Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Andrea Doering (Advice for Novelists, Part 51)

Today we hear once again from an editor's perspective in our Advice for Novelists series. I don't know about you, but I sit up and take notice when editors take the time to give advice. And Andrea Doering graciously responded today to the question:

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

Novelists are told by many people, "write what you know." Somehow that translates to "write about your life." Which may stop you from moving forward, because what we live is usually not as interesting to us as the lives of others, or what we read.

But this is good advice, to write what you know. But take it down to the minutiae in your novel. What is that little trick your sister always did with her wrist when she was worried? What is your mother's signature goodbye to people she loves? And maybe you know, as a parent, that fear for your children far outweighs any fear for yourself. These are the things that enrich the novel, and enrich your reader's experience--and they are yours to tell.

--Andrea Doering, Senior Acquisitions Editor, Revell Books, an imprint of Baker Publishing Group

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Carnival of Christian Writers!

The 20th Carnival of Christian Writers is here! The carnival is a roundup of sorts featuring interesting posts on the craft and call of Christian writing. I'm honored to be included in the 20th carnival with my post "Is it me or God?". Check out all the links to the posts here. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Buying an editor or agent

I was perusing this auction put on by Brenda Novak which benefits research for Diabetes. It's the fourth annual, and they have some interesting items being offered for sale. Of course, my first stop was in the "For Writers" section.

As I scanned the listings I couldn't help but smile. Check out the editor section here. Folks are paying big bucks for these things, and I think I can see why! Editors are offering to look at proposals and even complete manuscripts and get back within 24 hours in some cases. What do you think? Is that worth a couple hundred bucks? How much would you pay to have an editor or agent guarantee they'd respond to you within a week?

Sometimes editors and agents get a bad rap. We don't realize just how busy and under appreciated their jobs are. Check out this photo of agent Rachelle Gardner's mail:

How would you like to go through all that and know that almost every one was expecting you to get back to them the second you received their submission? Puts things in perspective, huh? :)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Beverly Lewis (Advice for Novelists, Part 50)

We've made it to 50 in our Advice for Novelists series, and there's no sign of stopping us yet! :) Just to recap ... I've asked editors, agents, authors and publicists their response to the question:

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

So many great answers have rolled in thus far, and today we hear from best-selling novelist Beverly Lewis. This is from a recent interview I did with her. Even though I didn't ask her the above question verbatim, I think this fits and we can all learn something from her thoughts.

C.J.: In a recent interview you gave advice to aspiring authors and said, “As I see it, it’s more a willingness to work hard and persevere” rather than pure talent. How important is it for an aspiring fiction writer to never give up?

Beverly: There comes a time, of course, when a determined writer who may not have either the talent or the drive to become published might simply channel his or her efforts into another avenue of writing. Wisdom comes from being open to professional input. I wouldn’t want to discourage anyone whatsoever, but after a long period of trial and error, one might redirect goals. There are many writers, of course, who WILL achieve their aspirations after much perseverance (just as I did), viewing rejections as stepping stones to eventual success.

--Beverly Lewis, author of The Shunning, The Parting, The Redemption of Sarah Cain, and many more. Visit her online at her website here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

House of Dark Shadows by Robert Liparulo (Teen FIRST blog tour)

It's May 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 21st, we will feature an author and his/her latest Teen fiction book's FIRST chapter!

This month we're featuring House of Dark Shadows by Robert Liparulo, Book #1 in his Dreamhouse Kings series.


Robert Liparulo is an award-winning author of over a thousand published articles and short stories. He is currently a contributing editor for New Man magazine. His work has appeared in Reader's Digest, Travel & Leisure, Modern Bride, Consumers Digest, Chief Executive, and The Arizona Daily Star, among other publications. In addition, he previously worked as a celebrity journalist, interviewing Stephen King, Tom Clancy, Charlton Heston, and others for magazines such as Rocky Road, Preview, and L.A. Weekly. He has sold or optioned three screenplays.

Robert is an avid scuba diver, swimmer, reader, traveler, and a law enforcement and military enthusiast. He lives in Colorado with his wife and four children.

Here are some of his titles other titles:

Comes a Horseman


I did an interview with Robert awhile back for Click here to read it.

And now, the first chapter:

“A house of which one knows every room isn't worth living in.”

—Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa


Thirty years ago

The walls of the house absorbed the woman’s screams, until they felt to her as muffled and pointless as yelling underwater. Still, her lungs kept pushing out cries for help. Her attacker carried her over his shoulder. The stench of his sweat filled her nostrils. He paid no heed to her frantic writhing, or the pounding of her fists on his back, or even her fingernails, which dug furrows into his flesh. He simply lumbered, as steadily as a freight train, through the corridors of the big house.

She knew where they were heading, but not where she would end up. In this house, nothing was normal, nothing as it appeared. So while she knew in advance the turns her attacker would take, which hallways and doors he would traverse, their destination was as unknowable as a faraway galaxy. And that meant her taking would be untraceable. She would be unreachable to searchers. To would-be rescuers. To her family— and that realization terrified her more than being grabbed out of her bed. More than the flashes of imagined cruelty she would suffer away from the protection of the people who loved her. More than death.

But then she saw something more terrifying: her children, scrambling to catch up, to help. Their eyes were wide, streaming. They stumbled up the narrow staircase behind her attacker, seeming far below, rising to meet her. The thought of them following her into the chasm of her fate was more than she could stand.

“Go back,” she said, but by this time her throat was raw, her voice weak.

The man reached the landing and turned into another corridor.

Temporarily out of sight, her son yelled, “Mom!” His seven-year-old voice was almost lost in the shrillness of his panic. He appeared on the landing. His socked feet slipped on the hardwood floor and he went down. Behind him, his little sister stopped. She was frightened and confused, too young to do anything more than follow her brother. He clambered up and started to run again.

A hand gripped his shoulder, jarring him back.

The boy’s father had something in his fist: the lamp from his nightstand! He past the boy in the hallway. His bare feet gave him traction.

Thank God, she thought.

He reached her in seconds. With the lamp raised over his head, he grabbed her wrist. He pulled, tried to anchor himself to the floor, to the carpeted runner now covering the wood planks. But the brute under her walked on, tugging him with them. The man yanked on her arm. Pain flared in her shoulder. He might as well have tried pulling her from a car as it sped passed.

She caught a glimpse of the bizarrely shaped light fixtures on the corridor walls—mostly carved faces with glowing eyes. The bulbs flickered in time with her racing heart. She could not remember any of the lights doing that before. It was as though the electrical current running through the wires was responding to a disruption in the way things were supposed to be, a glitch in reality.

“Henry,” she said, pleading, hopeful.

His grip tightened as he stumbled along behind them. He brought the lamp’s heavy base down on her assailant. If the man carrying her flinched, she did not feel it. If he grunted or yelled out, she did not hear it.

What he did was stop. He spun around so quickly, the woman’s husband lost his grip on her. And now facing the other direction, she lost sight of him. Being suddenly denied her husband’s visage felt like getting the wind knocked out of her. She realized he was face to face with the man who’d taken her, and that felt like watching him step off a cliff.

“Nooo!” she screamed, her voice finding some volume. “Henry!”

Read the rest of the chapter here at the Teen FIRST blog.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

10 Ways to Know it's Time to Turn Off the Computer

1. You see something funny and scream, "LOL, LOL!"

2. You meet the mailman at the curb and swear he said YOU'VE GOT MAIL.

3. You sign off and your screen says you were on for 6 days and 45 minutes.

4. You fall asleep, but instead of dreams you get IMs.

5. Tech support calls YOU for help.

6. You say "he he he he" or "heh heh heh" instead of laughing.

7. You say "SCROLL UP" when someone asks what it was you said.

8. You wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and check your e-mails on the way back to bed.

9. You talk on the phone with the same person you are e-mailing.

10. You get up in the morning and go online before getting your coffee.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Writing Resource: Random Name Generator

Ever struggled to find the perfect name for your character? Struggle no more. The Random Name Generator is coming to the rescue!

Say I'm looking for a male name, not too obscure. With a push of a button I have these suggestions:

1. Allan Gately
2. Hugh Dignan
3. Allan Addy
4. Allan Sinner
5. Jamie Teer
6. Clinton Bonet
7. Javier Gallogly
8. Ted Vanwingerden
9. Jessie Hosler
10. Nelson Proehl

Allan Addy??? :)

Check it out here and have fun.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sigmund Brouwer (Advice for Novelists, Part 49)

Next in our Advice for Novelists series, I've asked novelist Sigmund Brouwer his response to the question I've been asking editors, novelist, publicists and agents:

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

His to-the-point response:

Never, ever, ever, ever quit.

--Sigmund Brouwer, author of Broken Angel and over a dozen other novels for adults plus many more for teens and kids. Visit his website here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Randy Singer (Advice for Novelists, Part 48)

Thanks so much everyone for sticking with me so long during this advice for novelists series. It's been a pleasure to put together.

For those just joining us, I've asked editors, authors, agents and publicists their answers to the question:

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

Today we're featuring Randy Singer's response:

Write for the audience of one. It sounds cliche, but the challenge comes when we start thinking "What does the market want?", "What does my editor want?", "What are people going to say about this book?" If we write the story we think God’s given us, that’s our best story.

The story you can’t stop thinking about, the one you daydream about, that’s the story God’s given you. It’s the characters you love, the story that just flows out of you. Our best writing occurs when we aren’t under contract deadline, we don’t have to produce, we’re just producing because we love the story and we love the characters. My whole life is boiled down to this issue of enthusiasm and passion and loving what you’re doing, working hard in that sweet spot of where your gifts and your interests intersect.

--Randy Singer, novelist, lawyer, pastor. His latest novel By Reason of Insanity has just released. Visit him online at his website.

Read other responses in this series by clicking here.

Monday, May 12, 2008

New Interviews and Reviews!

Hi, friends. I've been super busy lately with my work at Just to keep you abreast, here are links to some of my recent reviews and interviews. If you're interested in more, I have all my work linked in the right hand column of this blog. Enjoy!

Randy Singer Interview
Randy talks about his latest novel By Reason of Insanity, shares one of his embarrassing courtroom moments, how he got involved with street preaching, all about his writing process, his infamous guffaw at the Christy Awards, and a whole lot more.

To coincide, I've written a review of By Reason of Insanity, a terrific legal thriller.

"The verdict is in---Randy Singer is guilty of writing some of the best legal fiction on the market."

Wanda Brunstetter Interview
Wanda shares facts about the Amish readers might not know, how she married her husband after knowing him for only a month, the research that goes into her books, and more!

My Soul Cries Out by Sherri L. Lewis
Book Review

"Lewis is a talented new author who's breaking ground that's needed breaking for quite some time."

The Chronicles of Narnia Prince Caspian: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion by Ernie Malik
Book Review

"Think of this book as a 4 disc DVD collector's edition only on paper."

Stephen Kendrick Interview
This is the guy, who along with his brother Alex, founded Sherwood Pictures, which is behind the movies Facing the Giants, Flywheel, and the upcoming Fireproof. He had much to say on the moviemaking process, Christians and media, and so much more.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Linda Leigh Hargrove (Advice for Novelists, Part 47)

For today's post in our Advice for Novelists series, I've asked novelist Linda Leigh Hargrove to share her response to the question:

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

Her response:

Don’t let our past failures determine our future failures. In other words, if we know your manuscript was rejected because your dialogue is weak. Work on dialogue. Don’t let that be why it gets rejected the next time.

We all fail. Even the so called gifted ones. The key is to learn from our failures, to let them guide us toward success. Even a small success is still a success.

--Linda Leigh Hargrove, author of The Making of Isaac Hunt and the upcoming Loving Cee Cee Johnson. Visit her online at her website!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Robin Shope (Advice for Novelists, Part 46)

Our advice for novelists series is still going on strong! I've asked editors, authors, agents and publicists their answers to the question:

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

Today the talented Ms. Shope shares her response:

My advice is simple; know your audience and genre. If you are like me, you enjoy various types of music, and your reading tastes run the gamut from fiction to nonfiction to children’s books. Many new writers, including myself, started out writing anything and everything . . . that is not so bad, and quite energetic for an aspiring author. But when we become serious about being published then writing takes on a whole new meaning. Pick one genre that you feel most passionate about and learn it.

That means read that genre. Study it as though you are preparing for a college exam. Take notes on how the characters are developed, when the problem occurs, how a hook is used, what about the story keeps you right on turning the pages. Better still, write down what you don’t like. Writing takes work. Writer Loops are filled with the same type of questions from aspiring authors all asking the same basic questions such as
I am writing a book for young adults. Can anyone suggest a good author for me to read? I shiver when I read that and not in a good way. Their shelves should already be filled with the likes of Jean Craighead George and Cynthia Rylant.

A good mystery book was all I ever used to pick up. I read them voraciously before I even considered writing them. Because of that passion I decided to craft my own thriller filled with DNA, and fiber evidence. It took root and everywhere I looked I saw a potential story. I worked at a rough school with at risk kids. One day a student attacked me with a metal door. I was asked to write out the police report detailing what happened. My principal at the time knew my love for setting up a story scene and told me to try to keep it under forty pages. Honest.

By the time my third book was published, I had acquired a bevy of forensic experts that I consulted. I also bought an underground book of how someone can acquire a new identity and studied that for my fourth mystery book,
Wildcard, which is coming out 2009.

Yep, mystery writing was my genre. Then the unthinkable, the unexplainable happened. A publisher asked me to write a romance book set at Christmas time. I bit back my laughter. After I agreed I went into shock that lasted for several days. What did I know about romance? My opinion of romance books up to that point was; woman falls in love with man. Man falls in love with woman. A problem arises that causes the woman and the man to break up. Woman cries. Man sulks. Woman and man get back together. The end. What to do? The only thing I could. I turned to Lifetime TV for help. The romance kind. And watched a weekend worth of sweet, very romantic stories, and I took notes. On Monday I headed to the library and checked out best selling romance authors.

Ooou, I soon discovered that romance is ripe with emotion and conflict. And dark villains. So I wrote my Christmas book and sent it to the publisher. A week later I signed a contract for a five holiday book series.

--Robin Shope, author of The Candidate (with Susan Wales), Wildcard, and more. Visit her online at her blog and Shoutlife pages:

Monday, May 05, 2008

Creativity & God

I was listening to a teaching CD the other day by Rev. Dr. Ladonna Osborn and something she said really stuck out for me:

"Thinking for a Christian is waiting for the Holy Spirit to generate a creative idea in you."

What a profound statement.

As creative people we're constantly searching out our next story idea, our next blog entry :), our next letter to friends . . . but why is it that so often we dig and dig by ourselves without waiting to hear what God might be speaking to us? I'm just as guilty of this as the next person (see my recent blog entry Is it me or God?), so don't think I'm pointing fingers here.

I don't want to forget that God is just waiting to speak to me, and He does all the time. It's ME who either doesn't hear, or more often than not, doesn't take the time to pause and LISTEN.

As Christians, we're supposed to be a little bit different from everyone else. We're not supposed to think like the world. I encourage you to take time to pause and wait on the Lord at some point during your day today and listen to the ideas that pop up in your head. And don't let your mind talk you out of receiving a creative idea just because you think it's you and not God. Chances are it's the Holy Spirit nudging you, like He so beautifully does.

Think about it. Your next creative endeavor could come straight from the Lord Himself! Will you receive it?

I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions.
--Proverbs 8:12 (KJV)

Friday, May 02, 2008

FIRST Blog Tour - Finding Hollywood Nobody by Lisa Samson

Yes, I know I'm a day late, but it's still time for the FIRST Blog Tour! (Click the button to join our alliance.) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!

My Take on Finding Hollywood Nobody: We featured Lisa's first book in this series, Hollywood Nobody awhile back, and I loved it. So I was thrilled to have the chance to read the second book, Finding Hollywood Nobody. It was just as good, though a tad bit more serious than the first.

There's just enough eccentricity to make the characters stand out without becoming caricatures. Scotty is wise beyond her years, but she's still a kid, and she knows it.
Highly recommended for teens and teens at heart!


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

These days, she's working on Quaker Summer, volunteering at Kentucky Refugee Ministries, raising children and trying to be supportive of a husband in seminary. (Trying . . . some days she's downright awful. It's a good thing he's such a fabulous cook!) She can tell you one thing, it's never dull around there.

Other Novels by Lisa:

Hollywood Nobody, Straight Up, Club Sandwich, Songbird, Tiger Lillie, The Church Ladies, Women's Intuition: A Novel, Songbird, The Living End

Visit her at her website.


Chapter One

Hollywood Nobody: Sunday, June 4

Well, Nobodies, it's a wrap! Jeremy's latest film, yet another remake of The Great Gatsby, now titled Green Light, has shipped out from location and will be going into postproduction. Look for it next spring in theaters. It may just be his most widely distributed film yet with Annette Bening on board. Toledo Island will never be the same after that wacky bunch filled in their shores.

Today's Hottie Watch: Seth Haas has moved to Hollywood. An obscure film he did in college, Catching Regina's Heels (a five-star film in my opinion), was mentioned on the Today show last week. He was interviewed on NPR's Fresh Air. Hmm. Could it be he'll receive the widespread acclaim he deserves before the release of Green Light? For his sake and the film's, I hope so.

Rehab Alert: I've never hidden the fact that I don't care for bratty actress Karissa Bonano, but she just checked into rehab for a cocaine addiction. Her maternal grandfather, Doug Fairmore, famous in the forties for swashbuckling and digging up clues, made a public statement declaring the Royal Family of Hollywood was "indeed throwing all of our love, support, and prayers behind Karissa." The man must be a thousand years old by now. This isn't Ms. Bonano's first stint in rehab, but let's hope it's her last. Even I'm not too catty to wish her well in this battle. But I'm as skeptical as the next person. In Hollywood, rehab is mostly just a fad.

Today's Quote: "It's a scientific fact. For every year a person lives in Hollywood, they lose two points of their IQ." Truman Capote

Today's Rant: SWAG, or Party Favors. Folks, do you ever wonder what's inside those SWAG bags the stars get? Items which, if sold, could feed a third-world country for a week! And have you noticed how the people who can afford to buy this stuff seem to get it for free? I'm just sayin'. So here's my idea, stars: Refuse to take these high-priced bags o' stuff and gently suggest the advertisers give to a charitable organization on behalf of the movie, the stars, the whoever. Like you need another cell phone.

Today's Kudo: Violette Dillinger will be appearing on the MTV Video Music Awards in August. She told Hollywood Nobody she's going to prove to this crowd you can be young, elegant, decent, and still rock out. Go Violette!

Summer calls. Later!

Monday, September 15, 4:00 a.m.

Maybe I'm looking for the wrong thing in a parent.

I turn over in bed at the insistence of Charley's forefinger poking me in the shoulder. "Please tell me you've MapQuested this jaunt, Charley."

She shakes her tousled head, silhouetted by the yellow light emanating from the RV's bathroom. "You're kidding me right?" She slides off the dinette seat. Charley's been overflowing with relief since she told me the truth about our life: that she's not really my mother, but my grandmother, that somebody's chasing us for way too good of a reason, that my life isn't as boring as I thought. We're still being chased, but Charley can at least breathe more freely in her home on the road now that I know the truth.

Home in this case happens to be a brand-spanking-new Trailmaster RV, a huge step forward from the ancient Travco we used to have, the ancient Travco with a rainbow Charley spread in bright colors over its nose.

"Where to?" Having set my vintage cat glasses, love 'em, on my nose, I scramble my hair into its signature ponytail: messy, curly, and frightening. I can so picture myself in the Thriller video.

"Marshall, Texas."

"East Texas?"

"I guess."

"It is." I shake my head. Charley. I love her, I really do, but when it comes to geography, despite the fact that we've traveled all over the country going to her gigs ever since I can remember, she's about as intelligent as a bottle of mustard. And boy do I know a lot about bottles of mustard. But that was my last adventure.

Read the rest of the chapter here at the FIRST blog.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Big Picture by Jenny B. Jones

Let me introduce you to The Big Picture by Jenny B. Jones. It's the featured novel this week at the CFBA. There aren't too many books I want to shout about from the rooftops, but the Katie Parker Production series (of which The Big Picture is Book #3) is one of them.

The cool thing I've found about these books is that folks of all ages are enjoying them, even though it's officially a YA series. That's the sign of a good book.

I had the honor of endorsing The Big Picture. It can be found on the first page of the book and reads thus:

"Fresh, relevant, and snappy, The Big Picture deals with tough real-life issues. Jones beautifully balances the serious with witty humor and some of the most memorable characters in fiction today. By the book's end, you'll be clamoring for more Jenny B. Jones. I certainly am!"
--C.J. Darlington, cofounder and book editor;

For those new to the series, here's a rundown of the books:

Book 1: In Between

Katie Parker finds herself in a minivan bound for In Between, Texas, home of her new foster family, Pastor James and Millie Scott. Soon she falls into the wrong crowd and finds herself in serious trouble. Along the way she’s introduced to faith, encounters Mad Maxine (her crazy foster grandma who rides bikes in spike heels), a play gone awry, and a secret that won’t stay under wraps. Will her foster family and the church youth group accept her as she is or steer clear of Katie’s chaos?

Book 2: On The Loose

It’s going to take more than a glass slipper and some fairy dust to fix Katie’s problems. Just as she finally settles into her new life a devastating tornado rips into town. When the winds settle, nothing is ever the same again. Millie is diagnosed with breast cancer, and Katie begins to doubt if God really does care. If something happens to Millie, will she be sent back to the group home? Things spiral even further out of control when Katie juggles a science fair project, a malfunctioning best friend, spring break plans, and holding the attention of her own Prince Charming.

Book 3: The Big Picture

Just as school winds down for the summer, Katie comes home to find the shock of her life on the Scotts’ front porch - her mother. Bobbie Ann Parker, newly released from prison, has come back for her daughter. But how can Katie leave In Between when so much is falling apart? There’s Maxine’s crumbling love life to take care of, a boyfriend to win back, and the town drive-in to save.

EXTRA! EXTRA! I've had the chance to interview Jenny twice for

Read the first interview.

Read the second interview (done with my sister Tracy).