Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Offworld by Robin Parrish

I knew this one would be intriguing right from the get-go. I mean, who wouldn't have interest in a book with the premise of the whole earth's population disappearing without a trace? With no explanation.

Not exactly what four astronauts from Mars want to come home to. But it's exactly what happens, and we spend the whole book discovering along with them what really took place.

I'm not a sci-fi die hard or anything, but I just can't resist a good speculative title like this. Robin managed to hold my interest, like he did with his first novel Relentless. Towards the end I had to stretch my imagination a little, but really. This whole premise is about blowing our disbelief out of the water. A great summer novel!

And guess what? I'm giving away a copy. Just leave me a comment with your favorite Christian speculative fiction title, and I'll enter your name in the drawing. Winner will be picked next Monday.

Read the first chapter here.

Watch the trailer:

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Evolution of a First Line

I've just updated my website to tell the story behind the story of my first novel Thicker than Blood. From inception to acceptance, here's the whole shibang in all it's details.

Part of what I share is the evolution of the first line of the novel. Here it is:

From the story written at age 15:
Christy Thomas worked at Robert Kuller Real Estate in Billings, Montana.
Um, can we say boring?

1st draft at age 19:
Christy Thomas didn’t see the red lights until they were directly behind her, flashing madly.
I think the lights were rabid.

2nd draft:
She pulled off the highway, her arms and fingers tense with fear.
This was my melodramatic phase.

3rd draft:
Christy didn’t see the cop until he was tailing her.
I was on the right track with this one, I think.

Manuscript submitted to Operation First Novel contest in 2004:
Christy wished the cop would just shoot her.
Apparently I took too seriously the advice to begin with a bang.

Manuscript submitted to Operation First Novel contest in 2008:
Christy didn’t see the cop until his red lights spun in her rearview mirror.
Eventually I saw the error of my ways and went back to this.

Published first line:
Christy Williams didn’t see the cop until his red lights flashed in her rearview mirror.

Read the full "Story Behind the Story" here.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Tom Davis (Advice for Novelists, Part 100)

Here's a new 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?"

Always believe in your ability to write. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t be published. Ignore the pundits who say you can’t do it, you’re not talented enough, or you don’t have a platform. Those statements are dream killers. If God has put writing in your heart, be faithful to write consistently and do whatever you can to get in front of agents and publishers. He’ll take care of the rest.

--Tom Davis, author of Scared, Fields of the Fatherless, and more. Visit him online at his website/blog.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Along Came A Spider

The other night while walking my dogs, I spotted a spiderweb blocking half of my deck stairs. I leaned in closer with my flashlight and was amazed at the intricacy of the web. I've studied webs before, but for some reason it stuck out to me this time how amazing a tiny little insect, no larger than my thumb, could create something so amazing. I marveled at the unique gift God gave spiders to be able to craft something so symmetrical and unique in such a short amount of time.

It made me wonder how anyone could consider the earth and all its creatures and come to the conclusion it all happened by chance. Think about these few facts about spiders and their webs courtesy of our friend Wikipedia:
  • Most spiders have three pairs of spinnerets, each having its own function -- Each gland produces a thread for a special purpose – for example a trailed safety line, sticky silk for trapping prey or fine silk for wrapping it.
  • During the process of making an orb web, the spider will use its own body for measurements.

"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." Romans 1: 20

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Which Writing Article Most Interests You? (Poll)

I need your help! I'm going to be writing a 1500 word writing how-to article, and I want to know what you'd like to read. Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments if none of these strike your fancy. Thanks!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Morningsong by Shelly Beach

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:


Kregel Publications (February 24, 2009)

I enjoyed spending time with the characters from Beach's Christy Award winning novel Hallie's Heart (read my review of that novel here). This novel doesn't shy from showing real life in the form of Hallie's alcoholic mother, which is refreshing. And yet the spiritual aspects are here as well. A few times the internal monologues of the characters (especially Mona) stretched a tad bit long, but they were also important to establish what the characters were feeling. A sequel fans will definitely enjoy!


Shelly Beach is a Christian communicator who speaks at women's conferences, retreats, seminars, and writers' conferences. She is a college instructor and writing consultant in Michigan and the author of Precious Lord, Take My Hand and the Christy Award-winning Hallie's Heart.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (February 24, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0825425417
ISBN-13: 978-0825425417


Chapter One

Halfway through her morning walk on the streets of Stewartville, Mona VanderMolen made her final decision to kill Miss Emily.

She pondered her decision as she stood at the edge of the lawn facing Glenda Simpson’s two-story, turn-of-the-century clapboard farmhouse.

What surprised her most was her numbness to the evil of it, even as her vision grew for how she’d carry out her plan. Sure, she’d done things she was ashamed of, things she and her girlfriends had laughed over at college reunions—things that kept her humble with memories of youth and stupidity. And then there were the years Ellen had blackmailed or manipulated her into being a silent accomplice to her rebellion—the times Mona had evaded her mother’s questions or pulled her drunk sister through a basement window in the dead of night.

But something intentionally evil, premeditated, and cold? Never in Mona’s forty-five years. Nothing like this. Since she’d moved to Stewartville, her public sins had been limited to an embarrassing unwillingness to observe the town’s forty-five-mile-per-hour speed limit and running up the highest tab in town for overdue library fines.

Killing Miss Emily would change everything. But then, that was the point of it, wasn’t it—to draw a line in the sand, to finally shut her up? Something in Miss Emily’s skittery eyes told Mona she knew she’d changed and could hear the voices that rang in her head.

Doubt. Fear. Indecision. Guilt.

Killing Miss Emily was the only way out of it, even if meant that everyone in Stewartville would know.

Mona VanderMolen was a good woman who had gone mad. Three months after she’d come out of her coma, she’d finally cracked.

The town would be stunned with the horror of it, and the sickening shame would separate her from the people she loved most: Elsie, Adam, Harold, Hallie, even Ellen. Mona pushed the thought from her mind.

The fact remained: it had to be done. She stared through the front window of Glenda’s house as the chill November wind bit through her black, French terry sweat suit and the lime green parka she’d layered over the top for extra warmth. Her thoughts rolled back to her first glimmering thoughts of murder. They’d drifted into her mind easily, like the russet oak leaves that had wafted downward to Stewartville’s lawns and sidewalks in gentle gasps and sputters of breeze as she’d headed west on Maple on her first lap that morning. By the time she’d turned north on Second, then east on Elm and south on Mercantile, the thought had grown to an idea, then to a resolve that hardened with the pain of each laborious step, until on her eighth lap, she found herself poised in front of Glenda Simpson’s bay window, holding a driveway paver brick in her right hand.

With one small twinge of pain, Mona’s vision had met flesh. The brick’s rough edges bit into the hammock of flesh between her thumb and index finger as she shifted its weight to get a better grip. She paused, then hefted it toward her shoulder, her arm trembling slightly as she drew it toward her chest. The weight was heavier than she’d expected, and she shifted her feet, then planted them wide apart for balance until the urge to lean to the right subsided.

Slowly, she closed her eyes and envisioned the throw. An overhand bullet that arched from her hand in a graceful swoop. The brick hurtling through the air and shooting through the pane of glass with perfect precision, raining glass shards into the juniper bushes below as the brick found its mark, leaving a starburst hole.

Then the sound of the thud, of stone meeting skull, and the sight of the body slumping to the living-room floor.

Mona opened her eyes and focused on the ripple of breeze through the juniper bush. If she thought about it another minute, she’d never follow through. It was pure evil, there was no getting around it, but some things in life weren’t to be tolerated. Tyranny came with a price, as Miss Emily was about to find out. And insurance would kick in and help with expenses, she was sure.

She raised her eyes and looked through the window at the face that had tormented her day after day.

You’re despicable, and I’ve taken all I’m going to take.

The face stared back silently. Mona could feel a trickle of blood running down the palm of her hand and the grit of the dirt on the tips of her fingers.

“I hate you.” She spoke the words out loud.

The face in the window continued to stare. Not even a blink broke the gaze. It was the staring Mona hated most, the fact that, to Miss Emily, the hard, violating gaze meant nothing, just like it meant nothing to the other faces who took in her stubble of auburn hair and the scarred scalp that still showed through. A few months ago her hair had fallen thick to well-muscled shoulders on a tall, athletic frame that could heft hay bales with the best of Stewartville’s men. But what did that matter now? Anger rose red-hot inside her like spewing lava, and she lifted the brick higher, staggering to regain her balance. But with the motion, her fingers lost their bite against the dirty chunk of concrete. She struggled to recover her grip, and the brick clattered to the sidewalk at her feet with a sonorous thud, landing inches from the raggedy hole where it had originally nested.

She blinked as she stood motionless and surveyed the streaks of blood on the palm of her right hand. Then she sighed, bent slowly to one knee, and nestled the brick back into place in the pattern of Glenda’s walkway where she’d found it kicked loose, like a half-dozen others.

So here I am, Lord, a pathetic crazy woman wasting your time, making you knock rocks out of my hand to save me from acts of insanity.

She eased the brick back and forth, working to make the edges lie even with the surrounding walkway.

This sure isn’t where I thought I’d be standing three months ago, after Elsie brought me home from the hospital. Of course, you know that. I was supposed to be finished with rehab by now, but your timetable and mine seem to be a little out of sync. And for some reason, praying and plowing through my agenda don’t seem to be working this time, even though they’ve worked pretty well in the past. I’m tired of all this, okay? I just want to lie down and sleep for a few weeks and wake up again when I’ll be able to walk again without staggering or read faster than a third grader or push three-syllable words through my brain.

She gave the brick a final smack, then lowered her head to her hands and rested on one knee before she slowly stood and blinked against the spinning. She fought against the swells that rose in her stomach and the flash of frustration that coursed through her veins.

Dr. Bailey’s warnings about post-craniotomy strokes and transient ischemic attacks, or TIAs, had simply been a doctor spouting medical protocol when he’d released her from the hospital. The headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and flashes these past few weeks were nothing, and she’d prove it to him if she had to. She’d fought every other hard thing in her life—her father, Stacy’s drowning, Hallie’s rebellion, her own near death—and she could fight this. She only had to get past her three-month MRI and hope that Dr. Bailey didn’t notice she’d already rescheduled it twice.

In the distance, the shriek of an ambulance approached as it headed in the direction of Stewartville Community Hospital’s emergency room.

With each bad day, I’m more exhausted and one step closer to losing it, Lord. Part of me wants to give up and crawl off into the dark with the doubt and fear that keep shouting that this is as good as it will ever get. The other part of me is outraged that I can’t control even the simplest things about my own body anymore. In five minutes, I swing from faith to depression to anger and then top it all off with a few ladles of guilt because I’m so weak.

And it’s no secret to you that I can’t walk by this house without fixating on killing Miss Emily because she’s the living, breathing embodiment of all the things I hate about myself. She’s as broken down and worthless as I’m becoming. Since we both know I’m losing it, what other excuse do I need to want her dead?

The calico with the flickering, crooked tail stared at her through the bay window that separated her from the outside world by a thin pane of glass. Mona had been told the story of Miss Emily soon after she’d moved to town. She was somewhat of a Stewartville celebrity, with her lightning-shaped tail, flinching fur, and skittery eyes that never rested anywhere for long unless she was shielded from the world in the protective recess of the bay window. Then, and only then, she would stare. She was one of Glenda Simpson’s six well-fed and pampered cats.

Rumor had it that one Saturday Miss Emily had ambled into Glenda’s dryer for an afternoon siesta, and Glenda had unknowingly tumbled both the cat and her husband’s Carhartts on permanent press for a good fifteen minutes before she’d figured out that the high-pitched shrieking she was hearing wasn’t coming from reruns of Cops in the next room. Miss Emily had emerged from the Kenmore with a walk that listed permanently to the left, a reengineered tail, and an aversion to anything remotely resembling the fragrance of Downy.

For the first time, Mona traced the lines of the lopsided tail and noticed the angles of the two breaks. Miss Emily’s eyes glared back, and Mona felt a surge of remorse.

“I’m sorry I’m staring, and I understand why you must have a deep-seated mistrust of humans. And I’m sorry I was planning your demise in kind of an . . . imaginative way. I was letting my mind play with how good it would feel to just hurl something . . . you know, let it all fly, inflict some pain because I’m hurting. We people commit murder like this dozens of times a day. I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying we’re more messed up than we like to admit. But I think I at least owe you a peace offering of canned albacore.”

Mona tamped the brick with the toe of her tennis shoe as she glanced over her shoulder. The last thing she needed was for someone to have seen her apologizing to a cat. But no harm done. To the casual passerby, it would have appeared she’d taken a neighborly interest in replacing one of Glenda’s loose bricks. Not for one moment would anyone ever guess that Mona VanderMolen had contemplated an actual act of violence like pitching a brick through Glenda Simpson’s bay window in a random act of feline homicide.

She pulled a tissue from her jacket pocket, dabbed it on her tongue, and wiped the blood from her palm.

And what would Adam think if he realized he was dating a middle-aged wack job whose mind and body were disintegrating like cotton candy in a rainstorm? He was a good man who deserved a healthy, sane woman, not one who believed a cat could read minds and understand apologies.

Mona felt suddenly exhausted. After two months of laps around the same three blocks, she’d finally figured out why she hated Miss Emily so much. After all, she was just a beat-up calico with a busted tail and eyes that looked east and west at the same time. A cat with a mortal fear of household appliances. A cat that through a freak accident had been left to navigate the sea of life without a centerboard that went fully down, steering a little off-center and listing a bit to port.

Miss Emily was a reminder of who she’d become—one of the broken and dazed who listed a bit to port with a body that longed to be what it once had been. She wore her imperfections where everyone could see them, and people pitied her for it.

Mona shoved the blood-stained tissue back into her pocket. It was time to move on.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I Know What I'm Reading Next March!

I don't think it's a secret I really enjoy Sibella Giorello's novels. She wowed me with her Christy award winning The Stones Cry Out and didn't disappoint in the slightest with its follow-up The Rivers Run Dry (I loved it even more that her first, in fact).

So I was perusing the latest Thomas Nelson catalog, and there it was. The Clouds Roll Away. The next Raleigh Harmon novel coming in Feb/March 2010!

Here's a summary to whet your whistle (italics are mine):

Raleigh's exemplary service in Seattle opened the door for her disciplinary transfer to be lifted, allowing her to return to her home FBI field office in Richmond, VA. A civil rights case turns out to be much more complex than anyone thought when Raleigh is forced to go undercover in a drug trafficking case (Ooh! I can't wait for this part!)

Things aren't any simpler at home. Raleigh's old friend DeMott wants her to find time for things outside of her FBI work: friendship and maybe something more. Raleigh will have to rely on her sharpest skills--and the faith that is slowly returning to her--to navigate her way through these clouds.

Since March is a long way off, I suggest you pick up Sibella's previous novels in the mean time. I highly recommend them!

Read my review of The Stones Cry Out.
Read my review of The Rivers Run Dry.
Read my first interview with Sibella.
Read my second interview with Sibella.

Monday, July 06, 2009

My E-mail Addiction

I'm an addict.

Yep. Have been for too long. It's time for my recovery to begin.

No, I'm not talking about illegal substances. I'm talking e-mail. Lately I'm realizing I've become addicted to checking my e-mail. I daresay some of you can relate.

Maybe it's the instant society we live in. We want instant everything. And e-mail is nothing if it's not instant. But instant isn't always better. And in my case, it's eating away at my writing time---time I should be holding precious. It's time for a change! I've tried breaking this habit before and relapsed. However, I'm really going to try harder this time.

The key, I think, is taking it slow. Making changes one at a time. Last night I was reading over a post by Michael Hyatt (Chief Executive of Thomas Nelson Publishers). It's called Breaking E-mail Addiction, and it gave 3 practical steps we can all take to simplify our e-mail lives. I'll summarize them here, but you need to go read his full blog post.

  1. Work on your computer in “offline” mode.

  2. Only check e-mail twice a day.

  3. Don’t check e-mail first thing in the morning.

I already work in "offline' mode, but my problem was checking the emails incessantly throughout the day. So today is the first day I'm trying Michael's experiment. I'm only checking messages two times. And I waited until eleven o'clock to be my first.

Already I'm noticing a difference in the way I'm thinking. My thoughts are clearer. I'm more focused.

Pray for me. I want to keep this up! :)

Thursday, July 02, 2009

My author website is live!

I have just published my author website!

Check out the brand new C.J. and let me know what you think!

There are still many "coming soon" sections, but I'd love to know what you'd like to see that isn't there, what you like about what's there, etc. Don't be shy. Any comments are welcome.

And guess what? There's even a link for the first chapter of Thicker than Blood!