Monday, February 23, 2009

Thicker Than Blood wins Operation First Novel!

I am so thrilled to announce that my novel Thicker Than Blood has won the 2008 Operation First Novel contest sponsored by the Christian Writers Guild and Tyndale House publishers. They announced the winner on stage Thursday night at the Writing for the Soul conference, and needless to say, I was incredibly nervous for hours beforehand. Then the moment came. Jerry B. Jenkins took the stage and first announced the winner of the Operation First Book contest for nonfiction. Mal King's Before the Last Leaf Falls took that honor. I had the chance to eat lunch with Mal and his sweet wife Regina. They were a delightful couple, and it was an honor to be in such good company with them.

When the time came for the Operation First Novel winner to be announced, Jerry asked the past winners attending to come up on the stage. Jennifer Erin Valent, Tom Pawlik & Jan Watson all did. Tyndale editors Karen Watson & Jan Stob followed. (The prize for winning is a contract with Tyndale House.)

(l-r: Karen Watson, C.J. Darlington & Jerry B. Jenkins. Photo by Cindi of Selah Studios.)

When he said my name, I was shocked! I can easily say this is one of the most exciting experiences of my life so far.

But one of the biggest thrills was seeing my book cover for the first time! They brought a poster of it out on stage, and I took one look and was instantly awed. It is beautiful! It perfectly captures the themes of the novel. I am so happy with it.

Here's a pic of me posing with the cover:

A Little Background

I was fifteen when I started the story that would become Thicker Than Blood. I finally finished the book when I was 23 and submitted it to the very first Operation First Novel contest in 2004. I was a semi-finalist that year. Then I began the process of submitting to editors---and I received rejection after rejection. Some editors were gracious enough to give me feedback, and over the next four years I tweaked and revised.

But I began to wonder if Thicker Than Blood was good enough to be published. I wrote a second novel and started a third. I was days away from giving up on it. But God always has a way of getting our attention. I was lying in bed and the thought hit me, "Wait a minute. I have a complete novel that's better than before. Why don't I submit it to the Christian Writers Guild contest again?" That was in September of 2008.

I hope my journey will encourage writers not to give up. After all, one of you might be next year's Operation First Novel winner! Visit the Christian Writers Guild website to find out how you can become a member.

And now, for the big unveiling... above is the official cover of Thicker Than Blood! Click to enlarge. The novel will be released in January 2010!

Working Summary of Thicker Than Blood:

Two sisters, estranged for 15 years. Their blood ties weren't enough. Only something stronger could bring them together again.

Christy Williams finally has her life on track. Her career as an antiquarian book buyer at the renowned used bookstore Dawson's Barn of Books is taking off. Hunter Dawson is teaching her the fine points of purchasing collectible books, and so far she's been able to keep her drinking problem from interfering. But when she discovers her ex-boyfriend, who also works at Dawsons, is stealing valuable books right off the store's shelves, she's unable to stop him for fear he'll expose the skeleton's in her closet.

Things begin to unravel when a stolen Hemingway first edition is found in her possession, framing her for a crime she didn't commit. With no one to turn to, she yearns for her estranged family, especially her younger sister May, who she abandoned in their childhood after their parents' untimely deaths. Now the owner of a failing cattle ranch, May couldn't possibly want a relationship with her, the big sister who didn't even say goodbye all those years ago. Could she?

Soon Christy's fleeing from her shattered dreams, her ex-boyfriend, and God. Could the Triple Cross ranch be the safe haven she's searching for, or will May's new-found faith give her sister even more reason to reject Christy? Will they realize before it's too late that each possesses what the other desperately needs?

Writing for the Soul photos by Cindi of Selah Studios

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Receive Live Updates from the Writing for the Soul conference!

Tomorrow I'm flying to Colorado Springs for the annual Writing for the Soul conference sponsored by the Christian Writers Guild. I plan to be covering the conference live via my Twitter account, so if you're interested in reading my "tweets" be sure to visit my Twitter page to get in on all the fun!

I'm especially excited about this conference because my novel Thicker Than Blood is one of 4 finalists in the CWG Operation First Novel contest. They announce the winner on Thursday. My Twitter & Facebook followers will be some of the first folks to know how that turns out!

I look forward to staying in touch via these wonderful social networking sites!

Monday, February 16, 2009

My Favorite Book Covers

There's nothing like a great book cover. Sometimes they'll make or break a novel. I've picked up more than one book based on the cover alone. Here are a few of my favorite Christian fiction covers. What do you think? What are some of yours?

Shoofly Pie
by Tim Downs
Howard Books

I love the vibrant yellow, and of course the blood spatter adds the mystery/murder element which plays prominently in this story. The fly clues you in on the "buggy" elements. You can't see it in this picture, but there's some embossing going on with the cover that also adds to the experience. Perfect novel for a quirky murder mystery.

by James David Jordan

It's not entirely clear in this small photo, but the bullet hole through the glass is amazingly detailed and adds such a great element to this cover. The image of the main character, Taylor, is also compelling. She's beautiful, but the coat she wears hints of her harder edge, something a suspense lover like myself welcomes in a novel.

The Restorer
by Sharon Hinck

I absolutely love how this cover hints at the themes of the novel. This is a modern woman who finds herself in a fantasy world. The sword holding is perfect and says so much. I also love the color. This particular designer, Dog Eared Design, isn't afraid to use vibrant colors, and that's nice to see.

Dark to Mortal Eyes
by Eric Wilson
Waterbrook Press

The cover of this book alone got me to pick it up off the shelf at Barnes & Noble. I was immediately intrigued with that eye. Some have called this cover too edgy or intense, but I think it's brilliant. Says so much and also hints at the story to come.

The Breaking of Ezra Riley
by John L. Moore
Broadman & Holman

I own this book because of its cover. Yes, my interest was piqued by the summary (features a man coming back to the family ranch) as it reminds me of the settings I tend to favor in my own writing, but I wouldn't have bought it if wasn't for the cover. Again, perfect match up of design that matches the theme and tone of the novel. I haven't yet finished this book, but it starts out during a bleak, brutal Montana winter.

Plague Maker
by Tim Downs
Thomas Nelson

I'm noticing I lean toward darker covers, but those fireworks really grab your eye. It's an incredible shot that plays wonderfully into the book's story, too. The images on black add to the effect, and the lettering is the perfect font for a suspense.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Travis Thrasher's Writing Tips

I've been getting a lot out of Travis Thrasher's blog The Journey Is Everything. Travis is the author of 11 novels including Isolation, Gun Lake, Sky Blue and the upcoming Ghostwriter. He's recently started a series sharing writing tips, and they are all well worth reading. Check 'em out:

Tip #1: If you could write one book, and only one book, what would that be?
Tip #2: Read Seth Godin
Tip #3: Writing a book is sometimes like driving through the fog.
Tip #4: Read everything you can.
Tip #5: Shake things up in your writing.
Tip #6: Take a journey with each reader.
Tip #7: You can learn a lot by going on to
Tip #8: "What's going on here?"
Tip #9: Go along for the ride with your characters.
Tip #10: Don't set your sights too low.
Tip #11:
They're just words.
Tip #12: Get through the middle.

Friday, February 06, 2009

False Starts -- My Modus Operandi?

A couple months ago I thought I was going to begin a series here called "Evolution of a Novel". I planned to chronicle the writing of my third novel, but I quickly learned it wasn't a good idea for me to talk about my writing too soon in the process. One day I'd have Character A doing this and that, the next day Character B took over and erased Character A entirely. Writing seat-of-the-pants isn't an easy path to chronicle!

But now that I'm further down the road with this novel, I'm noticing a trend. With this book and my last I had a false start. By that I mean I wrote a couple chapters thinking I was going in one direction only to find out later I was completely off base and needed to scrap the chapters altogether. Sigh. Not exactly my preferred writing method, but perhaps it's my way to sort out what works and what doesn't.

With this latest novel, Flesh & Blood, I wrote 3 chapters, switching back and forth between two characters, one of whom is a character from my last novel, Innocent Blood. All was going well. I thought I knew at least some of where I was going.

But then it happened.

My first reader sheepishly handed me back my chapters and informed me of something I had suspected by hadn't wanted to believe. My two characters were too similar. They had some of the same problems and issues they'd be dealing with in the story, and the coincidental twist I'd planned was way too coincidental.

So ... back to the drawing board I went!

Character A ended up on the drawing room floor. I was left with Character B, the character I'd really wanted to write about anyway. And by focusing on only one lead I would be able to make her story stronger. It's hard to throw characters out of books, but who knows? Maybe Character A will get a book all her own someday!

False starts. Blessings or curses? For me they've been blessings because they help me discover what exactly I want to write about. How about you writers? And readers ... have you ever read a novel that started one way then changed a couple chapters in? What did you think?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Kathy Carlton Willis (Advice for Novelists, Part 88)

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?"

Publicist and author Kathy Carlton Willis responds today:

One thing that I tell novelists to remember prior to writing each book is to write marketing/PR INTO the book. Novels are different "birds" to promote, and it's so much easier if you have planned ahead for it by weaving specific promotable topics into the story line. And then, keep a list of these hooks for your marketing and PR team to work up. Also consider various niche markets who might benefit from the book and be sure you've written text with them in mind. Many special interest groups are using novels as an interesting way to get across non-fiction truths in a more entertaining wrapping. Booking agents can pitch you to speak with groups within your niche market and you'll be deluged at the book table after your programs!

--Kathy Carlton Willis, owner of Kathy Carlton Willis Communications, a full-service firm with a dedicated team committed to customizing packages for your marketing plans, publicity, editing, and writing needs.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Scrapping Plans by Rebeca Seitz

It's time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour!

Today's Wild Card author is:

I had the chance to interview Rebeca a bit ago, and she had a lot of great insights to share. For example, I asked: Were books a big part of your life growing up? If so, what books would you say influenced you most as a child? I hear you were a huge Nancy Drew fan …

Rebeca said: I was a Nancy Drew fan! Wow, you do your homework. :) Stories have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My parents started me out at age 4 with “Benji Goes to School” – and accompanying 45 record, of course. I listened to it so much, I memorized it. My great, great aunt, Retta Moultrie, also fostered my love of reading. She had a huge collection of Reader’s Digest Magazines in her home and she let me play “office” with them all the time. Her oldest issue was from 1979. I have no idea how many times I read the stories in those magazines. For every Christmas in memory, I’ve asked for books. My mom has a picture of me from junior high opening up a huge box of books – the expression on my face tells how much I love stories! For months afterward, she’d have to tell me to put the book down at the dinner table, reminding me that dinner was the time for conversation, not reading. My husband does that now. :)

Read the full interview here. At the time she was just about to release Sisters, Ink.


Rebeca Seitz, in addition to her own literary work, is founder and president of Glass Road Public Relations, a company dedicated solely to representing novelists who write from a Christian worldview. She has previously worked with authors including Ted Dekker, Frank Peretti, Robin Jones Gunn, and Brandilyn Collins. Seitz lives with her husband and son in Fulton, Kentucky.

In 2007, Rebeca published her first novel, Prints Charming , with Thomas Nelson Publishers. Two thousand eight saw the release of her next two novels, Sister’s Ink and Coming Unglued , from B&H Publishing Group, the publishing division of LifeWay. Just released from B&H is Scrapping Plans. Her next book, Perfect Piece , will release in 2009 from B&H.

Visit the author's website.

About First Wildcard Tours & Blog Alliance:

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! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. Enjoy your free peek into the book!


I’ve tried to be happy. I try so very hard. Yet the frigid granite beneath my fingertips is a blazing desert compared to the barren iceberg of my womb. What woman could be happy with a monolith of ice blocking her very female essence?

This kitchen is perfectly planned. If Martha Stewart visited, she’d be envious of my exquisite arrangement of pears and apricots, dusted with the slightest coating of glaze and balanced artfully in Mother’s old bowl. She’d gasp at the coordination of stripe to check, plaid to French country print, that draws the eye around the room. Her Tod-slippered feet can sweep across my stone floor and arrive unspecked at their destination.

And, if the Great Martha were to stop there, I would measure up. My life would hold a semblance of value, of worthiness.

Most stop there.

Thank God.

I don’t mean that irreverently. How can I be irreverent? I’m the grateful adoptee of an upright preacher man and his loving wife. I’m the epitome of grateful recipient. All of Stars Hill would tell you that.

They don’t look past my kitchen.

Thank God.

But I don’t have much time to stand here, staring at a House Beautiful workspace. Scott will be home in two hours. And duck l’orange is not an easy dish for even one so seasoned as I.

Is it odd that I love French food yet Chinese blood runs through my veins? Hmm. Perhaps if I’d been raised on the soil my mother trod, I would know more of the cuisine of the Asian world. I might even be privy to which province most suits me.

I should visit China.

Did I just think that?

I can’t visit China. Daddy, that blessed preacher man, would be hurt if I went in search of a mother who was never Momma. Of a woman who took one look at me, then left me bawling on a doorstep in the dead of night.

Then again, Daddy has Zelda these days.

Now, Zelda, there’s a woman who follows every fancy. What a strange little bird she is. Those fiery red spikes in her hair make me think of either a surprised woodpecker or the recipient of an errant lightning bolt. When she smiles, her whole face turns upward. I hear we have that in common. I wish I could remember seeing a smile on my face. But when I’m alone, with a mirror reflecting the mystery of me, it isn’t a smile that comes to bear. Besides, what kind of lady wears spurs on her cowboy boots? Honestly, spurs! Why, one of these days she will rip a gash in Daddy’s ankle while they’re do-si-doing and twirling around the Heartland dance floor.

I assume that’s what happens inside that wretched place. How Kendra and Tandy spend Friday nights there is beyond me. To each her own, I suppose. Though my own will never involve cowboy boots and a twanging fiddle.

Do fiddles twang?

Maybe I meant guitar.

No matter. I have a duck to prepare.

* * *

“Did you see her?” Kendra tripped over the uneven sidewalk and grabbed Tandy’s arm. Cold gusts of wind beat at them, bringing snatches of icy rain below the sidewalk’s covering.

“Hey, watch it, sister!”

“Sorry.” She kept walking, shooting a murderous look back at the beguiling concrete. “We need to bring up sidewalk maintenance at the next town meeting.”

Tandy patted the coffee-colored hand still crooked in her elbow. “Now, Kendra, don’t be getting all drastic on me. Can you imagine what poor Tanner would do if we dared question the maintenance of our fair Stars Hill?”

“Huh.” Kendra huffed and let go of Tandy to stuff her hands in her pockets. “Probably remind us of all he’s done to keep this town in antique replica street lights and ten o’clock curfews.”

“At least the curfews are gone.”

They pulled their hoods up and stepped down from the sidewalk to cross College Street.

“I wonder how many times Daddy would have had to bail us out if they had that curfew when we were in high school?”

Tandy tucked a curl behind her ear and took long strides toward Clay’s Diner. “I seem to recall a certain sister needing bailed out anyway.”

“There was no bail involved. Just a minor misunderstanding.”

“That the whole town talked about for months.” Tandy grinned and pulled open the door of the diner. Heated air billowed out a welcome. “After you, Con Woman.”

“Yeah, keep it up, sis. I can always bring up improper car racing at the next town meeting.” Kendra sailed through the entry, ignoring Tandy’s, “You wouldn’t!” and hung her dripping coat on one of the hooks by the door.

Tandy sloughed off her own navy pea coat and stamped her yellow rain boots. “Would you?”

Kendra spun on a heel and walked off toward “their” booth in the back corner. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”

“There’s my darling wife!” Clay Kelner came around the counter toward them.

Kendra rolled her eyes and snatched up a menu. “Oh, spare me. Shouldn’t the newlywed bliss have worn off by now?”

“What are you upset about?” Clay allowed a quick glance for his sister-in-law, then bent and dropped a peck on Tandy’s upturned lips. “Are you and Darin fighting?”


“Yes.” Tandy leveled a gaze at her sister. “Because Kendra is too busy spying on Joy to pay attention to her man and get their wedding planned.”

“Joy? The perfect one? Mrs. Plan-Everything-to-Death?” Clay’s eyebrows rose. “Why are you spying on Joy?”

“Because something’s wrong and I’m the only one in this family paying attention, that’s why.” Kendra slapped the menu on the table top. “And wedding plans are coming along fine, thank you very much.”

“Sure you’re not being your dramatic self?” Clay fast-stepped back before Kendra could swat him. “Lovable dramatic self, I meant!”

“Ha ha. Very funny.” Kendra pointed the menu at Clay, then Tandy. “You laugh now, but something’s up and we need to find out what before it gets so bad we can’t fix it.”

1“Well, can we at least get some food first?” Tandy snatched the menu and put it back in its holder. “I can’t think on an empty stomach.”

“The usual?”

Both girls nodded and Clay turned back toward the kitchen.

When he’d gone, Kendra studied her sister. “Tandy, I know you think I’m nuts. But did you not see her at Darnell’s? I mean, she stood over that display of oranges for at least a full minute, just staring into space!”

“Yeah, I saw her, Ken.” Tandy sighed. “But you know Joy. She’s not going to appreciate us marching up into her house and demanding to know what’s wrong.”

“She wouldn’t care if Meg did it.” Kendra sniffed.

“Yes, she would. And she’s closer to Meg because this is exactly the kind of thing Meg wouldn’t do.”

Kendra huffed and turned away. Rain sluiced down the windows, making the streetlights outside sparkle. Inside, every table was filled with Stars Hill townfolk happily spooning up chili and vegetable soup. If we don’t figure this out soon, they will. And then Joy will be the talk of the town2. She pulled out her cell phone and punched buttons.

“Who are you calling?”

“Meg.” Her faux ruby ring glinted in the light when she held up a finger to stop Tandy’s objection. “Hey, Meg, it’s Kendra. Tandy and I are at the diner and wondered if you could drop by. Call me as soon as you get this.” She snapped the phone closed and dropped it back in her giant suede bag, now splashed with raindrops.

“And what will that accomplish?”

“We’re going to have Meg talk to Joy about this.”

“Since when can we get Meg to do anything? Did you discover some magic wand I don’t know about?”

Kendra pushed her mahogany-colored spirals back into the burgundy headwrap from which they’d escaped. “She’s been wanting me to paint a mural on Hannah’s wall for a month. I think she’ll do just about anything to get it done.”

Tandy leaned back in the seat and whistled low. “Remind me never to underestimate you, sister.”

Kendra stopped fixing her hair and leveled a stare at Tandy. “You better believe it.”