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