Monday, September 28, 2009

Kevin Kaiser (Advice for Novelists, Part 105)

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?"

Finish things. The notebook you have on your desk that's crammed with story ideas, the meticulously plotted Dramatica Pro storyboard, the color coded index cards--none of it matters if you can't finish. Like most things worth doing, writing is an act of the will that's initially set in motion by the nudge of inspiration. The rest is hard work.

--Kevin Kaiser, writer and literary brand manager for Ted Dekker. Visit his website ( for more info.

Friday, September 25, 2009

My Fave Novels (Scribble Chicks)

I'm talking about my favorite novels today over at the Scribble Chicks blog. Wanna know what they are? I'll give you the first one here, and they head on over to read about the other three.

Piercing the Darkness
by Frank Peretti

I first read this novel when I was twelve or thirteen, and I was blown away. I'd never read anything like it. I credit Piercing the Darkness for inspiring me to write Christian fiction. I loved how Peretti created a compelling, suspenseful story ... and yet wasn't afraid to shine the light of truth. He wasn't ashamed to share the gospel in his novels either. I really admire that.

The main character in Piercing is Sally Beth Roe, an imperfect woman who's running for her life. Oh, and did I mention that angels and demons spend the book fighting over her (and others)?

I have read Piercing the Darkness at least five times, maybe more. It's probably time for me to pick it up again! If you haven't read it, you might consider reading the first book in the series This Present Darkness first. They can be read separately (I read Piercing first not knowing there was a book before it), but it's best to read them in order.

Read the rest of my post here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Writing Puzzle

For me, writing a novel is like putting together a puzzle. I've written about this before in my post The Puzzle of Writing, but it was especially true for me yesterday. I'm now working on my third novel, and it's been the hardest one to figure out so far. It's been ages since I first started thinking about the topics, characters and plots I wanted to cover. Now I have a huge pile of puzzle pieces staring at me waiting for me to begin putting them together. I keep waiting for an aha! moment to slap me upside the head letting me know it's time to put the pedal to the metal and get this show on the road (how's that for some cliches!). But I don't think that's going to happen. Here's why---I think I have all I need right now. But it looks a like a jumbled heap of pieces.

I'm trying to tell myself that's okay. It's normal. But how do you go from a jumble to a cohesive whole? Um ... one piece at a time? Yeah, that's exactly it. If I start looking at the whole picture it overwhelms me. How am I going to write another 80,000 word novel? What if it's not as good as the last one? What if I hate it? When I start thinking like that, I know I'm thinking too "big picture". I need to scale back and pick up one piece, examine it, and guess where it fits into the puzzle.

See, I've started this novel at least five times and written new material in each version. I thought I was wasting my time. But yesterday things started coming together as I took pieces of each version and put them into this next rendition.

So are you feeling overwhelmed by the big picture in your life? Why not try taking it a day at a time? Maybe that's why the Lord told us to pray for our daily bread. Not our yearly bread. :)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Kaci Hill (Advice for Novelists, Part 104)

Next up in our Advice for Novelists series is new author Kaci Hill. Here's her short but sweet response to my question:

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

I’d say, one, keep your head down. Two, people are your friends. Three, be steadfast.

--Kaci Hill, co-author of Elyon and Lunatic with Ted Dekker. Visit her website.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Be a Meany (Scribble Chicks) your characters, of course! I'm talking about conflict in fiction today at the Scribble Chicks blog. It begins:

One of the things my dad likes to kid me about is how mean I am to my characters. I have no problem throwing rock after rock at them. After all, aren't the great stories all about conflict?

Read the whole post here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

An Unexpected Reading Delight

I'm no sci-fi buff, but I've always had hints of interest in the genre. Unfortunately, there hasn't been much of it in the CBA market. That's soon to change thanks to Marcher Lord Press and Splashdown Books.

Kathy Tyers is one of the founding mothers of it in the CBA. I didn't know this when I picked up Shivering World, one of her stand-alone novels. I started reading the novel in a hotel room about a year ago but never got past the first few chapters. It wasn't because the story wasn't good, but I was trying to read a sci-fi novel with the same speed I read a thriller. I ended up glossing over much-needed information.

So after meeting Kathy Tyers at the Christian Writers Guild's Writing for the Soul conference this past February, I picked the novel up again. This time I read it differently. I made myself slow down and read every single word carefully. And suddenly I found myself on Goddard, a planet far far away. I had no trouble immersing myself in Tyers' world this time around. True, some of the scientific aspects still went over my head (as they would in real life too), but it didn't diminish my enjoyment. There's suspense, romance (not overdone), and humor. I loved how this isn't just a clean sci-fi novel. It's also refreshingly honest about God and faith. Even on another planet, we need a Savior.

Unfortunately, Shivering World is out of print, but it's still available used. I highly recommend you pick up a copy if you have any inclination for sci-fi. I've been told Kathy's Firebird Trilogy is fantastic too, so I'm planning to pick up those soon!

Here's a summary I found of Shivering World on Kathy's website:

When Gaea Consortium offers Graysha Brady-Phillips a tour of hazard duty on a raw pioneer planet she leaps at the chance, even though her predecessor died -- a victim of either the savage weather outside the domes or the fanatic population within. But Graysha isn't on Goddard just to collect triple pay. She’s trying to save her life. The colonists' radical -- and illegal -- science just might offer Graysha a cure for the genetic disease that's slowly starving her at the cellular level. But Goddard's terraforming pioneers, pursued by the Eugenics Board for gene tampering and battling Gaea Consortium for their very survival, are naturally suspicious of outsiders -- especially someone connected to the two organizations that are trying hardest to destroy them. The settlers think Graysha's a spy. Graysha thinks the settlers are trying to kill her. They're both right. And the fate of their planet hangs in the balance.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Win a copy of Riven by Jerry B. Jenkins!

I've just launched my very first website contest! You could win a hardcover copy of Riven by Jerry B. Jenkins (which is a fantastic book, btw).

So head on over to my website and play a book cover guessing game. That's all I'm saying...

If you'd like to read more about Riven, you can read my review of the novel or my interview with Jerry.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Michael Snyder (Advice for Novelists, Part 103)

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?"

Michael Snyder shares with us today:

Remember the second half of the two great commandments: Love your neighbor as yourself.

This obviously applies to your readers, but more importantly to your characters. I believe God has endowed writers with a tremendous capacity to love the characters we create. If we don’t love our characters, our readers won’t either. I tell any writer who will listen to stop writing for markets or to please anyone but themselves. Write to amuse yourself first. Trust your instincts. Love your characters. If you do, the truth and beauty parts will take care of themselves.

--Michael Snyder, author of Return Policy and My Name is Russell Fink. Visit his website for more info.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Kicking Out the Doubt (Scribble Chicks)

My latest Scribble Chicks blog post (coming at ya every Friday) is up. This week I'm talking about a writer's doubts and insecurities.

Click here to read my post Kicking Out the Doubt.

And be sure to leave a comment if you're so inclined!

Friday, September 04, 2009

What I Learned From My Shedding Cat

The other night my dad and I were looking at our cat, Cubby, and my dad commented on how gnarly he was looking. He is 12, so I figured it was just age. But then when I looked at him closer I realized he was shedding up a storm. As in clumps of hair sticking out at all angles.

So when I should've been heading to bed, I dug out the ol' brush and started in on him. I ended up with enough hair to weave a sweater! Cubby loved this extra attention, and the brushing part probably felt like the best scratch he'd had in awhile.

I got to thinking ... how can I put this experience into a blog post? Ha ha. No, seriously ... :)

Then I thought of Eustace Scrubb. Remember him from C.S. Lewis' Narnia series? In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (read no more if you don't want plot spoilers) he was really a rotten chap for most of the story. Greed finally got the better of him, and he turned into a dragon. That was fun for awhile, but eventually he just wanted to be a boy again. Only he couldn't turn himself back anymore than he'd purposely turned himself into the dragon. He cried and wailed, but he couldn't shed the dragon skin.

He finally called out for help, and Aslan, the kind yet not-a-tame-lion to help him peel away the dragon skin, his old nature, and become a new creature.

It was the same way with my cat. He couldn't brush away that old, dead hair anymore than Eustace could peel away his dragon skin. And I can't remove my old nature---those bad habits, wrong thoughts and things I wish I wouldn't do but do anyway. By myself that is. I can't do it on my own. That's actually a relief to realize. It doesn't have to happen in my strength. All I need to do is cry out for help, and my Aslan, Jesus, will help me. It's that simple but I forget it so often.

Who would've thought my shedding cat would teach me that? :)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Rare Book in Thicker than Blood

When I was seventeen my sister and I started book scouting for local used and rare bookstores. It started out as a hobby. I loved books, and scouting was a great way to get my hands on a lot of them. My writing and day job of selling used books have dovetailed for years now, and it only made sense I'd incorporate rare books into my fiction.

Christy Williams, the main character of my first novel Thicker than Blood, works at a fictional store called Dawson's Book Barn. It's her area's largest used and rare bookstore. She's a clerk, and has been for several years, but she dreams of being more involved in the actual book buying. It was so much fun to incorporate many of the interesting (and sometimes bizarre) book collecting facts I've learned over the years into this novel.

Taking center stage in Thicker than Blood is a signed first edition of Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls (pictured above - click to enlarge). This was one of the very first rare books I learned about from the manager of Baldwin's Book Barn, the first store I scouted for back in the day. What's especially interesting about first editions is a mistake made in the printing of the dust jacket. So while first editions of the actual book all look alike, the first state of the dust jacket differs in later editions. If you click on the picture, you'll notice the photographer is not credited beneath Hemingway's photo. That was a mistake that was later corrected.

It's this key point that plays a big role in the outcome of the novel. Learn more about the story behind the story of Thicker than Blood at my website. And you can now pre-order the book at Amazon and!

(For Whom the Bell Tolls photo courtesy of The University of South Carolina)