapped the woman’s hands into cuffs. Lifted her to her big feet.

Dineen stared. Her mouth dropped open. “Mildred Koppelheimer! Why?”

The woman’s face crumpled. “I couldn’t help it! First I just wanted Kristin’s Prada bag. But then I couldn’t stop myself. Those chick-litters were so cute and perky!” Defiance rippled her face. She drew herself up straight, smacked away her tears. “You’ll thank me—you’ll see. The world is a better place without their first person, present tense attitude.”

Dineen and Rich led Mildred, slump-shouldered and wig askew, off to jail.

She faces arraignment tomorrow.

Since Mildred’s arrest, Inspector Ingermanson has not been seen, and is feared missing. Search teams are now scouring the Santa Cruz mountains.

Steve Laube wears an inexplicable expression of vengeance.

Dave Long has acquired a new novel titled Shaving Babbitt, by Anonymous.

Mount Hermon is already working on its brochure for the 2007 conference. Chick-lit authors can attend free.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Serial Killer at Mount Hermon--Part 2

Dear BGs, I continue the sad and horrific report from Mount Hermon. The day has not gone well.

This morning—a fourth body. Sharon Hinck, new chick-lit author, was found hanging by a red cape from the cafeteria ceiling. Not a nice sight to behold while you’re chowing down on omelets and bacon. Steve Laube spit out his mouthful of bagel. A second client author down. (Or she we say up?) Mortgage statements flashed through his head. He shoved to his feet and screamed at Dave Talbott: “Stop!! We have to end the conference now, before any more of my royalty-producing clients die! Whoever is doing this, start bumping off Janet Grant’s clients! Why me?!!

Inspector Ingermanson was too busy working his tiger marketing with hot new author Austin Boyd to give the corpse a second thought.

“Wow!” screamed the suspense authors. “Look—a body! How coooool!! Let’s go inspect the petechial hemorrhages!”

Undercover agent Rich Bullock elbowed through the crowd. “Anybody got a ladder?” Chip MacGregor somehow produced one, and Rich climbed the rungs. Cut the cape and began to bring down the body. But . . .

His foot slipped on the tenth rung. Down he fell, Sharon’s corpse upon his shoulders. He slammed to the floor, hit his temple and was knocked unconscious.

Randy glanced up from his tiger marketing and growled.

“What we need!” yelled Chip MacGregor, “is a plan!”

(Agents turned publishers are notoriously slow.)

As conferees bore Sharon’s body from the cafeteria, quick-witted suspense author Dineen Miller noticed something. “Halt!” She grabbed Sharon’s inert hand, checked beneath the fingernails. “Skin evidence!”

Heads throughout the cafeteria turned, each person looking to his neighbor. Searching for scratches.

Chip M. ran outside, calling for the coroner.

Karen Ball screeched a whistle. “Listen up, folks!” The room fell silent. She belted out a hymn for the poor, dead chick-litters.

Bring in all the shoes,
Bring in all the shoes,
We shall stop rejoicing,
No more Prada shoes.

Steve Laube sang with tears streaming down his cheeks. At the last note, he fainted dead away.

Michael Snyder poured water in his face. Steve awoke with a snort.

The coroner’s van bore Sharon’s body off to the morgue.

Michael helped Steve to his feet. Inspector Ingermanson prowled over to help, still spouting his tiger marketing spiel. “I know the answer!” he cried. “We need more meta tags!”

The romance authors slumped into chairs and wailed.

The conference was in chaos. No more classes. Conferees crowded the shuttle vans, fighting to leave the grounds. Chip dashed for the driver’s seat, Austin Boyd and Michael Snyder on his heels. Chip slipped behind the wheel, gunned the motor.

“Wait!!” Michael gripped his shoulder. “What’s that on your face?”

“Nothing, it’s nothing, just a paper cut.” He shoved Michael away, tried to close the door.

Michael whipped out his guitar and crashed it over Chip’s head. Chip slumped over and fell from the van.

Inspector Ingermanson ran to the scene. “Hear, hear, I have brought justice to Mount Hermon! A scratch on his cheek means he’s guilty!”

Is he right? Is it a red herring? Has this gone from a chick-lit story to a full-out suspense? Tune in tomorrow, same blog time, same blog place.

(And leave your cape at home.)

Monday, April 10, 2006

Serial Killer at Mount Hermon

This is a sad Monday, indeed, BGs.

There’s a serial killer on the loose at Mount Hermon.

This killer is bumping off all the chick lit authors. First body found was Kristin Billerbeck on Friday night. Beaten to death with a Prada purse with a lead pipe inside. (In the library.) She was found by James Rock. (This really is somebody’s name here. I cannot call him Jim, or I will die next.) James was chasing an editor and tripped over the body. Inspector Ingermanson was called to the scene. His sidekick, Rich Bullock, decided to pose as a romance author and intermingle with conferees.

The agents and editors signing up chick lit authors ran around the next day in a panic. Chip MacGregor offered a reward of $9.57 cents to find the killer. Do not ask me where this number came from. Steve Laube kicked in another forty-three cents.

Anybody ever think agents aren’t cheap?

Next night—another body. Meredith Efken. Suffocated with a dirty diaper. Reported by her roommate, Camy Tang, who found her in the bathtub. Inspector I. was totally frazzled. Who was doing this?

Steve Laube, Meredith’s agent, nearly came unglued. “Ah!” he cried. “Think of all the royalty cuts I’ll be missing!” He decided to kick in some more reward money. $5.32!

This left him with just enough money for an espresso in the morning.

Just tonight—the killer struck again. Poor, sweet, little Camy Tang. Injected with poisonous wasabi. She was discovered by her agent, Wendy Lawton, who was busily chatting with one of her dolls as she walked back to her room.

Ahh, me. Who could be killing off all these chick-litters? And why? Is it the agents? Is it the editors? Is it jealous wannabe authors? Is it Inspector Ingermanson?

Is it a poisonous spider? Heh-heh . . .

Please, somebody out there—help us!

Friday, April 07, 2006

From Mount Hermon--Part I

So here I sit in the lounge at Mount Hermon with BG Becky. Who, in case you’re wondering, is absolutely no help in writing a post. To her credit, she was diligently waiting for me to show, having promised to help me post.

“So, do ya got any ideas?” She looks up at me with a blank look.

“Who, me? You’re the one who supposed to have the idea.”

BG Becky—the fantasy writer—who’s supposed to possess an imagination extraordinaire, is rather ordinaire tonight.

So here’s the scoop on Mount Hermon. Four hundred attendees, including 70 faculty. Lots of fiction editors, nonfiction editors, magazine-type folks, and agents. For those of you (and I know Becky is one of them) who are Dave Long groupies, I want you to know I actually got close to the guy, talked to him and touched him. It was an experience right up there with touching Jon Bon Jovi a month ago at his concert. I told Dave I had to do it tonight, because after everyone else arrives tomorrow, I’ll never get close to him again the entire conference. Becky says to tell you he’s a lot cuter in person than on the blog.

I arrived to get my stack of manuscript excerpts to critique. And I’ll be teaching one of the three fiction clinics that start Saturday morning. Tomorrow morning I’ll be critiquing by manuscripts.

Gotta tell ya the funny scene in the lounge. Here sit Julee Schwarzburg from Multnomah, next to Karen Ball from Zondervan, next to Jeff Gerke from NavPress, next to Randy Ingermanson of Randy Ingermanson fame, next to Steve Laube. All of whom are sitting on the couches, looking at their own laptops. Talk about an antisocial bunch. Sheesh, before wireless was brought into the lounge, we actually used to talk to each other. And behind this bunch is Wendy Lawton, agent with Books and Such. Karen and Steve, sitting across from each other on couches, were e-mailing back and forth. Karen started it by sending one to Steve—“Hi, isn’t this cool!” Steve wrote back, “Dang it, you were too fast for me; I just sent one off to you.”

Steve Laube says to you BGs, “ You should be at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers conference. It’s the finest general conference in the country.” Now you see why. It’s the erudite faculty members.

The faculty is now arguing which is better, Macs or PCs. Okay, too late. Now they’re arguing whether King Kong was a great movie or not. Topic switch again. Now they’re talking about the infamous Steve Laube scam three years ago. Randy I. in a dress and a red wig, putting one over on Steve. Randy is happy to note that The Scam has gone down in the annals of Mount Hermon history. As Randy says, “Every author wants to cross over.”

Now that Julee Schwarzburg is just sitting over there quietly and doing her work, totally ignoring the other airheads around her. Jeff Gerke is holding his own pretty well, too. He informs he’s reading work e-mails and “copy packs”—catalog and back cover copy for books. You might know that NavPress has a pretty new fiction line. They want to put out about 15 novels a year. Quite a fast build-up for such a new line. Jeff says they’re looking for all genres.

Becky (she’s still sitting beside me) informs me that I write “very long posts.” Hm. I’m wonderin’ exactly what she means by this. She is quick to add, “No, no, no, I love them. They’re just . . . long.”

Is this a compliment? Please tell me how I should take this.

Check back Monday for much more news from Mount Hermon. We’ll have lots more BGs here. Most conferees show up tomorrow.

Becky says over and out. (And is thanking her lucky stars that this post isn’t going on any longer.”

Thursday, April 06, 2006

New Thriller Book

I’m off to Mount Hermon today. As soon as I arrive and get settled, I’ll find a stack of manuscript excerpts waiting for critique. These excerpts are sent in before the conference and sorted and assigned to various folks on the critique team. I like to tackle these manuscripts and get them done before the conference officially starts Friday at lunch, because after that it’s a whirlwind of activity until closing Tuesday afternoon. I also have ten folks in my fiction mentoring clinic. We will meet every morning as a major track, with each person’s excerpted manuscript being critiqued. It’s an in-depth study of fiction, with personal attention to your manuscript—a good choice for those who may have sat through the fiction track for a number of years running. Gayle Roper and Randy Ingermanson are also leading fiction mentoring clinics. Mount Hermon began offering this track a few years ago, spearheaded by Gayle. It has become so popular that it expanded to two clinics, and now three. In addition, Mount Hermon held a fiction conference last fall (a new one) that was nothing but these types of fiction clinics. New Christian novelists are definitely on the rise. Kudos for working hard at the craft.

While I am at MH I must also proof
Violet Dawn. The galleys arrived on my desk as soon as I finished Coral Moon. They’re due upon my return from Mount Hermon. They look great! The interior design for the book is very nice, with some interesting graphics.

Next week after Mount Hermon in Coeur d’Alene—the infamous Mysterious-But-Warm-Don’t-Look-Too-Glitzy-But-You-Can-Wear-That-Flashy-Pin-On-Your –Black-Velvet -Jacket Photo Shoot. It’s supposed to be raining that day. Oh, joy. I suppose that could add to the whole mysterious aura thing, but I look like a drowned rat with wet hair.

Enough with my updates. Today I want to alert you to an interesting book coming down the pike. Just got a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Thriller: Stories to Keep You Up All Night, edited by James Patterson. Westbow suspense novelist
Robert Liparulo (Comes a Horseman) boasts a story in this hardback (retail price $25). Here’s the review:

“The blurry line between mysteries and thrillers gets even fuzzier in this outstanding anthology of 32 new stories by such top genre names as Lee Child, James Grippando, Denise Hamilton and David Morrell. Patterson, in his introduction, talks about the "intensity of emotions" that thrillers share—as well as "the force with which they hurtle the reader along." This description fits such fine efforts as Gayle Lynds's "The Hunt for Dmitri," which takes the heroine of The Coil, Liz Sansborough, into an adventure involving her father, the infamous CIA assassin known as the Carnivore. But other extremely readable stories, like Alex Kava's "Goodnight, Sweet Mother," would qualify as straight mystery. Readers who favor one category or another may at first be a bit baffled, but lovers of crime fiction in general and well-told action tales in particular will be well rewarded. Would-be thriller writers can learn a lot about research and technique from Patterson's introductions to each story. Many of the contributors will be attending the first International Thriller Writers convention in Phoenix in June.”

Over thirty authors have contributed stories. This book sounds like a great way to provide the reader (and aspiring suspense writers) with a look at many different authors and their styles. It’s on my to-buy list.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Notes from PW

Leave it to you BGs to shoot oodles of title ideas my way. I think we covered just about every color and time of day, don’t you? From Khaki Star (only a sci-fi writer could come up with that one) to Scarlet Eve. (Hm. Sounds like two well-known female characters.)

Before I forget, would all of you who are attending Mount Hermon kindly leave a comment and tell us so? It would be nice to know what fellow BGs will be around. I have a few in my own fiction mentoring track. I will be blogging from MH, and it would be great to see y’all in the lounge at night and have you make an appearance on Forensics and Faith. Think of all the stories you can tell about the editors/agents.

Now for today, some news from Publisher’s Weekly:

1. Koontz hits the screen! His upcoming novel, The Husband (released in May) will be brought to you by Random House Films (the jointly run development and production hybrid established by the publisher and Focus Features). The Husband is about a man on a hunt to save his wife. RH Films president Peter Gethers, said that The Husband holds promise because it's "a commercial book, but one with some real depth and heart to it." Yup, that Koontz always has a lot of heart.

2. Numbers are in for the top-selling books of 2005. (Based on numbers provided by publishers of books shipped and billed.) Interesting to see that within the top 15 in fiction, a whopping 10 are in the mystery/suspense/thriller category. Suspense rules! Top seller was Grisham's The Broker, weighing in with 1,827,877 books. Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code was second, with 1,575,342. James Patterson’s Mary, Mary was third, with 1,103,036. Patterson also appears at numbers 11, 12, and 13, each one selling in the 700,000’s, making him the largest selling novelist for the year. Nicholas Sparks’ At First Sight is at 4, with 1,093,717; Patricia Cornwell at 3 for Predator, selling 1,040,250; and Nicholas Sparks again at #5 with True Believer, selling 1,040,250. Jan Karon’s Light From Heaven is at 6 with 872,000. Number 15 on the list, David Baldacci’s The Camel, sold 634, 054, not exactly shabby. Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins were at #19 and #21 for The Rising and The Regime, selling in the 500s and 400s, respectively.

3. There’s an interesting article by Jonathan Merkh, senior VP and publisher of Nelson Books, bemoaning the fact that general market bestseller lists don’t count sales at Christian bookstores. Merkh says, “. . . the Book Industry Study Group and major retailers continue to identify the religion category as one of the fastest growing in the industry . . . “I believe that if [these sales were counted], Christian titles would dominate—yes, dominate—the lists.”

Here’s the crux of the matter, as Merkh points out: neither Christian retailers nor the general market bestseller lists want Christian retail sales to be counted. One of the reasons from the general market it that “it would be too much work to try to count the estimate from the different markets and then weigh them in comparison to each other.” Christian retailers don't want their books counted because they fear the general bookstores will “cherry-pick their sales.” But as Merkh points out, “if general market retailers want to cherry-pick, all they have to do is look at the Christian bestseller lists.”

He concludes: “Developing a way to count all book sales would benefit the entire industry. It would provide more accurate information to the reading public. It would give publishers of all types a better understanding of what the readers are really reading and shape future publishing decisions. Christian stores would profit, because more Christian books on the bestseller lists could mean an increased public awareness of (and interest in) their stores. General market stores could improve their sales if they saw how well Christian books sold, because they'd be able to make more informed decisions about what to buy and perhaps improve their sales by dedicating more space to the category.”

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Sundry Items

First—how could I forget to tell you—I finished Coral Moon on Friday. (Second in the Kanner Lake Series, following Violet Dawn.) Yay! The last week was intense, as usual. Stayed up all Thursday night. E-mailed the thing to the editor about 7 p.m. Friday. What a relief. This was a hard book. Now I need to think up the third book in a hurry. Have no idea as to plot yet. How about some ideas from you BGs as to its title? You know I’m high into rhythm in my writing, so you gotta follow the format perfectly: two-syllable color, one syllable word that speaks to time of day or night. With the right title, I’ll build a plot around it.

Second—the April-May issue of my newsletter, Sneak Pique, will be sent via e-mail today or tomorrow. Sneak Pique lists releases of Christian fiction in all genres for the last two months. This is a good way to keep up on the latest Christian novels available. It also includes a behind the scenes look at another author through answering a reader question, and offers three chances to win one of my books. You can sign up for the newsletter
here. The most recent issue can also be read on my Web site.

Third—this is just too good to pass up. Here’s to
Christian dating—rap style. (Put your groove shoes on.)

Monday, April 03, 2006

New Zondervan Project

When I presented Violet Dawn to Zondervan sales/marketing folks (about 60 people) two weeks ago, I heard of another group presenting that day. In fact, just before me, giving me a very hard act to follow. It was the Inspired by Media Group, Inc., four African American producers from Hollywood committed to “serving the faith-based and general markets by creating family-oriented products that are culturally relevant in scope.” What is this group doing with Zondervan? Producing a fully dramatized audio Bible, using African American celebrities.

“There wasn’t a dry eye in that room,” one of Z’s marketing staff told me. “They showed us a video of people taping their lines. One was actor Blair Underwood [from L.A. Law, among other things], playing Jesus on the cross. Tears running down his face—saying “Father, forgive them. It was powerful.”

Besides Underwood playing Jesus, the cast includes Denzel Washington and his wife, reading Song of Solomon. Urban gospel singer Kirk Franklin plays Paul the Apostle. Cuba Gooding, Jr. is the voice of Judas and Jonah. Robert Guillaume plays the angel in Revelation as well as Noah. Angela Bassett will read Esther. For a look at other cast members, see the
Web site for the project (not yet fully activated).

“Inspired by . . . The Bible Experience” will total 70 hours, covering the entire Bible. The New Testament in CD and MP3 form will be available by September. The Old Testament will be available some time next year. The cast of over 80 will be using Zondervan’s new TNIV version.

Must all the cast members be Christians? (Such a question easily arises after The End of the Spear controversy.) The Inspired by Media Group, Inc. members decided they would not require that. “The Bible itself is God’s word,” said casting director Robi Reed. (Quoted in USA Today.) “It’s His project, His will and His purpose. If we bring in someone who doesn’t believe or whose faith is not as strong as ours, God’s plan might be that this is a way to bring them into belief.”

Zondervan has been working for some time to get the Bible into the hands of folks who may have never picked it up before. When they were approached by the Inspired by Media Group, Inc. with the idea of The Bible Experience, they felt it was a great match. Paul Caminiti, in charge of the Bible group at Z, happened to be on my flight from Grand Rapids to Boston. I caught a ride with him from airport to hotel, and we discussed The Bible Experience. It was clear from the way Paul talked that everyone at Z is very excited about this “visceral, experiential” presentation of God’s Word.

Zondervan had promised USA Today the first interview about the project. That
article appeared in the Life section of the paper on March 29. A press release went out from Z on March 30. I have dutifully kept quiet until now, as Paul asked me to do. But I’m now very happy to tell you all about it. Sounds like it will be a terrific rendering of God’s word. I imagine you’ll be seeing quite a bit of marketing and publicity around release time, given all the well-recognized names involved in the project.