Monday, June 29, 2009

Summer Writing Update

This weekend I was working on my official author website. Which is kinda weird. I don't feel like an official author. :) I've had in my mind the themes I want to convey through the design, and it's starting to take shape (think mountains and books).

With only six more months to go before my first novel Thicker than Blood releases from Tyndale House, I'm keeping busy. The manuscript is currently in typesetting and then will be proofread. Several wonderful authors have agreed to read advance copies of the book for possible endorsement, so I might have some of those to share in the future.

And here's a tidbit for you. A very well known Christian music artist has agreed to read the novel for possible endorsement, too. I can't share who yet, but you'll be some of the first to know if she (okay, that's your hint!) is able to provide a blurb.

One more thing. I have an exciting feature I'm planning for my website that I'll talk more about in the future. For now, take a good look at the little stuffed ocelot up there at the beginning of this post. You'll be seeing more of him/her in the future. That's all I'm saying for now. :)

This summer I'm going to be putting the final touches on my second novel (working title Innocent Blood) and hopefully starting the rough draft of my third book. In the meant time, you can always find me conducting author interviews and writing book reviews over at Be looking for ones with Donita K. Paul, Randy Singer and Tom Davis soon.

Speaking of, I recently read Tom's novel called Scared. It might just change your view on Africa and the AIDs crisis. If you'd like to read my review, click here. I highly recommend this one.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Donita K. Paul (Advice for Novelists, Part 99)

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?"

Donita's advice is short and sweet, but that doesn't make it any less poignant:

Love what you are doing, not what you hope to achieve.

--Donita K. Paul, author of The Vanishing Sculptor, The Dragonkeeper Chronicles, etc. Visit her website to learn more about her Appreciate A Dragon Day and more.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Word In Season From Alice Hoffman

I was paging through the July issue of The Writer magazine last night. Alice Hoffman's interview caught my attention, and I'm glad it did. As I contemplate what to write for my third novel, several of her quotes stuck out and encouraged me. When asked, "What advice do you have for fledgling writers?", here's what she said:

My biggest piece of advice is to write, because I think sometimes people feel like they have to think up the story or they have to have something to say. I always feel like you might not know what you have to say in a piece of fiction until you start writing. It's really important to write your way into the story. It's good to know something of plot, structure and characters, but you find out what you really have to say by writing.

This can't be any more appropriate for where I am now in my writing. I always wish I was a plotter in times like these. I wish I could have a full outline and know where I'm going in a novel. But thus far, that doesn't seem to be my process. I have ideas, characters, etc. but putting them together and actually starting? I've actually started four or fives times now on this third book!

Here's another quote Alice shares that hits home for me. The interviewer asks her, "When you're writing a novel, what part is the hardest?"

The beginning is the hardest. Every time I start a novel, I think: "I don't know how to write a novel. I don't know how to make it come alive. I don't know how to tell a story. I don't know what I'm doing." I feel like it's a process of relearning every time.

Thank you, Alice, for sharing these words! Maybe the doubts are normal. Maybe it's okay to feel like I'm clueless and like I'm starting from ground zero every time. Maybe that's just the way all authors feel when starting a new project. Recognizing this might be exactly what I need to sit down and start typing Chapter One ... for the sixth time! :)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Defining Your Present With Your Past

What if everything that's happened in your life thus far was to prepare you for today?

I had the chance to sit in on an interview my sister Tracy did with Duncan Phillips, the drummer for the Newsboys last week. He had a lot of great things to say not only on the band, but on living positive and being a Christian. A few of his quotes stuck out to me:

"I look at how much hard work it was [the early stages of the band] and also how loyal and faithful our Creator was through all this. There were so many what-ifs. I look back on it now with hindsight. I can see the hand of the Lord there in various situations. There was no way they could've happened by chance. Looking back encourages me when I look forward. I look forward now with courage because there have been a lot of times in our careers, especially just recently, where it was like, “Oh my gosh, what are we gonna do? This thing's over; we're not getting anywhere.” But the Lord has been good."

Notice his quote, "Looking back encourages me when I look forward". That says something to me today. I daresay all of us have experiences where God has moved in our lives, only we didn't recognize God's hand until later. In hind sight. Duncan continues:

"I know in my heart that He is real. I've seen what He's done in my life over the years. It's one of the great things about being a Christian for a while now - I can look back and see all the incredible things that could not have happened by chance. They happened because of an ordained process that can only come from the Creator, Someone greater than me."

As a writer, I see how true these statements are in my own life. Every experience, good or bad, can be used in my writing. In order to write deeply I need to have something to draw from. I'm turning 30 this year, but the Lord has blessed me with some amazing experiences.

I was traveling the country in my early 20s for our family business and have been in all but four US states. I saw my first bald eagle outside Flagstaff, Arizona sitting high and mighty in a huge pine tree. I helped put out a forest fire on the road up to Estes Park, Colorado. I saw a grizzly bear eating a dead animal carcass in Yellowstone National Park. I've driven down the streets of San Francisco at one o'clock in the morning. I saw the Twin Towers a week before they went down.

The funny thing is, as I was experiencing these things (and many more like them) I had no idea I would need them later in life. But as I write my novels I'm finding myself using these specific details. Just the other night I wrote about watching a hummingbird diving toward a stream, its shrill tweet sounding like a distant policeman's siren. That came from my own life too.

But here's the thing that goes back to what Duncan was saying. We ALL have experiences in our pasts that color our today. What if an experience we first thought of as negative actually developed our character into something that will impact our future? Our ministries?

I don't believe God purposely causes bad things to happen in our lives to teach us things, but I do believe He can help us through them. We can learn from the negative. And maybe we can use the experience in a book someday!

God has a specific plan for your life. He's ordaining your steps even now. Knowing that can change our outlook on life.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Best Mann for the Job trailer

Our friends Chris and Erica Well have created a trailer for their comic strip Best Mann for the Job. This is the weekly comic featured on You might recognize Chris's name from his novels Tribulation House, Deliver Us From Evelyn, and Forgiving Solomon Long.

Read this week's installment of Best Mann for the Job.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Writing edgy . . . for all the wrong reasons

In the last couple of years I've noticed a trend in Christian fiction. More and more aspiring authors desire to write edgy fiction. And by edgy I mean pushing the envelope of what has generally been considered acceptable in novels regarding violence, sex, language, etc.

Now I'm all for writing real. I want my characters and situations to be true to life. I don't want to write about saints. But somewhere there's a line, and I admit, it's a gray one. Personally, I think it comes down to motives. Why do we want to write edgy? Is it to shock? To do it because we can?

Don't get me wrong. I know full well there are different books to reach different people. Someone who might not be inclined to pick up Beverly Lewis might love Ted Dekker. That's the beauty of this ever increasing market. There's so much great material! Twenty years ago this wasn't the case. I'm very thankful to be writing Christian fiction in today's world.

But in some Christian novels I've read recently I'm hard pressed to find anything (besides a lack of swearing) that sets them apart from their secular counterparts. And again, that may be exactly what the author and publisher want---to write clean fiction. There's nothing wrong with that, but I sometimes wonder if the author shied away from the Christian aspects because he/she didn't want to offend.

A couple years ago I noticed this in my own writing. I kept hearing I wasn't supposed to preach in my fiction. The message needed to come organically from the story. Sounded great in principle, but I found myself (and this is just me) actually shying away ever so slightly from what I most wanted to include in my novels---good news. The gospel. Hope. God's love.

I started evaluating my motives and realized I was indeed acting, in so many words, ashamed of the gospel. Something I never ever wanted to be ashamed of. I looked up the Scripture in Romans 1:16
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

As I pondered it, something stuck out to me: the gospel is the power of God. And what is the gospel? The good news of Jesus! If I want to write a powerful novel, then I need to include the good news. If I want to reach people for the Lord, I need to share the good news.

Of course, the gospel comes in various forms, and I still don't want to write preachy, but I also don't want to be ashamed.

In my debut novel Thicker than Blood (January 2010, Tyndale House) there's a strong evangelical message. In all my fiction my goal is to show that no one is ever too far gone for God to love. I'm now proud of that.

I'd like to encourage you today not to be ashamed of the gospel. It holds the power of God to transform lives.

Addendum: Now let me just add here that I'm not saying clean, moral fiction (like one of my favorite authors James Scott Bell's Ty Buchanan series) are not valuable. They are very much needed, and I love reading them too. Mainly I'm talking about motives here. You may be called to write moral fiction. We write different books to reach different people. I totally support that. Some won't be ready for my novels, but they may receive from someone else.

So please don't take this post wrong. This is just what I've been thinking about lately in my own personal writing life.

Addendum #2: (I posted this in the comments but want to include it here as well): Great discussion, everyone! Thanks for your comments. And let me just say that many of my characters walk and talk and act like sinners. The main character of Thicker Than Blood is an alcoholic who chain smokes and has lived with her boyfriend. But it's my job to tell her story without dragging my readers through the mud of her life.

There's nothing so beautiful as seeing a sinner come to know forgiveness and love from God. But in order to truly appreciate their redemption, sometimes we need to see some of their sin. That said, I'm always very careful how much I show.

Riven by Jerry B. Jenkins is a great example of an author who skillfully shows us a sinner without dragging us through the sin. There's not one swear word, sex scene, or even much graphic violence. Yet we clearly know all about Brady and his life.

Another example are the films of the Billy Graham evangelistic association (World Wide Pictures). The movie Caught (unfortunately not on DVD that I know of) was about a young man living on the streets of Amsterdam who even has to sell himself to pay off a drug debt.

Telling realistic stories of redemption with restraint can be done. :)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Something to make writers smile...

From my favorite comic strip these days... Click to enlarge.

Pearls Before Swine

Friday, June 05, 2009

Candace Calvert (Advice for Novelists, Part 98)

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?"

This week the advice is short and sweet. Says Candace:

Enjoy the journey—make that your biggest goal. Everything else that comes is frosting.

--Candace Calvert, author of Critical Care. Visit her online at her website.

The Winner of The Night Watchman...

... is Nickolay! I've sent you an e-mail asking for your mailing address. For everyone else, thanks for entering! Be sure to pick up your own copy of The Night Watchman over at Amazon or I'll be having more giveaways in the future, so stay tuned!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

CFOM Publicity Article

I promise I'll have more interesting posts in the future, but I want to pass along a link to an article I wrote for the Christian Fiction Online Magazine this month.

I was asked to write about's beginnings and publicity, so that's what I did. Ever wondered how my sister, Tracy, and I started Or, if you're a writer, how to best contact web media? I talk about it all in the piece, " Origins". Check it out here.