Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween 1931--Part 2

...When I opened the basement door and lumbered down the steps into the crowd, a sudden respectful hush descended.

Everybody looked toward me, the latecomer. Into the silence one giggling flapper squealed, "Oh, look at that rag bag!"

Laughing and clapping followed. "Who is he?"

"What a get-up!"

"Must be a hobo from a freight train wanting some grub."

"Come on, buddy, we'll feed you."

Cookies and fruit punch on the table looked tempting. But I had no hole in the sack for a mouth. Anyway, I was the mystery guest who had to be dumb. Too many people knew my voice. No words. Only actions. Stifling giggles, I approached a few dainty, coy princesses and danced a little jig for them. The drop seat of the underwear bounced up and down and I whirled around to let my audience get the benefit of the sight. One of the lovely lassies looked close into my eye holes and said, "I don't know who you are but you sure do have droopy drawers!"

Mother and Daddy were standing with friends by the refreshment table. I bowed to them and wiggled my hips. I would have jigged a little more, but my shoes were not the dancing kind and my feet were beginning to hurt.

Mom laughed. "Who do you think he is, Henry?"

"Got no idea," Daddy answered, and turned back to get his drink and cookies.

I spoke to no one, made no sound, just roamed around and sniffed at well known friends trying to guess who I was. Everybody thought I was a He.

A hush. The pastor announced, "It's about time to take off your masks; they must all be off in three minutes."

I panicked, eased over toward the door and bolted out as fast as my weighted feet would allow. I reached home with clumps and limps.

Once inside the door, I jerked off my paper sack and burned it in the heating stove in the living room. Off came Daddy's shoes, and I set them precisely in their place on the back porch. His long-legged johns, folded neatly, landed in the dresser drawer. Rags and ropes plopped back in the big cloth bag. When the family all came home, I was studying at the kitchen table, trying to forget my aching feet.

Art and Mom were laughing. "Hey, Ruthie, you really missed it. You should have been there!"

I looked up with raised eyebrows. "Why? What happened?

"We don't know who that dumb guy was, but he must have come from somewhere else. He was wearing long-legged underwear, only it was big enough for a giant. Every time he blundered around in his shoes three sizes too big for him, his underwear drop seat hit the back of his knees. He was a riot."

I yawned. "Well, I'm tired. Too bad I missed it."

Dad ordered, "You kids get ready for bed. It's late. Hurry up and get the light out."

I dived under my covers, stuffed some in my mouth and giggled 'til the bed shook like a mini-earthquake.

The next morning, Sunday, before I was up, I heard Daddy shout, "Pearl, where's my clean underwear?"

"Oh, Henry, you know where it is. It's where it always is—in your dresser drawer."

"No, it ain't!"

I heard Mom pad to the bedroom from the kitchen. "A man can't ever find anything. I'll look. Well—it isn't here. Where could it be—" Another drawer opened. "Oh, my! Here it is in my drawer! Now how in the world did that happen? I never put it there."

"Oh, Pearl, you're just gettin' old and forgetful."

I crawled out of bed, headed to the kitchen for breakfast. Mom was stirring scrambled eggs in a big iron skillet. Her forehead was perplexed. I hugged her good morning. She hugged me back, looked me straight in the eye for fifteen seconds, pursed her mouth, nodded, chewed her lower lip to stop the smile--and didn't say a word.

-- Ruth Childers Seamands


S-Man: Saurian Tech and Culture: A Merchant's Foot

Shnakvorum, rikoyoch!

Book Update: Had a blast over the last few weeks putting my characters through some crazy stuff, not the least of which was meeting some crazy spika who were worshipping a bit of ancient technology. I'm around probably just shy of ¾ of the way done now, if I'm able to keep up this pace the book will be done before Christmas! Seems hard to think that not too long ago this book was nothing but a blank file...

Monday, October 30, 2006

Halloween 1931--Part 1

In honor of Halloween, I offer you a two-part story written by my mom, Ruth Seamands, about one unforgettable Halloween during her teenage years.

"Ruthie, I suppose you're coming with us to the Halloween party at the church tonight?"

"No, Mom, I don't think so."

"Why not?"

"Oh . . . I don't have any pretty costume to wear. I know some girls are going in sparkly dresses to look like princesses. They'll just stand around batting their eyelashes trying to catch a boyfriend. I don't feel like any competition."

"You don't need it anyhow," Art, my brother butted into our conversation. "You've got a boyfriend. Oops . . ." He put both hands over his mouth. "I forgot! Daddy doesn't know 'bout that. He thinks fourteen is too young for you to have a boyfriend."

Mom peered out the back door. "Daddy's out in the garden pulling up the tomato vines."

"Yeah, but my boyfriend's got a basketball game tonight so he can't come. I can always study. The rest of you go on to the party."

I don't remember what Art and Irene wore, but they both put on some outlandish outfits. And they pranced around the house with silly Halloween masks on their faces, making fun of each other as they went out the door.

I settled down at the kitchen table to study.

Ten minutes later lonesomeness surrounded me and there was no point to it. I'd go to the church party and make this a Halloween to remember!

Because it was cold outside, I put on three layers of pants, shirts and sweaters. Rummaging through the dresser in Mom and Dad's bedroom, I pulled out Dad's clean pair of long-legged underwear. He had only two pairs and changed once a week. In fact all of us changed our underwear only once a week, every Sunday morning. Saturday nights was bath time. We took turns in the round, tin washtub, and we each got clean water except when there was a water shortage.

Daddy was six-feet-two inches tall, so his underwear sagged and bagged on me. Even over all my other clothes. The drop seat settled comfortably behind my knees. A rope around my waist assured me that the high buttoned white cotton underwear was secure.

I wore my house slippers and over them put on Daddy's lace-up work shoes. Over and under the shoes I tied several rags around and around, then finally tied strings around the tops of the shoes to hold them on.

Snatching a medium sized brown paper bag from Mom's stash between the cabinet and the wall, I tried it over my head. Great--not too big, not too small. With the sack over my head, I marked with a crayon where the two eye holes must be cut, plus one nose hole to allow a little breathing.

Holes accomplished. With a black crayon and poor artistry, long, accentuated eyebrows, curling eyelashes, and a hooked nose appeared. A change of crayon and thick lips grinned fiery red. The top of the bag then acquired a man's head of black hair, swept back and fitted around very large ears. Looking at that creation nearly scared this artist into staying home.

No. Party called. So on went the paper bag over my head, tied around my neck with more string. Last of all, big garden gloves hid my hands.

I walked through Mom's bedroom to look in the mirror on the way out, and nearly collapsed in hysterics. No boyfriend would ever find out about this!

Now to confront the princesses!

Clomping six blocks to the church in men's work shoes size ten, took a lot of leg energy. The party hubbub could be heard a block away and it sounded like the whole town was there.

When I opened the basement door and lumbered down the steps into the crowd, a sudden respectful hush descended...

Read Part 2


Pastor Hank: A Different Fall Classic

I've already talked about helping to coach little league baseball here in Kanner Lake. It seems I have an interest in throwing things around. In the summer, it is baseballs. In the fall, I start to divide my time between baseballs and footballs. I was always better at baseball. It is the national pastime, after all. There's just something about the crunch of leaves on the grass that pulls me to the pigskin during autumn.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Follow-up to Nagging Questions--Part 3

In that last-ditch moment, God hit me up side the head...with this thought:

Many readers, including some Christians, can read Dead of Night and even think it’s a great story, while not buying the part about deep-level prayer—because they’ve never experienced such a thing themselves. They may not understand that the power of prayer in the book is not just a dramatic suspense technique; it’s real.

God said to me: “I want your readers to understand that reality.”

Hey, I’m no dummy. Months before this—halfway through writing the book, in fact—I’d come to understand God specifically wanted me to write this book with the underlying theme of prayer. I well remembered how I’d struggled and struggled to write another story entirely, and how it went nowhere. Clearly, He had plans for this book. He’d pulled the theme from, of all places, the voice of a crazed killer.

Okay, fine, but I’d done what He wanted, right? I’d written the book with plenty of stuff about prayer woven into the suspense. I thought I’d done a fine job, and the story was strong enough to speak for itself. So what else was needed?

Wouldn’t you know--there was an extra blank page at the end of the book. A page I could use without messing up the layout. My eyes fell on that blank page, and I realized what God wanted me to do: write a short author’s note from me, personally, to the reader.

I wasn’t real keen on the idea. I cringe at the thought of “explaining theme.” If the story’s strong enough to stand on its own—well, it’s strong enough to stand on its own.

But I heard God loud and clear. That’s what He wanted me to do.

First I had to ask Zondervan if I could use that extra page to write a few paragraphs of an author’s note. Wouldn't you know, they said yes. I wrote the note:

Intense prayer, as experienced by Annie in this story, is real. In times of crisis, I’ve experienced it myself. On a day-to-day basis prayer can seem far more routine. It can be whispered, sung, shouted, even cried. But no matter its form, it changes things. As Pastor Paul Sheppard said in his PUSH sermon, prayer is never wasted, but is a “a meaningful relationship between an all-powerful God and powerless people.”

My intent in writing Dead of Night was to deepen your trust in the power of prayer. The roller-coaster ride of this story has taken you through darkness and now brings you to victory. That victory is the unfailing effectiveness of prayer to unleash God’s power in any situation, no matter how bleak it may seem. May you discover this truth and make it the foundation of your life. ~ Brandilyn Collins

When I first saw that note in the printed book, I cringed, all right. Especially at the “My intent in writing…” line. Made it sound like I sat down with a “prayer agenda” in mind from the very beginning. Hardly the way things happened. If I had to do it over again, I’d word that line differently. Still, that author’s note was not about me. It was about bringing the idea of powerful prayer home to reader, personally.

Many times I’ve wondered if that page was looked at critically by other writers. I’ve wondered if they thought, “Why did she think she had to explain this theme?” The writer in me still sort of cringes when I read the page. But the obedient servant in me knows I did what God asked me to do.

I’ve received a lot of letters and reviews on Dead of Night—many of them noting how this book spoke to them about prayer. You can read a few of them on
this page of my Web site and also on this one. It seems in spite of my cringing, God’s done some work.

I have taken three days to tell you this story to illustrate my point: Although I might question what another author has done in including or not including Christian content—whether in the book or an author’s note or wherever—in the end I have a hard time judging. Because who knows what happened behind the scenes. Who knows what transpired as that author came before God and struggled through the difficult issues of how to infuse the right amount of Christianity into the best quality story he/she could write. It’s easy to stand back and judge. It’s hard, when the rubber hits the road (when fingers hit keyboard!) to actually make it all work. To craft fiction for quality and for God’s glory.

Postscript: The author who wrote the novel I mentioned on Tuesday is a friend of mine. I posed my questions about the Christian character to this author (whose talent I admire), and we’ve been having an interesting discussion via email. One thing the discussion has shown me—even though we might come to different conclusions, this author has struggled with these issues as I have. What eventually came to be in that novel and for that character was not written lightly.

I’m glad I raised the questions—to that author, to myself, and to you. I hope our discussion over the last four days has given you some new thoughts to consider.

Happy weekend, BGs.


Carla Radling: Maybe I Should Have Showered First

Hi, Carla here. You know those days you think you'll just run an errand and not worry too much about your appearance? And you know how inevitably you regret that decision? I had one of those days last month...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Follow-up to Nagging Questions--Part 2

What was that startling voice in my head? The voice of God?

Not hardly.

It was a rhythmic ranting, a crazed chant, cold and dark and evil, yet oddly refined.

Not so pretty in death, are you…

Head twisted, back arched. Contorted mouth, eyes wide in shock, limbs all locked tight.

Now your outside looks like your inside—a black soul, an immoral soul, a horrified and horrifying soul, bound for the black pits, the depths of darkness, for eternity, ever and ever on ...

Ooookay. No wonder my mother worries about me.

And so I began to write a story around that voice. I did not set out to write a story focused on the power of prayer. As always, I set out with no agenda except to write the best suspense I could. But the more evil that arose in the novel, the more I felt compelled to portray the other side. God would naturally fight that evil. To fail to portray that would not be true to the story. I know God doesn’t always protect His people from harm—look at the Christian martyrs over the years. But in the midst of evil on the march, I know God calls his people to deep spiritual warfare prayer. I’ve seen it; I’ve experienced it; I’ve witnessed the results—although they’re not always as soon as we’d like to see them.

And so Annie, my protagonist, a new Christian, one who’s never experienced this kind of thing, hears the call to such prayer. She stumbles around, tries to ignore the call a time or two, questions God when more terrible things happen—all those things we humans tend to do. But, in the end, she does learn about prayer.

When I finished Dead of Night I was satisfied with the story.

The book went through all the stages. Macro edit, track changes, copy edit. All the way to the very last thing—proofing, when you’re not supposed to make changes, just check for typos. By then I was thinking—you know, I kinda like this book. It turned out pretty fine.

I got to the final page of proofing the galleys. So far, so good, and almost to home plate. Yeehaw.

In that last-ditch moment, God hit me up side the head.


Jared Moore: It Won't All Come Out in the Wash

It all started with the first load of laundry. The morning after we returned from our honeymoon, I did what I'd always done at my parents' house--left my dirty clothes on the floor by the bed and went about my business.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Angie Brendt: Let's Get Physical...Or Not

I read in a lady's magazine that jumping rope is supposed to be one of the best ways to lose weight and it gives you a great cardiac workout to boot.

Jumping rope? I used to love to do that as a girl. I'd spend hours hopping over a rope without realizing I was exercising, because it was so much fun. I figured it was the perfect choice for me.

I thought wrong.

Follow-Up to Nagging Questions--Part 1

Good discussion yesterday. I appreciated hearing all your thoughts. I raised the questions, as I noted, not because I have the answers. But only to make each of us who are writers think as day in and day out, we take pen to paper (more like fingers to keyboard) and create.

In the end, I think we each need to settle this issue in our own minds, for our own writing. How we handle this issue depends not only on our target audiences, but also on ourselves. There’s no way around it—we bring our own experiences to the table when we write, even if we’re trying to create characters very different from ourselves.

Yesterday I mentioned that I didn’t think the Christian character in the discussed novel rang true. That character, according to backstory, had experienced a profound awakening with God—one that drastically changed life’s entire course. Yes, I would expect a character like that to pray more, seek God more, especially in a life-and-death situation.

However, I can’t deny that’s because of my own Christian experience. Other authors’ experiences may be different. Bonnie said it well in her comment from yesterday: “I don't find it so strange that what we consider normal behavior is absent from supposedly Christian characters. The writers may just be patterning their characters from their own framework of reference.”

If I had written Christian fiction 10 years ago, it would look much different than it does today. In the last eight years, I’ve seen God work in myriad mysterious ways. In a moment of crisis in the middle of the night, I’ve seen God awaken someone three thousand miles away—through an audible calling—and tell that person to pray for me—now. I’ve been miraculously healed of a crippling disease. I’ve heard God’s voice telling me where to lay my hands on people, how to pray for them in intimate ways I couldn’t have known—and seen their healing. I’ve had visions for others. Others have had visions and dreams as messages for me. I’ve been pushed by the finger of God to lie prone on the floor, praying desperately for someone whom a second earlier I wasn’t even thinking about—later to hear that moment was a time of spiritual crisis for him. These and many more moments of God’s supernatural power I’ve encountered. No wonder in my suspense, the common theme of God’s power over evil arises again and again. I don’t force that—I don’t have to. I’ve lived it. It’s woven into the fabric of my worldview.

What I’m getting at is—we can raise the question about Christian content and work out the issue in our own minds—for our own work. But in the end I have a hard time judging what another writer chooses to do about this. That’s a very personal choice between that writer and God, and the choice may be based on reasons I know nothing about. They may be reasons pertaining to the author’s worldview and experiences, or they may be purposeful choices about how to write the story based on target audience.

I will tell you a “reason” story of my own—a story I haven’t told before.

When I sat down to write Book #3 in the Hidden Faces series, I didn’t sit down to write Dead of Night. I was trying—desperately—to make another storyline work, and it simply would not come. Finally, thoroughly ticked that all prayer to that point hadn’t seemed to help, I threw away everything I’d outlined so far and railed at the heavens. “Okay, God, what? Here I am, back at square one—and the deadline’s considerably closer than it was before. What do you want from me?”

God in His mercy answered (thank goodness—that deadline was approaching), but not in a way I ever would have expected. And even when all was said and done, it wouldn’t be over…yet.

It began with a startling voice in my head.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Nagging Questions

Something’s been bothering me lately.

Recently I read a book published by a Christian publisher. I enjoyed it very much. Well written book on many levels, and it have me hours of reading pleasure. For that, I am always grateful.

This novel is not heavy in Christian content. I don’t think Jesus is ever mentioned. God is mentioned a few times, but not much. There is a Christian character in the book, and we are in this character’s POV numerous times.

(Okay, stop trying to guess what book this is. There’s a 99% chance you’ll be wrong.)

I think books with the “lighter” version of Christianese are just fine. Some books published in the Christian market are written with nonChristian readers in mind, and I know the authors are trying to balance that fine line of pleasing both audiences. Not an easy thing to do. Other Christian novels may have nothing “Christian” on the surface at all. Christian themes may be there subliminally, through symbolism and metaphor. This, too, I understand. Each of us writes different books for different audiences.

Historically speaking, one of the pervasive arguments about the weaknesses of Christian fiction has to do with the “forcing” of Christianese into the story—whether it be “God talk” or a requisite conversion at the end, etc. I agree that forcing Christian content can lead to weakness in writing. That content has to rise naturally from the story, and from who the characters are. Because I feel so strongly about this, the level of Christian content in my stories may vary widely. Lots of such content in Dead of Night, for example. Very little in Violet Dawn. Always, the story and characterization must drive it.

Now I see a new trend with some Christian novels—exactly the opposite trend of the alleged FCs (forced Christianese). This is the purposeful holding back of it.

Here’s what I’ve seen numerous times now. The PHBs (purposeful holding backs) will have a Christian character--purportedly to satisfy the Christian publisher and reader. That character will tend to make moral and perhaps even sacrificial choices. You can see godly characteristics in the person. But there is little to no God-talk from these characters, and no prayer at all. Let’s say the character is in a desperate situation, perhaps even life-threatening. Let’s say further that we’re in his or her POV. When a Christian is fighting evil and imminent death, I’d expect him/her to pray. Or if another character comes to that Christian character, bewailing life, wanting to die because he/she sees no purpose in living, I would expect the Christian character to say, wait—there really is purpose in Christ. I would not expect the Christian to keep silent when the door has been thrown wide open for natural dialogue about God.

In a PHB, none of these things happen. I finish the book understanding what the author was trying to do—the often nonChristian audience he/she was trying to reach—but also feeling that the presentation of that Christian character in the story wasn’t complete. It wasn’t believable to me. The character simply did not do the normal things a Christian would do in terrible situations, e.g., pray or talk about God.

I find myself wishing that the Christian character hadn’t been pegged a Christian at all. That he/she simply had been portrayed as a good, moral person. I find myself wishing that the book simply said nothing about Christianity rather than presenting a Christian character who seems to make right, good decisions without any prayer or dialogue with other fellow Christians as natural underpinnings to his/her faith.

I find myself wondering what we are doing in the name of Christian fiction when we purposely hold characters back from what would come naturally. If the author is targeting nonChristian readers, is this, then, the right tactic? I have no doubt that the nonChristian reader won’t feel the PHB factor as I do—he doesn’t know what the daily Christian walk looks like. But then—should the author have taken the opportunity to show such a reader what that natural walk looks like? Then again, if the Christian character started talking about God and praying regularly—would the nonChristian reader be turned off no matter how naturally it was presented?

I know many authors would kick at the boundaries of Christian fiction, and I think some of that kicking is fine. But anyone who has come down hard on the FCs should do the same with the PHBs. Unnatural writing is unnatural writing. Or does the end somehow justify the means—on either side?

Questions. Wish I had all the answers.

Leslie Brymes: Russell Fink--Part 2

...Apparently, the blonde crazy woman wasn't trying to kill me, just going for dramatic effect. As I picked myself off the floor, my purpose had now become two-fold: 1) get the scoop, and 2) not die. My iced mocha, however, wasn't so lucky. And my favorite pair of jeans were now speckled with white ceiling tile foam.

When my annoyance fully eclipsed my fear, I turned to the blond gun-woman. "This story had better be good. Or you owe me an iced mocha and a new pair of jeans..."

Monday, October 23, 2006

New Signed Contract

So here's the news from my neck of the woods. Yesterday I signed a new contract with Zondervan. This one's for four more adult suspense novels. The first will be Book #4 (the final one) in the Kanner Lake series. The next three are three stand-alone novels. The first of those novels has a title and basic plot; the other two are "blind" books--in other words, I'll somehow manage to figure 'em out when I get there.

As with my past Seatbelt Suspense novels, these will be spaced about seven months apart.

Right now I am finishing up in the next few weeks (if I live that long) the last book in my current contract--Crimson Eve, book #3 in the Kanner Lake series.

So, overall, here's the line-up for me as far as when my next six books (two from current contract and four from new contract) will hit shelves:

Coral Moon (Kanner Lake #2)--March 2007
Crimson Eve (Kanner Lake #3)--Sept. 2007
Kanner Lake #4 (not yet titled)--April 2008
First Stand-Alone--November 2008
Second Stand-Alone--June 2009
Third Stand-Alone--January 2010

This will be enough to keep me out of trouble for awhile.

Zondervan continues to be a great house for me, and I'm delighted to be sticking with them for another four books. Hey, they send their editors out to visit our Coeur d'Alene home, and I give 'em a bear sighting in their first hour on the property. I'd say that's a great partnership.


Leslie Brymes: Russell Fink--Part 1

...What some of you may not know is that this wasn't the first time I've dealt with the big city media. Last summer, I begged Jared to let me take a media-training seminar in Spokane. He reluctantly agreed, and I was determined to prove it would be worth it.

After two days my brain was on overload so at lunch I headed to the mall for some much needed shopping therapy. I was checking out some cute jeans at The Gap and sipping an iced mocha (not nearly as good as Bailey's) when I heard yelling coming from the Pet Planet next door...

Friday, October 20, 2006

Think Marketing Dollars Always Work?

[Finally! I had pretty much given up for the day. Blogger was so gummed, I couldn't even bring up the page to post. Then suddenly--there it is.]

Last Monday’s issue of the Wall Street Journal had an interesting—and sobering—front page article about one publisher “rolling the dice” to pay high dollars for a book and its marketing. Editor John Sterling of Henry Holt & Co. was smitten with An Interpretation of Murder, a historical thriller (and first novel) by Jed Rubenfield. Sterling paid $800,000 for domestic rights for the novel—one of Henry Holt’s largest advances ever paid. He then committed to a $500,000 marketing campaign. (You pay that much for a book, it doggone better sell well.) Meanwhile Rubenfield kept foreign rights, and later sold the novel to 31 foreign publishers for a total of over $1 million.

Sterling knew other big books would be hitting the shelves about the same time as Interpretation, including The Thirteenth Tale, a gothic novel that’s been compared to Jane Eyre. So he prepared a marketing blitz to create buzz before Interpretation came out. He spent $17K on printing ARCs (advanced readers copies), built a $10K web site, and held some power lunches with key players in the bookselling industry. Plus he got Rubenfield to make required changes on the manuscript in a hurry so they could launch their all-out marketing push in seven months, to coincide with BookExpo America, the annual booksellers convention in May. The book would not hit shelves until September.

Early signs looked good. The book garnered some favorable reviews, and Interpretation was named the Number One pick for September by Book Sense, the marketing arm of the American Boooksellers Association. As a result, the book would be displayed at about 1200 independent bookstores and promoted in more than a dozen newspapers. Sterling ordered a first printing of Interpretation of 185,000 copies—a very impressive number for any debut novel.

Interpretation hit shelves on September 5. First week sales numbers weren’t good—only enough to rank it #18 on the New York Times extended bestseller list. This would be a great showing for a new author, normally. But remember the amount of money put into this book--$1.3 million. And that was just purchase and marketing—not cost of producing the book. Holt would need to sell at least 150,000 hardcover copies just to break even on its investment. BookScan, which tracks about 70% of sales, showed that Interpretation sold only 5400 copies the first week, which would be followed by 4,000 the second and 3,000 the third.

[My note: you have to understand the meaning of “sold” here. BookScan tracks “sell-through” numbers. “Sell-in” numbers are what the publisher sells to bookstores. “Sell-through” refers to purchases by actual customers in stores. Sell-through numbers are also the ones that drive the bestseller lists. No doubt Holt’s sell-in numbers were high, as the book was highly touted and was expected to sell. But if subsequent sell-through numbers are poor—all those books sitting on the shelves will soon be returned to the publisher for a full refund.]

Meanwhile a couple of not-so-good reviews came in and Rubenfield embarked on his author tour. Second week sales were worse—he slipped to #20 on the list.

At the same time that “other” book—The Thirteenth Tale—hit the shelves and immediately soared. Its publisher, Atria (an imprint of Simon & Schuster) had paid over $1 million for the novel, but then had saved its marketing dollars for the launch, rather than creating an early buzz. Also, Thirteenth hit an unexpected jackpot—it was named the pick for the new Barnes & Noble Recommends program. Suddenly, without cost to the publisher, Thirteenth was being specially displayed in all B&N stores and hand-sold by some 40,000 booksellers. Thirteenth hit #1 on the B&N bestseller list its first day. It then went straight to #1 on the New York Times list. Interpretation dropped to #30. All hopes for a blockbuster hit were now gone. And it didn’t even look likely Holt would make its needed 150,000 in sales to break even. Bad, bad news after all the hoopla. They could only hope for a future movie deal, and paperback rights would net some extra money.

What does all this go to show? Sterling agrees that book publishing, for all its planning, is no more than a roll of the dice. “I still marvel that despite everything we do,” he said, “we just don’t know.”

The ending twist—On Sept 20, as Interpretation numbers were falling and things were looking bad for Holt, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez spoke to the United Nations. During that speech he held up a copy of Noam Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance, and praised the book. Immediately it shot up on the amazon.com bestseller list, prompting the printing of an additional 50,000 copies. The publisher of Hegemony? Henry Holt & Co.


Jake Tremaine: Woodworkin' Ain't for Lumberjacks

Howdy, Jake here. You might remember I talked about trying wood working. With this retirement gig, I've got all kinds of free time to fill. And my darling wife insists I get out of her house before I muss it up.How does one muss up a house, I wonder! All I was doing was sitting in my recliner, kicked back with the paper spread around me. Anyway ...

I hopped in my pick-up and headed to the local lumber yard. Picked up some right nice cherry. Not cheap wood for my honey. No siree. Instead, I get this strong cherry and have visions of a right nice hutch floating in my mind's eye. About six feet tall, four feet wide with fancy little doors to cover the bottom two shelves ...

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Changes Coming in Fiction?

[Sorry for the late post. Blogger's been gummed up.]

The October 16 issue of Christian Retailing ran an article titled “Emergent Church Growth Prompts Industry Debate.” The article gave examples of how many booksellers are broadening their inventories of nonfiction books geared to “emergent church” folks, who are “predominantly younger” while other booksellers are refusing to carry such titles altogether. Even amid the controversy, such titles as Blue Like Jazz (Nelson), The Irresistible Revolution (Zondervan), and Velvet Elvis (Zondervan) are selling well and becoming something akin to modern classics.

Zondervan senior executive Lynn Cryderman told Christian Retailing that every Zondervan Emergent title has outperformed sales projections. Zondervan’s sales in this genre increased about 20 percent in the first half of 2006, while STATS figures show overall emergent book sales doubling during that time period from the same time period last year.

Meanwhile the November issue of CBA’s Aspiring Retail is running an article about attracting twenty-somethings to Christian bookstores. The article shows how most people in this age group aren’t attracted to the typical Christian bookstore. They want a place to hang out, to drink coffee with friends and bring their wireless computers for online cruising. They are about community.

So what might all this mean for fiction?

If the industry is paying attention to these issues, seems to me the results will seep over into fiction. Those same twenty-somethings might pick up certain kinds of novels if they’re wooed to a Christian bookstore. Those emergent church folks who are seeking nonfiction titles may appreciate fiction that speaks to them as well.

I know that Zondervan has hired a new editor (Andy—some of you met him at ACFW) who is particularly looking for the kinds of novels that will appeal to the twenty to thirty-five age range. Perhaps other publishers are also doing this.

Change is on the move within the industry—as apparent from these two articles in different publications. Doesn’t mean the old is being thrown out for the new, nor should it be. What’s gone before—whether fiction or nonfiction—is what’s made the Christian bookselling industry what it is today. We should celebrate that. But in a changing world there’s room for expansion. It’s exciting to think how the current concerns covered in these articles might eventually make room for new voices and genres within fiction.


Janet Detcher: A Lifetime of Love

I would like to pass along a story about a precious saint we lost a while back, and just give you a picture of some of the Kanner Lake residents you won't see on the blog. There are wonderful people in every corner here, and Elmer and Gloria Hollings are some of the finest...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I’ve Been Nouned!

My head’s growing bigger by the minute. Someone’s coined a new word, using my name. Oh, boy, oh, boy—I’m gonna use it every chance I get.

Yesterday the Infuze Magazine reviewer wrote me to report that her
review of Violet Dawn had been posted. (She happens to be a regular BG.) Nice review. She had good things to say, and most importantly, didn’t give away too much of the plot (my biggest pet peeve regarding reviews, as you know). At the end of the review, she says this:

There were a few times when I was slightly distracted by what I affectionately call "Brandilisms," being Collins' penchant for using imaginative verbs and metaphors, but these have also become a familiar trademark many fans will enjoy.

My familiar trademark--a Brandilism. That’s brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I'm usin' it!

Here’s the interesting thing about Brandilisms. They are probably the most controversial element of my writing. Well, maybe they’re one of two most controversial. The other controversy is whether or not my books are scary. And you know how divided people are on that one. (Those BHCC—Big Honkin’ Chickens’ Club--folks are such weenies.)

But the Brandilisms—this is not the first review I’ve seen include this kind of remark. One of my own sisters has sniffed that I overdo it on the metaphors. (Well, funny, though, she did say that on Violet Dawn I didn’t, so go figure.) Yet in so many letters and in so many other reviews, the use of metaphorical language and description is one of the very things people praise in my writing.

Sigh. Ya just can’t please everybody.

So there you have it. From now on as you read my books, get out your pens and mark the Brandilisms. Is this one good? Is that one over the top? (I know the reviewer used the term in more of a negative sense, but I’m thinking to expand its meaning a little.) A dozen different people will have a dozen different opinions. And how ’bout those other authors out there? Are they using Brandilisms? If they are, they’d better do ’em up right.

Speaking of the other controversy—the scary one. I received this letter last week. As always, I’m using it with permission. The writer started out with this line: This is a love/hate letter. Oh, sheesh, I thought. Here it comes. Well, here’s the rest.

You bad girl! You kept an old lady up half the night with her white roots standing on end.

They told me your books were scary. Hey, I like a good scare. I mean I cut my teeth on "Weird" and "The Twilight Zone." So I bought every book on the table with your name on the cover. Read Eyes of Elisha and thought: good book, but I can handle this. Those weenies who gushed, "Don't read it alone!" were just amateurs. Not true fright-aficionados like this tough old bird.

Then I started Brink of Death and sniffed, There's nothing scary about this book. Incredibly well-written, yes. Intelligent and sophisticated crime drama, yes. But not scary. What were those ladies thinking?

Then I came to the end.

Brandilyn, I'm so impressed! I bow to your abilities!! You had my heart rammed so far up my throat I could taste it. I honestly got scared they'd find me this morning stone dead from fright. I thought to put it down because I don't think that much adrenaline is good for my aged heart, but I couldn't.

How on earth do you do that? Honey, you rank up there with the very best. Your stuff is brilliant. You're truly gifted. Add me to your fan base. I'm hooked.

Only trouble is, now I'm scared to read the rest ...

Man, if that’s a love/hate letter, I can handle more of that kinda hate.

Excuse me now, I must get back to my wip. I have some Brandilisms to write.


Bailey Truitt: Making New Friends

Hey here, folks. Bailey here again. I can't tell you how good it feels to sit down and take a break. We've had a constant flow of traffic the last few days. More tourists than I've seen in ten years. I know a lot of them are here because of "recent events," and you know I've made my stand clear on that issue, but overall I'm pleased with the sense of respect our welcomed visitors are displaying. Nothing wrong with being curious, but there is a fine line between curiosity and nosiness. Can we all agree on that?

Last week I was really surprised by one wonderful visitor...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Sarah Wray: My Tenth Anniversary

... I must tell you about my husband. He is a wonderful man. And I don't say that just because our tenth anniversary was last week. He really is wonderful ...

Suspense Elements in Story--Part 4

I'm closing out this topic today with points 4 and 5--R for Reaction and K for Knowledge. I remind you again that these workshop notes are rather cryptic. Neither are they meant to cover every possible point, and every possible exception to all those points. This was only an hour-long workshop. (That enough disclaimers, you think?) So take from this when you will.

4. REACTION: This has to do with the constant building of suspense through your character’s reactions. SOMEBODY’S got to be proactive in his/her reactions, whether it’s your protagonist or antagonist.

Example: your character is out walking the dog at night and witnesses a murder. She runs away, planning to tell no one so she won’t be involved. But the murderer sees HER and vows to silence her. He’s the proactive one. In this kind of cause-and-effect reaction, the protagonist keeps trying to back off from the situation while the antagonist keeps the situation tightening.

Or, your character can react proactively from the start. She can feel she doesn’t want to be involved, but her conscience drives her to report the crime. Her thought is: this is all I’ll have to do, then I’ll be done with it. She reports the crime and solves the problem of her conscience.

Now you’ve got the proactive cause-and-effect. Next thing your character knows is – she’s drawn in a little deeper. She thinks, I’ll just have to do “B”, then I’ll be done with it. She does “B.” And before you know it, “C” arises.

Little by little, reaction by reaction, she is pulled deeper and deeper into the suspense, even while thinking that with just one more step, she’ll get out of it. In other words – the solving of one problem simply leads to another, worse one.

You can blend these two types of reactions. Your character may be proactive at first, then get so tired of the situation, she tries simply to run. But at that point, you’ll have to make other characters the proactive ones so that for her, there’s no escape.

The main thing, keep that screw tightening. Keep it tightening.

5. KNOWLEDGE. This refers to two types of knowledge: (A) the knowledge you allow the reader to have, and (B) the knowledge you withhold by planting questions in the reader’s mind. One leads naturally to another.

A. Knowledge you allow the reader to have. This aspect goes hand in hand with Pace. Because pace must be swift, you cannot allow the story to stop for long in order to introduce backstory. Especially in the beginning of your novel – keep backstory to a bare minimum. Start with action.

B. Planting questions in the reader’s mind. This requires a deliberate releasing of tiny bits of information – starting in your very first scene. Questions increase suspense. They are what keep your reader turning pages.

Points A and B both need to be used at the same time for ultimate suspense. Excess backstory can deaden any kind of novel, and should be avoided. Backstory should be spread out over time, told to the reader only on an as-need-to-know basis. HOWEVER, in suspense, rather than eliminating backstory completely in a scene, you add just a taste of it.

Example of Point A used alone (no backstory): A novel begins with a man going into a bar in a strange town. He sits down, orders a drink. A group of huge, mean-looking guys immediately surround him, spoiling for a fight. He doesn’t want to fight, but he has to. The scene is pure action, not stopped by any backstory regarding who this guy is. The level of suspense = will he win the fight? Obviously, that question is answered at the end of the scene.

Example of Points A and B used (tiny bits of backstory added to raise questions in the reader’s mind): Same scene. This time, as the bad guys surround the protagonist, this narrative is added: Not here, not now, he thought. How could they possibly know who he was? Through how many towns, how many states would he have to run?” Then the bad guys strike, and it’s back into action as he fights.

These three sentences are not enough to slow pace. In fact adding them heightens the level of suspense. Now, the reader’s questions are far more than who will win the fight. The reader will wonder: Why is this guy running? Who is he? What kind of reputation is this that causes strangers to fight him? How many towns and states has he already run to? When will he be able to stop? Etc. These questions are NOT answered at the end of the scene. They will keep the reader turning pages to find out the answer.

Bottom line, suspense is all about keeping those pages turning.

Speaking of which, I'm having a heck of a time writing my current one. I've hit that snag place, you know? I know I'll work through it, but...ugh.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Suspense Elements in Story--Part 3

Happy Monday, BGs.

Before we get to "A" for Aura today, here’s a question regarding sentence rhythm from Katie Hart regarding Friday’s post on P—Pace:

Jack Cavanaugh uses the technique of a horribly long sentence, punctuated with plenty of commas and semicolons, during a high-action scene to convey a feeling of breathlessness. What do you think of this technique? I know it should be used sparingly (maybe an average of once per book), but would it still have a lulling effect?

No, it wouldn’t have a lulling effect. I talk about this technique in Getting Into Character as the one exception portraying action through short sentences. I call it the “beat of chaos.” When the action gets so heated, so chaotic that individual movements all run together—or perhaps when a person becomes so panicked that everything seems to run together—a long, breathless sentence can work wonderfully. In GIC I show an example of this from Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. (By the way, if you have GIC—you can review these sentence rhythm techniques in the “Restraint and Control” chapter.) I’ve used this technique for one paragraph in the next Kanner Lake book, Coral Moon. (I almost posted it here as an example, but—nah. I don’t want to give away anything about that story.)

Okay, on to today's topic.

3. AURA. This could also be labeled “mood” or “tone.” It has to do with the overall feel of your novel.

The aura should be established in the opening scene(s). This is because the reader’s first glimpse of your novel is what will set up his/her expectations.

When you come right down to it, a lot of establishing aura has to do with word choice. You can do a great “aura exercise” by describing the same scene in two or more very different ways. No matter what you’re describing—even if it’s something usually considered beautiful—it can seem menacing and dark, just due to the words you use. For example, think of looking at a star-studded sky on a clear night. If you wanted to create a content/satisfied/beautiful of aura, you might use pleasing verbs for the stars like glitter or spangle, and you might describe the backdrop of sky as velvet. All of these create an aura of beauty and awe, and the word velvet brings in through the sense of touch the feeling of softness and warmth. Now how might you describe the same thing in a darkened tone?

Here’s a wonderful line from Alice Blanchard’s Darkness Peering, again describing a star-studded sky. But her novel is a suspense, and the tone is dark. Particularly in this scene, because the character viewing this sky is about to commit suicide. As the character looks up, here’s how he describes the sky:

What a brutal night, stars nailed to an indifferent sky.

Those words—brutal, nailed, indifferent—cast a completely different aura to a beautiful night sky. And they are perfect indicators for the character’s perception of a cold, heartless world.

In Brink of Death I also wanted to describe a beautiful night sky with a dark tone. In the scene the main character, a woman with a very vivid imagination, is frantically waiting outside a neighbor’s house while policemen go in and out after arriving with screaming sirens. Are her friends dead? What terrible thing has fate wrought? She sees the sky like this:

The ebony sky, pocked with stars, hung low and threatening, a witch’s face thrust toward earth to observe human tragedy with sneering delight.

In writing pure suspense, I have found that aura is a great tool for heightening tension. Remember on Friday I mentioned that in suspense the tension should never be let down too far, even in the quieter scenes? I said that one way to keep up tension in these scenes is to keep the inner action of the character going strong. Another way is through aura. A dark, suspenseful tone can carry a scene that’s outwardly quiet, infusing a scene with little activity (as defined in Friday’s post) with the feel of action.

Tomorrow: R--Reaction.


Wilbur: Celery and the Wasp

...His grandpa's name was Fitzgerald P. Cellaway, but he preferred to be called Celery, so we all did. Celery and I were driving down Main Street one day when a wasp flew in the window and landed in his hair. The man got real agitated, swatting everywhere. I had to grab the wheel to keep us from going off the road.

"Where’d it go?" Larry yelled.

I couldn't see the thing anymore. "It must have flown out the window."

But that wasp hadn't gone anywhere. Turns out, that evil critter followed south down the path made famous when a plumber bends over. All the sudden Celery got wide eyed. He let go of the wheel, stepped on the brakes and grabbed his backsides with both hands...

Friday, October 13, 2006


S-Man: Saurian Tech -- The Shirka Insertion Transport

Book Update: My science fiction novel, Starfire, is rushing along at a crazy pace now. I've just passed the halfway point and things are really getting intense for Rathe and the rest of his companions. I'd tell you more, but it will probably be better for you to just discover it all on your own when you read the published book. (It can't hurt to be optimistic).

But to celebrate the passing of the halfway mark and seeing the end finally being closer than the beginning I thought it would be fun to highlight some of the Saurian technology used in Starfire. (You may remember I've developed a whole language for my Saurian world.)

Today is the last day of the blour for Violette Between, by Alison Strobel.

Between here and the past, there lies a place……a place of longing for what has been rather than hoping for what could be.

A true artist, Violette is passionate and emotional. Climbing back into life after suffering a loss, she teeters on the precipice of a new relationship with Christian, a psychologist who not only understands her struggles but offers safety and his heart. As Violette and Christian begin to feel something they both thought impossible, tragedy strikes again. Violette becomes trapped in a place of past memories–and she finds that she may not want to come back.

What would it be like to choose a place between the past and the present?

Suspense Elements in Story--Part 2

Before we get into Pace for today--The “P” in SPARK--here’s a comment from Becky, posted yesterday:

I have a question about your definition of suspense. [That definition was: “a story with a high level of tension, founded on fear for the character’s welfare.”] Is that one of those aimed-at-writers-of-suspense things you alluded to? I mean, the fear aspect makes it seem a bit narrow. I've said more than once, as have other BG's, that you are a master of suspense, even here on your blog. I might have also mentioned my belief that you could have me scrambling to read the next page of the phone book because you make readers want to know what'll happen next. Isn't that suspense? Which in that context seems divorced from any fear. I guess I think of suspense more along the lines of a marriage of tension and curiosity.

Yeah, okay, Becky. I’ll buy your definition. I don’t think we’re that far apart, though. “Fear for a character’s welfare” simply means “a tense concern.” As I mentioned yesterday, this can be anything from concern because of physical conflicts (Agh, she’s going to be locked up in a room full of poisonous spiders!) to concern because of psychological or emotional conflicts (from the “Never Ending Saga” of my journey toward publication in this blog’s archives: “Are those pages spitting out of Brandilyn’s fax machine the contract she’s waited 10 interminable years for—or merely some sales solicitation?”)

How’s about it, Becky, will you buy that? (My explanation, not the fax.)

On to today's notes:

2. PACE. In general, pace is faster in suspense. (Keep in mind I’m talking pure suspense here. Glean from this what you will and adapt it to your own story’s needs.) The story’s got to click right along. We’ll look at two aspects of pace – (A) conflict and (B) sentence structure.

A. Conflict. Conflicts should be introduced at a fast, sometimes even furious, pace. The overall feel of the story is action, action, action.

Important note: “Action” doesn’t necessarily mean “activity.” Action can be of a mechanical nature, i.e., your character must get away from someone who is chasing her. Or it can be psychological, i.e., your character must decide between two very different choices, both of which beckon her.

Sheer, constant “activity” in excess can become boring. Plus, it’s not realistic for a character to be embroiled in constant activity. So there are times in suspense when “quiet” scenes are needed. However, “quiet” refers to circumstances surrounding and OUTSIDE of the character.

But to sustain the level of suspense, even in outwardly “quiet” scenes, there should be plenty of “action” going on within the character. Maybe she’s faced with a decision. Maybe she’s reeling from the aftermath of activity. Maybe she’s grieving. Or fearing what’s to come. Or planning and plotting.

This concept is absolutely key. You cannot “let down” the pace in a “quiet” scene too far. Think of pace in suspense as a tautly-pulled rubber band. Constant, high-level tension.

Example: In Cast A Road Before Me the subplot of a potentially violent labor strike that introduced suspense into the story is resolved shortly before the end of the novel. Obviously, this subplot has much ACTIVITY.

The end of the novel itself has little to no activity. In fact, outwardly she’s merely driving a car. (I wouldn’t do this in a pure suspense, but remember, this was a women’s fiction novel with suspense elements.) The suspense at the end of this novel all comes from INNER ACTION on the part of Jessie. In order to be a satisfying ending after all that activity, this final scene had to carry a LOT of psychological suspense. Everything about Jessie – her future, who she IS at her very core – is placed at stake.

B. Sentence structure
. Your writing has to be absolutely tight, or lean, as some call it. No extraneous words. Particularly in scenes of high activity. This is a whole subject in itself, but I’ll highlight a particular issue here.

Some of you have heard me talk about “sentence rhythm” (discussed in my book Getting Into Character). In a nutshell, this means that the rhythm of your sentences should match the “beat” of action in a scene.

Whether you realize it or not, sentences do have rhythm, just as music does. Long, complex sentences tend to have a lulling effect – an easy-going beat. Short, punchy sentences, even incomplete sentences, carry the rhythm of action.

This is not something your reader will understand consciously. But unconsciously, if you try to depict high activity with long sentences, the lulling beat of those sentences will compete in your reader’s mind with the heart-pounding beat you are trying to create.

In scenes or sequences of high activity: (1) shorten your sentences. (2) Use regular past tense verbs, not past participles (verbs ending in “ing”).

Shorten your sentences. The most important word in sentences depicting high activity is the verb. Long, complex sentences often make the reader wade through numerous words before getting to the verb. Example: Spinning around to face his attacker head on, Eric smashed his fist into Dexter’s eye.

In this example, we read most of the sentence before we get to the word “smashed.” Plus, there are simply too many words that drag at the sentence. Better to write the sentence with dual verbs, something like: Eric spun and smashed his fist into Dexter’s eye.

Use regular past tense verbs. Past participles carry the connotation of action over a space of time. “Was spinning” sounds like it took longer than “spun.” In times of high activity, events happen slam, bam. Regular past tense verbs portray the “beat” of this fast action better.

Consider these examples of a fight on a stairway. First, without employing sentence rhythm:

Throwing out her fist, she punched him in the eye. Growling in pain, he threw himself on top of her. She was screaming as he pinned her arms and legs. She strained to free herself, lunging up to bite him. He started jerking backwards, and his movements made them slide down a stair...

These “beat” of these long sentences do not enhance the “beat” of this high activity. In fact, the sentences fight the “beat” you are trying to convey. Here’s the same scene, using sentence rhythm, as it appears in Eyes of Elisha:

Her right fist caught him in the eye. He growled in pain, then threw himself on top of her. She screamed. He pinned her arms, her legs. She strained to free herself, lunged up to bite him. He jerked backwards. They slid down one stair...

Monday--A: Aura

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Suspense Elements in Story--Part 1

Over the next few days I’m going to run the notes from my workshop given at the recent ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference. The topic of the workshop was on inserting suspense elements into a novel. Any genre of novel.

Obviously different kinds of stories will call for different levels of suspense. Many of these notes are referring to pure suspense. But the point is to look at the elements that make a suspense story and see how you might use them to some extent in your own work. Why? Because suspense elements make the story more interesting. If suspense has one thing going for it, it’s that these stories present a higher level of stakes. High stakes lead to a strong driving question that will propel readers through the book. (I’ve read—or started to read—way too many stories in the past year that didn’t present a strong enough driving question to make me stick with the book to see how it ended.)

So take from these cryptic notes what you will. If you have questions or want something fleshed out more, just stick ‘em in the comments section, and we’ll deal with them later. And as usual, the comments section is also the place to throw your tomatoes, should you think I’m totally off the mark.

Here goes:

What is suspense? A story with a high level of tension, founded on fear for the character’s welfare.

This fear doesn’t have to be about the character’s PHYSICAL welfare, necessarily. Life and/or limb doesn’t have to be at stake. Suspense can also focus on the PSYCHOLOGICAL or EMOTIONAL welfare of a character. Many times the stakes are both physical and psychological.

When you think “suspense,” think “SPARK.” SPARK = Stakes, Pace, Aura, Reaction, and Knowledge. These all interact with one another. They simply can’t be separated.

1. STAKES. As suggested by our definition of suspense, a character must have more to lose, whether physically or emotionally, than in other stories.

Example: In my (women’s fiction) novel Cast A Road Before Me, Jessie wants to leave the tiny town of Bradleyville and return to the city, where she can follow in her (deceased) mother’s footsteps. Her overall Desire that pulls her through the story is: to enjoy a quiet summer in Bradleyville, then leave to pursue her mother’s footsteps of serving the poor.

In a general mainstream story, Jessie’s stakes might be all sorts of emotional problems with people that keep her summer from being quiet. Further, they might be issues that arise that could keep her from leaving town as planned.

With the introduction of a suspense element, her stakes rise dramatically--a step at a time.

First, she faces the loss of a quiet summer due to an impending strike at the saw mill, which employs half the town's men. Jessie refuses to have anything to do with the strike. She is a die-hard pacifist.

Then she realizes the strike could lead to violence.

Someone could really get hurt.

Maybe even killed.

In fact, that someone may be very close to her.

At a pivotal moment she realizes to her horror that SHE is the only person who might be able to stop what’s about to happen.

As a result, she finds HERSELF in the very center of the striking mob...



Carla Radling: Goldfish, Beware!

I almost didn't write this after Pastor Hank's fish post. But I have to admit--I'm a killer. A cold-hearted fish killer.

It all started when I went to Fins 'n Feathers Pet Shop. My fellow real estate agent, Audrey Jenks, told me she got her husband a great aquarium for his birthday, complete with the pump, rocks, everything. She said hearing the bubbling pump and watching the fish swim back and forth really soothe their stress after a long day of work.


Today through Friday is the blour for
Violette Between, by Alison Strobel.

Between here and the past, there lies a place……a place of longing for what has been rather than hoping for what could be.

A true artist, Violette is passionate and emotional. Climbing back into life after suffering a loss, she teeters on the precipice of a new relationship with Christian, a psychologist who not only understands her struggles but offers safety and his heart. As Violette and Christian begin to feel something they both thought impossible, tragedy strikes again. Violette becomes trapped in a place of past memories–and she finds that she may not want to come back.

What would it be like to choose a place between the past and the present?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Jared Moore: Resonating With the Written Word

"There's no greater power than that which is generated by the combination of ink and paper." As I have said before, I think often of this phrase my grandfather passed on to me. When I was younger, I assumed it to be specifically tied to his love for reporting. Now, as I have grown older, it has come so much more than that to me. The written word, whether it be a news reports, novel, a poem or even lyrics for a song, is something that resonates within each reader. As the words are taken in, they in turn stir up passion, awaken memories, evoke emotion and find completion in the mind and heart of the reader...

Today through Friday is the blour for Violette Between, by Alison Strobel.

Between here and the past, there lies a place……a place of longing for what has been rather than hoping for what could be.

A true artist, Violette is passionate and emotional. Climbing back into life after suffering a loss, she teeters on the precipice of a new relationship with Christian, a psychologist who not only understands her struggles but offers safety and his heart. As Violette and Christian begin to feel something they both thought impossible, tragedy strikes again. Violette becomes trapped in a place of past memories–and she finds that she may not want to come back.

What would it be like to choose a place between the past and the present?

Inspired By...The Bible Experience

It's here! Zondervan's ground-breaking audio version of the New Testament (using the TNIV--Today's New International Version) is now on sale. The entire New Testament is dramatically acted, complete with sound effects and musical score. Want to hear the story of Jesus calming the stormy sea? Click here.

The cast includes over 200 actors and other well-known figures from the African-American community. Blair Underwood plays Jesus. Samuel Jackson is the voice of God. Cuba Gooding, Jr. plays Judas. Denzel Washington will be the Old Testament Solomon (the Old Testament CD set will be available in a year).

Retail price for the 19-CD regular audio set is $49.99, and the MP3 version is at $34.99. The Family Christian store in Lexington, KY I visited last week was selling the regular audio set at a promotional price of $39.99--but that won't last for long. This regular audio set also includes a DVD of the making of the recording. The manager at this store pointed to a large screen that was showing the video trailer for the project. "No one who's seen that video," said the manager, "has walked out of here without The Bible Experience in his hand."

To see the video trailer, click here.

Last July in my report of the ICRS convention, I told you about talking to various people in the Zondervan suite about this project. How excited they were to be working with the Inspired By...Media Group. This project was not Zondervan's idea. It came straight from the Media Group in Hollywood, who wanted to produce a "visceral" Bible experience. They approached Zondervan with their proposal--and the project was born.

This will be an awesome and moving Christmas present for someone.

For more information on The Bible Experience and for links to numerous articles about its production and cast, visit this page on the Zondervan Web site.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Motorcycle Mama

Happy Tuesday, BGs. I'm back in California after Mom's 90th birthday party in Kentucky. Had a great time. We four daughters each gave a presentation about Mom and her various escapades. The guy we hired to videotape the whole thing was impressed. He wondered, after the party was all over, if Mom would like one more "first" in her 90th year. He'd come on his Gold Wing touring bike. Would she like to go for a ride?

Naturally, Mom jumped at the chance. No matter that she was wearing a dress--she just hiked it up and climbed aboard. And off they went for a lap around the retirement village.

Halfway around, they passed a group of people standing out on someone's sidewalk. "Would you look at that!" one said. "There goes Ruth!"


Angie Brendt: Pie to the Sky--Part 2

Tommy was laughing so hard he was having trouble standing up, and Joe sat down on the floor and continued to roar. Frank Jr. did not look at all pleased. As soon as he caught his breath, Tom started going on and on about all of Frank Jr.'s female admirers. Finally Frank asked how the whole town knew he was coming home and why all the pies? Tom replied, "Don't you read your mom's entries in the Scenes and Beans blog?"

Monday, October 09, 2006

My Life of Crime

Happy Monday.

Today I'm traveling back to California from Mom's 90th birthday party in Kentucky. Meanwhile, my post for today is over on Charis Connection. Please click over to enter my life of crime...



Angie Brendt: Pie to the Sky--Part 1

As soon as I set foot on the tile, the smell of sugar assaulted me. I froze at what I saw. Pies. Pies on the counters. Pies on the table. Pies on the refrigerator. Pies stacked two and three deep. Then I remembered my post in this blog and started wondering how I was going to explain this one...

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Big Nine-Oh

That's right, 90 years young.

Yesterday on my birthday I traveled from our California home to Kentucky to join my family and many, many friends in celebrating my mom's 90th birthday. At the party on Sunday each of us four daughters will make a speech on different parts of Mom's life, complete with Powerpoint photos. It's gonna be a lot of fun--'cause if anyone knows how to have fun and enjoy life, it's Ruth Seamands.

So no time to celebrate my own birthday. But hey, it rather pales in comparison to hitting 90, don't you think?

Photo: Mom parasailing at age 84.


Leslie Brymes: Learning To Drive--Part 2

Up ahead the road curved to the left. I was going a good speed by now and managing to keep relatively to the middle of the track. When it started curving I started turning the wheel. Only problem was, the truck didn't want to respond to my action. Dad was yelling at me to turn, I was tugging on the wheel, and the truck was going straight toward the ditch. We finally came to a stop when the front wheels bounced up the other side of the ditch, the hood just inches from a fence...



This is the third and final day for the blour of Dark Hour, the latest from Ginger Garrett. Dark Hour is about the house of Jezebel and its attempt to overthrow the lineage of Christ. As a result of the blour, Dark Hour is number two on technorati, surpassed only by Bob Woodward's new political nonfiction. Ginger Garrett is also known for her novel Chosen, about the biblical Queen Esther.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

My Un-Post on The Big Day

Nope, not posting on October fifth. I think I deserve a day off. Today I hit The Big Five-Oh.

Therefore, on this auspicious day in the year of our Lord 2006, I do hereby declare the floor open for birthday greetings. (And come on, BGs--where are your comments lately? We've fallen to a mere pittance of a percentage of commenters.) So here's your chance to make up for your lurkiness. Hit me with well-wishes in the form of Confucious Says; clever witticisms; Haiku, limericks or other fine verse; or whatever else strikes your creative chord.

Come on, you're writers, for heaven's sake. Lay it on me.


Leslie Brymes: Learning to Drive--Part 1

The minute I hit 15, I was itching to get behind the wheel of a car. Mom wasn't thrilled at the idea; I guess she wanted me to wait a bit longer. But Dad, well he's in insurance, so he sees a lot of claims on cars driven by young people. He figured I'd be better off learning as soon as I could to get some experience under my belt. Of course, here in Idaho if you're under 17 you have to sit through all these driver training courses before you can get your driver's permit. But I just wanted to DRIVE!...



Currently a blour is running for Dark Hour, the latest from Ginger Garrett. Dark Hour is about the house of Jezebel and its attempt to overthrow the lineage of Christ. Ginger Garrett is also known for her novel Chosen, about the biblical Queen Esther.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Dark Hour

Currently a blour is running for Dark Hour, the latest from Ginger Garrett. Dark Hour is about the house of Jezebel and its attempt to overthrow the lineage of Christ. Ginger Garrett is also known for her novel Chosen, about the biblical Queen Esther.

Way Cool Words

I just love learning new words. Like many of you I’m subscribed to the Word a Day e-mail. I can’t pay attention to these every day, but some days the word and its meaning is just so cool it catches my attention, and I have to write it down. I’ve got these sticky notes floating around my computer full of these words. At some point I’m going to have to enter them in by three-by-five card file of cool words. But as long as they’re in front of me and I glance at them every now and then—it’ll help me remember them.

Here’s a list of some I’ve run across recently:

Oniomania: overwhelming urge to shop. From the Greek onios, meaning for sale. I taught this one to my teenager daughter, who scooped it right up. If the shoe fits . . .

Aphatic: dark, without sunlight. Great word to use metaphorically.

Procellous: stormy, as in sea. Another great metaphoric one.

Garbology: study of a culture through what it throws away. I mean really—such a form of study really exists? My spell checker tells me this isn’t even a word. Shows what it knows.

Miscible: capable of being mixed together. Compounds, sure. But think in terms of people...

Tarantism: overwhelming urge to dance. Like me with rock music. And listen, BGs, I get this one first. It shows up in somebody’s chick lit, I’m comin’ after you.

Senectitude: old age. What a cool word. Senectitude. Just trips off the tongue. Another one my spell checker doesn’t know. Come to think of it—so far miscible is the only word it does know. Somebody in Microsoft needs to subscribe to Word a Day.

Prevenient: coming before, anticipatory. Not really a new word to me, but a reminder of a great concept. As in prevenient grace. (Spell checker doesn’t even know this one. Sheesh.)

Phatic: relating to words meant to generate social relationship rather than convey information. Example—“How are you?” Way cool—there’s a word for this nonsense?

Clinquant: glittering (adjective) or tinsel, glitter (noun). Secondary meaning: the glitz BC wears on her jeans. And shirts. And sunglasses. And purse . . .

Bromide: a tired or meaningless remark, as in “Everything will be OK.” Or a tiresome or boring person. I love the first meaning. "She writhed in the floor in anguish, and all he could do was offer bromides..."

Acidulous: somewhat sour in taste or manner. I know some people like this.

Exiguous: scanty, small, slender. In other words, what all we women would like to be.

So—how ’bout writing a sentence with as many of these as you can use? Most creative (or awful, depending on how you look at it) wins a dog biscuit. Here’s mine:

On that procellous and aphatic night with clinquant stars shining in a prevenient dawn, a shocking and unusually miscible oniomania and tarantism descended upon the exiguous form of the bromide Mabel Struggs, who in her senectitude had heretofore spent her energy in the mere spouting of phatics and the nosey garbology of her acidulous next-door neighbors.