Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas and a Blogger Hijack

Finally switched my blogs to the new blogger yesterday. It was supposed to take a couple minutes. Two hours later, with this blog still stuck in cyberspace somewhere, I had to leave the house. Fortunately, by the time I returned hours later, the blog had switched over. Sorry to those of you who kept getting the "switching" error message yesterday afternoon. I must admit, however, even after the slow move, this new blogger makes it easier to post.

This is my Merry Christmas and Happy New Year post to all you terrific BGs who have so blessed my life. Thank you for stopping by to read. Thank you for your comments. For your friendship, your support and encouragement. This is a tough business, and we sure need each other. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all you have meant to me.

I will be taking all of next week off from blogging, as well as New Years Day. Forensics and Faith will be back on January 2. I will be looking at all the comments to yesterday's post and will cover all that I can in the new year. Please continue to leave your ideas in the comment section of that post. And if you'd like to leave your Christmas/New Years wishes to me and all the BGs here, go for it. Be as creative as you like. (Many of you are writers, aren't you?)

And so I leave you in 2006 with Christmas/New Years wishes for warmth and lots of eggnog. Oh, and let's not forget the sugar cookies with thick frosting. You might want to avoid the strychnine this time of year. And I hear spider rooms can be kinda creepy. Hot tubs are great--just check 'em out before climbing in if it's after dark. Jogging's great too, just don't do it alone through a wooded park. And if you're walking out to your car on a chilly morning ...(oops. You haven't read that book yet.) Hope the new year brings you gray gorilla surprises, S-Man license plate fascinations, a new book contract or two, and lots of page-turning books to read!

TODAY: Bailey--Merry Christmas From Everyone

...Here are some Christmas/New Years wishes from the Scenes and Beans posters to you:

Angie: Merry Christmas, all! Don't drink too much spiked eggnog on New Years. And for goodness sake--don't let your best friend surprise you with a dog as a gift.

Bev: Unless your best friend happens to know better than you. Merry Christmas, everyone...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Surveying Next Year

Yes, it's a survey. Those of you who hate taking 'em might as well run now. However, I promise to only ask you questions whose answers will benefit you. No "where do you bank?" and "what's your household annual income?" type queries. And no, I don't want your firstborn. (Mine is handful enough.)

If you've been reading Forensics and Faith for awhile, you know the rather electic-sounding verbage at the top of the blog's banner is true. Here you're likely to read anything from a crazy story in my life to thoughts on our spiritual journey, notes on craft, and discussions on our industry of Christian fiction. (And by the way--there's absolutely no question that y'all rock. I think I have the coolest BGs on the planet.) So, with that as background, here's your short survey:

1. What topic or topics would you most like to see covered here next year? (The more specifics, the better.)

2. Who would you most like to see appear as a guest blogger here? (An author of Christian fiction, a specific kind of person who works in the industry, etc.) You can name more than one.

3. Do you have a burning question about the industry or fiction craft you'd like answered? If so, what?

That's it. If you can handle it--go for it...

TODAY: Jake Tremaine--Christmas Decorations

Jake here. I told you all how Mable finally let Duke in the house, didn't I? Well, she did. Now she doesn't want me to tell this story, but I think it's only fair.

I made some real nice lures that day and used up all the beads I bought and had to go back for more. Mable told me to go and gave me a list of stuff to get at the grocery while I was in town and she said she'd keep Duke. She was in the middle of puttin' up the Christmas decorations and didn't want to go in town with no make up on. I'm glad I'm not a woman, I'll tell you that much...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Born to Die

Around the corner from our house in California, a huge star always brightens the sky at Christmas time. It's placed in a Sequoia tree near the top--and the tree must be 40 feet tall. The owner gets the thing up there using one of those crane deals that tree workers use to take down a tree branch by branch. That's the guy's business. Trees. For years he's used the accoutrements of that business as a ministry to light up our neighborhood with the Christmas star.

I was driving by his home last week when I saw him at his mailbox. I stopped to thank him for the star. "We love seeing it every year. Thank you for going to all that trouble to put it up. It's a blessing for us."

He was happy to hear my words.

Fast forward to last night, at our Coeur d'Alene, Idaho home. I was driving up the long incline that eventually leads to the turnoff for our bay on the lake. On my left, way up on the hill I spotted a large bright cross. Wow. Never seen that before. The thing must be really big for it to look so substantial from as far distant as the highway.

The cross--at Christmas time. The sight made my soul sing. How apropos is the cross in December. After all, Jesus came to die. He was born in a lowly state--to die in an even lowlier state. For me. For you. For all who will accept Him.

The star at Christmas makes me happy. The cross at Christmas reminds me of what this season is really about. The Savior coming here. Lying in wood as a baby ... so He could die on wood as a man.

The star made me smile. The cross made me want to get down on my knees and say, "Thank You, Jesus, for this season. Thank You for coming here to earth. For being born ... so You could die."

TODAY: Bailey Truitt--What Was in Those Cookies?

When my parents came for a visit last year, I was in the process of retrieving my measuring cups for the 1/2 cup of confectioners sugar needed for the fruit/nut cookies. Right when I was ready to dip out the white stuff the doorbell rang, and I ended up talking to our neighbors for half an hour. Meanwhile, Daddy was shuffling around in the kitchen, but he was gone when I went in there. I went to dip out the 10X sugar and saw that the 1/2 cup was already full. I didn't think a thing about it and added the extra 1/2 cup of 10X needed for the glaze...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Marketing Vs. Advance

Saturday’s edition of The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting article on numerous general market novelists who are opting to sign with a smaller publisher for little to no advance dollars. The pull? Extra attention given to marketing their books. These novelists are also given “higher than normal” royalty payments, so with the right amount of sales, they can end up earning as much or even more.

Among these writers are suspense novelist David Morrell, women’s fiction writer Eileen Goudge, and science fiction novelist Greg Bear.

Morrell estimated that his 28 books have sold 20 million copies worldwide. Still, according to the article, Morrell left his longtime publisher, Warner Books, “after concluding that he needed to jump-start his career.” Publishing now with Vanguard Press, a small company owned by Perseus Books Group, Morrell says he’s involved with every step of the marketing of his novel. Morrell turned down a six-figure advance from Warner Books to go with Vanguard for no advance.

Vanguard says it focuses on marketing a book three months before its release, and three months after. This gives a six-month push—much longer than the typical lead-up followed by a few weeks after a book hits shelves. Another small press, Melville House, is following the same model as far as advances—offering little to no money in order that more can be spent on the marketing.

This kind of thinking is exactly opposite of the norm. Typically, the view is—the higher the advance, the more money the house has riding on the book, and therefore the bigger the marketing budget will be. If the house pays nothing for the book, they have little to lose if it doesn’t sell well.

But this new tactic seems to be working for Morrell. He published Creepers with CDS, now called Vanguard, in September 2005, and was pleased enough with the results that he’s gone back to the house for his next one. Scavenger will release March 12, 2007.

Interesting, though. The article says Creepers sold 62,000 copies in hardcover. Doesn’t sound like that many copies to me—not when you’re talking a total 20 million copies of 28 books. But Morrell and his agent are pleased with the whole package—which includes selling of movie rights, audio, book club, and foreign rights to 17 overseas publishers. Plus the paperback edition, which hits stores soon with an estimated printing of 225,000 copies.

The article also notes other well-known authors who’ve chosen the smaller press route, including Stephen King. Hard Case Crime books published The Colorado Kid for an advance of under $5,000. And Kurt Vonnegut published his most recent book, A Man Without a Country, with Seven Stories Press, whose typical advances range from $1000 to $10,000.

In the end--marketing rules.

TODAY: Angie Brendt--A Killer Gift

Love at first sight? Not quite. Bev gave me a dog. She thought she was being helpful. After the murder and all in Kanner Lake, she felt I needed protection. What I need is a friend who asks what I want before she takes it upon herself to give it to me. I mean, a dog is almost like a child. It wants love, attention, and someone to clean up its dookey...

Monday, December 18, 2006

Writer Gifts

Please visit Charis Connection for today's post. Charis asked its authors to each recommend one great gift for a writer. If you have a writer on your Christmas list--you oughtta check this out. There are some great recommendations. And who knows, there might be a few things you'd like yourself.

As for me, I'll take the very first one, recommended by Angie, thank you very much. She's right--why be practical? It's Christmas.

TODAY: Bailey Truitt--Oh, My--Computers!

Here it is, Monday morning, and I, Bailey Truitt, should have a new post to put up for you. Except that I had some trouble with the computer, and everyone's posts that I had lined up are now all missing. How could this happen? Sometimes computers just boggle my mind...

Friday, December 15, 2006

In the Wilderness

Psalm 106:6 says (New American Standard): "We have sinned like our fathers."

Those "fathers" are the Israelites whom God brought out of Egypt. The Psalm then talks about the incredible miracles God performed to save his people from their oppressors. How He parted the Red Sea and led them through--while the Egyptian army followed and was covered by the waters and drowned. Israel praised God for His deliverance. They knew, with that drowned army and the sea now between them and their enemies, they were finally free from Egypt forever.

Then come verses 13-14:

They quickly forgot His works;
They did not wait for His counsel,
But craved intensely in the wilderness,
And tempted God in the desert.

The Psalm goes on to say how the Israelites continued to forget what God had done for them, even fashioning a gold calf to worship. Even so, God eventually led them to their promised land. But--(verse 24),

Then they despised the pleasant land;
They did not believe in His word.

As many times as I’ve prayed the Psalms, it was a couple years before God spoke to me through these verses. Israel “craved intensely in the wilderness.” As a result, even when God brought them out of the desert and into the good times He had promised them for years, they couldn’t see His goodness. They “despised the pleasant land.”

God said to me, “Brandilyn, don’t ‘crave intensely in your wilderness.’”

Every Christian has been brought out from his/her own “land of Egypt.” And at some point, after the high of deliverance, we all enter our wilderness times. It’s pretty hard to be content with God in the desert. To wait--and praise Him in the midst of waiting. But God’s pretty clear here—if we refuse to use such times to build up our faith, our hearts may turn hard. We can end up following our own version of the gold calf. As a result, we can become so bitter and self-focused and defeated, we won't even see the promised blessings God later brings our way. We will "despise the pleasant land."

Psalm 106 is one of the psalms I prayed this morning. Now I blog about it with a strong sense from God that someone out there needs to hear Him say: “Beloved, don’t crave intensely in your wilderness.”

TODAY: Jake Tremaine--Christmas Gift for Mable

Well, it's me again--Jake. I thought this dang bloggin' idea of Bailey's was a crock, but I got to admit I'm hooked. Tell the truth, though, I could use some help from you people. I don't know what to get Mable for Christmas. Everyone says I come up with the dumbest gifts, but I just don't see it. I get practical fun gifts that I'd think any good woman would love. Not thoughtless gifts like some dolts buy their wives, but nice lovin' gifts...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Another Strange Jogging Event

A few days ago I was jogging my regular five-mile route through a neighborhood about a mile away. I happened to glance across the street at a house with a large picture window. Through that window I saw an adult-size gray gorilla, wearing a green tank top, sitting in an armchair.

That brought me to a halt.

I stared.

Mind you, I’ve been jogging this same route for the twenty-one years we’ve lived in this California home. Never before have I seen a gray gorilla through said picture window of said house. Matter of fact, I’ve never seen a full-size gray gorilla anywhere on my route.

I stared some more. Only then did I realize the thing was a stuffed animal.

Who on earth would own a life-sized stuffed gorilla? And put him in an armchair in front of the TV? And dress him in a green tank top?

I continued my run, pondering these questions. And then my wayward mind starting doing its thing...

Twenty-one years running by this house—and I never knew until now about the gray gorilla. Was it new? Or had I just not noticed it before? (Hard to imagine.) What about the people who lived in that house—the house I saw every day? I realized I knew nothing about them. I mean, you think you know a neighborhood…

But you don’t really know people, do you. You run by a house every day, yet have no idea what’s inside it. The horrible things that could be there ... The unspeakable plans... The actions committed ...

The dead body in the basement.

(You knew I’d get to a dead body sooner or later, didn’t you.)

Actually, we don’t have basements in California. So make it an attic. Better yet, an extra freezer in the garage. (Keeps longer and less smell that way.)

The next day I checked the house's picture window. The gorilla was gone.

What does this mean? Where did he go? Who are these crazy people?

Perhaps in some future book I shall discover the answers to these questions. Oh, the possibilities! In the meantime, if you’d like to supply a few answers of your own, be my guest. Maybe they'll end up in the story...

TODAY: Janet Detcher--Tough Chicks

Over the years, Hank and I have had the privilege of doing a bit of traveling, most of it with the church, doing missions projects. We have taken separate teams of men and women to do various kinds of work. While you might assume that the women may settle for "domestic" types of involvement, (and there has been lots of that!) you will be surprised to learn that New Community Church also has some 'tough chicks' in our midst. We took a trip to Jamaica a few years ago and mixed and poured concrete in a bucket brigade up a ladder and across a roof...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Christmas Video!

A few days ago my husband brought home a Christmas CD. He thought he was buying orchestral music. Well, sort of, in a rocky way. It was the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Over the weekend I popped in the CD to listen to it.

One song caught my attention. “Hey,” I know that!” It’s the tune for that totally rad
video of flashing Christmas lights that I watched over and over again last year. You all probably saw it somewhere, either on the Internet, or perhaps a little part of it on the Miller Light beer commercial.

Well, my goodness, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s song (“Wizard in Winter”) got me in the mood for watching the video again. Besides, it’s Christmas season. So I went hunting on the Internet. Took me all of about 10 seconds to find it.

Turns out, according to, the light show was the work of Carson Williams, an electrical engineer from Mason, Ohio. I always wondered about the guy’s poor neighbors. I mean, I love the music—but every night, over and over again? Turns out Williams put up signs for all the folks who drove to see his display, telling them to tune into a certain low-frequency radio channel to hear the music. The neighbors got to sleep after all.

Williams sequenced 16,000 lights to the music in his 2004 show, and over 25,000 in his 2005 version (at a cost of $10,000). Unfortunately he had to discontinue his display after traffic became so snarled that someone had an accident. Now Williams is showing his
display in Heritage Oak Park on Highway 42 from December 2 through 31. Man, I wanna go! Anybody from that area who can tell about it firsthand?

Another of Williams’ displays at his house can be seen
here. The music’s not nearly as much fun, though. Give me the TSO any day.

TODAY: Leslie Brymes--It's Leslie Again

Yup, I'm up again already. Apparently everyone else around here is too busy doing Christmasy things.

Speaking of Christmas, have you seen the number of people in the shopping malls these days? A gal can't even walk around without bumping into someone and their Christmas purchases. It's calmer here in Kanner Lake, of course; but when a friend in Coeur D'Alene wanted to go shopping together at the mall in downtown Spokane, I got my share of people, let me tell you...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Designing a Book Cover

In yesterday’s comments, a reader asked how the process of designing a book cover works. And am I allowed much input into the process? I figured the question was good for a follow-up blog post.

I can’t speak for all houses. I can only tell you how it works for me at Zondervan. I know many authors don’t enjoy anywhere near the amount of input I’m granted at Zondervan. I also know authors who do. It really varies house to house.

The process begins with the marketing form that Zondervan sends me—more than a year in advance of the book’s release. The form asks for the premise of the book, a list of main characters, setting, and any pertinent places or items that might be used for the cover of the book. It also asks for any ideas I have for the cover. In the completion of this form, I also write the back cover and catalog copy for the book.

For Crimson Eve, I received this form in August. Crimson Eve will release September 7, 2007, and is considered an October publication. (The release date is the day the books start to ship from the warehouse. The publication date is always the following month since it takes a few weeks for books to reach bookstores and show up on shelves.)

The marketing form is sent out so early due to Zondervan’s catalog schedule. Z does three catalogs a year, one every four months. And the catalogs way ahead of time because books are sold into stores early. For example, my recent release, Violet Dawn, shipped in August for a September pub date. But the Zondervan salespeople learned about the book way back in their sales meeting in March. After that, they went out and started pitching the book to booksellers and taking orders. So even though Violet Dawn appeared in the September-December 2006 catalog, all information about it had to be ready during the first four months of the year.

So I filled out the form for Crimson Eve in August. I suggested a crimson sunset on a lake, explaining the description of this found in the first chapter. Other than that basic thought, I had few ideas. Then I didn’t hear anything until a few weeks ago, when the cover designer (an in-house Zondervan employee) contacted me. Did I have any new/additional ideas for the cover before he went into the design phase? We e-mailed back and forth a few times and had one phone call as I told him my new thoughts. Curt (the designer) is absolutely wonderful to work with, and always listens to my ideas. But then, inevitably, he comes up with something I never would have thought of—something capturing the aura I wanted, but way beyond my abilities as a non-artist to create.

However, Curt does not initially create just one “comp.” He creates multiple ideas—perhaps three or four. Then he shows them around to marketing and design folk at Z until a consensus is reached on the best design. He may tweak that design some, based on feedback, then he'll send it to me for approval. Often I’ll ask for a few tweaks myself. A different color, a change to one graphic—something like that. Curt makes the changes, and we go back and forth a few times until we’re both happy with the design.

For the Crimson Eve cover, however, I didn’t ask for a single change.

It does help that I have years of experience (before I took to writing fiction) in creating marketing pieces for companies. I worked with a graphic artist for enough years to gain a good sense of fonts and colors, and the underlying “feel” of a design. I’m not an artist—I can’t create the product. But I can look at the product and know if it works or not. All this to say—if I had no idea what I was talking about and demanded crazy changes, I don’t think I’d win out in the end. But Curt and I make a good team, and it’s very gratifying to see his willingness to work with me.

Crimson Eve is the third in a series. Just as I have to stick with the town and characters I’ve created in previous books, Curt has to create a design that’s in harmony with the previous books in the series. His way cool idea for Violet Dawn of having tree limbs wind through my name has been carried out in all the books. This feature was prominent in Violet Dawn, way less in Coral Moon, and somewhere in between those two extremes in Crimson Eve.

Sometimes a design can be “done” only to be knocked down at the last minute from some other source. Many of you will remember that Violet Dawn’s original agree-upon design had a way cool snake coiled around the n in Dawn. Then the saleswoman who represents the big general accounts like Barnes and Nobel and Borders said, “Nix the snake. My customers won’t like it.”

Sales won. Snake bit the dust.

TODAY: Pastor Hank--Why I Visit Jails

When I was young, long before my call to pastoral ministry, I had a good friend. I'll call him Jake. Jake and I grew up together and were friends since kindergarten. We did everything together. In the summer we threw the baseball and in the winter the football. We dreamed together about growing up to be fireman. We were as close as two boys could be. Then, just as we were entering junior high, Jake's mom and dad began to have marital problems. They were divorced when we were in eighth grade. Jake was devastated. It was the first time I ever saw him cry. We would have long conversations about what it was like not having his dad at home.

Our lives changed in the spring of eighth grade...

Monday, December 11, 2006

Crimson Eve Cover

Last Friday I received the comp design for book #3 in the Kanner Lake series--Crimson Eve. I love it. And I certainly think it's bright enough to make a browser pick up the book.

(The web version isn't all that clear. To see a better version, click here.)

There's a lot of symbolism in this cover. The artist did a fabulous job of pulling issues out of the story and putting them in the design. The glow beneath the setting sun, the disturbed water. Most of all, the lone, bare tree in the midst of all the glowing red. And in the background--flourishing trees on the hill, with leaves.

My main character in this one is Carla Radling, the realtor. She's one of the Java Joint crew in Violet Dawn, and you'll see her again as a supporting character in Coral Moon. (Book #2, releasing in late March.) But little is said of Carla's past in those two books. Who is she, really? What's in her past that could force her into a situation like the lone tree, stripped of everything, on the cover? And what happens when that past catches up with the present?...

You'll also note the new cool Zondervan logo--the blocky-looking Z. As my other books go into reprintings, the new logo will replace the old on their covers.

I recently turned in Crimson Eve. This book releases in September 2007.

TODAY: Leslie Brymes--Our Christmas Tradition

Hey there, Leslie Brymes here at Java Joint, taking advantage of a few quiet moments.I'm not the only one humming Christmas hymns, am I? As soon as the last football game is over and all the Thanksgiving leftovers have been divided among the family members I can't help but turn to the next holiday. And there's so much to do!...

Friday, December 08, 2006

Narrowed Audience--a Good Thing

After yesterday’s post on segregated shelving, I found another interesting article—this one in Publishers Weekly. In an indirect way it gives an opinion on the shelving issue.

The article was written by novelist Marta Acosta, who recently published a “comic novel” entitled
Happy Hour at Casa Dracula. She was surprised to see that the book’s jacket and marketing pegged it as “women’s fiction” and some of its subcategories, rather than general fiction. (That she was surprised by the marketing copy surprised me. I always see my marketing copy way ahead of time—in fact, I write it. But that is a topic for another day.) Agh! thought Acosta. These labels are limiting my sales by ignoring men as potential customers.

Acosta followed the seemingly reasonable logic that targeting a smaller, more limited audience would naturally cost any book in sales. But as she researched about this issue, she found she was wrong. She quotes Joel Vincent, a marketing consultant in San Jose, California: “There’s definitely a philosophy that satisfying one set of customers 100% is more effective than toning down your appeal to that segment in order to be attractive to other customers.” In other words, “going whole hog” with the most likely audience, even if it’s narrower, is a far more successful strategy than a wide spray of bullets. (Needless to say, the mixed metaphor is mine.)

So, thinking back to what we discussed yesterday, those of you who said it’s easier to find a certain type of book if it’s shelved in its own section may be right from a marketing/sales standpoint as well as the customer/buying standpoint. The publishers are thinking target audience when they write marketing copy. The merchandisers are thinking target audience when they shelve the book with that marketing copy. Bottom line, we authors are concerned with sales numbers for our books. If romance sells better because it’s in a romance section (where romance readers know to go), and mystery/suspense sells better because it’s in the mystery section, why shouldn’t Christian fiction (or black fiction) be shelved where it’s readers know to go?

I will say, however, that I agree with Becky’s comment from yesterday. I think Christian fiction segregated shelving is fine, but I wish it would be in its own section in the fiction area, not in the “religious” area. That way, fiction browsers who happen to be Christian, yet not familiar with many of our books, might find us as writers. That’s not nearly as likely when we’re stuck in the middle of nonfiction titles.

I wonder—when is the last time you found an author new to you simply by browsing (not by word of mouth)? Most likely you were already in that section of the store. (Or perhaps you saw the book staring you in the face the moment you came through the door. You know—in one of those $10,000, man-what-I-wouldn't-give slots. Which, again, is a topic for another day.)

TODAY: Bailey Truitt--Christmas at Java Joint

The Christmas season is truly in full swing. That irrational post-Thanksgiving madness known as Black Friday (why do they call it that anyway?) is over and done with. For the first time ever, I braved the crowds at 5:00 a.m. (yes, 5:00 a.m.!) before I opened Java Joint to get myself a new pair of tennis shoes and grab my darling a few rock-bottom priced gifts. At least that was my plan. After getting shoved, tripped, elbowed, and poked by the hordes of people, I decided to close my eyes, grab what I could and RUN...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Black Fiction/Christian Fiction Shelving

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal ran an interesting article about how books by black authors are shelved separately in bookstores. Is this a “convenience or disservice?” the subtitle asked.

Quite the parallel to our own industry, isn’t it? Christian novels are always shelved separately—in the “Christian” section of the store, rather than mixed in with other fiction.

More parallels can be found in the article. The Journal says black fiction has seen an “explosion” while “book sales as a whole are in decline.” Hm. Haven’t we been hearing the same for Christian fiction? “It’s a hot area, and everyone is rushing in,” said Judith Curr, publisher of CBS Corp.’s Atria imprint, which is composed of about 25% African-American authors.

The difference is that books by black authors aren’t separately shelved at all stores, as our fiction is. Sister stores Waldenbooks and Borders do segregate, for example, while the bigger Barnes and Noble chain does not. Borders executive Joe Gable says that separate shelving of books by black authors “makes sense because race continues to be a defining issue.”

The article mentioned Romantic Times Book Reviews, which separates books into many categories, “ranging from inspirational to paranormal.” (The inspirational, of course, is us.) However, says the article, “black writers of all genres” are lumped into “one African-American category.” True. But so is our “inspirational.” It’s all Christian fiction, regardless of genre. So actually, this is another direct parallel between the two categories.

The question remains—for black writers as well as for Christian fiction writers—is this a good thing? Carol Stacy, publisher of Romantic Times Book Reviews, says the separation in the magazine is right. “We know we’re walking a fine line, but the reader wants to know if a book has African-American characters,” she says.

Bennett Johnson, vice president of Chicago’s Third World Press said, (article’s paraphrase), “the practice appeals to a universal proclivity to think in terms of race. In that sense, publishing is merely a reflection of how the world works.”

As a “practical matter,” says the article, “segregating books by race and culture makes it less likely that black writers will hit the national best-seller lists,” which limits their earnings.

Barnes and Noble shelves black fiction alphabetically with the various genres. A spokeswoman for B&N said the stores want to expose “all titles to all customers.”

IHm. They don’t “expose” Christian fiction in the same way.

Horror novelist Brandon Massey worries he’s being shortchanged by the segregated shelving in some stores. “Most nonblack readers aren’t going to the African-American section,” he says. That’s hard for him, since his goal is to compete with Dean Koontz and Stephen King.

I draw no conclusions here, other than to point out the interesting parallels. I’ve never been too bent out of shape about the segregated Christian fiction shelving in secular stores, because I tend to agree that people wanting our kinds of books will know where to find them. Although I can see the downside as well. I know some authors/publishers are working to have their books mainstream-shelved. Key word here is work. Apparently the booksellers fight it. They look at the publisher, think Christian, and in that section the book goes. Although I do see that the books who are working to be mainstreamed are often those with less Christian content. So maybe general shelving would be better for them. I don't know. I don't think the general practice of shelved segregation for Christian fiction is going to change anytime soon, however.

What say you?
TODAY: Wilbur Hucks--Kum Ba Ya, Part 2

All afternoon, while the rest of the girls spent their free time swimming, canoeing and what not, little Becky made friends with that goliath tarantula. Myself, I couldn't get used to the idea of a giant spider crawling on my skin, let alone one the size of a dinner plate; but Becky took to the critter like it was a big, fluffy kitten. She even gave it a name--Mondo...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A "No" Mind in a "Yes" Heart

Well, drat, I feel like today’s post is a downer. I just had to say “no”—for the thousandth time, it feels like—to someone who e-mailed me requesting an endorsement.


I hate saying no. I’ve got a heart for helping and encouraging people—I always want to say yes. But I’ve now reached the point where I have to say no to everyone. Problem is, I’m now receiving anywhere from one to three requests for endorsements a week. Some folks ask whom I don’t know all that well. But what makes it hard is when a special pal asks. Thing is, I know a lot of people in this industry, so I have a lot of special pals.

These requests come from the authors themselves, and from agents, and from editors. And yes, many of them are friends whom I really don’t like saying no to. I mean, these people and I have a history, you know? Time is a big factor. My life’s getting even busier. Besides the new contract I recently signed, some other things are in the works I can’t even announce yet, but they’re already having a real impact on my writing schedule. But this issue is more than about time. If I said yes—even just to friends who ask—I’d be endorsing so many books my name wouldn’t be worth anything on an endorsement.

Up until a few months ago, I was doing the rare endorsement. If the timing was just right, and if the book was in my genre, and if I knew the author’s writing. Now that requests have increased, I find the only way I can handle this is to have an “I’m so sorry, but I must say no” policy in place. That way everyone’s treated the same. One friend can’t feel bad, thinking, “But she endorsed so-and-so.”

I wish our industry weren’t so driven by this endorsement thing. I still don’t think endorsements do much good, anyway. As I’ve mentioned before, my first suspense novel with Zondervan was endorsed by two people in my genre. (And these, my publisher got for me.) After that, we’ve never bothered with getting endorsements for my books. And they manage to sell okay.

So, yeah, kind of a downer post. Doesn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy. But hey, could be worse. After yesterday’s post—at least I didn’t discover I’ve killed off a person in real life.

TODAY: Wilbur Hucks--Kum Ba Ya, Part 1.

This week I'm going to tell you about the time I faced a pack of the deadliest critters in all creation. Now, I've been snake bit, treed by a bull elk, and chased out of my own house by a hungry bear, but let me tell ya, hell hath no fury like that of a pack of nine-year-old girls out for blood...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Freaky Fiction & Reality

Yesterday I had to visit our tax man, take him some documents. Sounds like a boring enough errand.

Unless you’re a novelist. Living my life, which tends to weird out every once in a while. Okay, more than once in a while.

So I arrive at Ron’s office. Haven’t seen him since last March, when we did our 2005 taxes. He comes out, limping badly.

“Ron, what on earth happened to you?”

He tells me the sad tale as we get settled. Last April he was on a ladder. Which slipped. Ron clung to the house gutter. Which gave way. He fell, shattering bones in his leg. He was in the hospital twelve days, in a cast six months. Now out of it for two months, but still limping. He hopes to fix the limp in time.

After commiserating with him, I said, “You know, I have a character in my current series just like you. He shattered his leg last April, was in a cast for months. Now he’s out, but he’s walking with a permanent limp. Let’s not let your limp be permanent, okay?”

Of course, although I didn't mention the character's name to Ron, I was talking about S-Man, my science fiction writer in the Kanner Lake Series. He’s called S-Man for his science fiction world—Sauria. Ever since S-Man had his accident, he’s turned to writing science fiction, sitting in Java Joint every day, madly typing on his manuscript. In book #1, (Violet Dawn), S-Man’s still in his cast. In book 2 (Coral Moon), coming out next April, readers will see him out of the cast but limping.

(By the way, many of you know that S-Man’s manuscript, Starfire, is the real manuscript of science fiction writer and BG Stuart Stockton. Stuart is blogging over at Scenes and Beans as S-Man—just one more way this series is blending fiction and reality. In fact, as you’ll note below, it just so happens that one of his posts is up today.)

After Ron and I are through with business, I chat with his receptionist on the way out. Knowing I’m a novelist, she asks me if I’ve seen the movie Stranger than Fiction. “Yup,” I tell her, “and I laughed in so many places. I loved the movie.” She and I chuckled about how the movie blended fiction and reality, and I bewailed the fact that I wished I’d thought of that plot first.

Finally out the door I go. Get in my car. Start to drive through the parking lot. I pass a BMW and for some unknown reason glance at the license plate. Which reads:

S Man

I hit the brake and gape at the plate. Wow. Never seen that before. How totally cool!

Then it dawns on me. The car’s sitting in a handicapped spot. Right next to the door near Ron’s office. And Ron’s last name starts with S.


I jerk my car into a parking place, jump out and run back inside Ron’s office, eyes wide. I’m spouting to the receptionist before the door even shuts behind me. “Okay, I know you’re gonna think I’m a crazy novelist. But that BMW outside with the S Man license plate. Is that Ron’s car?”

She gives me one of those you’re-acting-strange looks. It’s okay. I’m used to them. I just want the answer to my question.

Yes, it’s Ron’s car.

The Twilight Zone music plays in my head: neenie neenie, neenie neenie…

"Oh, my gosh! Oh!"

I trot back into Ron’s office, his receptionist on my heels, and tell him the news. The three of us do this we’re-totally-freaked dance.

I knew when I wrote Violet Dawn I would blend fiction and reality. S-Man’s Starfire is real. Simple Pleasures, the gift shop featured in the series, is a real store in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. The fictional blog, Scenes and Beans, featured in the books, is also a real blog, with posts written that reflect the fictional events in the books.

But I never thought I’d cause a real S-Man to shatter his leg in April 2006.

Wasn’t it just yesterday I was saying every time I jog by a car, I'm afraid to glance inside for fear of seeing a body with its head covered in a green towel?...

Okay. Now I’m really freaked.

TODAY: S-Man--Saurian Tech--Karn Light Infantry Gear: Weaponry

Shnakvorum, Rikoyoch!

Book Update: Get your forks ready, this crazy thing is almost done! I can smell the end from here. Unless something crazy happens I only have about a chapter and a half left to go. That's only about 30 pages! Can you believe it? I know I can't. Seems like just yesterday when I was staring at that strange sketch on my cast--and now my first novel is nearly completed! Bailey's already started plans for a completion party. I just hope we don't scare away too many tourists. But then they're few and far between this time of year anyway (though there are some crazy ice fishermen who always show up, but I'm sure our own fishermen can fill you in on that)...

Monday, December 04, 2006

A Head Full of Story

Oh, wow, it’s December. How did that happen?

Maybe I’ve lost a month or two because my mind is so full of Story. I don’t think it can hold much more. Right now the marketing push and letters I’m receiving from readers are about Violet Dawn, book #1 of Kanner Lake. But I’m proofing the galleys for book #2, Coral Moon. This is the last step for that book. Next thing—the real printed critter. Yay! (It releases next March.) At the same time, as you know, I’ve just finished book #3 in the series, Crimson Eve. I was so immersed in that story for the last three weeks of its writing that my head’s still swimming in it. Three days after finishing, I took my assistant to lunch, and when I went to write the name of the person I’d taken to lunch on my copy of the bill, I started to write Carla—the name of the protagonist in Crimson Eve.

Oh, brother.

And, as if that’s not enough, I need to start book #4 soon. Preferably yesterday. (By the way, I think it will be titled Amber Morn.) So I’m thinking more and more about that plot.

So, with four stories going in my head, I kinda forget where my Kanner Lake characters are, and when, and why and how, if you know what I mean. Or maybe I know where they are; I’m just not sure where I am. Or what I’m doing. Or what story I’m in at the moment. And meanwhile, I swear writing Coral Moon ruined me for jogging by parked cars forever. Every one I pass I can’t help but glance inside, half expecting to see a body in the passenger seat with a green towel over its head. I keep thinking after that book comes out, if somebody really wanted to scare me silly, he/she could stage that scene from the book for me to find. I think I’d have a heart attack.

Don’t ask me why in the world I’m giving you all the idea to do this. Some of you BGs have some pretty warped minds of your own. Use your warp on your own novels, okay?

Speaking of your novels, you writers out there—I’d love to hear what you’re working on. Title, genre, theme, why are you writing it, etc.? If the work is contracted, when will it release? These works of today will be our industry’s books of tomorrow. I think all of us would enjoy hearing what we can look forward to reading.

TODAY: Pastor Hank Detcher--The Skiing Spirit

Pastor Hank here. Boy, it sure cooled off here over the last few weeks. The Idaho panhandle had its first real snowfall the weekend of Thanksgiving. The white blanket calms the surroundings and makes it so peaceful--until the people drive on it for the first time each year. Seems like every winter people forget that snow is slippery, so Sheriff Edwards and his crew spend the first storm chasing down all the wrecks...

Friday, December 01, 2006

Psalm 27

In the past few days I’ve been led to pray for a few colleagues whom I know are facing some tough spiritual attacks. Well, you know, if you’re on God’s side, it’s gonna happen. There are many psalms to be prayed for folks who are being oppressed. Here’s one—Psalm 27. Pray it aloud for yourself or for anyone you know who might need it. (As always, it’s in the BPV—Brandilyn’s Prayer Version, which is taken from the New American Standard.)

Lord, You are my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
You are the defense of my life;
Whom shall I dread?
When evil comes upon me, looking to devour me,
My adversaries and my enemies will all stumble and fall.
Though a host encamp against me,
My heart will not fear.
Though war arise against me,
In spite of this, I shall be confident.

One thing I ask you, Lord. One think I seek—
That I may dwell in your house all the days of my life,
To behold your beauty
And to meditate in Your temple.
For in the day of trouble You will conceal me in Your tabernacle.
In the secret place of Your tent, You will hide me;
You will lift me up on a rock.
Now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me.
And I will offer in Your tent sacrifices with shouts of joy.
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to You, Lord!

Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice,
And be gracious to me and answer me.
When You say, “Seek My Face,” my heart said to You,
“Your face, Lord, I do seek!”
Don’t hide Your face from me,
Don’t turn Your servant away in anger.
You’ve been my help;
Don’t abandon me nor forsake me,
O God of my salvation!
Anyone else might forsake me,
But You, Lord, will lift me up.

Teach me Your way, O Lord,
And lead me in a level path
Because of my foes.
Don’t deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries.
For evil has risen against me,
Breathing out violence.
Lord, I would despair if I didn’t believe that I will see Your goodness
In the land of the living.
Lord, help me to be strong. Help my heart to take courage.
I wait for you, Lord. Yes, I wait for You.

TODAY: Jake Tremaine--Big Boy Buck, Part 2

So there I was on the ground with my bow tied up, and I was sawin' away. I cut my bow free, afraid to unlatch it because of the awful metallic clang that would echo all over tarnation. I got my bow in my hand, steadied the arrow, and looked Big Boy Buck straight in the eye...

Blour for Landon Snow and the Island of Arcanum

Christian parents are finally offered a true Potter alternative. All the adventure of Harry Potter ... None of the sorcery. Landon Snow and The Island of Arcanum by R.K.Mortenson, published by Barbour Publishing (October 2006). A Landon Snow short story is appearing in Focus on the Family's Clubhouse magazine for kids in December. The story is already online at their Website here.