Sunday, December 30, 2007

Nim's Island movie

It takes a lot for me to really look forward to a book or movie, but when I saw the trailer for Walden Media's Nim's Island (April 4, 2008), I was quickly anticipating this one. First of all, I love Jodie Foster, and second, she plays an eccentric author in this film.

Watch a high-def trailer here, or click on the YouTube link below.

What do you think?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

My Favorite Novels of 2007

Ah, if only there were more days left in the year blocked off strictly for pleasure reading ... I have several titles still in my TBR pile that were released this year, but of the books I've read, here are my favorites (in no particular order):

The Restorer
by Sharon Hinck

From the moment I saw the cover I was intrigued. And I've always loved stories in which people from our world find themselves in another. Susan Mitchell, an ordinary soccer Mom and wife in our world travels through a portal (quite accidentally) to an unknown world where she soon realizes she has powers and skills only a promised Restorer would have.

The Restorer's Son
by Sharon Hinck

The sequel to The Restorer. Susan and her husband Mark travel back to the world they'd just left to rescue their son Jake who accidentally entered the land through the same portal Susan did. Just as good as the first book. I would love to see these novels made into movies!

The Stones Cry Out
by Sibella Giorello

Discovering this novel was like finding a twenty dollar bill in my pocket I thought was lost. I hadn't expected to find it, but boy was I happy I did. Giorello has a gift for telling a compelling story, and her word usage had me amazed at her writing skills more than once. Read my review of this book here.

In Between
by Jenny B. Jones

This book was another wonderful find this year. I got it in for, but I couldn't send it on to our reviewer without reading it myself. And I laughed through every chapter. I love that about a book. Jenny has the skill to blend humor right alongside the serious. Terrific read whether you're 17 or 70.

On the Loose
by Jenny B. Jones

Book #2 in the Katie Parker Production series is just as delightful as the first. If not more so. Jones has created a character everyone, no matter their age, can relate to in some way--even if only for her snarkiness! Okay, and I gotta tell you. I've had the chance to read Book #3, The Big Picture. Katie Parker fans ... you won't be disappointed!

Clear Blue Sky
by F.P. Lione

If you've ever wondered what it's like to be a police officer in one of the busiest cities of the world, look no further. Tony Cavalucci is the main character of the Midtown Blue series, and every novel is quality and authenticity wrapped up in a compelling story. The Liones aren't afraid to share truth, whether it be about the tough reality of the streets, or God's love. I really enjoyed learning about the daily grind of a cop's life, on the beat and off. Read my review of this novel here.

Saving Sailor
by Renee Riva

This book was another unexpected treasure. Reminded me of To Kill A Mockingbird in that the narrator was a young girl not unlike Scout of that novel's fame. She's quirky, fun, wise beyond her years without realizing it, and she loves animals. A terrific combination. And humor. Did I mention I was cracking up through this one, too?

Hollywood Nobody
by Lisa Samson

Hmm... I'm detecting a theme here. I think I enjoy books with humor more than I first thought. And quirky characters. Scotty in this novel is a fifteen-year-old girl who travels the country in an RV with her mother Charley to movie sets. First, I loved the RV tidbits since I've also traveled around the country in one, and Scotty's sarcasm and penchant for cheese were hilarious.

Okay ... you're turn! What were your favorites of 2007?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Favorite Christmas Memories from 31 Authors

I had the chance to ask a whole bunch of authors about their favorite Christmas memories, and let me tell you, they had some interesting ones! Some fun, some sad, some nostalgic, but all worth reading.

Included are authors (in no particular order) from Karen Kingsbury, Michael Landon Jr., Karen Ball, Deborah Raney, Dallas Jenkins, Jerry Jenkins, Justin Lookadoo, Sibella Giorello, Tim Downs, F.P. Lione, Amy Wallace, Matt Bronleewe, John Perrodin, Eric Wilson, Lisa Samson, Rebeca Seitz, Virginia Smith, Kathryn Cushman, Linda Leigh Hargrove, Roxanne Henke, James Scott Bell, Jenny B. Jones, Angela Hunt, Ann Tatlock, Donna Fleisher, Liz Curtis Higgs, Nikki Arana, Christa Banister, Travis Thrasher, Melanie Wells, and Susan Wales.

Check it out here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Stories that Speak (My Writing Journey, Part 13)

A couple days ago I typed the last words of my second novel. This is a book I've been working on for about three years, and it's a wonderful feeling to bring a story that's been in my head for that long to the page. I'm not finished entirely, however. There will be plenty of revisions to come. But at least the story is complete.

This plot is something I'd struggled with all through the writing. I knew how I wanted it to end, but the getting there was the sticky wicket. I kept hitting a wall with the plot twists.

Now comes the potentially scary moment---coming up with a third book. Really. If I let myself dwell on the negative, I could become a slave to fear over this. Will I be able to write something I care about as much as this last book?

But you know what? This time I have a little perspective. I remember I felt this exact same way when I started my second novel. I didn't think I could ever love new characters like my old ones. I didn't know how I would discover a plot that excited me as much as my first. But I did. And that's the way it'll be with this third book if I keep my heart in the right place and trust God.

I shared some of this frustration recently with a published author friend, and she had some great advice: "You're not going to dry up," she said. "There are stories everywhere. Tell the next one that speaks to you."

So that's what I'm gonna do. Seek out the story that speaks. And there are a couple of them whispering in my ear right now ...

Friday, December 14, 2007

Karen Ball - A Woman of Many Hats!

I've always been a little bit in awe of Karen Ball. After all, the woman developed the fiction lines at Tyndale, Multnomah, Zondervan, and now is hard at work on B&H's. She's edited some of my favorite authors. She's a novelist in her own right. And she's a huge dog lover like I am. :)

Her latest novel What Lies Within has just released. Book #3 in the Family Honor series, this is the final installment of the trilogy, the first of which was Shattered Justice, the second Kaleidescope Eyes.

Karen's writing reminds me of a cross between Brandilyn Collins and Donna Fleisher, which is interesting because she has edited one and acquired the other (thanks for setting me straight, Donna! :). The suspense is definitely a strong point to the series, but the family drama between three siblings makes sure character development isn't thrown aside.

Read a terrific interview with Karen here by my friend Rel Mollet.
Read an interview I conducted with Karen several months ago here.

Visit Karen's newly designed website here.
And her blog here.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Searching for a Plot (My Writing Journey, Part 12)

No, not that kind of plot. The kind I'm talking about is much harder to find! When I last posted I talked about how after I finished my first novel I was desperate to discover the next story I was to write. I knew I had more than one book in me, and I was on a journey to find the next one.

Except it's hard to reach the end of a journey if you don't have a map. Plotting books was all too new to me. I'd discovered the story of my first novel over time and very gradually. So, like I mentioned, I picked up a copy of James Scott Bell's Plot & Structure.

In this wonderful how-to book Jim has a chapter all about getting ideas. One of them in particular I found helpful. The idea is this: sit down with a piece of paper (or open up a blank document on your computer) and fill in the blank:

"What I really want to write about is ___."

This is what I did, and I instantly had a response. I wrote it down.

Over a period of a couple weeks I continued to write in my idea journal various plot scenarios. Some were quite elaborate. I could've made books out of any of them. Then I performed the exercise above again ... and wrote the same thing, the same story idea. Several more weeks passed and I wrote a few chapters, then a few more. Eventually I had a story I was enjoying writing. Last night I wrote the last scene of that book.

Now, there's something amusing in all of this. The other day I was re-reading my idea journal, and I'd actually forgotten the exercise. But when I read my response I smiled. I had written a story that was exactly what I'd wanted to write about all those months ago ... without even realizing it.

My point? For those out there struggling with what to write next, search inside of yourself and be honest. What do you really want to write about? Chances are, that's where your best book will be found. Follow those ideas.

Second, for us SOTP (seat-of-the-pants) writers, don't be afraid if your plot doesn't come to you full blown. After all, the journey of discovery is why you write this way in the first place. My second novel didn't come to me full blown. I had plenty of days full of angst over what would happen next. But eventually, with lots of prayer, the story found me. It'll be the same for you.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Joys of Writing SOTP

Except on very rare days of structure, I'm a SOTP (seat-of-the-pants) writer. As I finish up my second novel I'm starting to learn that about myself. I used to bemoan this fact. I wanted to write with an outline. I wanted to have everything planned out in advance. But the more I've written fiction, the more I'm realizing that's not where my best writing comes from.

Case in point. I am nearing the home stretch in completing my second novel (working title is Innocent Blood). I'd been working on this one scene for days. I knew it had to be a powerful scene full of emotional depth. It was sort of the crux of the story. So of course I was working it to death. By this time I'd edited it so that the writing wasn't terrible, but I knew there was something missing. This is prone to happen for me when I try too hard. I knew I wasn't tapping into the depth of the emotional experience I needed. So what did I do?

Well, I prayed. I asked God to show me what to do. That's another thing I'm learning---tap into the amazing resource I have as a Christian writer, the author of the universe's advice. Why I didn't think of this earlier is beyond me and for another post! :)

It wasn't like a flash came from the clouds and a booming voice told me what to do. But you know how God speaks to us the most? Through that still small voice that sounds so much like our own. The reason for this, I believe, is because God speaks to us through our spirits so of course it's going to sound like us. It's coming from inside us.

Anyway, the impression I was getting was that I needed to re-write the scene from scratch. Just scrap what I had before and start over. Not an easy thing to do when you've spent the last week working on a scene. But I had a knowing it was what was needed. So I started in.

And something amazing happened.

This is where the joys of SOTP writing come in. I was typing away, working on this interchange between two characters and all of the sudden an idea came to me. This time it really did feel like a flash of inspiration. It was almost like I was watching a movie and an amazing twist happened that made me sit up straight and go, "No way!"

I think I'm about to reveal something else about writers. So, non-writers take notice. Ready?

Writers are a little crazy. There. I said it. And sometimes our characters take over our stories, behaving in ways we can't foresee.

My character revealed something in this scene I never saw coming. I know, I know, I'm the author. I should know when these things are going to happen. But I'm telling you, I never saw this one coming. My character said something in this scene I never would've thought of if I hadn't re-written it (Gee, you think God might've had a clue about this?). I never would've thought of it if I'd been sticking strictly to an outline.

Needless to say, I was really excited that night after my writing session. The big reveal of this character was exactly what that scene needed, and it brought a depth to her character I knew was there but didn't know why. It made all her previous actions more understandable, and connected her to the other character in a way that was simply beautiful, if I do say so myself.

So writers, have you ever had this happen in your writing? Readers, have you ever read a scene in a book that slapped you upside the head but made perfect sense in the whole scheme of things? I'd love to hear about it.

This week's CFBA blog tour is for Virginia Smith's Bluegrass Peril.

I read Virginia's novel Just As I Am, and this lady is a great writer.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

FIRST blog Tour - The Minor Protection Act

It's December 1st, time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!

This month's feature author is:

and her book:

Musterion (December 1, 2005)


Jodi Cowles caught the travel bug when her parents took her on her first international flight at six months of age. Since then she’s been in over 30 countries. Along the way she’s gotten locked out of her cabin on an all night train to Kiev, helped deliver a baby in Indonesia, taught English in South Korea, gone spelunking in Guam, hiked the Golan Heights and laid bricks in Zimbabwe. Her interest in politics stems from hunting Easter eggs on the south lawn of the White House as a child. For her 30th birthday she ran the LA Marathon and promised to get serious about publishing. Jodi resides in Boise, Idaho and this is her first novel.

Read the first chapter here.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Desperate to Write (My Writing Journey, Part 11)

When I finished my first novel I celebrated with dinner at Applebees, coffee at Starbucks and a stack of new novels at my local Christian bookstore. It was a great feeling . . . for about a day. Then the panic set in. I had worked on this particular book for years. I lived and breathed those characters. They were a part of me. To not share time with them was the strangest feeling in the world. I had to be writing! But I didn't have anything to write.

In a matter of days I was desperate. I'd purchased a journal to write new ideas in, I had a thick folder of idea snippets, but the whole coming-up-with-a-novel-idea was new to me. Since my first novel was written over a period of years it developed naturally over time. I had no system for plotting a story.

I prayed. I pleaded. I tried to trust God. But it wasn't easy. I didn't want to be a one book gal. I knew there was more in me to write, but I just hadn't found it yet.

Then I picked up a copy of James Scott Bell's Plot & Structure.

This week's CFBA blog tour is for Auralia's Colors by Jeffrey Overstreet. A friend of mine who's an avid fantasy reader loved it. It looks tremendous to me, but I haven't yet had a chance to read it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thicker Than Blood (My Writing Journey, Part 10)

We left off with me adding 10K to my novel. I now had a 77k manuscript---a much more marketable length, albeit still a little short. (Check out my post here about the lengths of many published novels.)

This novel is tentatively titled Thicker Than Blood and has been a work in progress for almost 13 years. It's a story about two sisters who haven't seen each other for fifteen years. Might I share with you my synopsis?

Two sisters, estranged for 15 years.
Their blood ties weren’t enough.

Only something stronger could bring them together again.

Christy Williams finally has her life on track. Her career as an antiquarian book buyer at the renowned used bookstore Dawson’s Barn of Books is taking off. Hunter Dawson is teaching her the fine points of purchasing collectable books, and so far she’s been able to keep her drinking problem from interfering. But when she discovers her ex-boyfriend, who also works at Dawson’s, is stealing valuable books right off the store’s shelves, she’s unable to stop him for fear he’ll expose the skeleton’s in her closet.

Things begin to unravel when a stolen Hemingway first edition is found in her possession, framing her for a crime she didn’t commit. With no one to turn to, she yearns for her estranged family, especially her younger sister May, who she abandoned in their childhood after their parents untimely deaths. Now the owner of a failing cattle ranch, May couldn’t possibly want a relationship with her, the big sister who didn’t even say goodbye all those years ago. Could she?

Soon Christy’s fleeing from her shattered dreams, her ex-boyfriend, and God. Could the Triple Cross ranch be the safe haven she’s searching for, or will her sister’s new-found faith give her even more reason to reject Christy? Will they realize before it’s too late that each possesses what the other desperately needs?

What do you think when you read this summary? Is the plot intriguing? What is your impression of the genre? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thankfulness and the writing life

The writing life can be full of ups and downs. One minute we're high in the sky because someone said something nice about our endeavors, the next we're down in the dumps because a rejection letter came in the mail. I think this is probably the bane of most creative types. We're often emotional people. We have to be. It's what allows us to dig deep into ourselves and pull out characters. We have the ability to literally feel what our characters feel.

This emotional response in writers (and all artists, really) can be a curse if we don't learn to harness it properly. But it can also be a tremendous blessing! We're able to put ourselves in someone else's shoes maybe a little easier than the average Jane/Joe. We can empathize with pain---because we've felt it, either literally or vicariously through our characters.

But here's the thing. Instead of letting ourselves be ruled by our emotions when it comes to rejections and disappointments, let's look at them from a different angle. Every rejection you receive is one step closer to an acceptance. Why look at the glass half empty?

I wanted to share with you a Scripture that's helped me on more than one occasion. It comes from Philippians 4, starting with verse 4. Here goes:

4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

Stop right there for a moment. Rejoice. That's what this Thanksgiving holiday is all about. Rejoicing in what we have, whether it's where we want to be or not. I bet there's something in your life to thank the Lord about. Maybe it's just the good food on your table. Or the blue sky. Or much-needed rain. Or your beloved pet. Or your spouse. It was important enough for Paul to mention twice in this verse.

The Lord is near
. No matter where you are right now as you're reading this. You can know this for certain. God is with you. Right now. Looking over your shoulder. Loving you exactly as you are.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

In this day and age, there's a lot to be anxious about. You know what? That's not God's best for us. But he doesn't just command us not to worry. He shows us what to do instead! And that is: present our request to Him. Ask Him for help. How many times is God the last resort in our lives? Why not make Him the first person we turn to in times of stress?

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

After we've given thanks, after we've presented our requests to God, here's His wonderful promise to us: peace will fill our hearts. I love that line "which transcends all understanding", meaning we can't make sense of it! That's because it comes from God. Allow God's peace to fill you today, even amidst all the hustle and bustle. He loves you so much. Hey, He died for you, too. Pretty cool, huh?

One more thought. Writers and readers ... God cares about your writing. He wouldn't have put the desire in your heart to do it if He didn't have some way to fulfill it, if it wasn't in His plan for your life. He's the one who put your dreams inside of you! If you commit your way to Him, and seek His will, it'll all work out perfectly in His time.

Keep trusting. Keep writing. And Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Shadow of Treason by Tricia Goyer blog tour

Today I'm pleased to be a part of Tricia Goyer's blog tour for her novel A Shadow Of Treason. This book is Book #2 in her Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War series. You'll also want to be sure to check out Book #1 A Valley of Betrayal (read the first chapter here).


Sophie discovers that nothing is as she first imagined. When Walt, the reporter who helped her over the border, shows up again after Guernica is bombed, Sophie is given an impossible
mission. She must leave behind the man she's fallen in love with and return to the person who betrayed her. Another layer of the war in Spain is revealed as Sophie is drawn into the international espionage schemes that could turn the tide of the war and help protect the soldiers from the International Brigade ... she must find a way to get a critical piece of information to Walt in time.

Read an excerpt here!

Interested in signing up for Tricia's newsletter? Click here.

Question & Answer session with Tricia:


A Shadow of Treason follows A Valley of Betrayal. This is the first time you've written books as a series instead of stand alone. Which way do you like better?

A: I love writing in series. It was great to continue with the same characters. In my stand-alone books I fell in love with these people and then I had to say good-bye after one book. It was wonderful to be able to continue on.

Q: In A Shadow of Treason Sophie must return to the person who betrayed her in an effort to help the Spanish people. It makes the book hard to put down because the reader has to know how Sophie's heart will deal with it. Why did you decide to make this an element of the book?

A: There are very few of us who go through life without giving away a part of our hearts to someone who didn't deserve it. Even though Sophie had the best intentions, she gave away her heart and she was hurt-not only that she must revisit those emotions.

I wanted to include this element-to delve into the topic that emotions are sometimes as big of a trap as any physical cage. Emotions are real and they guide us -- even when we don't want to admit it. Poor Sophie, not only does she have to deal with a war around her -- she also has to deal with a war within herself. It's something I've battled, and mostly likely others have too.

Q: There is an interesting element that arises in this book and that is Spanish gold. I know you can't tell us what happens in this book, but can you give us a brief history of this gold?

A: Sure. When I was researching I came upon something interesting. The Spaniards, as we know, had taken much Aztec and Inca gold during the time of the conquistadors. Well, at the start of The Spanish Civil War much of this gold was still held in Madrid. In fact Spain had the fourth largest gold reserves in the world at that time. The Republican government was afraid Franco would take the city and the gold. They had to get it out of Madrid and this included transporting priceless artifacts. The element of gold does make its way into my story. It was great to include this little-known (and true!) element into my story.

Q: Another historical fact I learned about was the Nazi involvement during this time. Not only were the Germans active in Spain, but they had spy networks busy around the world. How did you find out about this?

A: I love reading tons of research books. Usually I find one little element that I dig out and turn into a plot line. This is what happened with my plot-line for the Nazi pilot, Ritter. I dug up this bit of research of Nazi involvement in Spain -- and the United States -- because a lot of people aren't aware of the Nazi involvement prior to WWII. The truth is they were busy at work getting the land, information, and resources they needed far before they threatened the nations around them. The Germans knew what they wanted and how to get it. And most of the time they succeeded!

Q: A Shadow of Treason is Book Two. When will Book Three be out? Can you give us a hint of how the story continues?

A: Book Three is A Whisper of Freedom. It will be out February 2008. The characters that we love are all still in the midst of danger at the end of Book Two. Book Three continues their stories as we follow their journeys in -- and (for a few) out -- of Spain. It's an exciting conclusion to the series!

Read an interview I conducted with Tricia awhile back here.

67684: A Shadow of Treason, Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War #2A Shadow of Treason, Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War #2

By Tricia Goyer
(Click to purchase at

Friday, November 16, 2007

Try Dying by James Scott Bell

I've been a big fan of James Scott Bell for years now. His latest offering, Try Dying, is the first in a series featuring lawyer Ty Buchanan.

In a recent interview over at Brandilyn Collins' blog Forensics and Faith, Jim said: “I haven’t been happy about some of the trends in contemporary, secular suspense. And I think the audience out there is getting tired of the gratuitous elements. I believe you can write page-turning suspense without that, like some of the great crime novels of the 40s and 50s. I wanted to offer that, because I see the need for it.”

My review of the book can be read here at

"...a no-nonsense crime novel ... Try Dying is a dynamic start to a new series, filled with colorful characters and elaborate plots."

You can also check out my reviews of Jim's last two novels:

Presumed Guilty
No Legal Grounds

You also might enjoy an interview I conducted with Jim about a year ago here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Importance of Resting

I just got back into the office from an extended weekend off. There's something to this vacation thing, folks. Seriously. You know what it's like. You have a million e-mails to respond to, a million books you want to read, a million words you have to write, a million things to do around the house, not to mention your day job ... and only 24 hours in a day. Doesn't seem fair, does it?

But here's the thing I'm learning. When I feel the most stressed, the most pulled in ten different directions, that's when I need to take a break. When we're stressed we're not going to do our best work. It might feel like you're wasting time by taking a day off, but really you're saving yourself time in the long run. You won't burn out. You won't have a nervous break-down. :)

But what if you can't drop everything and take a day off? Try taking a few hours and just do nothing. Or read a few chapters in that novel you've been longing to dive into. It'll help you re-charge, and then you'll be ready to tackle your inbox!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Making a short novel long (My Writing Journey, Part #9)

It's challenging to write about a journey you're still on. That's the way I feel about my writing journey so far. The last time I wrote, I had just started submitting my manuscript to publishers. I could go on and on about this leg of the trip.

Eventually I realized I needed to lengthen my 67K manuscript. So I went back over it adding 10K. This is actually an interesting point. How to make a short manuscript longer. I've come up with a few steps that helped me:

1. Look for places where you’ve summarized a scene. Dramatize it instead.

2. Look for scenes where a character has a lot of interior monologue. Bring in a second character for them to talk with.

3. Look for time gaps. What happens in them that you could make into a scene?

4. Add another character. Perhaps someone your main character doesn’t want to see, or wasn’t expecting to see.

5. Add a subplot. Are there any existing characters you could give scenes? Maybe your villain?

So writers and readers ... what say you?

The CFBA blog tour this week is for Robert Liparulo's Deadfall.

Read a great review of the book here.
And read an interview I did with Robert awhile back here.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The TBR Pile

I don't know about you, but my TBR pile (aka the "To-Be-Read-Pile") is constantly growing these days. There are just so many amazing books out there! Christian fiction used to mostly be made up of prairie romances and Biblical epics. Not anymore. There's something for just about anyone, and the quality continues to rise. This is a wonderful thing for a book maven like me who loves great fiction but doesn't want to fill my mind with some of the junk out there in secular fiction. This isn't to say there isn't some great stuff out there in the mainstream, but I think you know what I mean.

Above is a picture of my actual TBR pile. Several of these are books I'm reading to review, others are for pure enjoyment. Notice the top book. Perhaps if I read it first I might actually get to the others quicker? :)

So what about you? What's in your TBR pile these days?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Hollywood Nobody by Lisa Samson

You know how it is when you find a new book you love and you just want to tell everyone you know about it? Yeah. That's what Hollywood Nobody by Lisa Samson has been like for me. I started reading the first page and couldn't stop. I love that about a book.

Hollywood Nobody is a YA novel, but it can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Main character Scotty, a fifteen-year-old girl who's mother travels around to movie sets to cook for them is someone who's smart and quirky. But she doesn't have everything together. There are mysteries to her life she wants answers for. They aren't what she expects. (Hint: a twist at the end completely got me!)

This is a book that had me cracking up every other page, too. Scotty's mother is a vegan, and since my Dad was a vegan (and is a vegetarian now) I could very much relate to some of those "vegan moments". Quite funny.

Teens, you'll love this one. Parents, ditto. Everyone else (like me), don't let the fact that this is a YA novel deter you. These are life themes everyone's dealt with.

Read the first chapter here.
Read a great review of the novel

Q&A with Lisa Samson

Q. What inspired you to write Hollywood Nobody?

A. NavPress approached me at a publishing conference about writing YA fiction. They felt my writing voice would transition naturally into YA. Well, that day, I was sitting in my car in Opryland's parking lot, and the idea just gushed out. Nav loved it, and here we all are, me, Nav, Scotty Dawn and her fabulous readers.

Q. What message would you like readers to take away after reading Hollywood Nobody?

A. Be yourself and don't think the grass is always greener "over there." Chances are, somebody's looking at your yard thinking you've got it made.

Q. What does faith mean to you?

A. Faith means trusting God even when you have no idea what's going on around you, or what lies ahead. Faith means that somehow, somewhere, the bad stuff will be turned into good, even if that seems impossible.

Q. Can you describe what a "normal" family means to you? Did you grow up in a "normal" family?

A. Honestly, I don't think there is such thing as a "normal" family. We're all odd in our own way. Sure, some families look normal from the outside, but we're all weird in our "own special way." Of course, some families' abnormalities are dark and painful, and I just hope and pray that Hollywood Nobody will provide young women in those situations with a little bit of escape and encouragement.

Q. How did that help you?

I was always encouraged in the arts. My Dad played boogie-woogie for pocket money in college, and painted when he came home from his practice at night. My Mom worked at our church, was involved in other causes, so I became aware of my social responsibilities through her.

Q. In Hollywood Nobody, Scottie really struggles to find authentic relationships due to her nomadic lifestyle and the pervasive Hollywood influence in her life. What do you think Scotty would say to Britney Spears or Lindsey Lohan if she had the chance?

A. She'd say, "Are you kidding me?!" :-)

Q. What book is coming up next? Will Scottie find out who is chasing her?

A. The next book is called Finding Hollywood Nobody and yes, she will figure out who Biker Guy really is!

Q. What book(s) are you reading now?

A. Right now I'm reading, Growing Up Hard in Harlan County and Jesus of Nazareth.

Q. If your book were turned into a movie, who would play the main character(s)?

A. Amanda Bynes with a dark, curly wig. Adam Brody would nail Seth Haas. Charley could totally be played by Kelly Preston.

Q. Which one of your characters is most like you? Why?

A. Well, Scotty thinks a lot like I do. But I don't think any of the characters in this book resemble me. I am 43 dontchaknow. :-) Scotty, however, is an awful lot like my 17-year-old daughter Ty. I really felt like she was whispering in my ear as I wrote the book.

Q. What do you want your readers to know about you?

A. I guess I hope they know I remember how awful being a teenager could be! I'm not the person who says, "This is the greatest time of your life. Just be happy." I wouldn't go back to High School if anybody paid me to do it. It's a hard gig.

Q. There are many references woven throughout Hollywood Nobody to F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Is this a favorite book for you? Why did you choose it as a backdrop for Scotty?

A. Yes, The Great Gatsby is a favorite of mine. I chose it because I was re-reading it when I started writing the book. There are a lot of parallels between the two storylines. Unrequited love, the outsider looking in, wanting what we can't have. Beyond that, I wanted Scotty to be the literary type and to encourage the readers of Hollywood Nobody to venture out into something more classic than my book!

Q. Are you a vegetarian like Scotty or her mother?

A. I've tried it a time or two. And I wish I could stick with it. But usually it's fried chicken that knocks me off course every time. (I love fried chicken!)

Q. Scottie struggles with defining faith and how it fits into her life. Can you describe your experience coming to faith?

A. I've been in church all of my life! When I was three I remember asking Him into my heart. But faith isn't just a nice little formula, it's embracing Christ and God's faithfulness, day after day after day. Honestly, each day I hope I come to Christ a little more, hoping to draw closer to Him, to be more like Him, to love Him more.

Lisa Samson is the author of twenty books, including the Christy Award-winning Songbird. Apples of Gold was her first novel for teens. Visit Lisa at

She speaks at various writers’ conferences throughout the year. Lisa and her husband, Will, reside in Kentucky with their three children.

Other Novels by Lisa:
Straight Up, , Club Sandwich, Songbird, Tiger Lillie, The Church Ladies, Women's Intuition: A Novel, Songbird, The Living End

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Tale of Two Covers - Your Chariot Awaits by Lorena McCourtney

I've been looking forward to Lorena McCourtney's next novel ever since I read On the Run & Stranded, Book #3 & #4 respectively in her Ivy Malone cozy mystery series. I just loved that LOL! (Little Old Lady.) So when I heard that her next series, this time with Thomas Nelson, was to feature a sixty-year-old protagonist who inherits a limousine (and a dead body), I knew McCourtney was writing just for me. Enter Andi McConnell.

But here's the thing. When I saw the proposed cover for this book I was surprised. It just didn't seem to have the feel a book like this deserved. Apparently I wasn't the only to think this way because the final cover was changed dramatically, and now it looks terrific! Below is a picture of the two covers side-by-side. The one on the left is the first cover I saw, the one on the right is the final. I love seeing the different covers and how they often progress in the process. What do you think about these two? (Click on the picture for a larger view.)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Waiting (My Writing Journey, Part 8)

As you will recall, my goal was to submit my novel to the Operation First Novel contest put on by the Christian Writer's Guild. This was the first one they did several years ago. What the contest gave me was a deadline. I don't know about you, but it's harder to write without one.

So . . . I sent it in. And waited. You know? That's probably the hardest part about this writing journey.

Waiting. It's not an easy thing. But if you want to be a writer, you better get used to it! I've learned a whole lot about patience waiting for editors to respond to my submissions. :)

To make this arm of my journey shorter I'll summarize. I obviously didn't win the contest. The top 10 submissions were to go to editorial board at Tyndale House, personally read by Jerry Jenkins. I made it to the top 20, which was a huge boost to my writing self-esteem but not enough to go to the board.

I didn't mind. In fact, I had a real peace about it as I know that's not what God had for me at that time. But I immediately jumped right into the submitting-my-manuscript-to-editors stage. At this point my book was only 67K in length, too. Not long enough. But we'll get to that in a future post.

Where are you in your writing journey? What have you learned?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

CFBA Blog Tour: Illuminated by Matt Bronleewe

Acclaimed music producer Matt Bronleewe has recently made the jump into novel writing. His first book Illuminated (Thomas Nelson) can be found on bookshelves everywhere!

I had the chance to interview Matt recently about Illuminated, and he had some fascinating things to say. Click here to read the full piece. Matt talked about his publishing journey, where he got the idea for the book, the hardest part about writing it, how his faith comes into play when he writes, and much more.

"I'd love for people to realize that history is very exciting, very meaningful ... If we don't know our history, we don't know our future."
--Matt Bronleewe

I also reviewed the novel for It begins thus:

Matt Bronleewe is a man of many talents. He’s an accomplished music producer who’s worked with the likes of Rebecca St. James, Plumb, Michael W. Smith and Leeland. He’s penned or co-penned a number of top-of-the-charts hits. He was a founding member and guitarist for the band Jars of Clay. Now he’s written Illuminated---a blockbuster thriller that could easily place him on the best-seller lists. With a National Treasure meets The Da Vince Code style, Matt blows out of the starting gate with this debut novel. “I love books,” he told me. “I wanted to write a book about a book.”

Read the full review here.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Joke of the day

Q: How many mystery writers does it take to change a light bulb?

A: Two, one to screw it almost all the way in and the other to give it a surprising twist at the end.

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

I'd known about the CFBA for quite some time, but now I can happily say I'm an official member. The alliance features a new Christian novel every week, and members talk about it on their blogs. Just take a look at their upcoming December schedule of books:

Wed 7th thru 9th---Deadfall by Robert Liparulo
Wed 14th thru 16th---Try Dying by James Scott Bell
Wed 21st thru 23rd---One Smooth Stone by Marcia Laycock
Wed 28th thru 30th---Auralia’s Colors by Jeffrey Overstreet

I'm looking forward to helping spread the word about all the wonderful books out there in the industry today. Why not join the alliance yourself? Your only obligations are to include their blogroll and links on your site, plus of course, you'll need to feature some books. But you don't have to feature every single one. Members are allowed to pick and choose (Who can resist free books?). And they make it easy for you by providing reviews and blurbs you can use with your post. Click here to visit the alliance website and learn more. Director Bonnie Calhoun is great about answering questions, too!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Operation First Novel (My Writing Journey, Part 7)


Kinda has a nice ring to it, don't you think? Yeah. That's what I thought, too. So when I saw the ad in Writer's Digest for the Christian Writer's Guild's Operation First Novel contest (the first one), I knew I wanted to enter. It would give me a firm deadline to finish my novel. The top 10 entries would go to committee at Tyndale House and be read by Jerry Jenkins himself. The winner would be awarded a $50,000 advance and be published by Tyndale.

The real draw for me to enter this contest was the deadline. I needed one. Desperately. I don't know about you, but I often struggle with self-inflicted deadlines. I mean, it's kinda hard to be mean to yourself, you know what I mean? Am I the only one who struggles with this?

So I had a date. Now I just had to finish the novel!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Writing how-to books (My Writing Journey, Part 6)

It was just a college composition textbook, but Pearl Hogrefe's The Process of Creative Writing made an impact on me. I bought it at a local used bookstore for .$50 and got excited just reading the introduction.

I still remember it. It was like an epiphany moment. I said to myself, "You mean I can actually learn how to write better?" I'd never thought about it before, but this book was the first of many writing how-to books after that. Guide to Good Writing, a compilation of Writer's Digest articles was another eye-opening book for me. I picked that one up for $1.00.

These two books were the ones that got me started, but they certainly weren't the last. I've read countless books on the writing craft, but I've come to realize I've probably learned the most from reading other novels. You pick up what works and what doesn't by immersion, really. Read enough, and you'll learn more than you might imagine.

As the years progressed, I kept plugging away on that first novel (its working title is Thicker Than Blood). Sometimes I'd put it down for a couple weeks or months, but I always ended up going back.

Then I saw the ad in Writer's Digest magazine . . .

Monday, October 15, 2007

What goes into designing a book cover?

These sort of things fascinate me. A couple months ago, Bethany House publishers had a survey about which cover to use for Ann Tatlock's Every Secret Thing.

My friend Rel recently posted on her blog the results of that survey with comments from Bethany's publicist Jim Hart. What sort of things do they take into account when selecting a cover?

Click here to read the full, informative post. And by the way, the cover at left is the final version of the book.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Back to your roots (My Writing Journey, Part 5)

My last post on my writing journey mentioned something memorable happening when I was fifteen. No, it wasn't earth-shattering, but I look back now and realize, "Yeah. That's when it all began."

It was May 1st. I had a lined notebook and my favorite pen. One little story idea was all that I knew, but I started writing what was to become my first novel. My main character was to be a real estate agent. Her sister lived on a farm. And I wondered if the sister on the farm was to share Jesus with the other.

That's it. No outlines. No plot summaries. Nothing. Of course, the story changed dramatically over the years, but the gist remained the same, interestingly enough.

I still have that notebook and occasionally go back and shudder at my teenage writings. See, I knew nothing about writing a novel. My only experience was the many books I'd read. But you know what? That was a good thing. I didn't come into it with any pre-conceived notions. I just wrote.

And this is something I need to remember. I wrote because I loved it. As time went on and I learned more, it didn't come as easily to me. Words were harder to pull from my mind. But there's something beautiful about those first attempts. I believe fiction writers need to write, first of all, for themselves, and THEN think about their audience. Because if you're not interesting yourself with your story . . . then honey, you're going to have trouble finishing that novel.

Maybe you're stuck right now in your writing. Or maybe you're not a writer at all, and you feel like your life is just stalled. May I suggest going back to the basics and remembering what used to excite you? Perhaps it's something that still can. Did you always want to write a fantasy novel but got side-tracked on the latest fiction fad? Have you always wanted to travel to Alaska but let life drag you down? It's never too late to live your dreams. Sometimes it might take time to reach them, but start today by taking a step in the right direction.

Next time ... the first writing how-to book I ever read.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Clear Blue Sky by F.P. Lione review

I have a review up on of F.P. Lione's novel Clear Blue Sky. I'm excited to help spread the word about the Lione's books. To read an interview I did recently with them, click here.

My review begins thus:

"I’ve said before that reading an F.P. Lione novel is like watching an un-cut taping of COPS, only you follow the cops home. But in a way that’s doing their writing a disservice. A Lione novel is about much more than the domestic disputes, car chases, and gun wielding criminals often found on the tv show. That isn’t to say these types of situations don’t make it into the pages. They do. But a Lione novel digs deeper than that. By following police officer Tony Cavalucci on and off duty, the Lione’s reveal the heart and soul of a cop. Tony’s story has already filled three Midtown Blue novels (The Deuce, The Crossroads & Skells), and his saga continues in Clear Blue Sky, the unofficial 4th book."

Read the rest of the review here.

Monday, October 01, 2007

FIRST Blog Tour - Demon by Tosca Lee

It's October 1st, time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!
This month's feature author is:
TOSCA LEE and her book: Demon: A Memoir
(NavPress, 2007)


Tosca Lee received her BA in English and International Relations from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She has also studied at Oxford University.

As a Leadership Consultant, Tosca works with managers and leaders of organizations throughout the Pan-Pacific region, Europe, and the U.S.

Tosca is a former Mrs. Nebraska-America 1996, Mrs. Nebraska-United States 1998 and first runner-up to Mrs. United States and has been lauded nationally for her efforts to fight breast cancer.

In her spare time, Tosca enjoys cooking, studying history and theology, and traveling. She currently resides in Nebraska with her Shar Pei, Attila.

Visit her at her website and her blog.

Read the 1st chapter at the FIRST blog here.
Read a review of Demon here.
Read a great interview with Tosca here.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Can you guess these 13 first lines?

I just had to pass this along. Angie Hunt blogged about it, and it was fun. Test your reading prowess and come back here and let me know how you did. I got 9 out of 13. I haven't read a single one (I'm sorry to admit) but you know how writing how-to books often give great first lines as examples? I've read a LOT of those! Check the quiz out here.

The Monthly DART (My Writing Journey, Part 4)

The Monthly DART.

That's what my sister and I called our newspaper. We featured news, short stories, editorials, the Sky this Month, Morse Code Puzzle (I was probably the only one who liked that feature!), jokes, concert reviews (Can anyone say Petra, Petra, Petra?), the occasional recipe ...

We rode our bikes around our neighborhood selling those things for $.50. At one point our circulation was 60, and we said that's what it was every issue after that.

I smile when I think about this endeavor because I see just how early these sort of writing tendencies appeared in my life. Now with I'm doing all the same stuff! We kept the paper up for at least a year (it eventually became The Bi-Monthly Dart). I read a few of them recently, and boy were we ambitious!

Then when I was fifteen, something memorable happened ...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Dog Named Moby (My Writing Journey, Part 3)

It was an epiphany moment. I still remember it.

I was outside mowing our lawn with our non-motorized push mower. As I was working out there, I had an idea for a story. It would be another epic. I'd write about a dog trying to find his place in this world. Alright, I hear you chuckling out there. But remember now, I was twelve-years-old and in love with animals.

The dog would be a yellow Labrador named Moby, and the story would follow him as he tried to be various types of dogs---a sheep dog, lap dog, fire dog, police dog ... and those were only the first few chapters. He would fail as each one, of course. I knew even back then that without conflict you have no story! I even knew how the story would end (he was meant to be a family dog), but I never did finish that book.

Around this time was when I first started thinking about being a published author. Here's another thing for you writers to laugh at. I actually thought the way you submitted a manuscript to a publisher was to bind it all together yourself to look like a book, and only then send it out.

As I think back on these early memories of my writing, it amazes me just how long I've had the desire to write. Then there was the newspaper I started with my sister ...