Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Real Enemy by Kathy Herman

Upon reading the description of The Real Enemy by Kathy Herman, I was immediately intrigued. A female police chief isn't seen too often in Christian fiction, and I was curious how Herman would handle her character, Brill Jessup. She did a good job of creating a complex, strong female character.

Here's a short summary of the story:

Brill Jessup is the first female police chief in Sophie Trace, Tennessee. She's a pro at solving cases---but personally insecure. Work has become her favorite distraction from trying to forgive her husband Kurt's infidelity. But when seven people go missing, her tireless investigation threatens her family and she's forced to confront the real enemy.

Read the first chapter here.

Guess what? I'm giving away a copy of The Real Enemy! Leave me a comment with your response to this question: "What do you most want to see in an author website?" and I'll draw a winner next week from everyone who responds.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Adam Blumer (Advice for Novelists, Part 93)

Here's today's 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?"

Novelist Adam Blumer had so much to say, I couldn't limit it to one thing. Here's all of his great advice:

Pray and ask God what He wants to do with your life. If your overriding desire is to write and you show an aptitude in that area, ask God whether He has a future for you as an author. He will confirm His will by granting you publishing credentials, allowing you to win some contests, or opening other publication doors. These are confirmations that you are heading in the right direction.

But before you get starry-eyed, take a minute to evaluate your motives. You may never be on the New York Times or CBA bestseller list. You need to be okay with that. You may never be rich or even make enough money to write full-time. You need to be okay with that. You may never be a famous author or even be well-known or considered “successful” as an author. You need to be okay with that, too. Search your heart for why you want to write. If you knew that your novels, stories, or articles would never be published, would you still write them? Are you writing for your own glory or because God has lit a fire in your soul that you can’t put out?

Keep in mind that being an author is not for the faint of heart. At times, you will walk a lonely path littered by rejection letters, misunderstandings, criticisms, and self-doubts. Countless voices (including your own) will tell you that your writing isn’t good enough. Don’t listen to those voices. Believe in the ability God has given to you, seek to learn and grow (mostly out of failure), and do the best with the ability God has placed in your hands. No one can do more than that. Then pray, work hard, and leave the rest to God.

Be sure writing is what God wants you to do. If He wants you to do something else, then run from writing as fast as you can. But if you are certain that He wants you to write, take steps to dedicate and commit yourself to that pursuit.

Weed your life of distractions and make writing your primary focus (after God and your family, of course). If you are multi-talented, set other abilities aside for writing. Look at your writing as ministry, as something God has uniquely called you to do for His glory. The written word is a powerful tool you can use for the glory of God; and yes, you can even do powerful things through stories.

If possible, find a location and set aside regular, consistent time in your schedule to write. Be dedicated. You’ll never grow unless you write often. (Think of concert pianists and how many hours they practice every day.)

Be prepared to be misunderstood for your commitment. Friends won’t understand when you say you can’t go to the basketball game because you need to write. Lots of people will view your writing as a hobby and won’t take you seriously. Just keep working hard, be dedicated to the craft, trust God, and don’t mind them. Someday, the Lord willing, those same people will ask you to autograph their copy of your book.

Finally, no matter how difficult the journey gets and how defeated you feel at times, never ever give up. God has you on this planet for a reason. He began a good work in you. Be certain that He’ll complete it.


  • Read the books that you want to write. Conversely, write the books that you want to read. Also read the best writing you can find (not necessarily what sells or is popular).
  • Read and reread your favorite novel. Study how the author portrays his characters, draws his setting, structures the plot, creates conflict, handles language, and builds to a natural and satisfying end.
  • Subscribe to and study Writer’s Digest magazine.
  • Check out the Writer’s Digest library of books and read as much about writing as you can. Study the craft of writing and always be willing to learn and to change.
  • Take a class on writing or a writer’s correspondence course. (Writer’s Digest offers online workshops. By the way, Writer’s Digest is not paying me to promote their products and training.)
  • Join a writer’s critique group and develop thick skin. You’ll need it. (The ACFW offers such groups.)
  • Network with wannabe authors like you. They may share the same struggles and questions.
  • Be willing to sit at the feet of those who have already blazed the path you want to tread. Ask them questions. Read their books. Listen to the voice of experience.
  • Attend a writer’s conference (for example, the Write-to-Publish Conference held in Wheaton, Illinois, each summer) and talk to publishers, literary agents, and established authors. Humbly learn as much about Christian publishing as you can.
  • Study the books in the CBD catalog. Become familiar with the market you want to write for. By all means, become aware of what types of books publishers are buying, but always write from the heart. In other words, don’t just write what “sells.”
  • Start small with a short story or an inspirational article. Submit it to a magazine for publication. Be prepared to wait a while for the answer. The wheels of publishing can turn slowly. If you receive a rejection letter, take another look at your work and see if you could have done something better. Then send the piece off to someone else. Repeat the process.
  • Again, never ever give up.
  • If you have any questions, please visit my Contact page and send me a message. I’ll do my best to get back to you in a timely manner. I’ve “been there” and am happy to share any advice that I can.
--Adam Blumer, author of the novel Fatal Illusions. Visit him online at his website.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Julie Gwinn (Advice for Novelists, Part 92)

Our Advice for Novelists series continues with a publicist/marketing perspective. This is a series in which I've asked editors, authors, agents & publicists to respond to the question:

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

Julie Gwinn says...

The one thing I would say to aspiring novelists is that the proposal is the key. Make sure the proposal not only includes the standard items, like proposed title, summary, plot and writing sample. But also include ways the writer can help to market their book, what platform they have to get the word out. Are they on the web? Do they blog and twitter? Do they have influential friends or family that can help with high-profile endorsements or reviews? Can they travel? Are they willing to visit area bookstores and libraries to meet with managers and librarians to help sell the book locally? Do they have media contacts and are they good with the media? These days, publishers are looking for authors that can "partner" with them to help sell the book, once the publisher has it placed in retail outlets.

--Julie Gwinn, Trade Book Marketing Manager at B&H Publishing Group.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

2009 Christy Award Nominees!

Just announced live at Christian Book Expo!

The nominees for the 2009 Christy Awards:

Contemporary Romance category:

* Beyond the Night by Marlo Schalesky (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group)
* Finding Stefanie by Susan May Warren (Tyndale House Publishers)
* Zora and Nicky: A Novel in Black and White by Claudia Mair Burney (David C. Cook)

Contemporary Series, Sequels & Novellas category:

* Sisterchicks Go Brit! by Robin Jones Gunn (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group)
* Summer Snow by Nicole Baart (Tyndale House Publishers)
* You Had Me at Good-bye by Tracey Bateman (FaithWords)

Contemporary Standalone category:

* Dogwood by Chris Fabry (Tyndale House Publishers)
* Embrace Me by Lisa Samson (Thomas Nelson)
* Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon by Debbie Fuller Thomas (Moody Publishers)

First Novel category:

* Blue Hole Back Home by Joy Jordan-Lake (David C. Cook)
* Rain Song by Alice J. Wisler (Bethany House Publishers)
* Safe at Home by Richard Doster (David C. Cook)

Historical category:

* Shadow of Colossus by T.L. Higley (B&H Publishing Group)
* Until We Reach Home by Lynn Austin (Bethany House Publishers)
* Washington’s Lady by Nancy Moser (Bethany House Publishers)

Historical Romance category:

* Calico Canyon by Mary Connealy (Barbour Publishers)
* From a Distance by Tamera Alexander (Bethany House Publishers)
* The Moon in the Mango Tree by Pamela Binnings Ewen (B&H Publishing Group)

Suspense category:

* By Reason of Insanity by Randy Singer (Tyndale House Publishers)
* The Rook by Steven James (Revell)
* Winter Haven by Athol Dickson (Bethany House Publishers)

Visionary category:

* The Battle for Vast Dominion by George Bryan Polivka (Harvest House Publishers)
* Shade by John B. Olson (B&H Publishing Group)
* Vanish by Tom Pawlik (Tyndale House Publishers)

Young Adult category are:

* The Fruit of My Lipstick by Shelley Adina (FaithWords)
* I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires by Cathy Gohlke (Moody Publishers)
* On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group)

James David Jordan (Advice for Novelists, Part 91)

Here's another edition of 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?"

Get training. I thought I was a good writer, but I didn't know what I didn't know. It was only after I had a creative writing professor look over my manuscript that I began to learn the craft of writing. You don't get a hundred chances to get published. When your chance arrives, you want to make sure that you are submitting your best product. So, my advice would be to get some instruction from a pro before you submit anything. You'll probably be surprised at what you didn't know.

--James David Jordan, author of Forsaken and the forthcoming Double Cross. Visit his website to learn more.

Friday, March 20, 2009

6 Novels I Can't Wait to Read!

Try Fear
by James Scott Bell
(July, Center Street)

Bell grabbed my attention with Book #1 in this series (Try Dying) and held it through Book #2 (Try Darkness). Can't wait to see what lawyer Ty Buchanan is up to in this next installment. I'm sure of one thing--it'll be a ride!

by Terri Blackstock
(October, Zondervan)

As a fan of the TV show, I'm intrigued right off the bat with this one. Here's the publisher's description: Barbara Covington has one more chance to save her daughter from a devastating addiction: staging an intervention. But when eighteen-year-old Emily disappears on the way to drug treatment—and her interventionist is found dead at the airport—Barbara enters her darkest nightmare of all.

Ends of the Earth
by Tim Downs
(September, Thomas Nelson)

I've been a fan of Tim Downs ever since his first novel, Shoofly Pie. This next book is another Bugman novel, and I can't wait! Publisher's description says: Dr. Nick Polchak is called to a farm community in eastern North Carolina to investigate a murder. The victim is the owner of a failing organic farm who had developed a drug problem, and the police think his murder is drug-related.

The Justice Game
by Randy Singer
(July, Tyndale)

Singer wowed me with his last novel By Reason of Insanity, and I'm guessing it's more of the same great stuff here! Plus there was a very interesting marketing plan for this one---fans got to vote on the final outcome. Looking forward to seeing if my vote was the majority. :)

by Robin Parrish
(July, Bethany House)

The high-concept of this novel has totally grabbed me. Check it out: The return of NASA's first manned mission to Mars was supposed to be a momentous day. But when the crew loses touch with ground control before entry, things look bleak. Safe after a treacherous landing, the crew emerges to discover the unthinkable--every man, woman, child, and animal has vanished without a trace. Alone now on their home planet, the crew sets out to discover where everyone has gone--and how to get them back--only to discover they may not be as alone as they thought.

Double Cross
by James David Jordan
(October, B&H)

I read Jordan's novel Forsaken and became an immediate fan. Publisher summary: Raised by a father who was a former Special Forces officer, Taylor is beautiful and brilliant and knows how to take care of herself. But she is haunted by her past and the sacrifice her father made to save her from a brutal rape when she was seventeen. After a controversial stint in the Secret Service, she has become the most prominent private security specialist in America. When she discovers the body of a former client’s top assistant, all the evidence points to embezzlement and suicide. But Taylor has no way of knowing that her mother, who ran out when Taylor was nine, is about to reappear and lead her down a twisting path of danger and deceit. It’s a road that won’t end until they reach the spot where Taylor’s father died—where Taylor learns some sacrifices can never be earned.

What are some novels you're looking forward to reading? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Nice Write-up on Thicker Than Blood at Christian Writers Guild

The Christian Writers Guild has a very nice write-up about Thicker Than Blood winning Operation First Novel.

Anyone interested in entering your novel in this year's contest, be sure to check out the just posted details here!

Here are some excerpts from the write-up:

..."A story of two sisters separated after the death of their parents — one growing up to become a Christian, the other running off and making poor choices — is a concept that will appeal to our core audience," says Tyndale senior fiction acquisitions editor Jan Stob. "The fact that one runs a ranch and the other works for a collector of rare books only serves to make the characters more interesting."

...Darlington began working on the story when she was 15. At age 23 she submitted it to the first Operation First Novel contest in 2004, placing as a semifinalist. " Over the next four years, I tweaked and revised," she says.

..."C.J. has been most kind to me and my work through her website," says Jerry B. Jenkins , "so it was particularly gratifying to know that I had judged her winning work without knowing who wrote it. The finalists all come to me without names attached, so I was as thrilled as she to learn she had won."

Read the full piece here.

Friday, March 13, 2009

No Holds Barred Writing

I've been thinking about a piece of writing advice I read years ago. It went something like this, "Don't hold back your greatest ideas until the next book you write. Use them now. You never know if that book of the future will get written, or even get published."

I've had to remind myself of this advice recently as I contemplate the direction of my third novel. A great idea pops into my head, but I think, "No, I'll wait 'til the next book for that one" or "I can't write that now---what if I can write it better in a couple years?"

Sure, if I'm doing things right, I'm always going to be writing better with each year that passes (I hope!). Maybe I will be able to tell the story better down the road. Or not. That's the issue. I don't want to hold onto my best ideas, because more good ideas will come later!

An example. In my first novel, Thicker Than Blood, I have a character who doesn't even show up in any scenes but was someone who got mentioned in the thoughts of another character. Her name's Abby. Now I like the name Abby. Enough so that I didn't want to "use it up" for such a minor character. I tried changing it (she was going to be Nora, another name I like). It was a no go. This character had become Abby in my head. I felt like I wasted a good name! But as it turns out, as I wrote my second novel I had the wild idea to include this Abby character. And she took over the book! Which goes to show me the advice I heard was right. Don't hold back good ideas, or character names, for later.

Every book I write needs to be the very best it can be... right now. And this is good advice for life, too. Didn't Mark Twain say, "Don't put off for tomorrow what you can do today?" Which goes hand-in-hand with Jesus' words about not worrying about tomorrow, for tomorrow has enough troubles of its own.

Let's live life to its fullest today, no matter our vocation!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Michael Landon, Jr. (Advice for Novelists, Part 90)

Today we hear from a film maker and author in 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?"

Write about what you’re passionate. Not necessarily what you know, but what you’re passionate about. You can always learn what you don’t know. But you can’t create passion.

--Michael Landon, Jr. author of One More Sunrise, The Silent Gift, and Director of films like The Velveteen Rabbit, The Last Sin Eater, Love Comes Softly, and more. Visit his movie website here.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Tom Morrisey (Advice for Novelists, Part 89)

Welcome to another edition of 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?"

Don't be in a hurry. Most aspiring fiction writers so crave the published-novelist mantle that they forget the responsibilities that come with it. If you sell a novel tomorrow, you will:

1) Probably be expected to turn in another, even better than this one, in less than a year,

2) While writing that second novel, you will be expected to promote and help market the first one (probably while still working your day job),

3) In the meantime you'll be proposing and researching future books (see note above about the day job),

4) Meanwhile you'll be responding to readers' letters, speaking to book clubs and doing interviews,

5) And, in short, writing becomes work.

Were I starting out today, I would write an amazing book and then polish, revise it and make it even more amazing while I wrote a second one. And THEN I would start thinking about selling them. The popular illusion is that writing is freedom, but the truth is that it is a craft that requires lots of attention. Get ahead of the curve as much as you can. If you become a successful writer, you will never again enjoy the luxury of time that is yours right now.

--Tom Morrisey, author of many novels including
Wind River, In High Places, and the upcoming Pirate Hunter. Visit him online at his website.