Friday, April 30, 2010

E-Reader News--and the First iCat

Here are snippets on what's happening with e-readers since the launch of the iPad.

1. From Advertising Age: IPad Poised to Revolutionize Retail Industry

The iPad could have a major impact on everything from retailers' catalogs to e-commerce to enhancing the in-store experience. For example iPad applications from retailers could include e-commerce and interactive catalogs. In time the iPad could be used as a "virtual sales assistant," allowing, for example, staff in the dress department to pull up coordinating accessories from other store departments. Car dealers could customize a vehicle. Retailers like Home Depot, Best Buy and Williams Sonoma could imbed video of product demos, while apparel retailers could include styling advice from designers. Gap's 1969 Stream app, launched earlier this month, takes that idea one step further by including content from designers, musicians and fashion insiders.

Of course these are apps outside of e-book reading. But the point is clear--the more iPads out there, the more readers may turn to Apple for downloading e-boooks. Amazon, watch out. But then ...

2. Google plans to open an online e-books store, called Google Editions, by the middle of this year. These books will be accessible for use on any device. Publishers will be allowed to set the price of their books. Google's ace in the hole is that it has already digitized twelve million books, including out-of-print titles, so it will have a far greater selection than Amazon or Apple. Google Editions will also make its e-books available for bookstores to sell, allowing those stores to keep most of the money.

3. Now for the Kindle. Target has just started selling the device (as of April 25) in their downtown Minneapolis store and stores in south Florida (over 100 Target stores). Later this year they'll spread the sales to other Target stores. In total Target has 1,740 locations.

4. As for the Nook, Barnes & Noble's device, B&N has begun airing TV commercials for the ereader. And B&N has struck a deal with Best Buy for selling the Nook.

Hot competition with the e-readers. E-books may now only comprise around four percent of book sales, but that's going to be changing.

Oh, and finally--back to the iPad. Introducing ... the first iCat.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Power of the Written Word

Today Forensics and Faith hears from novelist Lisa Harris. Lisa lives in Mozambique, Africa and is currently writing a series set in Africa for Zondervan. Book one, Blood Ransom, released this month. It's a thriller about the modern-day slave trade and those who dare to challenge it. The story has been described as "emotive, enthralling, and spectacular." Here's what Lisa had to say:

Have you ever stopped and really thought about how powerful words are? In the Bible, James talks about how difficult it is to tame the tongue, because from it flows words that both praise and curse. Words can express love and hatred. They can convey frustration, excitement, joy, pain and a multitude of other emotions.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the power of the written word and how fiction can be used to motivate and inspire. It started a few months ago when I was sitting in the Joburg airport in South Africa, waiting for a flight back to the States and started talking to the woman next to me. She began sharing with me about a novel that had completely changed her life.

She was a flight attendant for Delta and because of this book’s impact, she had just spent some time in Africa working with an orphan program (one of many trips), speaking to one of Nelson Mandela's representatives, and had even gotten Delta involved in the project. Her husband was flying in and out of Sudan as a pilot and staying extra time to work as a humanitarian there as well. As an author who wants to entertain, but also use words to challenge, inspire, and change lives, I was struck by just how powerful a "fiction" story can be.

As I promote Blood Ransom, a suspense novel set in Africa that deals with the human-trafficking trade, I'm finding more and more people who are not willing to just become "aware" of these issues facing our world, but who are finding ways to get involved in grass roots movements. This in turn will change the world we live in!

How about you? As a reader is there a book you’ve read lately that has inspired you or perhaps even changed your life?

As a writer, how do you write a book that deals with a social issue without overwhelming the story line?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

-- Lisa

Visit Lisa's Web site.

Lisa's blog.
Buy Blood Ransom in paperback from Amazon, $9.27
Buy Blood Ransom on Kindle, $9.59
Buy paperback from, $11.99

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Announcement of Four-Author Book Tour I'm Joining

This summer, beginning at the ICRS convention, B&H is sending four suspense authors on its "Thrillerfest" tour. I'm joining Robin Caroll, Jim Rubart, and Tosca Lee. We'll start in St. Louis, where ICRS is, and go up to Philadelphia, ending in New York at the Thrillerfest convention. I don't yet know specific stores and venues we'll be in.

Since I have just signed with B&H, I don't have a published book with them yet. However, in their foreward-thinking marketing, they're sending me on the tour anyway--with my latest release, Deceit, published by Zondervan. Zondervan has done its part by pushing up the printing of Deceit a few weeks so it will be out just in time for the tour. Stores will also have numerous books in my backlist. By then Final Touch, third and last in the Rayne Tour series, will also be released (comes out next month).

I look forward to touring with these authors and to meeting some of my readers on the road. I'll be posting more details as they are available.

Read press release about the tour.

Monday, April 26, 2010

46 Women Shave Their Heads for a Cause

Last week I received this e-mail:

I am a nineteen year old female college student. As a part of a group called “46 Mommas Shave For The Brave,” I and the others will have our heads shaved on national TV on September 13, 2010 in an effort to raise childhood cancer awareness.

That got my attention. My own daughter is 20. I know what an incredible sacrifice it would be for her to shave off all her hair. The letter continued:

Maybe you might donate an autographed book. Of course, donating money for our cause would always be welcome and gives the most direct support. Awareness is a key factor as well, tell your friends, your family anyone you can about our cause. The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity and your support is tax deductible.

The Web site for 46 Mommas Shave for the Brave is
here. They are also on Facebook. Renee is not a mom herself. She told me, "I came to know about childhood cancer through an article when I was about 13 years old and I have dedicated my life to finding a cure."

Author pals out there--would you consider donating a signed book or two for the group's auction to be held in Nashville this summer? Books can be sent to Renee, and she will see that all are transported to the event. Send to: Renee Combs, 105 Tahoma Rd., Lexington KY, 40503. Or if you would like to donate money directly to Renee's site, go
here. You can e-mail Renee at rcombs0061 (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Comparison of Bestseller Lists for March 2010

Here is a comparison of the CBA "May" list and the ECPA "April" list, both reflecting sales in the month of March. Books appearing only on one list are highlighted in blue. It's interesting that for this month's lists they differ by only two books. Usually it's around five or six. For a reminder of how these lists are put together by ECPA and CBA, please refer to the first few paragraphs of this F&F post.

ECPA (numbers in parentheses reflect book's standing on the ECPA Top Fifty list)

1. (10) Her Mother's Hope, Francine Rivers, Tyndale House
2. (11) Take Three, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
3. (13) A Cousin's Challenge, Wanda E. Brunstetter, Barbour
4. (15) The Shack, William P. Young, Windblown Media
5.(16) Lineage of Grace, Francine Rivers, Tyndale House
6. (21) Morning's Refrain, Tracie Peterson, Bethany/Baker
7. (27) Shades of Blue, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
8. (29) Take Two, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
9. (36) Take One, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
10. (40) Somewhere to Belong, Judith Miller, Bethany/Baker
11. (43) A Man of His Word, Kathleen Fuller, Thomas Nelson
12. (46) Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers, Waterbrook/Multnomah
13. The Telling, Beverly Lewis, Bethany/Baker
14. Greater Love, Robert Whitlow, Thomas Nelson
15. Plain Paradise, Beth Wiseman, Thomas Nelson
16. Burn, Ted Dekker/Erin Healy, Thomas Nelson
17. Right Call, Kathy Herman, David C. Cook
18. Honest Love, Kathleen Fuller, Thomas Nelson
19. Missing, Beverly Lewis, Bethany/Baker
20. Fireproof, Eric Wilson, Thomas Nelson

CBA (Numbers in parentheses reflect standing on the CBA Top Fifty List)

1. (3) Take Three, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
2. (6) Her Mother’s Hope, Francine Rivers, Tyndale
3. (13) The Shack, William P. Young, Windblown Media
4. (19) A Cousin’s Challenge, Wanda Brunstetter, Barbour
5. (26) Shades of Blue, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
6. (29) A Lineage of Grace, Francine Rivers, Tyndale
7. (34) Morning’s Refrain, Tracie Peterson, Bethany/Baker
8. (40) Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers, Multnomah/WaterBrook
9. Greater Love, Robert Whitlow, Thomas Nelson
10. Plain Paradise, Beth Wiseman, Thomas Nelson
11. Take Two, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
12. Burn, Ted Dekker & Erin Healy, Thomas Nelson
13. No Distance Too Far, Lauraine Snelling, Bethany/Baker
14. Somewhere to Belong, Judith Miller, Bethany/Baker
15. Take One, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
16. In Harm's Way, Irene Hannon, Revell/Baker
17. The Telling, Beverly Lewis, Bethany/Baker
18. A Man of His Word, Kathleen Fuller, Thomas Nelson
19. Right Call, Kathy Herman, David C. Cook
20. Honest Love, Kathleen Fuller, Thomas Nelson

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Do You Have a Lyme Story to Tell?

I am now gathering stories from people with Lyme Disease--both those who've fought it in the past and those who are still struggling--in order to start a new blog about Lyme. The blog will be a place to (1) find support and encouragement by reading others' stories, (2) learn tips from patients as to how to fight Lyme, and (3) educate others about Lyme patients' challenges, due not only to the disease itself, but also to the "Lyme Wars" in the medical community, which make it hard for patients to receive proper diagnosis and treatment.

Why am I starting this blog? Because of my own experience with Lyme, and the novel I'm now writing about the disease.

In my career as a suspense novelist, I'm currently writing my 22nd book. It's the novel I was made to write--centering around one woman caught in the Lyme Wars. I myself was hit hard with Lyme in 2002. I was diagnosed in 2003 and started treatment, but by then I'd gone from running five miles a day to barely crippling around with a cane. Then in May of 2003 something amazing happened. I was miraculously cured of the disease. Within one hour of a special prayer session all my symptoms were completely gone. (The story of my sickness and healing is on my Web site here.)

In 2009 out of nowhere Lyme symptoms once again reared their ugly heads. I had been totally well since that healing in 2003. I don't know why I got sick again. (And by the way, what was God doing? Hadn't we already been through this?) Most likely I was reinfected. At any rate, the illness was not nearly as bad as the first time, since I caught it quickly. (By then I knew what those symptoms meant!) I was treated for a few months and beat back the illness. Now I'm well and managing to stay that way through diet and making sure I get enough sleep. But like many a Lyme patient I feel the disease always at my back. As though if I let my guard down, the symptoms could creep back and take over my life.

My novel, Over the Edge, is based on the real-life Lyme Wars. The main character is the wife of a vocal and powerful doctor who insists chronic Lyme does not exist. (Sound familiar?) This doctor's opinion goes a long way in shaping the tests and standardized care for Lyme, not to mention what insurance will cover. (Again, like real life.) I got the idea for Over the Edge back in 2003 while sitting in the waiting room to see my doctor. I was so sick I could hardly sit up--in fact they soon moved me to the doctor's personal stuffed armchair in one of her offices. As I sat there, across from me on the wall was a framed newspaper article summarizing the latest IDSA (Infectious Disease Society of America) guidelines for treating Lyme. Basically the article said Lyme was hard to catch and easy to cure. Ten to twenty days of antibiotics would do it. And if you were sick beyond that--perhaps it's just all in your head. I remember feeling so angry. And I thought, "What those doctors in their lofty laboratories need is a whopping good case of Lyme." And so came the premise for Over the Edge: What would happen if someone purposely infected the wife of the chairman of the IDSA committee with a strong case of Lyme--in order to prove to her husband the truth about the disease and force him to publicly change his medical opinion ...?

I'm writing Over the Edge out of my passion to tell a suspenseful tale and to educate people about the disease. There are many nonfiction books about Lyme. But typically readers who pick up such a nonfiction book have the sole purpose of learning about the disease. Through writing a suspense novel--with the first priority of entertaining--I can inform a whole new set of readers about Lyme. They'll pick up the book for a story--and a tense story they'll get. But in the midst of the suspense is woven the reality of Lyme and the Lyme Wars.

Everyone whose personal story is run on my Lyme blog will receive a free copy of Over the Edge, either in print or downloaded form.

To write your story for the blog:

Tell me your personal story. Include such things as: How long did it take you to find a diagnosis? Proper treatment? How has Lyme changed your life? What are you doing to fight it? Or if Lyme is now in your past, how did you overcome it? How have you personally been involved in the Lyme Wars? If testing for the disease were better, if more doctors knew how to properly treat, how might your life be different today? What do you want readers out there to know about Lyme?

I'm not attaching a maximum word length, but keep in mind blog posts aren't novels. If your story is too long, I may need to edit its length. If so I'll preserve the integrity of your story.

Please include these things at the end of your story:

1. Full name
2. Full address
3. Copy and paste this permission statement: "By submitting this story I grant Brandilyn Collins the right to post it on her Lyme blog. I understand Brandilyn reserves the right to choose which stories to run on her blog and to edit as needed."

Your name and state only (not your full address) will appear with your post. I will not give your address to other parties. It will be used if a print version of Over the Edge is mailed to you.

Please put your story in a Word document and attach it to an e-mail with the subject line: My Lyme Story. As an option, attach a web-ready photo. If you don't want to include pictures of yourself--that's fine. E-mail your story to my assistant: sandy (at) brandilyncollins (dot) com.

In my Author's Note at the back of Over the Edge, I will include a link to the blog.

Please pass this post along to other Lyme patients. Everyone who sends me a story will be personally informed as soon as the blog goes live. Please, please follow all the above directions carefully. I could be inundated with stories, and I won't have time to e-mail back and forth to fill in missing information. I have a book to finish. :] It's due at the end of May.

Blessings to you all. I look forward to reading your stories.

By the way--if you're curious about my other books you can look them over, including reading first chapters, at my Web site.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Changes Here-And a New Blog

During my trip to B&H Publishing headquarters in Nashville last week I had lots of meetings about marketing--what I will be doing and what my publisher will be doing. They have some great things planned for the novel I'm writing now--Over the Edge, the suspense centered around Lyme Disease. Over the Edge will release in May 2011. Meanwhile I have two other novels releasing this year: Final Touch, last in the young adult Rayne Tour series in May; and Deceit, a stand-alone suspense releasing in July.

As a result of our meetings I'm making some changes--and I want to take you with me!

First--I'm going to start a blog that allows those struggling with Lyme to tell their stories. This blog will be for everyone--those who fight the disease themselves, those who have friends/family who have Lyme, and those who want to know more about the disease and the "Lyme Wars" of the medical community that inhibit proper testing and diagnosis. The sad fact is that many sick people have Lyme and don't know it. Many of them have even been tested for the disease with a false negative result. Through the blog--and my novel--I hope to educate people about this disease. I will be gathering people's stories immediately, and soon the blog will be launched. I will announce here when it launches.

Second--as a result of building this new blog I'm going to be posting here on F&F a little less often--two to three times a week instead of every week day, which I've been doing for over five years. I'll still cover the topics I've always covered--writing techniques, news on the publishing industry, and stories from my own life as an author.

The best way for you to keep up with new posts here will be to sign up to receive them in one of two ways. You can become a "follower" and read the posts in your Google Reader by clicking on the "Follow" link on the left. Or you can subscribe through Feedblitz by clicking the "subscribe to the blog" link on the right. Through Feedblitz you'll receive an e-mail each time I post with the full text. If you choose not to do either of these two things, then do check here every few days during the work week for a new post. (As always I will not be posting on weekends.)

Lyme patients: Tomorrow I will run a post with the details of how to submit your story for the new blog. All those whose stories are run on the blog will receive a free copy of my novel when it's released, either in download or print form.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Photo Shoots

Wow, have I had a busy three days. Sunday night through Wednesday I've been fined and dined by the wonderful folks at B&H, my new publisher. My editor, Karen Ball, and the marketing director, Julie Gwinn, have spent the days with me, introducing me to everyone I'll be working with and meeting with me to discuss all the marketing that will be going into my books.

On Tuesday we had a 10-hour photo/video shoot that was fabulous. Julie, photographer Michael Gomez, and other design folks had spent a lot of time beforehand planning the different looks and scenes we wanted. These various looks will be used with individual novels, plus we wanted general shots to be used on my web site, back book covers, etc. I had brought a huge suitcase of clothes and accessories. The wonderful Joel Green, who's done make-up and hair for models, singing stars, even President George Bush and his wife, was hired to make me look good. After every shot Joel would change the make-up and hair a bit for a different look.

Julie found a photo of a red velvet tufted chair she wanted me to sit in for one of my general shots. She scoured local antique shops until she found one like it to rent for the day. She also had the cool idea of doing a classic suspense look, perhaps even in sepia tones, sort of like something from the Hitchcock era. So she looked for an old classic convertible that we could use. The car was parked in a garage with white sheets around it. They put me in a black trench coat behind the wheel, and in some of the shots I wore a scarf around my head, blowing in the "wind" created from a fan and a thin wire holding out the end of the scarf. In the final picture the car will be merged into a background of a road disappearing into trees on a moonlit night.

I was surprised at how many people it took to create all this. Michael had 5-7 assistants at all times.

In other shots I'll be in an alleyway on a cold night, sitting on a great-looking old stone staircase outside, walking through misty woods, and in an old freight elevator surrounded by thick wire mesh and brick. When the photos are done I'll be able to show you actual shots, and then how each looks when merged with its background.

Getting ready.

Getting dressed in the black trench coat.

Setting up the car for the shot.

Ready for the elevator shots.

Setting up for shots in the red chair.

Waiting to be photographed for the alley shots.

Watching the photographer manipulate a photo
in a rough idea of what the shot could look like against the alley background.

During my stay in Nashville I've been at the beautiful
Wyndham Union Station downtown--and near the B&H offices.
The hotel used to be an old train station. It still has
the rich wood, decorated walls and incredible stained glass ceiling.


Winner for last week's Photo Friday (chosen by me):

kimsch, with this caption: My hair is gone and this combover just isn't working!

Congrats! Contact me for your free novel.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Pictures From Exposure Territory

As I mentioned last week, I've been visiting Mom at her home, and in the town where I grew up--Wilmore, Kentucky. Wilmore, of course, is Exposure territory. The weather was a beautiful spring temperature, the sky blue and cloudless. April is the month in which Exposure takes place, so the description of the downtown area, with its gorgeous budding pink trees, is just as the town looks now. I went out and about for a few shots to show you. But before I get to them--here's a picture of what my sister, Sandy, and I found when we arose (very late) the first morning we were at Mom's house. You see, our dear mom, even at 93, does have her busy social schedule to keep.

BTW--the bowling is Wii (virtual bowling).

And while we're on the subject of family,
here's Mom and my three sisters
just beginning another cut-throat game of Scrabble.

Now down to Main Street, Wilmore, where Kaycee
spends much of her time in Exposure.

Wilmore Police Station, where Kaycee ran

when the mysterious camera with a picture
of a dead man appeared in her kitchen.

Main Street shot, across road from Police Station.

Close-up of beautiful blossoms against the sky.

House next to Kaycee's, where the snoopy neighbor lady lives.

On the left--the dilapidated old barn
across the driveway from Kaycee's house.
The house on the right is where Kaycee's house is,
but I "moved" this actual house to create
the white house with wrap-around porch for Kaycee.

Closer view of the barn.

While I was in Wilmore the Chief of Police, who helped me on the book, stopped by for me to sign a couple copies. And I saw Officer Mike Bandy, who was such a great help in providing me the right situation to make my ending work.

It was a great visit, albeit short. Now I'm in Nashville for three days in meetings with my new publisher, B&H. We'll be doing a one-day marketing meeting, a photo and video shoot, and on day three I'll meet with the folks in the various divisions at the B&H offices. Perhaps I'll have more pictures for you.

Check out Exposure on Amazon

Friday, April 09, 2010

It's Photo Friday!

Here we are with another Photo Friday. PF runs monthly on Forensics and Faith. For you new readers, here's the scoop: Write the best caption, win your choice of one of my novels. Enter as many captions as you like. Come back over the weekend to read all the captions and vote on your favorite. Winner will be announced next week. Facebook friends--make sure to leave your captions here, even if you put them on Facebook.

This photo was submitted by Lisa Buffaloe. Lisa also wins a book since her submitted photo was chosen. If you'd like to submit a picture for possible use, please send it as an attachment in an e-mail to: brandilyn (at) brandilyncollins (dot) com.

All right, we're off! Bring on your captions.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Print Newspapers Defunct in Ten Years?

And we authors think we have issues with our product going digital.

James Tyree, who led the buyout of the Chicago Sun-Times as chief executive of the investment firm Mesirow Financial Inc., had this to say about newspapers: “Newspapers have got a good strong 10 years. By then you’ll have to evolve into something else -- maybe five years evolve into something else -- or you’ll just be out of business.” Tyree continued to say that the paper will have to move away from hard copy print by offering more original content on the Internet, such as in-depth sports and regional political coverage. Tyree noted that the Sun-Times will not charge for access to its content online.

Imagine that--a buyer of a major newspaper saying the entire newspaper industry will be entirely digital within five to ten years.

Do you think that's true?

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Tea and Biscuits--& Foaming-Mouth Monkeys

Tomorrow I'm flying out on yet another trip, this one to Nashville to meet with my new publishing house, B&H. On the way I'm stopping in Kentucky for a few days to be with Mom. Known as Mama Ruth to many, she's now 93 and driving her "Ruth's Rocket" red golf cart around her retirement village. Today, in honor of Mom I'm running one of her slice-of-life tales from India. Mom and Dad (J.T. and Ruth Seamands) were missionaries in India for 20 years. This story, as Mom tells it, takes you back to the late 1940s...


I can still see my big old stone house with twenty-pound langur monkeys pounding over the roof every day. Plenty of holes for the monsoons to pour through. Vast living room with ten double doors—and no screens. It was just after WWII and screen wire was not available. Lots of guests from America visited India to "cheer up the missionaries." One day it went like this: (Names have been changed to protect the frightened.)

Somebody at my door kept clearing his throat, which was my doorbell. "Salaan, Mem-sahib." A tonga driver put his two palms together in greeting. His one-horse shay stood at my steps. "I brought you some guests from the station, Madam." He spoke in Kanarese, which told me he didn't know English. If he had, he'd have been proud to speak it.

I answered in his language. “From the station? Today?”

A portly American stepped forward, taking command off the situation, holding out his big hand to shake mine. "You're Mrs. Seamands."

I nodded. I already knew that.

“I am Congressman Charles Crow, and this is my wife, Susan."

"Oh, Congressman, I thought you were coming tomorrow. . . I could have met you in our jeep. So sorry. . .”

Mr. Crow brushed aside my apology. "It isn't your fault. We got an earlier plane."

"Well, come on in. My ayah will soon have your room ready. Meanwhile, please sit here and I'll get us some tea."

They nodded and smiled and sat on my droopy couch while I paid the tonga walla and dismissed him. Turning to my guests, I hoped to make them feel welcome. "It’s so nice to have you visit us from America. I do get lonely for home folks sometimes." I brought in the tea tray. Strong Indian tea, boiled with milk, spices, and whole cardamom seeds. "Estation tea," we call it because that's what we always get on trains at every station. "Here you are." I passed them large cups full of this special tea. "And try some of these biscuits--uh, cookies. The British out here call them biscuits, but they are American oatmeal cookies. I just made them."

They both seemed quite thirsty. "This is very good tea--and I love the cookies," exclaimed Susan. "I never dreamed I'd have oatmeal cookies in India." They put their cups back on the tray.

I was pouring a second cup when an enormous black-faced, white-mouthed monkey loped from the guest room through the corner of my great living room, and out the front door. Susan Crow’s eyes bulged. She screamed, quickly covered her mouth with one hand and lifted both feet off the floor. "D---do they live here with you?"

"Not with my permission! Don't worry about that monkey, Susan. He's probably as scared of you as you are of him. Because we don't have any screens yet, they sneak into the bathrooms when they find outside doors open. They like to eat the soap."

"Eat the SOAP?" they echoed in unison, their cultural horizons widening with every passing second.

I shrugged. "I guess it's because they don't have any toothpaste."

Charles Crow boomed--if a crow can boom, "Eat the soap? I thought that monkey had rabies! He was foaming at the mouth."

"No, they like soap. Sorry, you will probably find teeth prints on your new bar of soap. It was my last one. Just keep your outside bathroom door closed."

Susan quavered, "M--maybe it's not a good time to stay here, Charles."

He patted her shoulder and whispered, "We'll face it together, Dear."

I smiled at them, remembering how I first felt when I came to India, to this place, and faced all the critters I now encountered every day. "Don't worry, it's a good time. This is usually a pretty quiet place—”

Before I could finish defending my living quarters, we heard a great crash and yell coming from the wall. That was followed by a series of heavy whacking sounds and more shouts. Susan whimpered and drew her feet off the floor again. "Char--Charles. . .!"

The rotund VIP, skilled at taking charge of any trouble, jumped straight up. "WHAT WAS THAT?"

I sighed. "Oh, that. It's just my noisy husband. He's in the storeroom." I pointed to two doors in a side wall. "Killing rats.”

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

News on the Web--From Apples to Oranges

Apple announced it sold 300,000 iPads on Saturday, the device's launch day. The Apple faithfuls were in the stores, particularly the 5th Avenue store in New York, where they were surrounded by satellite trucks and police. No one seemed to get out of hand--the buyers, the media, nor the police. The company also reported downloads of over 250,000 ebooks on that day. The remaining 50,000 iPad buyers (if you count one download per person) were probably hung up trying to figure how to play Adobe flash on the tablet. (The iPad doesn't support flash.)

Apple stock rose only one percent yesterday--not exactly an impressive leap over the iPad success. I'm thinking maybe Adobe people were unloading their Apple stock.

Meanwhile on the Oranges side: Last month the Palm Beach Post reported that, despite the winter freeze that wouldn't quit, the Florida orange crop will produce 131 million 90-pound boxes of oranges this year. Last year the crop yielded 162.4 million boxes. This year's crop is expected to yield less juice, down from 1.56 gallons per box last year to 1.53 gallons this year.

And to conclude this fruity post: A comment yesterday on last month's Photo Friday reminded me I forgot to announce the winner for that month's caption. Sheila received the most votes for her caption: As the coroner began his work, Detective Whodunit realized that the comment made by the victim's friend that she was a bubble brain was not exaggerated.

Sheila, please contact me to receive your free book.

We'll have this month's Photo Friday at the end of this week. Meanwhile eat an apple. And an orange.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Doc Mabry: From Tragedy to Publication

If you're fortunate, you've met Dr. Richard Mabry, retired ear, nose, and throat specialist. He's a wonderful, kind man--and a great guy for authors to know when they need medical answers for their novels. Last year Doc was one of the fortunate writers to sell his first novel to Barb Scott of Abingdon Press. Doc's book, Code Blue, releases this month. In this guest post he tells us his journey to publication.

Writers talk about getting “the call.” For some, that’s the phone call (or email or letter) from an agent offering representation. For others, the call is one that extends a contract for publication. I’ve received both these calls, and I can’t tell you how wonderful and exciting they were. But they wouldn’t have come about had I not responded to an earlier and much more important call.

My road to writing began with a tragedy. Maybe yours did, too. Perhaps you lost your job and decided to fill those empty hours between interviews and resum├ęs by starting the novel you always thought you had inside you. Or you found yourself with an empty nest and a broken heart, so you decided to write to take your mind off the loneliness. In my case, it was the death of my wife of forty years that provided the impetus for me to write.

After Cynthia’s death in 1999, one of the coping mechanisms I employed to combat depression was to journal. I laid out my feelings, bared my soul. Then I looked back at what I’d written, and wondered if I could turn this stack of raw journaling into a book that would help others. To pursue the idea, in 2003 I attended a Christian Writers’ Conference. Nothing went right on the day we arrived, and by nightfall I was ready to go home. But God had blessed me once more with the love of a wonderful woman, and Kay said, “Give it some time.”

Through a series of circumstances I couldn’t have imagined, I came under the influence of writers Alton Gansky and James Scott Bell, who inspired and encouraged me. Then, editor Gary Terashita challenged me to try my hand at fiction, as well as non-fiction. And at the end of the conference, I got “The Call.” I capitalize this one, because it came from God. I knew, with the same certainty that I know my name, that my retirement from medicine was just a transition to another endeavor. I was to write.

Along the way, I was the beneficiary of friendship and support from numerous well-known authors. Prominent among these was our host, Brandilyn Collins, who always had an encouraging word for “Doc.” I believe that the mentoring and support of beginning writers by established authors is one of the characteristics that sets Christian writing apart, and I rejoice that this is so.

In 2006, my non-fiction book became a reality. (The Tender Scar: Life After the Death of a Spouse, published by Kregel.) But fiction was another story. During four years spent learning the craft I produced four novels that were rejected a total of over forty times. Then, finally, I got “the call”—twice. Both came from agent Rachelle Gardner, the first offering representation and the second telling me I’d sold my first novel. But neither of those calls would have come had I not listened to The Call, the one God handed down to me at that conference.

My first novel, Code Blue, debuts from Abingdon Press on April 1. It’s the first of my three-novel Prescription for Trouble series. Seven years ago, I couldn’t have imagined this would be taking place. But, then again, none of us knows what’s in store for us in the future, do we?

Here’s the last line of the Acknowledgement that precedes Code Blue: “When I retired from medicine, God opened another door and pointed me in the direction of writing. I have no idea what comes next, but I can hardly wait to find out. To Him be the glory.”

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Friday, April 02, 2010

A Crazy Day for E-Books

Yup, yesterday was a crazy day in the publishing biz. With the Apple iPad about to launch, April 1 became the day that e-book pricing switched to the agency model--a pricing system in which the publisher sets the price for the e-book, and the online seller can't discount below that price. Amazon has fought hard against this new system, wanting to keep its old system in which it dictated the price of an e-book, generally at $9.99. That was an unfairly low price, said the publishers, and they're now winning the battle. Amazon has now agreed to agency model pricing with two of the big five conglomerates--Simon & Schuster, and HarperCollins. Under the new agency model, e-books of new releases are more likely to sell between $12.99 to $14.99.

This whole battle started because of the iPad, with Apple negotiating agency model agreements with four of the five major conglomerates (the exception being Random House). The deals gave publishers some fighting power to negotiate with Amazon. And boy, did Amazon fight back. When MacMillan held out for higher pricing of its e-books a few weeks ago, Amazon struck back in a major way. Suddenly the buy buttons for all MacMillan books disappeared from the site. (They came back a day or two later.)

In last-minute negotiations March 31 Hachette and Amazon also reached an agreement regarding the agency model. But with the change-over on April 1, and Amazon saying it couldn't make the changes for Hachette e-books until April 3, that means two days of no available sales for Hachette e-books. Amazon blames Hachette for the glitch, and Hachette blames Amazon.

As for Penguin, another of the large conglomerates, it could not reach an agreement with Amazon. Which means Penguin e-books released beginning April 1 will not be available for the Kindle. (Older e-books are still for sale at the $9.99 price.) No doubt negotiations will continue.

Here's the irony of the whole thing. The wars are hot and heavy. But they're not really about current sales. They're about the future. According to Bowker, last year e-books were a measly 2% of all book sales. That, of course, is an overall number. To many individual authors, e-book sales are less than 1%.

A few days ago I was teaching at Mount Hermon writers conference. One night a number of authors and agents sat around talking. One of the agents insisted that e-book sales would take a generation to increase significantly. He gave an example of one of his clients: with sales of the print version of one title at 55,000, the same title had sold a mere 200 copies in e-books. Then again, 11 months ago Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, said its Kindle sales at that time had grown in a just a few months from an average 13% of any given book title to 35%. Doesn't quite seem to fit with the Bowker statistic, does it.

Meanwhile, however, publishers don't want precedents for too-low pricing being continued. They needed to move to protect their authors and their product. And with the impetus of the iPad, they've gotten their chance.

Who knows what Monday will bring in the e-wars.

When do you think e-book sales will match or exceed print sales?

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Art and Fear

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

Over two years ago we looked at the book Art and Fear. Today we take a second look--for the many new readers of Forensics and Faith, and to remind the older readers of this terrific book.

Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, is written by photographers
David Bayles and Ted Orland. Copyrighted in 1993, it has seen many, many printings. When I spoke to Ted Orland in 2008, he reported that was selling 500 copies of this little book every month. Why? Because the insights contained within its pages teach artists how to press on through their fears.

From the introduction:

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

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

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

Here's a taste of the book--its chapters, subheadings, and some quotes along the way.

The Nature of the Problem
A Few Assumptions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fears About Others
Understanding. Acceptance. Approval.

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

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

Finding Your Own Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Human Voice
Questions. Constants. Vox Humana.

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

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

Any of the above statements sound like you?

Buy Art & Fear at$9.20. 122 pages.