Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Newsboys

This past Sunday I attended the Newsboys concert in Spokane, free ticket and backstage passes courtesy of their management. (My assistant, Gayle DeSalles, is good friends with a married couple who work as managers for the Newsboys tours.) Of course, I took a box of books with me to give to them all for travel reading.

The concert was great. How wonderful to rock out to music and praise God at the same time. Our seats were terrific--absolute center just off the thrust stage.

The coolest part of the concert came during the drum solos. Peter, the lead singer, came out onto the thrust stage to a half drum set. He stood and played these while the main drummer, Duncan, whaled on his full drum set on stage. Peter's stage rose very high ... and Duncan's set, also on its own round platform, began to rise. Duncan's platform then tilted forward 90 degrees like a ferris wheel--and started to spin. The guy kept right on playing. His drums are all fastened down. When I asked Duncan how in the world he stayed on his seat, he pointed to his rear. "Buns of steel."

The true story--a seatbelt.

I'd say that's real Seatbelt Suspense, wouldn't you?

Here a few of my photos. My pic of the tilted drummer didn't turn out. You'll have to trust me on this one. You can see Duncan--topside up--on his drum stage. And Peter up high on his.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Got Animoto?

Have you heard about You can quickly upload some photos, choose from their selection of music, and bingo, this unique program will create a 30-second video for you. If you don't like what it comes up with, just choose "remix," and you'll get another version. Once the video's done, the site makes it easy to download to MySpace, Facebook, blogger, typepad, etc. Or you can copy the imbed text and put it wherever you want it.

Here's mine:

Friday, April 25, 2008

Fear and You

The novel I'm writing now, tentatively titled In the Shadows, is about fear. My protagonist, Kaycee Raye, writes a nationally syndicated column about her fears and how they affect her life. She manages to write with humor about things that truly plague her. Kaycee's fears includes bees, heights, closed spaces, and the dentist's drill (sound familiar?). Most of all Kaycee constantly fears that she's being watched.

Her column, originally in a small-town newspaper, caught on nationally because it hit home with so many people. Seems everybody fears something. Some of the fears are pretty strange. They fear all sorts of objects/living creatures. And of course they fear the more conceptual stuff like fear of failing or being humiliated, on and on. All these fears affect people's lives. They don't do certain things, or they do other things to avoid those fears.

Question: what do you fear? How do you avoid these fears? Do you want to get rid of them? If so, what are you doing about it? If you don't want to get too personal, tell me about the fears of someone you know. You might just be giving me fodder for my book ...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Power of Simple Little Words

Can you point to a time in your life when a few words made all the difference? Simple Little Words, by Michelle Cox and John Perrodin, is a newly released nonfiction book that can inspire us--and offers us a chance for contributing our own experiences.

From the home page of the book's website:

The old saying about sticks and stones simply isn't true. The words we use affect the people around us in ways we can't even begin to comprehend. In the new book Simple Little Words (SLW), Michelle Cox and John Perrodin have compiled numerous powerful true stories about lives completely changed by the utterance of a few simple little words. Contributors include novelist Karen Kingsbury, Left Behind author Jerry B. Jenkins, Chik-fil-A founder Truett Cathy, artist Ron DiCianni, Hollywood producer Ken Wales, Dove nominee Brandon Heath, author Mary DeMuth, Focus on the Family president Jim Daly, and many other wonderful folks just like you.

Michelle Cox is a frequent contributor to Focus on the Family magazines and the author of Mothers Who Made a Difference. John Perrodin is senior editor for the Christian Writers Guild, and works full time for best-selling author Jerry B. Jenkins. He is the co-author of three novels with Jenkins, as well as an upcoming series, TrioPlus, with Susie Shellenberger of Focus on the Family's Brio magazine.

When I asked John about his experience in writing Simple Little Words, he had this to say:

"Collaborating with so many wonderful storytellers on Simple Little Words made me realize how God gifts each of us in different ways. Rarely do we realize how often others (especially our spouses, children, grandchildren, and co-workers) are listening to our words -- both uplifting and hurtful. The motivation for the book was to encourage folks to simply take the time to tell others how much they mean to them. Now. While they have the time and opportunity. Michelle and I discovered that there are a lot of hurting hearts out there -- people with severe encouragement deficits. Writing this book has changed me in three ways. First, I make sure every day to 'find something nice' and true to say about those I love; second, it helped me understand better the writing struggles of every author trying to get the word out about a new book; and third, it has allowed me to work with some of the most wonderful new friends I could ever hope to meet."

The web site invites anyone to send in a true story of how "simple little words" changed his/her life. Details are here. Accepted stories may be used on the site and/or in a future book.

Visit the SLW web site to read a sample chapter.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Politics, Politics

The presidential race. Will it ever end? Hasn't this been the longest one you've ever seen?

What in the world will fill the news once somebody wins this thing?

And how many families are like ours? My mom's a staunch Republican. My oldest sister's a staunch Democrat. Sylvia's even doing some campaigning. Got her Hillary button and "Team Hillary" shirt and all. (We love her anyway.) While I was visiting Mom a couple weeks ago, Sylvia came over one day straight from a campaign meeting, wearing her T-shirt and carrying a sign. With an evil laugh, she said, "Watch this." She shoved the sign into the ground in Mom's front yard. I ran for the camera as she called Mom to come look.

This picture's worth the cover on our next family photo calendar. Sylvia, keepin' that sign down while Mom tries to pull it up. (Okay, the pic was staged. The first one I took didn't work--they were laughing too hard. But the photo does adequately represent these two's polarized political opinions.)

Monday, April 21, 2008

New Bestseller Lists for March Sales

Now that CBA has posted its May list (reflecting sales in March), we can now compare a full CBA list to the ECPA April list (also reflecting March sales). They're quite different. I've highlighted the ones that appear on one list and don't appear on the other at all.


1. The Shack, William Young
2. Someday, Karen Kingsbury
3. Summer, Karen Kingsbury
4. Blink of an Eye, Ted Dekker
5. Adam, Ted Dekker
6. Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers
7. Sabrina, Lori Wick
8. Dear to Me, Wanda Brunstetter
9. Parting, Beverly Lewis
10. Lady of Hidden Intent, Tracie Peterson
11. Sunrise, Karen Kingsbury
12. Touch of Grace, Lauraine Snelling
13. Between Sundays, Karen Kingsbury
14. Just Beyond the Clouds, Karen Kingsbury
15. Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis
16. First the Dead, Tim Downs
17. My Heart Remembers, Kim Sawyer
18. Home to Holly Springs, Jan Karon
19. (Tie) Time to Mend, Sally John
19. (Tie) Last Jihad, Joel Rosenberg


1. Shack, William Young
2. Someday, Karen Kingsbury
3. Blink of an Eye, Ted Dekker
4. Dead Heat, Joel Rosenberg
5. Dear to Me, Wanda Brunstetter
6. Lady of Hidden Intent, Tracie Peterson
7. Touch of Grace, Lauraine Snelling
8. Time to Mend, Sally John
9. Healing Stones, Nancy Rue
10. Sister's Test, Wanda Brunstetter
11. First the Dead, Tim Downs
12. Hood, Stephen Lawhead
13. My Heart Remembers, Kim Sawyer
14. Sister's Choice, Judith Pella
15. Sabrina, Lori Wick
16. Summer, Karen Kingsbury
17. Quaker Summer, Lisa Samson
18. On Her Own, Wanda Brunstetter
19. Sunrise, Karen Kingsbury
20. Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hidden Faces Reissue

Good news for my Hidden Faces series! On August 1 Zondervan plans to reissue all four books, featuring forensic artist Annie Kingston. Look for these new covers.

CFBA Tour--My Soul to Keep

A native of the Texas panhandle and the child of musicians, Melanie Wells attended Southern Methodist University on a music scholarship (she's a fiddle player), and later completed graduate degrees in counseling psychology and Biblical studies at Our Lady of the Lake University and Dallas Theological Seminary.

She has taught at the graduate level at both OLLU and DTS, and has been in private practice as a counselor since 1992. She is the founder and director of LifeWorks counseling associates in Dallas, Texas, a collaborative community of creative therapists.

When the Day of Evil Comes is her first published work of fiction, and the first of a three-book series. The second work, The Soul Hunter was released in May, 2006. Melanie lives and writes in Dallas.

And besides all this, she's one cool chick.

About My Soul to Keep:

As nasty as I knew Peter Terry to be, I never expected him to start kidnapping kids. Much less a sweet, funny little boy with nothing to protect him but a few knock-kneed women, two rabbits and a staple gun…

It’s psychology professor Dylan Foster’s favorite day of the academic year…graduation day. And her little friend Christine Zocci’s sixth birthday. But the joyful summer afternoon goes south when a little boy is snatched from a neighborhood park, setting off a chain of events that seen to lead nowhere.

The police are baffled, but Christine’s eerie connection with the kidnapped child sends Dylan on a chilling investigation of her own. Is the pasty, elusive stranger Peter Terry to blame? Exploding light bulbs, the deadly buzz of a Texas rattlesnake, and the vivid, disturbing dreams of a little girl are just pieces of a long trail of tantalizing clues leading Dylan in her dogged search for the truth.

“Like water rising to a boil, My soul To Keep’s suspense sneaks up on you…before you know it, you’re in the thick if a frightening drama…Superbly crafted.”---ROBERT LIPARULO, author of Deadfall, Germ, and Comes A Horseman

“Written with passion, a good dose of humor and, dare I say it, soul, this novel reminds us that we all, with grace and good fortune, bumble our way toward salvation.”---K. L. COOK, author of Late Call and The Girl From Charmelle

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Comparison of ECPA New Bestseller List

Viva la difference.

As a follow-up to yesterday's post, I found a way to compare the bestseller lists from ECPA and CBA that reflect sales of fiction in February. CBA's list of these sales (called their April list) is here. I took ECPA's fiction bestsellers from their March Top 50 list, as their current (April) fiction list shows sales for March, and I couldn't see a link to back fiction lists. Thirteen fiction titles showed up on ECPA's March Top 50 list, so these would be slots 1-13 on their fiction list for the same month. Here's the comparison of 1-13 on both lists:


1. Someday, Karen Kingsbury
2. Sabrina, Lori Wick
3. Summer, Karen Kingsbury
4. A Time to Dance, Karen Kingsbury
5. Sunrise, Karen Kingsbury
6. Shack, William Young
7. Between Sundays, Karen Kingsbury
8. Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers
9. Daughters of Inheritance, Tracie Peterson and Judith Miller
10. The Parting, Beverly Lewis
11. Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Decked Out, Neta Jackson
12. Just Beyond the Clouds, Karen Kingsbury
13. Quaker Summer, Lisa Samson


1. Someday, Karen Kingsbury
2. Shack, William Young
3. A Sister's Test, Wanda Brunstetter
4. Blessings, Kim Sawyer
5. Sabrina, Lori Wick
6. Summer, Karen Kingsbury
7. Quaker Summer, Lisa Samson
8. Last Days, Joel Rosenberg
9. A Time to Dance, Karen Kingsbury
10. The Copper Scroll, Joel Rosenberg
11. Ezekiel Option, Joel Rosenberg
12. Sunrise, Karen Kingsbury
13. Deadfall, Robert Liparulo

As you can see, Karen Kingsbury practically owns the CBA list, while numerous other authors show up on ECPA's. This difference is driven by ECPA's choice to only include books that appear in "at least 20% of reporting stores during at least one week of the reporting cycle," according to Michael Covington. His letter, posted yesterday, noted this is ECPA's strategic answer to their perception that the CBA list might be skewed toward a certain demographic and/or region. In other words, if one large regional chain that reports to CBA runs a promotion on a certain book or author, that data will figure heavily into the CBA list. (My extrapolation.) ECPA wanted to have a different kind of reporting--more across the board data.

My take on all this:

Well, if ya don't make one list, maybe you'll make the other. Two chances are always better than one, I suppose. Frankly, the difference in the two lists doesn't surprise me, because it reinforces what I've been suspicious of for some time--that certain big promotions drive the CBA list. And of course, who's promoted most heavily? The authors who are already at the top.

Still, the CBA list seems a better reporter of actual sales. You could argue--so what if one store chain skews the numbers? These still are selling numbers. But in the bigger picture, we have to remember that bestseller lists are a representation to the book industry at large of what's selling in the Christian market. If some books that are selling well are kept off the list because that month a particular group of authors are promoted by one store chain, does that equal a fair representation? Or does it mean that one chain tends to drive the list?

I have to believe that ECPA didn't create a new bestseller list because the organization has nothing better to do. They obviously have some real concerns about the present lists and are trying to address them.

The most exciting news from Michael's letter for me is that ECPA is working to create lists that would include Christian bookstore and general market sales. That would be the most fair representation of all. Michael has promised to keep me updated, and I'll pass the news along.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

ECPA News on Bestseller Lists

Last week Michael Covington, Information and Education Director for ECPA, wrote me the following letter as an update to my ongoing following of what's happening with our industry's bestseller lists. My comments are in blue. As a reminder, recently ECPA--the publishers association-- and CBA--the booksellers association--tried to iron out their differences regarding sharing data in order to come up with a combined reporting system. These talks failed. So this news is what ECPA is doing on its own. CBA, meanwhile, continues its data-gathering.
Hi Brandilyn,

Thought I would write to give you an update on PubTrack and the ECPA Bestseller lists. We will be sending out a press release in the next few days but I knew that you tracked this information so I thought I would let you know in case you didn’t see the PR. Feel free to post any/all of this if you like.

Historically, the CBA bestseller list was created using data collected by PubTrack Christian (formerly STATS). In November I received word from CBA that they were going to begin using CROSS:SCAN data exclusively for the creation of their BSL’s. Here was the note I received which includes their reason:

“This is just a courtesy notification to let you know that we're going make a permanent move to using CROSS:SCAN for BSLs very shortly for a couple of reasons. First, we find that we are using C:S with greater regularity in our consulting with retailers, and for any channel reporting and analysis, thus consistency with BSLs is warranted. And secondly, it is more efficient for us, since the data is obviously readily available and we have access to the raw data.”

What this meant for ECPA is that we then had to evaluate the new lists CBA would be creating since we also post these lists on our website and distribute them to various media contacts. After comparing the new CBA lists the data for the same time period in PubTrack we noticed some titles that indicated their lists seemed to be skewing towards particular regions and/or demographics. Additionally, because of print deadlines for their industry magazine – CBA Retailers+Resources, CBA’s uses data that is more than one month old (i.e., the April bestsellers are created using February data). This has always been a concern for publishers as the lists do not pick up on current trends.The online version of the CBA bestseller list goes up around the third week or so of the month--so February bestsellers can't be known until around the latter part of March (which is called the April list, because that's the issue it'll run in for the magazine).

These issues prompted ECPA to go back to the drawing board with regards to BSL’s. In turn, an opportunity was afforded to us to create a new BSL program that we think authors, publishers, retailers and consumers will be very pleased with. Starting this month, you will begin to notice some significant changes on the ECPA website for the Bestseller lists (we’re not entirely complete yet, but keep watching). Here is what you will find:

Top 50 Book List - A book must qualify for this list by having sales in at least 20% of reporting stores during at least one week of the reporting cycle. Additionally, we do not include bargain books, tracts/booklets, seasonal/holiday or any books not offered to bookstores by publishers at a trade discount (e.g., Beth Moore study guides).

Top 20 Bible, Kids, and Fiction Lists – Similar qualifications must be met for each of these lists (with some slight variations).

All of these lists are compiled using data inclusive of the last full week of each month going back four weeks (this means that our April lists were created using March data). The data represents a solid cross section of Christian retail chains, franchises and independents from all regions of the country comprising a group of more than 400 Christian “rooftops” each week. Once the lists are created we distribute them in a few different ways:

1. ECPA website

2. More than 200 media contacts

3. ECPA “Designated Representatives” at each of our member publishers (defined as those eligible to hold a place on the ECPA Board of Directors.)

4. Christian Retailing (currently they are writing briefs each month in the E-tailing piece and we are in talks about how we can use them in the print edition)

5. USA Radio Network News (the top five Christian books are reported on each week and distributed to more than 2500 radio stations, mostly Christian and Armed Forces, worldwide).

In addition to this, we are revamping the layout of the bestseller lists on the ECPA website. On the homepage ( we will be listing the top few titles on each list (for a sample look go to, with cover art from each #1 title. The actual lists will also now include recognition of the following awards:

- Christian Book Award Winner
- Gold Sales Achievement Award Winner
- Platinum Sales Achievement Award Winner
- Diamond Sales Achievement Award Winner
- Christy Award Winner

Finally, because the data used to create these lists comes from Christian retail, we are using every opportunity possible to use these lists to help drive traffic back to Christian retail. This means that on the radio spot, of which I have attached a sample, we have inconspicuously included a reference to the place where listeners can find the bestsellers (it is a news piece after all and not a commercial). We are also working on including links to Christian retailers who participate in contributing data to the lists who either have a national web/brick-and-mortar precence and/or can be found using CBA’s store locater device. Finally, we offer the ability to download a nicely formatted PDF for retailers to easily use in their stores if they so choose for merchandising their bestsellers.

Two more quick updates for your reference:

PubTrack Christian continues to grow as we add new ways to collect and report on industry data. While we still have a very strong group of Christian retailers who send in sales data each week. We also are in the midst of providing publishers with information about sales of their own titles through Christian Book Distributors (online and catalog), as well as store level from Berean Christian Stores, and Koorong (the largest Christian retailer/distributor in Australia). Also, we have been collecting sales data from a test group of publishers for some time now and will soon be launching a program that will allow publishers to see a rolled-up look at competitive/comparative titles across all sales channels, so that we can finally get an idea of how Christian books are selling everywhere. Now this would be cool. When I questioned Michael further about this, he confirmed it would include publisher shipments of books and returns. Note this is different from the other data gathered, which are taken at "point of sale"--the customer at a store buying the book.

The Christian Book Expo is now less than a year away. There is more here than I can even dig into, I will just point you to the new blog ( and recommend that you add it to your RSS feeds. I will tell you that as of now we have exceeded more than 100% of the exhibit space we had originally planned for. We are also forming an agreement with the USA Radio Network News group to begin reporting on the event once a week, which we hope could turn into some added exposure for authors who have been scheduled to host one of our author events as we hope they will go on air with an interview at some point.

Okay – enough typing for now, I hope you and your readers find any/some/all of this helpful. Thank you for what you do.

All the best, Michael

--Michael Covington
Information & Education Director

I've printed out the ECPA's April bestseller list, showing sales for the month of March. Next month, when CBA lists it May list--showing sales in March--it'll be interesting to see the difference in the two lists. We'll take a look at a comparison then.

Monday, April 14, 2008


Today the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is issuing a release to CBA publishers, announcing new things on the horizon for the organization. Members of CFBA received this news last night. The changes affect CFBA members in that they will have access to more books for review, including those outside traditional CBA publishing houses. But the biggest change is for the publishers. Here's the release to them from Director Bonnie Calhoun:

What CFBA is going to do, starting immediately:

-Conduct 2 standard book tours a week, approximately 100 tours a year.

-Charge $500 per book blog tour.

Why is there a need to charge for something that has always been free?

The organization is growing by leaps and bounds. Where we once had 80 to 90 members, we now have over 200. Where we once spent 2 or 3 hours a week managing members and tours, we now spend 40+ hours a week. Where it once cost nothing but time, there are now monthly emailing service, website, and other related costs.

There are other companies charging much more for the same service, with considerably less results.

Why would you pay $500 for a blog tour with CFBA?

- We presently have 202 reviewers, and 217 blogs as members, and are signing up new members at the rate of approximately 5 a week.

- We have our own Linux server, so our website space allocation is unlimited. And we contract with a top of the line email campaign company that has the ability to deliver individual email to thousands of members simultaneously.

- Our bloggers are quality reviewers. For example: we have over 30 published authors as members including Brandilyn Collins, Chris Well, Tony Hines, Robin Lee Hatcher, Tricia Goyer and Lisa Samson to name a very few. We have several editors and agents as members. A writing chapter from ACFW is a member. One of our members runs 4 book clubs at a Lifeway Christian Book Store.

-Our track record on blog tour successes is well-known. A recent article in CBA Retailer & Resources documents this. If you would like to read the article, we have it archived
HERE on our blog. Click on each of the page images to open them in a larger readable format.

-Our Technorati results are listed on our blog after every tour. The recent
Tour Update for Brandilyn Collins' Amber Morn, shows that because of our tour, her books from the series netted positions #1, #2, #3, and #4 on Technorati's Popular Books.

-For those unfamiliar with Technorati, their core strength is as a blog search engine. Their
Popular page, dubbed Blogger Central is visited by 10 million global direct measured visitors, and almost 5 million US direct measured visitors a month, according to Quantcast statistics.

-Amazon results are trackable by comparing the book ranking before and during the tour. Amazon results are trackable by comparing the book ranking before and during the tour. A recent example of this was expounded on by Jeffery Overstreet, in the CBA Retailer & Resource article. Overstreet was amazed that his CFBA tour for Auralia's Colors raised his Amazon ranking by 75,000 points. His statement said, "I've done 25 radio interviews and I've never seen this kind of spike. It's pretty amazing."

-We will conduct our 100th tour in the month of April, and we presently have 49 other tours booked, some into next year. (All books that already have tour dates are exempt from the new change.) Because of the new schedule we can place an additional 20 book tours for this year.

-All of our Alliance members get my undivided attention. When publishers send books to their "influencer lists" there is only a small percentage of readers who will ever post anything about the book online, or in an organized manner that will create buzz. CFBA tours require 100% posting compliance from all reviewers who have solicited the book for promotion. We stay on top of this. Those who receive the book and don’t post are contacted. Those who don’t comply are dropped from CFBA membership.

-Each paid tour will also get a free ad in our new monthly magazine. (Startup tentatively for July 2008 - it will have author interviews, book reviews, a writer's corner, columns on writing tips, agent tips, industry news and much more. It will be free to all.

Additional exciting news:

In the month of July we will be launching our new monthly online magazine:
CFBA presents…
Christian Fiction Online Magazine

We have hired author Michelle Sutton as the Editor-In-Chief of the magazine. She has put together an exciting lineup of twenty-five columns and features for each monthly issue written by notables of our industry. The magazine will cover the complete spectrum of Christian fiction, from reading and writing to agents and interviews, and will include news relevant to upcoming blog tours and their dates.

There will also be paid advertisement space available in each issue.

I hope you will join in our excitement at the prospect of moving into even greater expansion than we have enjoyed so far in the area of online advertising. If you have any questions feel free to contact me.

Bonnie Calhoun
Director- CFBA
Founder/Owner - Christian Fiction Online Magazine

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Whole Truth

The Whole Truth is the latest from James Scott Bell (publised by Zondervan). I read this book during my Kentucky trip and enjoyed it very much. I recommend it to all of you. BHCC members, you can read this one. This is legal suspense and is not scary. Think John Grisham.

Here's what Jim had to say about writing the book:

I'm fascinated with the long term affects of the past on the present. The germ of the idea was the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping, from the same room her little sister was in, as the sister watched, pretending to be asleep. I kept thinking, what would be the effect on the sister?

In the novel I made it two brothers, and then cut ahead twenty-five years, to see the effect on the younger brother. And then he gets a mysterious call ...

Back cover copy:

At the age of five, Steve Conroy witnessed his brother's kidnapping. Years later, the guilt of his silence has nearly destroyed his life and his law practice. When he agrees to represent a convicted criminal, Steve realizes that Johnny LaSalle is hiding something. Could it be a clue to his past? Or a scheme deadlier than anything Steve could have imagined?

Why I liked this novel:

It's real. It's raw life. The protagonist wants nothing to do with God, and his character arc is just enough to reflect his beliefs at the beginning of the story.

All the characters are multi-faceted. They'll surprise you. Not everyone who spouts a Bible verse is really walking God's path. Sad truth that this is the way the world is today. Just watch the latest headlines.

The dialogue is fresh and lean, and pops along. This is one of Jim's signatures.

I didn't know how it would end. The twists I guessed, but that's not surprising, since I write suspense myself. However, guessing the twists didn't make the book any less enjoyable. I still didn't know how Jim would wrap everything up, and I wasn't sure of the veracity of certain points.

The prologue really works. It creates immediate empathy for the character as a child, so when we meet him as an adult--with all his weaknesses--we can still root for him.

The Whole Truth is currently on the bestseller list at #15.

CFBA Tour--Trouble the Water

I have yet to read this novel. I did read Nicole's first, The Spirit of Sweetgrass, and really liked it.

About the book:

In the South Carolina Sea Islands lush setting, Nicole Seitz's second novel
Trouble the Water is a poignant novel about two middle-aged sisters' journey to self-discovery. One is seeking to recreate her life yet again and learns to truly live from a group of Gullah nannies she meets on the island. The other thinks she's got it all together until her sister's imminent death from cancer causes her to re-examine her own life and seek the healing and rebirth her troubled sister managed to find on St. Anne's Island.

Trouble the Water received a starred review from Library Journal.

Nicole is also an artist. She paints the beautiful pictures on the covers of her novels.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Top Four

This week, Monday through Wednesday, Amber Morn is on blog tour with the CFBA (Christian Fiction Blog Alliance.) Starting Monday morning and lasting all day, all four Kanner Lake books took the top four slots of most talked about books on Technorati. As this writing was posted, they were still in the top four spots. We'll see how much longer it lasts. I've had books hit the #1 slot on Technorati before, but never have I seen this. Pretty cool.

The Technorati link for "most popular" books:
Today on Novel Journey I am guest blogging about writing character emotions. Jump on over and check it out.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Kentucky Trip

While visiting my mom in Kentucky I had a chance to meet Emma Sleeth, a 17-year-old college student at Asbury College. At age sixteen Emma sold a book to Zondervan--a nonfiction targeted to young adults about saving the environment. Emma wrote It's Easy Being Green when she was fifteen as an English assignment in high school.

Emma learned about and developed her passion for environmentalism from her father, a doctor who wrote Serve God, Save the Planet: A Christian Call to Action Now. Emma's now at Asbury on scholarship and at 17 is already finishing her sophomore year.

Now that's cool, selling your first book at 16.

Also during this trip--on Saturday I visited some Christian bookstores in Lexington, bearing gift bags of chocolate. The beautiful Lifeway Store had a great endcap for the Kanner Lake series. This endcap of the whole series is now possible with the release of its final book, Amber Morn. I signed all the books on these special shelves and applied an "autographed by author" sticker. It's always great to visit bookstores and say a special "thank you" for the sellers on the front lines.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Big Honkin' Chickens Club!

The BHCC logo:

The logo will be available on a key chain, magnet, T-shirt and mouse pad. When my new web site goes live, you'll have opportunities to receive the various products for free through doing small marketing exchanges, such as linking to the BHCC page from your own site. The products will also be for sale. And once a month or so I'll give away a T-shirt.

When the new site goes up, I'll make an announcement.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

BHCC--This One's for You

I'm in the middle of having my website overhauled. Which means I'm in the middle of driving my poor webmaster crazy. I've pretty much grown out of my current site. Not much room in the graphics to add more books--and next year alone I'll be releasing five (all three young adult suspenses in the Rayne Tour series and two adult novels). At any rate, as long as my webmaster was immersed in the update, I thought--aha, the time has come!

Big Honkin' Chickens Club members--I'm going to have a page just for you. (For those of you who've been living on another planet, BHCC members are those who are too chicken to read suspense novels. Which means they refuse to read my stuff.)

Here's the thing about BHCC folks. Actually a couple of things. One, many tend to be my friends. (See how gracious I am, even when they turn up their noses at my novels.) Second, every BHCC member out there has friends and family members who do read suspense. The marketing method to my madness is to reach those people--through the BHCCers. And at the same time provide some gleeful comraderie to the club members themselves.

In so doing--I've created a BHCC graphic. It's fun. It's cute. It's eye-catching. And it totally represents the name of the club.

The BHCC page on my web site is still under construction. It will include a guest book for comments and various ways to win BHCC products.

Products? you ask. Oh, yes. There will be products. With said logo. Methinks they shall become so chic that everyone will want one of them, whether a BHCC member or not. If you're an avid suspense reader, surely you must know someone who has nightmares over the stuff.

Wanna "Sneak Pique" at the BHCC logo?

Tomorrow--the unveiling ...

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A Market for Science Fiction/Fantasy

Recently a discussion about the future of science fiction and fantasy in the Christian market ran on an author loop. Jim Denney responded with this thoughtful opinion. It's posted here with his permission. Jim is the author of Answers to Satisfy the Soul and the four-book Timebenders series (beginning with Battle Before Time, Tommy Nelson 2002).
I think there conceivably could be a market for Fantasy & Science-Fiction (F&SF) in the CBA if publishers would make a massive marketing effort, including major marketing efforts into the secular F&SF marketplace. But it would be a horrendously chancy and expensive enterprise so, from the publishers' perspective, why take the risk?

Some authors, like Ted Dekker, Donita Paul, Kathryn Mackel, and Karen Hancock, have carved out niches for fantasy in the CBA (though the "fantasy" label is generally eschewed). But for the most part, the CBA is not a welcoming environment for F&SF—and for several nearly insurmountable reasons:

1. SF timelines don't seem to jibe with evangelical eschatology.

True science fiction transcends and shatters stereotypes. It is wide-open and unbounded. SF readily comes into conflict with many people's notions about Scripture, especially eschatology. If you believe (as most evangelicals do) that the Lord's return is imminent (within a decade or so), then stories about events in, say, the 26th Century wouldn't seem to "line up with Scripture."

For me, such objections are baseless. A good story is a good story, regardless of whether it fits some notion of "biblical correctness." Besides, I see no biblical reason to believe that the Second Coming couldn't commence right now—or 20,000 years from now.

2. SF fans aren't looking for SF in Christian bookstores.

A CBA editor has said, "Many of us love to read SciFi, and would love to be publishing it. But guess what happened when we did? Nobody bought it."

SF readers already know where to find good SF, and they don't go shopping for it at the Berean Bookstore. Even if the CBA started publishing quality F&SF, it would take a major marketing effort to get the word out to F&SF readers that they can find quality F&SF at Christian bookstores.

3. "Hard SF" (technological, scientific SF as distinguished from fantasy) is a highly specialized genre requiring highly specialized editors and writers.

Science fiction is fiction about science. It is fiction in which the story would fall apart if you removed the scientific element. It would be a disaster to try to write or edit SF if you don't have the background for it. If an SF story is not scientifically literate and plausible, SF readers will spot the flaws from a thousand light-years away.

4. Too many Christians are hostile to science.

Many Christians see science—especially the fields of biology and cosmology—as the enemy of faith. SF that is truly speculative and imaginative (that is, free to speculate on the full range of scientific possibility) would be rejected by many Christians as being "biblically incorrect." That's tragic, but it's a fact.

5. The CBA editorial bias against F&SF as "unsalable" is too firmly entrenched.

Ted Dekker’s experience [of selling his Black, White, and Red trilogy] shows that F&SF will sell in the CBA—but not as F&SF. A book must transcend the F&SF label in order to have a chance with both CBA editors and readers. Editors rejected Ted early on because they were convinced that "fantasy doesn't sell in the CBA." Fantasy can only be sold to CBA editors and readers if it is positioned not as fantasy, but as a "thriller" or, better yet, as "spiritual warfare" fiction.

So what do you do if you want to write SF? Three choices, as I see it.

1. You can write F&SF without labeling it or positioning it as such. As I noted above, you have to have another dimension of your novel, such as "spiritual warfare," which overshadows the "fantasy" dimension. As Ted Dekker has said—and proven—fantasy can sell, fantasy can rock, but if you lead with the "fantasy" label, you're leading with your chin.

It's interesting to note that Wikipedia's entry on Ted Dekker doesn't label him as a fantasy writer. Instead, it says, "Though classified as 'Christian Fiction,' Dekker's work often crosses genres," and it lists his genres as "Christian Fiction, Fantasy, Thriller, Horror, Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Mystery, Magical Realism." Ted succeeds in the CBA not because he writes fantasy but because he writes Ted Dekker fiction, which is its own niche.

2. You can publish with Jeff Gerke's Marcher Lord Press. If you want the freedom to write the kind of Christian F&SF that the CBA won't touch because "F&SF doesn't sell in the CBA" and which the secular market won't touch because it's "too religious," then Jeff has come up with a good middle ground.
Marcher Lord doesn't pay advances, but it also does not charge "vanity press" fees, and as an editor, Jeff will be discriminating. So Marcher Lord is a POD press without the vanity—an innovative concept.

3. You can break into the secular SF marketplace. For example, [CBA author] Ed Willett has published two hard SF novels, Lost in Translation and Marseguro, with secular SF publisher DAW Books; a third is on the way (Terra Insegura).