Thursday, February 08, 2007

Sta Akra--Part 1

Sta Akra was formed a little over a year ago as a way for a small, informal group of suspense authors within our industry to keep in touch and discuss career issues. Sta Akra is Greek for “on the edge.” It’s pronounced StahAHkruh—run together with the emphasis on the second “short” A.

There are nine of us. This is a group that’s not looking to grow or become some formal organization. In fact, weeks can go by without us contacting each other, since we’re all so busy writing. But then some issue will arise that one of us wants opinions/guidance on, and the e-mails start flowing.

For some time now the Sta Akra members have been listed on this blog’s sidebar, with links to their web sites. If you like suspense, you should check these authors out. Each of us is a little bit different in what we write. If you’re a suspense lover and haven’t read all these authors have to offer, you’re in for a treat. As the group name indicates, these authors write “on the edge” suspense with a Christian worldview.

I’ve collected background information on the eight other Sta Akra authors from their web sites, and have included excerpts from their work. You’ll notice that most of these authors, although some are fairly new to fiction, have been writing in other venues for years. Their backgrounds in advertising, marketing, journalism, etc. have helped make them the successful novelists they are today.

Tim Downs: In 1976 Tim created a comic strip, Downstown, which was syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate until 1986. His cartooning has appeared in more than a hundred major newspapers worldwide. His first book, a work of non-fiction, was awarded the Gold Medallion Award in 2000.
Tim is the acclaimed author of the “Bug Man” novels Shoo Fly Pie and Chop Shop, plus the stand-alone novel Plague Maker. His latest, Head Game, is now available. Tim is published by Nelson (formerly WestBow). His stories are high concept and action-packed. Great reads for men and women alike.

Head Game: Someone wants you dead. But he doesn't want to kill you. He wants you to do it for him …

Excerpt from first page of Head Game:

… Nodding with satisfaction, he gathered the drawings into a stack. It was a nice piece of work all in all, one of his best--and it only seemed fitting. His editors would have been proud of the drawings; too bad he'd never have a chance to show them. He found himself wishing that the NYPD detective who found them might turn out to be a comics buff, someone who could appreciate them. But then, that wasn't really important either. There was only one thing that mattered; there was only one person on earth who had to see the drawings, and even he didn't have to appreciate them--he only had to understand them, because his life depended on it.

The only thing left to do was to find a place in the apartment to leave the drawings where they were sure to be discovered. Then everything would be ready; then it would be finished.

He looked around the room for the last time.

T. L. Hines: Tony L. Hines is an advertising guy. He’s been a professional writer for more than 15 years, with articles appearing in publications such as Log Homes, Food & Wine, and Travel & Leisure. In 2001, Tony authored the nonfiction book Billings: A Shining Star in Big Sky Country (CCI Publishing), a historical portrait of Montana’s largest city. In 1995, Tony founded H2O Advertising with his wife Nancy. In 2003, after eight years of growth, they merged their company with Wendt Advertising to create the largest advertising agency in the Northern Rockies. From 1995 to 2002, Tony was also the Managing Editor and a contributing writer for Locations magazine, a publication published by the Association of Film Commissioners International ( to promote on-location film production around the world. Locations is distributed to the feature film and commercial production industries.

Tony, bless his marketing brain, started the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, now directed by Bonnie Calhoun.

Tony’s debut novel, Waking Lazarus (Bethany), garnered some great reviews, including a starred review in Library Journal. Waking Lazarus, called “crime fiction with a supernatural twist,” went on to be named “One of the top 25 genre novels” of 2006 by Library Journal. His second novel, The Dead Whisper On, releases this summer.

Opening line from Waking Lazarus:

The first time Jude Allman died, he was eight years old.

Robert Liparulo: Bob is an award-winning author of over a thousand published articles and short stories. He is currently a contributing editor for New Man magazine. His work has appeared in Reader's Digest, Travel & Leisure, Modern Bride, Consumers Digest, Chief Executive, and The Arizona Daily Star, among other publications. In addition, he previously worked as a celebrity journalist, interviewing Stephen King, Tom Clancy, Charlton Heston, and others for magazines such as Rocky Road, Preview, and L.A. Weekly. He has sold or optioned three screenplays.

Just last week I ran a review of Bob’s latest, Germ. I refer you to that post to learn more about his fiction. This is another Nelson novelist you don’t want to miss.

Opening of his latest novel, Germ:

Hardly resembling a man anymore, the thing on the bed jerked and thrashed like a nocturnal creature dragged into the light of day. His eyes had filled with blood and rolled back into his head, so only crimson orbs glared out from between swollen, bleeding lids. Black flecks stained his lips, curled back from canted teeth and blistered gums. Blood poured from nostrils, ears, fingernails. Flung from the convulsing body, it streaked up curtains and walls and streamed into dark pools on the tile floor.

Despesorio Vero, clad in a white lab coat, leaned over the body, pushing an intratracheal tube down the patient's throat, his fingers slick on the instrument. He snapped his head away from the crimson mist that marked each gasp and cough. His nostrils burned from the acidic tang of the sludge. He caught sight of greasy black mucus streaking the blood and tightened his lips. Having immersed his hands in innumerable body cavities—of the living and the dead—few things the human body could do or produce repulsed him. But this . . . He found himself at once steeling his stomach against the urge to expel his lunch and narrowing his attention to the mechanics of saving this man's life ...

Kathryn Mackel: Author of the “Christian chiller.” If you like horror novels, Kathy’s first two books provide a Christian slant to the genre. Kathy comes from the screenwriting world (Disney, Fox, and Showtime), and it shows in her crisp, lean writing. She was on the screenwriting team for Left Behind: The Movie, and Frank Peretti’s Hangman’s Curse. Her “chiller” novels include The Departed and The Surrogate. Her other novels are Outriders (Birthright series #1), and The Hidden, and she’s at work on more. Her next to be released is The Trackers (Birthright series #2).

From Kathy’s "Christian Chiller" web site:

Don’t be scared. Come on in.

I’m not here to frighten you—I’m here to inspire you. Sure, there’s some creepy stuff in my Chillers. But let’s be honest. This is a dark world. Read the newspaper, look at the news. Look inside yourself. Believers battle the “powers of this dark world and the forces of evil in the heavenly realms” every day.

In my books, I take you through the darkness by shining the true Light. For we know that the only resolution for fear and dread is the true Light that brings Life. Despite my scary plots and creepy characters, Christian Chillers are about light, life, and the glory of Jesus Christ.

As John tells us: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…

I pray the Light shines for you as you enjoy my books.

Tomorrow--the other four members of Sta Akra

Read Part 2


Karen said...

This list is pretty impressive so far! It's good to know that some of the top Christian authors stay in contact with each other inside of trying to walk the road alone. I find this very encouraging.

Now, I was wondering how do some of you "big leaguers" relate to the non-Christian authors who write in the same genre (i.e. supsense, horror, etc.)? Could you talk about what that dance is like in the publishing world? Have any of you ever sent [insert non-Christian author] that you respect, a copy of your book and asked for some feedback?

Just curious.

Unknown said...

Great. More books to add to my to-be-read pile.

Susanne said...

Thanks for introducing us to these authors, Brandilynn. I'm passing the list on to my brother in law who loves this genre.

Dineen A. Miller said...

I'm still "dying" to read Waking Lazarus. I think Tony forgot to send me my copy. LOL! Robert's Comes A Horseman was one of the best books I've read all year. And Kathryn's Outriders was another one.

I'm already a Brandilyn fan. LOL! What a great group. Can't wait to read about the rest.

Bonnie S. Calhoun said...

Hmmm...the only one out of the group that I haven't read is tim Downs.

Tony's Waking Lazarus was a real head trip...LOL...I'm not partial or anything.

Bob writes on level with Stephen King as far as I am concerned.

And Kathy is my mentor, and I love, love, love the way she writes!

Jim Sanders said...

Wow, I never realized that the author Tim Downs is the same guy who created the Downstown comic strip. I loved reading that strip when I was in high school. I remember reading something about the creator of that strip being a Christian, and I wondered what happened to him. Small world, huh?

Tyora Moody said...

The growing Christian thriller market has been a welcome edition on my bookshelf. This is a great list! I've read books by everyone except Tim Downs. I will be on the lookout for his book. Thanks for posting.

I love reading and writing suspense novels. As an aspiring female writer, I really enjoy seeing Kathryn and you (Brandilyn) on this list.

Anonymous said...

Dineen - Sorry you didn't get a copy of WL; I sent the two dozen ARCs I had long ago to the first two dozen CFBA requests I received. Kinda wish I still had a copy of the ARC myself. :)

solshine - We do interact with a lot of ABA (American Booksellers Association) authors every day. I belong to International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and other organizations. I know Bob Liparulo and Chris Well both belong to ITW, as well--and Bob had a story in the first "Thriller" anthology that spent some time on the NYT bestseller list this past year. Most of my "blurbs" for my first book were from ABA authors. I just joined, a daily blog from 30 writers of dark fantasy/horror fiction. (Actually, I think Eric Wilson is joining this blog as well.) And I have a good number of friends who are ABA authors.

ty - Melanie Wells is also on the list, whom I'm sure Brandilyn will write about soon.

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Just for the record, 'case anyone cares to know, Kathryn Mackel's Trackers is already on the shelves at a bookstore near you. ;-)