Monday, November 30, 2009

Christina Berry (Advice for Novelists, Part 108)

Did you think I forgot this series? :) Never fear. Here's another post in 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?"

If you've been writing for years and have yet to get published, this is especially for you: Start a new novel.

I'm a stubborn girl—just ask my parents. My mother and I reworked and reworked a co-authored story for eight years, each time putting our newly acquired writing knowledge/skills to use. We were determined that it woudn't end up in a box in the closet or shoved under the bed. I still love that manuscript, and it's actually very close to selling as I write this, but it wasn't until I took the advice of others far wiser and more experienced to start a new novel that I finally made my first sale.

--Christina Berry, author of The Familiar Stranger. Visit her website.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

3 Tips For Beginning Writers

Over the past fifteen years I've heard so much great advice on writing and becoming a writer. Here are three tips I'm finding from my own experience to be true:

1. The best way to learn how to write fiction is to read great novels. It’s learning by osmosis---you’ll pick up concepts like how to structure a story, craft dialogue, and master point of view, without even realizing it. Which isn't to say that how-to book don't have they're place, of course. I'm currently reading James Scott Bell's latest, The Art of War for Writers, and most certainly recommend it and others. But if we only read the books on technique without actually reading other fiction, it's possible we'll get stuck.

2. Start writing about what you love. You will write best if it’s something you’re interested in. Do you love horses? Write a story about a woman struggling to keep her horse farm afloat. Do you love airplanes? How about writing a story featuring a hot shot pilot? My sister Tracy started out writing articles about Christian musicians for youth publications because she loved Christian music. We will automatically have a drive if we write about something that excites us, or something that we're curious about.

3. Writing is an apprenticeship. It can take at least ten years to master the craft enough to think about publishing. If we go into it knowing that, it’ll help us on those days when the words just aren’t coming. I started writing as a teenager (if you don't count the silly animal stories I wrote as a kid). It took fifteen years before my first book was accepted for publication. Granted, I knew nothing when I started, but that gives you an idea of the commitment you need to have. Maybe it won't take you that long. But be prepared for it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Watch out for this book

Okay, so first of all, I like this book purely based on the title. ;) But then I had the chance to read it. Let me tell you, it's one supernatural thriller you won't soon forget. My author colleague Mike Dellosso has penned another winner in this one, coming from Realms in May 2010.

My endorsement is as follows:

"Dellosso skillfully blends suspense, symbolism, and the supernatural into a compelling thriller in the vein of Dekker and Peretti. Gray isn’t a color in Dellosso’s moral palette, and Darlington Woods makes that clear. This is a powerful story you’ll be thinking about long after closing the book."

Keep your eye out for Darlington Woods! And while you're waiting, check out Mike's website and blog.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

This and That and a Writing Update

As you can imagine, I'm getting really excited. My debut novel Thicker than Blood is due to hit stories officially in about a month and a half (January 1, 2010). However, I suspect it'll be available online at places like and mid December. If you pre-order (hint hint) you'll be the first in line. :) But even though the official release date is in the future, there's still a lot going on.

I'm excited that Publisher's Weekly chose to review Thicker than Blood in yesterday's issue. They did a great job summarizing the plot, said some nice things about the rare books angle, but they had their criticism too. That's okay. I'm just honored to be featured.
has recently posted a writing how-to article I wrote for them. If you're an aspiring author, you might like to read Are You Called to Be A Writer? I share some of what I've learned (and am still learning) about how God often calls us very early in life to our specific calling, but sometimes we don't realize it until later in life.

If you're looking for a good suspense read, check out Terri Blackstock's Intervention. I recently reviewed it for, and that can be read here.

In case you didn't know, I have a free e-newsletter that will keep you up-to-date on all the writing stuff. Usually my newsletter subscribers are the first to know about new projects, reviews, features, etc. You can subscribe by going here and entering your info (sign up for the newsletter too!). I plan to unveil the summary of my next novel to newsletter subscribers sometime in the coming month or two, so don't miss out.

Thanks for all your wonderful support!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Guest Post: The Myth of Being in the Zone by K.M. Weiland

Today I bring you a terrific guest post from up and coming author K.M. Weiland. Enjoy! And be sure to visit K.M.'s website to find out more about her latest release, Behold the Dawn.

Special contest!
K.M. is giving away a copy of Behold the Dawn to the readers of this post. Everyone who leaves a comment today will be entered in a drawing to win.

The Myth of Being in the Zone

At one point or another, all authors have found that delicious groove called “being in the zone.” The Zone is that enchanted land, in which we can do no wrong. Our words flow from our fingertips onto our keyboards with lightning speed, every one of them singing with the perfect expression of our intent, every one of them beautiful and powerful and vibrant. We write for hours, our energy level so high it’s practically bouncing out of the top of our skulls. When we finally tear ourselves away from our story, we’re so pumped that we alternate between wanting to run around the block and resisting the urge to shove our newly minted words under the nose of anybody we can talk into reading them. Without doubt, The Zone is one awesome place.

Too bad we can’t stay there all the time.

The sad fact of the matter is that The Zone isn’t exactly the easiest place to find. It would be wonderful if there were a map, a list of surefire steps, that could lead us there every time we sit down to write. But most of us are lucky just to find our accidental way there once every couple months. Instead, we spend most of our time slogging along, disciplining ourselves to poke out a paltry page or two, groaning at the end of the day with the knowledge that we’re probably just going to have to rewrite it tomorrow.

Joni B. Cole describes it:

…the creative process has two components. There is the fun part, when we are captivated by our own genius and prolificacy. And there is the Are we having fun yet? part, when we feel anything but creative, yet must still fulfill our commitment to write 300 words a day.

Undoubtedly, we always leave our desks after a day of being in The Zone, feeling a hundred times better about our writing than we do on the non-Zone days. But does that mean that our non-Zone writing is worthless in comparison? Very, very happily for us—no, it does not.

My recently released medieval novel Behold the Dawn was one of those special stories that just flowed. I still look back on it with a sense of wonder, reading some of the passages and thinking, I couldn’t really have written this, could I? I had some of the best Zone moments I’ve ever had while writing this story. But I’ll tell you secret: those moments were few and far between.

Zone writing—those high points of inspiration and motivation—is one of the biggest rewards of the creative life. But, surprisingly, its presence is not a determining factor in the worth of our writing. Writing isn’t always about channeling creativity and inspiration; most of the time, it’s about approaching our craft like disciplined workmen who have to get the job done whether they feel like it or not. Because we can’t always ride the high wave of our right-brain creativity, we have to realize that the hard-working, logical left side of our brains is just as important—even more so.

Just because you’re not in The Zone, just because you’re struggling, just because you finish a day of writing feeling like every word you wrote was worthless—doesn’t necessarily make it so. The Zone is far too elusive to depend upon it for our creative worth. Learn to accept the reality of the non-Zone moments and realize that they can be just as effective as the heights of inspiration.

About the Author: K.M. Weiland ( writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in the sandhills of western Nebraska. She is the author of A Man Called Outlaw and the recently released Behold the Dawn. She blogs at Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors and AuthorCulture.

About Behold the Dawn: Marcus Annan, a tourneyer famed for his prowess on the battlefield, thought he could keep the secrets of his past buried forever. But when a mysterious crippled monk demands Annan help him find justice for the transgressions of sixteen years ago, Annan is forced to leave the tourneys and join the Third Crusade.

Wounded in battle and hunted by enemies on every side, he rescues an English noblewoman from an infidel prison camp and flees to Constantinople. But, try as he might, he cannot elude the past. Amidst the pain and grief of a war he doesn’t even believe in, he is forced at last to face long-hidden secrets and sins and to bare his soul to the mercy of a God he thought he had abandoned years ago.

The sins of a bishop.
The vengeance of a monk.
The secrets of a knight.

Watch the book trailer:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What I'm Learning From Joan of Arcadia

I'm a little late in discovering this tv series, but so far (after watching five episodes) I'm really enjoying it. Sure, some of the theology's a little off, but it's still refreshing to find a show that values family and God.

The story revolves around teenage Joan whom God begins appearing to in various human forms. He gives her simple assignments which she at first eschews. It's a little hard to wrap her mind around God appearing as a trash truck driver or a hot guy at school. God just shrugs. She has a free will, and he can't make her do the things he asks. Of course, she's a good kid and does eventually obey. For the most part.

But this isn't a commercial for Joan of Arcadia. What struck me after watching one episode in particular (I believe it was "The Fire and the Wood"), was something God said to Joan. She didn't understand how her getting a job at the local bookstore or joining the AP Chem class had anything at all do do with, well, anything. What difference did it make?

God then explained reality strands. Joan did something that affected somebody who then did something that affected Joan who then did something to help somebody else, and on and on and on. What God was saying to Joan was you do what God asks because He asks, not because you can see how it'll all pan out. Later, you might see it, but even if you don't, God does. He knows how something that seems inconsequential to us can vastly affect a life.

I thought that was a really cool explanation. It reminded me how I need to listen to the still small voice of God (since that's how he most often speaks to us) and obey it ... even when I can't see what difference it could make.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Introducing Renee Riva

I've discovered a wonderful new author in Renee Riva, and I'd love to share her books with you. Her first novel, Saving Sailor, features main character A.J., a ten-year-old, quirky girl who's kinda like Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird. She's an animal lover to a fault (her parents won't let her visit the pound ever again), has an animal cemetery where she gives proper burial to the various creatures she finds on her Idaho island home.

Her Italian family is also really quirky, but that's what makes us like them. They're eccentric yet love each other deeply.

In my official book review of Taking Tuscany, the sequel to Saving Sailor, I say:

"Proficiently mixing deeper themes and spiritual truths alongside the humor, Riva has crafted
a lovely tale of longing and belonging readers of all ages will savor." Read my full review here.

In an interview I did with Renee for, I asked her about Saving Sailor and its sequel:

Me: I hear both Saving Sailor and Taking Tuscany are based loosely on some of your own experiences growing up. How much is fiction and how much is real life?

Renee: I would say that the majority of SAVING SAILOR was based on real life—either from my own experience, or those around me. TAKING TUSCANY included similar emotional experiences I’d encountered in my teens, but I changed the setting and scenarios to fit the story. In other words, I went through the majority of what A.J. went through emotionally in moving, changing schools, and the social pressures of school—just not in Italy. In the back of TAKING TUSCANY in the “After Words” I share some of those experiences.

Me: Was it always your intent to write a sequel to Saving Sailor or did you find yourself struggling to come up with another book?

Renee: I always hoped to write a sequel, but my idea was to have A.J. return to Indian Island at age 18, when Danny is 21. I thought it would be neat to build on the great friendship they’d had as children and add a little amore`. My publisher liked that idea too, but they also wanted to know what happened in Italy during those years apart. That was a bit of a challenge, so I immediately booked a trip to Mexico and pretended to be on the Italian Riviera to help inspire some ideas. That’s where I wrote about The Grand Old Sea Palace; the parasailing scene and the pirate ship in the pool. We really did have a pirate ship in our pool. I had already been to Tuscany eight years earlier so I hung my photos of Tuscany all over my walls while writing and was able to put myself back in that setting.

Me: An interesting part about these novels is that you chose to age your character A.J.. How did you approach writing her slightly older voice in Taking Tuscany? Was that difficult in any way?

Renee: I was a little bit leery of turning A.J. into a typical teenager because I wasn’t the most pleasant teen myself at age fourteen. But I knew she had to get older to be able to write that third book where she returns as an 18 year old, so I decided that if I was going to spend my winter with a teenager in my head, it was going to have to be someone I could enjoy being around that long. I had to pull up a lot of attitude from my past, but also made A.J. the fun quirky girl she was before, only older. I tried to project what that same kid would be like 4 years older. I wanted to keep some of her charm and humor too so I could bear writing about her and my readers could enjoy reading about her.

Luckily for us, there's a third novel coming. Heading Home (April 2010, David C. Cook) finds A.J. eighteen-years-old and returning to her beloved Idaho home ... and of course, Sailor.

Check out the rest of my interview with Renee over at!

Thanks again to Renee Riva for appearing, courtesy of Provato Marketing, for other stops on the Renee Riva blog tour please check

Thursday, November 05, 2009

What Novelists Do When They Can't Write

I found this video over at Angela Hunt's blog. This is what novelists do when they can't figure out how to write. Since this is National Novel Writing Month, Angie put it together in honor of those banging away at their 50,000 word rough drafts. I went away chuckling and encouraged! I hope you do too.