Monday, June 30, 2008

Cringing Chicken

BHCC member Annie McDonald was the winner of last month's T-shirt. Winners are drawn randomly from commenters in the guestbook on the BHCC page of my web site. Annie sent me this picture, which she labeled "Cringing Chicken." She wears the T-shirt well, dontcha think?
Do check out Annie's web site, Dancing Word, a site dedicated to Christian fiction. It contains reviews, author features, articles on writing and much more. Once a week Annie hosts a chat with an author in the site's chat room.

Today is June 30, last day to leave a comment in the BHCC guestbook as a chance to be a June winner of a T-shirt. Since I pick a number out of the air and see what commenter matches that number, the more comments you leave, the more chances you have to win. Have at it.

By the way--say a prayer for me, huh? My book, Exposure, is due this week. I hope to live to see the Fourth of July.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Ol' Photo Shoot

Agh, another publicity photo. Only this one should have been twice as bad. Not only did I have to be happy with the photo of my own mug (purty near impossible), so did my 18-year-old daughter. The shot was needed for our young adult suspense Rayne Tour series (releasing next year) that we're co-writing. It needed to have a certain amount of that mysterious suspense author look.

The photo shoot was at 10 a.m. Did I mention my daughter is not a morning person?

Naturally, being a teenager, she got up too late. Which meant her make-up wasn't done on time. Plus, since she had to do it fast, she was complaining before we ever left the house how bad she looked. Then on the way she realized she'd forgotten to bring her make-up for touch-up--which we were told to do. By the time we got to the studio, she was in one negative mood.

(Remember those days of being 18?)

In to save the day--our photographer, Robert Weaver, in Mountain View, California. Keeping an upbeat attitude amidst Amberly's sullenness, he fussed with lighting until we had everything just so. After a good deal of time spent with preparation, the shoot began.

Amberly managed to smile. The more photos we shot, the more she loosened up. Two or three times we stopped to gather around the computer and see how the photographs were coming. Did we want to change poses, clothes, lighting, whatever? After around 70-90 pictures, we got one we both liked. Okay, we cheated. We liked Amberly's face better on one shot, and my face better on another. No problem.

The fixing began. Bob first cut out my head on the one photo and put it on the one we liked of Amberly. Then my favorite word when it comes to photography--AIRBRUSH. I told Bob to take off all my wrinkles and give them to my daughter. For some strange reason Amberly failed to find that funny. At any rate, we fixed. Coloring, jaw lines, shadows, wrinkles (on me). I came out with a face I wish I had. Well, I do have it. Just, ahem, a few years down the road.

This web version isn't nearly as nice in skin tone and overall dramatic color as the original that will be printed. But at any rate, here it is. Now all we gotta do is write that third book ...

The Rayne Tour books, featuring Shaley O'Connor, daughter of rock star Rayne O'Connor, release next year. The first two release together in April and the third hits shelves around September.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

ACFW Conference

Registration is now underway for the annual writers' conference sponsored by the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). This is the only conference in our industry that does nothing but fiction. And it does it very, very well. This year it meets in Minneapolis from Thursday, September 18 to Sunday the 21st.

As with last year the major morning tracks and the afternoon workshops offer teaching on every level of the craft--beginner to professional. I'm totally jazzed to take a non-level morning class this year taught by Mark Mynheir--police officer and SWAT team member, suspense author and all-around good guy. Oh, and he does a mean rap, too. I still call him CopDiddy. Mark is teaching a class on police procedure--a must for all those mystery/suspense authors, published or unpublished. I've heard him teach a workshop before, and he's terrific.

The keynote speaker this year is Angela Hunt. I roomed with Angie at Mount Hermon. She put a snake in my bed. But that is a story for another day, and besides, evil Deb Raney is to blame for it. (And no doubt this feud shall continue on to ACFW.)

So--back to the conference. Lots of great teaching. Lots of great fellowship and worship. ACFW is a family. If you're a newbie to the conference, never fear. You'll feel right at home in no time. Cara Putman and I run a thingy for first-timers to the conference. Folks are put on an email loop and can send us questions for about a month before the conference. We answer the questions by sending to the whole loop. Then we have an hour together at the beginning of the event. By the time newcomers go through all that, they're well prepared and far less nervous.

I'll be emceeing the conference this year, which I look forward to. Around those responsibilities, I tend to spend a lot of time in the prayer room. Conference attendees, do take the time to come into the prayer room just to focus now and then. There will be people to pray with you if you want, or you can be by yourself in a corner. I've seen amazing answers to prayer in the ACFW prayer room, and the answers continue throughout the year. After my prayer times with people, for the whole next year and beyond I'll receive emails from folks telling me what God has continued to do in their lives. Awesome stuff. But then, He's an awesome God.

We'll be having a public book signing at the Mall of America. We're taking over one of their main areas in the mall, complete with book signing tables for dozens of authors and a Jumbotron of running video. If you know anyone in the Minneapolis area, send 'em to the event.

When you come to the ACFW conference, you will:

Learn a lot
Laugh a lot
Love a lot
Lunch a lot (that is, eat)
Link up a lot (networking with authors, editors and agents), and
Look a lot (there's all sorts of cool people to watch)

See ya there!

(Anybody wanna put a snake in Deb Raney's bed for me?)

With my mom, Ruth Seamands (would you believe she's 91?) at the 2007 awards banquet.

Gina Holmes and --who's the other gal? -- playing me and Deb Raney in a hilarious skit poking fun at the Advisory Board Members. I couldn't get this photo any bigger. Gina's shirt reads: "Breathe" (with a checked box) and "Don't breathe" (box unchecked). She was wearing a seatbelt belt.

The Belle and Baron of the Banquet: Mom in her traditional Indian sari (my parents were missionaries in India), and Chip MacGregor in his family kilt.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Book a Year

How about this article from Library Journal:

Is publish or perish as true for best-selling authors as it is for academics? In a Seattle Times article, best-seller machines like John Grisham and Patricia Cornwell claim they are pressured by their publishers (Doubleday and Putnam, respectively) to release a book each year or suffer loss of sales to a public with “an out of sight, out of mind” mentality. Releasing a book each year is “no problem, as long as you don’t have a life,” Cornwell told the Times. “If I don’t get the book turned in on time, they’ll be freaking out,” said Cornwell, whose next Kay Scarpetta novel is due to publish in October. “If I miss my deadline, I miss the entire year. Sometimes there’s an overwhelming feeling of panic. It’s like a rock ‘n’ roll concert, and what if I don’t show up?” Publishers assert that a new book a year is necessary to piggyback on the paperback release of the previous year’s work, which helps build anticipation for the new title.

While Cornwell and Grisham are complying with their publishers’ need for an annual manuscript, others are resisting. Thriller writer Brad Meltzer (Grand Central), who has rejected the book-a-year plan, asserts that “there’s pressure to treat authors like Coca-Cola. Every time you get a bunch of writers together, this is all they complain about. The trend is, ‘How many books can you put out?’” Dennis Lehane (HarperCollins) also refuses to be held to a schedule because earlier in his career when he did produce the 1999 book Prayers for Rain in a year he said he realized “the week it was published what would have made it a really good book. The anger of that realization haunted me. I said I would never go back on that hamster wheel.” [See In the Bookroom blog for additional thoughts on this story.]


My take: True, we all write at different paces, but one book a year for a full-time writer? Doesn't sound like a lot to complain about to me. What say you?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Bestseller Lists

Here are the two new bestseller lists reflecting sales in the month of May. Those appearing only on one list are in color. Numbers in parentheses on the CBA list show the book's placement on CBA's Top Fifty List (which includes fiction and nonfiction).


1. (1) The Shack, William Young, Windblown Media
2. (2) The Forbidden, Beverly Lewis, Bethany
3. (6) Dawn's Light, Terri Blackstock, Zondervan
4. (8) Dead Heat, Joel Rosenberg, Tyndale
5. (17) The Last Jihad, Joel Rosenberg, Tyndale
5. (tie)(17) Adam, Ted Dekker, Thomas Nelson
7. (25) Allison's Journey, Wanda Brunstetter, Barbour
8. (32) Someday, Karen Kingsbury, Tyndale
9. (38) Deeper Water, Robert Whitlow, Thomas Nelson
10. Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers, Multnomah
11. Road Home, Tommy Tenney, Bethany
12. Parting, Beverly Lewis, Bethany
13. Deep in the Heart of Trouble, Deeanne Gist, Bethany
14. Ezekiel Option, Joel Rosenberg, Tyndale
15. Last Days, Joel Rosenberg, Tyndale
16. Dear to Me, Wanda Brunstetter, Barbour
17. Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis, Zondervan
18. Prince Caspion Adult, C.S. Lewis, Zondervan
19. Copper Scroll, Joel Rosenberg, Tyndale
20. Sunrise, Karen Kingsbury, Tyndale


1. The Shack, William Young, Windblown Media
2. The Forbidden, Beverly Lewis, Bethany
3. Dead Heat, Joel Rosenberg, Tyndale
4. Dawn's Light, Terri Blackstock, Zondervan

5. Allison's Journey, Wanda Brunstetter, Barbour
6. Someday, Karen Kingsbury, Tyndale

7. Blink of an Eye, Ted Dekker, Thomas Nelson
8. Chosen, Ted Dekker, Thomas Nelson
9. The Last Jihad, Joel Rosenberg, Tyndale
10. Parting, Beverly Lewis, Bethany

11. Adam, Ted Dekker, Thomas Nelson
12. Dear to Me, Wanda Brunstetter, Barbour
13. Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers, Multnomah
14. Renegade, Ted Dekker, Thomas Nelson

15. Facing the Giants, Eric Wilson, Thomas Nelson
16. Last Days, Joel Rosenberg, Tyndale

17. Sabrina, Lori Wick, Harvest House
18. Ezekiel Option, Joel Rosenberg, Tyndale
19. Copper Scroll, Joel Rosenerg, Tyndale
20. Mountain Top, Robert Whitlow, Thomas Nelson

Friday, June 20, 2008

Cicadas and Reunions

I'm at our annual family reunion in Kentucky. Got here late last night. The minute I got out of the car at Mom's house--whoa, the cicadas! This is a 17-year brood, now emerging after being in the ground since 1991. The ringing sound they make is quite something. Very loud. They only last about a month, and then they all die off. But not before laying millions of eggs on tree limbs. These eggs hatch, and the tiny nymphs fall to the ground, then burrow underground. They'll feed on tree sap.

They're flying around like crazy now, although they won't be lasting much longer. They're clumsy flyers and are likely to crash into you. They don't bite or sting, however. Certain sounds attract them, like lawnmowers. You might be covered in the critters if you want to cut your grass.

Here at the reunion, I'm rooming with my sister Sandy at Mom's house. (There are two other sisters around also.) Recently Sandy gave me a card that read on the cover, "Insanity is hereditary." On the inside it said, "We're so screwed."

I laughed and laughed at the card because, well, knowing the generation above us ... yeah. But here's the kicker. My sister told her teenage daughter about finding that card in a drawer at their house and giving it to me. Her daughter said, "Mom, I bought that card to give to Christine (her sister)."

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What I Want for Christmas

Stop the presses! I've already found my Christmas present.

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal reported that Medicis Pharmaceutical Corp. will acquire LipoSonix Inc. for over $150 milion. Why do I care? Because LipoSonix has this way cool machine that uses laser technology to break up fat cells and destroy them in the body. That's right--no more liposuction surgery. No fat-melting injections of who-knows-what's-in-the-needle. This is all on the surface. The machine kills fat cells without harming other good cells.

Only one problem. LipoSonix is not yet approved in the U.S., although it's used in Germany, Austria, Italy and Spain. According to WSJ, "The FDA has shown reluctance to allow body-shaping drugs and technologies because of uncertainty about how dead fat cells are metabolized and eliminated from the body."

Medicis Pharmaceutical hopes to start selling LipoSonix systems around 2011. But that's only if the FDA approves the thing. And that could be difficult, due to the clinical trials that will need to be done.

"Before patient treatment begins, the target body area is sprayed with water. The operator places a hand-held device on the body and then activates a scanning system with a foot switch. When the scanner stops, the operator repositions the device, repeating the treatments until the area is covered. It takes 35 to 45 minutes to treat a large abdominal area." Patients report feeling only "a slight tingling or prickly sensation."

Hey, I can take a prickle or two.

Anybody else out there willing to volunteer for the trials?

The Hunted

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Hunted

(Realms - June 3, 2008)



The darkness was thick and stifling.


Mike Dellosso is a new suspense author to watch. He's done a thorough job with The Hunted. This book is on the scary side of suspense (watch out BHCC folks). I wouldn't call it a fast-paced suspense. Mike takes his time with description and characterization, even for minor characters. He paints a world you can settle into--if you don't mind things that go bump (and more) in the night.


Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Mike now lives in Hanover, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Jen, and their three daughters. He writes a monthly column for Writer . . .Interrupted. He was a newspaper correspondent/columnist for over three years and has published several articles for The Candle of Prayer inspirational booklets. Mike also has edited and contributed to numerous Christian-themed Web sites and e-newsletters.

Mike is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, the Relief Writer's Network, and International Thriller Writers. He received his BA degree in sports exercise and medicine from Messiah College and his MBS degree in theology from Master's Graduate School of Divinity.

You can read a great interview with Mike, over here on


A town's deadly secret will drive one man to the edge of his faith...

After learning of the disappearance of his nephew, Joe Saunders returns to his childhood home of Dark Hills to aid in the search effort. When Caleb is found, badly mauled and clinging to life, Joe embarks on a mission to find the beast responsible. But the more Joe delves into the fabric of his old hometown, the more he realizes Dark Hills has a dark secret, shrouded for three generations in a deadly code of silence.

As Joe unravels the truth behind a series of unexplained animal attacks, murder, and corruption at the highest level of law enforcement, he is led to a final showdown where he must entrust his very life into God's hands. Will his young faith be strong ehough to battle the demonic forces of
The Hunted.

If you would like to read the first chapter, go

Mike Dellosso could very well be the next Frank Peretti-if you liked The Oath and Monster, you are going to love The Hunted.
--C.J. Darlington, Cofounder and book editor,

A spine-tingling tale of hidden secrets, buried hopes, and second chances. A story best read with all the lights on and an extra flashlight--just in case!
--Amy Wallace, author of Ransomed Dreams

Mike Dellosso's pins-and-needles thriller hurtles the reader down a dark and twisted path. I dare you to take this one home!
--Jill Elizabeth Nelson, author of the To Catch a Thief suspense series
With hints of Frank Peretti and Stephen King, The Hunted is a chilling debut."
--Creston Mapes, author of Nobody
A vicious enemy, a family secret, a thirst for revenge, and a need for reconciliation all drive The Hunted from intriguing beginning to thrilling conclusion."
--Kathryn Mackel, author of Vanished

Read this someplace safe as you experience the incredibly descriptive world of The Hunted. And sleep with the lights on.
--Austin Boyd, author of Mars Hill Classified trilogy

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Word of Mouth Marketing Winners

These three fine folks will receive a copy of Andy Sernovitz's Word of Mouth Marketing book free:

Pam Halter
Becky Miller

Please email me with your street addresses.

All of you, thanks for tuning in to this series. Even as we go on to talk about other things, if you get an idea for marketing as a result of reading this series, please leave a comment on a post (one of these or whatever's current at the time--I'll see it). It would be fun to do a follow-up post if enough people write in their ideas.

Deep in the Heart of Trouble

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Deep In The Heart Of Trouble

(Bethany House June 1, 2008)


Essie Spreckelmeyer didn't have a man, nor did she need one.


This is a fun book. Historicals are not my typical read. Neither are romances. A historical romance? I may read two a year. Since I'm a suspense author, this genre can easily bore me. Not this one. Deep in the Heart of Trouble has plenty of action; animated female characters, both main and supporting; and a wacky ending that made me laugh. Plus a mystery to boot. I can certainly see why Deeanne's books are so popular. In one word, this story is a romp. It's a lie-back-and-enjoy-it tale. Perfect for bubble bath reading (which is exactly where I read it). If you enjoy historical romance, this is a must-read. If this genre is not your cup of tea--try this book. You're likely to discover a totally different kind of story that you'll enjoy.


Deeanne Gist has been a busy lady. She had a career in elementary education. She raised four children. In fifteen years she has: run a home accessory/antique business, been a member of the press, penned freelance journalism for a few well-known publications, People, Parents, Family Fun and more. She was the CFO for her husband's engineering company, she did all this in her home.

She also founded a publishing corporation for the purpose of developing, producing and marketing products which would reinforce family values, teach children responsibility and provide character building activities. In answer to Gist’s fervent prayers, God sent a mainstream publisher to her door who licensed her parenting I Did It!® product line and committed to publish the next generation of her system, thus freeing Gist to return to her writing.

Eight months later, she submitted
A Bride Most Begrudging to Bethany House Publishers and they picked it up for their new "edgy inspirational" line of historical fiction. After its release in July 2005, Bride hit eight best seller lists and has sold over 100,000 copies and won the Christy Award for BEST ROMANCE 2006. The Measure of a Lady was her 2006 summer release. It hit five best seller lists and won the Christy Award for BEST ROMANCE 2007. Gist is contracted to have a new book come out every summer. Courting Trouble was her 2007 summer release and it hit three best seller lists.

Deeanne lives in Texas with her husband of twenty-four years. They have two kids in high school, two in college.


A Texas-Sized Tale of Unexpected Love

Essie Spreckelmeyer is the last woman anyone in Corsicana, Texas, expected to see with a man on her arm. Independent and outspoken, she’s known more for riding bicycles in outrageous bloomers than for catching a man’s eye.

And the last man who seems willing to give her a second glance is Tony Morgan, newly hired at Spreckelmeyer’s oil company. The disinherited son of an oil baron, Tony wants most to restore his name and regain his lost fortune--not lose his heart to this headstrong blonde. She confounds, contradicts, and confuses him. Sometimes he doesn’t know if she’s driving him toward the aisle or the end of his rope.

That’s how life is ...
Deep In The Heart Of Trouble

If you would like to read the first chapter, go

“Christy Award winner Gist’s historical romances have increasingly gained popularity, combining witty dialog, well-balanced plots, and fully developed characters who seem almost real. Recommended for CF and romance collections.”
-- Library Journal
"Gist does it again! Her signature prose is consistent and she delivers a thoroughly delightful and entertaining story that’s worthy of our time and attention. Not only won’t you want to put this book down, you’ll want to enjoy this story again and again."
-- JUNE TOP PICK, 4-1/2 STARS, Romantic Times, Jennifer Reyes

"Gist has once again written a delightfully humorous historical romance. After reading the first book in this series of two, I was anxious to get my hands on this one. Let me tell you, I was not disappointed ... It is a spectacular, feel-good story which I highly recommend. You will definitely be glad you read it."
-– FIVE STAR RATING, The Romance Studio, Brenda Talley

Monday, June 16, 2008

Word of Mouth Marketing--Part III

From Andy Sernovitz's Word of Mouth Marketing, last week we covered the first two Ts of womm: Talkers and Topics. Today we look at three through five.

3. Tools. How can you make the message travel farther and faster? Key concepts here are "speed and portability." Because the Internet can spread word so quickly, Sernovitz gives many specific ideas for better online usage for womm. These include such things as more effective use of emails, websites, blogs, social communities, reviews, and message boards.

Overall, what hit me most about #3 was the reminder of spreading the word--any word--farther. Doesn't have to be on the Internet. It may mean rethinking any bit of marketing we do. For example, if you send out postcards via regular mail to a mailing list about your latest book, that's a one-to-one ratio, right? Sender sends to one receiver. That receiver may read it, then throw it away. What might be included in the text of that postcard that would prompt the receiver to give it to a friend? Or if you send out an e-newsletter to subscribers, obviously any email is able to be forwarded, but is there anything on that newsletter prompting receivers to forward it? And, as Sernovitz notes, if the newsletter or any marketing email is forwarded, make sure it'll make sense to the second recipient, who may not have heard of you. A quick blurb about your company or your writing or whatever would be helpful.

Sernovitz also advocates giving away free product as a good marketing tool. I agree. I think if we authors believe in our books, one of the best things we can do is get copies into the hands of new readers. If you give away one, that's a one-to-one ratio. If you give away two, that person will pass the second to a friend.

When Crimson Eve, third in the Kanner Lake series, went on the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance blog tour, I included "give-away" copy in the information text I sent to CFBA. That text invited anyone who knows someone who's never read one of my suspense novels to send that person's name, street address and email address to my assistant, and that person would receive a free copy of Crimson Eve. First 100 responders got a book sent out. I promised I would not spam the recipients, only using the email address once to let them know So-and-So friend had requested that he/she receive a book, and it was on its way. (Of course, in that email was my typical Seatbelt Suspense signature and links to my website and blog.) I had 100 responses in no time. This cost some money, but it was worth the "seeding." The copies were provided by my publisher. I paid the postage and my assistant's time in mailing.

4. Taking Part. Key concept--Womm is "as much about customer service as it is about marketing." Online conversations--positive or negative--can spread quickly. Sernovitz says there are two risks in not taking part in these conversations: "word of mouth dies" or "goes negative." ISearch engines make it easy to see who's talking about you online. Google Alerts is one I use. It sends me an email telling me if anyone has mentioned me in a blog post. Don't be shy when this happens, Sernovitz says. Take time to visit the blog and say thank you if someone spoke well of your product. "Fixing problems is the most powerful marketing you can do," he says. "A formerly unhappy customer who is made happy tells 1o people." It's a little hard for an author to "fix" it when someone posts a negative review of your book. It's not like we sold someone a broken widget and can just replace it for free. But given that "unhappy customer turned happy" statement is a "key rule of thumb" for womm, it does make me think. What can I do in that situation. Is there a way in which I can take part in the conversation to make it more positive? Worth thinking about.

5. Tracking--Measuring and understanding what people are saying about you. When you track womm, you can assess such things as who is talking, what tools they are using, and what topics are working for you. Among other things Sernovitz advocates using search engines and encouraging feedback. The last one is interesting to me. Makes my mind start turning. How can I better encourage feedback on my products?

A helpful blog listed for measuring womm: Word of Mouth Marketing Association's Research Blog.

I'm coming down to the wire on a deadline at the moment. But in my spare moments (with what brain power I have left), I've been pondering Andy Sernovitz's many ideas in his book. I want to fill out the Five T form and put myself on a plan of action. (That, of course, is more than just a few minutes of filling out a piece of paper. Takes some thought.) I'm glad I read this book. It's got me fired up to open up my mind and think conceptually, as well as given me practical, specific things I can do right away.

Please continue to leave your comments today. Tomorrow I'll announce the three winners of the random drawing for a copy of Word of Mouth Marketing.

Read Winners (Final post)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Word of Mouth Marketing--Part II

According to Andy Sernovitz in Word of Mouth Marketing, the Five Ts of womm are:

Taking Part

Talkers: Who are the people who want to talk about you and your stuff? The immediate thought is--your customers. Yes, some customers may be good talkers. But Sernovitz makes an interesting point: your talkers can also be "super-eager fans who will never buy a product." He mentions the opening of Wynn Las Vegas. Before the official opening, the hotel invited in cabbies for free rooms and the run of the place. Cabbies aren't likely customers. But as they drive tourists around, which hotel do you think they were talking about?

Turns out this is exactly what I did with my recent reaching out to the Big Honkin' Chickens Club. This unofficial club has been around a long time, full of folks who call themselves chickens when it comes to reading suspense. Which means when I moved to writing suspense only, they wouldn't read my stuff. But they'll talk about it. They'll tell others about me. I decided to make it easier for them to talk (second half of Sernovitz's definition of womm). I came up with a cute BHCC logo and put it on merchandise like a keychain, magnet, mousepad, bag and T-shirt. All the merchandise also includes my Seatbelt Suspense trademark and website address. I gave them an easy html copy and paste way to post the BHCC logo on their own sites. I gave them a page complete with a guestbook on my web site. I came up with a system for rating my novels' "scare factor," using the logo and daring BHCC members to try one. A three-chicken read may really be too much, but a one-chicken read? Why not try it? It's fun for the BHCC folks, because they're doggone proud of their membership. And if decide to carry around a BHCC keychain, that's marketing for me.
Big Honkin' Chickens Club
Look beyond your core customers. Who else might talk about you? Sernovitz lists seven kinds of people to consider and three traits they might possess. He includes a "Talker Profile" worksheet for thinking through this process. And he lists ways to make these people happy, which will keep them talking.

Topics--what will they talk about? Sernovitz notes that the message needs to be a single idea and very short. No lists. No using "and." He lists characteristics that make a good topic and spends a lot of pages giving you ideas for how to come up with topics. One characteristic he mentions: They are organic--arising naturally from the "exceptional qualities that make your stuff stand out." So ya gotta include factors in your stuff that lead to a good message. Gateway could just make computers. Somebody had to think--"Let's put them in cow boxes."

If you're a novelist, what can you do? For my Kanner Lake series, I created Scenes and Beans, the character blog. Scenes and Beans is also a blog in the novels themselves, written by the regular customers of Java Joint, the coffee shop in Kanner Lake. I held auditions for aspiring novelists who wanted to write as the characters before the first book, Violet Dawn, hit the stands. Their posts would be written in real time, according to what was happening in the novels. Auditioners got free pre-release reads of Violet Dawn so they could study the characters. By the time Violet Dawn was released, all those writers who won parts were talking to their friends about the blog and series. They had a stake in the series. They had their own "Original Scenes and Beans writer" logo to put on their blogs. I sent them press releases, which allowed them to fill in their own names and information, that they could send to their local papers. Some did--and had articles printed about them in their papers. And, of course, those articles mentioned Violet Dawn and the Kanner Lake series. My womm topic: The blog in the novels is real.

I wanted Scenes and Beans to continue running strong after these initial writers had fulfilled their six-month commitment to write for the blog. It didn't hit the success I wanted it to. But that initial word of mouth for Violet Dawn really helped. The last book of that series, Amber Morn, was dedicated to all those initial Scenes and Beans writers.

So--now with Amber Morn's release, the Kanner Lake series is over. What am I going to do for my next novel, Dark Pursuit? Don't know. But you can bet I'm thinking about it.

These examples are a couple from my own experience. Sernovitz has many examples of womm topics in his book. The examples are great 'cause they get you thinking about what you could do. Sometimes the thinking has to be out of the box. Or maybe in a cow box.

Part III Monday--the next Three Ts.

Read Part III

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Word of Mouth Marketing--Part I

I'm going to have to strike a difficult balance here. I want to give you enough specifics from Andy Sernovitz's Word of Mouth Marketing to get us all thinking. But I'm not gonna give away all his secrets. And he has plenty. As I mentioned yesterday, his steps for womm got my mind working right away. (Which is amazing, because right now my peabrain is quite on overload with a deadline approaching.) Bottom line, I think you ought to buy this book--if you don't win one of the three free copies here (commenter's name randomly drawn).

WOMM was written for any kind of company or service or product. Including us struggling folks in the publishing biz. The book is divided into two parts, the first presenting the author's philosophy of the subject--"The Essential Concepts." In a comment to yesterday's post, Becky said: "... with a book like this circulating, many will duplicate the successes and adapt the principles. Seems there needs to be a twist that sets one apart from all the others doing what someone else has already done."

My take on WOMM: that "twist" is intrinsic to its philosophy. At the heart of word of mouth marketing is a good topic to talk about. Sernovitz defines womm as "giving people a reason to talk about your stuff, and making it easier for that conversation to take place." Your stuff, of course, is what you do. It needs to be a good product to begin with. In my case, my stuff is the suspense novels I write. Making it easier for that conversation to take place arises out of who you are as a company or product maker. It's your unique personality at work to create conversation. Since my stuff and my personality form a different combination from other people's, my best ideas for womm will not look like everyone else's. Many of the same vehicles of communication may be the same, but the message will not.

"Long-term, sustainable word of mouth comes when a business becomes truly immersed in the word of mouth philosophy," says Sernovitz. "Your brand becomes fundamentally talkworthy as you reach inside your company and change how you think about business and your relationship with your customers." As we create products we need to think in terms of also creating a "buzzworthy experience" for those who use our products.

It's important not to confuse the brand with the message. Your brand--rather simply stated, but it's not our topic here--is your unique product and how it's viewed by customers. The message is the topic of conversation you provide customers. Getting back to Sernovitz's definition of womm, his book, then, provides step-by-step specifics to help you determine what your message will be and how it can be helped along.

For example, Sernovitz mentions Steve Jobs, who returned to Apple in 1996 to revive the company. "Did he talk about great software? Stable operation systems? No. Jobs's great marketing insight was ... pink and purple computers." The products were good, the brand was building. But what people talked about were the cool colors. Or think of Saturn. The cars are supposed to be pretty good stuff. But what people talk about is the buying experience. No wrangling, no hassle. In the car biz, that's talkworthy. How about Gateway computers--what's message-worthy there? Those crazy cow boxes.

One of my favorites (not mentioned in the book) is That insanely cynical company takes motivational sayings and turns them on their sticky sweet heads. They throw these statements of despair on calendars and posters and T-shirts. The products themselves are worth talking about. But the company's "customer disservice" is the main topic of conversation. All emails from that company, in keeping with the despair spirit, are designed to remind the customer how very unimportant he is, even as his order is being filled. When I want a good laugh, I go to And I tell a lot of people about it. (I just did it again.)

As you can see, your message needs to be unique, different, unexpected, humorous--something that makes people want to tell someone else about it.

Sernovitz notes, too, that womm should always be honest. No lying, no manipulation. Integrity is essential.

Also--you gotta be willing to take some risks. Some word of mouth messages may really take off. Others may not. Some may do okay. You've got to be willing to put it out there and see what happens. The good news is, womm is way cheaper than formal advertising. Sometimes it doesn't cost at all.

Tomorrow: Sernovitz's Five Ts of word of mouth marketing.

Read Part II

Dreamhouse Kings Series

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing a double pair

House of Dark Shadows
Watcher In The Woods
(Books 1 and 2 in the Dreamhouse Kings Series)

Thomas Nelson (May 6, 2008)


Robert Liparulo


Robert 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.

Robert is an avid scuba diver, swimmer, reader, traveler, and a law enforcement and military enthusiast. He lives in Colorado with his wife and four children.

Robert's first novel painted a scenario so frighteningly real that six Hollywood producers were bidding on movie rights before the novel was completed. His acclaimed debut novel,
Comes A Horseman, is being made into a major motion picture by producer Mace Neufeld and his short story "Kill Zone" was featured in the anthology Thriller, edited by James Patterson.

Bob has sold the film rights to his second book,
GERM. And he is writing the screenplay for a yet-to-be-written political thriller, which sold to Phoenix Pictures, for Andrew Davis (The Fugitive, The Guardian) to direct!

And his third book
Deadfall. debuted to rave reviews.


House of Dark Shadows
(Dreamhouse Kings Book 1)

Dream house...or bad dream?
When the Kings move from L.A. to a secluded small town, fifteen-year-old Xander is beyond disappointed. He and his friends loved to create amateur films . . . but the tiny town of Pinedale is the last place a movie buff and future filmmaker wants to land.

But he, David, and Toria are captivated by the many rooms in the old Victorian fixer-upper they moved into--as well as the heavy woods surrounding the house.

They soon discover there's something odd about the house. Sounds come from the wrong directions. Prints of giant, bare feet appear in the dust. And when David tries to hide in the linen closet, he winds up in locker 119 at his new school.

Then the really weird stuff kicks in: they find a hidden hallway with portals leading off to far-off places--in long-ago times. Xander is starting to wonder if this kind of travel is a teen's dream come true . . . or his worst nightmare.

Watcher In The Woods
(Dreamhouse Kings Book 2)

It's not just the house that's keeping secrets.
Pretending everything's all right is harder than it sounds. But the Kings know that even if they told the truth about the bizarre things happening in their house, no one would believe them. They're hyper-focused on rescuing their lost family member before anyone finds out what's going on.

But when a stranger shows up to take their house, their options start dwindling fast. Why would he be so interested in a run-down old place? And what secret is he hiding--just as he hides the scars that crisscross his body?

The mystery gets stranger with each passing day. Will the Kings be able to find a way to harness the house's secrets and discover who is watching their every move before another gets snatched into an unknown world?

The Dreamhouse Kings Series has three contests that you will not want to miss...Dream the Scene, a weekly "Thanks For Reading Trivia contest, and the Dreamhouse Kings Street Team contest. There are also free bookplates that you can request, and a chapter of each book that you can download!

You can get all those goodies

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Word of Mouth Marketing

You know me, always looking for new marketing ideas. I've found some good ones in Word of Mouth Marketing, by Andy Sernovitz. Tomorrow I will start a short series of posts on this book. Andy has given me permission to quote from the book for these posts. Surely he is pleased to know I discovered his book from--what else? word of mouth. And, of course, now I'm continuing that WOM chain by telling you about it. recommended the book to me based on my previous purchases of books on marketing. So I clicked over, looked at the book and immediately bought it. To date Word of Mouth Marketing has been reviewed by 92 people and has a four and a half star rating. Andy has sent me three copies to give away during these posts. If you're interested in a copy, leave a comment each day. Names will be randomly drawn.

First, the book flap description:

Who Is Talking About You?

Master the art of word of mouth marketing with this fun, practical, hands-on guide. With straightforward advice and humor, marketing expert Andy Sernovitz will show you how the world’s most respected and profitable companies get their best customers for free through the power of word of mouth.

Learn the five essential steps that make word of mouth work and everything you need to get started using them.

Understand the real purpose of blogs, communities, viral email, evangelists, and buzz—when to use them and how simple it is to make them work.

Learn what sparks the irrepressible enthusiasm of Apple and TiVo fans. Understand why everyone is talking about a certain restaurant, car, band, or dry cleaner—and why other businesses and products are ignored. Discover why some products become huge successes without a penny of promotion—and why some multi-million-dollar advertising campaigns fail to get noticed.

Open your eyes to a new way of doing business—that honest marketing makes more money, because customers who trust you will talk about you. Learn how to be the remarkable company that people want to share with their friends.

Being jacket copy, the description above can speak only in general terms. But this book gets downright specific. I started getting marketing ideas right away as I read it. And this book is not only about the Internet. According to the author, only 20% of word of mouth marketing happens online. So if you're focused only on web sites, e-newsletters and blogs, think again.

Andy Sernovitz is CEO of GasPedal, a word of mouth marketing consulting firm. He's a professional speaker and teaches Word of Mouth Marketing at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. He was a founder and CEO of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, and recently left that post to pursue other endeavors in marketing. Plus he says he's seen the Grateful Dead 25 times. Guy's gotta be great, right? Andy's blog.

Tomorrow--Part I as we peek into this book. If you'd like a chance for a free copy, start leaving your comments now. You might answer the question: What's one thing you would like to learn from this book?

Read Part I

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Wacky Weather

What is going on with the weather? I'm in Coeur d'Alene right now. It's unseasonably cold--the high yesterday was only 52 degrees. Skies were totally overcast, then rain set in. Then ... it poured. (Blue on the map=winter storms.) I mean, I thought Noah's Ark was gonna float by. The world past our back deck totally disappeared. After about 10 minutes of that--boom. Sun. No rain. Weird.

Meanwhile in the east and across the lower western states--big, bad heat. (Bright pink and orange.) Like let the kids out of school early before they die in the classroom heat. As for the midwest? Houses are washing away in floods. (Green.)

Fortunately for this part of the world, the sun comes out on Thursday, with temperatures going into the 70s. Just in time for the famous Car d'Alene on Saturday.

How about the rest of you? Y'all surviving out there?

Monday, June 09, 2008

BHCC Member Survives

Recently taking up my challenge to BHCC members to read one of my suspense novels was Rose McCauley. She'd read my Bradleyville women's fiction series but just couldn't bring herself to read my suspense. Until she picked up Violet Dawn and took it with her for a weekend at a cabin in the mountains. With a hot tub, no less. (Note she's only got her feet in the water.) Read Rose's post to find out why she called me a certain word I didn't think I'd ever want to be called. But hey, I like it.

Then there's member Ane Mulligan, who's been proudly using her keychain. Here's a comment she left on the BHCC guestbook:

"Got my keychain! It’s SO much fun. And it works. At the grocery store, the lady in front of me thought it was a picture of a grandchild. I showed it to her and talked about your books! She wrote your name down. Seems the silly woman LIKES to be scared to death."

One by one those BHCC folks are gonna put their toes in the water of the dark side ...

Friday, June 06, 2008

Fiction Author Reference Chart

Check out this Fiction Author Reference Chart on It suggests new authors for you based on what you're already reading. Here's a challenge. Read one new author suggested for you. Or branch out into a totally new genre and try it. You don't have to buy the books. Look for them in your library. Or see if you can do an exchange with friends. Just widen your territory in reading a bit. You might be surprised at what's out there--and how it can help you in your own writing.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

What's New in Christian Suspense

Publishers Weekly has a new informative article on the genre of Christian suspense. Check it out regarding changes in the genre and also to see what new suspense titles to look for.

We've come a long way in the past eight years.

The article ends with a quote from Anne Horch, editor at FaithWords. I agree with her thoughts. Her closing lines: "Suspense is actually a genre that can put the Gospel out there really blatantly. What other genre deals with good and evil in a very obvious way? This is an opportunity to let God shine.”

From a Distance

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

From A Distance

(Bethany House June 1, 2008)


Tamera Alexander


Elizabeth Garrett Westbrook stepped closer to the cliff's edge, not the least intimidated by the chasm's vast plunge.


Tammy is a good friend of mine, a great gal, and a doggone good writer. She burst onto the historical romance scene only a few years ago and since has won numerous awards (see below.) She is strong in characterization and excellent in description. Her writer's voice sounds right for the perspective of characters in the historical period in which she sets her story. By her very word choice you feel you've been set back in the 1800s.

This genre isn't my typical reading. I'm used to a much faster pace and expect a dead body somewhere in the first chapter. For Tammy, I simply have to relax into the story and let the strength of her writing carry me along. And it does.

If you enjoy women's fiction in general you should give one of Tammy's books a try. If you particularly like historicals or historical romance, she is a must read for you. Library Journal called her "possibly the best new writer in this subgenre." Her skills do warrant that level of response.


Tamera Alexander is a bestselling novelist whose deeply drawn characters, thought-provoking plots and poignant prose resonate with readers. Tamera is a finalist for the 2008 Christy Award Remembered, and has been awarded the coveted RITA® from Romance Writers of America Revealed, along with Library Journal’s Top Christian Fiction of 2006 Rekindled. Having lived in Colorado for seventeen years, she and her husband now make their home in the quaint town of historic Franklin, Tennessee, where they enjoy life with their two college-age children and a precious—and precocious—silky terrier named Jack.

A Note from Tamera:

Stories are journeys, and each story I write is a journey for me.

Rekindled began with a dream—the image of a man returning home on horseback. He came upon a freshly dug grave and when he knelt to read the name carved into the roughhewn wooden cross, he discovered the name was…his own. The inspiration for Revealed grew from two characters in Rekindled whose stories needed to be told. But even more, whose stories I needed to tell. Writing Revealed was a very personal journey for me, and a healing one. For Remembered, I met that story’s heroine (figuratively, of course) while strolling the ancient cobblestoned pathways of a three hundred-year-old cemetery in northern Paris, France. And
From A Distance came from a question I was struggling with in my own life at the time, “What happens when the dream you asked God for isn’t what you thought it would be?”

For me, the greatest thrill of these writing journeys is when Christ reveals Himself in some new way, and I take a step closer to Him. And my deepest desire is that readers of my books will do that as well—take steps closer to Him as they read. After all, it’s all about Him.

In the Potter’s Hand,



What happens when dreams aren’t what you imagined,

And secrets you’ve spent a lifetime guarding are finally laid bare?

Determined to become one of the country’s premier newspaper photographers, Elizabeth Westbrook travels to the Colorado Territory to capture the grandeur of the mountains surrounding the remote town of Timber Ridge. She hopes, too, that the cool, dry air of Colorado, and its renowned hot springs, will cure the mysterious illness that threatens her career, and her life.

Daniel Ranslett, a former Confederate sharpshooter, is a man shackled by his past, and he’ll do anything to protect his land and his solitude. When an outspoken Yankee photographer captures an image that appears key to solving a murder, putting herself in danger, Daniel is called upon to repay a debt. He’s a man of his word, but repaying that debt will bring secrets from his past to light.

Forced on a perilous journey together, Daniel and Elizabeth’s lives intertwine in ways neither could have imagined when first they met . . . from a distance.

If you would like to read the first chapter, go

“…a rich historical romance by possibly the best new writer in this subgenre.”
--Library Journal

“…a most amazing story. The characters are more than words on the page; they become real people.”
--Romantic Times

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Favorite Review Lines

These gems are from online book reviews. They make me smile. And a few are just cool.

Violet Dawn

Caveats: disturbing mental images of abuse and struggle with a corpse. Otherwise, it's just peachy.

You'll find yourself talking to the townspeople and advising them; however, they don't follow your advice.

Brandilyn has woven a town that I’d like to visit someday. It’s a shame there’s a rotten murderer skulking around on the main strip.

You will never look at a hot tub the same way.

The discussion questions provided on the Kanner Lake website provided me with better insight as to how this could be used for a church Book Club discussion of damaged, hurt people and how they might face and begin to overcome a past that simply cannot be erased or forgotten.

Coral Moon

Nothing like a little murder to totally twist a sweet little tourist spot into a mutated pretzel of doom.

Brandilyn has done a masterful job of ... wetting your appetite.

Love the suppence.

Crimson Eve

Carla Radling, Kanner Lake real estate agent, takes a dashing Englishman to look at a reclusive property, but instead of buying the house, he tries to make Carla buy the farm.

Hard to put down ... I can't wait to read Amber Dawn.

Amber Morn

Apparently, the hostages are people who appeared in previous books.

Eyes of Elisha

Collins, a general market crime author turned CBA novelist, pens a chilling tale of suspense that makes a worthy contribution to the sparse genre of Christian mystery fiction. [First line of the Publishers Weekly review. I love it because of the word "sparse." How the genre has grown in seven years!]

Brink of Death

More jolts than an IV bag full of Turkish coffee.

She kepted me in suspense.

Ms. Collins appears to have very little general education.

Web of Lies

You'll need to make sure you have the nightlight and extra bulbs. And if you're like me, you'll want to sleep with the 9MM under your pillow.

I am one of those suspense readers who actually prefers to guess the ending, and this book had so many plot twists and turns that I was unable to do so. [Well drat.]

Don't read the book in your bare feet.

Finally, I have to conclude with this for Eyes of Elisha. I'm quoting the whole thing because ya just gotta read it all. This one makes me smile on so many levels. (Written by a teenager?)

An awsome christain Novel!

I'm not into reading books out of our church libray because i thought all the books were just about God. I know that its good to read about him and learn about him but its not always the fun thing to do. when i read this book i was not only learning about the power of the lord i was also reading a book i enjoyed. I truly think that when and if you read 'Eyes of Elisha' you'll really love it.
Also recommended: the holy bible, left behind, Huckaberry fin

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

It's Writer's Block, You Blockhead

I get really ticked at people who say writer's block doesn't exist. I get even more ticked when I hear writers say it.

What they're really saying is they, for some inexplicable and completely unfair reason, have never experienced writer's block. Therefore it doesn't exist. So those writers who say it does are just lazy and unwilling to park their rear end in the chair.

Perhaps we're not talking about the same thing. Just to make sure my rant has some solid foundation, let me explain what I mean by writer's block. It's when I don't know what happens next in my story--and no matter how hard I think, the plot points Just. Won't. Come.

Some novelists advocate free-writing during this blocked time. Sit down and write a page on something--anything. Doesn't work for me. What's the point of writing a page that goes nowhere? I'm on a deadline and need pages that count.

Perhaps the more accurate term for my problem is "plotting block."

I had a major plotting block in my current story. I knew the main character and the premise and where that story leads. Sort of. But that was only half the book. I needed a whole different set of characters in a whole different plot that would in time coalesce with the first. And it wouldn't come.

Maybe I expect too much from my plots. They have to be tightly woven, contain a lot of action, yet be character driven. And they have to include major twists. Now some other novelist may just be able to pop such ideas right and left. Ain't me.

In struggling with this story I could literally sit at my desk all day and write down plot points, or pick up some line of thought and run with it--and nothing would work. In fact, I didn't sit at my desk trying to figure it out all day, because I know my pea brain. I can't force it to create when it's not ready to create. In the end the answers came to me in little drops and over time. A looong time.

There are certain things I do on a regular basis to help feed my creativity. I watch my true crime TV shows. I read the newspaper. I watch people and pay attention to conversations. And I pray. In the middle of a crunch I pray a lot. In the end, God leads me to the ideas and gets me through.

So how did this current half of a plot come to me?

I was watching a true crime show on Mafia hit men. Boom. One piece of the puzzle fell into place.

I prayed.

I was blowdrying my hair one morning, not even thinking about my book--boom, a second piece. I had been trying to make the plot work with a lead male character. It occurred to me the character should be female. In that second I felt a shift in my gut. Like I could get excited about the story. Whatever the story was.

I prayed.

Based on the true crime show I bought a book for further research. Good ol' Amazon. I ordered it one morning and it was on my doorstep the next. Yes, I had to pay more for the overnight shipping than for the book, but it was worth it. I read the book that day, underlining key passages. Certain phrases and bits of dialogue stood out to me. The aura of one of the supporting characters in the plot started to take shape.

I prayed.

I went on the Internet and googled about one of the crimes I considered using in the plot. Got a bunch of hits on real life cases. Read those articles, printed some out. Yeah, I could use this type of crime. I could combine aspects from the various real life crimes into mine to make it more authentic.

I prayed.

During some of this time I wrote the half-plot that I did have, knowing I would be inserting the other plot in between chapters. But there came a time when I'd written all I could of the first story without having the second. That's when the days without writing started to pass. Did I have writers block? Oh, yeah. And I didn't like it. But this is so typical with me. Seems I reach a point like that with almost every book.

I've realized the bottom-line problem, and I don't there's anything I can do but learn to live with it. In Myers Briggs I'm an ISTJ. I like everything planned. No happy-go-lucky spontaneity for me. I would love to write that way. Plot everything ahead time, down to each scene. Know exactly where the story's going, then just sit down and write it. Piece of cake. If I know where I'm going, I can do the pages. But I can't do this. I've tried all the plotting devices out there, and none of them work for me. I simply can't plot out an entire book first. I get the premise, the basic characters, I know the end. But doggone if there's not this missing middle.

I love to do brainstorming sessions. I'm not proud, I'll take all the help I can get. I did two sessions for this book, one with a group of people and one with one very talented, idea-popping person. Out of each session I gleaned only one thing--a very important fundamental thought for the character or story. So those sessions weren't wasted. But they certainly didn't yield anywhere near a fully-plotted story.

The only way I can find the missing pieces is to start writing. Sometimes the rest of the story unfolds along the way, and I don't miss page-writing days. Most of the time I hit that wall. Weeks can pass. Yeah, weeks. Each one of those aha moments listed above was separated from the previous one by days.

Whatever you call it, writer's block or plotter's block, I get it. It's real. If you've never experienced it, yay for you. Be very grateful. Just don't tell me it doesn't exist. I just might have to kill you off in my next book.

Or maybe the current one.

When I know the plot.