Friday, May 29, 2009

It's Photo Friday!

Okay, I realize I'm setting myself up for this one. But the picture's just too good not to use. In case you're wondering, the photo includes me, my mother and three sisters. And yes, we're all reading my latest novel, Exposure. You're probably wondering much more than that, but I'll leave the rest up to your imagination.

So here we go. Write your best creative caption. (Or two, or three.) Come back sometime over the weekend and vote on your favorite. The winner will be announced next week. Prize: his/her choice of one of my novels.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

News on Always Watching

Small bits of news: Amberly and I have three radio interviews lined up for our co-written young adult suspense, Always Watching. The first is this morning, taping a program for Words of Faith. More radio opportunities may well come in as a response to Zondervan's press packet being sent out.

We will also be signing copies of Always Watching Monday morning, July 13 on the ICRS floor in July.

Many of you know this is my first YA. (And it's Amberly first book.) Since this is a new market for me, I wondered how Always Watching would fare with adult readers. Would my regular Seatbelt Suspense folks enjoy this story about a 16-year-old? I'm very pleased (and frankly a bit surprised) to see how very much they are enjoying the story.

The first indication was Library Journal's favorable review, which not only recommended the book for all public library collections, but also touted is as perfect for mother/daughter book clubs. The second review, by Jake Chism at Christian Manifesto, was highly favorable. Jake simply loved the story--and as an adult male, he couldn't be further from our major intended audience of teenage girls.

Then my Seatbelt Suspense fans started reading the book. Some of them said they read it, planning on passing it on to their daughter or niece. I love hearing about my books crossing generations in a family. One of the nicest e-mails was received last week from one of my regular readers. She forwarded me a Facebook message from her granddaughter: "I just finished Always Watching, that book I got in the mail! It was really good!! The first book I've read & finished in a long time, I was hooked!"

My reader went on to say this granddaughter never reads. Now grandma had to read Always Watching for herself. Her Twitter private message to me: "I'm reading the novel that caused my non-reading granddaughter to read it. I want to see why." Upon finishing the book, she wrote, "I can hardly wait for the next one!"

Always Watching features Shaley, daughter of a rock star, whose life is not as perfect as it looks from the outside. Especially when her best friend on tour is murdered. Issues of fame and its consequences, friendship, the ups and downs of a mother/daughter relationship, the aching lack of a father, and a teenager's spiritual questions are woven into the fast-paced suspense.

Book two, Last Breath, releases in September. Amberly and I have just plotted book 3, as yet untitled. That one will be written during August and September, to be released next spring. Amberly liked Always Watching, then liked Last Breath more, and now says she's most excited over book three. I suppose it is a good thing to feel the books in your series are getting even better, rather than sliding downhill.

You can read five insightful reviews, including Jake Chism's, on amazon.

If you haven't seen the trailer yet: here ya go.

The "Live Like a Rock Star" sweepstakes continues for another month. It's open to teenagers age 13-18 and has a fabulous grand prize. Teens can enter here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Taking the Leap--Ace Collins, Part 2

We continue Part 2 of Ace's "Taking the Leap."


For me the actual writing process was not that much different than nonfiction. I wrote each chapter, then rewrote it four or five more times to assure the transitional flow between paragraphs was strong. When I finally finished Farraday Road I went back through it another time, repeating the rewriting before sending it to Zondervan. In the editing process the storyline did not change much at all, but what they demanded was for me to focus more on point of view. The editor wanted a single point of view per chapter. This was where the learning curve ready hit me. Once I grasped the process, going back through the book was relatively easy.

Then, just when I thought I was finished, came the painful part. The editors cut 22,000 of my 130,000 words. They had a specific length they needed so I lost some things I really loved in my story. That hurt. They also changed my ending to set up the next book in the series. I hated to see that happen as well. Finally, the title, Innocence of Trial was tossed and Farraday Road was placed on the cover. That was one change I didn’t mind at all.

Then came the hardest part — waiting a year for the book to hit the presses.

When I received the first copy of Farraday Road, I was shocked by my reaction. I am used to having three to four nonfiction books released a year. When the preview copies of these projects are delivered, I usually just set the packages on my desk and open them when I have a break. Yet in this case I can’t begin to describe my reaction. I had dreamed of having a novel since third grade. It had long been one of my goals. So my heart was pounding as I pulled the book out of the envelope. I could not believe I was holding a dream in my hand. I actually stared at it for several minutes as if it was a work of art.

My reaction to the first copy was not the only surprise I had when landing in this new genre. If you are a nonfiction writer, which is what I have done for years, you rarely get emails or letters from those who read your books. I have had books sell more than 300,000 copies that have only generated a dozen fan responses. Yet immediately upon release, scores of those who read Farraday Road took the time to find my website and send me their thoughts. I could not believe how real the characters were to these readers. The dialogue I had with these folks via email literally lit up my days. In a sense, thanks to this novel, I made new friends who cared as deeply about Lije, Janie and the rest of this gang as I did.

Farraday Road has gotten great reviews, even from the usually tough Publisher’s Weekly, and now it's fighting to find a place on bookstore shelves. It is a first step in a new direction and an incredible learning experience. It forced me to grow and no doubt improved the writing I am still doing in nonfiction. What I learned in Farraday Road made the process of creating Swope's Ridge, the sequel, much easier. In fact, rather than fight my characters when they tried to take the story in a new direction, I jumped on and enjoyed the ride.

It took thirty years for an outline to become a published book, but having to wait made the experience one of the most rewarding of my life. The bottom line in this whole adventure — never give up on your dreams. If you keep plugging you may someday hold a dream in your hands. I have and it feels great!


Thanks for writing about your fiction journey for F&F, Ace.

Swope's Ridge releases in October.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Taking the Leap--Ace Collins: Part 1

With a name like Ace Collins, you'd either need to be an actor or writer. Too great of a name to waste. Ace started writing 25 years ago and has written over 50 books since. He's written the range of biographies--from Evel Knievel to Bette Midler, to a book on Lassie. His "Stories Behind" series have covered Christmas songs and traditions, and heroes of faith. Ace's latest nonfiction, Sticks and Stones, is about making the words you use each day count in others' lives.

Besides writing, Ace gets around a lot. He's been on TV, including Good Morning America, The Today Show, CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox and Friends, The NBC Nightly News, Entertainment Tonight, Court TV, E The Untold Story, At Home Live, The Early Show and Crook and Chase. And he averages more than 250 radio interviews a year. In his spare time (?) Ace restores classic cars. And he's very accessible to readers, particularly through his Facebook page.

What's not to like about this guy?

Ace had one thing missing. He hadn't written fiction. Enter Farraday Road, Ace's first novel, and the debut in his Lije Evans mystery series.

How does a successful nonfiction author cross over into fiction? What are the pitfalls, the joys and sorrows? What's to learn? Today and tomorrow I present Ace's story, written specifically for Forensics and Faith, about how he made the leap.

I had written more than sixty nonfiction books for twenty different publishers when Zondervan asked me if I would like to try my hand at a fiction series. Yes, over the years I had outlined a few ideas for novels and had even written one for fun (still unpublished), but my identity was so firmly cemented in nonfiction I figured I was forever “typecast.” Thus, the chance to break out and grow in a new area was one that I couldn’t refuse.

I submitted several concepts to the editors. I was surprised when they chose an idea, “Innocence on Trial,” that I had actually created when I was college. At the time I was too inexperienced and undisciplined to tackle the project. All these years later I knew I had found the discipline, but I wondered did I have the talent to make the leap? After all, Zondervan had a stable of novelists including Brandilyn Collins, James Scott Bell, Terri Blackstock and Karen Kingsbury, who had set the bar very high. So, for the first time in years, I had strong doubts as I signed the contract.

Before I could actually begin to flesh out my novel I had two nonfiction projects I had to complete. The time it took to write those gave me an opportunity to fill a journal with ideas I wanted to employ in “Innocence on Trial.” Six months later, when I actually stared at the outline, my notes and the finished sample chapters, I was again overwhelmed. Could I really sustain a story?

My editor had set a goal of carving out a new niche for inspirational fiction. I was to create a series of books that were similar to the adventure found in mainstream author Clive Cussler’s initial Dirk Pitt novels. Yet I wanted a much more human lead than Cussler’s Pitt. I wanted Lije Evans to be forced into his role, a man who didn’t want to be a hero but had no choice. Thus, as Lije searched for a calling he could display doubts and fears rarely seen in secular heroes. This concept gave me a chance to not just explore the mystery hidden in the pages, but to delve into the mind of the lead character.

Once I began the actual writing, I found myself surprised by two things. The first was how easy it was to sit down and create. My problem was not with writer’s block, but with having too many ideas wanting to come out of my head all at once. The second element that shocked me was how I soon lost control of my outline. Within the first hundred pages I realized that the folks I had created would not react in the way I had originally written the outline. So as I wrote, my characters changed my story. While the actual adventure and mystery remained firmly anchored, the characters living that story took me into areas I had not foreseen. In my mind that is the biggest difference I found in writing fiction and nonfiction. In the former I always stick to the facts at hand and I direct the flow on the pages, while in the latter the story actually leads me.

In one key part of the book, when I had trapped my “Scoopy Crew” in a cave, I realized none of them had the skills to cope in this environment. Thus, I had to go back several chapters and introduce a new character into the story. Janie, who was blind, was never intended to become a part of the team, but rather to be the person who was needed as a guide for the moment. Yet her personality, insight and wisdom were so strong, she demanded more (yes, fictional characters make demands). So Janie remained an important facet of this story and carved out a spot as a major player in all future Lije Evans Mysteries.


Tomorrow--Part 2, the highs and lows.

Become Ace's Facebook friend--(tell him I sent you.)

Read his full bio--full of interesting stuff.

Web site, with info on all Ace's books.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Christian Fiction Bestseller Lists for April

The CBA bestseller's list for April was just posted online, so we can now look at our monthly comparison between the CBA and ECPA lists. For you new readers, a recap: The lists are titled differently. The CBA list title is always two months ahead of the month it's representing. Therefore its June list shows bestsellers in the month of April. The ECPA list title is one month ahead, so its May list reflects sales in April. (Although sometimes the ECPA list cuts off a little early in the month.)

Titles appearing on one list and not the other are highlighted in blue.

CBA (Numbers in parentheses reflect ranking on CBA Top 50 list for April, which includes nonfiction and fiction.)

1. (2) The Shack, William P. Young, Windblown Media
2. (3) The Secret, Beverly Lewis, Bethany House (Baker)
3. (5) Take One, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
4. (16) Fireproof, Eric Wilson & Alex Kendrick, Thomas Nelson
5. (24) BoneMan’s Daughters, Ted Dekker, Center Street (Hachette)
6. (36) Double Minds, Terri Blackstock, Zondervan
7. (38) A Love to Last Forever. Tracie Peterson, Bethany House (Baker)
8. (44) A Cousin’s Promise, Wanda Brunstetter, Barbour
9. (49) Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers, Multnomah (WaterBrook)
10. This Side of Heaven, Karen Kingsbury, Center Street (Hachette)
11. Beyond This Moment, Tamera Alexander, Bethany House (Baker)
12. Higher Hope, Robert Whitlow, Thomas Nelson
13. A Widow’s Hope, Mary Ellis, Harvest House
14. Kiss, Ted Dekker and Erin Healy, Thomas Nelson
15. Every Now and Then, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
16. The Centurion’s Wife, Davis Bunn & Janette Oke, Bethany House (Baker)
17. Showdown, Ted Dekker, Thomas Nelson

18. Where Do I Go? Neta Jackson, Thomas Nelson
19. A Gift of Grace, Amy Clipston, Zondervan
20. Plain Pursuit, Beth Wiseman, Thomas Nelson


1. The Secret, Beverly Lewis, Bethany House (Baker)
2. The Shack, William P. Young, Windblown Media
3. Take One, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
4. Fireproof, Eric Wilson, Thomas Nelson
5. A Cousin's Promise, Wanda E. Brunstetter, Barbour
6. Double Minds, Terri Blackstock, Zondervan
7. Adam, Ted Dekker, Thomas Nelson

8. This Side of Heaven, Karen Kingsbury, Center Street
9. A Love to Last Forever, Tracie Peterson, Bethany House (Baker)

10. Beyond This Moment, Tamera Alexander, Bethany House (Baker)
11. Healing Waters, Stephen Arterburn and Nancy Rue, Thomas Nelson
12. Kiss, Ted Dekker andErin Healy, Thomas Nelson

13. Showdown, Ted Dekker, Thomas Nelson
14. Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers, Multnomah
15. BoneMan's Daughters, Ted Dekker, Center Street
16. Where Do I Go?, Neta Jackson, Thomas Nelson

17. Michal, Jill Eileen Smith, Revell (Baker)
18. Blink of an Eye, Ted Dekker, Thomas Nelson
19. Rebecca's Promise, Jerry S. Eicher, Harvest House
20. Conspiracy of Ravens, Gilbert Morris, Thomas Nelson

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Behind the Scenes of a Book Signing--Part 2

Continued from Tuesday

4. Once you have all your plans in place for your book signing, don't forget to send press releases to local media. If you have used the name of a real business in your book, or perhaps set the book in that town, use that fact as the slant for your release. Zondervan sent out press packets for me to local radio, TV and newspapers in the Wilmore/Lexington area. Z wouldn't have known about the most local one--the Wilmore newsletter, put out by City Hall. I contacted the editor of that newsletter early, then sent her all info needed for a half-page article (including photos). This kind of venue may be far smaller than, say, a TV station--but in my case it was targeted toward people who would be the most interested in Exposure.

You can't predict if any media will respond to the press release or not. The bigger the station, newspaper, etc., the less likely you'll garner attention from them. All the more reason not to overlook the smaller venues. Are there local businesses that put out their own newsletters? Maybe an e-mail version? Remember to think out-of-the-box.

5. It's good to include a short talk at the beginning of your signing. That encourages people to show up at the beginning, and it gives you a chance to share some behind-the-scenes info. Keep it short and informal. And go with the flow. I only spoke for a few minutes. I would have spoken longer and had a time for questions, but people were already crowding around the table wanting to buy. So I let them buy. :)

6. Make sure to have adequate help for the signing event so things can go smoothly. Your only job should be to talk to readers and sign their books. Let others do the detail work. I lined up two assistants behind a table. One took the money for purchases; the other made sure every buyer put his/her name in the basket for prize drawings--one entry for each purchase. Those assistants got to sit. I stood behind a tall table, just the right height for signing. Unless you're physically unable to stand, it's far better to stand when you're signing. That puts you on eye level with everyone else. And it makes it easier for customers to take photos of themselves with you. (Wear comfortable shoes.)

7. Speaking of photos, I had a third assistant lined up with my camera and a small notebook in case customers said, "Oh, I forgot my camera, and I wanted a picture with you!" It's a nice extra gesture to offer to take a digital photo for the person, write down his/her email address and promise to send the picture along.

8. To make the book spirals: Four books per layer. Put the first layer down with corners touching, forming an empty square in the middle. Two books will be vertical on the table; two will be horizontal. (Make sure the vertical ones are facing your customers.) Do the same with the next layer, but placing these books across the corners of the bottom books. Do the same with all subsequent levels--always placing the books across the corners of the books directly below them. (Pictured here is a spiral of Always Watching, my newly released young adult suspense that I brought along. Some of the top books have been pushed a little out of place, but at least you can get the idea.)

9. Always, always ask how to spell someone's name when you're signing a book for him/her. Even if you think you know it. I first ask, "How would you like me to sign this for you?" Some just want a signature so they can decide later who to give the book to. Others want it personalized. Even if the person's name is Pat, I ask how to spell it. With all the weird name spellings these days, you never know.

10. Finally--relax. Don't stress over a signing. No matter how much work you put into an event, you can't control how many people come. And remember, much of the success rests on the prior advertising, which puts your name in front of people, even if they don't attend.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Behind the Scenes of a Book Signing--Part 1

Last Saturday the launch party/signing for my new novel, Exposure, was held in Kentucky. It went very well for a book signing. Frankly, you never know how a signing is going to be attended, I know New York Times bestselling authors who've held booksignings and hardly anyone came. In my event I signed for two hours, selling 105 books. That's the best one I've had, other than the annual signings on the convention floor of ICRS--but that's an entirely different situation (starting with the fact that those books are free).

Because attendance at a signing is so unpredictable, and no author wants to look like a pitiful wallflower in some store, most of us novelists hate the very idea of a signing. But they can work. It just takes a lot of planning and marketing. And some out-of-the-box thinking.

Before discussing the logistics of the Exposure event in particular--what makes any signing "successful?" Many would look only at the bottom line--how many books were sold at the event? If that were the only criteria, the vast majority of signings would result in a poor return on investment. If your signing is held in a bookstore, you should also consider:

1. How many books were sold before the event as a result of being featured in the store?

2. How many people read marketing information about the signing--whether a blurb in the newspaper, in the store newsletter or on its Web site, or on a flyer in the front window? This could mean a fair amount of advertising for you. Every point of advertising is one more time of getting your name before that potential reader.

3. Do book sales pick up in the store after the event as a result of handselling and/or signed stock you've left behind?

4. Did you make a good contact at the store? Is the buyer more likely to stock your books as a result of the relationship?

5. Was there something about the event that will keep people talking about it and your book after the event is over? Something that helps the "buzz" factor for your book?

I chose some rather unusual tactics for the Exposure launch party/signing. Fortunately my publisher was behind me all the way, providing much-needed support and materials.

1. The signing was not in a bookstore. It took place in a combined drugstore/restaurant. Why? Because that actual store/restaurant is featured in the story. As I was writing the book, set in the small town of Wilmore, Kentucky, I asked for permission to feature Tastebuds, a little pizza restaurant/old-fashioned soda fountain, in Exposure. The owners agreed. As a result Tastebuds was written into the story as my protagonist's favorite restaurant. Tastebuds then became the perfect and obvious venue for the local signing.

With Tastebuds owners Beth and Gary Hoenicke.

With John, owner of Sim's Drugstore

The general point here--going beyond just signings--is to think "marketing" even as you're writing your book. So often we write our novels, then consider how to market. How might your marketing be more effective if you thought of publicity factors first?

I chose Wilmore as the setting for Exposure because I grew up there. Typically I create a fictional town. If you do create your town, you can still feature a real business. I did this for Violet Dawn, first in my Kanner Lake series. My fictional town, Kanner Lake, was in the setting of northern Idaho, around the Coeur d'Alene, Spirit Lake area. I asked permission of a real Coeur d'Alene business, Simple Pleasures, to use the lovely gift/home items store in my book. The launch party/signing for Violet Dawn was then held in Simple Pleasures. That signing was also a successful one,

The marketing benefits for such a signing cut both ways--for the business and your book. In both cases I did all I could to make the event worth it for the store itself. And the unusual venue creates a slant for local news stories--"Author Features Local Business in Novel."

2. No bookstore furnished the books. I bought them from the publisher at my author's discount--which meant I was fully in control of the selling prices.

Whenever I sell my own books, whether at a signing or at a conference, I never look at it as a money-maker. It's not about profit. It's about marketing. All I want to do is cover my expenses for buying/shipping the books. The cheaper I price the books, the more they'll sell.

For the Exposure event I created a sliding scale for the book, which retails at $15. I sold them at 1/$10, 2/$18, 3/$25, and 4/$30. Every book after four was $7.50 apiece. I used these flat amounts, not adding tax. For customers, that's akin to discounting books online, then adding in free shipping. Many people at my signing bought multiple books. I'd actually rather have fewer people buy multiple copies, than more people buying one apiece. Multiple sales to one person means that person is going to give the books to friends/family. It means a personal recommendation, often to a reader who has not read me before. Gaining new readers is always the primary goal.

3. I increased the potential for publicity of the event by asking local businesses to participate. Last January I went around to businesses in the small downtown Wilmore area, asking the owner if he/she would like to donate a prize for the event. In turn the name of that business would be included in all marketing--press releases sent to local media, flyers and posters. Almost everyone I met with donated at least one prize--free hair cuts from the barber, a flower arrangement from the florist, a free massage, a cut and style from a beauty salon, gift certificate from the Mexican restaurant, certificates for food from the grocery store, etc.

Front side of 8 1/2 by 11 publicity flyers. Zondervan printed 2000 of these.

Back side of flyer.

When you get more people on board, you're going to generate more buzz. Again, I made it a priority to ensure that these owners were well compensated. I kept my promise about including them in all publicity pieces. Before the event I gave each one a signed book. And I used their prizes in a way that would increase my sales and potentially increase theirs as well.

On my side--for every book purchased, a buyer put his name "in the basket" for the drawing. Five purchased books equaled five entries into the drawing. On the business's side--all winners received the certificates, not the actual prizes. That is, even those prizes that were sellable items rather than services were to be picked up at the business in return for handing in the winning certificate. That way the winner has to enter the business to pick up the prize, and maybe while that person is there, he/she will buy something else.

Part 2 on Thursday, after I return to California from Kentucky.

In the meantime, what signing event ideas have you seen that worked well? Or didn't work?

Read Part 2

Ulterior Motives

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Ulterior Motives


Mark Andrew Olsen


MARK ANDREW OLSEN whose novel The Assignment was a Christy Award finalist, also collaborated on bestsellers Hadassah (now the major motion picture: One Night With the King), The Hadassah Covenant, and Rescued. Two of his last books were the supernatural thriller The Watchers, and The Warriors.

The son of missionaries to France, Mark is a Professional Writing graduate of Baylor University. He and his wife, Connie, live in Colorado Springs with their three children.


When an al-Qaeda email is intercepted, threatening an attack on America, it leads to the capture of the group's leader. Yet even under fierce interrogation, the terrorist clings to his jihadist beliefs and refuses to divulge any information. Desperate, the Army resorts to extreme measures--a controversial protocol designed to break a subject's resistance. But the attempt must be masked as an offer of clemency and rely on an outside party, someone who is unaware of the protocol's aims.

They find that someone in Greg Cahill, a disgraced soldier who now serves in a prison ministry. Lured by the chance to restore his reputation, Greg befriends a man the entire country despises. And the result proves combustible, the two men having to flee for their lives. With both in need of redemption, they set out to prevent a major catastrophe...

If you would like to read the first chapter of

Monday, May 18, 2009

Author's Revenge--Lawsuit for a Bad Review

The Global Legal Monitor, an online publication of the Law Library of Congress, ran a short article recently about a lawsuit against a book reviewer in the southern Russian province of Dagestan. Seems the disgruntled author took none too kindly to the negative review, claiming that he had "experienced severe mental suffering and that his professional reputation was damaged." After reading the review he "experienced chest pains, headache, and elevated blood pressure" and demanded to be compensated to the tune of $150,000. The judge ruled in the plaintiffs's favor, ordering the defendant to pay him the equivalent of $1000. Both parties are planning an appeal.

The rest of the article can be read

Some precedent. Imagine that happening in this country. I can envision instant heart attacks for many an annoyed author. Like the old man from Sanford and Son, we'll all clutch our hearts and stagger. "It's the big one comin'!"

I'm perfecting my technique already.

Friday, May 15, 2009

January '09 List of "Today's Word"

This will be the last mid-month post to catch us up on the monthly lists of Today's Word that I put out on Twitter. Once this blog has undergone its make-over, I'll make sure that all monthly lists are in the archives.

Ya gotta admit, there are some cool words in this list. Anyone want to tackle creating a sentence with at least six of them?

ERUBESCENT (err-oo-BES-ent)--adj.--to grow red; blushing.

RODOMONTADE (RODE-uh-mahn-TADE)--pretentious bragging; bluster.

STREPITOUS (STREP-i-dus)--adj.--Noisy, boisterous.

BENISON (BEN-i-zun)--noun--Blessing or benediction.

VESICANT (VES-i-kunt)--Noun: an agent that causes blisters. Adj: causing blisters.

SETACEOUS (si-TAY-shus)--adj.--Bristly.

RHATHYMIA (ruh-THI-me-uh)--noun--The state of being carefree.

ESCHAROTIC (es-kuh-ROT-ik)--adj.--Caustic; corrosive.

TERGIVERSATORY (TUR-ji-VER-sa-tory)--adj.--Evasive, ambiguous; Capable of changing/reversing opinions.

AILUROPHOBE (ay-lur-oh-PHOBE)--noun--one who hates or fears cats.

ELEEMOSYNARY (e-lee-MOSS-in-ary)--adj.--Charitable; of or relating to charity.

CAMPESTRAL (kam-PES-trul)--adj.--rural; relating to fields or open country.

BATHETIC (bu-THE-tik)--adj.--Very common-place or trite; relating to insincere/overdone pathos.

ONEIRIC (oh-NIH-rik)--adj.--Relating to dreams; dreamy.

PALAVER (pu-LA-vur)--noun--A long conversation/discussion; idle talk; misleading or beguiling speech.

BYZANTINE (BIH-zun-teen)--adj.--intricately involved and often devious.

MYRMIDON (MUR-muh-don)--noun--Loyal follower; subordinate who executes orders unquestioningly/unscrupulously.

UXORIAL (uk-SOR-EE-ul)--adj.--Relating to, or characteristic of a wife.

BENEFIC (bu-NEH-fik)--adj.--Doing or producing good (by acts of kindness/charity.

QUI VIVE (kee-VEEV)--noun--Alert, lookout.

YIPS--noun--state of nervous tension affecting an athlete in performance of a crucial action.

WIDDERSHINS (WI-dur-shunz)--adj.--In a left-handed, wrong, or contrary direction, as in counterclockwise.

THANATOLOGY (tha-nuh-TAH-lu-gee)--noun--Description/study of death and methods of coping with it.

LUCULLAN (loo-KUHL-un)--adj.--Lavish, luxurious. Used especially of food.

DAEDAL (DEE-duhl)--adj.--Skillful, artistic; intricate; adorned with many things.

TABULA RASA (TA-byu-luh RAH-zuh)--noun--The mind in its hypothetical primary blank or empty state.

LACUNA (luh-KOO-nuh)--noun--A blank space or missing part; small cavity in an anatomical structure.

CONGERIES (KAHN-juh-reez)--noun--Collection or mass of entities (as in objects, forces, people or ideas).

RANTIPOLE (RAN-ti-pohl)--adj.--Characterized by a wild, unruly manner/attitude

ABJURE (ab-JOOR)--verb--To recant solemnly; to renounce under oath.

DUENDE (doo-EN-day)--noun--The power to attract through personal magnetism and charm.

Read February '09

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ruth's Rocket

The rainy Kentucky skies cleared long enough yesterday for me to take pictures of my 92-year-old mom in her new get-up-and-go-mobile. Mom had to stop driving a few months ago due to problems with her eyesight. But ya just can't keep a good woman down. Quick as a wink she turned around and bought herself a snazzy red golf cart. She wouldn't think of having it in any color other than red. Then, of course, she needed a name.

Ruth's Rocket.

Well, hey, even a jazzy name's not enough. Next she needed a logo to go with it. So she got on the phone and found a paint artist for cars. The graphic was born.

Mom uses the Rocket to tootle around the circular drive of the retirement village in which she lives. The dining hall is on the other side of the village, so this gal needs her wheels. The thing came equipped with plastic sides that zip all the way down, keeping out the rain. For the pictures we unzipped the flaps and tossed 'em up on the roof.

As if a red Rocket with its own painted logo weren't unique enough, Mom added a plush Persian rug she's had for years to the seat. And two horns--a toot-toot and an old fashioned ah-ooo-ga.

Let me tell you. There ain't nothin' common about my mother.

Close-up of the front Rocket logo.

Proud Mama Ruth

Ain't she sweet.

Gen-yoo-ine Persian rug brought years ago from overseas.
Who'd have guessed it would end up in a golf cart.
I mean Rocket.

Logo on the back.

Have Rocket, will travel.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Traveling Day

Today I'm flying east to Wilmore, Kentucky, where I'll be staying with my mom for a week. The launch party/book signing for Exposure will be held in Wilmore on Saturday.

During this trip I may not be posting every day Monday through Friday as usual. We'll see how it goes. Meanwhile I am trying to keep up my daily page count for my current book, which is due this summer.

Right now behind the scenes Forensics and Faith is getting a makeover. That's right, the good folks at PulsePoint Design are working their magic, and soon you'll see F&F with its new haircut, make-up and nifty duds.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Exposure Released

My 18th book, Exposure, has now officially shipped. You will see it showing up on the shelves of all bookstores soon. I'm hearing reports that people on the influencer list are already receiving their copies.

Exposure is the story of newspaper columnist Kaycee Raye, a woman plagued by fears. When her worst fear comes true, it's enough to pull Kaycee under.

Or is the danger all in her head?

Thematically Exposure is about fear. Here's an excerpt from the cover letter to influencers about why I wrote the story:

Ironically, this author of Seatbelt Suspense® harbors an inexplicable mixture of fears. I’m scared of bees. I don’t do heights. Or closed spaces. The mere sound of a dentist’s drill makes me shake. I’m terrified of roller coasters or downhill skiing—anything that produces that sensation of falling.

Today’s world is full of fear—for good reason. People fear failing, succeeding, living, dying. Today and tomorrow. Work and retiring. Are our fears self-fulfilling? How much do they hold us back from becoming all we can be?

Can God provide any help at all?

Enter Kaycee Raye. Terror-filled. Determined. More than a little crazy. About to go over the edge. Enter Lorraine—caught in a nightmare.

I generously lent Kaycee some of my fears. A snippet of my “World’s Worst Dental Patient” story from my blog even found its way into the book. I also chose my home town as the setting for the havoc. Sorry, Wilmore.

Better buckle up for the ride.

The launch party/signing for Exposure will be held this coming Saturday in downtown Wilmore, KY at 2:00 p.m. Hope to see you local Kentuckians there. Downtown businesses have gotten involved, donating over $400 in goods and services as prizes. We'll have a grand time.

Good thing I refrained from blowing up the town in my book. We'd have lost our venue for the party.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Flight to Whidbey Island Area

Late post today, due to travel. For five weeks since Mount Hermon I've pretty much been in my cave, writing. So it's nice to get out this weekend with wonderful hubby, Mark. He has business on Whidbey Island--off Washington state to the north of Seattle. After that we're meeting friends for the rest of the weekend.

Did you know Whidbey Island has an unusual landing strip on it? Last time Mark was on the island he spotted a tower and runway in the middle of nowhere, and being the exuberant private pilot that he is, went to investigate. He was quickly followed by a couple government cars who wanted to know what he was doing. Good thing it wasn't me. I'd have said something like, "I'm always looking for interesting places to kill people." He just said, "I'm a private pilot. What is this place?" Turns out it's a naval base. The runway is the exact size of an aircraft carrier, marked accordingly. Military pilots practice taking off and landing. I always wondered how they did that. I mean, who'd want to practice in the middle of the ocean?

Anyway, here are some pics of our trip.

The suspense novelist hard at work during the flight. Hey, it was Thursday--a work day. Trip or not, I must fulfill my daily number of pages. I finished just as we were about to land. Body count-- one.

Three cheers for the pilot.

Descending to land at Paine Field on an overcast day. Boeing has a huge manufacturing facility there. So huge they say it has weather patterns inside it, including clouds and rain. (Any scientists out there want to explain that one?)

Nice shot in window frame.

Voila, zee runway. (That's the camera tilted, not the plane.)

Self shot upon landing.

Good job gettin us here, Mr. Pilot.

View of Whidbey Island from hotel room. (Much more of the the island to the left of picture, but the loading ferry was in the way. It goes back and forth all day. No bridge to the island.)

Yikes. It's Friday! Which means I must write pages for the next two hours until we move on. No body count today. Just a clandestine burial.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

According to Their Deeds

This week, the

is introducing

According To Their Deeds


Paul Robertson

(Bethany House)


A computer programmer/math teacher has no business writing fiction this well.

According to Their Deeds is a uniquely written book. A good 95% of it is dialogue. Backstory and characterization are spare. Both are achieved through the dialogue and vividly descriptive word choice.

Although labeled a suspense it's not a tense story. Against the refined and genteel backdrop of the world of rare books and antiques, and with little onscreen violence, the story has more of a cozy mystery feel--although that's not quite right either. The literary bent of the writing raises According to Their Deeds above the cozy mystery genre. Perhaps literary suspense is a better term.

You need to do a lot of reading between the lines in this tale of mercy versus justice. Much of the dialogue is beautifully subtexted. I particularly got a kick out of the protagonist's repeated questions of his employee as to what the shop had sold in the last few hours. The purchased classic work inevitably spoke to the protagonist's current situation.

I can't say this book is for everyone. If you must have the rush and thrill of page-turning suspense, you may find this story too slow. But if you can read According to Their Deeds for the uniqueness and quality of the writing, if you can sit back and allow a story to quietly unfold (in this case through dialogue)--you'll see what a rare find this novel is.


Paul Robertson is a computer programming consultant, part-time high-school math and science teacher, and the author of The Heir. He is also a former Christian bookstore owner (for 15 years), who lives with his family in Blacksburg, Virginia.


A Deadly Game of Justice Versus Mercy. Charles Beale lives outside the shadow of Washington, D.C. Politics and power matter only when a client crosses the Potomac to visit his Alexandria Rare Books shop.

But that all changes when a former client--a man deeply connected in the Justice Department--is found murdered after a break-in gone bad. When Charles reclaims at auction the books he'd once sold, he quickly discovers he's bought more trouble than he could have ever imagined.
Inside one volume are secrets. A collection of sins that, if revealed, could destroy reputations, careers--even lives. Charles soon learns he isn't the only who knows. Going to the police means ruining a multitude of lives. But staying silent puts a target on his shop, his wife--and himself. Charles must decide: Should one mistake really cost you everything?

If you would like to read the first chapter of
According To Their Deeds, go HERE.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

New TV Show About Authors

I received this marketing e-mail yesterday about the new weekly TV show Open Book, coming May 13 on LinkTV:

Created and hosted by Ina Howard-Parker, an experienced book publicist and editor, and directed by Diane Paragas, an award-winning documentary and commercial filmmaker, Open Book is a new half-hour weekly television program about books and writers focusing on the contemporary and historical literary production in a different spot on the planet each week. The pilot will premiere nationally on LinkTV (DirectTV channel 375, Dish Network channel 9014) on May 13th at 11:30pm EST. A special sneak preview will broadcast on Monday, May 11th at 8:30pm EST on LinkTV as well as on New York City's Time Warner Cable channel 34 at 11pm EST. For additional local cable channels carrying LinkTV, go here.

The premiere features writers and other artists -- including actors and musicians -- currently living and working in Ft. Greene, Brooklyn. The non-writers read from their historical predecessors including former Ft. Greene residents Walt Whitman, Richard Wright and Henry Miller. Guests in episode one include: Actor Jeffrey Wright (Basquiat, Angels in America, W) reading his favorite Walt Whitman poem "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry"; global bestseller Ishmael Beah (A Long Way Gone); Jennifer Egan (The Keep); Bill Lee (legendary jazz musician and father of Spike Lee); novelist, playwright and musician Carl Hancock Rux (Asphault) reading from Henry Miller and Richard Wright; 2008 American Book Award-winner Moustafa Bayoumi (How Does It Feel to Be a Problem); Tony Award winning poet Suheir Hammad (Def Jam Poetry); Whitman devotee Darryl Blaine Ford; and singer-songwriter Nucomme.

Every episode is shot entirely on location to translate the richness and beauty of books to the screen. Open Book breaks literary coverage out of the studio and into the open where writers' influences and inspirations can be shared. "We're really creating short films -- combining readings, performances and interviews -- in order to create a moving portrait of each artist in the place they live and work while pushing boundaries as filmmakers and artists ourselves," says Paragas.In addition to the weekly half-hour broadcast, each guest's segment from Open Book will be released as an independent short film online through blogs, websites and social media. Each of the shorts will be embedded with links to additional information about the featured guest and location, as well as to opportunities to buy their work, see them in person, or otherwise engage with the material.

"Our aim is to help writers and publishers reach diverse and diffuse audiences through the media they're already consuming, and then to bring them back to books," says Howard-Parker. "In the new media landscape, the richness and excitement of books needs to translate to a wider range of media, whether television, iPhone downloads or Facebook pages. Even for non-readers, Open Book stands alone as enjoyable, visually and emotionally compelling storytelling."

Many in the publishing industry are already taking notice, including literary great Alice Walker. "Open Book is a breath of fresh air in a literary room that's been closed for centuries to some of the finest voices on the planet," says the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color Purple. "In the hands of Ina Howard-Parker, whom I know to be intensely creative, committed, and fascinated by the stories of people who live so well this gift called Life, it will lift our spirits and embolden our hearts while stretching our minds and imaginations in ways that move us."

For advance clips from some of the Ft. Greene episode guests, go here.
LinkTV is available in over 30 million homes on Direct TV channel 375, Dish Network channel 9014 and more than 50 local cable networks in the largest markets nationwide. LinkTV has over 5 million weekly viewers who tune in for at least 2.5 hours of programming, as well as millions of global viewers who watch through online.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Symbolism in Fiction--Part 1

(Article from the just released May issue of Christian Fiction Online Magazine.)

Symbolism is often a vague, esoteric aspect of fiction. We novelists hear about it, but we can’t quite define it, much less know how to use it. So let’s talk a bit about what symbolism is, how we can study its use in others’ works, and how we might apply it to our own novels.

By the way, symbolism may also be called “imagery” or a story’s “image system.”

A simple working definition of symbolism in fiction could be: the subtle and recurring use of places, things, or events to convey a subliminal message that deepens and enhances the story’s action and message.

Let’s break this definition into sections:

(A) The subtle and recurring use. Symbolism should be used repeatedly throughout the story but not in a heavy-handed way. The average reader isn’t supposed to say, “Ah, here’s a piece of symbolism.” Whatever is used in a symbolic manner should seem very natural to the story. In fact, if symbolism begins to stick out, it loses its purpose, for only in subtlety can it be effective. A good analogy would be the playing of background music in a fine restaurant. The music adds ambiance, but it’s low enough that diners can enjoy the food and conversation without paying conscious attention to it...

Read the rest of this article in my column, Making a Scene.

Winner of Photo Friday: "Bill" with this caption: "Mom, turn your head. I think we're picking up Moscow."

Congrats, Bill!. E-mail me with your street address and choice of one of my novels. brandilyn (at) brandilyncollins (dot) com.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Cool Mother's Day Gift

Children, hubby, are you listening? Here's what I want for Mother's Day:
My Life Digital Photo Album from Brookstone.

Here's the scoop from its Brookstone page:

Carry up to 4000 pictures on this portable digital photo album. The slim design features a bright 3.5" LCD screen and fits easily into purses, bags, pockets and briefcases. View individual images or a slideshow. Our pocket digital photo album even lets you organize pictures in customizable folders.

o The rechargeable battery lets you view and share for up to 3 hours per charge.
o Works with Mac and PC.
o Features 128MB memory.
o 3.5" LCD screen provides crisp 320 x 240 resolution.
o Compatible with Windows 2000/XP/Vista and Mac OSX 10.4 and later.

Was $99.95. Now on sale for Mother's Day: $79.99.

How about you, BGs? Who's got a nifty item to suggest as a Mother's Day gift? With six days left, now's the time to speak up.

Housekeeping note: Don't forget to vote for the best caption for Photo Friday. Winner announced tomorrow.

Friday, May 01, 2009

It's Photo Friday!

All right, folks. Let loose with your most creative caption for this lovely picture. This photo will be up all weekend. Return sometime Saturday-Monday to vote on your favorite caption. (You can vote for yourself if you want.) Winner will be announced Tuesday and will receive his/her choice of one of my suspense novels.