Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Bargain and New Covers

First, the bargain. BHCC members--take note. Christianbook.com is selling Color the Sidewalk for Me and Capture the Wind for Me for $3.99 each. What are you waiting for? Go buy both of them--here. Sidewalk and Wind are books 2 and 3 of my Bradleyville series. You can read them without reading book 1. If you want them all--buy them in a package for $17.99 here. Then go to the Free Stuff page of my web site and request autographed bookplates. Voila--a signed series. Biting the dust--all your excuses not to read a Brandilyn Collins novel.

Second, the covers are in for the two-book Rayne Tour series, co-written with my daughter Amberly.

The Rayne Tour books feature Shaley O'Connor, daughter of rock star Rayne O'Connor. Shaley seems to have it all--a life of limos, backstage passes, and fancy hotels--until murder shakes her world.

Always Watching and Last Breath release next spring.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Though the Olive Should Fail

Thanks to all of you who commented about Two Wars over the weekend. The names drawn for the two free copies were Winter Peck and Randy Mortenson. Winter and Randy, please email me with your street addresses, and I'll pass them on to Nate's agent.

Now for today ...

Given the near financial-meltdown-of-a-weekend we've just come through, it's not surprising that God led me to read Habakkuk yesterday morning. I'd forgotten about the beautiful prayer at the end of the book. You can replace the financially critical "olive" of that day with "banks" and so on, and you've got a prayer absolutely fit for these current troubled times. And God is still worthy to be praised, even should the worst occur.

Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
The Lord GOD is my strength,
And He has made my feet like hinds' feet,
And makes me walk on my high places.

--Habakkuk 3:17-19

Friday, September 26, 2008

Two Wars

Two Wars: One Hero's Flight on Two Fronts--Abroad and Within. This is a nonfiction account written by Nate Self, Army Ranger and recipient of the Purple Heart, Silver Star, and Bronze Star for his bravery in an Afghanistan battle. Nate's story was featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal and on NBC's Dateline.

That much you can read on the cover of Two Wars. Here's the story as I've come to know it.

I met Nate Self and his wife, Julie, at the Alive Communications event during ICRS this past summer. Beth Jusino of Alive served as agent on this book. Every attendee at that event received a free copy. I happened to sit right in front of Nate and Julie. When they were introduced, Nate received a standing ovation for his service to our country. I turned around and shook his hand and said "Thank you," immediately getting teary-eyed. Can't help it. When I think of what men such as Nate and all the other soldiers have done for us ...

When have you known me to feature a nonfiction book on this fiction blog--except those about marketing or the craft of fiction? Two Wars is so good I want you to know about it. Here's the surprising part. It says it was written by Nate [Him]Self--and it was. No ghostwriter here, although you'd swear there has to be such a spirit lurking about, for Nate's writing is solid. Especially when you consider he spent years training to be a soldier, not an author.

Part 1, The Call--Nate leads a battle to rescue a Navy SEAL who has fallen into the hands of al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan. The rescue goes horribly awry. Nate and his men are downed when their copter crashes on a bleak, God-forsaken mountain, surrounded by the enemy. The odds against any of them surviving are dire. Many don't.

Part II, Recoil--"A rare look into a soldier's soul," the back cover of Two Wars says. The rarest of looks takes place in this second part. Home and "safe" on U.S. soil, Nate finds himself anything but safe. He experiences terrible disillusionment and post traumatic stress, and his home life nearly falls apart. Once a soldier trained for ultimate battle, now what is his purpose in life? Where is his God?

Readers, you will not forget this book after you've lived through Nate's eyes. Novelists, you will learn craft from this true tale, for Nate tells his story like an unfolding novel and uses fiction techniques well. Particularly, I noted:

1. The organic Christian content. I had numerous wistful moments reading Nate's story. Because it is true, he could tell it like it is. This soldier prayed. This soldier talked about God. Guess what--Christians really do act like that. Yet sometimes in our novels we're wary of having a Christian protagonist pray too much and act like a Christian. Why? Because the nonChristian world just doesn't get this. I can think of numerous PW reviews on Christian novels contending with the level of Christian content as "beating over the head" or something to that effect. But Nate's not afraid to depict this part of himself. This is how he lives his life, and it was going in the book. The story is a testimony of his Christian faith--even, I must add, when he didn't feel like living it at all. Nate's unabashed inclusion of these issues leads to a gut-level honest recounting without preachiness.

2. Nate's effective handling of his inward change in Part II. This could so easily have been written horribly. We go from this soldier putting his life on the line in Part 1, wondering if he's going to survive, to someone entirely different in Part II. But Nate doesn't spend page after page in heavy narrative, "telling" the reader how badly his life has fallen apart. Instead he simply shows us. He uses vignettes, jumping from fully written scene to fully written scene, and his voice changes. That's it. But the change is remarkable. It's no longer can-do, purposeful, the soldier in his element, even under heavy fire. This new voice is sarcastic, cynical, purposeless and angry. Lost.

Here's an example of Nate's focused voice in the midst of battle:

I bounded forward, firing. The energizing smell of gunpowder filled my nostrils. I raised my knees high, stepping over the snow and the hidden scree underfoot. I saw a boulder in front of me: a good cover. My wounded leg felt fine for the moment. All I felt was the trigger. We moved as a synchronized unit, just as in training: forward one man at a time, each man in his own lane. These are the basics. Fire and move.

The natural response would be to cower, to hope it would all go away ... But we were living out the purpose of the Infantry--to close with and destroy the enemy ...

Contrast the above with the voice of Nate the disillusioned staff officer back home, sliding downward:

I get strange and disdainful looks from officers I don't know when they see my left shoulder without a Ranger tab. Of course I have a Ranger tab. I just don't wear it ... I have nothing to prove. Not to them.

Last time I deployed, we didn't need markings or even nametags ... Cloth didn't prove anything. Action proved. Creeds proved. Blood proved.

I've seen their looks here. Oh, you're a staff weenie, an Infantry officer without a tab ... No wonder you're here at headquarters and not leading troops.

Same thing with the haircut. I let my hair grow longer, so I'm a bad officer ... I'm a slug. Last time I was at war, the men without uniforms and the ones with the longest hair were the best warriors on the planet. Here, I'm a dirtbag. They don't know me ...

3. Other effective differences between Part I and Part II. Each chapter in Part I begins with a quote about war or soldiering, followed by a bolded sans serif heading as to place and time. These effects heighten the tone of a soldier in his element, of action. In Part II those quotes and headings disappear. Kudos to the interior designer for enhancing the difference in aura between the two sections. In Part I chapters start wherever they naturally fall on a page, with just a little bit of white space in between. This, too, gives us the feeling of continual action. Multiple lines on either side of the chapter number lend a military aura of everything stacked and straight and in its place. In Part II the graphics change completely. Each chapter starts on the right page, giving a sense of distance and fragmentation within the character. And we see a screened crop of Nate's haunted eyes running across the top of each chapter heading. Very effective.

I recommend Two Wars to all of you, and for your relatives and friends who might learn from Nate's faith as he battles forces without and within, and finally comes to peace with his struggles. Find it in your local Christian bookstore, if you can. Or Amazon's got a great price on this hardcover right now. You can also buy it on your Kindle.

I've been offered two copies of Two Wars to give away here. I know 97% of you BGs out there love to lurk. But if you'll surface for the moment and leave a comment as to why you'd like a copy of this book, your name will go "in the hat." I'll give you all weekend to do this. Then I'll draw the two names Sunday night before I put up my post for Monday.

To Nate and Julie Self--may God's blessings be with you as you continue in His work.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


I need to deepen my writing skills. I must write better books. I need to help my publisher increase my sales. For them, for me, for my career. I need to figure out how to be a better team player with my publisher than I am now. So far I've been doing all these things to the best of my ability. But I gotta do better.

I feel totally inadequate to do any of these things.

And--that's a very good place to be.

Over the last few years God has taught me so many things. One of them is to embrace my inadequacy for any given task--and to trust Him to help me through it. Without God's direction, feeling inadequate is just plain miserable. It can lead to all kinds of fear. But if we get to the place where we can rest in our inadequacy, trusting Him to guide us and work through us, the inadequacy doesn't feel so bad. In fact it shines for what it is--a new opportunity for God to lead us, deepen our faith, take us to new heights.

Okay, so I'm inadequate. What's new? God isn't. That's what counts.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Post Conference--Take 2

Due to the joys of commercial flying--no post yesterday. I got stuck in the Las Vegas airport for six hours and didn't get home until very late. And wouldn't you know--the free wireless in the airport had such low connectivity I couldn't post. I managed to pull in some emails, but that was about it.

Best part of the conference for me: once again, seeing God's mercy in the prayer room. I saw Him lead prayers to target people's specific emotional, spiritual and physical issues. It was particularly gratifying to meet with folks with whom I'd prayed a year or more ago--and see how far they'd come in healing.

As to the rest of the conference, it was terrific. And lots of people! Total end count was somewhere around 517. I know the faces in the photo below are too small to see, but this is the editor panel. Look at how many! And this wasn't all editors in attendance. Numerous houses had more than one editor. We put only one per house on the panel, just so they'd fit on the stage. Participating in the panel: Allan Arnold, Beth Adams, Karen Ball, Sue Brower, Andrea Doering, Miranda Gardner, Rebecca Germany, Dave Lambert, Dave Long, Andy McGuire, Kim Moore, Emily Rodmell, Barbara Scott, Karen Watson, and Christine Whitaker.

Angie Hunt did a fabulous job as keynote speaker. It was so great to have her for the weekend.

The Mall of American signing was huge and loud, and a wonderful testament to Christian fiction. Panels onstage went continuously in two different rotundas. Photos of the authors looped on the huge jumbotrons. I served on a suspense panel with Angie Hunt, Karen Ball, and Jim Bell. That was the first panel, running half an hour, followed by many more representing other genres.

While I was standing at my table at the MOA signing, a young man walked by--didn't look much older than my son. He had hair down to his shoulders, with a floppy hat. He was browsing and picking up bookmarks. I said, "Hey, I love your hair. Come here, let me feel it." (I've always wished my own son would grow his hair long, but oh, no. He has to buzz his.) The young man smiled and obliged. I touched his hair and said, "Yeah, that's great hair." He smiled again. "Glad you like it." He stuck out his hand. "Nice to meet you. I'm Steve Mclellan. I own Shoutlife."

My eyes rounded. I turned into a total groupie. "You own Shoutlife? How way cool! Come around here, lemme get a picture with you."

We talked about Shoutlife some. What a heart for God this young man has. He mentioned that staff chooses an artist or author they'll feature on the site each month. (You can also pay for advertising.) I gave him a look. "I liked your hair before I knew who you were."

Turns out he, indeed, is going to feature me on the author's home page in October. I, in turn, want to help him reach new potential users for Shoutlife. He says the site now has 130,000 members. They've just added easy access for videos on your page. And they've had a new service for awhile now in which you can post where you are appearing--book signing, whatever--and that info is sent to people within a certain radius of the event. Nice feature. If you're not on Shoutlife (the Christian community/answer to Facebook), go to www.shoutlife.com and put up your page. You can join as a writer or musician, etc. or simply a person.

One more story, and I'll stop for the day. Sunday afternoon after the conference, I was whisked away to an absolutely beautiful Northwestern Christian bookstore for a personal signing. The gal who set it up had put out my books for days and done a nice poster. Twice she'd had to restock my books because they kept selling before the signing. She wanted me to have at least some to sell on that day. And she figured people who'd already bought would bring their books around to be signed. So there I was, standing behind my table, and a woman comes up with a bag full of books. "Oh, I just love your books! I've read everything you've written. I've brought a bunch for you to sign!" She reached in her bag and pulled out--a stack of Terri Blackstock titles.

Ah, me, gotta laugh. As it turned out, she'd actually read everything of mine, too, going all the way back to Cast a Road Before Me. But--wrong stack of books. "I thought you looked different," she said.

God has His ways of keeping us humble.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Post Conference Check-In

Sorry about being awol Thursday and Friday. I was so very busy at the conference I didn't even get online until Sunday night. Even after the conference ended Sunday at 11:00, I was driven away for a full afternoon of a book signing in a store. Then it was back to meet two people for dinner. Finally after that I had a short time to write this post before falling into bed.

The conference was wonderful. Keynote speaker Angie Hunt did a great job, as I knew she would. The Mall of America booksigning went well, with lots of people milling around. I'll tell you my favorite story from that signing in a future post. I also have a comical story to tell from my book signing on Sunday afternoon.

I took a few pictures at the conference, but not nearly as many as I'd planned. Carried my camera with me in my fancy little purse to the banquet Saturday with the best of intentions. Did I get one picture of anyone in all their finery? Noooo. If anyone has pictures out there, please email them. Or if they're posted, send me the links.

As has been the case each year, the highlights of the conference for me happened very quietly in the prayer room. I saw God meet emotional/spiritual/physical needs in a powerful and very merciful way.

I'm traveling home today. Hope to blog in more detail tomorrow. If you've read an interesting blog post about the conference elsewhere, put the link in the comments for us all to check out.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Off to ACFW Conference

Like quite a number of you, I'm headed to the conference. The ol' alarm clock went off at 3:10 this morning. Ugh, early flights. It's hard to make a 3:00 p.m. board meeting when you're flying from the west coast and losing two hours in the process.

I have been preparing spiritually for the conference for a couple of months now. Asking God to help me hear His voice as I pray with folks in the prayer room. Asking him to prepare the hearts of whatever people I end up praying with. The ACFW conference is great in teaching and networking and fun and comraderie. But greatest of all are the miracles I've seen God perform--emotional, physical, spiritual--in the prayer room.

In addition to that I look forward to emceeing again, and in general seeing all those wonderful people I respect and admire so much. My mom will be with me again this year. At approaching 92, she may find this to be her last conference. We'll see.

It will be a very busy time. But I have my camera and promise to take photos as I can and post them here. If I miss a day, well, at least you know I'm keeping out of trouble.

On the other hand, I never seem to keep out of trouble. Wherever I go, it finds me.

Look forward to giving some of you a hug soon.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Book Trailers--Part II

Looking over all the responses from authors on this subject, both in yesterday's comments and in emails to me, I can say that the jury's still out about book trailers, but the verdict doesn't look like it's going to be all that positive. Most of the more negative responses have to do with the quality of the BTs. Or lack thereof. It is a problem when we're used to such slick movie trailers that cost a lot of money. We seem to know it's not fair to compare the two, but ... well, we do it anyway. The other main negative is the inability to measure if they have much effect on book sales.

The purpose of this two-part post is not so much to come to some definitive conclusion on the efficacy of BTs, but rather to gather opinions and offer links to informative web sites on the matter.

In an email one author pointed me to the Build Buzz blog post about BTs, run this past June. The post mentions the WSJ article I linked to yesterday and goes on to comment on how hard it is to track the effectiveness of a marketing campaign. Just as interesting are the two comments to the post, one by a gal from Circle of Seven, who refutes some of the points made in the post--in a very kind manner, I might add.

If you're interested in doing a trailer for $1000, look into BookPreview, which some of my friends have used. There are examples on the web site. Also check out PulsePoint Design.

Here are some more responses from multi-published authors about BTs:

"I was somewhere the other day--listening to someone in the industry--and he/she made an off handed comment about book trailers and the implication was that they were a waste of time and money. Trouble is, I can't remember who or where it was. I've done a couple and put them on my web site with no observable success--no one even mentions them. From now on , I'm focusing on the book."

"I do know that at least one of my publishers sees some value in them. They’re even building money into their marketing budgets for select books to have trailers created professionally. When I created my book trailer, my contact in the marketing department was very interested in it, and gave me some pointers on the script, the length, and told me to be sure to post it on YouTube and GodTube as the book’s release date nears."

"I've had two book trailers done, and I was pleased with both. I posted them on my website and plan to put them on my Amazon blog. I'm not sure how effective they are. I will say that my publisher is exploring some of the results of trailers. If they find the trailer and better usage to be a positive thing, I'll probably do another for my 2009 release, but at this point I'm not sure. Doing two strictly for fun was great, esp. since I only paid for one (the first one was done for free)."

"Personally - and I'm certainly no expert - I would not waste my time with a book trailer."

"I've done one and will do more, probably. I made mine in iMovie and it was pretty easy, once I figured out what I was doing. Do I think it does much good? I have no clue. With only 200-300 views, probably not. One thing I don't know is if the views on my web site get counted. I checked YouTube, then watched it on my web page, then checked the number and it hadn't changed."

"Do book trailers sell tons more books? I'm thinking they really don't. But they certainly don't hurt. I've had "new" readers who've never read my books email to say now they are--due to seeing the trailer. In the end, I think book trailers are sort of like blogging. If you enjoy doing it, do one. But don't expect huge returns."

"I've done a couple of booktrailers on my own and have posted them on my blog and website. I also put them on Shoutlife and Amazon (in my blog on Amazon). It's hard to tell whether they increase sales. I would love someone to do a study on it. Personally, I really enjoy watching Book Trailers. (But then, I really enjoy movie trailers too!) I've heard rumors that some book stores plan to play them on monitors throughout the store. And I've also heard that online bookstores plan to incorporate them onto the page where our books are displayed and purchased."

Here's some info authors sent in regarding buying music and photos to use in BTs. (You can't just grab them off the Internet, as they're likely to be copyrighted.) For music: Production Music Online. (This is a redirect from istockmusic.net.) One author reported buying the license to needed music for $30. For photos: iStockphoto. Fees run from about $1 to $20 per photo.

One author suggested: "What if we had a website where readers could go check out book trailers for the newest releases in Christian Fiction with with links to purchase the book?"

Interesting idea. What do you all think?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Book Trailers

Recently I've started to look more seriously at book trailers, seeing as how so many novelists seems to be doing them. What is the cost? Are they worth that cost? What makes a good book trailer? Where do you post them? I put such questions out to a couple author loops and received a number of replies. I'm running those replies here anonymously.

Bottom line I haven't found anyone who's definitively said the BT directly resulted in enough sales to cover its cost. However I'm not sure that's a fair assessment of any marketing campaign. Although the ultimate goal is to effect more sales of the specific marketed title, a book campaign may have results that aren't so immediate but still help raise awareness of the author in the minds of potential new readers. Such was the sentiment of Carolyn K. Reidy, president and CEO of Simon & Schuster, in a June 7 article the Wall Street Journal ran about book trailers: "In some cases, we don't even expect [the trailer] to increase sales at all. It's almost a gift to the audience, and hopefully it makes them buy the next book." All the same WSJ said S&S has "doubled its investment in video content since it started making trailers last year."

A second bottom line: there are two sides of the book trailer coin: to make it effective ya gotta create a good one, and ya gotta post it in the right places. Neither is easy. Even when you find a wide range of effective target spots for posting, it's important to put the right key words into the tag description of the trailer so searchers of those topics will find it. This post from Future Perfect Publishing blog explains how that's done. As to making your own trailer, here's a post from COS Productions about the pitfalls. COS--Circle of Seven--is a major player among companies making book trailers and is credited, according to their website, to creating the BT market in 2002. You can check out their costs for various kinds of video book marketing here.

I haven't done a book trailer yet. Not sure when I will. I'd be very hard to please in the matter. I think an effective book trailer must pass this two-question test:

1. Is it creative/exciting/clever enough to make me want to email the link to someone?
2. Does it make me want to buy the book?

Both questions are important. Yes, #2 means a sale, but #1 means viral marketing, which can result in many more sales from one intial person's viewing.

Here's an insightful response to my questions about book trailers from one author:

"From a filmmaking perspective I think most of them are so poorly done, it's hard to judge the effect. There are two main ways they are done: a visual commercial or a true trailer. True trailers take a lot more time and money but they are likely to be more effective because they are what we are used to seeing. The point should be to give us a feel for what the book is in a visual way.

"True trailers should be scripted and shot like a short movie, showing us either a scene from the movie, or bits and pieces of scenes from the movie. They should limited voice over or words - just like we see in a movie trailer. Short and punctuated.

"Most people do visual commercials, which are little more than back cover copy put over a few images. I think these could be useful and interesting for website visitors and people already familiar with your work. But I don't think this kind has the potential to reach beyond the market you've already tapped. Most use WAY too much voiceover or WAY too much text. They aren't any more clever or appealing than the back cover copy might be.

"My suggestion? IF you're purpose is to add some website content, than a visual commercial might be enough. If you are looking to have the video go viral, then you need to look into doing a true trailer."

This novelist pointed to a series of six book trailers for Ted Dekker's Skin as excellent examples. This is the first one, which links to the others. The author notes, "It is interesting and intriguing and surprises me. Notice there is nothing about the book content. Very unique."

I agree these six trailers are great. They pass my two-question test for an effective BT. But I have to think they didn't come cheap.

I'd like to hear from you: What's been your experience with BTs, either doing one or viewing them? Have you heard of specific sales resulting from a BT campaign? Have a link to a specific BT you think is particularly effective?

Friday, September 12, 2008

ECPA Bestseller List Widget

Michael Covington, Information and Education Director of ECPA, recently sent me this note:

"... we have now created the ability for bloggers or websites to easily place our bestseller lists or a badge that points to our lists on their page. The URL to grab the code for this is http://www.ecpa.org/bestseller/insert-bestsellers.php. The cool thing about the list widget is that it will automatically update with the new list each month, so there is no additional work beyond the initial copy/paste of the code to a person’s website or blog."

In response to Michael's email I asked him to clarify when ECPA's data are gathered for a monthly list. I asked because I saw that ECPA's September list--which would reflect August sales--was up online on August 31. I thought, hmm, the data can't possibly be all in yet. Here's Michael' explanation:

"Typically, we can get 3 to 3.5 weeks of data from the preceding month, but there are a few that mean we have to dip further back. It’s an unfortunate fact, but the ECPA lists are still about the most current you will find.

"Our data are sent to us from bookstores once a week, beginning after the close of business on Saturday and finishing sometime on Tuesday.

"We then have to begin some database crunching that means the data is not ready to be viewed until Thursday.

"The bestseller lists require about a week to prepare because of the filters that are applied and the time it takes to get them on the web and distributed to key media people. Therefore, we typically pull as much data from the preceding month for the current list. Because of the Labor Day weekend in September and the fact that data for the week ending August 20th wouldn’t be available until Thursday the 25th, we didn’t have enough time to prepare the lists and have them out by the 1st. Therefore, the September list actually contains two weeks of sales data for August and two from July. Comparatively speaking, this is still more current than the CBA list for instance, where the most recent data was for the week ending August 2nd."

Remember when you compare the CBA and ECPA lists that they're not named the same. For example ECPA's September list would normally reflect sales in August (except for this one's exception, as MIchael explained), while CBA's September list reflects sales in July. CBA's October list, reflecting August sales, will be posted online in another week or two.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Zondervan Announces New Biography of Sarah Palin

From the Zondervan blog:

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s nomination as vice presidential candidate by John McCain not only changed the landscape of the current election, but also marks a shift in leadership style across our country. Her acceptance speech during the Republican National Convention showcased her personal brand of intelligence, passion, vigor, and hope, and explained why she is the most talked-about woman in America.

A new biography, titled Sarah Palin: A New Kind of Leader by Joe Hilley (Zondervan 2008), will explore themes from her career in politics, her life as a hockey mom, and her strongly held Christian faith, explaining how they influence her new style of leadership and align with our changing economy in the information age. The book is scheduled for release nationwide on October 10, 2008.

“Regardless of your political persuasion, it is clear that Sarah Palin has quickly electrified the 2008 election and sparked a nationwide dialogue and debate,” said Moe Girkins, president and CEO of Zondervan. “We are honored to publish this book that will provide readers with a comprehensive look into the life and rising political career of Sarah Palin.”

In Sarah Palin: A New Kind of Leader, Hilley explores traits from Palin’s background and experience, including her maverick integrity, electrifying communication style, career agility, and perpetual education, to establish his argument for Palin as an exemplary leader in our rapidly changing cultural landscape. By exploring the leadership principles that have catapulted Palin into the national spotlight, Hilley explains how she models a fresh paradigm of leadership that will guide the United States through the 21st century.

“We live in an age that values relationship over authority and instant information over accuracy, so breadth of knowledge and depth of conviction are the most prized commodities for our leaders,” said Hilley. “Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin brings both of these qualities and more to her new role as John McCain’s running mate and I’m eager for readers to have the opportunity to know her and her brand of leadership more thoroughly.”

About Joe Hilley: Author Joe Hilley holds a Bachelor of Arts from Asbury College, a Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Jurisprudence from Cumberland School of Law, Samford University. In 1999, he quit the practice of law to write. A lifelong observer of politics and social issues, Joe is the author of five critically-acclaimed novels. He has used those novels as a vehicle for addressing such topics as judicial and political corruption, trafficking in women, and the scourge of meth labs on rural America. His novels include Sober Justice, Double Take, Electric Beach, Night Rain, and The Deposition. He lives in Alabama where he writes full time.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Christian Fiction Online Magazine

Are you all taking the time to read Christian Fiction Online Magazine, brought to you by CFBA? (See cover link at left.) You should. CFOM is a wonderful mix of information about the writing business as well as humor and personal interest stories. When I was first asked to write a column for the magazine, frankly I thought, "Oh, my goodness. I need more deadlines like a need a hole in the head." But I'm so glad to be a part of this magazine. Editor Michelle Sutton is doing a great job.

In my Making a Scene column this month is
Part Two of "Story Resolution"--how to sew up all those tricky loose ends in a novel (and in my novels there are a lot.) You can find Part One in the archives. Another column I urge you to read this month is Dave Meig's Life-Transforming Fiction. Dave tells the story of how he used my novel Violet Dawn to help a troubled teenager. Oh, that story touched my heart. I had not known about this before. Jim Bell chimes in this month with "Why I Write Suspense." Shawneda Marks looks at "Multicultural Fiction." Under the "Brilliant" section Mary deMuth, Susan Meissner, Susie May Warren and Marlo Schalesky all have written articles on craft. Randy Ingermanson writes "Randy Rooney," a regular column that tells it like it is.

I could go on and on. The magazine is packed full of interesting information, opinions and a short story or two. Christian Fiction Online Magazine releases at the beginning of each month. You can always find its latest cover and hyperlink on the sidebar of this blog.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

That "C" Word

Crimson Eve (third in the Kanner Lake series) has touched a lot of people--frankly far more deeply than I expected it to. It's interesting to see what God will do with a book. Here's a recent email from a reader who has discovered that Christian fiction ain't quite what it used to be. I'm sure many of you published novelists out there have received similar letters.

I felt compelled to write you to share with you how much I appreciate your books. I have almost finished reading Crimson Eve, and you have impressed me more than I have words to express.

I grew up in the Bible Belt of the deep south where sex and other filthy things just weren't discussed by God fearing, Bible totin' believers. I never could understand that.

My journey to Christian fiction has been a fairly recent event. Although I am a devoted Christian, for many years I found Christian fiction a bit hokey. They didn't seem to ring true in my world. One day I happened upon one of Terri Blackstock's books. Who knew that modern Christian fiction existed?! My journey began and I've been devouring her books ever since. Somehow in my journey I also found Seatbelt Suspense. You mean a Christian novel can actually delve into a twisted mind of a psychopath? Now we're gettin' somewhere!

I have to say that if my 2nd grade Sunday School teacher read Crimson Eve, the book wouldn't be the only blood red thing in the room. Did you know you actually put the word condom in it? And you talked about a teenage girl getting pregnant? You weave into your books how Christians struggle with life issues and how we work through our vulnerabilities through our faith in Christ. In addition to providing a truly marvelous novel in Crimson Eve that deals with some very prominent issues, you have accomplished something I've never read before. My training is in mental health, and Carla's diary has perfectly captured the naive and misguided thought process of a teenage girl who is being taken advantage of by a powerful man.

I am impressed beyond measure at your gift of prose. I will be praying for you as you continue to write amazing things. May God return unto you blessings in abundance for the endless ways you have been a blessing to me.


Of course I wrote back and thanked this reader for her wonderful encouragement. It takes time to write a letter like that, and I'm always grateful for the gesture. I also told her that her email made me laugh. The last time a reader wrote about Crimson Eve and mentioned the "C" word, it was to strongly admonish me for being too sexually explicit. At that point in the story, that reader told me, she shut the book and stopped reading. (That kind of thing is a real source of frustration to me. That is--a reader judging the entire book after having stopped in the middle due to some issue. My books certainly can't be judged by the bad things happening in the middle. At least read to the end, then judge the story in its entirety.)

This woman responded:

The previous writer who read that vulgar "C" word and slammed the book shut must have been my 2nd grade Sunday School teacher. I warned you! hahaha. As if Christian couples never use them. Hmm... as if no young Christian teenager ever uses birth control pills, never gets tangled up with a manipulative pig who lays and leaves. No, the truth is none of us wear halos. We're faced with the same issues the sinful heathens are faced with. To turn our back on these issues, ignore them, not write about them and provide role models--good Christian role models--to help us make the right decisions, in my opinion, is a greater sin.

How many young girls around the country have found themselves in a secluded area with a manipulated, testosterone loaded boy or man who "reached into the drawer and pulled out a condom"?

I've used books to help others heal. I've received healing from them myself. In every one of them, the empowering component is when the reader can identify with the characters. Crimson Eve is indeed that type of book. A person cannot heal or grow by skirting around the issues. That only brings condemnation.

Have courage my friend. At the end of the day, all "C" word letters aside, you are making a difference in lives.

Gotta love this woman--and all readers like her who get what we're doing.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Facebook Fiasco--Take Two

Agggh!! If you think I'm dangerous wreaking murder and mayhem on the page--that ain't nothin'. I am downright deadly on Facebook.

I'm still trying to figure out how to do things, see.

I managed to upload a photo album of my book covers. Man, was I proud of myself. Actually, this was very easy. Made me a little too cocky. No sweat, Brandilyn, you're gettin' the hang of this thing.

Then I joined a few groups. That went fine. Might join some more. Then I realized I'd left off some key ingredients on my profile. It occurred to me with "friends of friends" being able to see my profile, I really wanted to include on there that I'm a happily married woman and not out cattin' around. Well, I couldnt't put it quite like that. But I could add--Relationship: Married. So I did. Next thing I know, I'm hearing from friends. "What's this about you getting married?"


Turns out every little thing I do on my page gets sent around to everyone. My friends all got this message: "Brandilyn Collins is now married." Oh, good grief. How to explain this to my husband of 27 years?

In hindsight this should have sent up a red flag. Make me think twice before doing anything else, lest some faux pax get published everywhere. Did I become more cautious? Nnnoooo.

So next I saw that some darling person whom I didn't know--but who, of course, is now my "friend"--started a club titled something like "Frank Peretti, Ted Dekker and Brandilyn Collins Rock!" Better check that out, right? So I did. Nice little brand-new club, with all of four members so far. From there I clicked on Ted's site. Which has a cool little hyperlink near his name: Become a fan.

Hey, wait a minute. I want one of those on my site. That's just the kind of thing I joined for--so I could reach out to readers easily.

So I started looking around Facebook for how to add that cool little Become a fan ditty. Nothing. So I googled "start a fan club on facebook." Found an answer--you go to "groups" then "create a group." Oh, great, got it!

Here's where I should have stopped and thought twice.

So I started a Fans of Brandilyn Collins group. Easy to do. Waaaay too easy. Naturally the fact that I started said group got published to my page, and probably sent out to every friend of a friend of a friend. Then I discovered that's not what I wanted at all, as it did not put the cool little Become a fan ditty on my profile but was simply listed under "groups." Well, duh. Terrific. Now I have a self-started fan club with one member--me. This is gonna look real good.

In a panic, I rustled around trying to figure out how to delete the group. I started the thing, why in the heck can't I nix it? Could find all sorts of ways to edit the group but nothing about canceling it. I did find out how to take the announcement off my page, so it wouldn't sit there glowing in all its narcissism. But what about the notifications that went out worldwide? I had to get rid of this thing--fast.

Oops--time to take a scheduled phone call from a book discussion group that had read Eyes of Elisha. I chatted with them--nice gals--and then went right back to Facebook, trying to fix my faux pas.

Oh, have mercy. Somebody had joined. Now I had a member. How could I cancel the group now, even if I ever found the nix button? Hey, you joined a group that was never meant to be--sorry. Flummoxed as all get out, I punched keys, trying to figure out what to do. I still wanted to get that Become a fan thing on my page. (You'd think I'd give up by now.) So I went back to googling. Found the real answer this time--I think. And it wasn't what I wanted to hear.

I joined wrong.

Yup. In the very beginning I should have joined as a professional, which automatically gives you that little ditty. Ted joined as a "celebrity." Well, he's got more chutzpah than I have. I'd have joined as a mere writer.

So I followed the link given to join as a professional. Filled out a few items. Until I got to the "Create a page" button.

Stop. Think. Did I really want to create a whole new page? Then I'd have two pages? Would all my friends have to rejoin my new, "professional" page? How would I explain this once those world-wide notifications went out? Yesterday I got married. Today I'm divorcing my first Facebook page. It's been quite a weekend.

I lifted my finger off the click key.

By that point I'd run out of time. I had to leave the computer for the rest of the day. Couldn't get on again until Sunday.

At which point I discovered I had five more Fans of Brandilyn Collins members.

Some of you dear souls no doubt joined because you felt sorry for me. Or maybe you joined just to see what new havoc I'd wreak through said group. If nothing else, it's bound to be entertaining.

I don't know what to do now except leave things as is. If I could transfer my existing page into a "professional" page I would. But I haven't discovered that option. The only thing I can do now is hold my head up high and pray for more FoBC members so I won't look like the bumbling idgit I am. Honestly though, I don't even know how people are joining. I did my best to hide the group. Those of you who are my "friends" on Facebook--is that notification forever in your inbox, or wall, or whever the heck these things get posted?

The good news is, through the FoBC group I can send notifications to all members, which is the kind of thing I sought to do in the first place. It would be great to be able to put a join the FoBC group little box or something on my page. That would come the closest to the Become a Fan that I wanted. Naturally, I don't know how to do that.

Sigh. Killing people off is so much easier.
The above line was supposed to be the end to this post. I'd written the post earlier in the day, before traveling between Idaho and California, and saved it. Back in the California office, I checked email before putting up this post, and found notification of this lovely note from a gal on Facebook:

Dear Brandilyn,

I just joined your Fan Page. This will help me keep updated on your news and book releases, so if you prefer to keep your fan list limited to people you know, feel free to remove me. I promise I won't be offended!

Maybe I'm not quite such an idgit after all.

Friday, September 05, 2008

ARCS of Dark Pursuit Now Available

Attention bloggers! Would you like an early read of my next novel, Dark Pursuit, releasing in November? Zondervan will send ARCs to the first 100 people to respond to this offer. (ARCS—advanced reader copies—are the full printed book before proofing and without the glossed and embossed cover.) Zondervan is asking only two things in return: That by October 31 each recipient writes an honest review of Dark Pursuit on his/her own blog, and also posts a review on at least one online site such as christianbook.com or amazon.com.

Note to CFBA members—no need to respond to this offer. You will have a chance to receive the final printed book for the Dark Pursuit blog tour in December. Those of you who’ve requested to be on my influencer list, you too will receive a printed book after release. If you choose to request an ARC at this time, that’s fine; we’ll take you off that list.

From the back cover:

Novelist Darell Brooke lived for his title as King of Suspense—until an auto accident left him unable to concentrate. Two years later, recluse and bitter, he wants one thing: to plot a new novel and regain his reputation.

Kaitlan Sering, his twenty-two-year-old granddaughter, once lived for drugs. After she stole from Darell, he cut her off. Now she’s rebuilding her life. But in Kaitlan’s town two women have been murdered, and she’s about to discover a third. She’s even more shocked to realize the culprit—her boyfriend, Craig, the police chief’s son.

Desperate, Kaitlan flees to her estranged grandfather. For over forty years, Darell Brooke has lived suspense. Surely he’ll devise a plan to trap the cunning Craig.

But can Darell’s muddled mind do it? And—if he tries—with what motivation? For Kaitlan’s plight may be the stunning answer to the elusive plot he seeks...

Behind the scenes in writing Dark Pursuit:

Yes, I enjoy creating the fast-paced plots, but there's always symbolism beneath the story. For years I’ve loved the passage from John Milton’s Paradise Lost about Satan and his cohorts, kicked out of heaven and bemoaning their fate. In revenge Satan visits Adam and Eve on Earth and woos them away from their God. Satan offers them spiritual death—disguised as life. Man falls for the deceit. And so the need for redemption is born. Down the ages some of mankind would embrace redemption; others would be blind to their very need for it.

With these thoughts in mind I created the contemporary characters of Dark Pursuit and set them on their twisting path.

To receive an ARC:

Please email my assistant with this s
ubject line: Dark Pursuit ARC. Include your name, street address, and blog URL. This offer is available for residents of the US and Canada.

Know any suspense-loving blogger friends who might be interested? Feel free to tell them about this post.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Breaking News--$10,000 Writing Contest

Zondervan and
Mount Hermon Writer’s Conference have teamed up to sponsor a competition for unpublished Christian fiction writers. The winner will receive a $10,000 publishing contract from Zondervan. Here's the official press release:

Unpublished Christian fiction writers, get your manuscripts ready. Zondervan, a world leader in Christian communications, announces All About the Story, a writing competition for first-time novelists. The winner will receive a $10,000 publishing contract with Zondervan, and all finalists will have their works recognized during the Christian Book EXPO in Dallas in March 2009.

Sponsored by Zondervan and Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, All About the Story is open to any unpublished writer who has attended a past Mount Hermon Writer’s conference or who is registered for the 2009 conference. In addition to the opportunity for their work to be published by Zondervan, the winning author will also receive valuable feedback from editors and experienced judges, including bestselling Christian fiction authors Karen Kingsbury, Terri Blackstock, Brandilyn Collins and Noel Hynd.

“We know there are many talented Christian fiction writers who just need an opportunity like this to get the break they need to become a published author,” said Dudley Delffs, vice president and publisher of Trade Books at Zondervan. “We are pleased to partner with Mount Hermon to uncover top writing talent just waiting to be discovered.”

The All About the Story contest will be judged in three stages:

1. Synopsis and the first 5,000 words of work will be judged to determine semi-finalists.

2. Semi-finalists will submit a full manuscript to be judged by Zondervan editors to determine finalists.

3. The winner will be determined by a panel of bestselling authors.

The winner will be announced at the 2009 Mount Hermon Writer’s Conference on Saturday, April 4, 2009.

All first-round entries must be received before November 5th, 2008. For additional information and contest rules, visit
www.zondervan.com/fiction or email firstnovelcompetition@Zondervan.com.

About Mount Hermon:

Founded in 1906, Mount Hermon was the first Christian camp west of the Mississippi. From its inception, Mount Hermon has been both interdenominational and evangelical. For 102 years Mount Hermon has consistently proclaimed Jesus as Lord and Savior, by teaching the authoritative Word of God and serving churches and other Christian ministries both here and around the world.

About Zondervan:

Zondervan, a HarperCollins company, is the world leader in Christian communications and the leading Christian publishing brand. For more than 75 years, Zondervan has delivered transformational Christian experiences by influential authors and emerging voices, and has been honored with more Christian Book Awards than any other publisher. Zondervan is headquartered in Grand Rapids, Mich., with offices in San Diego, Miami and London. Its resources are sold worldwide and are translated into nearly 200 languages in more than 60 countries. Visit Zondervan online at

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Muddling Around on Facebook

I've finally done it. I've joined Facebook. For months--nay, years--I've purposely ignored this exploding networking site. I've been so busy writing books and all that. Well, now I'm in between books and can actually breathe for the first time in a year and a half. So I did it.

Except I have no idea what I'm doing.

There's this Events link. Okay, so I created some events--put up the info on writers conference/conventions/whatever I'll be attending in the next eight months. I thought that was a lot to accomplish. Now I'm looking around authors' websites and seeing how they've got photo albums of all their book covers, including hyperlinks. Oh, have mercy. And aren't we supposed to have pictures on our home page? Or is the main page of a person just all boring info? (I'd swear my daughter's is full of pics.) But how to do that? And besides, it'll take me days.

Somebody help. Give me the basics:

1. What marketing do you accomplish on Facebook?

2. What do you include in your profile?

3. Wanna be my friend? Send me an invitation. At least I know enough to answer those.

4. What else should I know that I don't even know enough to ask?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


The new cover's just in for Exposure, my novel releasing in May 2009. It's a great cover, perfect for the book. The photo here can't do it justice.

Back cover copy:

When Your Worst Fear Comes True

Someone is watching Kaycee Raye. But who will believe her? Everybody knows she’s a little crazy. Kaycee’s nationally syndicated newspaper column pokes fun at her own paranoia and multiple fears. The police in her small town are well aware she makes money off her experiences. Worse yet, she has no proof. Everything she “sees” disappears.

Maybe she is going over the edge.

Then real danger strikes someone close to Kaycee. And her own disturbing incidences escalate. Are the two related? Is she responsible for it all? Kaycee’s world is about to explode.

High action and psychological suspense collide in this story of terror, twists, and desperate faith. The startling questions surrounding Kaycee pile high. But her descent to answers may prove more than she can survive.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Sign of the Times

For those of you on a road trip this Labor Day weekend: a little Idaho grim humor.