Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Chance to Be Christ's Hands & Feet

Today over at Brandilyn Collins' blog Forensics and Faith she told us about the plight of a teen girl and her Mom (a reader of Brandilyn's novels) who've recently become homeless and are currently sleeping in their car. The teen, Katy, an aspiring artist and writer has started a blog called Anywhere But Here chronicling their predicament. At left is the picture she has of herself on the blog. We presume she drew it herself!

I'd like to call on all of you to first of all read Brandilyn's post. She explains how she knows the ladies and their current status. Says Brandilyn in part (brackets are mine):

For a number of years now I have sent Liz [the Mom] a free book every time one of mine releases. She has always graciously written back with thanks and much praise for the story. She's been a real encouragement to me. I'm hoping to now help her through my online network of blogging, Facebook and Twitter. I'd appreciate any way you can help spread the word through your own networking.

But she also shares how we can help:

As people are getting involved to help Liz and Katy, it's becoming clear they need an easier way to send money. Liz doesn't have a Paypal account. If you'd like to send funds to Liz and Katy, please send them to my account, and I'll make sure every cent goes to them. Please put in the subject line: For Liz and Katy. My account is under my email address: brandilyn@brandilyncollins.com

In this time of economic hardship, chances are most of you have a warm bed and a house/apartment to come home to. This Mom and daughter don't. Let's not sit back and watch this unfold and become an even more desperate situation. Let's do what we can to help. If you can spare a couple dollars, please do.

I trust Brandilyn on this and know she wouldn't send out a call for the family if they didn't really need it. How about it? Want to join us in helping Liz & Katy?

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Update: Brandilyn has updated her blog to reflect the help that's already poured in to help Katy & Liz, including news stories on two local stations. Read that post here.
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Update 2: Brandilyn has again updated her blog. Several news stations (including NBC & CNN) have picked up the story! Read here.

Monday, December 22, 2008

27 Authors Share Their Favorite Christmas Traditions!

Just posted at TitleTrakk.com is a feature I put together in which 27 authors share their favorite Christmas traditions. They went all out!

Included are (in no particular order): Marilyn Griffith, Brandilyn Collins, Liz Curtis Higgs, Sibella Giorello, Jenny B. Jones, Robin Shope, Roxanne Henke, Amy Wallace, Jerry B. Jenkins, Bill Myers, James Scott Bell, Ann Gabhart, Melanie Wells, Donita K. Paul, Mike Dellosso, Jennifer Erin Valent, D. Barkley Briggs, Robin Jones Gunn, Patti Lacy, Melody Carlson, Susan Meissner, Stan Toler, Tina Ann Forkner, Lauraine Snelling, Nicole Baart, Don Brown & Jo Kadlecek.

Read the piece here.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Sword and the Flute by Mike Hamel

It's the 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour! This is the very last Teen FIRST tour as Teen FIRST has merged with FIRST Wild Card Tours. If you wish to learn more about FIRST Wild Card, please go HERE.


and his book:
The Sword and the Flute (Matterhorn the Brave Series #1)

Amg Publishers (January 22, 2007)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Mike Hamel is a seasoned storyteller who has honed his skill over theyears by telling tall tales to his four children. He is the author of several non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles.

Mike and his wife, Susan, live in Colorado Springs, CO. Their four children are now grown and their two grand children will soon be old enough for stories of their own.

From His Blog's About Me:

I am a professional writer with sixteen books to my credit, including a trilogy of titles dealing with faith and business: The Entrepreneur’s Creed (Broadman, 2001), Executive Influence (NavPress, 2003), and Giving Back (NavPress, 2003). I also edited Serving Two Masters: Reflections on God and Profit, by Bill Pollard (Collins, 2006).


My most enjoyable project to date has been an eight-volume juvenile fiction series called Matterhorn the Brave. It’s based on variegated yarns I used to spin for my four children. They are now grown and my two grandchildren will soon be old enough for stories of their own.

I live in Colorado Springs, Colorado with my bride of 34 years, Susan.

As you read this blog, remember that I’m a professional. Don’t try this level of writing at home. You might suffer a dangling participle or accidentally split an infinitive and the grammarians will be all over you like shoe salesmen on a centipede.

BTW – I have been diagnosed with Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma, an aggressive but treatable form of cancer.

Mike's Blog, Cells Behaving Badly, is an online diary about Wrestling with Lymphoma Cancer.

To order a signed edition of any of the 6 Matterhorn the Brave books, please visit the Matterhorn the Brave Website!

Product Details

List Price: 9.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 181 pages
Publisher: Amg Publishers (January 22, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0899578330
ISBN-13: 978-0899578330


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Emerald Isle


Aaron the Baron hit the ground like a paratrooper, bending his knees, keeping his balance.

Matterhorn landed like a 210-pound sack of dirt.

His stomach arrived a few seconds later.

He straightened his six-foot-four frame into a sitting position. In the noonday sun he saw they were near the edge of a sloping meadow. The velvet grass was dotted with purple and yellow flowers. Azaleas bloomed in rainbows around the green expanse. The black-faced sheep mowing the far end of the field paid no attention to the new arrivals.

“Are you okay?” the Baron asked. He looked as if he’d just stepped out of a Marines’ recruiting poster. “We’ll have to work on your landing technique.”

“How about warning me when we’re going somewhere,” Matterhorn grumbled.

The Baron helped him up and checked his pack to make sure nothing was damaged. He scanned the landscape in all directions from beneath the brim of his red corduroy baseball cap. “It makes no difference which way we go,” he said at last. “The horses will find us.”

“What horses?”

“The horses that will take us to the one we came to see,” the Baron answered.

“Are you always this vague or do you just not know what you’re doing?”

“I don’t know much, but I suspect this is somebody’s field. We don’t want to be caught trespassing. Let’s go.”

They left the meadow, walking single file through the tall azaleas up a narrow valley. Thorny bushes with loud yellow blossoms crowded the trail next to a clear brook. Pushing one of the prickly plants away, Matterhorn asked, “Do you know what these are?”

“Gorse, of course,” the Baron said without turning.

“Never heard of it.”

“Then I guess you haven’t been to Ireland before.”

“Ireland,” Matterhorn repeated. “My great-grandfather came from Ireland.”

“Your great-grandfather won’t be born for centuries yet.”

Matterhorn stepped over a tangle of exposed roots and said, “What do you mean?”

“I mean we’re in medieval Ireland, not modern Ireland.”

“How can that be!” Matterhorn cried, stopping in his tracks. “How can I be alive before my great-grandfather?”

The Baron shrugged. “That’s one of the paradoxes of time travel. No one’s been able to figure them all out. You’re welcome to try, but while you’re at it, keep a lookout for the horses.”

Matterhorn soon gave up on paradoxes and became absorbed in the paradise around him. The colors were so alive they hurt his eyes. He wished for a pair of sunglasses. Above the garish gorse he saw broom bushes and pine trees growing to the ridge where spectacular golden oaks crowned the slopes. Birdsongs whistled from their massive branches into the warm air. Small animals whispered in the underbrush while larger game watched the strangers from a distance.

The country flattened out and, at times, they glimpsed stone houses over the tops of hedgerows. They steered clear of these and any other signs of civilization. In a few hours, they reached the spring that fed the brook they had been following. They stopped to rest and wash up.

That’s where the horses found them.

There were five strikingly handsome animals. The leader of the pack was from ancient and noble stock. He stood a proud seventeen hands high—five-foot-eight-inches—at the shoulders. He had a classic Roman face with a white star on his wide forehead that matched the white socks on his forelegs. His straight back, sturdy body, and broad hindquarters suggested both power and speed. A rich coppery mane and tail complemented his sleek, chestnut coat.

The Baron held out an apple to the magnificent animal, but the horse showed no interest in the fruit or the man. Neither did the second horse. The third, a dappled stallion, took the apple and let the Baron pet his nose.

“These horses are free,” the Baron said as he stroked the stallion’s neck. “They choose their riders, which is as it should be. Grab an apple and find your mount.”

While Matterhorn searched for some fruit, the leader sauntered over and tried to stick his big nose into Matterhorn’s pack. When Matterhorn produced an apple, the horse pushed it aside and kept sniffing.

Did he want carrots, Matterhorn wondered? How about the peanut butter sandwich? Not until he produced a pocket-size Snickers bar did the horse whinny and nod his approval.

The Baron chuckled as Matterhorn peeled the bar and watched it disappear in a loud slurp. “That one’s got a sweet tooth,” he said.

The three other horses wandered off while the Baron and Matterhorn figured out how to secure their packs to the two that remained. “I take it we’re riding without saddles or bridles,” Matterhorn said. This made him nervous, as he had been on horseback only once before.

“Bridles aren’t necessary,” Aaron the Baron explained. “Just hold on to his mane and stay centered.” He boosted Matterhorn onto his mount. “The horses have been sent for us. They’ll make sure we get where we need to go.”

As they set off, Matterhorn grabbed two handfuls of long mane from the crest of the horse’s neck. He relaxed when he realized the horse was carrying him as carefully as if a carton of eggs was balanced on his back. Sitting upright, he patted the animal’s neck. “Hey, Baron; check out this birthmark.” He rubbed a dark knot of tufted hair on the chestnut’s right shoulder. “It looks like a piece of broccoli. I’m going to call him Broc.”

“Call him what you want,” the Baron said, “but you can’t name him. The Maker gives the animals their names. A name is like a label; it tells you what’s on the inside. Only the Maker knows that.”

Much later, and miles farther into the gentle hills, they made camp in a lea near a tangle of beech trees. “You get some wood,” Aaron the Baron said, “while I make a fire pit.” He loosened a piece of hollow tubing from the side of his pack and gave it a sharp twirl. Two flanges unrolled outward and clicked into place to form the blade of a short spade. Next, he pulled off the top section and stuck it back on at a ninety-degree angle to make a handle.

Matterhorn whistled. “Cool!”

“Cool is what we’ll be if you don’t get going.”

Matterhorn hurried into the forest. He was thankful to be alone for the first time since becoming an adult, something that happened in an instant earlier that day. Seizing a branch, he did a dozen chin-ups; then dropped and did fifty push-ups and a hundred sit-ups.

Afterward he rested against a tree trunk and encircled his right thigh with both hands. His fingertips didn’t touch. Reaching farther down, he squeezed a rock-hard calf muscle.

All this bulk was new to him, yet it didn’t feel strange. This was his body, grown up and fully developed. Flesh of his flesh; bone of his bone. Even hair of his hair, he thought, as he combed his fingers through the thick red ponytail.

He took the Sword hilt from his hip. The diamond blade extended and caught the late afternoon sun in a dazzling flash. This mysterious weapon was the reason he was looking for firewood in an Irish forest instead of sitting in the library at David R. Sanford Middle School.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Stretching the Tension by James Scott Bell (Part 4)

And the conclusion of our Stretching the Tension series...

James Scott Bell has been a writing mentor to me. His novels, as well as his writing how-to articles and books, have taught me so many aspects of writing fiction.

Of those articles, "Stretching The Tension", is one I've turned to again and again as I write action scenes or scenes that really need to carry emotional depth. It first appeared in Writer's Digest magazine (and later was featured as a chapter in his book Plot & Structure). Jim has graciously given me permission to reprint that article here in four parts.

Stretching the Tension
by James Scott Bell
Part 4

Stretch the big and small

Think of tension stretching as an elongation of bad times. This can be on a large scale, as in Jeffery Deaver's A Maiden's Grave (Signet), a novel about a one-day hostage crisis. Each chapter is marked by a clock reading, such as 11:02 a.m. The chapters then give the full range of dramatic beats.

Tension also can be stretched on a microlevel. Usually these can be added when you're revising. You come across beats that pass a little too quickly for the rhythm you're trying to create.

In my one of my novels featuring an early 1900s Los Angeles lawyer, Kit Shannon, Kit shares a meal with the temperance champion, Carry Nation. The first draft of the scene read like this:

Their laughter was interrupted by the figure of the chief of police, Horace Allen. He stood at their table with one of his uniformed officers. Kit knew immediately this was not a social call.
"Kathleen Shannon." The chief's voice was thunderous.
"Good evening, Chief."

I felt the moment, for dramatic purposes, needed a little more time. I rewrote it adding more beats, such as the chief's voice causing all conversation to cease within the place:

Kit felt the silence, sensed the social opprobrium flowing her way from the gentile patrons. A pleasant evening was being rudely interrupted, and that was not why people came to the Imperial.

The best way to get the right amount of tension into your novel is to stretch it as much as possible in your first draft and then look at what you've got.

Go for it, and don't worry about overdoing it or wearing out the reader. You have that wonderful thing called revision to save you. If you write hot, packing scenes with physical and emotional tension, you always can revise cool, and scale back on rewrite. That's much easier to do than trying to heat things up the second time around.

Of course not every scene should be a big, suspenseful set piece. A novel can only sustain a few of those and you want them to stand out. But any scene can be stretched beyond its natural comfort zone. Get in the habit of finding the cracks and crevices where troubles lay and burrowing in to see what's there. You may strike gold. And your Readers will be thankful for the effort.

Read Part 1
Read Part 2 on Stretching the Physical

Read Part 3 on Stretching the Emotional

Find out more about James Scott Bell at his website, http://www.jamesscottbell.com

His novels include the Ty Buchanan mystery series, Presumed Guilty, The Whole Truth, No Legal Grounds, among others. His writing how-to books Plot & Structure as well as Revision and Self-Editing are invaluable resources.

Read my interviews with Jim: Interview #1, Interview #2 as well as reviews of: Presumed Guilty, No Legal Grounds, The Whole Truth, Try Dying, Try Darkness, and Revision & Self-Editing.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Stretching the Tension by James Scott Bell (Part 3)

Another episode in The Stretching the Tension special...

James Scott Bell has been one of my writing mentors. His novels, as well as his writing how-to articles and books have taught me so many aspects of writing fiction.

Of those articles, "Stretching The Tension", is one I've turned to again and again as I write action scenes or scenes that really need to carry emotional depth. It first appeared in Writer's Digest magazine (and later was featured as a chapter in his book Plot & Structure). Jim has graciously given me permission to reprint that article here in four parts.

Stretching the Tension
by James Scott Bell
Part 3

Stretch the emotional

A scene does not have to involve physical peril to have tension worth stretching. Trouble can be emotional as well.

When a character is in the throes of emotional turmoil, don't make things easy on her. We humans are a circus of doubts and anxieties. Play them up! Give us the whole show.

In the first chapter of The Deep End of the Ocean (Penguin) by Jacquelyn Mitchard, protagonist Beth's young son, Ben, disappears in a crowded hotel. The next 40 pages cover hours, not days. Emotional beat upon emotional beat is rendered as Beth experiences the various manifestations of shock, fear, grief and guilt.

For example, when the detective, Candy Bliss, suggests Beth lie down, Mitchard gives us this paragraph:

Beth supposed she should lie down; her throat kept filling with nastiness and her stomach roiled. But if she lay down, she wanted to explain to Candy Bliss, who was holding out her hand, it would be deserting Ben. Did Detective Bliss think Ben was lying down? If Beth ate, would he eat? She should not do anything Ben couldn't do or was being prevented from doing. Was he crying? Or wedged in a dangerous and airless place? If she lay down, if she rested, wouldn't Ben feel her relaxing, think she had decided to suspend her scramble toward him, the concentrated thrust of everything in her that she held out to him like a life preserver? Would he relax then, turn in sorrow toward a bad face, because his mama had let him down?

Notice how Mitchard uses physical descriptions that show rather than tell: "throat kept filling with nastiness"; "stomach roiled."

She places us in Beth's mind as her thoughts come one after another. Then Mitchard returns to the action of the scene. And so the beats continue.

To stretch inner tension, ask these questions to get your raw material:

*What is the worst thing from the inside that can happen to my character? This encompasses a whole universe of mental stakes. Hint: Look to the character's fears.

*What is the worst information my character can receive? Some secret from the past or fact that rocks her world can be stalking her through the scene.

*Have I sufficiently set up the depth of emotion for the readers before the scene? We need to care about your lead characters before we care about their problems.


Read Part 1
Read Part 2 on Stretching the Physical

Part 4: Stretch the Big & Small


Find out more about James Scott Bell at his website, http://www.jamesscottbell.com

His novels include the Ty Buchanan mystery series, Presumed Guilty, The Whole Truth, No Legal Grounds, among others. His writing how-to books Plot & Structure as well as Revision and Self-Editing are invaluable resources.

Read my interviews with Jim: Interview #1, Interview #2 as well as reviews of: Presumed Guilty, No Legal Grounds, The Whole Truth, Try Dying, Try Darkness, and Revision & Self-Editing.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Stretching the Tension by James Scott Bell (Part 2)

The Stretching the Tension special continues...

James Scott Bell has been one of my writing mentors. His novels, as well as his writing how-to articles and books have taught me so many aspects of writing fiction.

Of those articles, "Stretching The Tension", is one I've turned to again and again as I write action scenes or scenes that really need to carry emotional depth. It first appeared in Writer's Digest magazine (and later was featured as a chapter in his book Plot & Structure). Jim has graciously given me permission to reprint that article here in four parts.

Stretching the Tension
by James Scott Bell
Part 2

Stretch the physical

Physical peril or uncertainty is perfect material for the big stretch. The way to do it is simple--slow down. Go through the scene beat by beat in your imagination, as if you are watching a movie scene in slow motion.

Then, as you write the scene, alternate between action, thoughts, dialogue and description. Take your time with each one. Milk them.

Let's say you have a woman being stalked by a man with assault on his mind. It could start this way:

Mary took a step back. [action]
"Don't be afraid," the man said. [dialogue]
How did he get in here? she wondered. The doors are all locked. [thought]
He swayed where he stood [action], and she could smell the beer on his breath. [description]
"Get out," she said. [dialogue]
He laughed and slid toward her. [action]

Want to stretch even more? Good. Do it. Each item--action, thoughts, dialogue, description--can be extended:

Mary took a step back, bumping the end table. A vase crashed to the floor. [action]
"Don't be afraid," the man said. "I don't want to hurt you, Mary. I want to be your friend." [dialogue]
How did he get in here? she wondered. The doors are all locked. And then she remembered she'd left the garage door open for Johnny. Stupid, stupid. You deserve this, you always deserve what you get. [thoughts]

Extending beats can even stretch tension when a character is alone. The secret, once again, is in the set-up material.

In One Door Away From Heaven (Bantam), Dean Koontz writes a scene early in the book where Leilani, a 9-year-old girl, walks through a trailer home to find her drugged out mother. Koontz sets the scene up with this:

Saturated by silence, the house brimmed also with an unnerving expectancy, as though some bulwark were about to crack, permitting a violent flood to sweep everything away.

From there, for seven pages, Leilani continues, step by step. The suspense builds until the revelation at the end of the scene. This section, which many writers would have dealt with in a paragraph, adds enormously to the tension of the whole book.

Your ability to orchestrate beats so they conform to the tone and feel of the story you're telling is one of the most important skills you can develop. Ask yourself these three key questions before you write a tense scene involving physical action:

1. What is the worst thing from the outside that can happen to my character? This may be in the form of another person, a physical object or a circumstance outside the character's control.

2. What is the worst trouble my character can get into in this scene? You may come up with an instant answer. Don't stop there--raise the stakes a notch. This may suggest further possibilities.

3. Have I sufficiently set up the danger for the readers before the scene begins? Remember, they need to know what's at stake for your characters before they start worrying.

Part 1
Part 3 : Stretching the Emotional
Part 4: Stretch the Big & Small


Find out more about James Scott Bell at his website, http://www.jamesscottbell.com

His novels include the Ty Buchanan mystery series, Presumed Guilty, The Whole Truth, No Legal Grounds, among others. His writing how-to books Plot & Structure as well as Revision and Self-Editing are invaluable resources.

Read my interviews with Jim: Interview #1, Interview #2 as well as reviews of: Presumed Guilty, No Legal Grounds, The Whole Truth, Try Dying, Try Darkness, and Revision & Self-Editing.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Stretching the Tension by James Scott Bell (Part 1)

James Scott Bell has been a writing mentor to me. His novels, as well as his writing how-to articles and books, have taught me so many aspects of writing fiction.

Of those articles, "Stretching The Tension", is one I've turned to again and again as I write action scenes or scenes that really need to carry emotional depth. It first appeared in Writer's Digest magazine (and later was featured as a chapter in his book Plot & Structure). Jim has graciously given me permission to reprint that article here in four parts.

Stretching the Tension
by James Scott Bell
Part 1

One of my great movie-going experiences was watching Psycho in high school in an auditorium during a storm. The place was packed. The mood was right. And from the shower scene on, people were screaming their heads off.

I'm glad my first exposure to the movie was not on television. I got to see it uncut, which is more than we can say for Janet Leigh after the shower scene. But more important, I got the full effect of the suspense without interruption.

The anticipation was unbearable. The surprise-twist-climax actually changed my body chemistry. I didn't sleep for a week.

Which demonstrates why Alfred Hitchcock was called the master of suspense. What he did better than any other director was stretch the tension. He never let a thrilling moment escape with a mere whimper. He played it for all it was worth.

And so should fiction writers. Learning how to stretch tension is one of the best ways to keep your readers flipping pages, losing sleep and buying your books.

Set up the tension

Before you can stretch anything, of course, you need raw material. You don't fashion a clay pot without clay. The clay for a novelist is trouble. The question you have to keep asking is this: What problem has the potential to lay some serious hurt on my character?

If your lead character has misplaced his pajamas, you could write several pages about it, throwing obstacle after obstacle in his path (a roller skate, a phone call, the postman ringing twice). But the hunt is unlikely to engage your readers. There isn't enough trouble at stake at the end of the line (unless, of course, your hero has hidden the mafia's money in the pajama bottoms and has five minutes to find it).

So the first rule is simple: Always make sure scenes of tension provide something to be tense about.

When you've got a handle on the trouble for your character in a given scene, you're ready to stretch it. You can do that with two aspects of your fiction---the physical and the emotional. Each presents an opportunity to transform your story from the mundane to the thrilling.

Part 2 on Stretching the Physical

Part 3 : Stretching the Emotional
Part 4: Stretch the Big & Small


Find out more about James Scott Bell at his website, http://www.jamesscottbell.com

His novels include the Ty Buchanan mystery series, Presumed Guilty, The Whole Truth, No Legal Grounds, among others. His writing how-to books Plot & Structure as well as Revision and Self-Editing are invaluable resources.

Read my interviews with Jim: Interview #1, Interview #2 as well as reviews of: Presumed Guilty, No Legal Grounds, The Whole Truth, Try Dying, Try Darkness, and Revision & Self-Editing.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

John B. Olson (Advice for Novelists, Part 84)

Here's another poignant entry from an author in our Advice for Novelists series. In this series I've asked authors, agents, editors and publicists their response to the question:

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

Enjoy the books you get to write without a contract. They will be the sweetest works you'll ever have the pleasure to produce. Once writing becomes a job, a lot of the magic is lost. If I could do things over again, I'd write a hundred first books before I even thought of getting them published.

--John B. Olson, author of Shade, Fossil Hunter, and more. Visit him online at his website.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Mindy Starns Clark (Advice for Novelists, Part 83)

Today we hear from another multi-published author in our Advice for Novelists series. And she has some great words to share. In this series I've asked authors, agents, editors and publicists their response to the question:

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

Don't put the cart before the horse! I've met so many aspiring authors who start worrying about getting published long before they've written anything worth publishing. I say: Don't waste your time trying to find a publisher until you have written a great book.

I've heard many an aspiring author--especially those who jump the gun on submissions only to garner tons of rejections--wonder whether they are "good enough" to get published. Frankly, I don't think that's the most relevant question. The question shouldn't be "Am I good enough?" but "Am I ready yet?" If you love to write, you probably are good enough to get published--eventually. But until you study and learn and hone your craft and find out what makes a great story and compelling characters and write a truly wonderful novel that will pique the interest of every editor who gets a look at it, you're not ready. So slow down, focus on learning and perfecting your art, and don't even bother with trying to get published until you've reached the other side of that learning curve and have a wonderful novel, written by you, to show for it. First the horse, then the cart. First learn how to write, then use that knowledge to create a fabulous book, and then turn your attentions toward publication. If you've written a great book, finding a publisher will probably turn out to be the easiest part of the whole process.

--Mindy Starns Clark, author of The Smart Chick mystery series, Million Dollar mysteries, and the standalone novels Whispers of the Bayou & Shadows of Lancaster County. Visit her at her website.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Dark Pursuit by Brandilyn Collins

Alright, suspense fans. This one's for you. Brandilyn Collins has just released another great "Seatbelt Suspense" title.

I recently interviewed Brandilyn, and one of the questions I asked her was: "What originally sparked the idea for Dark Pursuit and how did it develop?"

Her response:

"For over 30 years I’ve remembered a phrase from John Milton’s Paradise Lost—“hatching vain empires.” After being thrown out of heaven, Satan and his demons are bragging about how they’re going to storm heaven and regain their territory. Beelzebub says they’re just “hatching vain empires.” He has a better idea—go to earth and tempt man away from God. Since that resulting fall in the garden, mankind has been on the dark pursuit of building his own vain empires. I got to thinking—what might that underlying theme look like in a modern-day suspense novel? Who might various characters represent? How might the colors of life and death (green and black) fit into the story?"

Got your interest? :) Read the full interview here.

My friend and fellow writer Darcie Gudger had this to say in her review at TitleTrakk.com:

"Dark Pursuit’s plot moves from fast to fierce. The last few chapters will leave you white-knuckled and breathing hard. It did me, and I live for this genre. Cool relief washed over me when the resolution phase commenced." Read the full review here.


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

John Perrodin (Advice for Novelists, Part 82)

Here's another informative entry in our Advice for Novelists series. I've asked authors, agents, editors and publicists their response to the question:

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

I'd say, "go ahead and try." Every novelist is just a person with a way with words. Someone who loves to tell stories. The biggest secret I can give you is to let you know that writers are simply plain, ordinary people to whom God has given an extraordinary opportunity. If He's called you to write, then write. And don't worry about competing with all the "big name" authors. Just have fun, write regularly, and try to tell your unique tale in a way that brings glory to the King.

--John Perrodin,
Senior Editor for the Christian Writers Guild, author of Simple Little Words: What You Say Can Change a Life (with Michelle Cox). Visit the book website www.simplelittlewords.com and John's website www.johnperrodin.com.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Fun Writing Christmas Song Medley

A few of the lyrics are specific to this writing group, but I especially like the "Writer Blogs" part! :)

Monday, December 01, 2008

Deciding What To Write

I often hear writers say, "I have so many ideas I don't think I'll ever get to them all." I wish I felt that way, too. But even though my ideas folder is burgeoning with paper, it's hard to decide which one deserves a book. Here are some examples of actual notes in my folder:
  • Story about grandmother and granddaughter
  • Antarctica - how could I write about it?
  • What if a step-mother is trying to kill her husband and the guy's kids find out?
  • What about a group of teens who go around rescuing people?
  • The Mouse That Lived In the Refrigerator
  • Have a character who loves to snack on nuts (peanuts). Maybe when they're stressed?
  • Have a character who's a spy, but no one knows it, and it isn't even revealed to the reader until later?
As you can see, I do have ideas. But with so many ("The Mouse Who Lived In the Refrigerator"? Where did that come from?), how do you pick which to flesh out?

I'm still learning, but one exercise I've come to find works really well in getting to the heart of a writer is this. Ask yourself the question, "What I really want to write about is: ___" And then type (or write with a pencil or pen) continuously for five minutes your response. It's one of many great idea kick-starters James Scott Bell recommends in his book Plot & Structure.

I tried the technique with this novel. I ended up writing in my notebook that I wanted, first of all, to write about the main character of my previous novel Innocent Blood (working title). I was curious what happened in her life up after the events of that novel, and I figured if I was curious others might be, too. I also wanted to write about a character who has just been released from prison. What sort of struggles would they face? Would they experience condemnation from the Christian community?

These were only tiny nuggets of ideas. How to develop them into a novel? Would the two ideas need to be separate books or could they somehow fit together?

Now here's a question for you. I'd love to hear your response to the question: "What I really want to read about is ___" Is there a scenario, character, or much neglected genre you want to read but haven't found?

Leave It To Chance by Sherri Sand


It is time for the FIRST Blog Tour! On the FIRST day of every month we feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter.

This month's featured author is: Sherri Sand

and her book:

Leave it to Chance


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Sherri Sand is a wife and mother of four young children who keep her scrambling to stay ahead of the spilled milk. When she needs stress relief from wearing all the hats required to clothe, feed and ferry her rambunctious brood, you may find her sitting in a quiet corner of a bistro reading a book (surrounded by chocolate), or running on one of the many trails near her home. Sherri is a member of The Writer’s View and American Christian Fiction Writers. She finds the most joy in writing when the characters take on a life of their own and she becomes the recorder of their stories. She holds a degree in psychology from the University of Oregon where she graduated cum laude. Sherri and her family live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

She's also a blogger! So stop by and say hi to Sherri at Creations in the Sand!


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


“A horse? Mom, what am I going to do with a horse?” Just what she and the kids did not need. Sierra Montgomery sagged back against her old kitchen counter, where afternoon sunlight dappled the white metal cabinets across from her. She pressed the phone tight against her ear, hoping she’d heard wrong, as her four-year-old son, Trevor, ate grapes at the kitchen table.

“Miss Libby wanted you to have it. I’d think you’d be delighted, what with the kids and all. You remember Sally, Miss Libby’s daughter? Well, she just called and said it was all laid out in the will. None of their family could figure out who Sierra Lassiter Montgomery was until Sally remembered me from her mom’s church. So she called and sure enough, you were my daughter.” Sierra’s mom tsked into the phone. “Well, you know how Sally is.”

Sierra hadn’t the foggiest how Sally was, or even who she was. She barely remembered Miss Libby from her Sunday school class eons ago.

“She acted pleased that her mother gave you the horse, but I could tell she was miffed. Though what Sally Owens would do with a horse, I’d like to know.” Her mom’s voice was tight and controlled as if they were discussing how to deal with black spot on her Old English roses.

“But I don’t want a horse. You, of all people, should know that after what happened when—” How could her mom even suggest she get a horse? Painful pictures of her childhood friend Molly floated through her mind.

“Honey, accidents like that don’t happen more than once in a lifetime. Besides, Miss Libby wouldn’t have owned a crazy horse.”

Sierra stared out the window where the school bus would soon release her most precious treasures. Her mom never had understood the resounding impact that summer day had made in her life.

“You really need to think of the kids and how much fun they’d have. It’s not like you’d ever be able to afford to buy them one.”

Sierra wished she were having this conversation with Elise rather than her mother. Her best friend would understand the danger she feared in horses, and in her humorous way come up with a sensible plan that would include not keeping the animal.

Her mom, on the other hand, lived life as if she were on one of those moving conveyors at the airport that people can step on to rest their feet yet keep moving toward their destination. As long as everyone kept traveling forward, she could ignore the emotional baggage dragging behind.

“I don’t understand why Miss Libby would give the horse to me.”

“You know how my bingo club visited the Somerset rest home every week? Well, Miss Libby’s been there for years and she always did comment on how horse crazy you were when she taught your Sunday school class.”

“Mom, that was a phase I went through when I was ten and found National Velvet and Black Beauty at the library. I haven’t seen Miss Libby since middle school.”

“Obviously you were special to Miss Libby. I’d think you might be a little more grateful.”

Deep breath, Sierra told herself. “I am grateful.” An errant grape rolled next to her toe. Trevor’s blond head was bent, intent on arranging the fruit like green soldiers around the edge of his plate. Sierra tossed the grape into the sink and considered how to respond to her mom. She was a dear, but sometimes the woman was like dry kindling on a hot day, and one little spark…. “I’m just not sure that owning a horse would be a wise move at this point in our lives.”

The front door slammed and Sierra felt the walls shudder with the thud. The 3:00 p.m. stampede through the house meant it was time to get off the phone and determine how to get rid of a horse before the kids found out about it.

Her mom sighed. “It’s too bad Sally won’t keep the horse at her place for you, but she said her husband wants the horse gone. He wants to fill the pasture with sheep.”

Sheep? A kitchen chair scraped over the linoleum as Trevor scooted back from the table and dashed for the living room. “Mommy’s got a horse! Mommy’s got a horse!” Wonderful. Little ears, big mouth.

Braden and Emory shot into the kitchen, bright eyes dancing in tandem. Their words tangled together in fevered excitement despite the fact that she was on the phone.

“Where is it?” Braden’s eleven-year-old grin split his face, and his dark hair was rumpled and sweat streaked, likely from a fevered game of basketball during last recess.

She held a hand up to still the questions as her mom went on about the sheep that Sally’s husband probably did not need.

“We have a horse?” Nine-year-old Emory, her blonde hair still neat in its purple headband, fluttered in front of her mom, delight and hope blooming on her face.

Despite the fear of horses building deep in Sierra’s gut, her children’s excitement was a little contagious. She wished Miss Libby had willed her a cat.

Sierra ran her hand down Emory’s soft cheek and whispered. “I’ll be off the phone in a minute, sweetie.”

“Can we ride it?” Em looked at her with elated eyes.

Braden tossed his backpack on the table. “Where are we going to keep it?”

The kids circled her, jabbering with excited questions. Sierra rubbed her forehead with the tips of her fingers. “I gotta go, Mom. I’ve got to break some cowboy hearts.”

The kids clamored around her, Braden taking the lead with an arm draped across her shoulder. When had he gotten so big? “Do we have a horse, Mom?” He asked the question with a lopsided grin, a foreshadow of the adolescence that had been peeking through lately. The preteen in him didn’t truly believe they had a horse—he was old enough to realize the odds—but little-boy eagerness clung to his smile.

“That would be yes and a no.”

“What? Mom!” he complained.

“I was given a horse, but we’re not going to keep him.” Braden’s arm slid off her shoulder, a scowl replacing his smile. “Why not?”

“Someone gave you a horse?” Emory ignored her brother’s attitude and flashed her most persuasive grin. “Can we keep him? Please!”

Sierra smoothed her hand over the silky hair and leaned close to her daughter’s face as Emory went on. “I think we should get four horses so we each have one. We could go trail riding. Cameron’s mom has horses, and they go riding all the time as a family.”

“We’re not a family anymore,” Braden cut in. “We stopped being a family when mom divorced dad.”

A shard of pain drove into Sierra’s gut. She hadn’t had time to brace for that one. Braden’s anger at the divorce had been building like an old steam engine lately.

“That’s not fair!” Outrage darkened Emory’s features. “It’s not Mom’s fault!”

Sarcasm colored Braden’s voice. “Oh, so it’s all Dad’s fault?”

Sierra saw the confusion that swept over her daughter’s face. She was fiercely loyal to both parents and didn’t know how to defend them against each other.

Sierra spoke in a firm tone. “Braden, that’s enough!”

He scowled at her again. “Whatever.”

Sierra held his gaze until he glanced away.

“Guys, we’re not going to play the blame game. We have plenty to be thankful for, and that’s what is important.”

Braden’s attitude kept pouring it on. “Boy, and we have so much. Spaghetti for dinner every other night.”

“So what, Braden-Maden!” Emory made a face and stuck her tongue out at him.

“No more fighting or you two can go to your rooms.” Her kids were not perfect, but they used to like each other. Something had changed. Her gut said it was her ex-husband, Michael, but what if she was falling into the whole “blame the dad” thing herself? What if she was really the problem? Two weeks without a job had added stress and worry. Had she stopped hugging them as often in between scouring the want ads and trying to manage a home and bills?

“Mom?” There was a quaver in Trevor’s soft voice.

“Yes, honey?” Sierra gave him a gentle smile.

“Can we keep the horse?”

Emory’s blue gaze darted to meet hers, a plea in them. Braden sat with his arms crossed over his chest, but his ears had pricked up.

Sierra looked at them, wanting them to understand and knowing they wouldn’t. “None of us know how to handle or care for a horse, so it wouldn’t be safe to keep him.”

Emory’s face lit up. “Cameron’s mom could teach us.”

“Honey, it’s not that simple. We can’t afford an animal that big. He probably eats as much in groceries as we do, and it would be very expensive to rent a place for him to live.”

“I could mow yards.” Anger at his sister forgotten, Braden turned a hopeful face to her. “We could help out.”

Emory jumped onto the working bandwagon. “Yeah. I could do laundry or something for the neighbors.”

Braden drilled his sister a look that said idiot idea but didn’t say anything.

Trevor bounced in his chair, eager to be a part of keeping the horse. “I could wash cars.”

“Those are great ideas, but they won’t bring in quite enough, especially since it’s getting too cold to mow lawns or wash cars.”

“You just don’t want to keep the horse, Mom,” Braden said. “I get it. End of story.”

“Honey, I’d love for you to have a horse, but when I was young I had a friend—”

Emory spoke in a helpful tone. “We know. Grandma told us about the accident.”

They knew? Wasn’t the story hers to share? “When did Grandma tell you?”

Braden’s voice took on a breezy air. “I don’t know. A while ago. Come on, Mom. We’re not going to do something dumb like your friend did.”

Defensiveness rose inside. “She didn’t do anything dumb. It was the horse that—”

“So because something bad happened to one person, your kids can never do anything fun for the rest of their lives.”

Sierra gave him a look. “Or you learn from your mistakes and help your kids to do the same.”

Braden rolled his eyes at her.

Worry drew lines across her daughter’s forehead. “Are you going to sell him?”

“Yes, Em. So we’re not going to discuss this anymore. You and Braden have homework to do.” At the chorus of groans she held her hands up. “Okay, I guess I’ll have to eat Grandma’s apple pie all by myself.”

Braden grabbed his backpack and slowly dragged it across the floor toward the stairs, annoyance in his voice. “We’re going.” Emory trotted past him up the stairs.

Trevor remained behind, one arm wrapped around her thigh. “I don’t have any homework.”

She squatted and pulled him in for a hug. “Nope, you sure don’t, bud.”

He leaned back. “Do I get a horse?”

Sierra distracted him by inching her fingers up his ribs. “What, Trev?”

He tried to talk around his giggles. “Do I get—Mom!” Her fingers found the tickle spots under his arms and he laughed, his eyes squinted shut and mouth opened wide. She found all his giggle spots, then turned on Sesame Street as the second distraction. Good old Bert and Ernie.

Now what? She had roughly forty-five minutes to figure out how she was going to get rid of a horse and not be a complete zero in her kids’ eyes.

She eyed the phone and made her next move. Five minutes later a white Mazda whipped into her driveway. Sierra hurried out the front door waving her arms to stop Elise before she could start her ritual honking for the kids.

Wide eyed, her platinum blonde friend stared, one long plum-colored nail hovering above the “ooga” horn on the dash. “What?”

“I don’t want the kids to know you’re here.”

Wicked delight spread across her perfectly made-up face. Light plum shadow matched her nails. Tomorrow, both eye shadow and nails could be green. “Let me guess! Mr. Pellum asked you out!”

“Nooooo!” Mr. Pellum was a teacher Sierra and Elise had had a crush on in seventh grade.

“Ummm … you robbed a bank and need me to watch the kids while you fly to Tahiti?”

Sierra gave her a mock-serious look. “Done?”

Elise tilted her head. “Can I get out of the car?”

Sierra glanced toward the house. All was still silent. “Yes, you may.”

Deadpan, Elise nodded and opened the door. “Then I’m done for now.” Her plump body, swathed in a creamy suit with a purple scarf draped across one shoulder, rose gracefully from the small two-seater.

Sierra closed the door for her, then leaned against it. Elise had a way of removing the extraneous and reducing a problem down to the bare essentials. “Elise, I’m in a predicament.”

“Hon, I’ve been trying to tell you that for years.”

Sierra shook her head. “I don’t think you could have seen this one coming even with your crystal ball.”

Elise gave her the spinster teacher look through narrowed eyes. “I don’t think I like the implications of that.”

Sierra held her hands out. “You are the queen of mind-reading, according to my children.”

Elise chuckled. “It’s a good thing I was just headed out for a latte break when you called. Now what’s the big emergency?” She owned a high-end clothing store for plus-sized women in downtown Eugene.

“A horse.”

Elise glanced around as if one or two might be lurking behind a tree.

“A herd of them or just one?”

“One. Full-sized. Living and breathing.”

“I believe I’m missing some pieces here. Is it moving in with you? Holding one of the children hostage? What?”

Sierra breathed out a slight chuckle and tucked a stray hair behind her ear. “You’re not going to believe this, but I inherited it.”

Her friend’s eyes grew wide, emphasizing the lushly mascaraed lashes. “Like someone died and gave you their horse?”

Sierra nodded, raising her brows. “And the kids want to keep him.”

Furrows emerged across Elise’s forehead. “Who is the idiot that told them about the horse?”

Sierra tilted her head with a look that only best friends could give each other.

Elise’s perfectly painted lips smirked. “Moving along, then. Why don’t you keep it? The kids would love it. Heaven knows they deserve it.” She clapped her hands together. “Oh, oh! They could get into 4-H, and Braden could learn to barrel race. That kid would think he’d won the jackpot. Emory and Trevor could get a pig or some of those show roosters.”

Sierra let the idea machine wind down. “I don’t think so.”

“Angora rabbits?”

“No farm animals.”

Elise’s mouth perked into humorous pout. “Sierra, you’re such a spoilsport. Those kids need a pet.”

“A hamster is a pet. A horse is not.”

Diva Elise took the stage, hands on her ample hips. “Don’t tell me you didn’t want a horse growing up. Remember, I was the one who had to sit and watch National Velvet with you time ad nauseam. You’ve said yourself that Braden needs something to take his mind off the problems he’s having at school and with his dad.”

Guilt, a wheelbarrow load of it, dumped on Sierra. “You are supposed to be helping me, Elise, not making it worse. I want to get rid of this horse and …” her eyes dodged away from her friend, “… you know.”

“Mmm-hmm. And still look like Super Mom in your children’s eyes.”

Sierra nodded, but couldn’t find the nerve to say yes.

“Sierra Montgomery, those children have been to heck and back in the last couple years and you’re willing to deny them the pleasure of owning their own free horse because … because of what?”

Sierra stared at the ground for a moment, feeling a tangle of emotions rise within. She let her eyes rest on Elise’s and said quietly, “Fear? Terror? Hysteria?”

A look of puzzlement, then understanding settled on Elise’s face, smoothing away the annoyance. “Molly.”

Sierra nodded. “I won’t put my children in that kind of danger.”

Elise leaned forward and grabbed Sierra’s hands, holding them tight. “Oh, hon. That was a long time ago. Don’t let your life be ruled by the what-ifs. There’s a lot of living left to do. And your kids need to see you taking life by storm, taking chances, not hiding in the shadows.”

“That’s easy for you to say. You were voted most likely to parachute off the Empire State Building.”

Elise gave her a cheeky grin, both dimples winking at her. “We could do it tandem!”

“If you see me jump off the Empire State Building you’ll know my lobotomy was successful, because there is no way in this lifetime you’ll catch this body leaving good sense behind!” Sierra heard the words come from her own mouth and stared at her friend in wonder. “Oh, my gosh. That was so my mom.”

“It was bound to happen, hon.”

Was she serious? “You think I’m turning into her?” Sierra brought a hand to her throat and quickly dropped it. How many times had she seen her mom use the same gesture?

Elise laughed. “You need to stop fretting and just live. We all turn out like our mothers in some respect.”

“All except you. You’re nothing like Vivian.”

“Other than the drinking, smoking, and carousing, I’m exactly like her.”

Sierra lifted a brow. Her mom had rarely let her go to Elise’s house when they were growing up—and for good reason. Elise struck a pose like a fashion model. “Okay, I’m the anti-Vivian.” She gave Sierra a soft smile. “All funnin’ aside, I really think you should keep the horse.”

“I’m not keeping the horse. And even if I wanted to, I couldn’t.” Sierra took a settling breath and stared at the tree over Elise’s shoulder.

“Michael still hasn’t paid?”

Elise knew more about her finances than her mom did. “He paid, but the check bounced again. So now he’s two months behind in child support.”

“Have you heard if Pollan’s is rehiring?”

“They’re not.” Jarrett’s, the local grocery store where she worked for the three years since the divorce had been recently bought out by Pollan’s. They had laid off the majority of the checkers with the possibility of rehiring some.

Elise cringed as if she was bracing herself for a blow. “And the unemployment fiasco?”

Sierra shut her eyes. “Mr. Jarrett did not pay into our unemployment insurance, so there is no benefit for us to draw from. Yes, it was illegal, and yes he will pay, but it may take months, if not years, for various lawyers and judges to beat it out of him.” She gave Elise a tired smile. “That’s the version minus all the legalese.”

“So the layoffs are final, no unemployment bennies, and you’re out of a job.”

“Momentarily. The résumé has been dusted off and polished.” She gave a wry grin.

“I wish I could hire you at Deluxe Couture, but I promised Nora fulltime work. And besides, your cute little buns would drive my clientele away.”

Sierra waved a hand over her jeans and sweatshirt. “Your clientele would outshine me any day.”

“You sell yourself far too short.” Elise glanced at the hefty rhinestone encrusted watch on her wrist. “Anything else I can do for you? Help the kids with their homework? Babysit while you sweep some tall, dark, handsome man off his feet?”

Sierra laughed. “And where is this dream man going to come from?”

Elise gave a breezy wave of her hand and opened the car door. “Oh, he’ll turn up. You’re too cute to stay single. I actually have someone in mind. Pavo Marcello. He’s a new sales rep from one of my favorite lines. I’ll see if he’s free Friday night. You aren’t doing anything, are you?”

“Hold on!” Sierra stepped in front of the car door to keep her friend from leaving. “First, I’m not looking. Second, given my history, I’m not the best judge of character. I’ve already struck out once in the man department.” She pointed to her face with both index fingers. “Not anxious to try again. Third, you just told me I’m turning into my mom, which makes me definitely not dating material.”

A twist of Elise’s lips signaled a thought. “You know, now that I think about it, I believe he has a boyfriend.” She shook her head and lowered herself into the car. “We’ll keep looking. I’m sure Sir Knight will turn up.”

Sierra shut the car door and grinned down at her friend. “And what about finding your knight?”

Elise gave her a bright smile. “Mr. Pellum is already taken. You really need to find a way to keep that horse; it’ll be your first noble sacrifice.”

“First?”

The little car backed up, and Elise spoke over the windshield. “The others don’t count.”

Sierra stared at the retreating car. There was no way she was keeping that horse.



After dinner, Sierra crept into Braden’s room. He sat on the bed intent on the Game Boy in his lap, the tinny sound of hard rock bleeding out of his earphones. She waved a hand and he glanced up. She waited and with a look of preteen exasperation he finally pulled the headphones to his shoulders.

“What, Mom?”

“I just wanted to say good night.”

“Good night.” His hands started to readjust the music back into position.

“I looked at your homework.”

“You got into my backpack? Isn’t that like against the law or something? You’re always telling us not to get into your stuff.”

She crossed her arms. Frustration and worry gnawed at her. “You lied to me about doing your assignment. Why, honey?”

He ignored her and started playing his Game Boy.

She took one step and snatched the game from his hands.

“Hey!”

“I want some respect when I talk to you, Braden.”

His chin sank toward his chest, his gaze fixed on his bed, his voice low. “I didn’t want to do it.”

She sat next to him, her voice soft. “Is it too hard?”

He shrugged. “It gives me a headache when I work on it.”

“Braden, if you need help, I’d be happy to work with you after school.”

He stared at his knees and picked at a loose string of cotton on his pajama bottoms.

“I got a phone call from Mrs. Hamison today.”

His body came alert, though he didn’t look at her.

“She said you’re flunking most of your subjects, and she hasn’t seen any homework from you since school started a month ago.”

He glanced up, his jaw belligerent, but with fear in his eyes.

“What’s going on? I know school isn’t easy, but you’ve never given up before.”

“Middle school’s harder.”

She wanted to touch him, to brush the hair off his forehead and snuggle him close the way she used to when he was small. Back when a hug and a treat shared over the kitchen table was enough to bring the sparkle back to her son. “She thinks we should have your vision tested.”

“Why?”

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Page 56 Tag

Cathy Bryant has tagged me to play this fun book meme.

The rules:
Grab the book nearest you, turn to page 56 and go to the fifth sentence, typing that sentence and a few others around it.

Well, books are never far from me, but they're not always right beside me as I type. Today we're in luck, however. Healing Promises by Amy Wallace is by my side.

Page 56, sentence 5:

"You know I will. Though I still think this whole thing's a bit sudden."

I now tag WordVixen, Darcie Gudger, Deena Peterson, Rel Mollet, and Robin Shope.

Have fun!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ace Collins (Advice For Novelists, Part 81)

Here's another entry in my Advice for Novelists series in which editors, authors, agents and publicists answer the question:

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

Too many writers see editors in a negative way. Writing is a team project and editors are there to see the holes that we don’t see. They make our work better. Then you also need marketing and public relations, as well as the art department. To be a success you have to have all members of that team working. So even if my name is the only name on the cover a great book is not an “I” project, it is a “We” project. So my advice would be to be the best team member you can be and make sure everyone who is involved in each project knows they are appreciated.

--Ace Collins, author of the novel Farraday Road plus nonfiction hits like the Stories Behind series. Visit him at his website.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Operation First Novel News

For those who don't know, I entered my first novel Thicker Than Blood in the Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel contest.

I had entered a much earlier version of this novel in the Guild's first Operation First Novel contest in 2004, and it placed in the top 20 (though not the top 10).

Since I'd made many changes to the book (added 10K, edited dialogue, etc.) I wanted to see if it would place this year. Well, I just heard that it is one of four finalists in this year's contest! The winner will be selected by Tyndale and announced at the Guild's Writing for the Soul conference in February.

This news gives me the push I needed to keep trekking on and work hard on writing my third novel, which I just recently started. I've already written the sequel to Thicker Than Blood (working title is Innocent Blood), so I'm excited.

Here's my working summary of Thicker Than Blood:

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 collectible 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 Dawsons, 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 May's new-found faith give her sister even more reason to reject Christy? Will they realize before it's too late that each possesses what the other desperately needs?

Infidel by Ted Dekker Graphic Novel

It's the 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour! Every 21st, we will feature an author and his/her latest Teen fiction book's FIRST chapter.

This week we're featuring Ted Dekker and his book:

Infidel--Graphic Novel: The Lost Books Series


This was a fun, suspenseful graphic novel to read, and I finished it within an hour or two. You don't have to have read Chosen to enjoy this one since back story is sprinkled in throughout, but for ultimate enjoyment you'll want to pick it up.

I had the chance to interview Ted and talk to him a couple months ago about these graphic novels. Read that interview here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Ted is the son of missionaries John and Helen Dekker, whose incredible story of life among headhunters in Indonesia has been told in several books. Surrounded by the vivid colors of the jungle and a myriad of cultures, each steeped in their own interpretation of life and faith, Dekker received a first-class education on human nature and behavior. This, he believes, is the foundation of his writing.

After graduating from a multi-cultural high school, he took up permanent residence in the United States to study Religion and Philosophy. After earning his Bachelor's Degree, Dekker entered the corporate world in management for a large healthcare company in California. Dekker was quickly recognized as a talent in the field of marketing and was soon promoted to Director of Marketing. This experience gave him a background which enabled him to eventually form his own company and steadily climb the corporate ladder.

Since 1997, Dekker has written full-time. He states that each time he writes, he finds his understanding of life and love just a little clearer and his expression of that understanding a little more vivid. To see a complete list of Dekker's work, visit The Works section of TedDekker.com.

Here are some of his latest titles:

Chosen (The Lost Books, Book 1)
Adam
Black: (The Circle Trilogy Graphic Novels, Book 1)
Saint


Product Details

List Price:$15.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 136 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (November 11, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595546049
ISBN-13: 978-1595546043


AND NOW...THE FIRST TWO PAGES:

(Click Pictures to Zoom!)



Wednesday, November 19, 2008

William P. Young (Advice for Novelists, Part 80)

Next up in my Advice for Novelists series, in which I ask authors, editors, agents and publicists the question:

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

...is an author who's novel The Shack has made quite a stir in Christian publishing.


You know, it’s funny. I really don’t know what I’m doing, but I have two pieces of advice. One is: disconnect your identity from what you produce, and that’s a hard thing for us because we think of our significance, worth and value based on what we do instead of who we are. I’m finding with people who write that a lot of times to say anything about what they write is to say something about them. Because there own sense of worth and value is locked into words. For me to have written a story for my kids, I’m so glad that I disconnected like that. Second, when you get a chance, send your writing to people who don’t know you and see what their response is. We had a collaborative process in working through The Shack that really made it so much more beautiful. I appreciated that. Right there is all the depth of my knowledge about writing. (Chuckles.) And maybe the purpose of your writing is just for you. That’s a legitimate purpose.

--William P. Young, author of The Shack. Visit him online at his website.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Evolution Of A Novel

When I finished my second novel I knew I immediately wanted to start writing my third. Problem was, I didn't know what to write.

This series of blog posts will take you along on my journey to write that third book. Maybe it'll demystify some of the writer stereotypes, maybe it'll reinforce them! And who knows? You just might have the chance to influence the outcome of the novel or name a character!

If someone were to ask me, "How do you write a novel?" I don't know what I'd answer. I'm still discovering how it all works. But I hope this series will help me understand my process better, too.

Before we start, let me ask you: What would you like to see covered in this series?

We won't have posts every day, but as something new crops up, I'll blog about it. I already have some interesting tidbits to pass along. Stay tuned! The Evolution of a Novel begins...