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Friday, April 30, 2010

Keys from a Novel Journey

I'm pretty sure if you've dropped by Novel Journey in the past few months you know about Gina's Crossing Oceans.

She's shared all sorts of trials, struggles and an occasional triumph from her long, circuitous journey.

So. Now that she is able to hold this hard won baby book in her hands...and maybe able to breathe a little better now that the reviews are proving that she CAN indeed write with the best of them, I want to share some things I've learned from Gina's journey. (Oh, here are some reviews of Crossing Oceans in case you haven't read any.)

1. Perseverance is pretty much the key.

Gina honed her talent and shaped words over and over and over again. She worked. She struggled. She just did it. Rejections, change of genres, rewrites, wicked-mean critiques, comments and odd looks at writer's conferences, oh well, she just powered through and kept on writing. Thank you for the example, Gina.

2. Generosity is the key ring.

Gina has shared all that she is with a whole lot of folks who have benefited. Without Gina's curiosity and time we'd all be a little more ignorant. I have learned so much from Novel Journey guests and the folks who put their time into posting every day. Gina didn't need to share her spotlight but she has. When I think of all the time Gina has invested in me, encouraging me in my own convoluted journey...really, there just aren't the words to thank you, Gina.

3. The quirky little key chain oddity is a sense of humor.

When I get to enjoy face-to-faces with Gina I start laughing the minute I see her grin because I know something's on it's way. Dry, quick, razor-sharp and a little dark, oh there are few people as enjoyable as Gina. Gina laughs with and at herself and those lucky enough to be her friends. Thanks for the laughs, Gina.

Congratulations on a job well done and words well written, Gina. May this be only the beginning of a long string of awesome novel blessings.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Christy Nominations 2010

Congratulations to all of the nominees, but especially to Novel Journey's latest team members, Athol Dickson and Mary DeMuth!

Breach of Trust by DiAnn Mills • Tyndale House Publishers
How Sweet It Is by Alice J. Wisler • Bethany House Publishers: a Division of Baker Publishing Group
Stand-In Groom by Kaye Dacus • Barbour Publishing

Who Do I Talk To? by Neta Jackson • Thomas Nelson
The Hope of Refuge by Cindy Woodsmall • WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group
Daisy Chain by Mary DeMuth • Zondervan

June Bug by Chris Fabry • Tyndale House Publishers
The Passion of Mary-Margaret by Lisa Samson • Thomas Nelson
Veiled Freedom by Jeanette Windle • Tyndale House Publishers

The Familiar Stranger by Christina Berry • Moody Publishers
Fireflies in December by Jennifer Erin Valent • Tyndale House Publishers
Scared by Tom Davis • David C. Cook

A Flickering Light by Jane Kirkpatrick • WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group
Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin • Bethany House Publishers: a Division of Baker Publishing Group
The Swiss Courier by Tricia Goyer & Mike Yorkey • Revell Books: a Division of Baker Publishing Group

Beyond This Moment by Tamera Alexander • Bethany House Publishers: a Division of Baker Publishing Group
A Bride in the Bargain by Deeanne Gist • Bethany House Publishers: a Division of Baker Publishing Group
The Inheritance by Tamera Alexander • Thomas Nelson
The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen • Bethany House Publishers: a Division of Baker Publishing Group

Intervention by Terri Blackstock • Zondervan
Lost Mission by Athol Dickson • Howard Books: a Division of Simon & Schuster
The Night Watchman by Mark Mynheir • WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group

By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson • Marcher Lord Press
The Enclave by Karen Hancock • Bethany House Publishers: a Division of Baker Publishing Group
Valley of the Shadow by Tom Pawlik • Tyndale House Publishers

Beautiful by Cindy Martinusen-Coloma • Thomas Nelson
The Blue Umbrella by Mike Mason • David C. Cook
North! or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson • WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group

The Christy Awards are also online at:


Historical Romance includes four nominees due to a tie in scoring.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Throwing a Book Launch Party... Now THIS is how you do it!

Okay, before you think I'm getting full of myself, I didn't throw the party. I am the WORST party planner/hostess you ever want to meet. So, no credit goes to me.

When Roanoke City Libraries offered to throw my book launch party, I said, um...let me think about it... I suppose I could let you have the honor. If you insist that is.

Anyway, it was the other night and it was AWESOME. I mean first class all the way. I was so nervous no one would show up but my husband's family came from NC which filled a few seats, then my folks surprised me by showing up all the way from NJ, which made me cry.

We had a local teen singer who was like watching a young Carrie Underwood. She was beautiful, sweet, and oh so talented!

Then flocks and flocks of old friends, coworkers from days of yore, aspiring authors and maybe even a homeless person or two. More the merrier. (All in all, we had close to two hundred people show and I signed 110-ish books. Not too shabby!)

The turn out was amazing. It made me cry . . . again. Local actors acted out a scene from the book (script written by our very own, Ane Mulligan). Behind them was a beautiful, hand painted back drop by a local artist. I had a q and a session and one woman was quoting page number, paragraph number of her favorite passages. Ha!

The whole thing was surreal. I felt like a superstar and completely loved by those who showed up to support me. They'll never know just how much it meant.
(The pic of me sitting on the porch with the trans-y is actually River Laker, the host. We did a parody video of a scene from the book and he played little Isabella. This guy's hilarious!

I don't think I'll ever top this gathering . . . but one perfect night in a lifetime is more than most people get.

Fiction Anyone? by Miralee Ferrell

Miralee Ferrell is the acclaimed author of The Other Daughter, Love Finds You in Last Chance, California, and Love Finds You in Bridal Veil, Oregon.

Fiction Anyone … Christian or Not?

When speaking at womens groups I often ask how many read Christian fiction, and typically about 1/3 of the hands are raised, if that. There seems to be a common misunderstanding in both the church and the world about Christian fiction. Christians often believe it to be shallow stories with no take away applicable to their lives, and feel it’s a waste of their time. They’re committed to only reading what’s commonly called ‘Christian living’ books that speak to a specific area in need of change.

The world, on the other hand, perceives Christian fiction as just another opportunity to deliver a sermon. They don’t believe the religious community could deliver anything with enough depth to hold them, and don't want anyone preaching at them.

So what is Christian fiction and where does it fit in the world of literature? Maybe I should start by asking, what should it NOT do? In the past, I’ve seen an occasional older CBA novel where the author apparently decided they needed a platform to preach the gospel. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for weaving salvation or other doctrinal principles into our stories, but I don’t believe our fiction should be preachy. Fiction needs to tell a good story, incorporate Godly values, strong family morals, and depict Jesus’ life and teaching, but what it should not do, in my humble opinion, is hit the reader over the head with the bible.

It’s all about your worldview. Have you read novels laced with New Age values, and they came through with no doubt as to where the author stood? Or maybe you’ve read books with a strong political story line that convinced you the author was an extreme liberal. I believe we need to be writing not so much Christian fiction, as GOOD fiction with our world view woven in so thoroughly that anyone from the world who reads it can't help but see our values and beliefs.

Should we beat them over the head with a salvation message, and have a character getting saved in every book? I don’t think that’s necessary, although it’s perfectly acceptable if it works for the story line. But we should let the love, acceptance and life of Jesus Christ shine through our characters so the world can see what makes us, and our fiction, unique. And hopefully, they’ll be drawn to our Lord and Savior as a result.

So let’s see if instead of writing “Christian” fiction, we can produce strong, well-written stories that bring hope, joy, peace, faith, and love to our reader’s lives. If we do that, there will always be a take-away for the reader who’s looking for something deeper than just another light-weight, worldly romance, and our novels will have met a need. After all, isn’t that the goal of most Christian authors? I believe today’s Christian novelists are paving a new path in the world of fiction, and we’ll see more and more readers who only used to read “How to, Christian living” books, turning to the deep, lasting world of fiction.

releasing April 30th 
with Kregal Publications

New job. New townhouse, New car.

The perfect life…Right?

Jeena Gregory thought she’d made it. She has everything a woman could ask for and a budding career promised more. But when rumors around town cast her boss in a shady light, Jeena starts to question her employer's integrity.

When the boss disappears, salaries go unpaid, and Jeena witnesses several hush-hush phone calls, she realizes her carefully crafted world is crumbling. Shaken to the core at the threat of losing everything, Jenna is suddenly confronted with her prejudices—and with a God she had long forgotten.

"A story of growth, realization, and learning lessons the hard way, Finding Jeena is a deep look into the heart of one woman who knows exactly what she wants . . . until it betrays her."—Roseanna M. White, author of Stray Drop of Blood

“Powerfully written, this book pulls the reader deep inside Jeena's life. The roller-coaster ride from the pinnacle to a very dark pit precedes her redemption.”—Lena Nelson Dooley, award-winning author of numerous books including Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico

"Miralee Ferrell not only writes about issues and attitudes that are all too prevalent in our modern life, she skillfully presents the one true solution for all of the problems that plague us—a loving, caring God."—Arlene James, author of numerous books including the Chatam House Series

“A flawless writing style and interesting characters makes Finding Jeena a joy to own and a joy to read. You won’t want to put down.”—Molly Noble Bull, author of numerous books including the award-winning Sanctuary

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Let's Hear Your Story

Not to be redundant, but we’d like to remind y’all of our awards program, OUT OF THE SLUSH PILE, Novel Journey’s Fifteen Minutes of Fame Contest.

The judges are reviewing the entries for Contemporary Romance, the winner of which will be announced May 10.

That date is also the submission deadline for Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror, for which we’ve already received a number of promising-looking tales. You still have over a week to send yours in, so shine up your first chapter and synopsi
s, and download an entry form. Email your submissions, or any questions you may have about the contest, to

But what if you’ve written an historical, a crime story, or something for young adults? Never fear, you can get in the action as well. Here’s a list of the remaining categories in which we’ll be accepting entries
throughout the rest of the year:

We've been reading lots of good entries, but we know you have a story too. So let's hear it!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Become A Book Reviewer ~ Kathy Carlton Willis

Got Opinions? Love Books?

You Can Become a Book Reviewer!

Whether your writing style is entertaining, informative, or insightful, you can learn the building blocks necessary for creating unique reviews, and become a desired book reviewer. Learn where to post your reviews to get more exposure. A well-respected publishing house stated I was one of their "favorite and most trusted" book reviewers. Here’s some of my secrets.


ARCs are Advance Review (or Reader) Copies. These are printed a few months prior to the release date, to allow reviewers time to read and write the book reviews.

ARCs do not have final editing complete, so don’t comment on editing or formatting—it will be changed before the final release.

Don’t quote any book passage in your review without prior permission—there’s no guarantee any specific quote will be in the final version of the book.

Publishers and writers ask you to please refrain from selling ARCs. No one wants an early draft of their book circulating.


Don’t give away any plot points—and try not to comment on storyline past third chapter.

If you don’t like the book, it’s okay to say so, but mention what sort of reader MIGHT like the book.

If you don’t keep your books, give them away rather than selling them—whether they are ARCs or retail, if they were given to you, you shouldn’t profit off of them—use this as an opportunity to be an influencer (library, church, friend, hospital, etc.). If you sell the book at a reduced price, it competes with retail sales, and early statistics are vitally important those first few months after release.


You can choose to only write positive reviews. Positive reviewers have as their motto, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” If you decide to only state positive reviews, when you come across a book you do not like, you will need to decline reviewing it.

Or write balanced reviews that include what you do not like about the books as well as what you like. These reviewers believe they are providing a service to readers so they should mention both the good and the bad. These reviews are similar to consumer reports.

Some will decline to review books they can’t read all the way through, and they won’t finish reading a book they end up not liking. Find out from the one providing review copies if there is an obligation to review the book even if you didn’t care for the book.

What Reviewing is NOT

Book reviews aren’t your reactions to the books you read.

It’s not merely writing what you thought of the book.

Readers of reviews don’t care as much about how you liked the book (unless they know of you), as much as they care if THEY will like the book.

A book review is not a book report! Rather, you should introduce major characters, themes, the setting, and the broad outlines of the story without falling into a tedious retelling of the entire book.

The Role of the Reviewer

The reviewer is an advocate for the reader.

He or she provides the reader with enough information and analysis for the reader to make a buying decision.

It is important to go beyond whether a book is good or bad, and be able to dissect the essentials AND the essence of the book for the potential readers.

Elements of a Review

Book Information

At the top of the review include: author's name, book title, retail price, publishing house, ISBN numbers, and date of publication. Book titles should be in italics.


Early in your review, give the reader a basic sense of the content of the book free of commentary. For a fiction book, this means giving the basic premise for the plot and maybe introducing the main characters. For nonfiction, it means to give the general theme of the book and a summary of the topics covered.

Avoid giving a summary of the entire book. It’s a balancing act. You want to give the reader enough unbiased information to decide if the content is of interest or not, without giving away too much of the story line in fiction or too much detailed information in nonfiction. This should take 1-3 paragraphs.

Analysis and Critique

This is where you evaluate the book according to your criteria. The notes you made while reading the book will come in handy. Focus on 3-4 things the author did well, and explain why you were impressed. If you found some things that fell short, mention them, and why you believe they didn’t deliver.


This is usually the last paragraph. In it, you give your recommendation concerning the book. It can be an unqualified recommendation or a qualified one. An unqualified recommendation is one in which you state without reservation that the book is a "good read" (although that phrase has been somewhat overused) or that the book is not worth reading. Be sure your analysis backs up your opinion.

You can also give a qualified recommendation if you do not whole-heartedly endorse the book, but realize it has merit with at a specific target audience.

Ideas and Styles

Perhaps your reviews will provide a comparison of the reviewed book’s style to another book title or author.

Some reviewers enjoy making their book review style mirror the style of the book. This is a fun writing exercise that also captures the reader and gives them a taste for reading the book.

Another option is to be your version of the Moral Police—it might be your calling and style to point out the reasons why a Christ-follower of Family-Friendly audience should avoid certain titles (in the flavor of Focus on the Family).

Here’s an article I wrote about various book elements that will help you when you write up your review: HYPERLINK "" (April 2010 Issue of Christian Fiction Online Magazine).

Got Opinions? Love Books? is written by Kathy Carlton Willis, owner of the same named communications firm. Kathy and her team get jazzed shining the light on their clients and their Lord. Read her article, Are Book Reviews Profitable, at:

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Trouble with Conversion Scenes #1

by Mike Duran

The hardest thing about writing a “conversion scene” is that conversions usually aren’t “scenes,” they are processes. Often long, messy ones, at that.

One of the consistent raps against Christian fiction and Christian film is the inclusion of the “obligatory conversion scene” -- the point in the story where the non-believer or backslider repents and finds faith. But while a character’s conversion to Christ may rally the troops, for most religious outsiders these scenes usually smack of propaganda and predictability, of a conveniently scripted resolution to whatever dilemma is facing the protag. However one might define Christian fiction, there is still an (often unspoken) expectation that conversion components, in part, are what makes our fiction “Christian.”

One of my first breaks as a writer occurred when I was selected by Dave Long, then acquisitions editor for Bethany House, as a finalist in his “conversion story contest.” That short story When Bill Left the Porch was later published in Relief Journal's second edition. (Dave's Faith in Fiction site was all the rage back then, a place for great discussion, and a hangout for many newly and now-published authors. I wish there was something like it now.)

Anyway, the theme of “conversion stories” inevitably led to some interesting dialogue among the participants, dialogue that often veered into doctrinal dissertations and lamentations about not placing. Dave’s November 11th post, Justification vs. Sanctification – Which Makes for Better Fiction? gave a good indication of the direction of the conversation.

My post a few days ago immediately led to some discussion. But it wasn’t so much about fiction as it was about the nature of conversion itself—which many of you had pretty definitive ideas about. There is a level of specificity that has come to our understanding of the doctrine of justification. And I wonder if that specificity has made it more difficult to write about. You’re writing within a tight theological box at that point and the room for two of the hallmarks of fiction—surprise and question—don’t seem to exist. (emphasis mine)

Not only does Dave reveal what he found lacking in those conversion stories -- the “hallmarks of fiction—surprise and question” -- but he suggests an important reason why those elements were missing: Christian authors are “writing within a tight theological box,” we bring "a level of specificity" to the issue of conversion that actually makes it "more difficult to write about." But is it possible to write a “conversion story” without a "level of specificity" and a “theology” of conversion? And how can a Christian author contrive “surprise” when conversion is so well-defined in Scripture?

As Christian writers, two incredibly powerful dynamics steer our approach to conversion stories: Doctrine and Experience. As Christian authors, we know first-hand about the life-changing, transformative power of Christ. So when writing a conversion scene, we cannot help but bring our experience to the table. Furthermore, as we grow spiritually and become more biblically literate, we develop a doctrinal grid to understand and measure our experience (and those of others) against. But when it comes to writing conversion stories, our personal experience and our understanding of doctrine can have a downside -- it potentially obstructs the “hallmarks of fiction—surprise and question."

In one sense, our "level of specificity" and “tight theological box” is what marks Christian fiction. But in another sense, our "level of specificity" and ”tight theological box” is what mars Christian fiction, removes elements of “surprise and question.”

I have lots more to say on this subject, but I think I'll stop here. Some questions for you: Do you agree that many Christian conversion scenes seem similar, predictable, and often contrived? What is the biggest challenge a Christian writer faces when approaching a conversion story? And when it comes to conversion stories, do you think our "level of specificity" and “tight theological box” help or hinder Christian writers?

Calling All ACFW'ers

Hey, everyone - Gina Holmes' debut novel, Crossing Oceans, is up for selection as an ACFW book club pick. You can help out by joining the book club (anyone can join, you don't have to be an ACFW member) and then voting for the book you'd most like to read.

To join, send a blank e-mail to or visit and click "join this group." You will receive a confirmation e-mail after joining. Follow the instructions given in the e-mail to complete your subscription to this e-mail list.

Then be sure to go vote for your favorite book. VOTE at this link:ACFW'ers don't forget to vote for the book club pick. Voting ends May 30th. GREAT books to choose from ( including Gina's)

Book Club participants are invited to join an e-mail group set up to facilitate announcements and host discussions about the current reading selection. Members will be eligible for monthly free book drawings.


A homeschooling mom, Anita Mellott writes and blogs “Words of Encouragement and Hope” at From the Mango Tree:

“Lord, what will I do without my eyes?” I sank to the floor of my walk-in closet and buried my face in my hands. The darkness was a welcome relief to my eyes after the probing, bright lights at the ophthalmologist’s. The check-up confirmed that my recent bout with iritis had altered my vision drastically. In addition, the doctor found a troubling spot on the macula of the other eye. Fearing the worst, he referred me to a retinal specialist.

The days that led up to that appointment were difficult: medical tests for me, a car wreck, and worst of all--a tragic situation that blindsided our family, leaving us reeling. Through it all, a contract for my devotional book lay on my desk.

“Have you sent in the contract yet?” a critique partner asked me one day.

I remained silent.


“How can I sign it now? You know what’s going on. I feel like a hypocrite…What hope can I offer anyone?” My words weren’t so much a response to her as much as a cry to God, “Don’t expect anything of me right now. Maybe once this season of pain has passed, I’ll write again.”

“Oh, Anita.” My crit partner’s gentle tone reached through the phone and embraced me. “I like you so much better now that your life isn’t perfect.”

Her words stayed with me.

Pain sears the life of every individual. My valley is giving me a deeper perspective, a greater empathy with and compassion for hurting people. It’s providing a connecting point with others.

Pain brings a greater vulnerability to His work in my life; it deepens my need for Him. It’s on my knees that I can acknowledge His sovereignty and rest in it.

Contrary to my expectations, He didn’t lead me to write after the pain, but rather through the pain. So I signed the contract. It’s through the valley that my faith and obedience is tested. It’s not what I can do for Him, but what He can do through the pain. And, it’s because of the pain that I write. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (1 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tonight We're Going to Party Like It's 1999...

I was dreaming when I wrote this, forgive me if I go astray... Okay, I'll stop now.

I know I said I was going to blog about my bookstore adventures, but we had so much good news, I'm going to hold that until Thursday. I know, I know, you're terribly disappointed and aren't sure you'll ever recover.

First off: We made Writers Digest's list of 101 best web-sites for writers!... along with our good friends Chip MacGregor, Mike Hyatt and Rachelle Gardner. Few things get us this excited.

We were on the list in 2008 and then in 2009 I received an email from someone at WD congratulating us, but then strangely our name wasn't on the list. Anyway, the 2008 in our signature line was starting to look a little dated, so this has come in the nick of time!

Also, I just learned that Crossing Oceans was chosen as Books A Million's June FaithPoint Book Club selection. HUGE news!

Also, Harriet Klausner (the #1 Amazon reviewer) gave Crossing Oceans 5 stars and a kind review and the novel also received a great review on Fiction Addict.

Oh and the good people of Roanoke City Libraries have my mug on a magazine cover, GINORMOUS posters all over the city, and, believe it or not, a billboard. Ha. They're doing it to promote my book launch party April 27th. If you're in the area, stop by! It's at the main Roanoke (Virginia) Library on Jefferson St. 6-8 pm. We're having food, live music, live theatre, a parody video starring moi, and of course a book signing. How much is all of this costing me? Not a dime. Thank you Roanoke Libraries!!!

Thanks everyone for at least pretending to be interested as I finally get to share the experiences of having my first novel published after all these years.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Former CIA Polygraph Examiner Shares His Secrets to Believable Lying

Stop Lying About the Way Your Characters’ Lie

by Dan Crum

During my time in the CIA as a polygraph examiner and investigator I came across terrorists and criminals and learned one very important lesson…they are just like you and me.

The amazing thing about people is that we all are manufactured out of the same parts and our physiologies are primarily the same. Which means no matter where in the world you travel, no matter who you talk to we are all alike in the way we communicate sincerity and deception.

I teach people to know when someone is lying. Probably one of the most common questions I get asked is whether these skills work in reverse. Can I teach a person to appear sincere when they are actually being deceptive? The answer is complicated. The CIA has a course that teaches spies how to successfully deal with interrogations by foreign intelligence services. In the course they teach the spies what deception looks and sounds like so that they know what not to do or say. The challenge is translating what they learn to a real interrogation.

Even with a lot of practice it is very difficult to disguise non-verbal/physiological deception indicators. These are part of how we are made and we are fighting against millions of years of genetic engineering to overcome these habitual and automatic reactions to the stress we feel when we lie and fear detection.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say the person being questioned is sitting down. As they are sitting parts of their body are at rest (back and butt against the chair, arms on the arm rests, one foot on the floor, one leg crossed over the other). I call these “sleep points.” A major sign that someone is lying to you is when one or more sleep points wake up when they answer your question. What you may see is the person uncross their legs or lean forward. This is the person’s automatic reaction to the stress they feel about lying and potentially getting caught when answering your question. Remember, even well trained spies have difficulty keeping their sleep points from waking up when they lie.

One thing that I am very critical of is the dramatic liberties that authors take in describing bad guys and the way they lie, cheat and steal. My goal is for you to learn what deception looks and sounds like so that you describe it accurately. I provide many resources to help you on your journey, including consulting.

So you can gain value from reading this blog I have listed some key points to remember to make your dishonest characters seem believable to your readers:

· Everyone lies for what they mentally justify as a good reason

· No one wants to be called a liar or labeled as dishonest

· Liars have a difficult time keeping their story straight

· Truthful behavior can be faked and can make the liar appear honest

· You must look and listen in a focused manner to identify deception

· A minor verbal or physiological clue can indicate deception

· An interrogation can make an honest person appear as a liar

· There is a magic way to ask a question to trap the liar

Dan Crum, the “Dating Detective,” has a BS Degree in Marketing from George Mason University. He also has a Certificate of Graduate Study in Forensic Psychophysiological Detection of Deception and has been certified by the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute/The Defense Academy for Credibility Assessment, and the Joint Military Intelligence Training Center. Dan holds a Top Secret Clearance from the US Government.

He worked for the CIA as a Polygraph Examiner, Special Investigator and Adjudicator. Dan also worked as an Intelligence Analyst for the National Counterterrorism Center, Terrorist Identities Group, where his work was used in support of written intelligence assessments for the Executive Office, to include the President in the War on Terror. Dan is the founder of Dan Crum International and has been coaching and consulting individuals and businesses since 2001.

Today he works as a US Government contractor where he develops customized solutions for the US Intelligence Community to better perform their worldwide operations. Dan has spent his career focused on understanding human psychology to include working with well-known experts and authors, Tony Robbins (Awaken the Giant Within) and John Assaraf (The Secret).

Dan is a frequent guest speaker on the topic of Detecting Deception, appearing in front of many national organizations including the American Polygraph Association and various Crisis Negotiation Groups and State Polygraph Associations.

The great news is that I have written two books that when you read them will be very helpful in understanding the over 101 examples of deceptive behaviors and how best to write about them accurately. As a special Novel Journey reader offer you can get both books for the price of one.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Surviving Live TV Interviews

I was planning on blogging about my bookstore adventures but I worked 15 hours yesterday as a nurse and my brain is fried. Well, more fried than usual, so I thought I'd save that for Saturday and share with you instead my live interview on a local tv talkshow.

Often a show will prep you before hand to tell you which camera to look at how to sit in the chair, warn you not to look at yourself on the monitor, and so forth. This one didn't do that, but I been told by another guest what to expect, so I paid close attention to what the hosts were doing before I had to be on air. The hosts looked at each other and at the camera in the middle. There was more than one camera, so it was really helpful to know which one to look at.

I also know that when I'm not smiling, I look either look homicidal or seriously depressed. Therefore, I made a mental note to keep my lips at least slightly upturned at all times.

I've never done live TV before so a local show was a great place to start. It also helped my nerves that I didn't have too much time to prep. I'm on a serious deadline with the next book so sitting around fretting isn't really an option.

Something else that helped was having an idea of the questions that I'd be asked ahead of time. I knew what the questions were going to be because I suggested them.

Here's a tip for those of you who don't already know, you can send
suggested questions to the show and they often will use them as is. They usually appreciate this because it saves them time and often they haven't read your book.

Another thing I did right was to bring a finished copy of the book and a small stand that it could sit on. This helped the camermen get a good shot of it. I also held it in my lap as I was interviewed and luckily the cameramen zoomed in on it. I signed a copy for the host to thank her for having me on ... (and you never know, she may read and like it and then maybe even talk about it on a later show. Like I said, you never know.)

All in all I think I did fairly well, but you be the judge:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Author Interview ~ Jim Rubart

My day job is helping authors and businesses market themselves through my company Barefoot Marketing. I live in the Pacific Northwest with my amazing wife and our two incredible teenage boys. Want to know more? Here are a few links:

Web sites: and
Facebook: James L. Rubart
Twitter: @jimrubart

Jim, I've read ROOMS. It's one of my favorite reads of the year. How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific 'what if' moment?

I’m so glad you liked it, Ane! When I was a teenager a little ten page pamphlet My Heart, Christ’s Home had a big impact on me. For years I thought what if you took that story and put it on steroids? I mixed in elements from some of my favorite movies and books like It’s a Wonderful Life, The Screwtape Letters, The Matrix, etc., along with some romance, and out came ROOMS.

A lot of strange things happen to Micah in the book. Did anything strange (or funny) happen while researching or writing your book?

I definitely had times where I felt under severe spiritual attack and out of those experiences came what I feel are some of the more powerful scenes in the book.

ROOMS is your first novel. Every novelist has a journey. How long did it take you to write ROOMS? How long was the road to publication?

ROOMS started as a short story in the mid 90s which sat dormant on my laptop for years. My deepest desire was to write a novel, but I was too afraid to leap off the cliff. All I did was dabble until 2003.

One day my wife said, I’m going on a fast, I don’t know why or for how long.” After three days, I had one of those exploding light bulb moments. I told her, “I know why you’re fasting. I’m supposed to finally get off my hind quarters and be a novelist.”

She laughed and said, “I’m hungry and you get the answer?”

At that point I got serious, realizing God was offering me a great gift and had invited me to step into my destiny if I wanted to. I did. A few months later as Darci and I had dinner with some friends, one of them basically said, “God has you on the track to getting published; His favor for this to happen is on you.”

With that confirmation I went on a tear and finished ROOMS in late ’05. In March of ’06 I went to my first writing conference. By July, three agents were interested in repping me—none of them offered me a contract, but it was highly encouraging.

I signed with a fourth agent that fall and he shopped the manuscript. The consensus from the pub houses was, “This guy can write, but he’s an unknown and this book is a little out there.” So I started to work on my second novel.

In the fall of ’07 I met with David Webb (at the time Executive Fiction Editor at B&H) who had loved ROOMS, but rejected it because B&H was just launching their fiction line and it was tough at that point to take a chance on an unknown author.

He smiled and said, “I’ve read 200 manuscripts since I read yours, and yours is the one I can’t get out of my head.” So David took another run at it, and I was offered a contract in June of ’08.

You create wonderful scenes I had no trouble visualizing in ROOMS. Do you consider yourself a visual writer? If so, what visuals do you use?

I don’t know if this is typical, but often I feel more like a scribe than an author. When I write, I let my imagination go and soon I’m watching a movie play in my mind. I simply write down what I’m seeing. (No, I didn’t do drugs when I was younger.)

While reading ROOMS, I was able to suspend my disbelief completely. Yet often, novelists sometimes dig themselves into a hole with an implausible plot. How did you avoid that in ROOMS?

I think because I set the story in two well-known locals (Seattle and Cannon Beach, Oregon) it makes the story feel genuine.

Plus the fantastic things that happen occur not only in the home but outside it as well, giving a feeling of authenticity.

What's the most difficult part of writing for you? Characters? The plot?

It’s getting the plot right. The characters just show up in my head. I see them, hear them speak, so I simply write it down. But because I download scenes from the movie screen in my mind sometimes at random, it’s easy to wind up with plot holes that need fixing.

How did you overcome it?

For ROOMS I had a friend with an extremely analytical mind who challenged me on the twists and turns. Then my amazing editor Julee Schwarzburg refined the story arc and plot even further.

For Book of Days I hired an outside editor before [it went] to B&H to work through the synopsis and plot in detail. It was a tremendous help.

What's next for you?

Book of Days will release in January 2011. It’s the story of a man who goes in search of God’s book—described in Psalm 139—that has recorded the past, present and future of every soul on earth. Then comes The Chair in the fall of 2011, the story of an antiques dealer, who is given a chair he comes to believe was made by Jesus. For the fourth book I have two ideas I’m toying with at the moment.

And I’m working on a number of projects for novelists who want to know how to market their fiction more effectively.

Where do you write: In a cave, a coffeehouse, or a cozy attic nook?

I write in a secret room you wouldn’t find unless I told you where to look. I’m serious. Our home was built in the late 80s when the style was to have a twenty-foot ceiling in the entryway (this is outside my secret room).
For years I looked at that space and said, “What a waste. Wouldn’t it be cool to put in a floor?” It would give an instant eight foot by eight foot room; the perfect writing spot. So one day I did it. You get to the room through a tiny door in the back of my youngest son’s closet. The criteria for my family to interrupt me while I’m in the middle of writing is (lots of) blood or fire.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Never typical—which I love. Because I own a marketing company, some days are marketing for other authors or businesses, some days are marketing for myself. Some days are writing, some days are taking and picking up my youngest son from school.

Do you prefer creating or editing? Why?

Editing. I love the rush of creating, but when I’ve polished a scene to the point where it makes me get emotional—happy or sad—rereading it, I get a deep feeling of satisfaction.

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

The Chronicles of Narnia are at the top, along with almost everything else by Lewis. Loved Desire and Waking the Dead by John Eldredge. Arena by Karen Hancock blew my mind. I loved her four Guardian King books as well.

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

Barf it out. Kill the editor the first time around and get that initial draft on paper. Will 40% of it be wasted bytes on your computer? Yep, but that’s okay. You can always go back and revise. But it’s really tough to polish up words that don’t exist.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

Most men (and women) live quiet lives of desperation and go to their grave with their song still in them. (Henry David Thoreau.)

That’s not how God designed us.

He designed a specific destiny for each of us to step into. But he won’t force us. For years I stayed in the shadows, peeking at my destiny that danced in the sun, but I let Fear hold me back. Don’t. Step out. Live a life of risk, live a life of freedom. Whatever your calling is, live it strong.

On a rainy day in Seattle, young software tycoon Micah Taylor receives a cryptic, twenty-five-year-old letter from a great uncle he never knew. It claims a home awaits him on the Oregon coast that will turn his world inside out. Suspecting a prank, Micah arrives at Cannon Beach to discover a stunning, brand new nine-thousand square foot house. ANd after meeting Sarah Sabin at a nearby ice cream shop, he has two reasons to visit the beach every weekend.

When bizarre things start happening in the rooms of the home, Micah suspects they have some connection to his enigmatic new friend, Rick, the town mechanic. But Rick will only say the house is spiritual. This unnerves Micah because his faith slipped away lie the tide years ago, and he wants to keep it that way. But as he slowly discovers, the home isn’t just spiritual, it’s a physical manifestation of his soul, which God uses to heal Micah’s darkest wounds and lead him into an astonishing new destiny.

For a review of ROOMS, click here and scroll down.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Talking to Pros~What's the Golden Rule?

Talking to Pros is more about simple courtesies than pitching a certain book idea.

Often at Christian Writers Conferences, conferees are so programmed to engage with industry pros that they end up going overboard and make a poor first impression. Whether we connect face-to-face, by phone, or e-mail, there is a certain code of conduct that should be followed. It’s all about respect and courtesy. The Golden Rule sums up how we are to treat editors, agents, and others in the industry. Make sure you treat industry pros the very way you would want to be treated in their shoes. By doing this, you will leave a lasting impression with them.

Here are some specific etiquette suggestions for you, as you connect with the pros:

In Person

Make sure you don’t smell of cigarette smoke or heavy perfume. Many are sensitive to smell, and this will ruin your first impression. Double-check your other first impressions as well.

Be respectful of the pro’s space. Watch their body language to determine if it’s a good time to talk. Avoid stalker-style pitches (such as following a pro to the restroom to pitch your idea through the bathroom stall door!).

Follow their lead regarding physical contact. Sometimes a handshake is in order, and other times, if there was a real connection, a hug is okay—let them initiate which it will be.

On the Phone

Try to find general information online first, or in a market guide—before calling the agent or editor to ask questions. No need to ask if they take a certain genre if their website plainly lists what types of books they acquire or represent.

Since you are selling the agent or editor on your writing ability, usually they prefer your first contact (outside of conferences) to happen via e-mail or mail. Why? Because the pro wants to see how you write, rather than how you speak. This also works better for their schedules. Then they can schedule a phone conference if/when it suits them.

Even though you will be eager to hear how the pro likes your work, abstain from calling to ask. Honor whatever timeline they say it takes to hear back, and if you have not received a reply in that timeline, a short e-mail to make sure they received the submission is the best way to follow-up. Do not press for a decision or a deadline; just ask IF they received it and what the status is.

Once you are acquired by an editor or agent, you are welcome to call them on important matters, but be considerate of their time and avoid contacting them about trivial issues. Use e-mail for most communication.

Avoid frequent phone calls, even if the pro seems happy to hear from you. Remember they have other projects—avoid monopolizing their time. Especially be aware that they have office hours, and deserve a personal life outside of that time. If a call is warranted, it’s best to request a phone date via e-mail, and let the agent call you when his schedule permits. When planning a phone conversation, it is helpful to give your agent a range of convenient times to call.


Do not send attached files containing manuscripts unless their guidelines expressly state they welcome attachments.

Keep your initial correspondence with an agent or editor brief and subsequent correspondence on point with what is requested. Realize industry pros deal with hundreds of e-mails daily, and respect their time.

Authors should advise an agent how he knows the agent’s name (met at a conference, found online, referred by a friend, etc.). In fact, it’s helpful to put the connecting point in the subject line, such as “per your request at ABC Conference.”

Show appreciation for any information a pro gives you, even if it’s comes with a rejection of a submission. Try to avoid being defensive or argumentative, and by all means do not attack, accuse or criticize the professional.

Honor any requirements for correspondence. If the listing says to send a query, they mean a one-page pitch about the book project.

If the pro requests more information, send that with the original correspondence so they don’t have to search for the original note. Mention “per your request,” and resist saying that unless it is true.

Editors and agents are not royalty—they are normal people who happen to be in a position to get your manuscript to the next step toward publication. Treat them with common courtesy and professional respect and they will remember you. It’s these little things that set you apart from the thronging crowds of writers who forget something as simple as The Golden Rule.

What’s The Golden Rule is written by Kathy Carlton Willis, owner of the same named communications firm. Kathy and her team get jazzed shining the light on their clients and their Lord. See more at their blog:

Jacques Maritain's Christian Art

Born in Paris in 1882, Thomistic philosopher Jacques Maritain was a tremendous influence on authors such as Flannory O'Connor, and their ideas of beauty, truth and Christian art. Below are excerpts from Maritain's essay, "Christian Art" from his collection, Art and Scholasticism.

By the words "Christian art" I do not mean Church art, art specified by an object, an end, and determined rules, and which is but a particular -- and eminent -- point of application of art. I mean Christian art in the sense of art which bears within it the character of Christianity. In this sense Christian art is not a species of the genus art: one does not say "Christian art" as one says "pictorial" or "poetic" art, "Gothic" or "Byzantine" art. A young man does not say to himself "I am going in for Christian art," as he might say "I am going in for agriculture." There is no school where one learns Christian art. Christian art is defined by the one in whom it exists and by the spirit from which it issues: one says "Christian art" or the "art of a Christian," as one says the "art of the bee" or the "art of man." It is the art of redeemed humanity. It is planted in the Christian soul, by the side of the running waters, under the sky of the theological virtues, amidst the breezes of the seven gifts of the Spirit. It is natural that it should bear Christian fruit.

Everything belongs to it, the sacred as well as the profane. It is at home wherever the ingenuity and the joy of man extend. Symphony or ballet, film or novel, landscape or still-life, puppet-show libretto or opera, it can just as well appear in any of these as in the stained- glass windows and statues of churches.

But, it may be objected, is not this Christian art a myth? Can one even conceive of it? Is not art pagan by birth and tied to sin -- just as man is a sinner by birth? But grace heals wounded nature. Do not say that a Christian art is impossible. Say rather that it is difficult, doubly difficult -- fourfold difficult, because it is difficult to be an artist and very difficult to be a Christian, and because the total difficulty is not simply the sum but the product of these two difficulties multiplied by one another: for it is a question of harmonizing two absolutes. Say that the difficulty becomes tremendous when the entire age lives far from Christ, for the artist is greatly dependent upon the spirit of his time. But has courage ever been lacking on earth?

If you want to make a Christian work, then be Christian, and simply try to make a beautiful work, into which your heart will pass; do not try to "make Christian."

Do not make the absurd attempt to dissociate in yourself the artist and the Christian. They are one, if you are truly Christian, and if your art is not isolated from your soul by some system of aesthetics. But apply only the artist to the work; precisely because the artist and the Christian are one, the work will derive wholly from each of them.

Do not separate your art from your faith. But leave distinct what is distinct. Do not try to blend by force what life unites so well. If you were to make of your aesthetic an article of faith, you would spoil your faith. If you were to make of your devotion a rule of artistic activity, or if you were to turn desire to edify into a method of your art, you would spoil your art.

The entire soul of the artist reaches and rules his work, but it must reach it and rule it only through the artistic habitus. Art tolerates no division here. It will not allow any foreign element, juxtaposing itself to it, to mingle, in the production of the work, its regulation with art's own. Tame it, and it will do all that you want it to do. Use violence, and it will accomplish nothing good. Christian work would have the artist, as artist, free.

Art requires much calm, said Fra Angelico, and to paint the things of Christ one must live with Christ...

It would therefore be futile to try to find a technique, a style, a system of rules or a way of working which would be those of Christian art. The art which germinates and grows in Christian man can admit of an infinity of them. But these forms of art will all have a family likeness, and all of them will differ substantially from non-Christian forms of art; as the flora of the mountains differs from the flora of the plains. Consider the liturgy: it is the transcendent and supereminent type of the forms of Christian art; the Spirit of God in Person fashioned it, so as to be able to delight in it.

Christianity does not make art easy. It deprives it of many facile means, it bars its course at many places, but in order to raise its level. At the same time that Christianity creates these salutary difficulties, it superelevates art from within, reveals to it a hidden beauty which is more delicious than light, and gives it what the artist has need of most -- simplicity, the peace of awe and of love, the innocence which renders matter docile to men and fraternal.