Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Puff does Hallowe'en

Here is the spooky Puff cat photo for Hallowe'en. Okay, actually it was only sunset but I thought he made a cool silhouette when I'd bribed him out along the limb. Posted by Picasa

DKA Tour, Day 2

Dragons, Knights, and Angels Ezine is a paying market. True, they aren't able to pay professional rates, but they are committed to the long haul in the Christian spec fic market, having been around since 1999. If you have a look around the site and appreciate what they're doing, consider a donation through their secure donation link. They accept paypal and credit cards.

Today DKA announced the winners of their 2006 Poetry Contest. Winning poems will be doled out over the next several monthly issues, but today you can read the winners' list and some of the great short stories posted in the current issue.

I'm really curious about something (question open to every reader, whether a DKA fan or not)--how much benefit do you think writing short stories may have on a potential novelist's career? The story forms are very different. The ideas and plot bunnies they spring from are different as well, at least in complexity. Is an agent or a publisher going to say, "I read Valerie Comer's great short story in DKA magazine (or another) and therefore I believe this novel query on my desk must also be above average?"

Also, Mirtika who is one of the editors at DKA (and who comments here from time to time) has created her own contest to run Monday-Wednesday this week during the DKA blog tour. I've stolen Mir's own words from her blog:
I'm offering a five-page story/one-page poem critique to one contest winner for this blog tour. If you have a novel or a short story or a short poem that you'd like critted by The Mir--make sure you can TAKE criticism before entering--then just leave a comment here or at one of the contest-participating blogs (such as Speculative Faith, see above) with a simple, "I want to enter the crit contest."

I will pick a name at random from the entries from this and the other contest-participating tour blogs.

This is a participating blog, so if you're up for trying out, either say so in my comments or pop over to Mir's blog and sign up there.

I've posted over at her place. I'm curious what she thinks of the first five pages of Marks of Repentance, at least once I've had a chance to get rolling on the next round of revisions. She says she doesn't pull any punches with her crits, so don't ask for a crit if you can't take the heat.

Can I take the heat? Enquiring minds want to know.

See yesterday's post for a list of other participating blogs.

Monday, October 30, 2006

CSFF Blog Tour -- Dragons, Knights and Angels

Every now and again I wish I wrote short stories. Not enough to actually sit down and do the writing, you understand, but in a rather vague 'wouldn't it be nice' way. Never have short stories beckoned me so much as when I discovered Dragons, Knights, and Angels Ezine. Have a look around! We'll talk about it a bit more tomorrow.

Here's the list of who is buzzing this month's Christian science fiction and fantasy topic:

Jim Black
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Frank Creed
Chris Deanne
Kameron M. Franklin
Beth Goddard
Todd Michael Greene
Leathel Grody
Karen Hancock
Elliot Hanowski
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Karen and at Karen¹s myspace
Oliver King
Tina Kulesa
Lost Genre Guild
Kevin Lucia
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Caleb Newell
John Otte
Cheryl Russel
Mirtika Schultz
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith

Oh, honey bunches of love...

Sweetums darling? Would you mind ever so much dropping a wee tiny hint next time you decide to steal the ice scraper out of my truck in the middle of a snowstorm, leaving me...er...stuck? With an inch thick layer of ice on the windshield and nothing with which to remove it? It's not that I begrudge you the scraper. I know you have ice and snow in that far off land where you work and park your car in a garage, but I could have borrowed the neighbor's scraper last night while they were still awake rather than waking the poor retired folk up at the crack of dawn today. Just a thought for future reference, honey pumpkin muffin...

Sunday, October 29, 2006

And...more Puff

More Puff Cat...though if I'd taken a picture of him today, there would be no leaves left. The wind and snow took the remaining ones down. Aargh. Not ready for winter. Posted by Picasa

Yes, indeedy. Today we are experiencing winter. Do we want it? Not particularly. The weather forecast gives us a warm and sunny week. Warm for the time of year, anyway. So hopefully that means this little flurry thingy will be gone tomorrow.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Blog Tour - The Election Day 3

In comments yesterday, Kevin Lucia offered that I could steal his review of The Election. Unfortunately, Kevin, I got a 404 Error trying to follow the link you posted and didn't fare any better going through your Blogger profile. So I had to keep hunting for a review to steal. And when I got going on the hunt, who did I find but Kevin Lucia! Enquiring minds want to know, Kev...are you everywhere???? He has an in-depth review; go on and read it if you want more detail than what follows here.

With no further ado (although ado is fun), here is a blurb about Jerome Teel's first novel, The Election.

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

Thursday, October 26, 2006

More Puff...

Here's another of the Puff Cat! Isn't he a sweetie? Posted by Picasa

Blog Tour - The Election Day 2

The Election is the book tour pick for this week.

This is the first book by Jerome Teel.

Jerome is a graduate of Union University and graduated cum laude from the University of Mississippi School of Law. He is a full-time attorney and is actively involved with his church, community, and coaching youth sports. This is his debut novel about faith and politics. He and his wife, Jennifer, reside in Tennessee with their three children where he is working on his next book.

Tomorrow I'll post a review which I shall shamelessly steal from someone else.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

About Blog Tours ...(and The Election)

I've received a few questions about the blog tours I participate in, how they're set up, what the purpose is, etcetera.

The Christian Fiction Blog Alliance was begun early in the summer of 2005. It was the brainchild of Tony Hines, who was looking for a way to promote current Christian novels, especially ones by unknown authors. Tony ran the show for about a year, but when his own first book, Waking Lazarus appeared on the shelves (and was duly promoted by the CFBA!) he was unable to take the time needed to continue the program. At that time Bonnie Calhoun took the helm and it has continued its rapid growth.

The purpose of the blog tours is to get people talking about specific books. We are to post about the novel on specific days and include specific links (usually the link to the novel at Amazon and to the author's website or blog). We have the links to the CFBA blogs and book reviews on our sidebars, and we are signed up at Technorati so that our blogging content is tracked. The CFBA has raised awareness of virtually ALL of the novels we've reviewed and promoted to become the most talked about novels on Technorati for at least several days running.

This is important in getting word out about new authors in particular. They have very few fans out there waiting in line to buy their novel the minute it is released. (Except their mothers, of course. And cousins. But I digress.) The sink-or-swim method for new books is brutal, but honestly, what else can publishers do? They can toss a lot (relatively a lot) of books out there and see what catches on or they can put out very few and spend the dollars promoting them like crazy. I think all of us hoping-to-be-published writers already figure the odds are stacked high against us. We'd rather take the chance of being discovered than not make it into a smaller cut. Getting a new book talked about--letting potential readers know it is available--is an important step. The book will still sink or swim on its own merit. If it sounds interesting to enough people, they'll buy it, and if it doesn't, they won't. It's very simple, but at least the book now has a chance to catch attention.

We want to give books a chance. That's all.

Do you want to help give books a chance? It's easy to participate. Just go to Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and sign up. You will be asked to place the links on your sidebar. You will have the opportunity to look through the list of upcoming promotions and determine which of them you want to participate in. In many cases, free review copies of the novel are available ahead of time. Occasionally there is a publisher or author who feels unable to pay the postage other than within the USA, but location doesn't appear to be a huge deterrent. I have to admit it takes longer for books to get to my Canadian address, but they will usually show up.

Featured books are lined up for several months in advance. The publishers themselves are beginning to see strong results from the CFBA and are now approaching Bonnie and asking for books to be included. In a recent box from Harvest House Publishers, I received one book that I had requested (from the upcoming list) along with three books that had not been requested. I presume this was in hopes that I would read, enjoy, and post. (These posts are upcoming.)

You are asked to post at least once in the three days of each tour, and there is a tour nearly every week. (We're encouraged to post each day of the tour.) The minimum is to post the specified links. If you read the book and liked it, please say so. If you didn't like it, you may say so (politely). You may say why. You're asked not to give away the ending. You may post a provided review. You are encouraged to interview the author directly in many cases, if you have questions. There's quite a lot of variation available to you if you wish.

Anyone can apply. The CFBA reserves the right to deny acceptance if they feel other content on your blog is inappropriate. They're not the blog police, but if every OTHER post is knocking Christianity or Christian books, why would they want to link you? :P

What to do with all the books? You may certainly keep them! Or you may loan them out. Donate them to your church library, your public library, a women's shelter, a hospital, a...whatever you can think of. You can use them for giveaways on your blog. They're yours. (Sometimes they're even signed by the authors!)

So most of the books that CFBA covers are contemporary Christian novels. There are romances, chick-lits, suspense, adventure...you name it. But you know that my personal and deepest love is for speculative fiction--fantasy and science fiction.

I belong to the Christian Science Fiction Fantasy Blog Tours as well. We are also looking for new members for this group with a more specific focus. Rebecca Miller is the ringleader for this group. The basic idea is the same as for the CFBA.

But let's face it. There aren't nearly as many new novels out in this smaller playing field. We have a monthly list instead of a weekly list. Some of the monthly features are websites instead of novels. But there is an impressive list of upcoming novels as well--the list is made up through May, and I'm thrilled and can hardly wait for every single one of these to hit my mailbox.

If you're interested in either one of these tours--or both--follow the links and sign up. If you've got questions, feel free to post them in comments or to email me. I'll see to it that Bonnie and Rebecca get them if they're not something I can answer.

Oh, and for the record, I haven't read the book that this week's tour is all about: It's called The Election by CFBA tour's own Jerome Teel. I'll find some info about it and post it up tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Puff the Magic Kitty!

The Puff Cat is the most affectionate tomcat I've ever known. Last spring he was a royal nuisance when I raked the yard; you may recall a photo of him reclining in the rakings. Now that he's a mature 14 months, he's still happy for snuggles but isn't quite as demanding. When I did yard work on the weekend, he spent much time up the nearest tree. Maybe he was trying to shake loose a few more leaves for me to rake, I'm not sure. At any rate, he was having photogenic moments and I got several good pics of him in his leafy perch. Here's one:

Puff the Magic Kitty Posted by Picasa

Autumn is Beautiful in my part of the world!


We went for a drive through the mountains on Sunday afternoon and stopped for a little scramble up an old quarry site. The view was magnificent. You can just make out the highway down below. What a glorious day! Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 22, 2006

My own artist!

The Girl Who Cried Squid Posted by Picasa

My talented daughter put together this inspiring portrait of Krin with her kitten fairies blissfully unaware of the giant squid lurking in the background. This is going to be right beside my computer all through Nano! I'll also play with it for a signature banner.

Every now and again I have to brag about Hanna. Okay, fairly regularly! Check out her website for more samples of her artwork. Maybe one day she'll be YOUR cover artist. I hope she'll be mine.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Fairies and Mermaids and Squid...oh my!

I hope the difficulty I'm having pulling this outline together has something to do with the fact that I'm trying to view things from all sides and not plot the easiest way out for Krin.

More of the Murky Middle is filled in, but there is still a gaping hole between scene 27 and the landing point for the ending scenes (estimated at about a 10 scene gap still).

The vampire squid from hell showed back up. They were just way too cool to not put in. They are only about six inches long, and their arms are joined by webbing (think bats). The coolest thing though is that they have photophores all over their bodies...well, go look for yourself!

In other news, I've been researching how to teach children rhythm. This has become very important in Krin's little world, because she does not have a sense of rhythm and will not attain one. (This is the one area where Krin is like me. I can't clap anything but the most basic beat without getting confused!) So there have been some interesting detours on the path to getting a working outline.

Yes, there are fairies and mermaids as well. Why not?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Let's see

At the moment, Krin's story (aka Squid) has a nine scene opening sequence and an eleven scene closing set. With a couple half-blank spaces. And a very empty looking middle. This is a strange situation I find myself in. I usually have lots of middle and only vague ideas how the whole thing wraps up. So what I want to know is, when I actually find the MIDDLE of this story, will my ending still fit?

I mean, yeah...I have some vague ideas what happens in that murky fog-land of the Middle. But they aren't snap-shots, let alone movie clips. They're like peering into a smoke-screen. There are some vague shadows and occasional glimpses of movement. I'm hoping to see with a little more clarity soon. Tomorrow would be good.

Blog Tour - Like Dandelion Dust

This week's book tour is for Like Dandelion Dust by well-known Christian author Karen Kingsbury.

Karen says Like Dandelion Dust is:
The compelling story of a Florida couple forced to give their adopted son back to his birth parents five years after his adoption. Now the couple is considering the unthinkable: taking their son out of the country and disappearing like dandelion dust.

If this sounds like your kind of novel (or you're already a Karen Kingsbury fan), check it out!

Monday, October 16, 2006

The zoo!

It turns out that many of the best photos were taken by my daughter, so we'll all have to keep an eye on her blog for the next day or two to see when she blogs up her photos!

I couldn't help wondering if the Giant Squid was after these guys. On second reflection, it turned out to be the happy hippo, whose photo was on Hanna's camera and somehow didn't make it onto the computer I'm blogging from today. Posted by Picasa

We enjoyed the butterfly pavilion, as you'll also see from the new header and layout! Posted by Picasa

The red pandas came out to entertain us. Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 13, 2006

We're going to the zoo...

Somehow this reminds me of the Raffi song from when my kids were little: We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo; how about you, you, you... It's from Singable Songs for the Very Young

Calgary Zoo is the plan for Saturday with our daughter and son-in-law. You guys are in luck because I found the cord for my camera so I can take pictures AND offload them too. Wow. Technology is great stuff when you don't lose bits of it.

Book Tour -- Violette Between Day 3

Seems to me like I could at least have posted a photo of the book cover, which is suffidiently artsy for the artist that the main character is!

And here is a photo of the author, Alison Strobel.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Writer's Warning Signs

Go have a look at these great Warning Signs. They're funny, they're print-out-able--and they're just in time for Nano. You still here? Go look!

Book Tour - Violette Between Day 2

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 poignant 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 mourning 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?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

aka Krin and the Giant Squid

Isn't it interesting how ideas floating around in the subconscious of our netherland bump into each other, hang on, and attract more? Yeah, I'm talking about my nano novel which is starting to take some shape. Which is good, because we start writing in just twenty days.

So, my mom gets Reader's Digest and passes along old copies to me once in awhile. Currently I'm working through 2005 (Canadian editions) and ran across an article entitled Giant Squid Hunter by David Grann in the May issue. One of the things Grann says is:
Peter Benchley, in his thriller Beast, described a squuid that "killed without need, as if Nature, in a fit of perverse malevolence, had programmed it to that end."

And I thought, what if it isn't nature programming it, but someone else? And so it leapt onto Krin's bandwagon waving all eight arms (over eighteen feet long each) and two tentacles (which are considerably longer). It is now the visible weapon of the enemy bad dudes.

I've lost track of which website I found this on:
Vampyroteuthis infernalis (meaning 'the vampire squid from hell') grows to no more than about 20cm long and therefore probably feeds on fairly small animals in the mesopelagic zone (400-1,000m deep) where it lives.

Now, I'm not sure I'm going to use a vampire squid from hell, but you never know. It sounds cool enough to be in a fantasy novel I'm thinking!

I've come a long way from the dragons that inhabited the original idea for Krin's idea. This one is WAAAAY cooler and I'm getting stoked to write it.

Book Tour - Violette Between

This week's fiction pick is Violette Between. My understanding is that this is the second book that Alison Strobel has had published. Her first book is called Worlds Collide.

Violette Between is a uniquely written novel about love between a couple whose previous spouses have both died. The difficulty of letting go plays an important part. I enjoyed the contrast between Violette, a passionate artist, and Christian, a psychologist. Alison Strobel used an interesting blend of first person flashbacks for much of Violette's story and third person present time for Christian's. It was a device I hadn't seen before and it was effective. The outcome of the story was sufficiently in doubt throughout the novel--not a classic romance at all.

If you think you would enjoy a uniquely literary novel of love, give Violette Between a try! Alison Strobel is a member of our Blog Alliance and as such I'd like to offer her personal congrats on this great book.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

On Nano prep...

So my life right now is all about the YA chicklit fantasy which now has a tentative and somewhat cheesy title, The Girl Who Called Squid. The one sentence synopsis is: Skeptical villagers dismiss imaginative acolyte's warnings until danger looms. Not only have I thrown out pretty much everything I worldbuilt in August when the idea first ambushed me (and the outline I made then which was too predictable and over-done), I may have just tossed out the secondary characters that waltzed through my life last week. I'm quite thankful that the story spark that attacked with a vengeance was the opening scene, so it means the story can change quite a lot and still have the original spark.

I'm eyeing the calendar which says I've got three weeks to get this all in place, though I scared the heck out of both me and Maripat today when I looked wrong and thought it was two weeks. Sigh.

The secondary characters don't really fit because Krin is younger than I thought she was and because her problems are of a slightly different nature. I'll save them, though. They may come in handy on some other project.

In my panic to figure out what story really wants to be told here, I'm giving Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake method of plotting novels a try. Previously I haven't managed to align my ideas to Randy's method and I'm not sure I'm going to make it all the way through the Snowflake this time either. Still, so far so good. Nailing down that one sentence is, in itself, a huge milestone.

The problem with Jhonal (from the 2yn Puppet Prince) is that he isn't demanding enough to get his story told. He's going to have to smarten up sooner or later or keep drifting in nether land. He's too easy going. Come to think of it, that may be a problem for him in the story, too. Needs to act more instead of reacting.


No, Jhonal. You had your chance. Now you have to go away and wait your turn. Shoo.

Dark Hour Giveaway

And the winner is...Maripat. Maripat, if you'll email me your snail mail address I'll see to it that Harvest House publishing gets a copy of Dark Hour out to you soon. I hope you enjoy it!

I haven't read the story yet, but it sounded cool to me as well so I followed the blog tour around, starting at Ginger Garrett's website and submitted my name at other peoples' give-aways. So I won one as well . I thought you guys would hassle me if I accidentally won the draw at my own blog. :P

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Enquiring minds want to know...

Okay, Katya asked the other day if I'm doing Nano this year. But of course. I've even had a plan for it for most of the past year. I started out the year doing the 2 year novel (2yn) class at Forward Motion with the full intention of writing this novel, Puppet Prince, during November--or at least getting a good start on it. I wound up letting many of the assignments slide because I was having too hard a time getting into that headspace while I was revising other novels. I *knew* I'd just need to catch up in October so that I'd be ready to fly.

Hello. It's October.

Meanwhile in August I was ambushed by a Christian YA fantasy chick-lit. There were a few things that didn't quite gel in the original idea. Dragons are somewhat overdone, for instance. Vast parts of the idea seemed cliched. And yet there were other bits that stuck in my mind, but I couldn't find the unique story they wanted to connect to. It's been playing quietly in the back of my mind for a couple months now, and I thought it would keep doing that for the foreseeable future.

Wrong again.

NOW it wants to come out and play. Sigh. So which one am I writing for Nano? Neither one is fully fleshed out. Both have solid foundations with rickety ideas held together with safety pins and rubber bands on top. One bump and over it goes. I guess I'll be running with whichever one seems to take best to a hammer and nails.

This is driving me crazy.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Book Tour - Dark Hour

I've mentioned before that the CBA publishers are getting on board with the Book Blog Tours that have been happening in the past year that I keep inflicting on you, my loyal readers. You are reading this, aren't you? You are loyal, aren't you?

Comment to this post and you will have an opportunity to WIN a copy of the Novel of the Week - Dark Hour. The author, Ginger Garrett, is considered an expert in ancient women's history. This particular novel (not her first) delves into the biblical account of Jezebel's daughter and her attempt to end the line of David.

Garrett explains what drew her to this particular 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.

And from the back cover:
God promised the Serpent a war with Woman,
and was She ever ready.

One of the darkest and bloodiest stories of all time comes not from a medieval battlefield, but from inside one of the most opulent palaces ever built. The strategies come not from men eager to extend their influence, but from women bent on exercising their wit and prowess in a kingdom not their own. The only rule is that there are no rules. Treason and murder are fair game, marriage is meaningless, children are the enemy, and the days of the house of David are numbered. Unless one woman can find the strength to defeat them all.

Please comment today! My understanding is that the publisher, Navpress, will allow each participating blog ONE WINNER! And it could be you...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Crit came home

I've received back my second (of three) critiques on Marks of Repentance and spent most of yesterday skimming through the comments.

This is the third novel I've had out for critique in the past several years, and one of those went out twice. I look at the two crits I have here and I actually can't wait to start back into this novel, though I WILL wait until after I've finished revising Quest to be Queen. That's a new feeling for me. Previous crits made me despair. It wasn't the fault of the critiquer. It was the fault of the novel...and the fact that now that I could see the issues with it, I couldn't figure out how to fix them. The job became totally overwhelming and paralyzed me.

So is this story that much stronger? Or am I mature enough as a writer to accept the analysis in the spirit in which it was meant? Sure, it needs work. But instead of my brain freezing over at the thought of it, it's haring off in ten different directions seeking solutions.

First I finish revising Quest while learning to multi-task so that I can write Puppet Prince in the same time frame. Then I can bring my mind back to the lands of Khairdazh and Nuomor and the characters I love so much.

I guess that means I'd better get revising!