Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Broken Ankle Searchers

I interrupt the regularly scheduled programming of this blog to speak to those of you who have stumbled upon Forensics and Faith through online searching for broken ankle.

I feel your pain.

Every day at least five people come to this blog as a result of such a search. Other common searches that bring people here include broken ankle photos, ankle plate and screws, running after a broken ankle, etc. I can imagine each of you with the cast on your leg, wondering about the process. How long will it take to heal? What about that hardware tacked onto my bone? How have other people handled this?

May my experience give you hope. Yes, there is life after a broken ankle, even if the recovery time seems to take forever. There are many accidents that are so much worse.

Perhaps you have extenuating circumstances. I certainly did. My list of peripherals were:

1. Inability to function on pain meds. Except for the first 24 hours after the initial surgery, I survived without them, even with undergoing three surgeries in total.

2. Ended up not being able to use crutches normally because I couldn't put weight on my right arm. So I hopped on one foot and used one crutch. I wasn't exactly going many places in those days.

3. Badly torn ligaments. This makes for a longer healing time. Today, 10 months after the accident, I walk normally--and I'm back to running. Even so, my injured foot does not have the full motion it had before. And when I go down stairs, the broken-up scar tissue inside sounds like macho Rice Krispies.

In a nutshell, here's the schedule of my broken ankle saga:

March 4--accident

March 5--surgery

Ten days in splint after surgery

About six weeks in a cast

About four weeks in the boot. (This got me to Memorial Day weekend.)

One week later--outpatient surgery to take out the long screw (docs like to do this 3 months after initial surgery)

Another 10 days back in boot following outpatient surgery.

Time for physical therapy and slowly getting back into walking, then running.

Early October--final surgery to take out plate and screws (the docs want to wait at least 6 months from initial surgery to do this)

Back in boot for about a week. Off of running for a number of weeks as bone heals.

All done! Time to get back into full running! (I took this way more slowly than the docs said I needed to. I'd come too far to not be cautious.)

To see photos and read more details of my story, start here. At the bottom of each post is a link to the next in the story. If you zip through them all you'll read about physical therapy, the surgeries, the hardware, etc.--with some humor thrown in, as we all need to laugh. You'll also see photos of the hardware and x-rays. I hope you'll find these posts entertaining and informative. If you leave a comment/question on any of the posts, I will see them. Google emails all comments to me. Check back to the post for my answer to a question.

One important note: if you're used to exercising as I am (I run five miles a day), not being able to catch those endorphins is really gonna get to you. Depression can set in as a result. I managed to use a stationary bike as a replacement for running. While in the cast I just put my foot on top of the pedal--no use trying to slip in under the holder. Once I graduated to the boot, I took it off for pedaling. You're not putting enough weight on the ankle to hurt it. No, the bike isn't a full substitute for the high of running, but it did give me some endorphins. I was very grateful for it.

God's blessings to you during your journey toward healing.

Monday, January 28, 2008

February Bestseller List

The new fiction list is up, reflecting sales in the month of December. Check it out here.

The new name to take note of is
Steven James at #10 for The Pawn. Last month he was at a higher number on the list but this month has managed to move to the top ten. He's right behind Ted Dekker at #9 for Skin.

In a list dominated by women's fiction, historicals and romance, it's always great to see a couple suspense titles show up. And it's wonderful to see an author of Steven James' caliber join the CBA suspense genre. The Pawn, first in James' Patrick Bowers series, is a well-written novel. It's been garnering great reviews, including one from PW.

A note to you BHCC (Big Honkin' Chickens' Club) members--this one's totally off the charts for you. The Pawn contains more graphic violence than is typical for CBA-published suspense.

Steven James has written some nonfiction for Baker. The Pawn is his first novel, published by Revell (part of Baker). His second novel, The Rook, will release in time for an ICRS signing in Orlando this July.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

"Hands-on Blogging" E-Seminar

For the many of you reading Forensics and Faith via Feedblitz, I want to point out information in a comment left on Tuesday by ECPA's Michael Covington in response to my post on blogging:

FYI - ECPA is hosting one of its E-Seminars on February 19 titled "Hands-on Blogging - Tools for Implementation and Strategies to Optimize Your Blog's Effectiveness" with Joe Wikert, Publisher for John Wiley. Joe has two high profile blogs in the Publishing world, and He also led a keynote session at our Pub U event this past November on blogging, where we had nearly 400 publishing executives in attendence. Registration is $99 per person and all registrants will receive a free copy of David Meerman Scott's book The New Rules of Marketing and PR...

Go to for more information.

This Week's CFBA Tour--Fallen

About the Book:

Jim was at work when his eyes drifted to the coffee shop visible from his office window. An attractive woman driving a Mercedes pulled up to the curb . . . and Jim’s married pastor emerged from the car. When Jim delves deeper into his pastor’s world, will he be able to handle what he discovers? Is he right to suspect that Dave is having an affair? In the behind-the-scenes church battle that ensues, Jim is torn between duty to his church and a desire to show grace. A ripped-from-the-headlines drama of suspense that keeps you engaged to the last page.

Fallen is the story about Jim’s relationship with Dave—how Jim tries to do the right thing to keep Dave accountable, but finds the situation getting worse and worse. It’s also about Jim’s other relationships. Just as he discovers hypocrisy in Dave, Jim discovers his own sins against his wife and daughter.

Published by Kregel, Feb. 29, 2008.

About the author, Matthew Raley:

Matthew Raley is senior pastor of the Orland Evangelical Free Church in northern California, where he lives with his wife and two young children. For fun, he enjoys playing chamber music with friends, giving occasional solo recitals, and playing first violin in the North State Symphony. Fallen is his first book.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Apologetic Writing

Here's a little snippet from the Jan. 7 isue of Christian Retailing:

Christian apologist Anthony Horvath and his brother, Brian, have launched a line of T-shirts with an apologetics emphasis. The two want to "educate Christians about essential Christian teachings" as well as "create apologetic opportunities for those wearing the shirts."

The company's name, Apologia315, comes from the root Greek word for apologetics (a "defense"), and I Peter 3:15, which urges Christian to be prepared to give reasons for what they believe.

So far there are four designs. Shirts come in men's sizes, small to large, and retail for $15. Each shirt comes with a brochure that give the wearer info about how to intelligently discuss the thought on his/her shirt.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Marketing Article on Blogging

The new issue of CBA Retailers magazine contains an informative and encouraging article geared toward bookstore empoyees who constantly struggle to keep up to date with the plethora of newly released books (particularly fiction). One very helpful tool, the article says, is using the blogosphere.

Article authors Kelly Blewett and Elizabeth Johnson write, "Marketing and publicity specialists believe blogs are the new word of mouth. Since bloggers trust those in their network, and the writers informally know each other, blog recommendations are non-threatening, yet powerful endorsements."

For keeping up with fiction, the article mentions the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance (CFBA), run by Bonnie Calhoun. At the time of the article's writing, membership in CFBA was up to 175 bloggers. Bonnie works with around 30 contacts at CBA publishers, booking blog tours up to a year in advance. To keep up with specific genres, the article suggests organizations such as Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy (CSFF), run by Rebecca (Becky) Miller. With its goal to "raise the profile of the genre," according to Becky, the CSFF now has around 90 members and features about two books a month. These two organizations don't see each other as competitors but rather having the same goal of promotion Christian fiction.

Jeffrey Overstreet's Auralia's Colors was featured by CFBA and is on CSFF this month. Overstreet reports his CFBA tour caused the book's amazon numbers to jump up 75,000 points. "I've done twenty-five radio interviews and have never seen this kind of spike, " he said.

For suspense novels, there's Ladies of Suspense, and for historical lovers there's the Historical Novel Society.

Also mentioned is Novel Journey, founded by Gina Holmes, which is "regularly picked up by MySpace News" and averages "20,000 unique hits a month."

For the bookseller, says the article, reading such blogs can help with handselling. For instance, if a fiction reader notes two favorite authors, the blog-savvy bookseller will be better equipped to recommend a new author in a similar style. Or if that same customers reads only historicals but needs a recommendation for a suspense as a gift, the bookseller will more likely be able to recommend a suspense title. The articles notes that comments to posts can serve as added help in giving the bookseller information.

Two negatives are noted. First, that blogs, especially those doing a tour, can repeat information on a book. (Although an easy fix here is simply to choose one or two CFBA blogs to read each week.) Second, that reviews tend to always be favorable, although Bonnie Calhoun does tell CFBA bloggers to "tell the truth [about the book] from their own perspective."

Other sites noted are Novel Reviews, Deena Peterson's blog, and for science fiction/fantasy--Stuart Stockton's site.

Blewett and Johnson work in the publicity departments of Waterbrook and Multnomah, respectively. A high five to both of them for making booksellers more aware of these sites as a way to keep up with new releases and promote fiction. It's one thing to reach individual readers, the end users. It's another to reach the bookseller herself, who is in a position to sell many books.

To subscribe to CBA Retailers, or to buy the February 2008 issue for this complete article, go here.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Art & Fear -- Part 7

I got a kick out of author Ted Orland's comment to Tuesday's post. Ted, this is why you're a photographer and we're writers. (Although, as you've seen from this series and its comments, writin' don't exactly come easily to us, either.)

BGs, I've given you almost all of the "Fears About Yourself" chapter. I've learned equally as much from some of the other chapters. "Fears about Others" deals with putting our work out there. Will readers understand what I'm trying to say? Will they accept me? Approve of me and my work? Hard questions for us novelists, who tend to feel like we bleed all over our pages. And the "Outside World" chapter--yikes. At one time or another we've all had to engage in the fight between what we may want to write and what the world/market wants from us.

The "Finding Your Work" chapter has some amazing things about finding your voice as a writer. There is a hard-hitting passage in this chapter about being moved by what you view--or read--and how little that can affect what art you make. When we're greatly moved by a book, we novelists tend to say, "Oh, I want to write like that. Why can't I write like that?" Orland and Bayles respond with this: "Making art is bound by where we are, and the experience of art we have as viewers is not a reliable guide to where we are. As viewers we readily experience the power of ground on which we cannot stand--yet that very experience can be so compelling that we may feel almost honor-bound to make art that recaptures that power."

Making art is bound by where we are...

The greatest lesson I'm learning at this stage in my career is to trust the process. Those of you who read this blog regularly know my shtick by now. Whatever book I'm currently writing is terrible and will absolutely ruin my career. So far, my career is still around. By now you all are probably tired of my whining. ("Shut up already, we've heard this before.") And do you think I don't know, each time I go through this time of feeling terrible, that I'm repeating an old, bad pattern? I have this running commentary with myself--"Come on, this will work out in the end, you know it. The last one did." "Yeah, that's because the last wasn't bad after all. This one really is."

(By the way, this line of thinking is quite common among those of us who write to deadline on a regular basis. I'm not the only wimp out there.)

This line in the Pretending subheading of "Fears about Yourself" hit home with me: "After all, you know better than anyone else the accidental nature of much that appears in your art..."

Yes, that is the key! My readers see the finished product. I see the mess it is all the way to that finished product--a good 90% of its journey. I've come to realize I'm not happy with the manuscript I turn in as the first draft, because it really isn't that good. Oh, it has components of good. It has promise. But it hardly lives up to my standards. In the second step of the process, the rewrite--thanks to insights from great editors--the manuscript is really fixed up. After that it's real close. Just minor tweaks from there. And at that time I'm feeling better about the whole thing. Even so, I'm not feeling as good about it as I will by the time it actually releases, almost a year later. By then I've written a couple more books and can much more objectively look at the work.

It is this messy process I must trust.

Danged hard to do when you're in the mess.

My great thanks to Ted Orland and David Bayles for allowing me to quote so extensively from Art & Fear. As for you Forensics and Faith readers out there, a very small percentage of y'all are commenting these days. It would be great if you took a minute to thank Ted and David in a comment and tell 'em something you've learned.

And in case, for some crazy reason, you've dragged your heels:

Buy Art & Fear at$10.36. 122 pages. It's money well spent.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Art & Fear -- Part 6

This is the last subheading of Art & Fear's chapter "Fears About Yourself. My comments will be in blue brackets.


"...expectations provide a means to merge imagination with calculation. But it's a delicate balance--lean too far one way and your head fills with unworkable fantasies, too far the other and you spend your life generating "To DO" lists.

"Worse yet, expectations drift into fantasies all to easily. At a recent writers' workshop, the instructor labored heroically to keep the discussion centered upon issues of craft (as yet unlearned), while the writers (as yet unpublished) labored equally to divert the focus with questions about royalties, movie rights and sequels.

"Give a small kernel of reality and any measure of optimism, nebulous expectations whisper to you that the work will soar, that it will become easy, that it will make itself. And verily, now and then the sky opens and the work does make itself. Unreal expectations are easy to come by, both from emotional needs and from the hope or memory of periods of wonder. Unfortunately, expectations based on illusion lead almost always to disillusionment.

"Conversely, expectations based on the work itself are the most useful tool the artist possesses. What you need to know about the next piece is contained in the last piece. The place to learn about your materials is in the last use of your materials. The place to learn about your execution is in your execution...Put simply, your work is your guide: a complete, comprehensive, limitless reference book on your work. There is no other such book, and it is yours alone. It functions this way for no one else. Your fingerprints are all over your work, and you alone know how they got there. Your work tells you about yor working methods, your discipline, your strengths and weaknesses, your habitual gestures, your willingness to embrace.

"The lessons you are meant to learn are in your work. To see them, you need only look at the work clearly--without judgment, without need or fear, without wishes or hopes. Without emotional expectations. Ask your work what it needs, not what you need. Then set aside your fears and listen, the way a good parent listens to a child."

[The penultimate line sticks out the most to me: Ask your work what it needs, not what you need. What I need brings in that much larger picture, with all my fears and insecurities, and all my thoughts about the future of my career, etc. Well, guess what, the future of my career is made now, in making this book the best it can be.

This marks the end of my quoting from Art & Fear. Tomorrow I'll talk about some of the things I've learned from the entire book, not just this chapter.]

Buy Art & Fear at $10.36. 122 pages.

Read Part 7

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Art & Fear -- Part 5

Today we'll look at the next two subheadings in Art & Fear's chapter "Fears About Yourself."

[My comments will be in blue brackets.]


"For most artists, hitting a dry spell in their artmaking would be a serious blow; for a few it would amount to annihilation. Some artists identify so closely with their own work that were they to cease producing, they fear they would be nothing--that they would cease existing...

"Some avoid this self-imposed abyss by becoming stupendously productive, churning out work in quantities that surprise even close friends (and positively unnerve envious peers!)...

"Others...project instead a certain no-nonsense professionalism: precise, relentless, and narrowly aimed at making art--which, indeed, they may be very good at. History records that Anthony Trollope methodically drafted exactly forty-nine pages of manuscript a week--seven pages a day--and was so obsessed with keeping to that schedule that if he finished a novel in the morning he'd pen the title of his next book on a new sheet and plod relentlessly ahead until he'd completed his quota for the day...

"Still, there must be many fates worse than the inability to stop producing art...Annihilation is an existential fear: the common--but sharply overdrawn--fear that some part of you dies when you stop making art. And it's true. Non-artists may not understand that, but artists themselves (especially those who are stuck) understand it all too well. The depth of your need to make things establishes the level of risk in not making them."


"In a darkened theater the man in the tuxedo waves his hand and a pigeon appears. We call it magic...Imagine you've just attended an exhibition and seen work that's powerful and coherent, work that has range and purpose. The artist's statement framed near the door is clear: these works materialized exactly as the artist conceived them. The work is inevitable. But wat a minute--your work doesn't feel inevitable (you think), and so you begin to wonder: maybe making art requires some special or even magic ingredient that you don't have.

"The belief that 'real' art possesses some indefinable magic ingredient puts pressure on you to prove your work contains the same. Wrong, very wrong. Asking your work to prove anything only invites doom. Besides, if artists share any common view of magic, it is probably the fatalistic suspicion that when their own art turns out well, it's a fluke--but when it turns out poorly it's an omen."

[Agh! This is me.]

"Buying into magic leaves you feeling less capable each time another artist's qualities are praised...

"Admittedly, artmaking probably does require something special, but just what that something might be has remained remarkably elusive--elusive enough to suggest that it may be something particular to each artist, rather than universal to them all...But the important point here is not that you have--or don't have--what other artists have, but rather that it doesn't matter. Whatever they have is something needed to do their work--it wouldn't help you in your work even if you had it. Their magic is theirs. You don't lack it. You don't need it. It has nothing to do with you. Period."

[Hardhitting final paragraph, huh? Confession time. Who out there has wished for something another writer has? I certainly have. Usually it's the ability to write faster. Doggone it, why can't I write 4-5 books a year, every year? Okay, so that's someone else's magic. Fine. So...where's mine? I'll bet we tend to see others' magic much quicker than we see our own...]

Buy Art & Fear at $10.36. 122 pages.

Read Part 6

Monday, January 14, 2008

Art & Fear -- Part 4

Continuing in Art & Fear's chapter, "Fears About Yourself," today we look at the subheading Perfection. This part opens with an interesting story.

[My comments will be in blue brackets.]

"The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the "quantity" group: fifty pounds of pots rated an "A," forty pounds a "B," and so on. Those being graded on "quality," however, needed to produce only one pot--albeit a perfect one--to get an "A." Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the "quantity" group was busily churning out piles of work--and learning from their mistakes--the "quality" group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay."

[I don't know about you, but I really got a kick out of this story--more like a kick in the pants. The ending makes perfect sense, doesn't it. (Pun intended.)]

"If you think good work is somehow synonymous with perfect work, you are headed for big trouble. Art is human; error is human; ergo, art is error. Inevitably your work (like, uh, the preceding syllogism) will be flawed...

"Nonetheless, the belief persists among some artists (and lots of ex-artists) that doing art means doing things flawlessly--ignoring the fact that this prerequisite would disqualify most existing works of art...Ansel Adams...often recalled the old adage that 'the perfect is the enemy of the good,' his point being that if he waited for everything in the scene to be exactly right, he'd probably never make a photograph.

"Adams was right: to require perfection is to invite paralysis. The pattern is predictable: steer your work toward what you imagine you can do perfectly. You cling ever more tightly to what you already know you can do--away from risk and exploration, and possibly further from the work of your heart. You find reasons to procrastinate, since to not work is to not make mistakes...Sooner or later, since you cannot do what you are trying to do, you quit...

To demand perfection is to deny your ordinary (and universal) humanity, as though you would be better off with it. Yet this humanity is the ultimate source of your work; your perfectionism denies you the very thing you need to get your work done...the seed for your next art work lies embedded in the imperfections of your current piece. Such imperfections...are your guides--valuable, reliable, objective, non-judgmental guides--to matters you need to reconsider or develop further. It is precisely this interaction between the ideal and the real that locks your art into the real world, and gives meaning to both."

[Anyone out there struggle with perfectionism? How does it tend to bind your work? If you have this struggle, the above insights must really be speaking to you. So--is there a way you can overcome this?

For me, with any of my struggles to write, it comes down to this: I know I am on the path that God has put me on. Therefore I have God's help, through prayer, to deal with these day-to-day difficult issues. As hard as my work may seem on any given day (especially when my work in progress is a total mess, which is most of the time it's in progress), I remind myself that our God hung the sun and moon. What's a little help to a struggling author for Him? Nary a lift of His little finger.]

Buy Art & Fear at $10.36. 122 pages.

Read Part 5

Friday, January 11, 2008

Art & Fear -- Part 3

The second subheading under Art & Fear's chapter, "Fears About Yourself," is:

Talent (my comments will be in dark blue brackets)

"Talent, in common parlance, is 'what comes easily.' So sooner or later, inevitably, you reach a point where the work doesn't come easily, and -- Aha, it's just as you feared!

"Wrong. By definition, whatever you have is exactly what you need to produce your best work. There is probably no clearer waste of psychic energy than worrying about how much talent you have--and probably no worry more common. This is true even among artists of considerable accomplishment.

" a gift, and nothing of the artist's own making...

"Were talent a prerequisite, then the better the artwork, the easier it would have been to make. But alas, the fates are rarely so generous. For every artist who has developed a mature vision with grace and speed, countless others have laboriously nurtured their art through fertile periods and dry spells, through false starts and breakaway bursts, through successive and significant changes of direction, medium, and subject matter. Talent may get someone off the starting blocks faster, but without a sense of direction or a goal to strive for, it won't count for much. The world is filled with people who were given great natural gifts ... yet never produce anything. And when that thappens, the world soon ceases to care whether they are talented.

"...whatever his initial gift, Mozart was also an artist who learned to work on his work, and thereby improved. In that respect he shares common ground with the rest of us. Artists get better by sharpening their skills or by acquiring new ones; they get better by learning to work, and by learning from their work...So when you ask, 'Then why doesn't it come easily for me?', the answer is probably, 'Because making art is hard!' What you end up caring about is what you do, not whether the doing came hard or easy.

[Drat. I so want it to be easy...]

"Talent is a snare and a delusion..."

[Here and there in the book the authors include boxed asides. This section has one of them:]____________________________________________

A Brief Digression In Which The Authors Attempt to Answer (Or Deflect) an Objection:

Q. Aren't you ignoring the fact that people differ radically in their abilities?

A. No.

Q. But if people differ, and each of them were to make their best work, would not the more gifted make better work, and the less gifted, less?

A. Yes. And wouldn't that be a nice planet to live on?____________________________________________

Buy Art & Fear at$10.36. 122 pages.

Read Part 4

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Art & Fear -- Part 2

As mentioned in yesterday's post, chapter three of Art & Fear, "Fears About Yourself," is divided into six subheadings. We'll look at the first today--"Pretending."

Pretending (my personal comments will be in brackets and dark blue)

"When you act out of fear, your fears come true."

Authors Bayles and Orland begin this chapter by noting that fears about our artmaking fall into two categories--fears about ourselves, and fears about our reception by others. "In a general way, fears about yourself prevent you from doing your best work, while fears about your reception by others prevent you from doing your own work."

[Whoa, stop right there. Read that again.]

"The fear that you're only pretending to do art is the (readily predictable) consequence of doubting your own artistic credentials. After all, you know better than anyone else the accidental nature of much that appears in your art, not to mention all those elements you know originated with others (and even some you never even intended but which the audience has read into your work). From there it's only a short hop to feeling like you're just going through the motions of being an artist. It's easy to imagine that real artists know what they're doing, and that they--unlike you--are entitled to feel good about themselves and their art. Fear that you are not a real artist causes you to undervalue our work."

[So one day I receive an email from my agent. Paraphrasing here--"Got a call from bigwig guy at your publishing house, says he wants to talk to me about you. Not sure about what. I'll report to you afterwards." EGAD! My immediate response, straight from the gut: "Great, they're gonna fire me. I KNEW one day they'd find out I can't write ..."

I was half serious. Point is--that was my first blush response. Why is that?

It's because, as the authors note, I see the process of writing my novels. The manuscripts are pure shlock most of the way. I think, "If readers only knew how I struggled! How the novel ever amounted to anything is a miracle..."]

"The chasm widens even further when your work isn't going well...If you buy into the premise that art can be made only by people who are extraordinary, such down periods only serve to confirm that you aren't...In moments of weakness the myth of the extraordinary provides the excuse for an artist to quit trying to make art, and the excuse for a viewer to quit trying to understand it.

"Meanwhile artists who do continue often become perilously self-conscious about their artmaking. If you doubt this could be a problem, just try working intuitively (or spontaneously) while self-consciously weighing the effect of your every action. The increasing prevalence of reflexive art--art that looks inward, taking itself as its subject--may to some degree simply illustrate attempts by artists to turn this obstacle to their advantage. Art-that's-about-art has in turn spawned a whole school of art criticism built around the demonstrably true (but limited) premise that artists continually 'redefine' art through their work. This approach treats 'what art is' as a legitimate, serious and even thorny topic, but expends little energy on the question of 'what art making is.'

[Haven't we all fallen into such topics at different times--the erudite arguments about what is art and what isn't? I don't find this book's statement as saying those things are never worth discussing, just that, bottom line, time spent discussing the topic is not exactly time spent doing. And, perhaps on occasion, such discussions only deepen our self-consciousness about what we write and whether or not it's worthy.]

"Clearly something's come unbalanced here. After all, if there were some ongoing redefinition of 'what chess is,' you'd probably feel a little uneasy trying to play chess...Then again you might conclude that since you weren't sure yourself what chess was, you weren't a real chess player and were only faking it when you moved the pieces around...

"But while you may feel that you're just pretending that you're an artist, there's no way to pretend you're making art. Go ahead, try writing a story while pretending you're writing a story. Not possible. Your work may not be what curators want to exhibit or publishers want to publish, but those are different issues entirely. You make good work by (among other things) making lots of work that isn't very good, and gradually weeding out the parts that aren't good, the parts that aren't yours. It's called feedback, and it's the most direct route to learning about your own vision. It's also calling doing your work. After all, someone has to do your work, and you're the closest person around."

[The unpublished start writing a novel wondering, "Will anybody want to publish this thing?" That end goal sets up the fears that trip us up in our work. The published/contracted start writing a novel wondering, "Will my editor like this? Will my readers like it?" The latter is where I am in my journey today. I wonder--if I started writing a novel without those thoughts/concerns/fears, if I just trusted my instincts and the story--how might my process in creating the work be different?]


Buy Art & Fear at$10.36. 122 pages.

Read Part 3

This Week's CFBA Blog Tour--Happily Ever After

Marilynn Griffith is mom to a tribe, wife to a deacon and proof that God gives second chances. While best known for her colorful novels about friendship, family and faith, Marilynn is also a speaker and nonfiction writer.

Her nonfiction has been included in CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE CHRISTIAN WOMAN'S SOUL and several other devotionals and magazines. Currently, Marilynn is editor of the SISTAHFAITH:BELIEVING BEYOND SHAME anthology. She is also the founder of, a blog for faith fiction readers.

Marilynn is the author of six novels dealing with issues such as teen pregnancy, AIDS, abstinence, stress relief, single parenting and marriage. Her recent fiction titles include TANGERINE and IF THE SHOE FITS.

Marilynn lives in Florida with her husband and seven children whom she taught at home for seven years. When not chasing toddlers, helping with homework or trying to find her husband a clean shirt, she can be found scribbling furiously on her next novel.

To book Marilynn for media interviews, speaking engagements, Serious Fun fiction parties or book club call-ins, please contact her thru her WEBSITE.

Superwoman doesn't live here!

I marry a gorgeous executive, have a baby, lose all the weight (most of it), and move to a fine house in the suburbs with a welcoming new church. Wait...did I say welcoming?

One teeny waaah! and new mothers and their crying babies are exiled to a separate room. At least there's some enlightening conversation. Like about my husband and issues I didn't even know about!

And then there's my aptly named mother-in-law, Queen Elizabeth, who can't stand me.I'm about to lose my mind! So it's high time for a visit to the Sassy Sistahood for some much-needed advice about men, marriage and motherhood!

The Sassy Sistahood: They get by with a little help from their friends.

Buy Happily Ever After at amazon.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Art & Fear -- Part 1

Art & Fear. If you're serious about any form of art--writing, dancing, painting, photography, sculpting--those two words often go together. If you are trying to sell your form of art, if you have the audacity to actually make money at it, you no doubt haved faced fear about what you do.

Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, is written and now self-published by photographers David Bayles and Ted Orland. Copyrighted in 1993, it has seen a total of 17 (perhaps now more) printings. Ted Orland reports that sells 500 copies of this little book every month.

Why? Because the insights contained within its pages teach artists how to press on through their fears.

From the introduction:

This is a book about making art. Ordinary art. Ordinary art means something like: all art not made by Mozart ... While geniuses may get made once-a-century or so, good art gets made all the time. Making art is a common and intimately human activity ... The difficulties artmakers face are not remote and heroic, but universal and familiar.

...The observations we make here are drawn from personal experience, and relate more closely to the needs of artists than to the interests of viewers. This book is about what it feels like to sit in your studio or classroom, at your wheel or keyboard, easel or camera, trying to do the work you need to do. It is about committing your future to your own hands, placing Free Will above predestination, choice above chance. It is about finding your own work.

I began reading this book with pen in hand, underlining. Soon I faced a problem. I was underlining practically everything. Page after page, chapter after chapter spoke to me.

We will be covering Chapter 3--Fears About Yourself--in detail. But for today, here's a taste of the book--its chapters, subheadings, and some quotes along the way.

The Nature of the Problem
A Few Assumptions.

Art & Fear
Vision and Execution. Imagination. Materials. Uncertainty.

"Making art precipitates self-doubt, stirring deep waters that lay between what you know you should be, and what you fear you might be..."

"Uncertainty is the essential, inevitable and all-pervasive companion to your desire to make art. And tolerance for uncertainty is the prerequisite to succeeding..."

Fears About Yourself
Pretending. Talent. Perfection. Annihilation. Magic. Expectations.

"When you act out of fear, your fears come true."

"Were talent a prerequisite [for making art], then the better the artwork, the easier it would have been to make. But alas, the fates are rarely so generous. For every artist who has developed a mature vision with grace and speed, countless others have laboriously nurtured their art through fertile periods and dry spells, through false starts and breakaway bursts, through successive and significant changes of direction, medium, and subject matter. Talent may get someone off the starting blocks faster, but without a sense of direction or a goal to strive for, it won't count for much. The world is filled with people who were given great natural gifts ... yet never produce anything. And when that thappens, the world soon ceases to care whether they are talented."

"When you ask, 'Why doesn't it come easily for me?' the answer is probably, 'Because making art is hard!'"

"To demand perfection is to deny your ordinary (and universal) humanity, as though you would be better off without it. Yet this humanity is the ultimate source of your work; your perfectionism denies you the very thing you need to get your work done."

Fears About Others
Understanding. Acceptance. Approval.

"At some point the need for acceptance may well collide head-on with the need to do your own work..."

"...courting approval...puts a dangerous amount of power in the hands of the audience. Worse yet, the audience is seldom in a position to grant (or withhold) approval on the one issue that really counts--namely, whether or not you're making progress in your work..."

Finding Your Own Work

"'re probably accustomed to watching your work unfold smoothly enough for long stretches of time, until one day--for no immediately apparent reason--it doesn't. Hitting that unexpected rift is commonplace to the point of cliche, yet artists commonly treat each recurring instance as somber evidence of their own personal failure..."

The Outside World
Ordinary Problems. Common Ground. Art Issues. Competition. Nagivating the Sytem.

"Once the art has been made, an entirely new set of problems arise, problems that require the artist to engage the outside world..."

"The unease many artists feel today betrays a lack of fit between the work of their heart and the emotionally remote concerns of curators, publishers and promoters..."

The Academic World
Faculty Issues. Student Issues. Books About Art.

Conceptual Worlds
Ideas and Techniques. Craft. New Work. Creativity. Habits. Art & Science. Self-Reference. Metaphor.

"Older work is offtimes an embarrassment to the artist because it feels like it was made by a younger, more naive person...[it] often feels, curiously, both too labored and too simple. This is normal. New work is supposed to replace old work... Old work tells you what you were paying attention to then; new work comments on the old by pointing out what you were not previously paying attention to..."

The Human Voice
Questions. Constants. Vox Humana.

"Answers are reassuring, but when you're onto something really useful, it will probably take the form of a question."

"To make art is to sing with the human voice. To do this you must first learn that the only voice you need is the voice you already have..."

Any of the above statements sound like you? Which ones? Why? Somebody better speak up and say "yes," because they all sound like me. (By the way, Ted Orland will be following these posts and just may pop in on our discussion.)

Tomorrow--An indepth look at Fears About Yourself.

Buy Art & Fear at$10.36. 122 pages.

Read Part 2

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Exciting Heads Up for Tomorrow

BGs, I am very happy to tell you I've received permission to blog about a wonderful book I've found. The permission part is for allowing me to quote extensively from one of its chapters over the course of five or so posts.

This is a book every novelist should own.

I promise you authors--or artists of any kind--the insights of this book will resonate with you and amaze you. It'll have you saying, "Yes, yes, that's me!" It'll teach you about yourself.

This is a small self-published book that has gone through at least 17 printings (as of the copy I own). It's a book that covers all forms of art. It was given to me by a painter who, when he learned I'm a novelist, said, "You must have this book. You'll love it."

He was right. I do. I learned about myself, my fears in writing, and about the process of creating through this book.

Come back tomorrow--and the discussion will begin.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Book Tidbits

This 'n' that info about my books:

1. The Hidden Faces series, featuring forensic artist Annie Kingston, will be re-released with new covers this summer. This is part of the marketing strategy by Zondervan leading up to the release of my first stand-alone, Vain Empires, on November 7.

2. Release date for my next novel, Amber Morn (fourth and final in the Kanner Lake series): March 7.

3. The first three books in the Kanner Lake series were dedicated to my three sisters, starting with the oldest. Can you guess the dedication for Amber Morn? (If you've seen an ARC, no fair giving away the secret.)

4. Crimson Eve saw its third printing in December.

5. Life has a way of keeping you humble, doesn't it? After Crimson Eve was named in Library Journal's "Best Books of 2007" list, as well as their naming it "Top Christian Suspense of the Year," I stumbled across a website run by a librarian who gives quick blurbs about the latest books her library receives. Her glowing words for Crimson Eve:

Wacky cover photo of the author with odd highlighting on the back. Something about an English estate agent having an assassin after her.

"Wacky photo?" Man, this librarian sure knows how to take a bite out of a gal.

Friday, January 04, 2008

2007 Words of the Year

Merriam-Webster had listed the ten top words for 2007. The top word is w00t. (With middle zeroes, not Os.) W00t means to "express joy," similar in use to the word "yay." A further explanation from MW:

"This year's winning word first became popular in competitive online gaming forums as part of what is known as l33t ("leet," or "elite") speak—an esoteric computer hacker language in which numbers and symbols are put together to look like letters. Although the double "o" in the word is usually represented by double zeroes, the exclamation is also known to be an acronym for 'we owned the other team'—again stemming from the gaming community."

My favorite word on the list is blamestorm: "Sitting around in a group, discussing why a deadline was missed or a project failed, and who was responsible."

When a writers' group brainstorm doesn't work, one year later ya get blamestorm.

Another writer's word--sardoodledom: "Mechanically contrived plot structure and stereotyped or unrealistic characterization in drama."

Sardoodledom in a novel can definitely lead to a blamestorm between author and publishing house.

Here's the complete list.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Happy New Year

Welcome back, BGs! I had a great blogging break over Christmas and New Years, but certainly not a writing break. In fact I even worked some on Christmas Day, plus all of New Years Eve and New Years day. Sheesh.

We had a great time with family in Idaho and returned to California on the 30th.

As I jogged by G.G. on New Years morning he was dressed in white shorts and a T shirt with "Happy 2008" in large green letters. Around his neck, a red lei. As usual, he was grinning. Looked to me like he's up to something in this new year.

And now--I have disappointing news for our industry. The CBA/ECPA talks to merge their data systems have failed. Sigh. Looks like no updated bestseller lists for us anytime soon. Here's the full story from PW:

After a year and a half of negotiations on combining their separate sales data-gathering systems for the Christian market, CBA (the association of Christian retailers) and the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, have announced the abandonment of that plan. A joint statement said, “The two associations had hoped to create a collaborative data flow agreement that would service both CBA’s CROSS:SCAN and ECPA’s PubTrack, but specific agreement details prevented final development of a workable joint business plan. Both CROSS:SCAN and PubTrack will continue serving their respective customers, and CBA and ECPA are committed to continued future collaboration.”

CBA president Bill Anderson cited the need to “honor existing contracts,” and ECPA president Mark Kuyper noted that “both parties invested tremendous time and energy into this process, and we’re disappointed that we weren’t able to create a viable business model.” Anderson declined to make himself available to answer questions about why the negotiations failed or who decided to end the talks, but Kuyper told RBL, “We discovered there was a component in the agreement that didn’t work for them and didn’t work for us, so the decision to walk away was mutual.” Kuyper would not identify that component.

CBA launched CROSS:SCAN in 2005 after retailers expressed fears that ECPA’s STATS (Sales Tracking Analysis Trends Summary)—since replaced by Pubtrack—was leaking information that might be used by competitors.

Also from PW--news that Greg Daniel, v-p and associate publisher at Thomas Nelson’s W Publishing imprint, is leaving the company on April 1 to found his own literary agency. Daniel Literary Group will be based in Nashville and will represent both CBA and ABA authors "across a variety of categories."

Now back to the new year. Anybody make any resolutions? I have an old one, and it's enough. Keep making the deadlines for these current contracts.