Monday, October 30, 2006

Leaving for Las Vegas

I'll be out all week. I fly out to Las Vegas tonight for the SEMA show. It's a big car and truck aftermarket show. I'll be working at the Sportchasis (Freightliner) booth and promoting Hensley's trailer hitches and brake controllers.

I must admit that I'm looking forward to seeing Vegas. It's one of those places that's part of Americana, albeit a dark side. There's something about a city built entirely on gambling that bothers me. I'll refrain from further comment. Maybe I'll have a new perspective when I return.

For a writer, it's a goldmine. You can people watch 24 hours. You can also eat 24 hours.

I couldn't help but notice in my hotel/casino where I'm staying, The Excalibur, you have to pay for internet, the gym, and anything else that might keep you off the casino floor. I won't be paying for internet. Really, I can get it free at McDonald's now.

I'll try to find a "hot spot," though, and get online. Pray for me. I'm sure I'll have plenty to talk about next week.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday Top 10

Top 10 Reasons to own a cat or two…

10. Prove your high school science teacher wrong--that a solid can indeed expand to fill its space, specifically a queen sized bed.

9. You’ve always wondered what a herd of buffalo would sound like at 3am but couldn’t afford the trip to Yellowstone.

8. If you were to die alone, your corpse would be disposed of quickly and efficiently.

7. You don’t have teenagers and always wondered what it’s like to have someone in the house who never talks and looks upon you as an inferior species.

6. Justify owning a laser pointer.

5. You need something to stop the heat that keeps pouring from your floor vents all winter.

4. After a trip to the vet, you can tell your friends the scars on your arms and face are from an encounter with a grizzly.

3. Your kitty will love you as long as you have access to the food and expend body heat.

2. You can laugh as the world’s most graceful animal slides off the back of the couch while in a deep sleep.

And the number one reason to own a cat or two…

1. A thin layer of fur on your clothing will certainly set a fashion trend.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is reviewing Jerome Teel's latest book, The Election..


Jerome Teel is a graduate of Union University, where he received his JD, cum laude, from the Ole Miss School of Law. He is actively involved in his church, local charities, and youth sports.He has always loved legal-suspense novels and is a political junkie. Jerome and his wife, Jennifer, have three children-Brittney, Trey, and Matthew-and reside in Tennessee, where he practices law and is at work on a new novel.


They seek ultimate power.Nothing can stand in theirway.Ed Burke has waited a lifetime to become president of the United States. He's not about to let his nemesis, Mac Foster, stop him now...especially when he's sold his soul for the Oval Office.Claudia Duval has lived a rough life. And finally, things have turned around for her after meeting the wealthy Hudson Kinney. But is all what is seems?When a prominent citizen is murdered in Jackson, Tennessee, attorney Jake Reed doesn't want to know the truth. He just wants to get his client off. But as he investigates, he uncovers a sinister scheme. A scheme that would undermine the very democracy of America...and the freedom of the entire world.

"The Election, by Jerome Teel, is a fast-paced, highly readable mystery filled with suspense, intrigue, and political conspiracy. Teel skillfully weaves together themes of faith, family, suffering, and providence in a way that not only compels, but enlightens."
David S. Dockery-President, Union University

Monday, October 23, 2006

A week in the life

My son Andrew presented me with the first paragraph of a story yesterday. I read it and realized he'd managed to do something that most writers never seem to fully grasp. He set the hook within three lines. I've always pictured him as a writer. He's extremely creative and sees things the way few do. I'm sure, while I'm still struggling with some low end publisher and barely selling enough to cover the advance, my son will be on the bestseller list at age 23. He'll be on the Today show, wearing something black and cool, looking bored to be there.

The latest blond anchor will ask him, "Did you always want to be a writer?"

Andrew will say, "Naah. I wanted to fly jets or go to Mars or something like that. The writing gig looked a lot easier."

"Is there anyone you'd like to thank for your success?" Blondie does the little hair flip and giggles.

His eyes will glisten and he'll choke up a bit. "My mom."

Isn't that the way it always goes? I know, Bill Cosby said it first. But it should probably be in the Bible somewhere, anyway.

We all have these little fantasies for our kids, don't we? We know darn well they'll make a lot of the same mistakes we did. We just hope we handle it better than our parents did. So far I think he's a much better kid than I am a father. My daughter, Sydney, doesn't even answer my calls anymore. And she's only 12.

I think the most important aspect of this little writing goal I've set for myself is to show my kids that it's good to dream. You don't have to settle for what life hands you. And when you dream, dream big. Going for it can never be a failure. Hiding from the possibility of failure is the only true tragedy.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday Top 10

Top 10 Chicken Soup Books for Real People...

10. Chicken soup for the Junior High Shop Teacher’s soul.

9. Chicken soup for the Postal Employee’s soul.

8. Chicken soup for the “Lost Luggage” Desk Attendant’s soul.

7. Chicken soup for Anyone Who’s Ever Read Anything by Al Franken’s soul.

6. Chicken soup for the Guy Driving Behind My Mother’s soul.

5. Chicken soup for the Detroit Lions Fan’s soul.

4. Chicken soup for the Fathers of Teenage Daughter’s soul.

3. Chicken soup for Anyone Who Ever Voted for an Ex-professional Wrestler’s soul.

2. Chicken soup for the Blogger’s soul.

And the number one Chicken Soup Book for real people...

1. Chicken soup for the Chicken’s soul.

I know, it's not a real people, but neither is Al Franken.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The loss of Covetousness

Critter Robin has done it.

She got the call from her agent yesterday that Steeple Hill is offering her a contract. She's the first of our little band to get that call, as we all knew she would be. No one works harder at this game than Robin.

There was a time, no so long ago, when I would have felt just a twinge of jealousy. We always say that's to be expected, natural. But I have a hard time with that. We're called, as Christians, to be beyond such feelings. After all, we've got an eternity with our Lord to look forward to. Why do we fret over what others here on earth have that we don't? It takes away our focus from God. That's why it's a commandment, people.

So I didn't jump up and down or giggle all over myself like my silly crit partners undoubtedly did. I'm the male in the group. I'm supposed to be like Clint Eastwood after gunning down an entire gang of Mexican bad guys. I just squint, shove a self-rolled cigarette between my lips, and peer off toward the horizon, where another mob of bad-guys awaits. Robin knows I'm proud of her because I grunt and don't spit chewing tobacco on her shoes.

Okay. I'm not quite that cool. I'll get giddy when I see her at the conference.

I can honestly say that I didn't feel the least bit jealous, though. What it does is inspire me. Despite the dire numbers thrown at newbies regarding the publishing business, there is hope for those who don't give up. Robin is like Han Solo--"Never tell me the odds." I like to think I'm that way, too. And Dineen. And Ronie. And Heather and everyone else who seems to stand apart from those who will give it one shot and go back to stamp collecting (I, myself, have a basement full of woodworking tools collecting dust).

This is what we do. This victory will erase the bitter memories of rejection after rejection for Robin. She'll do an blog interview soon and be asked if she ever had any doubts. "Ohhhhh Nooooooo," she'll say. "I just knew if I kept at it and gave it all to God's glory and kept improving my craft why one day I'd have my name on a book cover too I mean if that Collin's gal kin do it why can't I I'm just as witty and funny and charming and I don't use passive verbs and don't ya just love that new sitcom with the girl and the murders and what's with all these morons who post those rambling book reviews on Amazon why they can just BITE ME not a one of 'em has ever picked up a pen and probably think Harlequin is the height of literature and..."

Good job, Robin! (Key in theme song from "The Jeffersons")

Now get back to work.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is posting about Karen Kingsbury's latest book, Like Dandelion Dust.

About the Author:

USA Today and New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury is America's #1 inspirational novelist. There are nearly 5 million copies of her award-winning books in print, including more than two million copies sold in the past year. Karen has written more than 30 novels, nine of which have hit #1 on national lists, including award-winning Oceans Apart, One Tuesday Morning, Beyond Tuesday Morning, the Redemption Series and Firstborn Series, and several other bestsellers, one of which was the basis for a CBS Movie-of-the-Week and Gideon's Gift, which is currently in production as a major theatrical release for Christmas 2007.
Karen lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, Don, and their six children, three of whom are adopted from Haiti.
About the Book:


Jack and Molly Campbell enjoyed an idyllic life (great house in a fancy neighborhood, high-paying job, and a beautiful little boy) in their small hometown outside Atlanta with their adopted 4-year-old, Joey. Then they receive the phone call that shatters their world: a social worker delivers the news that Joey's biological father has been released from prison and is ready to start life over with his son. (It's discovered that Joey's birth mother forged the signature of Joey's birth father, making it a fraudulent adoption.) When a judge rules that Joey must be returned to his father (a man who cannot separate love and violence), the Campbells, in a silent haze of grief and utter disbelief, watch their son pick a dandelion and blow the feathery seeds into the wind.Struggling with the dilemma of following the law, their hearts, and what they know to be morally right, the Campbells find that desperation leads to dangerous thoughts. What if they can devise a plan? Take Joey and simply disappear....LIKE DANDELION DUST.

Review by Mimi Pearson

Monday, October 16, 2006

America's Religion

No, I'm not a sports nut. In fact, this weekend I watched the first five innings of baseball I've watched in over two years. And those were spread over two days. Critter Robin's hubby commented that baseball is not a "real" sport. Of course, they live in Arkansas, where the combined total of that state's income probably wouldn't pay for one starting pitcher. Instead, they watch college football and play golf. I understand they even have one golf course with grass.

At any rate, I'm not one to argue. Professional and college sports, in general, bore me to tears. I think it's partially because, in the many compartments that make up my life, sports kept slipping farther and farther toward the bottom until it disappeared entirely. Hunting is way above football, and I don't have time for that anymore, so guess where that leaves the Detroit Lions? That's right--last place as usual.

More of my disdain for professional sports, though, lies in my own rebellion against the status quo of this country. The average American male knows more about the quarterback of his favorite team than he knows about his wife. We live in a society that is engrossed by 90% sports and 99% sex. Yes, I know that adds up to way over 100% but, thanks to Budweiser and professional wrestling, we've managed to overlap the two quite nicely.

If anyone thinks that I'm just a self-righteous Christian born to a Baptist deacon, forget it. The first thirty years of my life were spent pursuing the same lusts that I now rail against. If Hooters had been around when I was twenty I probably wouldn't have eaten anywhere else.

It's not so much a stretch that I can't seem to separate sports from America's sex fixation. It's a pretty short leap for a teenage boy to ogle a cheerleader's midriff to surfing the internet porn sites for the next ten years of his life. Right up until his first wife walks out on him.

I hadn't intended to go on a rant when I started this post. I really am happy for the Tigers and for Detroit, a city in desperate need of a bright spot on its gloomy horizon. I let my son watch some of the games with me this weekend and he got to see "the shot" that put the Tigers in the World Series. I hope he remembers that moment for the rest of his life, just as I remember guys like Kirk Gibson, Lance Parish, and Frank Tanana from the '84 Tigers and my father reflects on guys like Al Kaline, Willie Horton, and Norm Cash from the '68 team.

Unfortunately, our society has turned sports into a religion, and I will never allow my son to get to that point where he places the importance of a game over the One true God. Fifty-thousand people came to their feet at Comerica Park Saturday night over one man's home run. If Jesus himself walked out onto that ball field, performed miracles, and promised them all eternal life, most would have ignored Him, got up for another beer run, and returned once the game resumed. Welcome to post-Christian America.

I'll root for the Tigers for another week or two. But the Glory always goes to my Lord.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday Top 10

Today's Top 10 is a joint effort between myself and Rob Walker, world famous novelist and winner of the 1977 Chicago Disco Fever and Jalapeno Eating contest. So, we give you...

Top 10 Ways to Guarantee a Best Seller...

10. Write a novel about leaves in the wind that whisper poetry into the ears of all your characters and each must act on his or her poem. High literature.

9. Write a novel from the point of view of a Bonsai Tree. No one's ever done it. It might lack for action but it will be chock full of inner monologue.

8. Write a novel about a man killed in the prime of his life only to come back as a ghost to stalk his wife who'd been estranged from him even before he was a ghost. Call it the Stalking Spirit.

7. Write a memoir of having had your gall bladder removed and fill it with poignant moments, tearful asides, and dedicate it to the American family values crowd.

6. Ghost write a book for Pamela Anderson.

Ghost detectives being all the rage...

5. Bring back Allastair Ransom as a ghost detective in the 21st Century. (He's Rob's character from City for Ransom. Try to keep up.)

4. Just use the title “Maximum Bodycount” and you’re in.

3. Make up a horrible past for yourself, write your “biography,” get on Oprah, get busted for lying, sell even more books because of the scandal, and retire rich.

2. Write a novel about a ghost detective who appears on Oprah, only she busts him for lying. He wasn’t a detective at all, but some low-rent mystery writer who’s now just a low-rent ghost. But he’ll make millions in the scandal when all his books go back into print. Unfortunately, his estranged wife gets all of it because he’s dead and she runs off to Rio with her pool boy, Raul.

And, to put this thing to rest, the number one way to guarantee a bestseller...

1. Lose your bid for the presidancy and write about the Earth's doom. Don't worry that your degree is in law. Oprah will never catch on. But after you're killed when a glacier runs over your SUV, you can come back as a ghost presidential candidate, marry Pamela Anderson (since she's not real either), and tell everyone "I told you so."

I hope that wasn't as painful for you as it was for me. This is what happens when you allow ghost bloggers on your site.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

How to Write a Log Line

This is a site for screen writers, but, as you probably know, there's little difference these days in our methods. This article talks about the objective and subjective story lines, the key elements to any succesful novel or screenplay. The article also provides a nice list of "ingredients" for a good tag line. That means the one liner we're always searching for when we pitch to publishers. Check it out.

Toss your log-lines in the comments section. I'd love to hear what everyone comes up with.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Violette Between by Alison Strobel

It's that time of the week! Time to do a blog tour! This week's tour is Violette Between.

Between Here and the PAST,


a place of longing for what has been rather than hoping for what could be.


Alison Strobel graduated with a degree in elementary education, and in the summer of 2000 she moved from Chicago to southern California where she taught elementary school for three years. It was in Orange County that she met her husband, Daniel Morrow, and the story developed for her first novel, Worlds Collide.

Violette Between is a poinant story of a true artist. When the love of Violette's life, Saul suddenly died, she died too. Then she meets Christian, who also is morning the loss of a loved one.

As Violette and Christian begin to feel something that they both thought was impossible. Tragedy strikes again. Christian finds Violette on the floor of his waiting room, that she had been painting to look like a New York rooftop restaurant.

As Christian holds a vigil at her bedside, begging her to come back to him, Violette is in a coma, traveling to a place where she meets her beloved Saul. And she finds that she may not want to come back!

What would it be like to choose a place between the past and the present?

Violette Between is a powerful character study of a woman finally relinquishing the past to move on, only to be thrust into the quandry of reliving that life and needing to make a choice.

For Christians, this will definitely make you think about heaven and the consequences of eternal life.

"Delving into the underside of complicated relationships, Alison Strobel takes readers to unexpected places, but doesn't hesitate to deliver redemptiom when needed."
---Melody Carlson, author of Finding Alice

Monday, October 09, 2006

Crystal Blue

That's what I call days like the one we had yesterday. It's what makes Michigan in October the best place in the world to be. I know, Wisconsin and Ohio and the other northern states are probably beautiful this time of year, too, but they don't have one thing Michigan has--me.

It sounds like I'm a little full of myself, but that's not the case. You see, a place is only a chunk of geography until it's painted over with the years and events of our own lives. I'm sure, that if I dropped into Colorado in the midst of autumn, I'd be stunned with its beauty, but I'd know it wasn't mine. Somehow, the dry leaves of Minnesota wouldn't smell quite the same as the dry leaves of my Michigan. The sky wouldn't be quite the same shade of blue, a blue so deep that it hurts to look at it. The pitch of the geese would be slightly off. The cacophony of Starling chatter from the oak trees wouldn't have quite the same intensity.

Each year I vow to embrace the fall. This weekend I think I did a pretty good job of that. From yellow-jacket cider mills to an afternoon on my deck, watching the sky, listening to the starlings, and smelling the sweet scent of changing leaves. All of this combined with the knowledge that God has given me this as a mere shadow of what awaits us in eternity. That must be what makes Heaven different. To all of us, it will be home. There will be no strangers. The sky will be our perfect shade of blue.

I see four letter word starting with "S" in our forecast for later this week. It will surely not accumulate, but it's always a reminder that we have only a short while to breathe in all that is Michigan in October.

Wherever you call home, embrace the fall.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Quote of the Week

Some friends of ours who moved to California several years ago sent us an e-mail yesterday regarding their youngest son, Logan, a second grader.

Logan came home jabbering about their first day on the computers in the library. "I had my own computer," Logan said to his mother. "It even had my name on in. Except they spelled it wrong. They spelled it L-O-G-I-N."

Have a great weekend.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Stephen King on Writing

His novels definately aren't CBA material, but he's the master of popular fiction. I loved his book "On Writing." Here's a Washington Post article by him about the writing life.

"The only things that can teach writing are reading, writing and the semi-domestication of one's muse. These are all activities one must pursue alone."
--Stephen King

Words to live by.

Friday Top 10

Top 10 Character Names...

10. A one legged woman named Peg.

9. An airport security guard named Pat.

8. A car wash attendant named Buff.

7. A duck hunter named Bill.

6. A fisherman named Gil.

5. A weathergirl named Gail.

4. A beach lover named Sandy.

3. A witch named Wanda.

2. A rock climber named Cliff.

And the number one character name...

1. A crook named Robin.

Okay, it was the best I could do on short notice. I need more ideas!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Christmas Shopping for your Writer

These are some cool writer gifts! Someone must be sure Robin has the "Caution: Mystery Writer" coffee mug at "The Write Thing."

Lots more where those came from!
To my darling wife: A "Mystery Writers Have a Clue" mug would be nice. Oh, and maybe a "You are so not going into my book" t-shirt!
Get 'em here...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

It is time for another Christian Fiction Blog Alliance Tour! This week's feature author is GINGER GARRETT and her novel, Dark Hour!

Guess what? The publicists for Ginger have agreed to a book contest for each CFBA member's blog post on Dark Hour! It is up to the member on how they judge which commenter wins the free, comment and you might become a winner! Here's how I'l l do it. Whoever gives me the best topic for a Top 10 list gets the book. I'll do anything to avoid work!

About the author:
Ginger Garrett is an acclaimed novelist and expert in ancient women's history.Her first novel, Chosen, was recognized as one of the best five novels of the year by the Christian publishing industry. Ginger enjoys a diverse reader base and creates conversation between cultures.

In addition to her 2006 and 2007 novels about the most evil women in biblical history, she will release Beauty Secrets of the Bible (published by Thomas Nelson) in Summer 2007.
Ginger Garrett's Dark Hour delves into the biblical account of Jezebel's daughter and her attempt to end the line of David.

And now, a special Q&A with Ginger Garrett:

1.) First, tell us a bit about Dark Hour.

I was praying about what book to write after Chosen, and accidentally left my open Bible on the kitchen table. (A dangerous thing, since in my house, small children and large dogs routinely scavenge with dirty hands and noses for snacks!) As I walked past it, I saw a caption about someone named Athaliah and a mass murder. I stopped cold. I knew it was my story.
Athaliah was the daughter of Jezebel--a real woman in history--who tried to destroy all the descendents of King David in a massacre. God made a promise that a descendent of King David would always sit on the throne, and one day a Messiah would come from this line. If Athaliah succeeded, she would break the promise between God and the people, and destroy all hope for a Messiah.One woman, her step-daughter, Jehoshebeth, defied her. She stole a baby during the massacre and hid him. Between them, the two women literally fought for the fate of the world.

2.) What drew you to write biblical fiction?

The similarities between the lives of ancient women and our lives. We get distracted by their "packaging," the way they dressed and lived, but at heart, our stories are parallel.
3.) How much time is spent researching the novel versus writing the novel?

Equal amounts, and I don't stop researching while I write. I have a historical expert, probably the best in the world in his field, review the manuscript and point out errors. The tough part is deciding when to ignore his advice. He pointed out that most everyone rode donkeys if they weren't in the military, but a key scene in the novel involves riding a horse to the rescue. It would have been anti-climatic to charge in on a donkey! :) So I ignored his advice on that one.

4.) Dark Hour takes its reader deep into the heart of palace intrigue and betrayals. Were parts of this book difficult to write?

I left out much of the darkest material I uncovered in research. It was important to show how violent and treacherous these times and this woman (Athaliah) could be, but I tried to be cautious about how to do it. The story was so powerful and hopeful--how one woman's courage in the face of evil saved the world--but the evil was depressing. I tried to move quickly past it. I wanted balance. Our heroine suffers and some wounds are not completely healed in her lifetime. That's true for us, too.

5.) What would modern readers find surprising about ancient women?

They had a powerful sense of the community of women. They also wore make-up: blush, glitter eyeshadow, lipstick, powder, and perfume! They drank beer with straws, and enjoyed "Fritos": ground grains, fried and salted. Many of our foods are the same today, but they loved to serve pate made from dried locusts, finely ground. Ugh!

Monday, October 02, 2006

World's Worst Hunter

There was a time when October 1st rated up there with Christmas morning for me. That’s because 10/1 is the opening day of archery deer season in Michigan. Allow me to offer up a disclaimer before I continue: I am the world’s worst hunter. Bambi is quite safe while I’m in the woods, thank you. More serious hunters often question why I continue to try.

Why continue to try?

Because if I didn’t try, I never would have seen that bald eagle land on a branch so close that I could hear him ruffle his feathers. I’d never know that mice are quite active all day long as they scurry through dry leaves in search of some hunter’s pile of corn that’s supposed to be deer bait. I’d never know that feeling to the toes is lost at twenty-three degrees and four hours in a tree stand. (I feel a top ten list coming on, don’t you?). I’d never know that it takes approximately thirty-seven minutes for a box turtle to cover fifty yards of open ground. I’d never know that a kingfisher looks like a dark gray bomb as it hurtles toward the water at speed that should surely break its neck.

Sure, I could do it with a camera, but the chances of actually outsmarting an animal and providing meat for the table adds a bit to the drama. Never mind that a pound of venison costs the average hunter $134.17.

This Saturday found me Up North. That’s a place in Michigan, though you won’t find it called that on a map. Up North varies slightly for each person. This year it was the Rifle River Recreation Area. Saturday also found me watching four wood ducks paddling around in front of me. The hens have an interesting whistle. They don’t quack (did you know that, in mallards, only the hen quacks?), but they emit this soulful sort of whistle that seems to work quite well in attracting other wood ducks to the buffet. After watching them for a while, it occurred to me that I was duck hunting. I decided it was more fun to watch. That was until other ducks started flying in. A man with a gun can’t resist a flying target. I missed.

Besides, if I gave up hunting just because I always end up eating Purdue chicken all winter, I’d have to give up a lot of things. Writing, for starters. If I base my success on publication, I’d have a short career. Oh, but I can do better than that. How about Christianity? I totally suck at it. However, since Paul said the same thing (a slight paraphrase on my part), I think I’ll continue to push on toward the prize.

I have a point somewhere in here. I think that success is always something to strive for, but it’s only a way to measure our growth. I can’t imagine all that I would have missed had I quit hunting years ago. I can’t imagine what I’d miss if I suddenly deciding writing wasn’t worth it. And I don’t want to imagine what I’d lose if I turned my back on my faith simply because it was too hard in this world and I lose my direction on occasion.

I don’t get excited over October 1st anymore, although it is still my favorite time of year. As you get closer to God, you get better at appreciating everything that lies at the edge of whatever it is you think is important. The deer may or may not show themselves on October 1st, but the morning sun on the dew will always be there. Remember to give Him the praise this week. He will never give up on you.