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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Awards Series: The Booker

A wife, mother, and grandma, Yvonne Anderson lives in rural Ohio. She's a former legal secretary, currently a professional Virtual Assistant, and writes a daily Bible study blog. She creates fiction just for fun, but sometimes entertains fantasies about real remuneration.

In 1968, the celebrated London publisher Tom Maschler approached representatives of a large UK financial conglomerate, Booker Brothers, with a proposal. Though not primarily a publishing company, Booker Brothers had an Authors' Division that published a number of well-known writers such as Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer. Mashler proposed that the company dedicate a small percentage of their profits to a literary prize. As Mashler recalls, "We were frank about the fact that the prize would take several years to make a mark. We pointed out that once it did so (as we were convinced it would) Booker might well find their sponsorship something they could be proud of."

And so the Booker-McConnell Prize for Fiction was born. Now officially known as the Man Booker Prize (because Booker Brothers later dropped its publishing division and became exclusively an investment firm, changing its name to The Man Group), the prize is often just called "the Booker." And Tom Maschler's promise that the prize would be something they could be proud of has exceeded all expectations.

Probably the world's most important literary award, the Booker is presented each year for the best original full-length
novel written in the English language by a citizen of either the Commonwealth of Nations or the Republic of Ireland. In 1968, the prize rewarded the recipient with £21,000; in 2002 the prize money was increased to £50,000. But many winners of the Booker have found not only their finances, but their lives transformed. Many of the novels have been turned into movies, and on at least one occasion, the author went on to win a Nobel Prize.

One reason for the Booker's stellar reputation is the integrity of its judging process. No allegation has ever been made of bribery or any impropriety surrounding the award. The selection process begins with the formation of an advisory committee comprised of an author, two publishers, a literary agent, a bookseller, a librarian, and a chairperson appointed by the Booker Prize Foundation. This committee selects a panel of judges from among the leading literary critics, writers, academics and notable public figures. Once appointed, the judges are permitted to work with no interference from the prize administrator or sponsor.

UK publishers may enter up to two full-length novels for consideration. The author is not disqualified if he or she has previously won. The author must, however, be living at the time of the award, and the book must have been originally written in English. Furthermore, a book is considered eligible only if its publisher agrees to certain stipulations. Among other things, the publisher must commit to contributing £5,000 towards general publicity if the book reaches the shortlist, and a further £5,000 if the book wins the prize. Self-published books are not eligible.

No need to feel cheated that you can't win because you don't live in the UK. Thanks to The Man Booker International Prize established in 2005, there's hope for us colonists. Awarded every two years, this £60,000 prize goes to an author living in any country who has published fiction either originally in English, or whose work is generally available in an English translation.

If you're looking for a good book to read, a list of Booker winners would probably be a good place to start. I'm ashamed to say, I've never read any of them, but it sounds like a worthwhile project. If you think so too, here's list of all the winners to date. Dig in!

2006 - Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of Loss
2005 - John Banville, The Sea
2004 - Alan Hollinghurst, The Line of Beauty
2003 - DBC Pierre, Vernon God Little
2002 - Yann Martel, Life of Pi
2001 - Peter Carey, True History of the Kelly Gang
2000 - Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin
1999 - J M Coetzee, Disgrace
1998 - Ian McEwan, Amsterdam
1997 - Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things
1996 - Graham Swift, Last Orders
1995 - Pat Barker, The Ghost Road
1994 - James Kelman, How Late It Was, How Late
1993 - Roddy Doyle, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha
1992 - Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient (co-winner)
1992 - Barry Unsworth, Sacred Hunger (co-winner)
1991 - Ben Okri, The Famished Road
1990 - A S Byatt, Possession
1989 - Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day
1988 - Peter Carey, Oscar and Lucinda
1987 - Penelope Lively, Moon Tiger
1986 - Kingsley Amis, The Old Devils
1985 - Keri Hulme, The Bone People
1984 - Anita Brookner, Hotel du Lac
1983 - J M Coetzee, Life & Times of Michael K
1982 - Thomas Keneally, Schindler's Ark
1981 - Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children
1980 - William Golding, Rites of Passage
1979 - Penelope Fitzgerald, Offshore
1978 - Iris Murdoch, The Sea, the Sea
1977 - Paul Scott, Staying On
1976 - David Storey, Saville
1975 - Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Heat and Dust
1974 - Nadine Gordimer, The Conservationist (co-winner)
1974 - Stanley Middleton, Holiday (co-winner)
1973 - J G Farrell, The Siege of Krishnapur
1972 - John Berger, G
1971 - V S Naipaul, In a Free State
1970 - Bernice Rubens, The Elected Member
1969 - P H Newby, Something to Answer For
1968 – Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of Loss

Monday, July 30, 2007

Gina's Birthday!!!!!

I'm sneaking in here to announce that it's Gina's 19th birthday.

Happy Birthday, Gina!!!

Thanks so much for all the hard work you do. You're the best.

War Stories

Mike’s stories have appeared in Relief Journal, Forgotten Worlds, Alienskin, and Dragons, Knights and Angels, with articles in The Matthew’s House Project, Relevant Magazine and the forthcoming 316 Journal. He is included in the upcoming Coach’s Midnight Diner anthology and was one of ten authors picked for Infuze Magazine’s Best of 2005 print anthology. Mike is an ordained minister, has led numerous small groups and developed discipleship-training curriculum for several churches. He and his wife Lisa live in Southern California, where they have raised four children. You can visit him at

By Mike Duran

Betty Williams said she “could kill George Bush.” Sure, she later retracted her comments. But what made them so shocking in the first place was that Betty Williams has won the Nobel Peace Prize.

While killing someone you disagree with is hardly proper – especially for a Nobel laureate peace activist – in the long run, it's much more effective than, say, bludgeoning them with a chorus of “Give Peace a Chance.” In this, Ms. Williams inadvertently discloses the limitations of non-violence.

War may not be the answer, but sometimes it’s the right response. No doubt, peace is an ideal we should all pray for and pursue. Nevertheless, even Scripture says there’s “a time for war” (Eccl. 3:8). Sometimes conflict is essential.
Of course, not all would agree.

Shortly after the 2003 Academy Awards, wherein Peter Jackson's Return of the King , final installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, garnered eleven statuettes, the peaceniks got to grumbling. Some suggested the blockbuster films send dangerous messages to the world's young people, that they glorify violence and minimize diplomacy, that they justify war – even if the opponents happened to be Orcs and Cave Trolls.

I’m guessing the critics were equally rankled by the climactic battle sequences in 2005’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Whereas Jackson aimed at adults, the Narnia movie aimed at kiddies – which made the sprawling war scenes even more egregious. Still, if Aslan began a round of peace talks with the White Witch instead of sacrificing himself, the story would have surely lost steam.

The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings – both the books and films – appear destined to be conjoined. And for good reason. Both stories are fantasies that involve conflict between good and evil, they were written by friends and contemporaries and, in their own ways, have become cultural landmarks. Of course, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien's worlds were informed by their religion. Yet another often-overlooked factor contributes to the strength of those stories.

Both Lewis and Tolkien were soldiers.

Tolkien was sent to active duty on the Western Front and served in the Lancashire Fusiliers, the most-decorated British unit in the war. After four months in and out of the trenches, he succumbed to “trench fever,” a typhus-like infection common in the insanitary conditions, and was sent back to England. Lewis chose to volunteer for active duty in World War I and served in the British Army, fighting in the muddy trenches of northern France.

It probably goes without saying, but the impact of this war – the clashing of superpowers, the loss of life, the defense of virtue – had tremendous influence upon the stories they would later tell. Of course, I’m not intending to trivialize war or diminish the sacrifices made for land and loved, but to suggest that the richness and transcendence of those stories is due, in part, to the battlefield.

If Tolkien and Lewis had never served with a band of brothers, defended something they loved, been fired upon enemy troops and watched their friends die in combat, Middle-Earth and Narnia would have never been conceived.

This idea – that war is both a reasonable response and ultimately noble – grates on postmodern man for two reasons. First, it implies that some wars are necessary (which rankles pacifists). Second, it implies real Good and Evil (which chafes relativists).

If Tolkien was a pacifist, rather than fight the Orcs, Aragorn would negotiate a land-for-peace deal, use the One Ring to barter with Saruman, and Gandhalf would become a diplomat to Mordor and the Orcian State. If Lewis was a relativist, Edmund would have broken no Moral Law and never needed rescued; Aslan could have spared Himself from dying and Narnia would begin a golden age of tolerance toward witches.
As long as there is real Good and Evil, war is necessary. As long as there is a real Devil, we must stand against him. These are the stakes of all good stories, the necessary components of all great storytelling. Even moreso, they are truisms for life.
Oswald Chambers put it this way:

The old Puritan idea that the devil tempts men had this remarkable effect, it produced the man of iron who fought; the modern idea of blaming his heredity or his circumstances produces the man who succumbs at once.

When we nix ole Scratch, we undermine our own accountability. Instead of girding for battle, modern man is busy navel-gazing and cutting checks to the therapist. Or planning troop withdrawals. Nowadays, the suicide bombers of the world are people we must “understand” not exterminate, and the only real Temptation is the temptation to see things black and white. To postmodern man, the only absolute truth is the belief that there are no absolute truths – a philosophy with its feet planted firmly in mid-air.

Tolkien and Lewis were soldiers and their stories were war stories. The war was physical, it involved armies and armaments. But behind the fray was another War – a war of ideas, a battle for Goodness, Morality and Virtue, which, in the end, was the most important of all battles.

Likewise, the Bible is a book of war and we, “people of the Book,” are engaged in its battle. Whether it’s Orcs or Nazis, Middle Earth or Europe, the armies of Mordor or the martyrs of Islam, some things are worth fighting for. And against. While war may not be the answer, if evil is real, then conflict is inevitable. Correction: It is demanded. Good Christian fiction must embody this struggle in all its facets. And, as such, all of our stories should be War Stories.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Give It Away

By Gina Holmes

Malachi 3:10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

I snapped this picture in the restroom of my son’s school. I’m sure they had good reason for bolting the toilet paper. If memory serves, flushing rolls of tp is a major source of amusement for school-age kids, (along with wet-willies, stink bombs and brown burning bags of manure).

Seeing something so basic under lock and key got me thinking about the things I’ve clenched tight in a hand which should have been open.

So often I have ideas that would benefit others and though I’m ashamed to admit it, my natural inclination is to hide these away for myself. Great phrases, marketing ideas, you name it. The devil whispers, “Don’t share that, it’s valuable information.” You want everyone doing it? It will lose its originality, it’s value.”

And then, thank God, I’m convicted … sometimes through others, sometimes through God’s word, usually through the Holy Spirit whispering to my conscious, “Give it away. After all, I gave it to you.”

I’ve been reminded time and again that I can’t out-give God. What I hold close does not bless me. It does not bless others. It is nothing more than a seed I tuck away, too greedy to part with. Too stupid to sow.

When I’m called home one day, I don’t want to leave behind a jar filled to the brim with worthless, seeds unplanted. I want to leave an orchard overflowing with fruit.

When we consider tithing, often we think of money, but should it stop there? Again and again in scripture the principle goes further than that. The fields whose crops were not harvested around the edges so aliens and poor would have something to eat for instance. It's not just about using our talents, but also sometimes giving them away.

We can’t out-give God. Test Him and see. That is His promise.
His challenge.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Golden Heart Winners

2007 Golden Heart Winner for Best Short Contemporary Romance Manuscript
Weekend Agreement by Barbara Tanner Wallace

2007 Golden Heart Winner for Best Long Contemporary Romance Manuscript
All or Nothing by Beth Burgoon

2007 Golden Heart Winner for Best Paranormal Romance Manuscript
Black Jackby Jennifer Stark

2007 Golden Heart Winner for Best Inspirational Romance Manuscript
The Heart Beckonsby Carla Hughes

2007 Golden Heart Winner for Best Young Adult Romance Manuscript
Covenby Trish Milburn

2007 Golden Heart Winner for Best Short Historical Romance Manuscript
The Lost Jewelby Debra Bess

2007 Golden Heart Winner for Best Long Historical Romance Manuscript
Sager's Passionby Elaine Levine

2007 Golden Heart Winner for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements Manuscript
According To Jane by Marilyn Weigel

2007 Golden Heart Winner for Best Romantic Suspense Manuscript
Falling Into Darkness by Bronwyn Clarke

2007 Golden Heart Winner for Best Contemporary Single Title Romance Manuscript
Romeo, Romeo
by Robin Kawczynski

Christy Award Vodcast Series ~ Tracy Groot

Madman by Tracy Groot (Moody Press)

When Tallis, a philosopher’s servant, arrives at a Greek academy in Palestine he discovers that it has disappeared. No one will tell him what happened, but he discovers that one of the former scholars is now a madman.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Author Interview ~ Beverly Lewis

Beverly Lewis, raised in Pennsylvania Amish country and both a schoolteacher and an accomplished musician, has been an award-winning author for over a dozen years. Her acclaimed novel, The Preacher's Daughter, was a 2006 Quill Book Award finalist in the romance category. Her books have appeared on numerous bestseller lists, including USA Today and The New York Times. She and her husband, David, live in Colorado.

What new book or project do you have coming out?

I’m writing a novel, The Forbidden, book two in “The Courtship of Nellie Fisher” series, and a couple of children’s books.

NJ: The first book in the series is The Parting, available now.

How did you come up with these stories? Was there a specific “what if” moment?

The impetus for future novels is usually an outgrowth of my research for the present series. More than two years ago I stumbled upon a little-known fact about an Amish church schism while writing the “Annie’s People” trilogy. I “saw” the story unfold in a few minutes within my head and heart and knew I had to write it someday.

As for my children’s books, I’ve been tweaking them for several years, although their present form is far different from the original drafts.

Did you originally intend to write so many Amish-themed books?

I pitched The Shunning and its sequels to several CBA publishers in 1995, after I’d written nearly sixty books for kids and teens, with the idea that I wanted to share the seeds of my Plain (shunned) grandmother’s heartbreaking story. Three publishers were eager for it, with Bethany House winning out.

Then, interestingly enough, while doing research for the third book, The Reckoning, I uncovered a fascinating aspect of the Old Order Amish—white witchcraft, also known as powwowing, which has split the Amish community down the middle in several states, including Pennsylvania and Ohio. Out of that revelatory study, came my two-book series, The Postcard and The Crossroad, delving into the darker side of all things Amish. That particular writing journey turned into a chasing down of facts and accurate research about courtship rituals, and subsequently The Redemption of Sarah Cain was birthed. (Soon to be a movie, directed by Michael Landon Jr. for the Lifetime channel, airing August 19. I saw it at ICRS last week, and oh, is it wonderful!)

So it is the intriguing research that compelled me to write a number of novels with Amish-related settings.

What has the Amish community said to you about your books?

Oh, goodness, they share and share by snail mail and in person. They’re big talkers. Well, some of them are. Many are repressed, and sadly there are numerous Plain women who suffer abuse. Depression is high among these cloistered communities in various states—what a ministry of compassion I feel called to in answering heartfelt letters.

I’ve also received oodles of mail from teen Amish girls who write to say: “How do you know so much about our private weddings and our life in general? You are exactly right, Mrs. Lewis.” And for this I am grateful. Getting it right is a real driving force for me—in everything I do. I wouldn’t think of winging it when depicting an exotic community with secret practices and foreign ways (to modern readers). Being born into the Anabaptist culture in Lancaster and growing up close to the Amish, I absorbed the Plain tradition quite naturally. They are a people largely misunderstood, and it surprises me how much is published about them based on myth.

For someone who loves Amish novels and wants to write one, where would you advise they begin?

There are, of course, a Heinz 57 variety of “church districts” and differing levels of conservatism within the Amish community as a whole—varying from state to state, and from Old Order and the whole spectrum to the New Order and on to Mennonites and other more progressive groups. I suggest being related to or a close friend of the type of Amish one wishes to portray. Seriously. If nothing else, spend time living or working with them. Also, gain their trust first, then offer to help at a barn-raising (men with hammers, women with food hampers) or quilting frolic or weeding “charity” gardens. All of these activities are invaluable to the necessary research.

A growing number of my readers request information from me, eager to join an Amish community, but failing to realize that they must first learn the language (Pennsylvania Dutch) as well as the milieu of submission to ever truly fit in and be accepted by the “brethren”—just as a novelist who wishes to write a story with such a setting must thoroughly immerse him/herself into the unfamiliar culture in order to grasp something of the “riddle” of the Amish. And a riddle it is, indeed!

If, however, a writer is passionate about offering the setting as “character” to readers, as I attempt to do in each new book, then an Amish locale can be a good choice for a story, although there are far less complicated settings. In addition to the above, supplement your research with nonfiction books by those most trusted “spokesmen.” I list several bibliographies of reference books in the backs of my novels.

Tell us about your publishing journey. How long had you been writing before you got a contract?

My first bylines were for magazines—Highlights for Children, Focus on the Family, The Dolphin Log, and others, three years prior to my writing books for children and teens. My first book proposal was Holly’s First Love and was eventually published by Zondervan in May 1993, after a nineteen-month wait from their publishing board, as they were deliberating about launching into teen fiction.

I ended up with a fourteen-book contract for the “Holly’s Heart” series, which is still in print, vibrantly repackaged by my present publisher, Bethany House. I had been writing since sixth grade, but hiding my stories away in drawers or under my bed. Later, when our children were in middle school, I began submitting stories and articles to magazines for publication. So for publication of a book, I waited about three years.

How did you find out you had a contract and what went through your mind?

My now good friend Dave Lambert called to herald the exciting news. (My manuscript was pulled out of a slush pile—non-agented.) He confided in me that he’d pitched my book to marketing without the benefit of the proposal in hand, because they had recently moved their offices and the sample chapters had been lost!
After the “yes” call, I cranked up the volume on Brooklyn Tabernacle’s rousing rendition of “To God Be the Glory,” which became the “thumbs up!” theme song for future “yeses” from other publishers (soon to be four in all, and simultaneously), complete with celebratory dancing not just by me, but the whole family. Loopy? Sure. But, hey, we writers have our hearts out there pulsing on the proverbial limb…no, they’re bleeding.

A lot of people dream of becoming a bestselling author, as you have. Tell us about the work load and unexpected intrusions that entails.

If you’re ambitious (or crazy?) enough to sign on for 10-12 text-based youth fiction books per year, then writing each day will become at least half your life. I wrote when I could, at the outset, snatches of time between homeschooling our two younger children and juggling a rather full music studio in the late afternoon and early evenings (40+ students per week for the first four years of my book-writing “calling.”) After supper, and once our three kids were tucked into bed, I worked on my book projects till the wee hours.

Once our children were somewhat grown (two are disabled), I edited each morning what I’d written the night before, then handling publicity issues, interviews, and all marketing-related things in the early afternoon. From mid-afternoon to supper and following, I dove into the creative side of writing.

Do you ever struggle with writer's block?

More ideas than I can possibly write in a lifetime compete for my attention, some of them simultaneously. The day may come when I endure the “blank page” syndrome, but so far it’s only momentary blocks.

If so, how do you overcome it?

I read books unrelated to my research or bake or walk on the treadmill. This seems to work for lots of my author pals too.

What is the most difficult part of writing for you (or was when you first started on your writing journey), i.e., plot, POV, characterization, etc?

Writing is somewhat excruciating, due to isolation. I was accustomed to interacting with students and teachers during my first career, so the writing life was something of a jolt to my psyche.

Also, plotting and theme/strategy can be a struggle at times. Characterization and sequencing scenes flow more easily for me, and I somehow manage to get behind the eyes of each character when I’m writing. (Don’t ask me about that, it’s as weird as Gina’s comment the night of the Christy Awards! LOL) Anyway, my husband’s and my brainstorming efforts have created the twists and turns of my storylines. Dave and I have worked together for the past 80+ books. So the loneliness factor is greatly eased when teaming up with an astute partner, who is also a bestselling novelist (Coming Home , Saving Alice, and our collaboration, Sanctuary.)

Where do you write? Do you have a dedicated office or a corner or nook in a room?

For the first five years as a published writer, I worked in a smallish bedroom where my research books and files towered behind me, and our white cock-a-poo, Cuddles, sat devotedly beneath my chair each night.

From 1997, when The Shunning shot through the roof, and onward, I enjoyed an actual writing studio near our bedroom, complete with a sofa, where I sometimes pondered my outlines, notes, book galleys, and read fan mail.

More recently we’ve moved closer to our extended family, and I enjoy a spacious and private home office with a sweeping view of Pikes Peak and the Garden of the Gods…where baby bunnies, and BIG coyotes, deer, and other wildlife wander past my windows each day.

Do you have a word or page goal you set for each day?

Yes, 10-15 pages per day when I’m in crunch-time mode. During saner days and weeks, 5-7 pages are more standard.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Living with our adopted disabled children, their care was always first, encompassing most of the daylight hours. Once their needs were met and they were settled in for the night, I began my writing “day.”

Just recently our twins were enrolled in a special needs school, so I’m finding my way back into the sunshine for the majority of my writing time.

Each day, prayer, devotions, and a good breakfast get my day off to a great start. I discuss scene options and publishing issues with Dave, then edit out the dreadful stuff I’d composed the day before. After lunch, I handle Web site-related e-mail/updates, connect with my publicists and marketing wizard, and then anywhere from 6-10 hours of new writing happens between the afternoon and midnight. I end the day with prayer…and, hopefully, sleep.

Take us through your process of writing a novel briefly—from conception to revision. How long is that process?

One to two years prior to the writing of a novel, a new character will present herself to me. Typically I’m writing another book at the time, so to keep her at bay I jot down everything she’s telling me (watch out Gina! LOL), keeping a file while I also pay close attention to the current deadline. All the while, I’m “getting” more and more info about a new protagonist and a fresh set of characters. Spooky, I know. Once the pertinent research is gathered, I outline loosely, and then begin the hard work of writing. (I have Amish friends ready and waiting, literally leaning over the back fence of my Plain relatives who have e-mail and telephones—eager to answer questions or clarify. This is just an amazing network of help, and I’m way beyond grateful.)

What are some of your favorite books (not written by you)?

Everything by C. S. Lewis, my dear uncle (just kidding!), J. I. Packer, and Andrew Murray. I savor Olive Ann Burns, Jane Hamilton, Margaret Atwood, and Fanny Flagg. Alice Hoffman’s The River King, Flannery O’Connor’s The Complete Short Stories, Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift From the Sea, and Sheri Reynolds’ The Rapture of Canaan, to name a few of my countless favorites.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve heard?

Refuse to give up after receiving a rejection letter. Scrutinize, polish, and rewrite (if necessary) and get the manuscript or proposal back out to your agent (or the next publisher on your list). If you believe in your captivating and well-written story, someone else will too, eventually. We’ve all heard of Madeleine L’Engle’s twenty-six “no’s” for A Wrinkle in Time (a book I fell in love with in junior high) and other extraordinary writers who were rejected time after time.

So you might do as I did. Make getting a published a game. Create a “Stepping Stones to Publication” scrapbook, which I made prior to my articles and fiction being published in magazines, and later books. Oh boy, there are some interesting (and impressive) rejection notices stored in that RED album. A constant reminder of the persistence required to make it in this unpredictable industry.

Talent required? Perhaps. But as I see it, it’s more about a willingness to work hard and persevere, and once you do land that first book contract, be open for input from your editor or editorial team. In short, be the dream author—be teachable and amicable.

What do you wish you’d known early in your career that might have saved you some time and/or frustration in writing?

I wish I’d understood how weird (real) fictional characters can become. By their very nature they have the power to wring you around—grab you by the throat and demand their way—upsetting the fruit basket. Don’t laugh.

In publishing? I wish I’d known that most of the time deadlines are somewhat negotiable. (Yes, editors build in “wiggle room.” It’s a good idea, of course, to be dependable in that area. There’s a reason why the word dead is first in deadline, you know!)

How much marketing do you do?

Bethany’s marketing team is simply remarkable…stellar. I answer a load of Web site-related e-mail, as well as snail mail, and do two book tours per year (two weeks each, 3-5 events per day), and send personal mailings and mass e-mails for local bookstore events. I scarcely ever turn down an interview request if it comes to me via BHP publicity and they agree that it’s a good idea.

What have you found that particularly works well for you?

Hard to know precisely what works best and translates to actual books sales, but spending time with each reader/fan in those long lines during tour stops has had a ripple effect, generating new readers, I believe. People talk. If they have a wonderful experience, they tell others: Bev Lewis is “for real.”

Do you have any parting words of advice?

Being “real” for God is our goal as writers, isn’t it? Do we yearn to be others-oriented, carrying the Good News in our hearts and minds, spilling it out into our writing to a pain-ridden, heartbroken world?

If you write a phrase or a poignant scenario, or a dialogue exchange pointing a reader toward the kingdom, or soften a cynical heart, or encourage a teen to take a fork in the road of his/her life, then your writing is successful and true. This is my prayer, and I hope it is yours as well.

Thanks, Ane, for the opportunity to share something of my writing journey. It was such fun connecting with you and Gina after the Christy Awards! God bless this blogspot and all your endeavors.—Bev Lewis

NJ: The Brethren won the Christy Award for Contemporary Novel, Series

Readers can learn more about my particular writing adventure at my website.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Welcome Guest Blogger ~ Allie Pleiter

Enthusiastic but slightly untidy mother of two, Allie Pleiter writes both fiction and non-fiction. An avid knitter, coffee junkie, and non-reformed chocoholic, she spends her days writing books, doing laundry, running carpools, and finding new ways to avoid housework. Allie grew up in Connecticut, holds a BS in Speech from Northwestern University, spent 15 years in the field of professional fundraising, and currently lives in suburban Chicago, Illinois. The “dare from a friend” to begin writing eight years ago has blossomed into a career that includes numerous public speaking engagements, two books on parenting; BECOMING A CHIEF HOME OFFICER and FACING EVERY MOM'S FEARS, and five novels: BAD HEIRESS DAY and QUEEN ESTHER AND THE SECOND GRADERS OF DOOM, the Rita-nominated MY SO-CALLED LOVE LIFE, THE PERFECT BLEND out now, and MASKED BY MOONLIGHT due out in June of 2008. Visit her website.

Novel Journey asked Allie about her biggest writing challenge.

The biggest writing challenge for me wasn’t one of craft or technique, but of getting out of my own way. Simply put, I try too hard. I wasn’t writing, I was WRITING (and you’ve got to roll your “r” when you say that). Authoring. Crafting. Paying, unfortunately, far too much attention to myself and far too little attention to the story.

The time had come to get out of my own way. I didn’t see it until I called a friend, bemoaning my lack of craft, my unskilled arrogance in thinking I could do this intellectual miracle. She gave me the single greatest piece of writing advice I have ever received: hush up and write the book. Tell the story that needs to be told. Listen to the characters. Trust that the story will stand on its own, without the bells and whistles you think it needs.

This is a frightening prospect. Aren’t I supposed to be clever? Witty? Insightful and heart-tugging? Make you sigh, or cry, or all those things we think one does in the presence of great writing? But that’s just it—when we are in the presence of great writing, we shouldn’t be aware of it. We should be sucked into a wonderful story long before we catch on that we are awed by the great writing.

Most times we think of writing challenges in terms of “to-do”s. A checklist of standards for good work or fine craft. The stuff of workshops and books. Not that these things are bad—they are useful tools no writer can ignore. But my greatest writing challenge was “to don’t”. Don’t WRITE. Just put the story down on paper. With as little interference/manipulation/mutation from you as possible. I find it amazing that the greatest way to find your voice is to hush up. To listen with your literary ear instead of shouting with your industry tricks.

Simple concept? Surely. Easy? Not on your life. I still have to go back and tell myself to calm down, to stop showing off, and to do the hard work of peeling things back to the heart of my story and than getting that down on the page. Sometimes, I get it right before my fingers hit the keys. More often that not, I go back and look at my work, get ruthless about where I’ve been a trickster, and try not to panic after I remove all the unnecessary frills. Notice I said TRY not to panic. You may find deep breathing and dark chocolate are necessary. You won’t be the first.

Allie's new book, The Perfect Blend is out this month. Here's the back cover blurb:

Maggie Black knows God wants to open a Christian Coffeehouse in Seattle. Loan officer William Grey, however, thinks Seattle might have all the coffeehouses it needs, and that Maggie needs a better business plan before getting any financial backing. He enrolls her in the bank’s small business incubator program (which he just happens to teach) as a way of strengthening her skills. Twelve weeks of “teaching” turns into battling over assignments, dueling business styles, how much planning is too much, and how much faith is not enough.

Opposites do that thing opposites do so well: attract. Will and Maggie find themselves drawn to each other in ways that are increasingly hard to resist. If Will pursues the relationship, he looses control over Maggie’s loan application. If Maggie pursues the relationship, she discards her old ideas of a wild, visionary mate. Will wants to be protective, Maggie wants to be daring. In the end, and despite the risk, they choose to be together, and take the perfect blend of both of them to create a successful business.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

ICRS 2007_ Wrapping it Up

(Above, Gina and one of her all time favorite authors, Randy Alcorn, & Jerry Jenkins and his lovely wife.)

To close on our coverage of ICRS (International Christian Retail Show) 2007:

This was my first time going to the show. It was something I'd always assumed I'd do for the first time after the publication of my first novel.Things rarely turn out the way we think.
(Brandilyn Collins at her book signing for Coral Moon.)

Ane and I attended ICRS as media. Name tags are color coded at the show so others can easily tell if they need to be nice to you or not. (Not really.) Our tags were red. I gathered red was the color of media, clever woman that I am.

We spent some time asking others what their colors meant. Funny that every person felt their color was the lowest on the totem pole. Ha.

Green I think was people who were thinking of joining CBA. Yellow was for exhibitors (which included authors). Purple might have been international distributors. I don't really remember to be honest. But that gives you an idea.

We arrived to the show on Sunday and registered. We ran into my friend Don who told us it was a good idea to register early because the lines would be long the following day. We also ran into Brandilyn Collins whose mending ankle must have made the show torture as walking is the thing you do most of there.

Ane and I grabbed some Starbucks and preceded to wander around the showroom trying to figure out what the heck everyone was doing.

This year we figured we'd hand out some business cards to set up interviews, figure out what the show was about so we could report something back to you all, interview Jerry Jenkins which we'd set up previously and basically just try to not look like lost tourists.

I only attended two days of the show and not even full days but from what I could gather about ICRS, it seems authors go to make themselves known to book distributors and do some interviews while they're there. They also meet with their agents to discuss projects future and present and do some book signings.

I think agents go to pitch editors, meet with authors and what else, I have no idea.
I think media go to have so many personalities conveniently in one place.

The show isn't quite as interesting as I thought it would be. In reality it was like an upscale flea market set up. Booth after booth of wares. There were a lot of "hospitality suites", which were publishers which rented rooms so their authors would have a place to hang out, be interviewed, and what else, I have no idea.

There was a media room which was way too noisy to conduct anything other than a print interview but it was nice that it was there. We used it to regroup.
Ane and I spent most of our time hanging around the publishing house booths. They were all thankfully grouped together. We ran into Carmen Leal, Karen Ball, Deb Raney, Creston Mapes, Claudia Mair Burney, Camy Tang, and the list goes on and on and on.

Everyone was hurried. In the hallway we passed Randy Alcorn and Austin Boyd on separate ocassions trying to find their way to rooms where they'd be interviewed. It is really easy to get lost as the set up is several floors and huge.

Before our interview with Jerry Jenkins, I was nervous. New friend, Rhonda Rhea was so sweet and prayed for me. The prayer paid off because the interview went off well.

We met Jerry in Tyndale's hospitality suite. His wife was there and is just the loveliest and sweetest woman from what I could gather.

Jerry is so soft spoken that on the video, you can hear me clear as day, but his sounds like the adults in the Peanuts cartoons: Waw waw waw waw. Luckily we also tape recorded it and Ane transcribed it. We'll run that next week most likely. We ask some tough questions, so I hope you'll tune in for that.

The last thing we did was walk the floor trying to find the weirdest Jesus junk. I started to take a picture of what I thought the winner this year was when God convicted me. I put my camera away and told Ane, "You know, I can't know what the heart of the people who made that is. For all I know their motivation wasn't money but spreading the Gospel. Who am I to judge? Maybe someone will come to Christ because of it. You never know. " One man's trash is another's treasure and all that. I thought some products were silly and I felt a bit icky with all that marketing of my faith, but God will judge the hearts of men, not I. I'll assume the best and hope others will assume the best of me.

That's all folks. If you attend ICRS and can add to what I've said here about what everyone's running around trying to accomplish, I'd greatly appreciate the wisdom.

(We still have two vodcasts left to bring you: Jerry Jenkins and Tracy Groot).

Monday, July 23, 2007

Christy Awards 2007 ~ Robin Jones Gunn

2007 Christy Award winning novelist, Robin Jones Gunn sits down with Novel Journey after leaving her award lying around for people to use as a drink coaster. She was absolutely delightful. I think you'll agree.

Sisterchicks in Gondolas by Robin Jones Gunn (Multnomah)

Sisters-in-law Jenna and Sue arrive in Venice to cook for a ministry retreat and find themselves ambushed by grace as they enter a new season of life. When they show up to serve God, His goodness and mercy refresh them through laughter, tears, and unforgettable adventures.

Robin Jones Gunn is a smiling storyteller with dozens of best-selling books and awards to her credit. She and her husband love to travel. They live near Portland, Oregon, and are the parents of a grown son and daughter.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Sunday Devotion: The Other Side of Judgement

Gina Holmes

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. Matthew 7:1

I once wrote a poem called “Black and White”, which accurately described my line of thinking as an on fire born-again, self-proclaimed Jesus freak. What the Bible said was what the Bible meant. There were no gray areas. There were no exceptions. There was grace but only for the rare obedient few.

When a friend came to me and said she was thinking of leaving her husband, without hearing her out, I counseled her on the consequences her children would face, on the fact that God hates divorce and she would not be blessed and all the other things we say to encourage a person to keep their covenant. She stayed and I was quite pleased with myself.

I later found out he had been badly abusing her and their children.

Several years ago, my world underwent an upheaval that would unbalance the best of Christians. Most of this happened at a time when my life was seemingly beyond reproach. I ran a CEF Bible club for the neighborhood children from my home and many were led to Christ. I taught Sunday school and was an AWANAS leader at my church and attended BSF (Bible study fellowship) each week. My heart was where it needed to be, or so I thought.

At that time, someone close to me stumbled and fell. My own faith and morals were questioned by even those close to me. I was horrified. I was humbled and I was humiliated.

I’d like to say my faith in God did not waver, but that’s not true. I was hanging on, but by the barest of threads. How could God say He loved me and allow this to happen? I went through depression. I went through anger. I settled into ambivalence and there I stayed for quite a while.

The only prayer I could muster during this time was a tearful nightly whisper of, “Lord, don’t leave me.” I couldn’t read my Bible. It was no longer the rule book I trusted. I realized there were gray areas and how much God seemingly left out that I wished He would address.

I began to question my black and white thinking, which brought to mind my friend. Surely God didn’t hate divorce in the case of a woman who did not have a marriage but an enslavement. Surely He didn’t really think she and her children should be constantly belittled and beaten. And if she left the situation as many Christians suggested, but didn’t divorce or remarry, did God really mean for her, a young woman, to never know the love of a good man? How should I have counseled her given what she was dealing with? I didn’t have the answers anymore. I still don’t.

Through the painful circumstances I’ve gone through, God has broken me. Ground me to dust so He could reshape me into a more beautiful vessel. One who no longer judges as I once did, sitting high on a legalistic stool and looking down on those whose shoes I have not walked in. I know now, things aren’t always black and white. Not always.

Now when I see someone I perceive to be in a sinful situation, I hurt for them, pray for them, and remember that not everything is what it appears. It’s God’s job to judge, mine to love.

Father, lift the scales from my eyes and soften my heart. May I never let my guard down and think that I’m above reproach. That I’m incapable of the sins I have judged others for. Teach me to love like you. Give me wisdom and teach me to extend the same grace Jesus would to those who need it most.

In Your Son’s name, amen.

Friday, July 20, 2007

RITA Winners for 2007

2007 RITA Winner for Best Traditional Romance
Claiming His Family by Barbara Hannay

2007 RITA Winner for Best Short Contemporary Romance
From The First by Jessica Bird

2007 RITA Winner for Best Long Contemporary Romance
The Mommy Quest by Lori Handeland

2007 RITA Winner for Best Paranormal Romance
A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole

2007 RITA Winner for Best Inspirational Romance
Revealed by Tamera Alexander

2007 RITA Winner for Best Romantic Novella
'Tis the Silly Season' in A NASCAR Holiday by Roxanne St. Claire

2007 RITA Winner for Best First Book
The Husband Trap by Tracy Anne Warren

2007 RITA Winner for Best Short Historical Romance
The Book of True Desires by Betina Krahn

2007 RITA Winner for Best Long Historical Romance
On The Way To The Wedding by Julia Quinn

2007 RITA Winner for Best Novel With Strong Romantic Elements
A Lady Raised High by Jennifer Ashley w/a Laurien Gardner

2007 RITA Winner for Best Romantic Suspense
Blackout by Annie Solomon

2007 RITA Winner for Best Contemporary Single Title
Adiós to My Old Life by Caridad Ferrer

2007 Christy Award Vodcasts ~ M.L. Tyndall

2007 Christy Award nominee, M.L. (Marylu) Tyndall sits down with Novel Journey to talk parrots, patches and pirate.
(For the record: MaryLu was kidding about the musket and eye patch, I did know her novel is named The Redemption and not Pirates of the Caribbean, we haven't really known each other for ten years and she's not actually the president of my fan club. (She was demoted long ago for never showing up for meetings ; )

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Christy Winner ~ Cathy Gohlke

This is one of my favorite interviews beacuse it's so fun. And funny. And, I believe, the first one we did. You learn as you go.

You'll hear our camerawoman, Nora, giving directions. She comes by it naturally, since her husband has been a professional actor and director.

Gina is her lively, quirky self in this one, asking good questions and making funny remarks. I want to be like her when I grow up. Of course, Nora's camera work is a hoot in itself, especially the end. Love that mosaic.

Thanks, Cathy, for being such a good interviewee. Her Christy is for her debut novel:

William Henry Is a Fine Name.

Hope you enjoy the vodcast. We've had fun bringing them to you. And come back tomorrow to see who's next.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Christy Winner ~ Deeanne Gist

After this, I think I'll leave the live ones to Gina. She's so much better at it than I am. But then, that's why I'm a writer and an actor. As an actor, I have a script. As a live interviewer, there's none. Scary. But Deeanne's so sweet, I had a good time.

She won the Romance category with Measure of a Lady. Enjoy the vodcast.

And come back tomorrow as Gina returns with more interviews.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Christy Awards 2007 Vodcast Series ~ Beverly Lewis

Novel Journey sits down with Beverly Lewis at the 2007 Christy Awards. This is a short-short, but Beverly is working on a print interview for us so be looking for that soon.

**(What you can't hear through our camera-lady's laughing is Gina asking Beverly if the voices are saying to hurt her. This is to what she responds: "It's not a weird thing." )

The Brethren by Beverly Lewis (Bethany House , a division of Baker) Amish preacher’s daughter, Annie Zook, is living with a shunned friend and torn by her desire for the art she’s been forbidden and the man her father ordered her not to see. As secrets come to light, she finds a new place of peace and fulfillment through faith.

Beverly Lewis grew up in Pennsylvania Amish country, a background she uses in her work. An award-winning author, she is also an accomplished musician. She and her husband live in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Monday, July 16, 2007

2007 Christy Awards Vodcast Series ~ Susan May Warren

At the 2007 Christy Awards, the women of Novel Journey sat down with some of the winners and nominees. Here's our chat with the very funny and talented Susan May Warren.

This was our first time experimenting in this medium. Through trial and error, we're learning what works and doesn't. We plan to upgrade equipment. Bear with us through our evolution. Keep in mind that internet videos can sometimes take awhile to load. Great time to go make yourself a cup of coffee.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sunday Devotion- Put Down the Whisk

Janet Rubin

Yesterday I was making tiramisu, a new recipe for me. I’d mixed up some of the ingredients in my Kitchen Aid mixer. Next the recipe instructed me to “whip” some whipping cream, then fold it in. Now, keep in mind that I didn’t grow up with a cooking/baking mom (she was more the restaurant/TV dinner type), but have learned as I go. Soooo, rather than fuss with switching mixing bowls in the mixer, I figured I’d whip up the cream in another bowl. You know, to save myself some trouble.

With a whisk.

It seemed to be taking some time, so I called my friend Lisa to chat and pass the time. As she updated me on the happenings of her household, I whisked harder. The consistency did not seem to be changing. Just how long was this supposed to take? Lisa relayed a story about her pastor. I whisked. Lisa complained about her husband’s snoring. I whisked. Sweat began to bead on my forehead. My bicep burned with the exertion.

“Ow!” I said. “I can’t do this anymore.”

“What on earth are you doing over there?”

“I’m making this dessert and I have to whip the whipping cream so I’m using a whisk…”

“Stop!” At her shout, I nearly dropped the phone. “Just stop what you’re doing right now.”

I looked at the whisk.

“Girlfriend, never try to whip cream with a whisk. Listen to me. Friends don’t let friends use a whisk.”

”I just thought…”

At her insistence, I put the cream in a bowl and the mixer had it whipped into a frenzy in perhaps 30 seconds. Huh. What do ya know?

Many things we can learn by trial and error. But so many times we don’t need to. We can learn from the experience of others. In writing, that means finding mentors, reading books on writing, reading author interviews on Novel Journey (Gina, is it a sin to put a commercial in a devotion?) In our Christian walks it means finding mature Christians to teach us and learning from the many biblical examples God gave us.

We aren’t alone in writing or life. Many have gone before us and learned a wealth of things. Take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

And spare yourself an achy bicep.

Lord, Sometimes I put myself through such trouble because I try to go it alone. What seems easier to me actually results in more work. Thank You for all of the resources You’ve provided to help me grow spiritually and as a writer. Help me be humble enough to ask for the guidance I need. Amen

Friday, July 13, 2007

Christy Awards 2007

The Christy Awards.

I still can't believe we were there. I've been surrounded by CBA authors for several years at different conferences, but having so many in one room at one time was really neat.

Lauren Winner's keynote was inspiring, Michelle McKinney Hammond did a wonderful job introducing everyone and made it clear she wasn't at all bitter that her first novel wasn't nominated.

Executive Director of the Christy's, Donna Kehoe has such a wonderful stage presence. She took the time to personally come up to me and thank the folks of Novel Journey for all we're doing. We'd like to thank her in return for all she's doing to promote excellent Christian fiction through these awards.

What stands out in my mind most about the evening was:
Novel Journey got to interview most of the Christy winners and it was COOL. I mean REALLY COOL. Friends jokingly tell me I'm the Barbara Walters of the CBA and I felt that way as I sat on a leather bench with a beautiful water fountain backdrop, asking whatever question of these lovely authors that popped into my warped mind.

(MaryLu: I really did know the name of your novel was THE REDEMPTION and not Pirates of the Carribean. Beverly: I'm glad your characters weren't telling you to hurt me.
You all get the picture of the fun we had with the authors. )

So often with what we're doing here at Novel Journey, we look around and say, how did we get here? Any day they're going to figure out we're the equivolent of Wayne's World and kick us out. Instead, we're treated like media royalty and loved on in the true spirit of Christ.

If I end up writing for the ABA, I will always have a special love for the CBA because of the people here and their heart for God. They will know us by our love is one of my favorite verses. CBA authors: Your love is so transparent. Not one head had a hard time fitting through the doors to those awards as far as I could tell. You are a truly remarkable bunch and I feel so blessed to call many of you friends.

Another highlight was seeing my friend Dee Stewart who I adore more and more. Her smile lit the room. Ane and I decided to be goofy in a couple of pictures and Dee didn't pretend she didn't know us but played along. (Major brownie points!) There's something to be said about people you can be your goofy self with.

A few other highlights were meeting Randy Alcorn. Safely Home is tied with Redeeming Love and Peace Like a River for my favorite novel of all time. If you haven't read it, oh my, you need to. It's a life-changing experience.

Randy is so unassuming. If you ever get a chance to find out about his ministry, Eternal Perspectives, do. Read his story. It is AMAZING. I want to be like him when I grow up (though I secretly pray I never actually do ... grow up that is.

I got to chat with Austin Boyd, as I've said before, and meet his lovely family. Austin's spirit is so sweet. He's humble and kind, and an enthusiastic cheerleader for others. He has on many occassions sung Novel Journey's praises and we appreciate him. Austin has very exciting projects he's working on. I can't wait to chat with him about them, "on air".

Austin isn't the only one whose spirit I admire. I absolutely love Lisa Samson's work. I think she's genious. But as much as I'm a fan of her work, I'm even more a fan of her. She is kind, down to earth and tender-hearted. It was awesome to chat with her at the Christy's, even if I made a buffoon of myself by discussing undergarments. (Believe me, you don't want to know.)

So much about the evening was magical and again, thanks to Jeane Wynn of Wynn-Wynn media for having Novel Journey there.

Tim Downs

Deanne Gist

Robin Jones Gunn

Beverly Lewis

Tracy Groot

Jamie Turner

Keynote: Lauren Winner (author of: Girl Meets God)

Life-Time Acheivment Award recipient, Phyllis Tickle

Christy Awards Executive Director: Donna Kehoe

Michelle McKinney Hammond (Emcee for the night)

(Photos courtesy of Wynn-Wynn Media)