Wednesday, July 28, 2010

On the Road Again

If it's Wednesday, it must be Washington.

I flew home Monday from our family reunion in Kentucky and arrived at night at our California home. First time I'd been there in five weeks. Had one day to go through mail, pay bills, run errands, pack and repack. Today I'm flying to Washington state to meet Mark for a business meeting. At least I get to be with hubby. As I stumbled toward baggage claim Monday night a man asked me where our plane had come from. I had to stop and think about it before answering.

Aah, but those family reunions. Can't beat 'em. I so love being with Mom, my sisters, and our extended family in Kentucky. We basically hung out, played Mah Jong, and ate. Oh, yes, and took pictures, some in a pink bathtub. :]

I admit I haven't been blogging nearly as much in the past five weeks. I'm barely keeping up with emails, interviews, Facebook, etc. I meet myself coming and going. At some point this traveling will stop. Really.


I kinda miss my cave...

Monday, July 26, 2010

We'll Take the Pink Bathtub

Today I'm flying home from our annual family reunion in Kentucky. Being with my mom (going on 94) and my three sisters, plus extended family, is so much fun. Every year we try to come up with some different way to take the Mom/Daughters photo. Last year it was the toilets. Not sure we'll ever top that one.

Then my neice and her husband told us they were redoing their old bathroom--which was pink. They'd already torn everything out, including the pink bathtub. Said bathtub was carted to the ReStore in Nicholasville, a Habitat for Humanity home thrift store. So we decided to troop over to the store and see if they'd allow us to take some pictures in the bathtub.

I showed up with a book for the gal behind the counter. She's a suspense reader, so she was happy. "Go right ahead," she told us. We promised her we'd put everything back when we were done. And we proceeded to set up our photos, despite any strange looks from other shoppers. Of course each shot took some time to set up. Fortunately Mom is spry at 93, and with some help was able to get in and out of the small tub. So, without further ado, I present the sequence of set-up and final shots. You can see we had a little laughter along the way.

Setup and Photo 2

Photo 3

Photo 4

Anybody have any ideas for next year?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

News Around the Web

1. Facebook is reported to announce it will hit its 500 millionth user next week. Read the full story to read about submitting successful Facebook stories:

2. Nick Harrison, fiction editor at Harvest House, is posting a multiple part article on his blog titled "How To Succeed as a Christian Writer." Check it out here. 

3. I'm pleased to announce that two of my books are finalists for the Carol Award: Exposure (suspense category) and Always Watching (young adult category--co-written with my daughter, Amberly). I'm thrilled for Amberly that her book is in the running. And Mom is thrilled about Exposure, since that's the novel set in Wilmore, KY--where I grew up and where Mom still lives. See the complete list of Carol Award finalists here. The Carol Awards, newly named to honor Carol Johnson, fiction editor at Bethany for many years,were formerly called the Book of the Year Awards.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Another Successful Authors' Retreat

Well, the house sure seems bare and quiet. Yesterday my pals who visit our Idaho home every year for the retreat left to return to their own families. Many came early this year (Wednesday night). The retreat officially kicks off at Thursday dinner, followed by a worship time and going around the circle to talk about our year. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday we have plotting sessions for our next novels--lasting 75 minutes each. The rest of the day we play. This year we plotted historicals, a contemporary romance, a suspense and an allegory. (My mom and my assistant--Word Count virtual assistant Gayle DeSalles--are part of the group but are not writing novels.)Our group is connected throughout the year via an email loop. We keep in contact with each other and pray each other through life's circumstances. This is our 8th year of meeting.

From left to right:

Me, Sunni Jeffers, Gayle DeSalles, Janet Ulbright,
Robin Lee Hatcher (on a scooter because she broke her ankle),
Tamera Alexander, Karen Ball, Sharon Dunn, Francine Rivers, Mama Ruth (my mom).
Tricia Goyer was unable to attend this year--she has a new baby!

Already looking forward to our 2011 retreat.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Comparison of Bestseller Lists for June 2010

Here is the comparison of CBA's "August" list and ECPA's "July" list, both reflecting sales of fiction in participating Christian bookstores in the month of June. Books appearing only on one list are highlighted in blue. For a reminder of how these lists are put together by ECPA and CBA, please refer to the first few paragraphs of this post.

Interesting to note for this month how many of the top 20 of both ECPA and CBA made it to the organization's Top 50 list. Typically ECPA has more fiction titles on its Top 50 list than CBA. This month the first 15 of ECPA made the ECPA Top 50, and 13 of CBA's fiction bestsellers made the CBA Top 50 list. That's great!

Also, congrats to Gina Holmes, whose debut novel, Crossing Oceans, hit the CBA list. Always great to see a new novelist (and a friend) make the list.

ECPA (Numbers in parentheses refer to book's placement on ECPA Top Fifty List)

1. (7) Predator, Terri Blackstock, Zondervan
2. (11) Take Three, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
3. (14) Her Mother's Hope, Francine Rivers, Tyndale House
4. (15) Edge of Apocalypse, Tim LaHaye/Craig Parshall, Zondervan
5. (16) Take Four, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
6. (17) Shades of Blue, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
7. (19) The Shack, William P. Young, Windblown Media
8. (22) A Lineage of Grace, Francine Rivers, Tyndale House
9. (23) The Telling, Beverly Lewis, Bethany/Baker
10. (25) Who Do I Lean On?, Neta Jackson, Thomas Nelson
11. (28) Maid to Match, Deeanne Gist, Bethany House/Baker
12. (29) Intervention, Terri Blackstock, Zondervan
13. (32) Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers, Waterbrook/Multnomah
14. (46) Kiss, Ted Dekker/Erin Healy, Thomas Nelson
15. (49) A Hopeful Heart, Kim Vogel Sawyer, Bethany House/Baker
16. The Bride Collector, Ted Dekker, Grand Central Publishing
17. Take One, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
18. Take Two, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
19. Anna's Return, Marta Perry, Penguin Group
20. Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis, HarperCollins

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

1. (5) Take Four, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
2. (11) Predator, Terri Blackstock, Zondervan
3. (12) Take Three, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
4. (18) Her Mother’s Hope, Francine Rivers, Tyndale
5. (23) Edge of Apocalypse, Tim LaHaye/Craig Parshall, Zondervan
6. (25) The Shack, William P. Young, Windblown Media
7. (27) The Telling, Beverly Lewis, Bethany/Baker
8. (29) Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers, Multnomah/WaterBrook
9. (32) Maid to Match, Deeanne Gist, Bethany/Baker
10. (38) A Lineage of Grace, Francine Rivers, Tyndale
11. (41) Shades of Blue, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
12. (45) Who Do I Lean On?, Neta Jackson, Thomas Nelson
13. (46) The Bride Collector, Ted Dekker, Center Street/Hachette
14. Intervention, Terri Blackstock, Zondervan
15. A Hopeful Heart, Kim Sawyer, Bethany/Baker
16. Take One, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
17. Take Two, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan
18. Betsy’s Return, Wanda Brunstetter, Barbour
19. Crossing Oceans, Gina Holmes, Tyndale
20. Here Burns My Candle, Liz Curtis Higgs, WaterBrook

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Recommending New Blog

My pal Barb Scott, fiction acquisitions editor for Abingdon Press, has started a new entertaining and informative blog about the life of an editor. It's called The Roving Editor. Be sure to check out her first post (July 10), titled "Five Ways to Meet an Editor," in which Barb makes an announcement of her new plans. They just might include you.

I first met Barb through Zondervan, when she was the fiction editor for Zonderkidz. Barb's the one who talked me into writing the Rayne Tour series. When she suggested I write the series with my daughter--how could I say no?

Four years ago Barb and Sue Brower (my editor at Zondervan) visited my house in Idaho.Within 30 minuetes of their arrival, as we sat out on the deck, a baby bear emerged from the woods. Barb blurted, "Is that a dog?" I've never let her live that one down.

Barb's an all around great person. You'll enjoy her blog and getting to know her--if you don't already. I know the Abingdon novelists have been thrilled to have her as their editor.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Home from Thriller Tour

Finally got home Sunday night, late. It's been a busy two and a half weeks, starting with the book tour and ICRS in St. Louis, then going to Philadelphia and Baltimore, then home for a few days over the July 4th weekend (during which I hosted 30 people for the holiday), then back to the tour in New York City and New Jersey. The NYC part included attending Thrillerfest, the annual conference for suspense/thriller authors.

My fellow B&H authors on the Thrillerfest Tour were Tosca Lee, Robin Carroll and Jim Rubart.

I've posted quite a few pics from the tour. You can see them on my Facebook photos here.

B&H editor Karen Ball and marketing guru Julie Gwinn are doing amazing things to build their Pure Enjoyment Fiction line. This tour was one of their big projects. We had wonderful coverage at ICRS, including bus wraps on the hotel-to-conference shuttle buses, a front page ad on the ICRS Daily Show newspaper, and T shirts that we signed in the B&H booth. And ya gotta love the cartoon graphic one of the B&H artists did for the tour.

At Thrillerfest we were able to mingle with some of the biggest names in secular suspense writing. And at our signings in five states we met fans and booksellers. My readers drove from as far as two hours away to come. How terrific to meet such loyal readers!

Not to mention the humorous on-the-road stories. Let's see, there was the angel we saw on the subway our first full day in NYC. Male, long black hair in a sort of pompadour. He stood in the car and loudly proclaimed about the Holy Spirit calling all people. This angel said he'd been on earth for three and a half years to proclaim salvation. The space all around him was sanctified, he warned us, and nobody could get too close. Oh, and by the way--only females age 23 and under could be redeemed. Everyone else is going to hell.

Then there was Friday, July 9 at Thrillerfest. By then it had been two weeks since the tour began, and this introvert (who pretends extrovert very well but gets drained in the process) was quite fried. I walked up to a writer at the conference and looked at his nametag--Chuck Barrett. I meant to say, "Hi, Chuck, I'm Brandilyn." Instead I stuck out my hand and said, "Hi. I'm Chuck." Making it worse was the fact that I'd already met this man and his wife the night before at a reception, at which we'd chatted for some time.

Fortunately during all this travel I didn't have to write. I turned in my manuscript for Over the Edge (my suspense novel about Lyme Disease) shortly before the tour. Editor Karen Ball is looking it over, and I will receive her editorial letter around the end of July. That's just when my hostessing/travels end. No, I'm not done yet. Tomorrow the annual author's retreat at our Idaho home begins. The 10 gals (one can't come this year) will be here until next Monday morning. My mom will be among them. On Tuesday Mom and I will fly back to Kentucky for our annual family reunion. When I return the following week, my editorial letter will soon follow. After that--time to write another book.

Want to see a visual of peace? Flying out of this:

To this:

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

June 2010 List of Today's Word

Anyone want to try using at least six of these delectible babies in a sentence?

BARDOLATER (bar-DOL-et-er) noun--one who idolizes Shakespeare.

ELUCUBRATE (i-LUCK-yuh-brate) trans. verb--to work out or express by studious effort.

RUCTION (RUK-shun) noun--a noisy rough-and-tumble fight; a heated quarrel.

INELUCTABLE (in-e-LUK-tuh-bul) adj.--not to be avoided, changed, or resisted.

ZARZUELA (zarz-WAY-luh) noun--a Spanish opera having spoken dialogue and usually a comic subject. 

DERAIGN (duh-RAIN) trans. verb--to defend or prove (a claim) or settle (a dispute).

VOLENT (VO-lunt) adj.--having the wings extended as if in flight.

INTEGUMENT (in-TEG-yuh-ment) noun--something that covers or encloses; an external coating.

TAUTOLOGY (taw-TALL-uh-gee) noun--needless repetition in close succession of an idea, statement or word.

CREPUSCULAR (kre-PUS-kyu-ler) adj.--of, relating to, or like twilight; active in the twilight.

RESILE (re-ZILE) intrans. verb--to draw back; to return to a prior or original position. 

GAMESOME (GAME-sum) adj.--exhibiting good-humored playfulness.

CASERN (ku-ZERN) noun--a military barracks in a garrison town. 

PLANGENT (PLAN-jent) adj.--having a loud and reverberating sound.

INVIDIOUS (in-VID-ee-us) adj.--detrimental to reputation; likely to cause discontent or animosity.

SIMULACRUM (sim-yu-LACK-rum) noun--a representation of something. 

RAPPORTEUR (rap-por-TER) noun--an official charged with drawing up and presenting reports.

ARROGATE (AIR-uh-gate) trans. verb--to claim or seize without justification.

ORWELLIAN (or-WEL-ee-un) adj.--relating to or suggestive of George Orwell or his writings.

PASTICHE (pas-TEESH) noun--literary artistic or musical work that imitates the style of previous work.

EXUVIATION (ek-zoo-vee-A-shun) noun--the process of molting. 

GEST (jest) noun--notable deed or action; tale of achievements or adventures. 

DOGGEREL (DOG-ur-ul) adj.--of poetry: quickly contrived, loose and often irregular, esp. if comic.

RISIBLE (RIZ-uh-bul) adj.--capable of laughing; arousing, exciting or provoking laughter.

DEHISCE (dee-HISE) trans. verb--to cause to gape.

UMAMI (oo-MA-mee) noun--a taste sensation that is meaty or savory. 

DAYMARE (DAY-mare) noun--distress while awake like that experienced in a nightmare. 

CAP-A-PIE (KAP-uh-pee) adv.--from head to foot; at all points. 

POTHER (POTH-ur) noun--a noisy disturbance; vocal stir or controversy over a trivial or minor matter. 

INANITION (in-uh-NISH-un) noun--absence or loss of social, moral, or intellectual vitality or vigor.

 Read July ‘10

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

First Person, Present Tense (And Other Risks)

This is a guest post by J. Mark Bertrand, whose novel Back on Murder is just releasing. Back on Murder is a well written police procedural that I recommend. The protagonist's voice is believable and compelling, and pulls you right into the story. Good police procedurals aren't easy to do--the voice of the detective is everything. Mark has gotten it right.
The story made me do it. 

Writers are always giving that excuse, but in this case it happens to be true.

When I started writing my crime novel Back on Murder, the first in a series starring Houston homicide detective Roland March, I experimented with several different points of view. One version was omniscient, written like straight reportage. Another came out in the standard third-person with switches from one character to another at the scene breaks.

I still have these early drafts, and they’re not half bad. But they’re not right, either. 

It turns out Roland March has a voice, and the only way to get that voice on paper was first person, present tense. For the entire story—nearly 400 pages—we never get outside March’s head. Everything we see, everything we discover is filtered through his sensibility.

They say first person is hard to pull off, that it imposes limits on an author, testing his mettle. True enough. In Back on Murder, I can’t jump to the villain’s point of view to narrate an important scene. There’s no mechanism for giving the reader information March doesn’t have, or tying up loose ends that March himself can’t connect.

But for me, these limits are part of what makes the story work.

Every investigation is a quest for truth, an effort at putting together the pieces to determine what really happened. In real life, a homicide detective like March doesn’t get to jump into a suspect’s point of view and see how things really went down. Instead, he’s left to reconstruct the story based on second-hand accounts, physical evidence, experience and primal instinct.

By sticking with March through the twists and turns, the reader gets a glimpse of what it’s really like—complete with the frustrations and uncertainties that are so often left out.

At the Mayhem in the Midlands Conference in May, I was on a panel discussing which sort of character is more fun to write, the hero or the villain. Contrarian that I am, I chose Option C, the anti-hero. That in itself is a risk. When your first person narrator carries the weight of the story on his shoulders, a lot depends on how readers react to him. If you don’t make him immediately heroic, immediately likable, you’re taking an extraordinary risk.

March is neither immediately heroic nor immediately likable. He’s a hard man in a profession that chews up even the hardest. And he’s anything but honest with himself. To survive, he probably can’t be.

If you identify with him right off the bat, you’re a sick puppy. (But then, aren’t we all?)

Another risk? Did I mention that Roland March isn’t a Christian? Given the label, given the expectations that come with it, this one might come as a shock. Though he’s surrounded by both sincere piety and the excesses of big box religion, March is as much an outsider to all this as he is most everything else. He observes and occasionally eviscerates … but does not give in.

The story made me do it.

Writers with a book coming out are expected to engage in a certain amount of hype. In disclosing all these things, cataloging the reasons you might not like Roland March, it might seem that I’m going against type. That I’m taking yet another risk.

But all these risks are calculated, including this one. I wouldn’t have taken them if I didn’t think there were readers ready and waiting. I’m no psychologist, but it should be obvious by now that I’m engaging in a little reverse psychology, hoping the things that are most risky about my artistic choices are the ones you will love the most.

I love shadows and ambiguity. I love minor chords. While I can cheer for the unabashed single-cell hero, there’s something deeply appealing in the thought that, in fiction as in life, sometimes the people who move the ball forward are as dogged and damaged as anyone else. They don’t do the right thing because of some profound inner virtue. They aren’t heroic, maybe aren’t even likable on the surface, and yet apart from them the sun would set forever.

If you can root for a man like that, a man not so different than yourself, then I haven’t taken such a risk after all.

-- J. Mark Bertrand

J. Mark Bertrand is the author of the crime thriller Back on Murder, featuring Houston homicide detective Roland March. The next book in the series, Pattern of Wounds, will release in the summer of 2011. Other credits include the nonfiction title Rethinking Worldview and the bestselling romantic suspense novel Beguiled, co-authored with Deeanne Gist.

Back on Murder in paperback from Amazon, $10.19

On the Kindle, $9.99
In paperback from, $9.99
On the Nook from Barnes and Noble, $9.99
In paperback from Barnes and Noble, $10.79

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Thriller Tour Photos

Yesterday was another full day on tour. Started with an author breakfast at ICRS, for which we had to report at 6:20 a.m. After that it was off to the airport to fly to Philadelphia. Upon arriving in Philly we had a two-hour drive to our hotel in York. Today we sign in York and in Baltimore, then drive back to the Philadelphia airport hotel for overnight. Tomorrow we fly to our homes for the July 4th weekend. Our tour will resume next week in New York.

Some random crazy photos:

Killing Camy Tang (again) on the ICRS floor,
this time with a poison pen

Jim Rubart and I with agent Steve Laube (in the middle.)
Jim and I thought this would be a great pic
to stage for his and my own agents--Chip MacGregor
and Lee Hough. I sent the photo to Chip and Lee,
saying, "Steve Laube stealing clients. This is what happens
when you don't watch your authors at ICRS."

Thriller Tour authors on the plane.