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Friday, June 29, 2007

This past week, Bonnie Calhoun was kind enough to chat via the phone with me as I added PC protection and cleaners on my computer. (Alas, it was running slow.) She showed me new software to combine with my old ones. So this week, I thought I'd pass on the information. After all, we all use our computers for writing.

(And for those with Macs, feel free to leave a comment razzing us PC users. :-P)

Here's a good checklist for those looking to speed things up or test their virus protection.

To remove infections of Trojans, Spyware, Adware, Worms, Keyloggers, Rootkits, Dialers and other malicious programs
A-Squared has a free program.

This one is my favorite.
CCleaner removes unused files from your system - allowing Windows to run faster and freeing up valuable hard disk space. It also cleans traces of your online activities such as your Internet history.

Ad-Aware 2007 free anti-spyware version provides you with advanced protection against spyware that secretly attaches and takes control of your computer, resulting in aggressive advertising pop-ups, sluggish computer activity, even identity theft through stolen bank details, passwords, and credit card account numbers.

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition is one of the most popular solutions to provide basic security protection on home and non-commercial PCs.

So there you have it! Hope someone benefits from them like I did.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Timeless or Literary? Semantics Count, by Mary E. DeMuth

Mary DeMuth began her writing career as a newsletter editor, then novelist, columnist and freelance writer. She lives in Texas with her husband and three children. Her newest release, Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture: Practical Help for Shaping Your Children's Hearts, Minds, and Souls, hits shelves July 1, 2007.

I have good friends. One such amazing friend is D'Ann who loves me well, dares to speak the truth to me, and shoulders my burdens in prayer.
Recently I asked a group about including a literary track at a conference.

Later, I realized this word, literary, is a divisive word, and can sound elitist. D'Ann helped me unpack literary and helped me see it really wasn't the word I was after.

The thesaurus says:
Literary: bookish, literate, scholarly, erudite, cerebral, formal, artistic, stuffy

"Timelessness," D'Ann said. "You want to write something that becomes a classic."

I resonated with her words. I thought back over the books that had become classics over the past century. While some would definitely be placed in the literary genre, many were popular books, well written, that spoke deeply to the human condition.

There is a universal quality about timeless books--something in the storytelling that resonates with a broad spectrum of people. Consider the synonyms of timeless and classic:
Timeless: eternal, never ending, everlasting, ageless, perpetual, immortal, undying
Classic: excellent, model, exemplary, extraordinary, vintage, standard, prototype

I used to say I wrote Southern Literary Drama. Now I'm not so sure. It would be stuck-up to say, "Um, well, yeah. I write classics--timeless books, you know." How presumptuous! But internally, this is something I'm aiming for. I believe many novelists aim for this. Who doesn't want a story that is ageless and extraordinary? Who doesn't want to write characters that startle the reader enough to stay with her the rest of her life?

Scout and Jem play in the sweaty South in my mind. Huckleberry Finn's in there too, paddling. Stephen Dedalus haunts me still. Pip, Lennie Small, Anne with an E, Jo. They're classics. They're timeless.

But how do we do that? How does Scout enliven a page as she did? Because she lived in the mind of Harper Lee, a woman who took the craft so seriously, she couldn't bring herself to write again, for fear of not measuring up to Scout's reputation. We hold the characters in our minds, but they live through our fingers. And they breathe through our stories. Weaving it all together in a beautiful prose tapestry takes time.

Maybe that's the kicker. Time. To write words that become timeless, we need to stop, breathe, wrestle, and take our words slowly. I'm writing a novel right now, and although I'm having the time of my life, every time I go back through yesterday's words, I shudder. Because there's so much to do. So many nuances to invoke. So much characterization needed to do to morph my characters from simple to complex, from out-on-their-sleeves to subtle and nuanced.

Maybe our discussions should form more around what makes good literature timeless. Maybe the word literary is too pithy and stuck up. Maybe it divides. And maybe it's not what we're after anyway.

Author Interview ~ Annette Smith

Annette Smith lives in East Texas with Randy, her husband of 28 years. She began writing in 1997, and has authored twelve books. Annette's first release, The Whispers of Angels, has sold over 110,000 copies. Her novel credits include the Coming Home to Ruby Prairie trilogy and two books in the Eden Plain series. When she's not writing, Annette serves as a full time hospice nurse.

Plug time. What new book or project do you have coming out?

I’m currently enjoying readers’ responses to A Bigger Life, which released a few months ago.

Coming up is my next project, A Crooked Path, which releases in September. This book chronicles the story of Mexican immigrant Manny Ortega and his relationship with chronically ill ranch owner Owen Green. Manny’s story, told in first person, deals with racism, class issues, and the power of unconditional love, grace, and forgiveness.

How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific 'what if' moment?

I’ve been writing for ten years. A Bigger Life is my eleventh book, my fourth novel. Writing is difficult for me. I generally struggle and fret my way through. Not so with A Bigger Life. The way this book came to me feels like a gift.

Two and a half years ago, at my young adult daughter’s insistence that I do something about my hair, I visited a new salon. That day marked the beginning of an unusual relationship between me, a middle-aged, church-going wife and mom, and Paul C., a 27-year-old hair stylist sporting a shaved head and multiple tattoos. As he cut and colored my hair, Paul shared with me snippets of his poignant story..

As I listened to him talk, I was moved by the way Paul spoke from a place of such brokenness and grief. He was the single dad of a three-year-old little boy whose mother had died two months before. Devoid of self-pity, his words stunned me with their transparency and truth.

Paul’s voice resonated so strongly with me, I could not wait to get him on paper. As soon as I arrived home from the salon, I began writing the first chapter of A Bigger Life. While in no way a factual account of his life, Paul’s spirit and voice are on every page. Since that first meeting, he and I have become friends. Coming from such different places we learn so much from each other. My life is richer because of him.

A Bigger Life is told in the first person male voice. How did you manage to pull that off?

I love it when people tell me they can’t believe the book was written by a woman. I never thought about writing in the male voice, but this one (as well as my next book) came to me in that way.

I seem to have a knack for hearing the way people talk. I’m a terrible eavesdropper. There’s not much I enjoy more than listening in on people’s public conversations. I also am intrigued by the world of men, how they think and reason, how they view women and relationships.

As I was writing this book, I would imagine my friend Paul saying the words of my main character. It was as if he was sitting next to me talking. And so I wrote as I heard.

I also had two good male friends, as well as my husband, read my manuscript. Their comments and input helped so much. I was blessed to have Jeff Gerke edit this project. He’s the one who pointed out that a man would be unlikely to take notice of a beautiful woman’s shoes.

NJ: To read a review of A Bigger Life, click here.

Tell us about your publishing journey. How long had you been writing before you got a contract? How did you find out and what went through your mind?

My journey is not typical. Though I’d always loved to read and had excelled in writing papers and such in school, I never thought about becoming a writer. To me that would be akin to having aspirations of modeling or singing in a famous rock band. Impossible!

However, in 1996, I began to dabble a bit, writing short stories and essays. I showed my work, about fifteen pages total, to a writer friend and she showed it to an editor at Harvest House. That editor happened to be Chip Macgregor. He liked my work enough to contract my first and best-selling book to date, The Whispers of Angels. Chip became a real supporter of my work, eventually serving as my agent for a time. I consider him a good friend.

I’ll never forget the thrill of the arrival of that first case of books. I knelt on my kitchen floor and sliced through the packing tape with a butter knife. I couldn’t believe someone had actually published my book. I still can’t.

Do you ever struggle with writer's block? If so, how do you overcome it?

The best cure for writer’s block is a contract. The pressure of knowing I’ve committed myself is usually enough to keep my seat in my seat. On days when it’s really difficult, I may spend time editing the previous days’ work rather than producing new pages.

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?

Plot is most difficult for me. Characters, voice, and dialogue are easy. It’s figuring out what these interesting folks are going to do that’s a challenge.

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

I have a sunny room at the back of my house that I use for my office. It’s actually a converted carport, a bit hot in the summer and chilly in the winter, but with windows on three sides, the view of my tree-filled back yard is gorgeous.

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

When I begin a new project, I divide my word count by the number of weeks I have available to work. Then I break that down further to get the number of words I need to write each day. I’m forever getting behind which means that several times during the process, I end up redoing the math and upping my needed word count. Ideally, I can do about four pages a day.

I wish I could write for long stretches of time but I can’t. I may work for thirty-minutes to an hour, then I’m up doing something in the house for awhile before coming back to my computer.

What does a typical day look like for you?

In addition to writing, I work as a hospice nurse. I must fit my writing around my nursing schedule. So I’m very flexible. I wedge writing time in where I can. Every day is different. I’m most creative in the early mornings, but when I work a late night shift, my early mornings are spent under the covers. A girl’s got to sleep.

It helps that my children are grown and away from home and I have the world’s most low-maintenance husband. He’s supportive of my work and loves Sonic burgers. Am I blessed or what?

Take us through your process of writing a novel briefly—from conception to revision.

I don’t write right. I’m an intuitive, seat-of-the pants writer. No outlining. No plotting. I simply sit down and begin, editing as I go. Once my story is finished, I’ll read through and edit as many times as needed to smooth the rough edges. I strive to turn in as clean a manuscript as possible.

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

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith
The Education of Little Tree, by Forrest Carter
Ellen Foster, by Kaye Gibbons
Never Change, by Elizabeth Berg

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

Don’t compare yourself to others. There are many definitions of success. There is no one right career path. Write only those stories you are passionate to tell.

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

I wish I’d studied the craft of novel writing before I landed my first novel contract. My first novel has lots of flaws. If I’d put in my time studying technique, it would have been a much better book.

How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?

Not enough. Marketing is extremely difficult for me. I loathe self promotion. I have a website and I blog, but not nearly as faithfully as I should. I do speak to library and reading groups. I’m available by phone for book clubs.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

Be a listener. Focus on being interested rather than interesting. People have amazing stories to tell. Consider yourself the recipient of a precious gift when someone blesses you with theirs.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Guest Blogger ~ Tamera Alexander

TAMERA ALEXANDER is the bestselling author of Rekindled, Revealed, and Remembered, the three-part Fountain Creek Chronicles historical series with Bethany House Publishers. Rekindled, a CBA bestseller, has won critical acclaim and was chosen as one of Library Journal’s Top 5 Picks for Christian Fiction 2006. Rekindled and Revealed triple-finaled in the 2007 RITA® Awards sponsored by Romance Writers of America—Rekindled and Revealed for Best Inspirational Novel, and Rekindled for Best First Novel. She and her husband make their home in Tennessee with their two college-age children, and a seven-pound Silky named Jack.

Her most recent release, Remembered, is in stores now and garnered the following starred review from Library Journal: *This follow-up to Rekindled and Revealed is a rich historical romance by possibly the best new writer in this sub-genre… Descriptive prose and memorable characters set within an engrossing love story make this an essential read for those who like 19th-century Western romances with faith subtly interwoven throughout.

Tamera is currently working on her fourth novel, part of her second three-book historical series with Bethany House which is set in the Colorado Territory. She’ll be presenting a workshop on Dissecting a Novel at the ACFW Conference in Dallas in September. You can visit Tamera’s website and her blog.

Thanks for asking me to guest blog on Novel Journey today, Ane. I’m excited to be with you guys. I was recently asked a question by a fellow writer which led to a longer discourse between us on learning to write novels, so I thought I’d share some of what we discussed here.

She asked, “What’s the best thing you’ve done to learn how to write novels?” Invariably, I answer…by reading them!

1. Learn from your favorites—

One of the ways in which I’ve learned to write novels (and continue to learn) is by reading them. By taking them apart, piece by piece. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read a ton of great “how to” books (and have listed some of my favorites below), but I’ve learned the greatest and most lasting lessons from reading other’s work. From finding what works and what doesn’t. How did the author get me to cry on page 28 or laugh out loud on page 47? Or have me gripping my afghan in a strangle hold? All veracious readers have favorite novels that resonate with them, that they’ve read time after time. The next time you reread one of your favorites, try looking more closely at:

*Point of View (Note how many POVs the writer used, how they used POV to deepen characterization, are the transitions smooth and fluid?)

*Characterization (Did you already care about the characters after only two or three pages? Did the author plant a burning question(s) in those pages that kept you reading?)

*Pacing (Is the plot quick-moving? Does it keep you turning the pages? If yes, what hooks did the author use and where were they placed? How long are their chapters?)

Reading a novel as a writer is far different than reading it as a reader. In the Wizard of Oz when the professor is in fear of being found out, he cries out, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” But when you read to learn, you very much want to pay attention—to everything that “man (or woman) behind the curtain” is doing.

Suggested Reading for Writers:

Stein on Writing by Sol Stein

How to Grow a Novel by Sol Stein

Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell

Getting Into Character by Brandilyn Collins

Goal, Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass

Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain

Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King

2. Join a professional writing organization—

If you’re a writer of Christian fiction and you’ve never attended a Christian Writers’ Conference, please try to work it into your budget and your schedule this year. I’m part of American Christian Fiction Writers and our annual conference is coming up in September in Dallas. James Scott Bell is the keynote speaker (he’s a master of teaching fiction writing), and there are comprehensive sessions for all levels of writers. The training I’ve received from ACFW has made all the difference in my writing—and in my being published. You can find more information about this professional writer’s group and their annual conference at ACFW.

3. Find a writing partner—

Finding a compatible writing partner has been one of the greatest joys in my writing career, and one of the greatest helps in relation to accountability in writing. She and I critique each others first drafts before we submit them to our editors, and she’s helped me to grow in my writing—both in my voice and in my technique. We’re pretty brutal with each other. We both know we enjoy each other’s work so while we do try and remember to point out the “what’s working” in our first drafts, we never shy from speaking the truth in love—no matter how much rewriting is involved.

You say, “Sure I’d love to find a great writing partner, but how?” Attending Christian conferences is a great way to facilitate that because you’ll be around a lot of other writers who desire to hone their writing skills too. Many organizations (ACFW among them) has critique groups you can join. I’ve been involved with two successful critique groups in the past and so appreciate those journeys. Pray about it. Ask God to direct you to that person or persons, in his timing, and in his way. Don’t force it. Let it come naturally and from him.

4. Never forget that I have a lot to learn—

Writing is a process. Just as a book may be months or even years in the making, so the skill of writing takes time to be honed, to be polished to a sheen. We can all learn from anyone, if our perspectives are right.

Something that has helped me in every stage of my writing career has been knowing this—nothing happens to me that doesn’t first filter through the loving hands of my heavenly Father. Nothing. He’s known since the beginning of time how many books I would write in my lifetime. It may be six, it may be twenty-six. But no matter the number, I want to be centered in the middle of his will for my life. And while I’m critiquing at conferences or partnering with another writer over a manuscript, I always pray God’s will for their life, whatever that is. How could we want any more or less?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Award Series: RITA

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.

Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet wasn't the first play ever written in the romance genre. Elizabeth Barrett Browning rehashed old ground when she counted the ways of love in her famous sonnet. The basic Cinderella story appears, in one form or another, in early folk tales from many far-flung cultures.

Perhaps Eve recited the first love story when she told her children how God created her especially for Adam. Indeed, the Bible has a great deal to say about love, but the books of Ruth and The Song of Solomon stand out as classics of great romance literature. In any culture, language or historical setting, rare is the story, poem, song, play or movie in which the theme of love does not course through its veins, giving it life.

Small wonder, then, that today, romantic fiction is a $1.2 billion industry in the U.S. and comprises the largest of the fiction genres. And the Romance Writers of America's awards for excellence in this crowded field represent the heart of it.

According to the RWA, a "romance novel" is defined as containing two essential elements: a central love story, and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending. The main plot must concern two people falling in love and struggling to make a relationship work, though any number of subplots may be interwoven through this general theme. Based upon the idea that lovers who struggle for their relationship are rewarded, it leaves the reader feeling good when she comes to the end. "Category" romances are short, released in monthly and in order, with a series number in each title. These are usually published by Harlequin/Silhouette, and are often called Harlequin romances. A "single-title" romance is not part of any numbered series and is usually published by one of approximately ten New York City publishers.

Although the RWA gives a number of related service and industry awards, their annual RITA® is the highest award of excellence for romance fiction. Each year, one winner in each of several categories strides proudly to the podium to accept a golden statuette, similar in appearance to an Oscar and named for the RWA’s first president, Rita Clay Estrada.

The thirteen categories: Best First Book, Best Contemporary Single Title Romance, Best Inspirational Romance, Best Long Contemporary Romance, Best Short Contemporary Romance, Best Long Historical Romance, Best Romantic Novella, Best Paranormal Romance, Best Romantic Suspense, Best Short Contemporary Romance, Best Short Historical Romance, Novel with Strong Romantic Elements, and Best Traditional Romance. In 2007, however, no award will be given for Best Short Contemporary Romance, due to lack of qualifying entries.

Each fall, authors and editors submit more than 1,000 romance novels published that year. The judges, all published romance writers themselves, begin the process of critiquing and ranking the entrants. Finalists are named in mid-spring of the following year, and the winners are announced at the "RITA® and Golden Heart® Awards Ceremony and Gala" on the final night of RWA's Annual National Conference in mid-July.

Have you polished up a romance that you're sure is a winner, but you haven't yet found a publisher? If so, you might be interested in the Golden Heart® award mentioned above. Entries are made by the writers themselves. A panel of five RWA members reads and rates the entries, and the finalists are judged by romance editors. Because of the wide exposure winning novels receive, the manuscripts are usually sold by the authors for publishing purposes. For more information, check out the RWA website at,/ , or you may contact Nicole Kennedy at RWA Public Relations at

Just about everybody loves a romance, and most of us love a happy ending. What could be a happier ending than to hear your name announced at next July's conference

Bane of the Soft Critic

Mike’s stories have appeared in Relief Journal, Forgotten Worlds, Alienskin, and Dragons, Knights and Angels, with articles in The Matthew’s House Project and Relevant Magazine. He was also 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. Mike has written an unpublished novel entitled What Faith Awakes and is currently at work on a second. You can visit him at

“I survived Catholic school,” or so said the bumper sticker on the car ahead of me. I had to chuckle because I did – survive Catholic school, that is. Nine years of it. In fact, not only did I survive Catholic school, I thrived there. By the time I entered the public school system in 9th grade, I was way ahead of my peers. Why were these kids so dumb, I thought? The answer was simple – they didn’t get their knuckles whacked enough.

Back then, corporal punishment was not politically incorrect. Not only did Dad freely use his belt when my grades dipped below acceptable, Sister Terence wielded a mean ruler. Gifted in the art of ear-twisting, she could wrench the lobe with such force so as to bring a schoolboy to his knees. Between the belt and the ruler, I found sufficient motivation to maintain my GPA. So yeah, I survived Catholic school, and I’m better off for it.

Yet, little did I know, Sister Terence followed me. Several years back, I was invited to join a critique group. It was my first. Things went well until I submitted my first piece. And there she was – lurking, ruler in hand, stern eye cast upon my paltry prose. She went by many names – Ane, Gina, Jessica – but she didn’t fool me. It was Sister T! Her motivation was pure and her mission singular: to make me a better writer. Nevertheless, this knowledge did not soften the sting. That first year was a carousel of knuckle raps and ear twists. Had I been a less seasoned soul, I’d have run from the drubbing, like so many do. But Sister Terence had my best in mind, and I’ve got the welts to prove it.

Samuel Rutherford declared, “O, what owe I to the file, to the hammer, to the furnace of my Lord Jesus!” Character is not without cost. Likewise, the skilled writer is one who pays the price, one who endures “the file, the hammer and the furnace” of critique. In fact, the better it is, the more painful and pointed. Like that ruler, good critique demands immediate attention and, in the end, we owe much to those who wield it well.

However, not all writers appreciate the hard critic.

Recently, a newer member of our group was offended by a critique of their work. From my perspective, the observations in question were not unfounded, nor mean-spirited. They were honest – blunt but genuine. Nevertheless, the author huffed off, hot and bothered, by what they perceived as non-niceties. And they will not be returning. It led to a discussion about the need for honesty. It’s better to give a hard crit, we agreed, than to be disingenuous. We can’t be stroking each other at the expense of good writing. In fact, one of the gals used this analogy: “It’s like asking someone how a new pair of jeans looks on me, and then being offended when they tell me my butt looks big in them.”

A bad crit group is one who will never tell you your butt looks big in those jeans.

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Proverbs 27:6 KJV). Alas, how many Christian critique groups are filled with deceitful kisses? “You’re destined for publication,” says one. “Any day now,” says another. And the capper: “You’re the next Kingsbury / Grisham / Rowling / Picoult (fill in the blank).” No wonder so many authors quell at hard critiques – they haven’t got their knuckles whacked enough.
Perhaps we would produce better writers were we not so concerned about “wounding” them. Of course, this is not to condone nastiness and nit-pickiness, as though our advice is infallible. But the road to publication is hardly a cake walk. How in the world will we ever endure the meticulous bean counters and editorial boards if we can’t endure the hard critique of a friend?

“As iron sharpens iron,” said the wise man. “So one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17 NIV). Clay cannot sharpen iron. Jello cannot sharpen iron. Iron sharpens iron! And when those elements meet, the sparks fly. Good relationships, like good critics, create friction. Thus, the best critic is the hard one, the one who doesn’t bend, the one who tells the truth, the one who grates against your rough edges.

And maybe that’s the divide – the divide between the hard critic and the soft critic, and the authors who gravitate to the one or the other.

While the hard critic may wound or offend, she also sharpens. The soft critic, on the other hand, strokes, placates and coddles the hypersensitive author. In proportion that praise pleases someone, criticism will grieve them. It’s no wonder that some writers are offended so easily – when you live in an echo chamber, contrary points of view are offensive. The writer who avoids “the hammer, the file and the furnace,” who forever seeks flattery, is doomed to mediocrity. Soft writing is the bane of the soft critic.

Sister Terence is not a soft critic, but she’s the best critic you will ever have. Yes, she will leave your ears rosy and your knuckles numb. But if you remain in that furnace, embrace the belt and the ruler, your writing will sharpen. Every good crit group should have a Sister T. Just don’t ask her if your butt looks big in those pants, because she’ll definitely tell you.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sunday Devotion- The Ten Commandments for Writers, #6

Janet Rubin

Deuteronomy 5:17 "You shall not murder."

You shall not murder? This might be a tough command for our suspense and mystery writers! How can people like western writer Stephen Bly, who lives by the words, "If the plot drags, shoot someone," possibly obey ole number six? What about suspence novelist Brandilyn Collins? She's always dreaming up new ways to off people.

Is it okay to kill people in your stories? I sure hope so; Jesus did it. Remember the one about the wicked vinedressers who decided to kill the vinyard owner's son and take his inheritance? "So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him." The story about the Good Samaritan contained violence. Jesus told stories that would touch people's hearts and reveal truth. I suppose for us today it's more a matter of motivation. Whether we are writing the "right" story is a very personal and difficult question. We are responsible for the words we send out into the world. When we manipulate people's emotions with our stories, when we scare them or disturb them, we need to be prayerful about the purpose. What is the truth being revealed?

Of greater concern to God- I think- is what we feel in our hearts toward other people. Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment." And 1 John 3:15 says, "Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him."

Uh oh.

You mean the violent, angry thoughts I had the last time my crit partner tore apart my chapter were equivalent to murder? The way I fantasize about making a dart board out of a picture of that editor who so rudely rejected me? The hateful reaction you had to a critical review or nasty reader letter? The anger toward the family member who thinks this whole writing thing is a waste of time? Or the friend who just got a contract before you did (and she/he isn't even as good as you!) We'll always have opportunities to let our anger lead to hate, which Jesus says is just as good as murder. He wants us to make a better choice.

When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus said this: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matt. 22:37-40)

Lord, We are emotional people. And perhaps, being writers, we are an especially sensitive and insecure lot. We get hurt easily, offended, discouraged, and jealous. Please be the God of our emotions. Fill us with your Holy Spirit and enable us to love and forgive. We want to love others because You first loved us. Amen.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Happenings in the Book World

This week, I'm reporting in on the unusual. has an interesting article on why they think books fail as movies. I'm not sure I agree with this one as there are lots of great examples of books to movies (To Kill a Mocking Bird, Anne of Green Gables, A River Runs Through It to name a few.) But they do bring up interesting points about the lengths of books and the lengths of screenplays. Their viewpoint on how book dialogue doesn't translate to movie dialogue was interesting. I know that at home I used closed captions just to "see" the dialogue. To read this article,
click here.]

Does anyone reading this own a tiny book? I've seen bibles about the size of a quarter in Cracker Barrel and my only copy of Alice and Wonderland is 3 inches by 3 inches. Apparently small books have been a part of culture for thousands of years. Check out this video:

This week The Guardian had a report on the new online places for books. This article is worth your time (as is a visit to the links posted within.) [
Click Here] to read Victor Keegan's article, It's a new online chapter for books

This story is the most bizarre. A hacker has claimed to have discovered the ending of Harry Potter by hacking into Bloomsbury's system through e-mail and reading the ending of the series. As the article states he stated, "The attack strategy was the easiest one. It's amazing to see how much people inside the company have copies and drafts of this book." Supposedly the reasons were religious. To read this article, [
Click Here]

Thursday, June 21, 2007

From Inside the Bookstore

Our bookstore has been open now for nearly six weeks. During that time, it's been a pleasure to meet some of the local authors, and I thought for this post it would be interesting to make some observations about how authors make their introductions to bookstores.

Before I go on, let me state I work in a small independent bookstore, so I wouldn’t take this article as advice, but rather as one person's observations.

I've noticed a multi-fold approach. Type A author calls the store, asks to speak to whomever is in charge of book signings, introduces themselves, and asks for a time to meet with that person.

Type B walks into the store. Depending upon circumstances, they will either walk around and then approach someone to tell them they've written a book, or they'll skip the browsing and go straight to the person.

And then there's a Type C—everybody else. There's no telling how you'll find out they're a local author. Two examples immediately come to mind. The first was a woman we almost missed. She was browsing books but was on her way out the door when the owner stopped to talk to her. He learned she had a book published and frequently is on NPR. The second is my favorite story. Two ladies were browsing through our books and I heard one of them gasp in excitement. A children's book was withdrawn from the shelf and one of them hugged it to her chest. She looked at me and said, "Thank you so much for carrying my book." She was so sincere, that she instantly won me over. I took her information to set up a book signing in the future. She's also the only author who's purchased a book from us thus far. It's amazing how much that simple gesture says.

What's interesting is that 9 times out of 10 the person doesn't have a copy of their book with them. Neither do they have a business card. This includes the authors who set up an appointment. Maybe this isn't unusual, but I find it very strange that they fail to bring a copy of their own book to an appointment.

So far, every author (except one) that I've asked to send me a bio, for my press release to local media, hasn't done it. Neither have they sent me Q&A about their book or themselves, despite their promise that they would.

This surprises me.

Lastly, I applaud the authors who follow up and continue to politely call and e-mail after a tentative agreement for a book signing has been set. I can see where as an author I would grow discouraged if a bookstore never set the date, but from the bookstore's pov, there's so much going on that I can see how unless someone reintroduces the subject, it could keep getting shoved back.

I'm really curious to learn what your experiences with bookstores have been. How do you approach a local bookstore? Would you bring a copy of book with you? How much work do you put into a book signing as the author?

Author Interview ~ Lynn Emery

Lynn sold her first novel in 1995 to Kensington publishing for their groundbreaking Arabesque line. NIGHT MAGIC went on to be recognized for Excellence in Romance Fiction for 1995 by Romantic Times Magazine. Her third novel, AFTER ALL, became a movie produced by BET and aired on December 3, 1999. Holly Robinson Peete was the female lead as Michelle Toussaint, an investigative television reporter. In 2004 Lynn won three coveted Emma Awards. She was chosen Author of the Year and her novel KISS LONELY GOODBYE won Best Novel and Favorite Hero.

A native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Lynn writes after work and on weekends. Flagging energy does not present a problem. “I began to write when I was eleven years old and I won’t ever stop. That tough little kid inside me who dreamed of holding her own book won’t hear of it. Let me tell you she cracks the whip!”

Plug time. What new book or project do you have coming out?

My current book in bookstores is Soulful Strut, HarperTorch, Nov. 2006. I have a website devoted to my fictional novels.

I don’t have a fiction book coming out, but I’m writing a mystery novel right now. Since this is a new genre for me I’m taking a big leap of faith away from romance/women’s fiction. It’s like starting over and I’ll have to sell it as though I don’t have a track record. Scary and exciting at the same time.

My recent book is a very big departure for me. Be Encouraged- Words of Sunlight For the Soul is a small inspirational non-fiction book that incorporates my faith with my experience as a clinical social worker dealing with people who are in emotional pain. Be Encouraged is available at
Amazon good news and inspirational commentary. A new feature is now interviews with Christian and inspirational authors.

How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific 'what if' moment?

I came up with the characters first, a twist on the amateur detective and sidekick story line. I first thought of the main Character Willa Crown and then came up with the character MiMi Landry who would eventually become her sidekick. The character and story of a recent widow came to me while I was watching television one night, a news story. Then I did a twist to it made her late husband actually her estranged late husband. From there I developed the twist that I hope will make this book stand out and sell to an editor.

Tell us about your publishing journey. How long had you been writing before you got a contract? How did you find out and what went through your mind?

I sold my first book, but I had been writing since childhood. Way back in 1993 I went to my first writers conference ever. I pitched the book I was working on to Monica Harris, the editor and creator of the Arabesque line of African-American romances. She requested the proposal and offered me a contract about four weeks later.

My call came while I was at work. In fact I had worked late, got home, hit the button on the answering machine then walked off to get settled in. When I heard, “This is Monica Harris of Kensington Publishing and I’d like to buy your book” I ran back into my office, played her message three times then jumped around screaming

Do you ever struggle with writer's block? If so, how do you overcome it?

I have had short bouts of writers block once or twice. I deal with it by resting, taking a break from writing and just indulging my passionate curiosity about all kinds of things. An observer might say I’m goofing off, but the wonderful thing about being a writer is you’re always at work. Without fail I’ve gotten fresh ideas or inspiration just doing what I love – reading, watching television, visiting museums, riding around looking at old houses etc. I love The History Channel, The Discovery Channel, Court TV and movies.

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?

The most difficult part for me is getting the editorial letter. I always dread it! I write this way – mentally I don’t consider what I’m writing as a rough draft. I write as though once I finish the last scene I have to print it out and send it to a publishing house. I don’t write and say, “I’ll fix that or change this or flesh that out later.” So once I write, edit, do revisions and send it off I have to mentally and emotionally prepare myself to make changes. When I tell you I groan and moan when those comments come back, that is an understatement. But I always make myself “get over it” because those comments are to help me write the best book I can.

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

I have a small home office set up with overflowing book shelves, reference materials piled up on a table in easy reach and lots of other stuff (and I really need to straighten this place up! LOL)

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

When I’m on contract I write 5 pages a day, that’s my goal.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I have a day job, so my writing life begins when I get home. Usually after having dinner, watching the news and a few precious minutes of being a couch potato I start writing by 7 pm. I stop around 9-9:30 pm.

Take us through your process of writing a novel briefly—from conception to revision.

Sorry, I don’t have one process. I have a big folder of “stuff” such as news articles, catalogs and more that have planted seeds for future ideas. Occasionally I actually use this “stuff”. But typically when I have an idea I outline the story, building it as more ideas pop into my head.

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

Love and Dust, A Lesson Before Dying and A Gathering of Old Men all by Ernest Gaines. The Far Pavilions, It’s In His Kiss (romance) by Reon Laudat, The Rainmaker by John Grisham. I could go on for paragraphs because I love books.

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

Two things, “You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate” and the best way to sell a book is to write the best book you can. The only thing you can control in this business is the quality of your writing; everything else is in some else’s hands.

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

In writing – I should have spent less time on promotion and more time keeping up with what other authors were writing. I became so busy with deadlines, day job and promoting that I couldn’t read nearly as many books as I had before. That would have made me a far better writer, the kind of writer I want to be.

How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?

I’ve done a lot of marketing, interviews, appearances, etc. I can’t say if any one thing worked best, but I believe that a combination of a lot of the things I did helped.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

Yes, just to repeat that despite appearances writers only control the quality of the next book. Put that first because after selling it’s easy to get sidetracked by the attention, pursuing promotional opportunities and figuring out ways to increase your “market share”.

I’d like to say, “I did X, Y, Z and it led to a movie being made based on my books” or “I had connections and got this opportunity.” Not so. I’m not a Christian fiction author, but I am a Christian. God gave me the talent and passion to write. His blessings flowed from that talent- twelve novels sold, three awards, a made for television movie and wonderful readers who have shared how much they enjoyed my novels. What I have came from Him. It is his to take back, increase or change as He sees fit. I always remember to thank Him when I finish a book.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Author Interview ~ Terri Blackstock

Terri Blackstock's books have increased her sales to over five million copies. She has over thirty Christian titles, many of which have been number one best-sellers. Her most recent best-sellers include Last Light and Night Light, Books 1 and 2 in her Restoration Series. Book 3, True Light, will release in June of 2007.

Terri has appeared on national television programs such as "The 700 Club" and "Home Life," and has been a guest on numerous radio programs across the country. The story of her personal journey appears in books such as Touched By the Savior by Mike Yorkey, True Stories of Answered Prayer by Mike Nappa, Faces of Faith by John Hanna, and I Saw Him In Your Eyes by Ace Collins.

What new book or project do you have coming out?

TRUE LIGHT, Book 3 in my Restoration Series, will be in stores any day now. Here’s a blurb about it that will go out in my newsletter next week: TRUE LIGHT continues the story of the global power outage and the trials of the Branning family, who are learning what it means to put others’ needs before their own. This book focuses on Mark Green, a character in LAST LIGHT and NIGHT LIGHT. As the son of a convicted murderer, Mark Green already has one strike against him. But when his teenaged friend is shot, Mark is considered the suspect. Swept into a broken justice system, Mark finds that his one true ally is Deni Branning, who won’t rest until Mark’s name is cleared.

When I began writing this book, I felt that God wanted it to have a theme of forgiveness. We Christians love to use that word, and we all think that we have a great capacity for it. After all, if Christ died for us while we were yet sinners, how dare we not forgive others? But what does true forgiveness look like? This is the question I explored as I wrote Mark’s story. I have to admit I grew quite attached to him as he showed me the strength of his character despite all adversity. No wonder Deni’s falling in love!

How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific 'what if' moment?

Actually, the idea for the Restoration Series came to me after Y2K (the year 2000). We were making all these preparations for the catastrophe we were told would come, and I began thinking about writing a television series in which technology crashed, and people had to learn to live without all the modern conveniences. When the year 2000 came and went without problems, I thought the idea was obsolete.

But it wouldn’t leave me. It germinated in my mind for years, and finally I realized that I could bring about the same situation with a series of electromagnetic pulses. And I pictured this family that would be featured throughout the books—the Brannings, who are upper middle-class, and live in a 4000 square foot house with all the bells and whistles—who are suddenly without electricity, air conditioning, computers, televisions, telephones, cars, etc.

I began to research how this could come about, and I learned that a nuclear bomb exploding in the upper atmosphere could knock out all technology in an entire region of the country. Once I knew it could happen, I changed the crisis so that it was an act of God rather than man. The question that prompted the series was this: What might God do to get our attention? America is so spoiled and self-indulgent. How could God purify and refine us to make us lean more on Him. Would we be better or worse because of this crisis?

It was fun to write about this spoiled family finding their way, growing closer and less selfish, and learning to lean on God as never before. As society declines and crime rises, each book has a suspense/mystery which threatens their lives. The series will have four books, and I’ve just finished the fourth one, DAWN’S LIGHT, which will be out in the spring. The Restoration Series, which began with LAST LIGHT and NIGHT LIGHT, will be more about restoration of the soul than restoration of the power.

Tell us about your publishing journey. How long had you been writing before you got a contract? How did you find out and what went through your mind?

I started writing when I was about twelve and knew that I wanted to do it professionally. I have a BA degree in English, which was a great major for me because it taught me how to organize my thoughts well and use the English language as a tool. It also enabled me to study great literature, and see what makes the classics great.

I wrote my first novel when I was twenty-four, and never sold that one. But by the time I got a rejection, I had written my second one. That one sold when I was twenty-five. I had gotten an agent through a writer’s conference, and she was the one who called to tell me my book had sold. I remember having to sit down on the floor when she called because I was so excited my knees went weak. I finally felt like I could “come out of the closet” as a bona fide writer.

Do you ever struggle with writer's block? If so, how do you overcome it?

I do struggle with writer’s block. I find that the best thing to do for it is to quit writing for a few days and read a great novel. That usually primes the juices so I can get back to work. Also, sometimes it helps for me to change where I’m writing. I’ll often get in my car and go park somewhere, and write in the car. I don’t know why that helps, but it removes me from the distractions at home and helps me to concentrate.

Most of my writer’s block happens during the first draft. I hate first drafts! They’re the hardest part of what I do. I don’t really feel creative until the second draft, and I’ll do umpteen drafts until I just run out of time.

What is the most difficult part of writing for you or was when you first started on your writing journey?

I think one of the most difficult things for me is physical descriptions. I have to put descriptions of people and settings in later drafts, because it doesn’t come naturally for me in the first draft. It’s one of those things I have to consciously work at. I tend to keep character descriptions to a minimum because I want people to use their own imaginations in thinking about them. However, that’s a good excuse for laziness sometimes, so I have to watch that.

What do you think the secret is to writing good suspense?

For me, plotting backward often helps. In other words, figuring out the crime, how it happened, who did it, etc., and then working backward to plot the book. I do an extensive outline, complete with time line, POV characters for a given scene, day of story, date, etc. But it’s important to be flexible as I write. I’ve literally written two drafts of a book, only to change the villain. Then I have to rewrite to make that plausible. I’m constantly asking if the reader will expect what’s happening. If what I’m doing is too predictable, something has to change.

You've hit the best-sellers list numerous times. To what would you attribute your success?

I got into the Christian market at the very beginning of its growth, about twelve years ago. I was one of the first to write Christian suspense novels. The timing couldn’t have been better, and I attribute that directly to God. Since then, I think the number of books I’ve written—over 30 Christian books now, I think, and 32 secular ones before that—has given me name recognition. The books themselves are advertisements for all the others. If you work hard at this doing the best you can for a long period of time, your numbers will increase.

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

I have a dedicated office, but I often write on my laptop in different rooms of the house. I wrote my latest novel lying down after back surgery. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

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

The moment I set a word count or page goal, I get writer’s block. I think I have a very rebellious spirit where that’s concerned. Instead, I’ll decide where I need to be in the story by the end of the next week. I’ll have a general idea that I need the first draft finished by a certain date, so I’ll have time for several more drafts before deadline.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I start each day with Bible study and prayer. Either I’m reading the Bible through, or I’m doing a Precept Bible Study course written by Kay Arthur. (I’m a Precept teacher, so my Bible study is often preparation for my class, too.) After that, I check my email, and then I start writing. I write until around 3:00, usually. When my children were still at home, I wrote during school hours. Now that they’re grown, I keep those hours because they work for me. When I’m coming up on a deadline, I keep longer hours. After work, I run errands, then spend evenings with my husband if it’s not one of the nights I’m at church. It’s actually a pretty boring schedule.

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

“Don’t get it right, get it written.” Years ago when I started out, I would rewrite the first three chapters over and over, and eventually lose interest. I couldn’t finish a book because of that. Then I heard someone say this, and a light bulb came on in my brain. I tried it, and it worked for me. Since then, I write the first draft through without judgment, trying not to let anything mess up my momentum. Then, as I said, I rewrite and rewrite and rewrite, and that’s when I get it “right.”

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

I wish I’d learned earlier not to accept every speaking engagement that came along. I eventually realized that program directors have to have at least twelve speakers a year, and they don’t care who you are. I realized that I was using up much-needed time and energy speaking to these groups who couldn’t care less. Writing was a much better use of my time.

How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?

Writing a great book is the best marketing you can do. I need all of my time and energy for that, so I don’t do much at all except maintain my web site, answer my mail, and do whatever is initiated by my publisher. I do believe in promoting my books in ways that make sense, but I’m careful to weigh each thing and ask myself if it’s something that will waste time or really help get the word out.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

It’s important to “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:3). God gave each of us gifts for the sole purpose of glorifying Him. If we do that, He’ll bless our efforts. If we go after fame and fortune for ourselves, then we’re wasting our gifts.

I think it’s helpful to decide what God intended for you to do with your gift. Was it to lead people to Christ? Was it to encourage those who are suffering? Was it to guide people back to the Bible? What will God get out of this gift He so graciously gave you? Once you decide what your mission statement is, you can run all of your activities—writing, marketing, speaking, traveling, email, church work, etc.— through that filter. It will clear your calendar, and help you focus. And most of all, Christ will be glorified.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Writing Awards Series: The Caldecott Medal

Noel De Vries is a children’s librarian in central Illinois who loves doing all the voices. A homeschool graduate, she is currently studying under the likes of Dante and Shakespeare, while adding to the ever-growing novel in her desk drawer.

Remember Alice ? The girl who followed a white rabbit and tried to have tea and met a caterpillar smoking a hookah? Perhaps most importantly, the girl who asked, “What is the use of a book without pictures?” She would have liked the Caldecott.

It wasn’t until 1937, fifteen years after the Newbery medal was established, that an award was suggested to honor the artists creating distinguished picture books for children. Since then, many of bedtime’s very favorite titles have received the golden sticker: Madeline’s Rescue, Make Way for Ducklings, Where the Wild Things Are, The Polar Express. The popularity of these books may not be due to awards, but for artists, the Caldecott is proof that children’s picture books are as deserving of honor and encouragement as novels are.

Randolph Caldecott would certainly have agreed. One of three influential children's illustrators, including Kate Greenaway, who worked in England in the 19th century, the medal’s namesake created pictures for children that were unique to their time in both humor and their ability to convey a sense of vitality and action that complemented the stories they accompanied.

Some artists, however, such as this year’s Caldecott recipient David Wiesner, throw accompaniment to the wind and take Alice ’s question even further, asking, What is the use of a book with words? Wiesner’s Flotsam, about an underwater camera that provides a boy with surprising views from the bottom of the sea, is completely devoid of text. To tell an enthralling story using only illustrations is truly a feat worth recognizing.

Eligibility for the Caldecott is quite simple. A book must be suitable for young audiences, the original work of an American resident, published in America in the previous year, in English. A selection committee from the American Library Association, comprised of school and public librarians, awards the medal each Spring, paying close attention to the visual experience each book provides.

A distinguished picture book, according to the official definition, exemplifies “excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed; excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept; of appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept; of delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting mood or information through the pictures.”

Certainly we can all think of illustrations that meet these guidelines. What are twelve little girls in two straight lines without Bemelman’s black and yellow sketches? Or Burton ’s Little House without the city closing in, bit by bit? As Committee Chair Janice Del Negro said, “Telling tales through imagery is what storytellers have done through the ages.” From 1938 to the present, librarians have sought to honor this reality with the Caldecott Medal, reminding us that words may come and go, but we should never dismiss the value of a book with pictures.

Monday, June 18, 2007

An Article You Don't Want to Miss from Award-Winning Writer, Gina Holmes

Awhile back, I sat next to a writer at a conference giving craft advice. I couldn’t help but zone in on the conversation because this advice was contrary to what I believed to be true and what every other writer/editor I’d ever talked to said was true.

I’m not one to hold my peace when something is important, so I stepped in and told the tender advice-seeker that I had to disagree with her counselor, giving my rationale.

This young lady expelled an exasperated snort. “Everyone’s telling me something different. I don’t know who to believe.”

The advice-giver gave me a smug, little smile and said, “I think I might know a thing or two. I did win the ____ contest.”

I blinked at her a few times and said, “Never the less.” I then asked to see a few of her chapters to gauge what her craft-level truly was. She hadn’t brought any because, according to her, bringing sample chapters to a conference was ‘unprofessional’. (More advice I strongly disagree with).

Later this writer apologized to me with impressive grace and we exchanged business cards. Hers listed her as an“Award-winning” writer, which unfortunately for all of you, got me thinking.

A good friend of mine took first prize in the novel category of a recent conference. She is talented and dedicated, and also the first to admit she’s still learning. The overall winner of that same contest won with a piece of writing which was, by her own mouth, the first thing she’d ever written.

Will she next year be giving questionable writing advice to an unsuspecting soul touting that she ought to know what she’s talking about having won the entire contest? Will her business card say, “Award winning” writer?

I was a double-finalist with two of my suspense novels in this year’s
Genesis contest. I’m proud of that, but all it really means is I wrote and polished up three chapters really well. I may write at a freshman level in actuality but have a fabulous critique group full of seniors. The rest of those novels may suck with a capital S.

These days when I see a business card that says “award-winning”, I immediately ask, “What award have you won?” I tend to cringe at most answers in the same way I cringed when I heard a nursing assistant tell my patient that she was her “nurse”.

Is someone who places third in the suspense category of a small writer’s conference just as “award-winning” as say an author who has won a:
Christy? Booker? Rita? Pulitzer?

Do you think a line should be drawn on who should market themselves as award-winning, and if so where?

Whatever your thoughts, I do recommend that all of us learn the craft level of the person teaching us by actually reading their work, published or not.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Sunday Devotion- The Ten Commandments for Writers, #5

Janet Rubin

Deut. 5:16 "Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you."

Writers. We have different styles, different genres. Some of us plot everything out, some just write by the seat of the pants. We get our inspiration in different places and none of our stories are exactly alike. But we do have a few things in common. We were all created by the same God, all of us made in His image. And we all have parents.

The first four commandments had to do with how we relate to and honor God. This week, with number Five, He tells us how He wants us to relate to other people, starting with the ones responsible for bringing us into the world- our parents. It's interesting that this post falls on Father's Day, a day when many of us have our minds on dad.

I'm not sure what impacts us more than our upbringing. Whether our parents were strict or lenient, caring or cold, present or absent... these are things we carry for life. We remember the trouble we got in, the words that hurt us, the mistakes we think mom and dad made. The temptation to memorialize those parts of our past by including them in our writing can be strong. Who we are tends to spill onto paper whether we intend it or not, and our parents are indeed part of who we are.

Sometimes it is appropriate to include our parents- literally or disguised as other characters- in our writing, but we must keep this command in mind and prayerfully consider whether our writing is honoring or dishonoring our parents.

God, Your commands are good. Honoring parents can be hard. Please help us to allow You to be the One to heal our hurts and listen to our complaints. Help us not to dishonor our parents before the world. Amen

Friday, June 15, 2007

Some Happenings in the Book World

Here's a look at some of the stories that interested me this week:

An Entire Stephen King Thriller Will Be in July Issue of Magazine

Esquire will be publishing an entire novella written by Stephen King in their July issue. It is in an attempt "to breathe life back into magazine fiction."

To read a full article about it
Click Here]

E-Books for Children --Two Top Publishers

Disney and Scholastic are launching an e-book website for children. If children become used to reading books digital, it'll be interesting to see how publishing looks ten, fifteen years out.

To read a full article
Click Here] or [Here]

Harry Potter and the Lost Revenue

About two weeks back, I talked about our small independent store combating Harry Potter Discount fever. Here's an article from CNN Money along those lines. [
Click Here]

Publishers are Catching on to Video Marketing

I believe we in the middle of a great shift in the way books are marketing and read. Here's one of many articles you'll find this week online about Simon & Schuster's unveiling of their video site. [
Click Here]

Stephen Hawkins is Write a Novel for Middle-School Age Group

This one I just found interesting, so I'm sharing [
Click Here]

Do you guys have any news that you found interesting?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

From Inside the Bookstore

I mentioned in an earlier post that I work part-time at an independent bookstore. Along with helping with the book order, it's been an absolute delight to connect with readers and take part in the actually selling of books.

It never ceases to amaze me what draws a person in, what attracts them to the book, and what determines the sale.

Most book sales, in our store, occur when a customer walks in knowing exactly what book he/she wants. (Thank you publicity and marketing.) In conjunction with that, if I'm recommending a book it almost always sells if the person says, "Oh, someone was telling me about that one." (Thank you someone!)

The second most common book sale results from a customer checking out their favorite author and finding an unread book.

The third most common is a browser being attracted to a cover. The cover is looked at first, then the back. Less and less, I notice them actually opening the cover and reading inside it. This surprises me as I never buy a book without reading the first few paragraphs.

Another interesting phenomenon I see has to do with Christian fiction. Fans will come in and drool over top selling authors, swear their dedication, tell me about the books they've read by this author, but never actually purchase a book. Some of the top names in the industry haven’t sold a copy. The reason I keep hearing is "Oh, they've got it at my church library so I don’t have to buy it." (For some reason, Dekker and Peretti seem to be immune to this phenomenon.) This can be good for other CBA authors though, because their books are the ones shopped instead.

It's also interesting to see why someone refuses to buy a book. For example, someone turned away an incredible book (Year of Wonders) simply because it wasn't thick enough. She only buys books in excess of 300-400 pages, so she's getting her money's worth. It didn't matter that Ms. Brooks is a Pulitzer winner. It wasn't long enough.

My last observation, though I am uncertain who will be interested in this one, is that someone should fight for better Jane Austin covers. If I were her, I'd come back and haunt publishers until they gave my books a face lift. I noticed this state of matters while trying to decide which of her books to stock in conjunction with the upcoming movie "Being Jane." Most of her books were mass-market and/or looked like required reading for high school students. (Either that or they feature the actors from the movie—and as a book lover I don't want the cover of a DVD on my novel.)

Since her novels are classics, most of the major of publishers "carry" her novels. And that's where it gets tricky. While I may like the cover of Pride and Prejudice from one publisher, I'll have an extreme dislike of the cover of Sense and Sensibility from the exact same publisher, and Mansfield's Park is even worse. What ends up happening is a hodge-podge of Jane Austin books. There is no pretty set of Jane Austin novels from what I've seen. Even the spinoff novels from her work have superior covers. Why can't Jane's books look like:

After all, they were originally her characters. Why should she get stuck with lesser of the two?

Well, that's it for now from side of the book world. Thanks for reading!



by MarcyKate Connolly

Chapter 1

The Deadline

When I left the Boston Public Library that night, the moon was high and so full it was almost daylight. The stone steps of the library and Trinity Church across the street were much clearer than they normally would be at ten o’clock. A row of trees lined the small park in front of the church and threw awkward shadows into Copley Square. Restaurants and bars up and down the street were open, their sparkling lights giving them away, but I felt completely alone—an odd feeling to have in the middle of the city.

“Excuse me, ma’am.”

A young girl, no older than eight or nine, stood behind me with her hands clasped in front of her. Her brown hair was so dark it was nearly black and when she lifted her head, I discovered she had bright violet eyes. I sucked my breath in sharply. What was this beautiful child doing out so late at night?

“Will you buy me a hot chocolate, please?” she asked, tilting her head to one side.

“Buy you a hot chocolate?” I said, puzzled.

“Yes, please. I’m going to read your palm, but it’s chilly out here. It’s better if we go somewhere warm,” she explained in a matter-of-fact tone.

“You’re going to read my palm?”

“Of course. You need to pay more attention to your future.” Smiling, she slipped her small hand in mine and led me down the street. Sense might dictate otherwise, but I couldn’t help being swept along by the strange child. She had a way about her that put me at ease and dulled the sharp pricks of fear creeping up my back. I was disturbed by the girl’s sudden appearance, but I couldn’t argue with her. Something inside me ached for direction. I’d just begun my junior year at Boston University, adrift in a sea of a million people, but I hadn’t declared a major yet. I loved music, but it seemed too impractical. Perhaps a taste of the future would do me good. I’d never put much faith in fortune tellers, but there was something commanding in her voice—a confidence—and a wisdom in the violet eyes gazing from her young face that belied her age. I was intrigued.

“What’s your name?” I asked as she opened the door to a Starbucks.

“Anna,” she said softly. Her face brightened and she grinned. “A white chocolate, please. It’s my favorite.”

I smiled back. It was my favorite too.

I walked up to the counter, her hand still in mine, and ordered a white chocolate for her and a white chocolate raspberry mocha for me. Outside, the fall season approached but had not yet taken over; the coffee shop was infused with an atmosphere of warmth, anticipation, and pumpkin spice. Drinks in hand, she led me to a small table in the corner by the window. She climbed onto the chair, her legs several inches off the floor. She swung them gently. I shivered at how cold the street looked under the bright moonlight.

“Give me your hand, Lily.” Surprise shot through me; I never told her my name. Tentatively, I placed my hand on the center of the table. She took it in her smooth pale grasp and gazed at the lines on my palm, tracing her tiny fingers over them and frowning occasionally. After a moment, she put her hand, palm down, on top of mine and closed her eyes. She was so still I couldn’t tell whether she even breathed. A minute or two later, she opened her eyes again. They were wet with tears.

“What’s wrong, Anna?” I’d begun to feel protective of the little waif and didn’t want to see her upset.

“You may not want to hear your future, but I still think you should know,” she said in a small voice. “Let me show you.” She lifted my palm to face me and pointed out the creases as though she’d memorized them in that short time. “This is your lifeline.” She indicated a curve that forked into my palm. “Most people have a single line, with small offshoots that represent other paths they could’ve taken, but did not. Yours forks. One path,” she tapped her finger on the branch that went into the center of my hand, “is short and if you choose to take it, will end very soon. The other,” she gestured to the longer arc, “is winding and filled with many hard choices. But it will lead to an unusually long and happy life.”

“OK . . . How will I know which path to choose?”

She pouted. “You’ve already chosen.”

I didn’t like how she looked at me. Her eyes, so bright before, brimmed with knowledge and the grief that all too often accompanies it.

“English, please,” I said.

“You’re on this path now,” she sighed, touching the shorter branch. She leaned closer and I could see the tears glistening in her eyes. Her voice was only a whisper.

“You will die before the New Year.”

The serious tone and finality of her words shocked me and I pulled my hand away as if I’d been burned. I jumped up from the chair, knocking it over and earning a stern look from the barista behind the counter. Anna sat very still—unnatural for one so young—her grief at the news palpable. I knew she meant every word she spoke and I had no choice but to believe, however much common sense resisted taking advice on life or death from a child.

Suddenly, I was terrified of the girl staring up at me, who mysteriously appeared out of nowhere to condemn me to death without reason or explanation. My heart frenzied in my chest as I b
acked away from her, unable to wrest my eyes from her hypnotic violet gaze. I reached the door and barreled into the street, knocking over several chairs and an elderly gentleman in the process. The unseasonably cold air slapped my face, waking me, bringing me back to the real world. I glanced through the coffee shop window to our table in the corner.

Anna was gone.