Thursday, December 30, 2010

Have fun with Goodreads!

Calling all readers! If you haven't checked out the site Goodreads.com yet, it's a fun stop on your literary road trip. Users can share what they're currently reading (there are plenty of widgets to add to your blogs and websites too), rate books, write reviews, and more. I'm enjoying the ability it gives me to go back and see what I read this year, and what I thought of those books. Like its counterpart Shelfari, you can add friends and favorite authors. I used to visit Shelfari regularly but was disappointed with their latest website update that made it harder (I thought) to do things quickly. Then I found Goodreads. So if you're curious what I'm reading on any given day, you can visit my author page and then make a page of your own.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What's holding you back?

At this time of year most of us start thinking about the future---future goals, future pursuits, future dreams. It can be a great time of reflection, or it can bring us down as we think about all the resolutions we made and didn't keep.

But instead of focusing on what we haven't done, I'd like to ask you a question. What's holding you back from pursuing your dreams? Not just dreams of grandeur, but little things too. Maybe a desire to lose ten pounds. Or to spend more time with family. Perhaps you want to write a novel.

What if we didn't worry so much and dove in with abandon? What would our lives look like a year from now if we took a step out of our comfort zone and did one thing that God's dropped in our hearts?

How many years have you said things like, "Someday I want to _____"? I know I have many of those someday thoughts. Are they really that unattainable? Why wait for your kids to grow up or your hair to turn white before you pursue the things of your heart?

I'm not talking about shirking our responsibilities, of course. Our bills still need to be paid, our families taken care of. But I bet there's something we could pursue that would get us closer to reaching our dreams. Small steps are the key.

Let's not allow fear or what others think be our guides in 2011, but let's give our pursuits to the Lord who knows the exact next step we're supposed to take.

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. --Psalm 32:8

What's your dream for 2011? What tiny step can you take in the coming weeks to get you closer to it?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bound by Guilt book trailer

In case you missed it, here's the official book trailer for my next novel, Bound by Guilt. I wrote most of this novel before my first book, Thicker than Blood, was ever published. There are some recurring characters from TTB, but BBG stands completely by itself too. I'm excited about sharing this story with all of you. It's 20,000 words longer than my first book, and I think my writing style has grown too (I hope at least!).

I've been very blessed and honored to receive some kind endorsements for Bound by Guilt, including Francine Rivers who said: "Great job! You kept me turning the pages." Thanks so much, Francine. More endorsements can be read here.




If you'd like to read the first chapter of the novel, I have it up here at my website.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Tested by Praise

Today in my Bible reading I came across a Scripture that hit me over the head. You know that type? You're reading along and all of the sudden something pops out? This is what I saw:

Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by being praised. Proverbs 27:21 (New Living)

Usually we think it's the negative reviews and critiques we have to watch out for. Those are the ones that can derail us and set us off into a hole of self-doubt. Right? Sure, we can be impacted by negative reviews, but what about the positive ones?

Now I'm not saying we shouldn't listen to praise from our peers, family and friends. We all need encouragement. But something I was very surprised to find when my first novel got published was the temptation to believe my own press. Not that I got many huge, glowing endorsements or beautiful reviews in prestigious publications. Sometimes my test came just from someone telling me, "After the years you put into it, you deserved to be published." It would be very easy to think, "Yeah, I do deserve this."

The problem with that type of thinking, for me at least, is it can (notice I say can) lead to a wrong attitude about why, as a Christian writer, I'm doing what I'm doing. The truth of the matter is I don't deserve anything more than the next gal.

This same principle can apply to critiques of our as-yet-unpublished writing too. If someone tells us we're the next Jane Austen, and we let ourselves believe it, it could possibly make it harder for us to receive constructive criticism from an editor. After all, we write like Jane Austen. Why would we need to change anything?

You see what I mean?

So the key in all this is not to beat ourselves up and never receive praise but to remember every good thing comes from above. If our writing or our job or our ministry connects with someone, it's because of God's grace and His giftings in our lives. Not because we're better than anyone else. This will help us keep a balanced perspective when the good reviews roll in, but also when the bad ones come (and they will). Neither one should derail us.

Friday, October 08, 2010

A New Venture - FamilyFiction.com!

I'm excited to let you know about a brand new e-zine called FamilyFiction.com. You may have heard of it, but the goal of the magazine is to "serve the Christian fiction reader with news updates, up-to-date release lists, reviews, interviews, book trailers, and more."

I'm honored to be one of several contributing editors. My focus is on the suspense/mystery genre as well as Christian and family-friendly movies and dvds. This work won't detract from my work at TitleTrakk.com. If anything, it will make me even more aware of what's new and upcoming.

The premier issue of FamilyFiction Magazine is out today! My profiles are on best-selling author Joel Rosenberg and film maker Dallas Jenkins. Check it out here.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Why I've Been Silent

Hello, friends!

First off, my apologies for the extended leave of absence here on this blog. Things have been super busy what with the upcoming release of my next novel Bound by Guilt, my work with TitleTrakk.com, and my newest venture as a Contributing Editor at FamilyFiction.com. Oh, and did I mention the day job? :)

I've been learning a lot in the past couple weeks about juggling and making everything work together. I started a new novel and was about 50K into the rough draft when I realized I might've been on the wrong track with the story. It's funny. As soon as I set the book aside for a week or two, another story popped into my head, aspects of which I've been thinking about for many years. That seems to be the way things work for me. My better scenes are usually ones I've mulled many, many times.

So there you have it. I'm back, and plan to hear from me more in the future! You decide if that's a good thing or not ... ;)

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Summary of Bound by Guilt unveiled

First things first. I've picked seven of your great questions to answer in the back of Bound by Guilt. I loved all of the questions, so it was really hard to narrow them down. But I ended up going with ones that were specifically about this novel. The rest I just might use on my website or blog in the future! Thanks so much. Congratulations to:

Debby
Emma Bedford
Sandi Andrews
Jan Archer
Anonymous (asking about whether I had a sequel in mind)
Diana Prusik
Laura

Could all of you e-mail me at cj at cjdarlington dot com with your mailing addresses? I'd like to send you a signed copy of Thicker than Blood as my way of saying thanks.

And now for the big unveil. Since you've now seen the cover of Bound by Guilt, you're probably wondering what the novel is about. Yes, it is a sequel to Thicker than Blood. But it also stands completely alone. It takes place about a year and half after the events of the first novel, and you will get to see Christy and Hunter again. May and Beth make cameos too. But the girl featured on the cover? Her name is Roxi Gold.

Here's summary:

==========
Roxi Gold has been shuttled from one foster home to another most of her life. She longs for a family and will do anything to fit in - even if it's against the law. Soon she's traveling the country in an RV stealing rare books from unsuspecting bookstores. If she refuses she'll be put out on the streets.

Police officer Abby Dawson has seen the worst of society, and not just at work. Her ex-husband has wrested her daughter away from her in a bitter custody battle. The job she once loved has become a chore - the world isn't safer, and there's no joy in her life.

One night a man's innocent blood changes Roxi and Abby forever. One searches for justice; the other finds herself on the run until a first edition of The Great Gatsby catches up with her. Will the power of forgiveness set them free, or will they both remain bound by guilt?
===========

What do you think? :)

Bound by Guilt is available for pre-order at Amazon.com, Christianbook.com and Barnes & Noble.com

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bound by Guilt cover unveiled!

Here it is!

I'm so very excited to unveil the official cover of my February 2011 Tyndale House release, Bound by Guilt (click on photo to enlarge).

This book is one I'm really excited to share with you. If you liked Thicker than Blood I think you'll enjoy this one too. It has the same feel of my first novel, but with what I hope is even more depth.

In Thicker than Blood we featured a rare first edition of Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls. This time we're featuring an even rarer book---The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Some have wondered if Bound by Guilt is a sequel to Thicker than Blood. Yes, it is. Sort of. You don't have to have read Thicker than Blood to enjoy this one, but several of the main characters from Thicker become minor characters in Bound, but we're introduced to several new characters too!

Stay tuned! And in case you're interested, Bound by Guilt is available for pre-order at Amazon.com, Christianbook.com and Barnes & Noble.com

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Help me with my next book!

Okay, friends. I need your help. I have just completed the edits for my next novel Bound by Guilt. Releasing in February, Tyndale is hard at work finishing up the copy edits. I hope to share the cover and summary with you soon. In the mean time, my editor has asked me to provide her with a Question & Answer interview to be printed in the back of the book.

This is where you come in! I want these questions to be something you as the reader would like to read. So ... I'm asking you to submit your best questions to me here in the comments of this blog. I will pick five or more of the best questions and answer them in the back of Bound by Guilt. Plus, if I pick your question, I will send you a signed copy of my first novel Thicker than Blood.

I want to send these to my editor by the end of the week, so you have until August 25th at 12:00 pm EST.

Thank you!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Breakfast At Gingers - funny dog video!

Dog lovers, you gotta check this video out. It's like Wegman except with a Golden Retriever!

Friday, August 06, 2010

The Mountains Have Labored And Brought Forth A Mouse . . . Or Two

It all began this spring. I was cleaning out our pantry, organizing some of the dry foods, when I noticed mouse droppings. I tried to ignore them. We'd occasionally gotten a mouse in our house over the years that either went away (at least that's what our cats told us) or we caught and released.

Then I saw the bags of rice. Gone. We're not just talking nibbles here. There were entire bags of rice completely empty except for mouse droppings in the bag! I picture that little bugger chowing down for days living high on the hog.

So I threw the eaten and half eaten bags out, put the remainder in a box together, set them on the shelf again, and hoped the mice had moved on to other houses.

I was mistaken.

Several months later I notice an empty bag of rice on the floor under the pantry shelves. I really, really, wanted to believe this was an errant bag I forgot to throw out. So what if there were fresh mouse droppings beside the box of rice? I like living in a bubble without mice.

Mistaken again.

Finally I pulled the box of rice down to have a look. And discovered more empty bags, and more mouse droppings. Plus we found rice on the washing machine, of all places. Not good. We had a hungry mouse. (Yeah, I hear you experienced mouse catchers snickering.)

I got out the 'ol HaveAHart trap and got ready to set it, but it was broken so we had to make a hardware store run. My dad was enlisted for this. Well, he came home with a HaveAHart trap alright . . . the size of our cat! I pointed at the box where it said perfect for catching rats and small mammals.

Another hardware run later and we had a mouse sized trap. Which I set. With peanut butter.

The next morning I check the trap, and lo and behold, we have a mouse! Success! We'd caught our mouse. I let it go in the field near our house (it almost scampered up my arm when I opened the trap!). But just to be sure, I re-set the trap for that night's mouse parties.

Day 2 we caught a second mouse. Okay . . . trap re-set.

Day 3 we caught Mouse #3. Not so funny anymore.

Day 4 . . . Mouse #4.

Day 5 . . . Mouse #5.

Day 6 . . . No mouse! Had we trapped them all?

Day 7, today . . . Mouse #6!!! I'm getting tired of counting and taking pictures, so this one will remain anonymous.

What does this have to do with books, writing or publishing? I have no idea. But I knew the Mouse Saga deserved to be told. And it's not over . . .

P.S. All these photos are of different mice!

Friday, July 30, 2010

What I'm Learning From Horses

It started when I was a kid taking riding lessons. Then we got a cute Appaloosa pony named Raisin which my sister and I rode for a couple years. I turned twelve or thirteen and for some reason lost interest in these magnificent animals. We gave Raisin back to her original owners (a happy ending for her) and eighteen years went by with me being horseless. I don't think I ever really forgot this love though. It comes out in my stories. My first novel Thicker than Blood (started when I was fifteen) features a young woman living on a ranch where horses are a part of her everyday life. My second novel also involves the animals.

Now I've started being around horses again, learning what makes them tick, how to communicate with and train them, and how to ride again. As I slowly progress, I'm learning some things I can apply not only to my horsemanship skills, but to life too.

Yesterday I was watching a DVD by a trainer named Mark Rashid. I'm learning a ton from this guy. I love his philosophies and gentle techniques. I heard him say, "It's only a big deal if you make it a big deal." He was talking about your horses' behavior (or your mistakes), but I realized how important this maxim is to life too. How many times do we blow a situation way out of proportion when in fact it really wasn't worth worrying about?

Through horses I'm learning to take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy life a little more. It's not all about training and striving for success. There's a place for all of that, but sometimes it's okay to just get on and take a trail ride. Enjoy the scenery. Thank God for what we have. Horses have been a great reminder for me to stop and smell the . . . er, well . . . stop and smell something!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Check out my friend Renee Riva's new book!

I've been a big fan of Renee Riva's writing ever since reading her debut novel Saving Sailor, as well as its sequels Taking Tuscany and Heading Home.

I'm happy to report she has a new book on the market called Farley's Five & Dime, and it looks to be just as charming as her others.

Here's the cool thing---you can buy it now on Amazon Kindle for $.99! You can't lose with a price like that. I encourage you to check it out today.

Description:
Farley’s Five-and-Dime plops the reader into a fun, folksy, small town setting, with a touch of romance, humor, and sweet southern charm.

Set in the small town of Hog Eye Holler, Kentucky, in the 1950’s. Kids, and the young at heart alike, will enjoy meeting eleven-year-old Mazie May Farley; a cross between Pippi Longstocking and Caddie Woodlawn. The high spirited, red-headed whirlwind who helps her family run the local Five-and–Dime, has her sights on the popular town hunk-a-hunk, Billy Ray Baxter. In her comical, self-defeating schemes to snag Billy Ray away from Emma Jean Jacobs, Mazie is taken by surprise at the outcome of her high jinx attempts. When Billy fails to fall for Mazie’s numerous attempts to get him to invite her to the long anticipated Sweetheart Waltz, she raises the stakes higher and higher. Chaos and calamity ensue. The story ends on a note of sweet serendipity—but may not be exactly what Mazie was shooting for. Sometimes life has a way of surprising us when we are busy making other plans.

Read my interview with Renee at TitleTrakk.com.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Facing the ups and downs of writing

Recently over at the Scribble Chicks blog (where I post on Fridays) a reader asked this question:

I'm not sure if this is just me or all writers, but I always have so many emotions when writing or thinking of a story. This isn't always bad but it can be hard to be on the top of the world one second and on the bottom the next. How do you deal with the mood swings that come with being a writer? Again, this might just be me...

Here's how I responded:

It's not just you. Trust me, ask any writer you know and I bet they'd agree with you on this a 100%. I have had so many ups and downs during the process of writing that it's not even funny. One minute I love the story, the next I hate it. One day the words flow like a river, then next it feels like pulling teeth to write a sentence. This is completely normal. Sometimes I want to bemoan the fact that writing can cause all these crazy emotions, but then I realize that we can use these emotions to our benefit.

I'm noticing that many, many creative people feel deeply. It's how we're wired. It's what gives us the drive to do things like sit in front of a computer for hours on end writing about imaginary people!

I believe recognizing the fact that feeling all the emotions you're feeling is completely normal is the first step in conquering them. Because even though we can use them to our benefit, let's face it---it's not fun to go through a low time.

Here are some tips:
  • Step away from the computer (or notepad) and do something completely unrelated to writing for a little while - this will help you recharge. Try not to think about your writing at all during this time. Sometimes a break is just the thing you need.

  • Often we'll feel low when our perfectionist tendencies kick into gear (this is what happens to me, at least), so give yourself some slack and permission to just write. Don't edit, just write. You can edit later.

  • Watch a funny movie with a friend or family member. This'll lighten your mood. We writers can be way too serious sometimes!

  • Remember that God is right there with you ready to lift you up---but often we need to take the first step toward him. Ask Him to help you. He will, because He loves you!

  • Write through it. For some the best cure is to keep on writing no matter what you feel, and eventually you have to do this anyway, so why not get some words under your belt!

  • We are often our worst critics and way too hard on ourselves. Remembering that will help.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Answers to Your Questions

Thanks to everyone who submitted questions for me to answer. If you have any new ones, feel free to ask them in the comments. This helps me to make sure my posts contain things that interest YOU! Without further ado, here are the questions and answers.

Rachel Turner: What do you think put your book over the top in the Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel contest? Any advice for those writers looking to enter this year?

I wish I knew! Ha ha. Seriously, all I know is that I wrote the best book I could at that time. The Operation First Novel contest entrants never receive back scores or comments, so we don't really know for sure what makes or breaks our novels.

But with that said, I can offer a few tips for folks looking to enter this year. First, make sure you're submitting your best work. I don't recommend writing a novel and then dashing it off to the contest without editing it yourself first. (Though if I recall that's close to what 2006 Winner Tom Pawlik did, so what do I know? :) But you have a better chance if you give yourself enough time to write multiple drafts if need be.

Second, remember that even if you don't place in the contest it doesn't mean you're a failure and you should abandon your novel. 2007 winner Jennifer Erin Valent (Fireflies in December) submitted her novel to the contest, didn't win, and then after revision entered her book again at a later date, and it won! The same thing happened to me.

Martha Ramirez: Did you ever feel like giving up? How did you deal with rejection?

Oh, my yes, Martha. There were (and still are, frankly) days when I wonder if I'm on the right track, if I should just throw in the towel, if I wasn't meant to be a writer after all. But what I'm learning is that most times we have to disregard the doubts and press on. God puts desires in our hearts for a reason. I have a feeling Satan puts doubts in our minds for a reason too---to thwart the plans of God. It's imperative to press on no matter what!

I heard advice early on in my writing to never take rejection personally. Often it's just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Rejection can come for a variety of reasons, only one of which is the quality of your manuscript. Reminding myself of that helped when rejections came. I determined I was going to stick with it until I got where I wanted to go. No matter what. Did I have bad days? You bet. But I tried to keep my eye on the prize on those down days.

Julia Reffner: I think it's really neat that you were homeschooled all the way through. What part did your parents play in nurturing your gift of writing? How do recommend fostering a love of writing and reading in our children?

Mom never said one negative word to me about pursuing writing. Everything was always positive. And still is, I might add. She took the time to notice my interests and provide all the necessary tools. That’s what she believes is so important for homeschooling moms to do. It’s a parent’s job to water the dreams of their kids, not to impose their dreams on their children.

My parents never hesitated to take my sister and I to the library, and they never complained when we came home with bags and bags full of books. Mom created curriculum around our interests. She made sure we read some of the classics like The Scarlet Letter, The Old Man and the Sea, Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, and the like.

She also had us keep a journal from an early age, making sure we knew she wasn’t going to read them (she felt this was important to tell us up front). She just wanted us to be creative and write without editing. I still journal to this day.

And she made us learn how to type! Of all the things I learned homeschooling, that’s one thing I use every single day.

As far as encouraging your kids to read, it’s one thing to tell your kids to read, it’s another to read out loud to them. By doing this you’re practicing what you preach, and you get some great quality time with your kids. This opens up the door to discussing what you read too.

Books are doorways into countries we might never explore in real life. Through books we can travel to worlds beyond the solar system. We can learn history and how not to repeat it and discover what character traits were noteworthy in others. Through reading we learn without even realizing it.

Next post will answer Koala Bear Writer's question, "What's a day in the life of a published novelist like?" The answer might surprise you ...

Friday, June 04, 2010

Go ahead. Ask me questions!

Okay, guys. I want to make sure this blog is interesting for you to read. Sometimes I come up empty with posting ideas. So I'm turning it over to you! For the next couple days I want to answer any questions you might have for me about writing, books, or whatever. I certainly don't have all the answers but will do my best to answer every one.

So take it away! Ask your questions in the comments, and I'll start answering in the coming days. Thanks!

Monday, May 24, 2010

To my friends who are waiting...

If you're feeling discouraged...
downtrodden...
depressed...
wondering where God is...
lonely...
wondering when your breakthrough will come...
wondering when your dreams will come true...

Friday, May 21, 2010

Book Cover Design - Using the Same Photo

Book cover design has intrigued me for quite some time. The perfect cover can sell a book. All it takes sometimes is a grabber of an image. And sometimes that grabber image gets used more than once.

Case in point. Take a look at the first two books in the collage at left (the image will enlarge if you click on it). Unpretty by Sharon Carter Rogers (Howard Books, 2008). Scared woman with hand over her mouth. It's a provocative photo for certain. Which is why I was surprised to see it on another cover in the CBA market only two years later. When the Devil Whistles by Rick Acker (Abingdon Press, Oct 2010).

Believe it or not, I have seen this image also on a movie poster for a secular horror film and in the mockup of a Thomas Nelson title (that was changed before it was published).

So... where does it come from? This stock image was taken by a photographer who goes by "knape" and is also the model. It's available on iStockphoto here.

But here's where things get really interesting. I was looking at this image a couple months back out of curiosity, and lo and behold I was shocked to see that the model featured on the cover of my own novel Thicker than Blood is this same photographer/model! I made this comment online and Kirk DouPonce of Dog Eared Design was intrigued as well, telling me he'd used yet another photo of this model on the cover of The Healer by Linda Windsor.

Fascinating!

Have you seen any books that have the same image on their covers? Do share!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Digital Publishing According to ... Puppets?

This hilarious video about the opposing views of digital publishing (created by some of my friends at Tyndale House) is funny because it's so true!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Writing news!

Well, friends. I can finally make this announcement. I am very excited to say that I have just signed a contract with Tyndale House for my second book! This is a sequel to my first, Thicker than Blood, in that some of the main characters from Thicker become minor characters in the second. Yes, you will find out what happens between Hunter and Christy! :)

As of today, the official title of this book is Bound by Guilt (thank you Jan Stob!). I'm excited about the new title as it perfectly conveys the themes of this novel. Right now we're looking at an early 2011 release date.

So there you have it. My big news! The amazing design team at Tyndale House is hard at work on the cover, and I can't wait to see what they come up with! Stay tuned...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

For all the dog lovers...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Don't Hold Back!

A piece of writing advice I read years ago went something like this, "Don't hold back your greatest ideas until the next book you write. Use them now. You never know if that book of the future will get written, or even get published."

I've had to remind myself of this advice many times. A great idea pops into my head, but I think, "No, I'll wait 'til the next book for that one" or "I can't write that now---what if I can write it better in a couple years?"

Sure, if I'm doing things right, I'm always going to be writing better with each year that passes (I hope!). Maybe I will be able to tell the story better down the road. Or not. That's the issue. I don't want to hold onto my best ideas, because more good ideas will come later!

An example. In my first novel, Thicker Than Blood, I have a character who doesn't even show up in any scenes but was someone who got mentioned in the thoughts of another character. Her name's Abby. Now I liked the name Abby. Enough so that I didn't want to "use it up" for such a minor character. I tried changing it (she was going to be Nora, another name I like). It was a no go. This character had become Abby in my head. I felt like I wasted a good name! But as it turns out, as I wrote my second novel I had the wild idea to include this Abby character. And she took over the book! Which goes to show me the advice I heard was right. Don't hold back good ideas, or character names, for later.

Every book I write needs to be the very best it can be... right now. And this is good advice for life, too. Didn't Mark Twain say, "Don't put off for tomorrow what you can do today?" Which goes hand-in-hand with Jesus' words about not worrying about tomorrow, for tomorrow has enough troubles of its own.

Let's live life to its fullest today, no matter our vocation!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Debbie Fuller Thomas (Advice for Novelists, Part 113)

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?"

I would stress the importance of meeting with a group of like-minded writers to stay encouraged, to read the best books on writing that they can find and to find a way to attend writer’s conferences each year.

--Debbie Fuller Thomas, author of Raising Rain & Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon. Visit her website for more info.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Because sometimes we just need to laugh...

Sometimes we just need to laugh, don't you think? Here are a few jokes about writers I've found that crack me up:

A writer died and was given the option of going to heaven or hell.

She decided to check out each place first. As the writer descended into the fiery pits, she saw row upon row of writers chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they were repeatedly whipped with thorny lashes.

"Oh my," said the writer. "Let me see heaven now."

A few moments later, as she ascended into heaven, she saw rows of writers, chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they, too, were whipped with thorny lashes.

"Wait a minute," said the writer. "This is just as bad as hell!"

"Oh no, it's not," replied an unseen voice. "Here, your work gets published."

=====

An author comes home to a burned down house. His sobbing and slightly-singed wife is standing outside. “What happened, honey?” the man asks.

“Oh, John, it was terrible,” she weeps. “I was cooking, the phone rang. It was your agent. Because I was on the phone, I didn’t notice the stove was on fire. It went up in second. Everything is gone. I nearly didn’t make it out of the house. Poor Fluffy is--”

“Wait, wait. Back up a minute,” The man says. “My agent called?”

=====

A hungry lion was roaming through the jungle looking for something to eat. He came across two men. One was sitting under a tree reading a book; the other was typing away on his typewriter.

The lion quickly pounced on the man reading the book and devoured him. Even the king of the jungle knows that readers digest and writers cramp.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dallas Jenkins & Stephen Baldwin on FOX News

Great clip here from filmmaker Dallas Jenkins and actor Stephen Baldwin on Hollywood and faith-based films. They talk briefly about The Blind Side and trends in faith-based filmmaking.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell

I've read countless books on the craft, but James Scott Bell's are permanently a part of my library. Writers, you need to get your hands on this book! Here's my official review:

The thing I love most about The Art of War for Writers is that every writer, from newbie to seasoned professional, can glean from its pages. You can pick it up at different stops on your journey and learn something new. It inspires even as it spurs you on in your writing career. And that’s really the focus of this book—how to develop a career in writing. Says Bell, “The writer must understand the essentials of success for a long-term writing career, and count the cost accordingly.” What does that take? How do you overcome the obstacles along the way? The book’s short, meaty chapters share real answers to these questions and more. And while there’s certainly some how-to advice on the craft within its pages, Bell has already covered craft techniques in his two noteworthy books Plot & Structure and Revision & Self Editing. The Art of War for Writers is more a battle plan on how to beat the enemies we all face in our writing pursuits. Let’s face it—writing is a fight. But in The Art of War we’re shown that with the proper attitude and tactics we can be victorious. That’s something every writer needs to hear.

You can pick up a copy at Amazon.com here. It'll be a ten spot well spent!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Poll for readers of Thicker than Blood

Hey, friends! I need your help. If you've read my novel Thicker than Blood, would you mind voting in this quick poll? It'll help me understand which characters you connected with, and which ones might get included in a future story! Thanks!


Monday, March 08, 2010

DiAnn Mills (Advice for Novelists, Part 112)

Today we enjoy another piece of advice from a bestselling author in my Advice for Novelists series in which editors, authors, agents and publicists answer the question. Take it away DiAnn:

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

Don’t give up.
Write everyday.
Read the books written in your genre.
Read and reread how-to books.
Attend conferences - yes, spend the money and work the conference
Actively participate in a writer’s group
Share what you know with other aspiring novelists
Pray!

--Diann Mills, author of Breach of Trust, Sworn to Protect, A Woman Called Sage, and more. Visit her website.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Inspiration from Elizabeth Berg

The March/April issue of Writers Digest Magazine features an inspiring interview with author Elizabeth Berg by Jessica Strawser. In Q&A format she tackles some subjects that hit home for me at this stage of my writing. Perhaps they'll encourage you too. Here are a few of the questions. Pick up a copy of the magazine to read the complete interview, including her take on life after Oprah picking her book up as a selection and how it impacted her career.

Are you often surprised by where stories take you?

I am, and that's part of the mystery and the joy. I never want to know. To me, it would be like doing homework---it would be so boring---if I knew what was going to happen. So, I'm kind of like the reader every day. I go into my study, and I don't know what's going to happen. It's exciting, you know?

I love her enthusiasm here, and her emphasis on the joys of writing. So much is placed on the negative, and here she doesn't emphasize that.

A lot of your characters seem in some way empowering---do you ever set out to empower your readers?

In the most self-protective of ways, I don't think about the reader when I'm writing. I just think about the story. After it's done, I think a lot about the reader. But in the end, always, you need to write what's in your heart and soul, and let the chips fall where they may. Let's say you try to accommodate this imaginary reader, and you produce a work you're not particularly happy with. That will always stay with you, that you didn't write what was true for you. Whereas, if you do write what's true for you, and someone doesn't like it, well, you know, that stings for a minute, but it goes away.

Bravo, Elizabeth, for sharing these words! I totally agree---we must write first for ourselves, and let the chips fall. God puts particular stories in our hearts for a reason, and I need to be reminded of this every day.

So many successful writers talk about writing as agony.

Sometimes I think people say that to keep the competition down! We are in such need of fresh voices, and I worry sometimes that emerging writers pay a little too much attention to what other people say. If I could say anything to aspiring writers, it's to keep your own counsel, first and foremost. There's nothing wrong with listening to what other people have to say---I used to be one of your readers who would gaze longingly at those pictures of people who are published and think, Oh man, what must it be like? But there is something inside of a person that makes them be a writer in the first place. That's a strong and true thing. And you can have your head turned very easily by the business of writing. It's so important to keep it church and state---keep it separate. The process of writing and creating and answering that very unique call inside yourself has nothing to do with agents and sales and all that. And I can tell you as someone who's enjoyed a lot of success in my career that nothing matches the feeling you have when you get it right on the page, when you please yourself in that very intimate way---that's always the best thing, no matter what happens. For me it is, anyway.

This is advice I needed to hear. And it's so true! On this side of the journey, with my debut novel on shelves (and I have so far to go, I know), this advice rings true. We would be wise to heed it. Thank you, Ms. Berg, for sharing.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Baby Moose in Sprinkler

If you're having a tough day or just need a smile, then you've got to see this adorable video of baby moose playing in a sprinkler!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

When Your Characters Don't Behave

Last week almost every day of my writing felt like pulling teeth. I'd sit down at my laptop, bring up my chapter and . . . stare at the screen. Then when I'd start to type, something didn't seem right. I knew I needed to push through no matter what I felt, but still. It's one thing to be at my muse's mercy, it's another to sense something isn't flowing.

I should've learned this by now. What I finally realized was I was forcing situations on my characters. I had one direction I wanted the plot to follow, but my poor character was having none of it.

I've attended several years of the National Book Festival down in D.C. I've heard the likes of Sue Grafton, Nevada Barr, Mary Higgins Clark, John Sandford, and Clive Cussler talke about their characters as if they're real. As if they run the show. They'd say things like, "I got to Chapter 3 and my character wouldn't do what I wanted." I remember looking at these authors with skepticism. They sounded insane. Um, excuse me, but aren't you the author of these fictional characters?

Yeah, well, that was before I had characters of my own to wrangle. Now I know what they mean. It's all about the human condition, I suppose. If you have a character with this personality put into this situation, then 9 times out of 10 they're going to respond thus. And I was trying to force a round peg into a square hole.

So I gave up and let my character do what she wanted.

Lo and behold, I got unstuck! The words flowed again. Does this mean my characters know more about the story than I do? Hmm. Scary thought.

And just in case you're wondering, this character is the lead in my third novel (working title Flesh and Blood). Her name's Brynn Taylor, and she's definitely got some issues. I look forward to watching her figure her way out of them. :)

Friday, February 05, 2010

The Comparison Trap

The first time it happened was after reading a book that was everything I wanted my novels to be. The plot moved me, the characters were real, and the message was powerful. You’d think I would’ve been inspired to head to my keyboard, but instead I felt like throwing in the towel. Every time I sat down to write my own fiction I would think about this other author. There was no way I could write like her. My characters were cardboard. My plots lame. What was the point? How could I possibly write that well?

I didn’t realize I’d fallen into the comparison trap. All I knew was that I was miserable and ready to quit. In desperation I asked for advice from novelist James Scott Bell. He’s been my writing mentor for almost ten years, and as usual, his words hit home. He assured me I wasn’t alone in feeling this way. All serious writers and artists have been in my shoes, he said. What I needed to understand was that no two writers are the same. I had my story that no one could ever write like me.

Doubts come to all of us. Even best-selling, award-winning authors like Francine Rivers or Frank Peretti. It helped me to realize that others who are much further along on this journey still struggle at times. It showed me feelings of inadequacy are just that—feelings. They often have no bearing whatsoever on the real quality of what I write. We’ll always need to improve in our craft, but there are times when we must forget about what we lack and ignore the negative thoughts swirling in our heads.

As Jim Bell said, we all have a story to tell from our own unique perspective. Several years ago a bunch of CBA novelists got together to prove it. They decided to each write short pieces of fiction based on the same strict guidelines. All the stories had to include the same first and last lines. They had to include a case of mistaken identity, pursuit at a noted landmark, and an unusual form of transportation. Do you think these stories ended up sounding similar? Hardly. The authors wrote an amazing variety of tales (one even wrote in the point of view of a dog). Why were none of them the same? Because all the authors came to the challenge with their own toolbox of life experiences, and they wrote from their one-of-a-kind view of the world. (Those stories were published in book form, by the way. Check out What the Wind Picked Up.)

Jim shared something else with me. He compared writing to what God does with spiritual gifts. Not everyone has the same gift, but when we develop what God has given us, it contributes to the whole tapestry of the body of Christ in the world. He told me I needed to be the best C.J. I could be. And if I gave my full attention to my own writing, not comparing myself to anyone but just digging deeper into my story, the doubts would go away.

What would happen if we stopped looking to others for validation? My writing is never going to be like Karen Kingsbury’s. But on the other hand, Karen’s writing is never going to be like mine. Or yours. That’s the way God designed it. We’re all different, to reach different people. Someone who will snatch up the latest Ted Dekker might never crack open a Janette Oke.

In his latest writing how-to book The Art of War for Writers Jim says: “One of the biggest obstacles of all comes from comparison with other writers and worrying about your status in the publishing world. This is the way to ultimate madness. The writing life is crazy enough without you making it worse on yourself.”

Escaping the comparison trap is not only vital to your mental health as a writer, it’s also biblical. “Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else . . .” Galatians 6:4. So dive into your writing without distraction. There are readers out there God is preparing right now to read the stories only you can write.

[Originally posted on Rachelle Gardner's CBA Ramblings blog]

Thursday, January 28, 2010

James Pence (Advice for Novelists, Part 111)

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?"

Learn your craft. The overwhelming weakness of most fiction manuscripts I see is that the writer hasn't taken time to learn the craft of writing fiction.

When I decided I wanted to write novels I began reading books on the craft of fiction. I've lost count of how many books I read. I read and studied novels. I marked them up like you would mark your Bible. I took notes. I listened to audio books. I did everything I could to help me learn the art of writing fiction. So take time to learn your craft. From the time I started studying fiction to the time my first novel was published was close to 12 years. I'm not saying you should take that long, but don't rush things either.

--James Pence, author of Terror by Night (w/ Terry Caffey), Blind Sight, and more. Visit his website.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Summer 2010 Tyndale House fiction

Check out some of the Summer 2010 releases coming from Tyndale House. I can't believe I get to be at the same publisher as these authors! Aren't these some amazing covers? Which one grabs your attention?


























































Thursday, January 21, 2010

How Writing is Like Fly Fishing










During an interview talented author Candace Calvert recently did with me on her blog, she asked me a question I've never received before. She found out one of my hobbies is fly fishing and challenged me to find some similarities between fly fishing and writing. At first I was stumped. But as I began to think, I realized there was a metaphor sitting right in front of me.

Fly fishing is like the process of a writer searching for a publisher. Our flies are our manuscripts. Each cast is us sending out a query letter or proposal. The fish are the editors searching for a project to buy. It’s important to research what the fish like and when they like it.

But just because we cast the line, doesn’t mean the fish will bite. Maybe they’re not hungry. What if the trout aren’t interested in mosquitoes today? Our fly might be tied perfectly, but the fish just aren’t hungry for it right now.

Then sometimes a fish will bite, but right when we think we have them, they spit out the hook. Does that mean we should give up and never fish again? No, it just means we need to keep on casting. Maybe today isn’t our day. But tomorrow might be.

Candace asked me many other fun questions, by the way. If you'd like to read her whole interview, check it out here. She's also giving away a copy of my debut novel Thicker than Blood. Deadline to enter is January 25th.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Need A Refill?

I shared this post over at the Scribble Chicks blog today, and I'd like to share it with you too:

Have you ever hit a point in your writing where nothing seems to flow? Where it feels like you're pulling teeth to get out one single sentence? Rest assured, you're not alone. Every writer feels this way from time to time. Here's something I'm learning that helps unstop the pipes and allows your creative waters to start flowing again ... living life.

Sometimes as writers we will devote so much time to pouring out our thoughts and emotions on the page that we don't take time to refill. The well runs dry. If that's you today, why not try this: take a day off and play with a ten-year-old. Go to the movies. Pull out a pad of paper and just start sketching what you see. Or ask someone who works in the profession of your main character if you can follow them around and soak up what they do.

I found the latter suggestion especially helpful recently. Several of my novels take place on a working cattle ranch. And when you're working on a ranch, you're going to be riding horses. For the month of January I've been volunteering at a local horse barn. In the morning we feed the horses and turn them out to their pastures. In the evening we bring them in and feed them again. I've learned a ton just from being around these great animals. But I've especially learned from watching others much more experienced and seeing how they handle situations. Soaking in their expertise has helped me immeasurably.

So if you're stuck today, may I suggest take a deep breath and chilling for a bit? :) It's okay to take a break. Trust me, you'll come back super-charged and ready to tackle that next chapter!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fun Christian Devotions SPEAK-UP Interview

I had the wonderful opportunity of being interviewed by Marianne Jordan of Christian Devotions Speak Up yesterday. It's now archived, and you can listen to it below if you'd like. We talked about when I knew I wanted to write, homeschooling, the whole story of how Thicker than Blood won Operation First Novel, how much research I do, and much more!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Susan Meissner (Advice for Novelists, Part 110)

And you thought I forgot about this series! :) No, my friends, 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?"

Writing in anonymity is like swimming laps in a pool while no one is watching. It doesn’t seem like you are getting anywhere. But you are. You are strengthening your writing muscle. You are becoming a better writer just like someone who swims twenty laps a day becomes a better swimmer. I am sure Michael Phelps started out like everyone else who swims competitively. In a pool. No one cheering. Putting one arm ahead of the other and kicking relentlessly. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Keep swimming.

--Susan Meissner, author of White Picket Fences, The Shape of Mercy, and other books. Visit her website.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Thicker than Blood featured in Christianbook.com Weekly Insider

How exciting. Thicker than Blood is one of 4 novels featured in this week's Christianbook.com Weekly Insider. Also featured are Colleen Coble's The LightKeeper's Daughter, Jenna's Cowboy by Sharon Gillenwater and Beguiled by Deeanne Gist and J. Mark Bertrand: