Monday, November 26, 2012

112 Christian Authors and Publishing Professionals Share Their Best Advice for Novelists

I'm particularly excited this Cyber Monday because I have something pretty special to share. I've just released my first nonfiction ebook for writers! 112 Christian Authors and Publishing Professionals Share Their Best Advice for Novelists is available for your Kindle or Nook for only $2.99 (a deal all year long!)

If you're an aspiring novelist, or if you know one, this ebook could make a great Christmas present. (It's easy to gift an ebook, btw.) But even if you're a seasoned writer, there's information in the advice these professionals shared that'll encourage and inspire all year long. I know I got a ton out of reading them myself.

Imagine a coffee shop packed with award-winning Christian novelists, top editors, literary agents, and publicists. Each one is taking turns sitting down with you, giving you their best writing advice. Sort of like speed dating for writers.

Within these pages the most recognized names in Christian publishing share their personal answers to the question, “If you could say one thing to aspiring novelists, what would you say?”

In the ever-changing publishing world, you must stay on top of your game to succeed. This book will give you a leg up, with practical tips and advice you can use on your novel writing journey.

Includes advice from Karen Kingsbury, Frank Peretti, Ted Dekker, Jerry B. Jenkins, Josh McDowell, Liz Curtis Higgs, Francine Rivers, James Scott Bell, Terri Blackstock, Randy Alcorn, Melody Carlson, and many more!

But bonus just for my blog readers! Here's an extra piece of advice for novelists from Michael Landon Jr. that didn't make it into the book:

Write about what you’re passionate. Not necessarily what you know, but what you’re passionate about. You can always learn what you don’t know. But you can’t create passion.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

What I've Read in the Past Two Years

Had a little fun on today looking back at the books I've read in the past two years. They have a unique feature that allows you to see what you've read by book covers. I put together the three pages that constitute the past two years of my reading. What a colorful bunch of books! I might not read as much as some, but I've had fun reading what I have.


Monday, July 30, 2012

What is it about Katniss and Tris?

Lately I've become a fan of some of the popular dystopian YA series, namely The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Divergent by Veronica Roth trilogies. I've always had a thing for YA novels, and perhaps I'm late on the bandwagon, but the dystopian genre intrigues me. It's certainly not a new thing, but the two above mentioned authors have hit it big, and as an author I ask myself why. What is it about Katniss Everdeen and Tris Prior that has spawned multi million dollar movie deals, thousand upon thousands of book sales, and rabid fans enthusiastically creating fan art and fan fiction?

I believe the biggest things these books have going for them are their heroines. We've seen variations of the plots before. But Katniss and Tris spark something in readers. Here are 5 reasons why:

1. Their Strength
Today's readers are looking for strong heroines who can take care of themselves. Katniss & Tris don't necessarily need someone to take care of them, though that doesn't mean there aren't times when people do.

2. Their Skills
Katniss is a skilled archer who can shoot a bow better than anyone else.  Tris learns to fight hand to hand effectively. When we read about these girls, we want to be like them, whether it's realistic or not.

3. They Have Vulnerabilities
An error some authors make in creating their heroines (and heroes for that matter) is to write a perfect person without any weakness. While Katniss and Tris are indeed strong, they aren't perfect. This three-dimensional aspect is what allows us to suspend our disbelief easier when reading their stories. Plus we relate even more since who among us is perfect?  

4. Their Hearts Aren't Hard
Most of the evil in these books happens to the girls. They are thrust into situations against their will. If they kill, it is in self-defense. To survive. And both of them face at least one situation that nearly breaks them. After all, they are girls (both sixteen at the start of their books) thrust into a world most women couldn't handle.

5. They Don't Have Time for Bull
Excuse the language, but these are no-nonsense girls (and keep in mind the novels are general market fare). Katniss and Tris say it like it is. They say the things we wish we could say. It gets them in trouble sometimes, but we cheer them on.

If you've read these stories, what about the heroines did you like? Why do you think the novels are so popular?

Monday, July 23, 2012

In Memory of Julie - The Best Dog Ever


The Best Dog Ever. We love you so much and miss you terribly! You had a wonderful, full life and gave us so much joy! We're honored we got to have you for as long as we did.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I Can Sign Your E-book!

You knew it was coming, right?

I just discovered an awesome new service called Kindlegraph. Basically, it allows authors to personalize/sign an e-book for a reader. If you have a Twitter account, you can instantly send a request to an author who's signed up (including me), and in a matter of moments the author can send you a personalized pdf bookplate of sorts that can be downloaded to your Kindle.

My novels Thicker than Blood & Bound by Guilt are on the site. Now if I can just figure out how to make my signature look neater than a five-year-old's when using a mouse to sign...

Click here to go directly to my page.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Evolution of Christian Fiction

I read an interesting article at about how Christian fiction has evolved in the past 20 years. Some people still have misconceptions about how much variety and depth today's Christian fiction truly has. I'm old enough to remember some of its humble beginnings. I've seen it grow up and mature from a time when pretty much all that was out there were prairie romances or Frank Peretti. The first adult Christian novel I ever read was Christy by Catherine Marshall, followed quickly by Frank Peretti's Darkness series. I've re-read all three of them multiple times.

We owe those trailblazers a big thank you for helping to push open the doors for today's market. Sure, we still have some growing to do. I'd love to see the YA market explode in the CBA like it has in the ABA. And as a lover of suspense novels, it would be neat to see more of them focusing on character development right alongside the thrills.

How about you? What would you like to see more of in the Christian fiction market, and what was the first CBA novel you ever read?

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Sibella Giorello is Shining Bright

Check out this awesome new trailer for Sibella Giorello's upcoming novel The Stars Shine Bright:

Sibella is one of my all time favorite authors, and she proves why again in this novel. I love her attention to detail, character development, and suspense. All told with a deft hand. Poetic at times, heart wrenching at others, this one is another great addition in the Raleigh Harmon mystery series. Can't wait for more!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Are you a real writer?

I just purchased a Kindle book by bestselling author and writing coach James Scott Bell called Self Publishing Attack! . I've always gotten something from every Bell book I've read, and this one was no exception. But this time, what I took away surprised me.

I just wrote this blurb on Goodreads:
An informative primer for any author who's head is spinning from the ebook revolution and needs some concrete advice for how to take advantage of this landmark time in history. Bell's book is easy to understand, straightforward, and encouraging. Mostly aimed for those wanting to epublish, it does include some insights for self publishing in print form too. I'll be reading it again!

However, it was on the very last page where something hit me hard. Bell's last words in the book are these:

Are you a real writer?

Then keep writing.

And don't stop.


I'm not sure exactly why, maybe it's just where I am in my writing journey, but these words hit me hard. Am I a real writer? I want to be. I feel called to be. These words remind me how important it is that I need to make it my constant goal to get the words down on the page. Not talk about doing it, but actually do it. Thanks, Jim, for inspiring me yet again to never give up.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Features in Honor of Dad

Hi, friends!

In honor of our dads and Father's Day this Sunday, here are a few links to some features I've written in which authors share great stories and insights from their dads:

Our Father's Wisdom: 19 Authors Share What Their Dad Taught Them That They'll Never Forget - Includes Jerry Jenkins, Kathy Tyers, Noel Hynd, Julie Lessman, Tosca Lee, and more.

16 Authors Share Memorable Dad Moments - Includes Bodie Thoene, Shawn Grady, Irene Hannon, Lori Copeland, Gina Holmes, and more.

My Dad's Best Advice: 37 Christian Novelists Share - Includes Francine Rivers, Candace Calvert, Tricia Goyer, Sibella Giorello, Tim Downs and more.

Enjoy! And hug your dad this weekend. :)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Chat with Frank Peretti!

It's truly an honor to be able to host Frank Peretti on my blog today as part of the "Ask Frank" blog tour. It's been six long years since a new Peretti novel hit the shelves, but our wait is now over because Illusion is here!

To celebrate the book's release I'd like to share with you some questions I was able to ask Frank (along with his answers of course) about the book, his writing, and more. Be sure to read to the end for your chance to win a copy of Illusion.

Before you ever wrote a word in Illusion, you made a thorough outline of the story. Why do you prefer to outline your novels?

This touches on my admonition to would-be writers to know what they’re doing. I need to plan a book from the foundation up, following the rules of good story structure. I need to know where it’s going to start, where it’s going to end, and how to connect the two in an effective and engaging way. I usually follow a standard three-act structure, with key plot points triggering the beginning of each act. The first act is the setup in which I establish the characters and their situation and then launch them into the adventure; the second act is the adventure, with steadily building suspense and tempo until they reach a crisis point where the final battle must be fought; the third act is the final battle leading up to the climax of the story followed by the resolve. All this stuff has to be planned out and I’m very mechanical and meticulous about it. For me, a major grown-up novel takes about two years to write, and I spend the first year planning and outlining.

Mandy and Dane in some ways reflect your own life with your wife Barbara. How did you decide what to fictionalize and what real life details to include about the couple?

Dane and Mandy are entirely fictional, but of course I draw upon real-life to fill them in, in this case my sweet wife Barbara and her loving ways and my own journey through life and my transition into my 60s.

There is one specific detail where the real Barbara pokes through: Dane is recalling a snapshot from a photo album in which Mandy is cooking their dinner on an outdoor grill in a public park because they are traveling magicians and have no place to live. That is a picture from real life. Barb and I were newlyweds and I was a traveling musician. We had no roof over our heads. Barb made her own clothes, and often had to prepare our evening meal in a park somewhere. We really do have a picture of Barb, in pants and blouse she made herself, standing at an outdoor grill in a public park frying hamburgers, and I really have thought about that picture and marveled at Barb’s tenacious love for me through the hard times and over so many years. With Dane, I have to say that “only the Lord God could have brought me such a woman.”

What is your mission as a novelist?

I’ll go ahead and sound religious: I would like to create stories that glorify God and the things He has created, in this case, steadfast love, devotion, the joy of having someone. I would like to convey truth, celebrate beauty, warn against evil, admonish and ennoble.

If you could say one thing to aspiring novelists, what would you say?

Know what you’re doing. It’s not enough to want to write a book. You have to devote yourself to learning the writing craft, knowing all the nuts and bolts, rules and fundamentals of good fiction writing. I’ve often heard would-be writers advised to “never give up,” but that’s the worst thing you can tell somebody who has no skill, no knowledge of how it’s to be done. That person can never give up, and consequently waste his/her whole life producing unmarketable material. Know what you’re doing.

If Illusion were to be made into a movie, who would you want to play the main characters and why?

I don’t have any specific actors in mind, but it would be fun to provide a description to the casting director to help him/her narrow down the field:

The actor portraying Dane would have to pass for a man just turning 60 but still in good shape; he would have to be wise and well mannered and be able to convey a man of depth. I would love to see wisdom in his eyes, but with a disarming twinkle; I would want the actor to be likable, even lovable on-screen, and be able to convey that honor and true, sacrificial love are still manly. He should be the kind of man that every 19-year-old would love to have for a grandpa. He should be able to portray a sharp intelligence and mastery of details even as he guides and corrects with love and gentleness. He comes across as a man, but a real man: he is strong, but his real strength is within; manly, but his power is in his wisdom; he does not master or lord it over his woman, but honors and protects her.

The actress portraying Mandy would have to show a “Meg Ryan/Sally Field,” sparkly-eyed spunk, a teasing eye easily filled with wonder. She would have to be playful and fun-loving, optimistic, with a whimsical resolve to tackle life head on and come out a winner. She’d have to be a good dancer and she’d have to learn quite a bit of close-up magic. I would also want an actress who can settle into a quiet mode of deep questioning and, when the time comes, longing devotion. Cuteness is one thing, character is another; she will have to have both. The actress will need a wide range, able to portray the flighty, giggly sparkle of a nineteen year old to the learned and experienced dignity of a woman of 59; quite an acting challenge that would require no small-skilled actress.

Here's your chance to comment and win! Everyone who posts their response to the question, "Who's your favorite Frank Peretti character and why?" will be entered in a drawing to receive a cool advance copy (with the original alternative cover) of Illusion.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Travis Thrasher's Ghostwriter E-book cover contest

Author Travis Thrasher has a fun contest going on over at his Facebook page. His novel Ghostwriter released in 2009, but he wants to re-release it in e-book form. His plan is to release it for FREE for a limited period. But first he needs a cover!

Over at his blog he announced the search for a winning design. Twelve designs were submitted, and he's now asking readers to vote on their favorites. This week he's sharing the first six, next week the rest. The covers with the most comments and "likes" will move onto the final round. Travis picks the final cover, but he needs input to help him make his decision.

So head on over to his Facebook page here, and cast your vote!

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Family Fiction Edge - Frank Peretti!

It's here! The debut issue of Family Fiction Edge magazine. A spin off of Family Fiction Digital Magazine, this bi-monthly mag focuses on suspense/mystery, YA, speculative, and movies. My kind of magazine! In fact, I'm truly honored to have the chance to write several features in this issue, including the cover story on Frank Peretti as well as pieces on Terri Blackstock, Camy Tang, The Lamp movie, and the October Baby movie!

It's been a dream of mine to interview Frank Peretti, and he was incredibly humble, funny and poignant. Be looking for the full interview to be posted on in the future.

Read the Feb/Mar issue of Family Fiction Edge online here, or download the pdf here.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Price Point for E-Books

It still amazes me how in only a matter of a few years, e-books have become the norm. According to this breakdown of a Harris poll, 1 in 6 Americans use e-readers (only a year before it was 1 in 10), and another 1 in 6 plan to get one in the next six months. I just got a Kindle myself in November.

Let's face it. E-books aren't going away. Will they eventually replace hold-in-your-hand books? Probably not. I've heard them compared to how paperback books were introduced into the marketplace in 1935 and quickly took up real estate in what used to be almost exclusively a hardcover marketplace. I can see that happening more than I can see e-books actually replacing physical books.

Author James Scott Bell had a fascinating post called Field Report From the E-Book Revolution in which he espoused on this subject. Read the comments section too as there's more info there.

The biggest "problem" I see (and this is addressed in that post and comments) is the price point for e-books. Most publishers have been charging just about the same price for the e-book version of a book as they are for a trade paperback. Given the choice between electronic and hard copy, I'm always going to go for the hard copy if the price is the same. I think others are too.

I believe the only way publishers are going to truly make money off of the e-book revolution is if they charge less for them. And by less I mean much less. $2.99-$4.99 for a full length novel is the current going rate (with some promotions even selling them for $.99). I never understood why publishers haven't figured that out.

Now it makes a little more sense. Because most authors signed their contracts before the boon of e-books, their royalty rates are going to be based on what has been the norm---hold-in-your-hand books that generally retail for $12.99 (softcover) or $24.95 (hardcover). Using that standard contract, if an author's royalty rate is say, 15% on the wholesale price, then they'll make a buck or so each book that's sold. But if the book is priced at $4.99, then they make much less.

One publisher I've seen jump on the band wagon in a good way is Marcher Lord Press. I spoke with MLP founder Jeff Gerke about their methods, and he said, "Our model is something like this: New e-books at $9.99 for six months, then down to $6.99 and eventually $2.99. Series/trilogies: First book in the series is lowest ($2.99 or lower), second book is $4.99, third book is $9.99 when new and $6.99 after six months. Our lower selling books, or ones we just want to hook people with, or on short-term promotionals are as low as 99 cents."

Not sure how much the authors actually make on these sales, but I would venture to say MLP has taken this into account in their contracts. This methodology is what more publishers need to embrace for them to succeed in the ebook marketplace. That may require new contracts and agreements, but as an author myself I would be happy to make changes along those lines because I know it would end up in more sales overall.

The playing field is wide open. Exciting things are on the horizon for authors and publishers alike! No need to fear this new frontier. Everyone's learning and exploring together, and that makes for some interesting times.

What do you think?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Update & poll on C.J.'s next book

Wow, it's been too long since I posted here. Thanks for sticking with me through the dry spell! I'm back, and I want to make posting on this blog more of a regular occurrence. Here's what's new:

I'm continuing to write for my website and also continue to act as a contributing editor to the new kid on the block,

It's been fun to interview some amazing folks in the Christian entertainment industry like Beverly Lewis; Michael Landon, Jr.; Steven James; David A.R. White; and Lee Strobel.

The writing of my third novel continues too. I'm nearing completion of the latest draft, and it's exciting to see where God's taking this one. More news on that hopefully in the future. Speaking of, why don't we have a little poll to see what you think of my working titles. Without knowing anything about the story, which one grabs you the most?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Tyndale's Ebook Initiative - Fiction Titles

By now you've probably heard that my publisher, Tyndale House, is launching a brand new e-book initiative. In a matter of days we're going to be treated to five books available exclusively as e-books. Four of them are fiction.

I'm excited that Tyndale is taking the bull by the horns and jumping into these waters. It's the way of the future! Aspiring authors have much to celebrate in this move, as according to Tyndale's press release, "This pioneering new program will give Tyndale the freedom to publish even more books with exciting authors to serve a broad spectrum of readers."

“Fiction is the hottest category in the e-book marketplace. Our challenge is that we see more publish-worthy novels than we can reasonably take to print in a year.” comments Karen Watson, Associate Publisher. “This initiative gives us a way to say yes to books that deserve an opportunity and it helps Tyndale become more agile in serving a wider range of readers.”

So ... let's have a look at the just unveiled covers of the novels we can look forward to reading in this initiative, shall we? Which ones catch your eye? I think they're all fantastic.

Stealing Jake
by Pam Hillman

When Livy O'Brien spies a young boy jostling a man walking along the boardwalk, she recognizes the act for what it is. After all, she used to be known as Light-fingered Livy. But that was before she put her past behind her and moved to the growing town of Chestnut, Illinois, where she's helping to run an orphanage. Now she'll do almost anything to protect the street kids like herself.

Sheriff's deputy Jake Russell had no idea what he was in for when he ran into Livy--literally--while chasing down a pickpocket. With a rash of robberies and a growing number of street kids in town--as well as a loan on the family farm that needs to be paid off--Jake doesn't have time to pursue a girl. Still, he can't seem to get Livy out of his mind. He wants to get to know her better . . . but Livy isn't willing to trust any man, especially not a lawman.

Buy Stealing Jake now for $9.99 on your Amazon Kindle here!

by Diana Prusik

Livi finds new purpose in her troubled life when she joins her family’s small-town florist shop. There, the strong and wacky Wilson’s Florist gang monitors the pulse of Mount Helicon, where customers carry stories even the local newspaper does not contain. Tales of birth and death, sickness and sorrow, love and betrayal, and even forgiveness—Livi hears them all. Privy to some of the community’s deepest secrets, she sometimes wishes she didn’t know so much, especially when news arrives that a dear family friend is dead. Faced with servicing his funeral, she is blasted with painful memories she’s struggled for decades to ignore. Soon, guilt and grief over childhood and adult tragedies close in. Instead of turning to loved ones or God for comfort, she leans on alcohol, her long-time clandestine companion--but secrets rarely escape the close-knit flower shop crew, who makes Livi’s business its own. Fumbling through life’s challenges together, the Wilson gang often delivers more than flowers, yet when Livi needs delivery, can the bonds of faith and friendship dissolve her defenses?"

Buy Delivery now for $9.99 on your Amazon Kindle here!

Cash Burn
by Michael Berrier

Billions of dollars flow through Jason Dunn's banking office each year. When he suffers a series of career setbacks and his marriage begins to crumble, he and his attractive new assistant devise a plan to disappear with a slice of the bank's cash flow. The unwelcome appearance of his brother on the scene, just released from prison, threatens to sidetrack Jason's plans. But Jason's brother "Flip" has his own problems with a parole officer who isn't fooled by this dangerous parolee. In the race to the jackpot between Jason and Flip, and the unwinding of their troubled history, the question soon becomes, Who will get burned?

Buy Cash Burn now for $9.99 on your Amazon Kindle here!

Reinventing Leona
by Lynn Gentry

Leona Harper loves being a pastor's wife. Her impressive resume touts thirty years of coaxing hot water from rusty parsonage plumbing, planning church potlucks, and standing beside her husband while members take potshots at his sermons. Except for the little tiff with her grown children, Leona feels her life is right on track with the wishes of the Almighty . . . until her husband drops dead in the pulpit.

When the church board decides to fill the Reverend's vacated position, Leona is forced to find a paying job, mend her fractured family, and tackle her fears. With life spiraling out of control, Leona might find the church members' antics comical if she weren't so completely panicked. Can the faith of an overwhelmed widow withstand the added heartache of two resentful children and several underhanded church members? If Leona can't trust God, how will she learn to trust herself?

Buy Reinventing Leona now for $9.99 on your Amazon Kindle here!