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.