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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Lisa Samson/Brad Whittington Tag Team Interview Part III

BradW: You have published 16 novels so far. Yet you recently announced you're considering an MFA. Many people would think that you have arrived at this point in your career. What prompted this thought and what do you hope to see come of it?

LisaS: I see myself as stagnating. I know there are authors who find their "schtick" and can go for years on it. I think of greats like Mary Higgins Clark, Agatha Christie. But I just can't sit still. I need to really push myself and want to grow.

BradW: I like that idea. What do you think an MFA has to offer you?

LisaS: A wider picture. I've never learned the possibilities of writing. What I've got I've learned on my own by trial and error. I need to look outside myself in the writing world.

BradW: How many books on writing have you read so far?

LisaS: Two. I think. I can only think of one, but I'm giving myself the benefit of the doubt! It's called “Making Shapely Fiction,” by Jerome Stern. Is that pathetic or is that pathetic?

BradW: Oh wow! Two? I wish I had achieved my level of writing by sheer talent like you seem to have. I'm at the other extreme. I've read dozens of books on writing. In the last 6 months I've probably read 4 or 5. You didn't read “Bird by Bird?”

LisaS: Nope. I did read “Traveling Mercies,” though. Does that count?

BradW: I won't tell anybody you said that. You'll be stoned.

LisaS: Oh tell them. It cracks me up the way Anne Lamott. She is so revered. She's pro-Democrat, pro-choice, pro-homosexuality, and the Evangelicals lap her up. It's pretty amazing. And yet I can hardly get away with the word "crap."

BradW: Hell no you can't! I read “Bird by Bird” this year, finally. Heard so much about it, I had to find out what the hype was about.

LisaS: What did you think of the book, by the way?

BradW: “Bird by Bird” is a good book, but it wasn't for me. I'm not as neurotic as she is. But it has good advice for neurotic, conflicted writers.

LisaS: Yeah. I've always thought myself pretty neurotic, but she sometimes makes me scratch my head. But I am glad she's been accepted by the Evangelical community. It's a good thing.

BradW: On the book signing tour for “Welcome to Fred,” my editor and Rick Lewis, the Logos Bookstore owner in Dallas, were talking about Anne and I had no clue who she was. They just stared at me. So, finally 3 years later, I read the book. I'm a busy guy. It takes me awhile to get around to things.

LisaS: Me too. Only I'm a gal.

BradW: So I hear. Speaking of which, I have a pet peeve to share.

LisaS: Oh cool.

BradW: I keep hearing wannabe writers talking about "putting butt in chair” and “putting in the time at the keyboard" like it's some chore. What's up with that?

LisaS: Oh, it's a major chore for me! Sometimes I hate writing with a passion! I think, “Fotomat's got to be better than this!” (Are there Fotomats any more?)

BradW: Ha! Not my perspective at all. When I read those things, I think, "If you don't like writing, then don't do it! There are plenty of us who like to put our fat butts in that chair and write away. If it's such a chore, then why bother?"

LisaS: It's like Flannery O'Connor said. "Because I'm good at it." (Not that I'm a Flannery, by golly!)

BradW: Heh.

LisaS: You're lucky. What's it like to be a writer that loves to write?

BradW: It is wonderful to be a writer who loves to write! It would be even better if this bothersome day job didn't keep me from doing it more!
LisaS: And it really does beat the 9-5 at an office.

BradW: Well, I have both.

LisaS: Lucky you, eh?

BradW: Actually, I don't, because my day job is waaay more than 9 to 5.
LisaS: I know. For the reading audience's benefit: you're in Singapore right now, right?

BradW: Yep. I have a 7am flight tomorrow. Which means a 4am cab ride.

LisaS: Oh good grief. What time will you get home?

BradW: Tomorrow I'm flying to Tokyo. I'll be there 2 days, and then I'll fly back to Honolulu. Let me tell you my travel schedule the last 9 weeks.

LisaS: Please do!

BradW: 1. Portland, OR. 2. Boston, MA. 3. Honolulu, HI (home). 4. Madrid, Spain. 5. Paris, France / Munich, Germany. 6. Geneva, Switzerland. 7. Honolulu, HI. 8. Taipei, Taiwan. 9. Singapore / Tokyo, Japan. Then I get to go home for a week or two.

LisaS: Amazing.

BradW: Very little writing done in the last 2 months.

LisaS: I'll bet.

BradW: But lots of research.

LisaS: And that sure counts!

BradW: How much do you have to work at time management when you're on a deadline?

LisaS: Nowadays, I just have to carve out the time and stick to it. And I get this real pushy feeling in my stomach that just has to finish because I'm so sick of the project. I think, "Get this thing offa my plate, I can't stand looking at it anymore!"

BradW: Not because of the deadline, but because you get weary of the project?

LisaS: Well, funny thing. Usually the two coincide. Must be a deep psychological response!

BradW: Aha.

LisaS: How about you?

BradW: I like writing and I like editing, so I don't really get sick of it. But once I feel like I'm done, then I'm done. At that point I want to put the bow on it, call it finished and move on.

LisaS: Amen. I love starting a new project.

BradW: Speaking of new projects, I see you have a full plate ahead of you. What's up with that over commitment thing?

Conclusion Tomorrow, followed by a review of Robert Liparulo's, Comes a Horseman (and discussion).

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Tag Team Interview Part II: Brad Whittington & Lisa Samson

BradW: Yessum. So, you wrote 10 novels, then changed directions. Since that change, you have released 6 novels. How big is the difference in what you do and how you do it between the Old Lisa and the New Lisa?

LisaS: Oh gosh! Let's see. The new stuff is just the way I am. The voice, the humor, the irreverent thoughts. Basically, the biggest difference is that now I write the way "it naturally comes out." Before I told stories, but there wasn't a whole lot of "me" there. I also like the way I can be more contemporary with my imagery. After awhile, comparing everything to nature things gets a little old.

BradW: Ha!

LisaS: I know, right? Tell that to a poet and they'd kill you!

BradW: I can buy that about the new stuff. Sounds like you, all right. So, how does this difference play out in how you actually work?

LisaS: Oh, it's still like pulling teeth. They're just my own teeth now.

BradW: Ha! Dang, that was funny. The folks in the other room are going to start banging on the wall any second if I don't stop laughing so loud.

LisaS: Glad to be of service! The difference is that really is a little more costly emotionally.

BradW: Exactly.

LisaS: Oh wait, it's my turn to ask a question. What's your next project? And when will it release?

BradW: The last Fred book will release in January 2005, followed by the first Matt Cooper novel in May 2005.

LisaS: Busy spring for you. Do they do any signings or traveling plans for you? (I've always gotten zippo in that department!)

BradW: Zippo for me, too. My next project is a sequel to the Matt Cooper novel. Right now all I have is a very high-level treatment done by my co-author, Phil Little. Other than that, I'm doing tons of research on terrorism, Palestinians, fourth generation warfare, suicide bombers, cryptography, and other fun subjects. Right now I'm reading a fascinating book on Al-Qaeda by Jason Burke. And the newspapers are full of stuff that qualifies as research for a Matt Cooper novel.

LisaS: That's true. I've been reading it, and even a pacifist like me finds it fascinating!

BradW: And the papers in Asia have lots of stuff not in the US papers.

LisaS: That doesn't surprise me.

BradW: I've been reading Taiwan and Singapore newspapers for the past 2 weeks. Huge feature articles on Islamic extremist experts and fringe Al-Qaeda cells in Malaysia.

LisaS: Do all your travels help you as a novelist?

BradW: Now that I'm writing the Cooper stories, just about everything is fodder! On the subject of motivation and perseverance, do you know of any author who is not plagued by self-doubt?

LisaS: No. I really don't.

BradW: Me, too, neither.

LisaS: We need that angst to keep going, I think.

BradW: So, all aspiring writers should take note accordingly. Get over it. It's part of the landscape. Deal with it.

LisaS: Which stinks. But there you have it.

BradW: Yep. Exactly. Life's a beach. And then the tide goes out.

LisaS: What do you do to face your demons of doubt? (Thought I'd slip into Ted Dekker language since he's become a theme of our interview.)

BradW: You be too funny.

LisaS: Me know. I find that in the end, you just have to write through it.

BradW: Yes, I agree. The best way to kill the demons of doubt is to sit down and start writing.

LisaS: Absolutely. You've got a deadline, and that's just it. There are no other options. In that way, it's so much easier being under contract. You have to let go sooner or later.

BradW: After 4 novels, I haven't yet hit a spot of doubt that writing won't cure. But I'm not as far along in the game as you are. You may have a different perspective.

LisaS: I'm still with you. Probably because I have to be. I'm walking the fine line of being an artist and a professional. At some point you have to relinquish the perfectionism. And at some point I have to say in part that I'm doing it for the money. I do have a husband in seminary now. That's put an entirely different spin on things. I'm trying not to sell out while still maintaining a career attitude. I honestly don't know if it's possible. But for a few years, I'm willing to try.

BradW: Oh, I totally do it for the money. However, it's something I love to do, and I'd be writing even if I had no contract, just different stuff. I'd be blogging.

LisaS: I love to blog!

BradW: I should say so. You have how many blogs now? 387?

LisaS: Oh, I have 3.

BradW: Sure, sure. Deny it!

LisaS: I know. It's a sickness.

BradW: I've always written. I can't stop myself. So I may as well get paid for it.

LisaS: I agree. If you could write any book you wanted, on any topic, what would it be about?

BradW: Any topic?

LisaS: Yep. Sky's the limit.

BradW: See, it's not the topic; it's the style, tone, voice. If I could write any novel, it would be a Robertson Davies novel. Topic wouldn't matter. But I'm not that good.

LisaS: Gee thanks for highlighting my ignorance, Bradford. Tell me about him.

BradW: Well, I'm into obscure things. I discovered Davies in a bargain rack, not as a result of being a member of some austere literary cognoscenti. You must not shop the same bargain racks I do. You know Graham Greene?

LisaS: Yes. Loved his play, "Travels with my Aunt."

BradW: Robertson Davies is a Canadian author who is as good as Greene, only not so depressing. Brilliant, articulate, clever, well read, accessible.

LisaS: I need to check him out. I'm not in a "depressing" reading mode right now. Accessible. See that is key for me, as a reader and a writer. I think you can be excellent AND accessible.

BradW: You should start with the Salterton Trilogy.

LisaS: Is he still living?

BradW: Davies died in 95 at age 82. He was a newspaper editor for some time. Lived in Toronto and loved the city. Into art, literature, music.

LisaS: I'll definitely check that out.

BradW: You have published 16 novels so far. Yet you recently announced you're considering an MFA. Many people would think that you have arrived at this point in your career. What prompted this thought and what do you hope to see come of it?

To be continued. . .

Monday, November 28, 2005

Author Interview: Lisa Samson & Brad Whittington, Part I

Lisa's Biography

Simply put, I'm the 40-year-old wife of Will and mother of three kids, 14, 9 and 7. I am a Baltimore native which is why so many of my novels are set, or partially set, in Maryland. I do love my town!I began writing about ten years ago and now, 16 books later, I feel like I'm just beginning to learn what it really means to be a true novelist. Just. Not that I have arrived, but here's hoping, right?

Brad's Biography

Brad Whittington was born in Fort Worth, Texas, on James Taylor's eighth birthday and Jack Kerouac's thirty-fourth birthday and is old enough to know better. He lives in Hawaii with The Woman. Previously he has been known to inhabit Texas, Ohio, South Carolina, Arizona, and Colorado, annoying people as a janitor, math teacher, field hand, computer programmer, brickyard worker, editor, resident Gentile in a Conservative synagogue, IT director, weed-cutter, and in a number of influential positions in other less notable professions.

Tag Team Interview

Christy Award winners Lisa Samson and Brad Whittington take a break from their absurd schedules to interrogate each other about writing and publishing. Through the beauty of the Internet, they chat across 13 time zones, Lisa in her Lexington, KY home and Brad in a hotel room in Singapore.

LisaS: Brad, you won the Christy for best first novel. The book: “Welcome to Fred,” which I loved by the way. Overall, was this a positive happening both personally and professionally, or negative or, nyeh?

BradW: Well now, give me a break! How could winning an award the first time out not be positive? I was amped up for days. However, that was pretty much the extent of the value of the thing, the ego boost. And the nice wooden plaque.

LisaS: And the photo op with Ted Dekker.

BradW: Oh yeah, I forgot that part.

LisaS: LOL!

BradW: The funny thing was, I was so freaked out that I completely ignored him that night. I didn't expect to win so it took me by surprise. The next day I ran into him on the show floor and apologized for ignoring him. He looked at me funny and said, "No problem." I don't think he knew who I was. So, you see how far that award thing carried me. Ha! Otherwise, regarding sales or increased marketing, there was no effect. So, since you bring it up, you won a Christy the same night. What has your experience been in regard to it?

LisaS: About the same, only I didn't diss Ted Dekker like you did.

BradW: Ha! Some of us have more nerve than others. Or less of a clue.

LisaS: Actually, it was a nice little piece of affirmation for me. I'd been writing 11 years at the time and never saw one award. I needed that little pick-me-up to be sure. And Warner put out a mass-market version of the book, which was really cool. I don't think it's made me any more popular though. But I'm still glad they're doing it.

BradW: Well deserved, I might add. Although I still say "The Living End" should have been the winner.

LisaS: Oh I agree! The Living End is my favorite of the books I've written.

BradW: We agree on that one! I had to wear sunglasses on the bus when reading it so the tough guys wouldn't see me crying.

LisaS: LOL, I love it! I loved Welcome to Fred. I've loved all the books in your Fred, Texas series. How much of the book is autobiographical? I've always wanted to ask that, but keep forgetting.

BradW: Fred is what I call "almost true." The timeline and geography echo my life, as does the family structure and many of the attitudes.

LisaS: It really rings "true" like a novel should.

BradW: However, the characters and events themselves are largely invented. I didn't rescue any homeless ladies or confront any whacked out Vietnam vets in a tunnel.

LisaS: Good thing! But I'm sure the thoughts of being a preacher's kid were spot on, right?

BradW: I think the PK thoughts pretty much nail it. Also, it was while writing Welcome to Fred that I got the best advice I've ever had on writing. A Texas buddy I call "The Outlaw" (who is not a writer) read the first draft and complained that the confrontation between Mark and his dad at the end wasn't challenging enough. He thought Mark should really tear into his dad about the hypocrisy of the "Elder" incident. I said, "That's not in Mark's character to do that." He answered, "No, it's not in *Brad's* character to do it, but it might be in Mark's." That's when I realized I was restricting my character, making him too much like me and not letting him take the story where it should go, not only for the character himself but also for the reader.

A great lesson for any writer. Let go of the control of the characters and let them develop, even if where they go makes you uncomfortable. I rewrote the scene and it ended up twice as long and four times as good because of his advice.

LisaS: I know! It's hard not to put our own limitations on our characters isn't it? Another thing is, our characters don’t have to be role models.

BradW: True, true.

LisaS: I really pride myself on not being petty, and I absolutely can't make a character petty. Now, evil I can do! In Tiger Lillie, I was so shocked at how easily Rawlins, the scumbag brother-in-law, came to light.

BradW: Rawlins was one nasty dude.

LisaS: What a creep!

BradW: The thing about Rawlins is that you just love to hate him.

LisaS: Which, to be honest, is an easy thing to achieve. I wanted to make him more complex, but he was a metaphor for legalism and bondage, and there's nothing good about that.

BradW: Exactly! That was exactly my struggle with Deacon Fry in Living with Fred. Fry is also eaten up with legalism. But I didn't want to turn him into a caricature.

LisaS: It's tough when you're dealing with extreme behavior, isn't it?

BradW: Yes, it was very difficult. I worked hard to make his logic internally consistent, so that from his perspective what he did made sense. I wanted a legalistic person to follow his motivations and say, “Makes sense to me!”

LisaS: We don't want to write caricatures, but some people really ARE that way. Or at least that's all they consistently portray. Writing from 1st person makes it hard to see that inner part of the other characters. That's my challenge.

BradW: Which brings us to my next question. I've read your last 6 novels. They're all in 1st person. Why is that? Do you think that will change? Why or why not?

LisaS: I don't think that will change. And here's why. I'm trying to get my reader as "close in" as possible. It isn't enough for me that they relate; I want them to actually be inside that character, having the experiences, almost thinking the same thoughts. I don't think I could ever even attempt to achieve that with third person.

BradW: You are right. It's not as easy to be intimate in 3rd person.

LisaS: Not even close. And you always have to do things like "He thought" etc. for clarification. I can just throw thoughts and stuff out there without having to explain it. Takes out what I call that "middle layer."

BradW: Eliminate the middleman!

LisaS: So, are you glad you got your start in the CBA?

To be honest, my getting published was a complete fluke. Some people I know
would call it a "God thing." Me, I see it like winning the lottery. Only without
buying a ticket. I wasn't trying to get published at the time. I had tried 10
years earlier and gave up. Then Robin Hardy, who evidently never gives up on a
lost cause, surfaced a decade later telling me she found somebody interested in
my manuscript. That somebody was Gary Terashita at Broadman & Holman and 5
months later I had a contract.

LisaS: I'm with you. There are times the strictures seem not worth it. But other times I realize there's a lot of work to be done for the arts in Evangelicalism, and somebody's got to be there to lend a hand.

BradW: I suppose so.

LisaS: And now you have three books out. That's got to feel pretty good, eh?

BradW: Yes, it does. It feels great, now that you mention it. The good thing about it is, I probably would never have been published if it were not for CBA. The bad thing is I don't think I fit in here. I'm not on a mission and I don't have a "calling." I'm just a storyteller. In CBA circles that's not enough for many people. If your only ambition is simply to tell a good story, you're seen as letting down the team. Or not being spiritual enough. Or whatever.

LisaS: I agree. I feel called to be the best novelist I can be, not win souls per se. For some, that's almost heresy. But isn't excellence the best witness? I see it that way. But then, I'm not exactly "overt."

BradW: I’m further out on the fringe. I don’t feel called. Claiming writing as a calling is not how I would characterize my motivations. This is why I feel I’m out of place in CBA. I do it because I’m an incurable storyteller. The thing is, stories of redemption are the most powerful stories of all. So that's what I tell.

LisaS: Amen to that, brother Brad!

To be continued...

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Links of interest

Since I'm going to be on the road, don't know if I'll get the chance to post and I wanted to share a couple of links. Don has recently received a make-over, and it's about time! (For his site I mean.) The new look is great, and since I'm a huge Don Brown fan, and after Thanksgiving dinner, plan to be even huger, I of course had to share my enthusiasm. So, check out the new look. And if you're interested, I'm starting a petition for Don to update his one with a smile.

Also, this is a weird blog/web-site that I've started following. Strange, me likey! (I realize this is an awkward statement to make right after admitting to being a Don Brown fan. Oh well, the truth is the truth. Sorry, Don.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!!

A Book Review Format For You By Davidae “Dee” Stewart

One way we can support our Christian brothers and sisters is by reviewing their books on our sites and places like Amazon.
I've asked Dee, if she would share how to write an effective book review, so that we all can help get the word out that Christian fiction rocks. She went above and beyond. Thanks, Dee!!!

“I want to join the book club, but I don’t know a thing about how to write a book review or how to critique a book.” Is the number one remark I receive when I contacted referrals about joining Oprah’s Suwanee Reading Social Club—my former book club, one of the largest in the North Atlanta area.

How did I change their minds about joining the club?

I gave them a simple plan for writing a review. And thanks to Gina, I’m passing on this plan to you. But I will go a smidgen further. I will pass on this plan to you with a Christian point of view. After all…this is a touchy subject for some Christian authors, who think that giving book reviews are tools that work against kingdom building. I haven’t seen any proof of that.

In fact, I believe if we don’t review Christian work, who will? I mean anyone can review something secular, but everyone can’t review Christian Fiction, because this genre is more than just about style, form and story, but about illumination. Who better to review it, then a Christian? Right?

So how do we do this review thing, Dee? What do we need to do?

First you need to understand what is a book review?

The word “book review” seems pretty self-explanatory, but it isn’t. A book review is more than a subjective opinion about a book. It is a reader shared response with other readers whether or not this book works for their reading community.

So why should I write a review?

The beauty of a book review is that avid readers of their particular genre write them. They’ve read enough to know which books speak to them and which do not. Or they haven’t read enough to know that every Karen Kingsbury book is phenomenal.

A book reviewer’s only allegiance is to their readers, because people will begin to look to you to help them determine whether a book is worth their dime. And as a Christian book reviewer, others will look to you as a barometer of what is Christ-like or what is false.

Cheri Gregory, my good friend, prayer partner and owner of the Potters House Bookstore, a popular Christian bookstore in the southeast told me once how she spends so much time reading books before she puts them on the shelf or order them from her distributor, because if she doesn’t watch out for her patrons (the book buyers) then her own faith maybe put in question. Yikes!

With that great responsibility, you will take care to keep other readers in mind as you read, not just to defend your own personal relationship with Christ, but to remember that many people seek these books to confirm their faith. After all, non-fiction is pretty matter-of-fact, but fiction—good fiction—forces you to care about the characters involved and forget yourself for a few hours.

It’s not escapism, because you feel the emotion. And in some cases you become the character. And consequentially, you will want to share those experiences with others, particularly when they draw you closer to God.

So when you write your review it will be like writing to friends telling them about something you have that you either recommend or you caution them to buy. If anyone close to you has ever asked you whether XYZ was a good movie, or a good restaurant or a good hotel, you want to give them your honest answer and you want to share experienced the product or service. A book review is the same thing. It’s just you’re telling your friends about a book.

OK…so…When should I write a review?

It should be written shortly after the book is released. New books sits on the shelves for a short time, so the sooner the better. Or before your next book club meeting. You want to be able to discuss the book at the meeting or you’ll feel left out. And who wants to go to a party and feel left out? No one. So be prepared.

One of the reasons I dropped the book club was because I was so bogged down in writing reviews for my local paper and magazines that I didn’t have time to commit to the group. I wished that I could go back and organize my club to write reviews for all of my review spots, and used that revenue to fund the club. More importantly, I wished I could have written reviews faster then. So now I am launching a Girl Scout book club for my daisy troop, which is worse, because most of the girl’s can’t read. But in the long run, this club will get them into reading, and hopefully, introduce them to Christian fiction. [Any children’s Christian book author(Stephanie Perry Moore, you know I got you,) please contact me.] And I think I will launch a separate one for my Adult volunteers.

How can I organize all this and make my deadlines?

With a surefire quick review format, even you can follow.

1. Determine your monthly book review quota.

Once you become a book reviewer. Regardless of for a book club or for your own website, you will become popular with literary publicists. Or you may become a magazine book reviewer like myself, who talks to the UPS man more than my daughter. Just received a book an hour ago.

Most weeks I have at least three books at my feet, and a pile by my fireplace. I’ve come up with my own system of how to determine, which book gets reviewed first. But on good months(September and December are bad months) I use a first come first serve system. And even better months I use a who’s paying me system. Yes. I’m one of the few book reviewers who are paid to review.

Not a great deal, but I paid for Selah’s birthday party, Easter dress, and gifts from one review check this year. And from time to time a merchant pays to advertise on my site. Anyway…regardless of your reviewing system, you need to decide how many books can bed read and reviewed in a month.
f I were you, I would start out with one. And nothing more for at least six months.

2. How long does it take to read and review a book?

I can safely say. If the book is good, you will read and review it quicker. If it isn’t…There also could be other reasons why you can’t get through a review: like personal problems, other responsibilities. My suggestion is never guarantee a book review unless you write for a magazine. (I write for Romantic Times, Precious Times, Rejoice, and some more, so see my dilemma J Don’t follow in my footsteps.) On a average it takes anywhere from two hours to two weeks to review one book.

Follow this simple review structure.

I’ve reviewed for many magazines, but Romantic Times Magazine has the best format. It’s short and it showcases both the triumphs and challenges of a book with grace and mercy.(something a Christian reviewer needs to keep in overabundance.)

The Format should have at least three paragraphs. The first paragraph summarizes the main characters, conflict and a hint at the resolution. If the novel is a romance, then the second paragraph will discuss the love interests motivation. The next paragraph will discuss your perception of the book. What worked could be one paragraph. What didn’t the next paragraph. It should also include what kind of reader may like this type of work.

This review is a sample of a typical review I would write. Note where the title and author is placed. Some review mags have a different title format, but this is the general one. Note: this review is a snippet. You can read the entire review at Romantic Times Book Club online magazine version or read the October 2005 print mag.

Still Waters
Patricia Haley
New Spirit/BET
ISBN # 1-58314-623-7

3.5 stars

Stay-at-home mom of six boys, Laurie Wright loves her children and her husband, Greg, but she doesn’t love herself. And to make matters worse, Greg has become abusive, since his job loss. She prays to God for help. He hasn’t answered…

Greg Wright can barely make ends meet for his family. He will do whatever it takes to provide for them and to save face from his caustic, judgmental father. So when he loses his job, he loses control... toward the affections of another man.

Haley presents three timely marital and Christian questions: (1) what constitutes adultery? (2) does separation restore marriage bonds or stretch them further, and (3) what do you do when you can’t here God’s voice? Laurie’s character is too complex for the tidy package resolution at the end. She needs to make a decision about her life not allow someone else to do it for her. (November, 272 pp, $15.00)

Dee Y. Stewart,

Also note that I have the publishing month, the number of pages and the retail price as the last line of the review. Readers need to know this information also.
If you have any questions about book reviews, please contact me. I would gladly hook you up.

Reading to see what the end’s gon’ be,

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Author Interview: K Michael Casey

K. Michael Casey is a professor at the University of Central Arkansas and lives near Conway, Arkansas with his wife, Diane, and their two children. Other than writing and hunting, he spends his time helping Diane, an ordained minister, plant a church in a nearby rural community. Chinchuba is his first published novel.

Plug time. What book or project is coming out or has come out that you’d like to tell us about?

is my recently-released supernatural thriller that I am trying to generate some buzz about. It’s based on one of the most intriguing archeological mysteries of the last 500 years which is the disappearance of the Biloxi Indian tribe inhabiting the region we know as coastal Mississippi and Louisiana. What happened to the Biloxi tribe in 1542? No one knows, but in my supernatural thriller, Chinchuba, modern-day disappearances begin anew.

While plundering Indian burial mounds, grave robbers unleash an ancient evil, the Chinchuba. Local authorities suspect a serial killer as dismembered bodies begin to surface. Meanwhile, archeologist Dr. Kat Abnaki discovers herself ancestrally linked to the string of deaths.

Kat, a descendant of the supposedly extinct Biloxi tribe, becomes the target of a New Orleans shaman searching for the sacrifice necessary to control the Chinchuba and magnify his powers. Kevin Croix, an unorthodox street preacher who sleeps in a coffin, will ultimately enter the spiritual and physical battle on Kat’s behalf.

Other than that blurb, I’d like to tell everyone to buy it.

Tell us about your journey to publication. How long had you been writing before you got the call you had a contract, how you heard and what went through your head.

It’s been a lesson in perseverance. I actually began trying to craft a novel in 1990 so it’s been a 15 year process to finally see that dream fulfilled with publication. However, Chinchuba is actually the fifth novel I’ve completed during that time period although it is the first one in print. The others are collecting dust in the attic. I actually did not get really excited until I saw the proof for the cover. At that time, I realized this was really going to happen.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?

All the time. Every time I read one of my favorite authors, it fills me with self doubt. I also have a bad habit of watching the sales numbers of Chinchuba and constantly wondering if my work will generate enough interest to move to the next level. What keeps me going is that I don’t have very many authors that I truly enjoy reading, so I do believe there is an audience for people with similar tastes.

What’s the best advice you’ve heard on writing/publication?

Keep writing and submitting your work. I believe the current environment in the publishing industry will ultimately have to change and the big publishing houses will not be the only commercially successful outlets for aspiring writers.

What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve heard?

Create a detailed outline (for fiction) before you start. I tried that method over and over again and ended up deviating from it every time. I don’t think all writers have to be structured. Reading King’s book on writing vindicated me since his creative process is similar to mine. He just writes and the story unfolds. I attempt to do the same.

What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

How to craft an effective query letter is something that took me a long time to learn. I finally started generating letters that piqued interest and caused chapters to get requested. I also finally bought some letterhead. It sounds simple, but I think queries keep a lot of talented writers from being published. I still struggle with telling someone about my novel in a few sentences.

Do you have a scripture or quote that has been speaking to you lately?

My wife is an ordained Assembly of God minister and we are pioneering a small rural church in Arkansas. One scripture that continues to minister to both of us throughout this process that also applies to writing is Hebrews 12; 1

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Is there a particularly difficult set back that you’ve gone through in your writing career you are willing to share?

A couple of times I’ve had well-known literary agents with high profile client lists give some serious consideration to my work. It is very disappointing to have a query letter pulled from the slush pile and to have chapters requested, and then the entire book requested, and then ultimately denied representation. You get so close, and then slammed back to reality.

What are a few of your favorite books? (Not written by you.)

My list of fiction favorites includes The Oath and The Visitation by Frank Peretti, Saving Faith and Total Control by David Baldacci, and Relic and Still Life With Crows by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. I really enjoy every one of Preston and Child’s books.

If your authorial self was a character from The Wizard of Oz, which one would you be and why?

That’s hard to answer, but is probably the lion because I still need courage to continue submitting work that might get rejected 100 times before finding a home.

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?

Obviously Chinchuba is an achievement for me that I’m proud of but I also have an unpublished science fiction short story called Azure’s Fate that I enjoy. Otherwise, I am working on a non-fiction project about retirement and social security.

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

After submitting to a number of major agents on the coasts I am convinced that the industry gatekeepers are not very receptive to conservative viewpoints or Christian themed fiction.

Can you give us a view into a typical day of your writing life?

I am a morning person so I typically get up early (around 5:00 am or so) and write for a couple of hours. I try to put words on paper and generate a first draft of any project before I go back and rewrite. Since I don’t make a living from my writing, the rest of the day is devoted to my real job.

If you could choose to have one strength of another writer, what would it be and from whom?

I love the way Preston and Child, and Baldacci for that matter, craft a plot with a number of related subplots. I’ve dissected their work to try to learn from them.

Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?

I would love to see one of my novels listed on the New York Times Bestseller list and reach a point where I earned a living from writing.

Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?

Yes. I periodically go through that the calculation of how many hours I spend on writing versus the payoff to date. However, I also enjoy writing so I always come back to the decision that I do this for myself more than anyone else.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

I love the creativity of fiction. You just put words on paper and the story unfolds. My least favorite part is the desire for someone to like my work. I’d like to get beyond that part.

How much marketing do you do? Any advice in this area?

My publisher’s marketing budget is non-existent so I’m trying to generate some interest on Amazon. I’m new to this part so I need advice more than I would have any advice to give.

Parting words?

Keep writing! And buy my book!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Author Interview: Sarah Anne Sumpolec

Sarah Anne Sumpolec is the author of the teen fiction series,
Becoming Beka (Moody Publishers). As a speaker, she enjoys sharing with students, teens and women about a variety of topics. A University of Mary Washington graduate, Sarah holds both a Bachelor’s degree and elementary teaching certification and is an alumni of Act One: Writing for Hollywood. Sarah lives with her husband and their three children in Virginia.

What book or project is coming out or has come out that you’d like to tell us about?

The Encore will be releasing in February. It is the fifth and final book in the Becoming Beka series and ending it will be very bittersweet. I love the character of Beka Madison and all of the real topics that I’ve been able to deal with through the series. Some of the other books have dealt with witchcraft, suicide, pornography and grief.

In this last one, Beka must deal with the date rape of someone close to her. I actually hope I get to finish telling her story one day because while one chapter of her life is closing (high school), another chapter is just beginning.

Tell us about your journey to publication. How long had you been writing before you got the call you had a contract, how you heard and what went through your head.

Let’s see. First I wrote a novel about 16 year old Beka during my summers off teaching. When I actually finished it I was stunned that I had written an entire book. I didn’t know what to do with it, if anything. So I joined Christian Writer’s Fellowship International and they had an e-mail loop (I didn’t even know what that was). On that loop I learned SO much about publishing and based on all their advice, I attended my first conference that fall armed with Becoming Beka and a non-fiction proposal.

I got some great feedback, but most of all, was assured that I should keep trying. Some dear friends that I met there introduced me to their agent at that conference and she requested to see my material. I was encouraged to go to Mount Hermon in the spring and it was there that I made contact with an editor at Moody who loved the story and requested the whole manuscript. By that fall I had an agent and a contract for a series with Moody.

Writing that first novel was actually a healing process the Lord brought me through because I had always dreamt of being a writer when I was growing up. Then my mother told me in high school that I didn’t have enough talent to write a book (she denies saying this, but I remember it like it was yesterday) so I gave up the dream and my writing completely.

After I married, God began stirring this story in me that I just couldn’t stop thinking about. I finally had to just write it down or go crazy. I didn’t write it with any intent to get it published so it was such a delightful blessing from God when it happened. I was shocked, excited…and terrified. Moody wanted a series and I couldn’t help but think – what if I can’t write another one?

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?

Absolutely. I think it’s God’s design that He doesn’t allow us to stay where we are comfortable. For example, I had another teen series planned out but kept feeling like that wasn’t the direction I was supposed to go next. So the projects I pitched to my agent were different than anything I had done before. And in some ways, they scared me because I wasn’t sure I could do the stories justice. I feel like I’m constantly being stretched – not only as a writer, but also just in trusting God that He will see me through the whole process.

What’s the best advice you’ve heard on writing/publication?

Write what’s in your heart. It’s very easy to get hung up on the market or in trying to follow trends, but truly, I think we have to write the stories God gives us to write. Just because something is a hot trend doesn’t mean that we should write it. That’s when it’s good to have people around you (or in cyberspace) who can help you stay on track and grow as a writer so that you will be able to tell your story excellently.

What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve heard?

Teen fiction doesn’t sell. That’s what I heard repeatedly at the first conference I attended. I was so convinced that I was going to shelve Beka for good. It was a friend who talked me into submitting it to Moody at Mount Hermon and look what happened from that.

How does YA writing differ from adult novels?

For one, your protagonist will be a teenager and the world you write in tends to be smaller because what impacts a teen most are the things right around them. It’s not that they aren’t aware of culture and world events, they just have more immediate and personal concerns at that age. There’s a bit more economy of words – descriptions will be more to the point and the word count is generally lower. But everything else, characterization, authentic dialogue, moving plot – all those things must be there. You can’t write YA with an agenda because teens will see it a mile away. You just have to let the story speak for itself.

What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

How long everything takes. The process of getting a contract at the publishing house, the editing process, waiting for it to actually be published. It can take so long. The key for me is to stay busy and have the next project ready to jump into. While I’m waiting to hear back on all the proposals I’ve written lately, I will work on another project. It keeps the frustration at bay somewhat.

Do you have a scripture or quote that has been speaking to you lately?

"The fiction writer should be concerned with only one thing: to be hotly in pursuit of the real." -Flannery O'Connor

This quote has meant a lot to me as I deal with the idea that God seems to be drawing me more towards fiction. There are so many people around me who think that fiction isn’t “real” writing. I met a pastor at Burger King the other day and he basically said, “I don’t waste my time with fiction.” And unfortunately, that seems to be the feeling of many. I guess I’m just trying to settle it in my heart that few are going to understand what I do, and why I do it.

Is there a particularly difficult set back that you’ve gone through in your writing career you are willing to share?

This past year I lost my father, he was only 59 and from diagnosis to death we only had three weeks. For months after his death I didn’t write, couldn’t write. It all just felt so fleeting and useless. In my family of origin, my dad was my only cheerleader. He was the one that was excited for me and asked me how my writing was going. I lost an important part of my support system and it was hard to go on. But I had a deadline that forced me back into writing. That turned out to be a good thing because I don’t know how long I would have lingered in the sorrow had I not been forced out of it. That is why The Encore is dedicated to him.

What are a few of your favorite books? (Not written by you.) I’m glad you said “a few”! I love so many books but my favorites tend to be those from my childhood – The Drina series by Jean Estoril, the Shoe books and Gemma series by Noel Streatfield and Harriet the Spy.

If your authorial self was a character from The Wizard of Oz, which one would you be and why?

Definitely the Cowardly Lion. It is courage I most lack. I fear failure, I fear disapproval, and I fear just not being good enough. And God decides to put me in an industry that is based on subjective opinions. It’s hard to face that not everyone is going to like my books and that rejection (at least in publishing) isn’t personal. It’s a business. But stepping out with new projects, like what I’m doing now, keeps me on my knees, trying to remind myself to not worry about the results, just worry about writing down what’s inside of me.

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?

It’s actually a middle-grade novel I wrote a while back. It needs some work (so I’m not proud because it’s my best writing) but I love the story. One of the characters is based on my grandfather so it holds a special place in my heart. If I ever get the time to pull it out and clean it up, I’d love to see if it could be published.

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

Why all the marketing money goes to authors who already have a following and are going to sell tons of books anyhow. And the rest are left to try and make it on their own.

Can you give us a view into a typical day of your writing life?

I have three little girls. Lydia is six, Cassandra is almost five and Molly is two and a half. Right now, Molly and Cassie are in preschool (that may not last) so I drop them off in the morning and get a couple of hours to write from 9-11. Then during Molly’s afternoon nap, I write for another hour or so. In between are all the other wife and mom things that need to be done. If I’m on deadline, I will also write some in the evening after my husband gets home and on the weekends. I try to sneak in as much time as I can. Some days are more productive than others. Though at this point in my life, I never feel like I get enough time, but I make do with what I’m given.

If you could choose to have one strength of another writer, what would it be and from whom?

Ohhh – good question! I just read BJ Hoff’s American Anthem series and loved them. I like how she was able to set you in that time and place without, well, boring you with too many details. There was enough to satisfy your senses but not so much that I began to skim (yes, I just admitted that). So description skill – BJ Hoff.

Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?

I really just want to keep writing and be in this business long-term. I also have several original movies I would like to write. Writing them isn’t the main problem – getting them bought is hard and getting them actually made is next to impossible in mainstream Hollywood. So my fun dream is actually getting to go to the premiere of a movie I wrote.

Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?

Not seriously. This past year is probably the closest I’ve been and that was only because of my grief. I’m in this for the long haul.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

My favorite part is that I get to stay home and be a mom first and also get the privilege to write. It’s awesome. My least favorite part is being misunderstood. People don’t see what I do as something real, but more like a hobby that I indulge. It’s hard. My husband is my best friend and biggest supporter so he keeps me going when I feel frustrated.

How much marketing do you do? Any advice in this area?

Never enough! This is the hardest part for me because really, I’d much rather do the writing part. It’s also hard with young children – I can’t travel a lot and my resources are limited. I try to be creative but it all takes time and balancing that is key. My advice is do all that you can do but have a plan in doing it. I have a list of marketing ideas and when I get time, I tick something off that list. Some things work well for me and some things don’t. Experiment and don’t be afraid to try new things. Make the most of what you’ve got.

Parting words?

Keep writing! I think there are two keys to making it in this business: 1) Being teachable – if you are teachable, you’ll be able to grow and mature as a writer. 2) Perseverance – you’ve got to keep at it and not give up.

Sarah Anne Sumpolec

Saturday, November 19, 2005

S'up Saturday


"Travel to Narnia with C. S. Lewis's beloved masterpiece, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, is scheduled to hit theaters December 9, and we have all the behind-the-scenes stories to help you make the most of this historic film debut.

Visit's special Narnia page for the latest news, interviews, features, book excerpts, reviews, and much more!

Plus...get acquainted with the famous author of the Chronicles of Narnia by entering's C. S. Lewis Giveaway. Prizes include books and a documentary on the life of C. S. Lewis. The contest ends on Tuesday, November 22, at midnight (EST). Winners will be randomly drawn and posted on CBN's special Chronicles of Narnia page.
Enter now! "

Happy Birthday to my youngest, Levi, who turns the big four point o on Monday!

Below is a link share by one of my critique partners, Rob. Particularly helpful for historical writers who need to know if "hit the road" was an expression in the fifties. That type of thing.

Upcoming author interviews:
Lisa Sampson and Brad Whittington
Robert Whitlow
Sarah Sumpolec
Carrie Turansky
K. Michael Casey
Jill Nelson
Cindy Thompson
Aaron Thiel
Donna Fleisher
and many others!
Upcoming Book Reviews:
Comes A Horseman (Robert Liparulo)
Chinchuba (K. Michael Casey)
Dark Star (Creston Mapes)
Wounded Healer (Donna Fleisher)

Friday, November 18, 2005

Author Interview: DiAnn Mills

Award-winning author, DiAnn Mills, launched her career in 1998 with the publication of her first book. Currently she has sixteen novels, fourteen novellas, a non fiction book, several articles, and short stories in print.
Five of her anthologies have appeared on the CBA Best Seller List and three of her books have won the distinction of Best Historical of the Year by Heartsong Presents.
She lives in sunny Houston, Texas, the home of heat, humidity, and Harleys. In fact she’d own one, but her legs are too short. DiAnn and her husband have four adult sons. You can visit her website at:

Plug time. What book or project is coming out or has come out that you’d like to tell us about?

When the Lion Roars – fiction published by RiverOak and released May 2005. This is an adventure story set in Sudan about three unlikely people who must put aside their socio-cultural beliefs and prejudices to help find a slave girl.

Tell us about your journey to publication. How long had you been writing before you got the call you had a contract, how you heard and what went through your head.

I started writing in 1995, and my first book came out in 1998. I was thrilled! My dream had come true.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?

Always. We understand our stories come from God, and our writing is a gift from Him. To me, the self-doubts come from a lack of trust in God’s provision.

What’s the best advice you’ve heard on writing/publication?

Write everyday.
Read constantly.
Promote the craft that God has given you.

What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve heard?

“You need to add more adjectives and adverbs.”

What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

In the first five pages, a writer should make sure that nothing negative is written about the protagonist. This allows the reader to bond with the character.

Do you have a scripture or quote that has been speaking to you lately?

Always the same: Jeremiah 20:9 But if I say, "I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,"his word is in my heart like a fire,shut up in my bones.I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.

Is there a particularly difficult set back that you’ve gone through in your writing career you are willing to share?

For the first time since 1998, I went five months without a contract. It was a time of trust, and a time for me to understand that my performance does not equate to how much God loves me. It was a time of spiritual growth.

What are a few of your favorite books? (Not written by you.)

There are so many. I tend to think of what I’ve read lately.
1. Blue Like Jazz – Donald Miller
2. Peace Like a River – Leif Enger
3. The Sin Eater – Francine Rivers
4. Anything by Deb Raney
5. Anything by Ted Dekker

If your authorial self was a character from The Wizard of Oz, which one would you be and why?

Probably Dorothy – I have a habit of speaking up for what I believe in.

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?

My non-fiction and fiction books about Sudan. Lost Boy No More and When the Lion Roars Both books were so very different from anything else I’d written. The research took over 2 ½ years, but they were worth it.

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

Flowery, boring description that takes up space on the paper.

Can you give us a view into a typical day of your writing life?

I’m very scheduled.
4:30 – up and dressed to work out
4:45 to 5:45 – quiet time and respond to e-mail
6:00 to 6:30 – critique writing students
6:30 to 7:30 – exercise
7:30 to 9:30 – breakfast, shower, housework
9:30 to 12:00 – write
1:00 to 2:00 - check e-mail and write
2:00 to 3:00 – write
3:00 to 4:30 – study (I’m pursuing a biblical studies degree) and read
I do cook.
6:30 to 7:30 – often write or study or read

If you could choose to have one strength of another writer, what would it be and from whom?

Deb Raney – the art of creating characters who leap from the page.

Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?

More suspense novels that engage the reader.

Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?

Yes, but not very often. I think we all doubt our abilities and wonder if God wants us to continue.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

I like all aspects of it, so I can’t say I have a favorite and/or least favorite. All facets work together to make a better book.

How much marketing do you do? Any advice in this area?

I’m always thinking about marketing. This goes into the proposal stage: What speeches can I give utilizing this theme? Who is my target audience and how can I best serve them? How does this story line fit into my brand – “Expect an Adventure?” Be prepared to give a 30 second elevator-pitch about the book at any time. How does this book and its theme fit into what is going on in the world today.

Parting words?

Always, always give the glory to God.
Read in a wide genre.
Read those books written by authors who write about writing.
Attend writing conferences.
Have a couple of critique partners who keep you accountable.
Always be willing to help other writers.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Author Interview: Terry Burns

Terry is a fifth generation Irish storyteller who is also a fourth generation Texas teller of tall tales. Telling stories comes as natural as breathing. Writing them is hard.

Plug time. What book or project is coming out or has come out that you’d like to tell us about?

Brother’s Keeper
, second book in the Mysterious Ways series from River Oak is coming out in January. The first in the series,

Mysterious Ways, came out earlier this year as did

Trails of the Dime Novel from Echelon Press.

Brother’s Keeper is an inspirational fiction with identical twin brothers who could not be more different separated by a woman who is a Jonah, bringing total disaster on all who get near her. It’s a fun book with a good message.

Tell us about your journey to publication. How long had you been writing before you got the call you had a contract, how you heard and what went through your head.

I first published in a compendium of the state’s best high school poetry back in the late 50’s. I suppose I was thrilled, who can remember back that far? I’ve written all my life, but for most of it being a chamber of commerce professional ate up all my words. I began writing fiction six or seven years ago, with my first book, To Keep a Promise coming out from a small press, The Fiction Works. I have 5 fiction in print, four non-fiction books, work in a half dozen short story collections, audio books, have done over 200 articles and short stories, and wrote a weekly newspaper column in several cities for 17 years. I’ve tried my hand at a lot of different types of publishing.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?

Every time I finish a book I wonder if it’s the last one I have in me. That lasts until another story starts coming out. I’m under no illusions about being a good writer, and consider myself a storyteller rather than a writer. If I could, I’d gather people around big campfires and tell my stories, but that just isn’t practical. So I have to write them down as best as I can and get some publisher to get them in front of people for me.

What’s the best advice you’ve heard on writing/publication?

That publication is not a selection process but a survival process. It is very rare for a story to be selected outright for publication, but instead survives cut after cut until it sits alone on the desk and some editor decides they’ve got something they want to publish. Persistence is the key.

What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve heard?

People who tell us we don’t need to pay attention to rules and conventions but should write it the way we want. To me ‘rules’ means grammar and formatting, the basics, and must be followed to the letter. ‘Conventions’ are different genre to genre, but basically are what a number of editors like to see done in work they publish. We can choose to break some convention, but should do it only if we know why we are doing it, and with a full knowledge of why it is an accepted convention. We also have to keep in mind that when we choose to do so, we are probably limiting our market by ruling some editors out who believe strongly in the convention.

The less our publishing credits, the less likely they are to accept work that doesn't fit within established rules and conventions.

What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

That sending work to editors and agents without properly researching them and what they buy is not only a waste of time and money practically guaranteeing rejection, but burns bridges that with the right research might be a very appropriate possibility for our work.

Do you have a scripture or quote that has been speaking to you lately?

1 Corinthians 9:16 – For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! – King James Version.

Writing interpretation – If I were volunteering my services of my own free will, I’m sure the Lord would be pleased, but God has picked me out and given me this sacred trust and I have no choice but to serve Him with my writing.

Is there a particularly difficult set back that you’ve gone through in your writing career you are willing to share?

One of my books came out from a publisher only to have that publisher decide after only running a few hundred copies that they weren’t going to continue doing their own printing. Even though the book got great reviews, the lack of stock left it high and dry. I hope at some point to repackage and reprint it with another publisher.

What are a few of your favorite books? (Not written by you.)

I have a lot of them, but some of my favorites were written by a writer by the name of Dan Parkinson. He was a good friend, and the man who got me started writing fiction. We wrote some delightful tongue-in-cheek-humor westerns, particularly Calamity Trail before he turned to writing a series of books about tall ships, then finally some fantasy for the Dragonlance line. Dan is gone now and you’d only be able to get one of his online or in a used bookstore, but those old westerns were just delightful.

If your authorial self was a character from The Wizard of Oz, which one would you be and why?

Probably the scarecrow. I’m just a country boy that never claimed to be any major brain trust, I just write my little tales and hope to bring some enjoyment and clean Christian entertainment to people and maybe share just a little of my faith with them along the way.

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?

Mysterious Ways
because I have had several instances when people have told me they were getting a copy for someone who isn’t saved because that person would not intentionally read something with a message in it, but they say by the time they figure out that book has a message in it they are hooked on the story and have to read it. I love hearing that.

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

If life was fair we’d be able to sit in a room and churn out our tales while people came to our door and offered us obscene amounts of money to be able to publish them and get them in every home in America.

Instead we have to spend a lot of time doing the things we really don’t want to do; researching markets, doing events and signings, kissing up to editors and agents, promoting and selling, or in other words, the business side of writing. I think we’d all rather just write.

Can you give us a view into a typical day of your writing life?

Different from when I was doing it full time. I’m back on a day job for a bit, so now I’m able to do a little bit of writing-related things during the course of a day, but I generally do about three hours of writing in the evening.

If you could choose to have one strength of another writer, what would it be and from whom?

It isn’t that easy. I’d like to have the beautifully clear way of stating principles of faith of Max Lucado, the natural storytelling flow of Louis L’Amour, the light touch of humor of Dan Parkinson, the natural way of cutting through to the point like Elmore Leonard and I’d like to have something crystal clear and life altering to say like the Apostle Paul. I’m not asking for much, huh?

Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?

A secular writer who isn’t selling well up in the five figures is not considered by the publishing world as much of a success. A Christian writer who only sold one book, but that book strongly impacted someone’s life would consider themselves a success. I’ve already been blessed to see a little of that, but I’d still like to reach out and get my words in front of more and more people. I know that isn’t up to me, and whatever witness the Lord chooses to let me have I am content.

Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?

It crosses my mind periodically. My life would be easier if I didn’t have to write, but I do. When I decided I had been called to use my humble little words for the Lord, even though I do it by writing Christian fiction, I knew the Lord always finishes what He starts. That means He isn’t going to let me off the hook before I’ve done what I’m supposed to do. I wish I was sure what the full scope of that might be, but that isn’t how God works.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

My favorite part is talking to people who like my stories. The least favorite part is actually having to write them.

How much marketing do you do? Any advice in this area?

I’ve been somewhere doing marketing every weekend but two since the first of January, plus a few closer locations during the week. I’ll be participating with a book club discussion on one of my books about a 2 hour drive away tonight. I spend a lot of time researching and working special markets and work very closely with my publisher’s sales reps.

Parting words?

I don’t know anybody in this business that has been told by the publishing industry to go home and put up their writing for good. Those I know who have published have been persistent, have learned from their failures even more than from successes, and have mastered their craft. Those who have not published have simply given up. The rest of us are still a work in progress.