Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Today, we converse with Linda Gilmore, a writer and editor who hails from Kansas. She blogs regularly at Musings from the Windowsill, is a member of FIRST, and has had several short stories published online:

Infuze Magazine:
"Making Up for Lost Time"
"Confessions of A Christian Mom"
"In Transit"
"Long Way Home"

Flashing in the Gutters:
"Thy Brother's Life"

Dragons, Knights and Angels:
"The Man Who Kept a Dragon in the Basement"

* * *

Attrocious. I do most of my writing on weekends since I leave the house at 6:30 a.m. and don't get back until 6 p.m. (hour commute each way). Sometimes I write in the evenings, but not consistently. I'm more likely to sit on my bed and write in my notebook -- ideas, snippets of stuff, blog entries -- than sit at the computer.

The novel I wrote and the novel I started for NaNo have outlines -- rather loose outlines, but I do sort of map out where the story is going. For short stories, it's much more make-it-up-as-I-go. I've noticed with short stories that it's more of a discovery process, but I can usually see the story arc in my mind when I start. The stories that have flowed the best have been that way, at least.

That they want more about the characters. If I can write characters that people care about, I feel like I've done something right. Someone also told me recently that a story of mine he read really stayed with him. That was nice. I'd like to write the kind of stories and books that have some lasting quality, but I'm not going to delude myself into thinking I'm some kind of literary writer.

People have been very kind, for the most part -- even people who aren't related to me. An editor who rejected my novel gave me some helpful comments, so I don't think that counts negatively. But a story I wrote recently (not published) did get some negative comments from a relative -- I wasn't surprised, though, because it's a darker story than most of what I've written so far. The comment was to the effect that the story didn't show my Christian worldview enough. Like I said, it's a dark story, so I'm not surprised.

That varies a lot. I like to read both fiction and nonfiction, so sometimes I'll read a couple of novels as well as a nonfiction book in a month. I also read a lot of magazine articles -- I like good journalism, so I read my Atlantic from cover to cover every month, as well as other articles I print out. My reading really goes in spurts, though.

I think the promise of intriguing characters really grabs me. I like mysteries, and I used to read a lot of them, but I read less now -- I think because I've become disillusioned with a lot of series fiction. Authors I used to really enjoy now just seem to be cranking out their books with little attention to plot or character development or even good grammar. If I'm reading the dust jackets of books in the library, the ones that grab me usually have a combination of interesting characters and original story line.

Recent reads I enjoyed a lot:
Bad Ground by Dale Cramer
Waking Lazarus by T.L. Hines
Deliver Us from Evelyn by some guy named Chris Well. :)

Quit daydreaming and start writing. Don't think you're too old. I was 40 (or thereabouts) when I started writing my novel. I worked on it, off and on, for four or five years, but once I finished it, I felt such a sense of accomplishment. I'll probably never earn a living as a writer, but I'm so glad I sat down and started getting my ideas on paper. The more I write, more ideas I have, too. It's fun. And God seems to be opening doors for me to write more, so that's an affirmation of the gift.

That I probably know more about my story than I've put on paper. And that writing is a lot of work. And that getting published is a long-shot.

Boy, I've found other writers to be really encouraging. I probably haven't been doing this long enough to be seriously misunderstood. My observation of the "edgy" wars, though, has convinced me that we need to be mindful of how we express ourselves to each other. And we don't need to pass judgment on someone else because their writing looks different from ours.

I have no experience in this. I've been learning a lot from what you do and from Tony Hines' approach to marketing. If ever I see a book with my name on it in print, I know I've got at least two people whose brains I can pick for ideas.

I haven't. I've thought about joining ACFW, but haven't actually sent a check yet. I have some critique partners and a few willing readers -- but nothing formal. But I have learned a lot from hanging around Faith in Fiction, The Master's Artist, your blog, Gina Holmes' Novel Journey, and J. Mark Bertrand's blogs (to name a few).

I think it probably depends on what you want from a professional organization. I belong to a professional organization for extension communicators (ACE, which stands for The Association for Communication Excellence in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Family and Human Sciences. The name has gotten longer over the years!) and I benefit from the listserves and professional conferences. And the annual conference is a good opportunity to talk to other people who have jobs like mine.

I think a person should look for the same benefit from any professional organization -- opportunities to learn and grow, as well as connect with people who are doing what you're doing. If you're looking for a writer's organization, it's probably a good idea to talk to people who belong to the ones you're interested in and find out how useful they find those organizations. It seems there's a lot of good organizations out there -- it's just a matter of picking one (or more) that match your professional goals, interests and budget.

* * *

Many thanks to writer Linda Gilmore. Find her online at Musings from the Windowsill and click on the links at the top to read her short stories online.

Related links:
Q&A: BRANDT DODSON (Seventy Times Seven)
Q&A: ERIC WILSON (The Best of Evil)
Q&A: JON L. BREEN (Eye of God)
Q&A: MELANIE WELLS (The Soul Hunter)
Q&A: SUSAN MEISSNER (Widows & Orphans)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Janet Evanovich: not by-the-numbers ...

Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum)Found online at Bankrate.com:

Fame & Fortune: Author Janet Evanovich
No mystery to her investing: She's 'Plum' conservative
You may know best-selling author Janet Evanovich by the brightly colored numerals, from "One for the Money" to "Twelve Sharp," on her funny, funky Stephanie Plum mystery series, but the energetic Jersey girl's career has been anything but by-the-numbers ... [whole story here]

Related links:
Stephanie Plum: New Book, New Movie
Evanovich no more? Amazon vs. Macmillan
Detectives: Janet Evanovich: STEPHANIE PLUM
Publishing news: Finger Lickin' Fifteen author Janet Evanovich tops the list
Janet Evanovich brings Alex Barnaby to Dark Horse Comics

CFBA's Tour of The Election

Today is Day Three of CFBA's Tour of The Election. Visit their blog for reviews of The Election, and an interview with the author, Jermome Teel. Visit the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance headquarters for other reviews as well!


A Little Creative License
Amber Miller
Bonnie Writes
Forensics and Faith
Reviews Plus+
Camy Tang
Unseen Worlds
So Much Stuff I Can't Recall
Chris Well: Learning Curve
Christy's Book Blog
Daniel I. Weaver
Curmudgeon's Rant
On Considering Inconveniences
Soul Reflections
Christian Fiction
Kittens Come From Eggs
Writing: My Adventures In Words
Georgiana D
Refreshment In Refuge
The Well-Dressed Branch
Just a Little Something To Read Before Bills
Spoiled For The Ordinary
Christian Political Fiction
The Bedford Review
Words on a Page
Reading, Writing and What Else is There?
Christian Novels
A Disciple's Steps
Scrambled Dregs
Collected Miscellany
The Bookshelf Review
See Ya On The Net
Wren Reviews
Musings From The Windowsill
Author Intrusion
Rhythms of Grace
Mimi's Pixie Corner
gritty and bright
Just A Minute
Illuminating Fiction
A Christian Worldview of Fiction
Booktalk & more...
Sean Slagle
Intertextual Me
Susan May Warren
Never Ceese - A Spiritual Fantasy
Scraps of Me
It's Real Life
Cookie Mix
In My Little World
The Savvy Christian Writer
Crazy about Coffee
Writes in His Sleep
Sword and Pen
the law, books, and life
books, movies and chinese food
Projecting A
A Frank Review
Straitjacket Chillers
Relz Reviewz
Book Splurge
Fiction Fanatics Only
Christian Mystery Writers
Peek a boo ICU
On The Write Path
Edgy Inspirational Author
Rachel Hauck
Inspire Me
Michelle's Great Blogs
Hijinks From The Heartland
Ask Andrea

The Election can be purchased at Amazon.com.

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

New comic: "Que Es Amor?"

Here is an all-new story, with art by my lovely wife, Erica. A man goes to a god of Roman myth demanding help—and learns something about the true nature of love ...

Related links:
You could be a winner!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

False advertising!

As amazing as it would have been to finally watch the famed MURDER SHE WROTE/MAGNUM P.I. crossover as it originally aired -- and, as the packaging would lead you to believe, should also appear in the box set for Murder She Wrote: The Complete Third Season -- they included the WRONG VERSION of the Magnum episode. When it was originally created, they shot the episode with two endings: The "to be continued" ending for the crossover, and then a self-contained ending for syndication purposes. The DVD packagers grabbed the wrong version! AAAARGH! This is an awfully expensive package for such a sloppy mistake.

Whither main titles?

Lately, with all the discussions of TV show main titles here and over at Lee Goldberg's blogs A Writer's Life and Main Title Heaven, several have noted the dearth of real-deal theme songs for TV shows anymore. In fact, Associated Press asks whether the practice is going away altogether:

TV themes, from "The Beverly Hillbillies" to "The Brady Bunch" to "Cheers" to "Friends," conjure up memories of cozy nights, childhood bliss and a universal nostalgia for bygone days. But, today, show themes are doing a fast fade as the networks crunch their programming budgets.

"It's a rarity today," TV historian Tim Brooks said of the catchy, tuneful opening. "It's kind of like the Broadway musical producing hit songs — it just doesn't do that anymore."

See the whole story here.

Related links:
Mystery TV Themes: MONK
Mystery TV Themes: IT TAKES A THIEF
Mystery TV Themes: SWAT

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Quest for Character

Novelist Stephen Bly has an intriguing idea for a campaign: The award-winning author of 100 books has so gotten into his newest character's life, that he’s caught up in the search to find Juanita, the girl of rodeo cowboy Hap Bowman's dreams. "An idiot obsession," Hap's roping partner, Laramie, chides. But Hap and Steve keep looking anyway.

And so does Bly’s family, friends and fans—he's listed her description on the home page of www.OneStepOvertheBorder.com: raven dark hair, dark eyes, has a petite birthmark the shape of a horse's head under her right ear. She lived in sight of the Rio Grande and spent time with 12-year-old Hap Bowman in Central Wyoming, summer of 1988 and is 31 years old now.

Bly's hoping to see "Have you seen my Juanita?" signs pop up everywhere—on websites and message boards, in waiting rooms and bulletin boards, on car bumpers and t-shirts, at rest stops and stuck to magnetic surfaces. "Maybe we really will find her," Bly says, "If so, she’ll be featured on our website for sure.'

One Step Over the Border is a romp, a road adventure. It's CowboyLit that has inspired a blog by Hap Bowman, a Juanita Sightings page, and an audio poetry reading. Bly's three sons are working on a video for the site and they've gotten the whole family involved in the production.

There's even a free "Have You Seen My Juanita?" Search Kit ready to send to those who email cowboy Hap at HapBowman@yahoo.com with their snailmail address.

Bly's no stranger to getting involved in his characters. In Paperback Writer, a distracted detective rides along with his author, serving as alter ego and companion in troubles on the road. "Life imitates art, they say," Bly muses. "I care so much for my characters I find it hard to let them go. But also my desire is for the reader to find their own real-life discoveries, to be encouraged in their own struggles, by the vicarious 'entering into' the quests of my fictional characters."

The story of Hap’s search to find his Juanita, in the book One Step Over the Border, releases June 2007, by Center Street/Hachette Book Group, USA. Pre-orders are now available through www.blybooks.com and soon will be via www.amazon.com or your favorite online bookstore.

Friday, October 13, 2006


Today and tomorrow, we talk with suspense novelist Brandt Dodson, author of Original Sin, Seventy Times Seven and the upcoming Root of All Evil (Harvest House).

It was during a creative writing course in college that a professor told Brandt,“You’re a good writer. With a little effort and work, you could be a very good writer.” That comment, and the support offered by a good teacher, set Brandt on a course that would eventually lead to the Colton Parker Mystery Series.

“I wanted Colton to be an ‘every man.' A decent guy who tries his best. He is flawed, and makes mistakes. But he learns from them and moves on. And, of course, he gets away with saying and doing things that the rest of us never could.”

* * *


WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ASPIRING WRITERS? Read, and then read some more. And then write, and write some more. Learn the craft, and learn what's already out there. There's no substitute for writing -- if you want to write.

WHAT DO YOU WISH NON-WRITERS UNDERSTOOD? That you don't get "rich" by writing. Too many people (and this probably includes a few writers) write for the wrong reason, or assume that others are writing for the wrong reason. I wrote for years when no money was coming in. I wrote, then (and still do) because it's enjoyable. Now that I have a growing audience -- all the better.

WHAT DO YOU WISH OTHER WRITERS UNDERSTOOD? That we are not in competition. It is unfortunate, but some of that attitude exists.

FOR THE WRITER WITH A NEW BOOK, WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER THE BEST THING TO PROMOTE IT? The internet. I'm not convinced as to what form that should take (whether blogging, posting, reviewing, e-publishing, etc.), but more people can be reached through the web than anywhere else.

However, that having been said, ALL publicizing is geared toward creating buzz. Word of mouth is the best form, and no amount of blogging, paid advertising, etc., can sell a book that people don't want. The best PR firm in the world, can't sell snow to Eskimos.

WOULD YOU RECOMMEND JOINING AN AUTHOR GUILD? I would. I have joined the Mystery Writers of America, and Private Eye Writers of America, and have recently been one (of two others) to create the Writer's Guild of Southern Indiana.

However, I think these groups should promote the craft of writing as well as the financial welfare of its authors. The organizations that I've joined, do just that.

WHEN CHOOSING FROM ALL THE ORGANIZATIONS AVAILABLE, WHAT TRAITS SHOULD A NOVELIST LOOK FOR? Integrity: Does this organization have a means to handle finances that makes them accountable? Do they have a board in place that is responsive to the membership?

Purpose/Mission: Why does this group exist? What does this group stand for? Do they seek to promote its member authors and the literature they write, to the betterment of society and the membership? Or do they exist as a way of promoting a few, with the help of the many.

Membership: Who's involved? Who sits on the board? Do they represent my views? My writing? Am I comfortable with their bylaws? Mission statement?

There are many, many writers groups/guilds/ and organizations to choose from. Be selective. Pick the few that are most representative of you. And then, participate. It's a cliché but true -- any organization is only as strong as its weakest link. Don't let that weak link be you.

* * *

Many thanks to author Brandt Dodson. Find him online at BrandtDodson.com.

Related link: Q&A: BRANDT DODSON, PT 1

More mystery and thriller novelists:
Q&A: ERIC WILSON (The Best of Evil)
Q&A: JON L. BREEN (Eye of God)
Q&A: MELANIE WELLS (The Soul Hunter)
Q&A: SUSAN MEISSNER (Widows & Orphans)
Q&A: SANDRA BROWN (Ricochet)


Worst. Themes. Ever.

In researching my new weekly salute to "Mystery TV Themes" (so far, we have highlighted "S.W.A.T." and "It Takes a Thief"), I have started to come across some truly awful stuff. For example, this original theme to "Magnum" is a mess. And why, oh, why did producer Glen Larson write this ridiculous theme for the "Six Million Dollar Man"?

(But it is cool to watch Steve Austin fight a robot.)

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Today and tomorrow, we talk with suspense novelist Brandt Dodson, author of Seventy Times Seven (Harvest House):

Lester Cheek had everything a man could want. A beautiful home, thriving business and money to burn. But he was alone -- very alone. Until he met Claudia. The attractive and effervescent Claudia was everything that Lester could hope for. But then, she mysteriously disappears and Colton Parker is hired to find her ...

A writer and a board-certified podiatrist specializing in peripheral nerve surgery, Dr. Dodson comes from a line of police officers spanning several generations.

* * *


WHAT ARE YOUR WRITING HABITS? I'm a Podiatrist with a busy practice, so my days will typically begin in the hospital at 6:30 am and end when I arrive home at 6 or 6:30 pm. On nights when I have a meeting, or surgery, it can go even longer. The result, is that most of my writing tends to come in small segments of time.

I'll write during lunch hours -- if I get one -- or in the morning if I don't have rounds. But as a rule, most of my writing is done in the evening. I tend to write fast, which is a blessing since I need to make the most of the time I have.

ARE YOU AN "OUTLINE" OR "MAKE IT UP AS YOU GO" WRITER? I'm definitely a "Make It Up As You Go" writer. I generally start with a premise ("a highly respected high school guidance counselor who has no enemies is found brutally murdered") and then go from there.

Sometimes I know how the book will end, and sometimes I don't. I figure that if I don't know the end of the mystery, then neither will the reader. I recently had the opportunity to serve on a panel at the Bouchercon with Sue Henry, who writes two mystery series that are set in Alaska. She's an excellent writer, and I was pleased to hear her say that she also doesn't outline -- and for the same reason.

WHAT IS THE BEST THING ANYONE SAID ABOUT YOUR BOOKS? A reader, writing a review on Amazon, said, "There is definitely a bit of (Raymond) Chandler in Dodson." Wow!

WHAT IS THE WORST THING ANYONE SAID ABOUT YOUR BOOKS? So far, I haven't had any bad things said. The reviews have been good, and the readers have responded well. Check with me later.

HOW MANY BOOKS DO YOU READ A MONTH? Depends on how many I'm writing. Right now, I write two a year, and read a lot more non-fiction (to study the craft) than I do novels. I generally read two or three books at a time. Right now I'm reading Lawrence Block's Hit List, Lee Child's One Shot and Eric Wilson's The Best of Evil.

AS A READER, WHAT MAKES A BOOK INTRIGUING TO YOU? (WHAT DOES A BOOK NEED FOR YOU TO PICK IT UP?) If it's a new writer (new to me -- one I've never read) the cover will get my attention. After that, I read the first paragraph. If it isn't about people, I put it down. I tend to subscribe to Mark Twain's notion that stories should never begin with weather. Meaning that people are interested in character. Dean Koontz starts his books this way, and so do I.

* * *

Come back tomorrow for the conclusion of our Q&A with Brandt Dodson. Find him online at BrandtDodson.com.

Related link: Q&A: BRANDT DODSON, PT 2

More mystery and thriller novelists:
Q&A: ERIC WILSON (The Best of Evil)
Q&A: JON L. BREEN (Eye of God)
Q&A: MELANIE WELLS (The Soul Hunter)
Q&A: SUSAN MEISSNER (Widows & Orphans)
Q&A: SANDRA BROWN (Ricochet)


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Mystery TV Themes: IT TAKES A THIEF

This entry has been moved to Crime TV:


More Mystery, Detective, and Cop TV Main Titles

You could be a winner!

In a couple of weeks, I'll be sending out the next issue of my quarterly newsletter, Well Read. In every issue, we run contests and give away stuff to random subscribers.

This time around, we have a drawing for CSI Case Files Volume One, a 300-page volume featuring the first three complete CSI comic book mini-series, written by the legendary Max Allan Collins (Dick Tracy, Road to Perdition), with art by Gabriel Rodriguez and Ashley Wood.

(Actually, we are going to have three or four different drawings for this issue ... and eligible subscribers are welcome to enter ALL OF THEM.)

Every issue also includes updates regarding my fiction and my novels, such as my current hit laugh-out-loud crime thriller, Deliver Us From Evelyn, plus news of my upcoming 2007 novel.

To become eligible for the drawing, sign up for Well Read today!

(Void where prohibited by law.)

P.S. -- Offer valid worldwide, where applicable. (i.e., Anywhere to which I am able to mail things.)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

My interview at TitleTrakk

New at TitleTrakk:

New in Books

Chris Well

Chris Well Interview

"The Christian market as we know it is changing -- but the label 'Christian fiction' still carries a lot of unfair expectations."

Read the full interview with crime writer Chris Well where he talks about his love for comics, how he came up with the idea for his Kansas City Blues series, and the future of Christian fiction.

In the Reading Room:
The Shadow Within by by Karen Hancock
Double Vision by Randy Ingermanson

Book Reviews:
Stranded by Lorena McCourtney
Violette Between by Alison Strobel

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Crime comics: CRIMINAL

In comics stores today, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips reunite for the new crime comic Criminal (Icon). To mark the debut, Comic Book Resources offers interviews with Brubaker (writer) and Phillips (artist) .

On his site, Brubaker (Captain America, Daredevil) says Criminal will tread the line between comics like Fell and Sin City and TV series like The Sopranos, Thief and The Shield. "I wanted to write a book that explored the clichés of the crime genre and turned them inside out. I wanted to have characters totally unlike the ones you're used to seeing in crime stories."

Related links:
10-4: 75 years of DICK TRACY
CSI: Dying in the Gutters


Today , we wrap up our dialogue with novelist Eric Wilson, author of The Best of Evil (WaterBrook Press), the first book in the Aramis Black series. Eric and his wife, Carolyn Rose, live with their two daughters in Nashville, Tennessee. The author of Dark to Mortal Eyes and Expiration Date, Eric has traveled in numerous countries, feeding his love of the outdoors and his need to explore.

* * *


WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ASPIRING WRITERS? Don't do it for the money. (Good luck with that.) Don't do it for the fame. (You'll never be recognized on the street, or be a household name.) Do it because you love to write and you are passionate about telling a particular story. Learn the craft of fiction through reading novels and how-to books. Do all to the glory of God, then have a blast with it.

WHAT DO YOU WISH NON-WRITERS UNDERSTOOD? Yes, I've heard of Oprah's book club, and no, I'm not the only novelist who has tried to get her attention. I appreciate that others want the best for writers, but there are reasons that publicists and marketers get paid to do what they do.

WHAT DO YOU WISH OTHER WRITERS UNDERSTOOD? I love to promote other writers -- through reviews, endorsements, blogs -- because I know how discouraging things can be. I wish we could all be more willing to encourage each other through frustrating times, rather than buying into the idea that we must put on the facades of being successful (since most of us aren't).

FOR THE WRITER WITH A NEW BOOK, WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER THE BEST THING TO PROMOTE IT? If anyone figures that out, please tell me. I've tried using emails, a web site, blogs, postcards, book-signings, contests and giveaways, etc. I am thinking of faking my own kidnapping, for the sake of national publicity. Still working out the details.

WOULD YOU RECOMMEND JOINING AN AUTHOR GUILD? I think other authors can be a great encouragement (as I've discovered in a small group call Sta Akra).I think you must be careful, though, to find a balance of honesty and positive feedback. Frustrated, unpublished authors sometimes slip into these things and shoot poisoned barbs at everyone within reach. Small is better, in my experience.

WHEN CHOOSING FROM ALL THE ORGANIZATIONS AVAILABLE, WHAT TRAITS SHOULD A NOVELIST LOOK FOR? Boy, you're asking the wrong person. I spend most of my time focused on writing and reading, with very little energy put into such organizations. Maybe one day, when my sales are such that I don't have to work a job while also writing, I'll have time for these sort of things. At present, I'm more concerned with being a good husband and father -- because those will still be there, whether my career ever gets off the ground or not.

* * *

Wednesday: Eric Wilson at Davis-Kidd

Many thanks to our guest, Eric Wilson. Find him online at WilsonWriter.com, and follow his blog at Amazon.com.

Related link: Q&A: ERIC WILSON, PT 1

More mystery and thriller novelists:
Q&A: JON L. BREEN (Eye of God)
Q&A: MELANIE WELLS (The Soul Hunter)
Q&A: ALTON GANSKY (Director's Cut)
Q&A: WANDA DYSON (Abduction)
Q&A: SANDRA BROWN (Ricochet)


10-4: 75 years of DICK TRACY

Seventy-five years ago today, cartoonist Chester Gould invaded the world of newspaper comic strips with his tough-as-nails crimestopper Dick Tracy. The series—which has over the decades spawned films, TV shows, cartoons and comic books—is still going strong. Find the strip online at ComicsPage and at goComics. You can also visit the Chester Gould-Dick Tracy Museum in Woodstock, Ill., at ChesterGould.org.

Gasoline Alley is celebrating the anniversary with a Dick Tracy crossover that started here.

IDW Publishing is collecting the complete Dick Tracy in a series of deluxe hardcovers—the first volume is available now. Details here.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


Today and tomorrow, we talk with novelist Eric Wilson, author of Dark to Mortal Eyes and Expiration Date. His latest thriller is The Best of Evil (WaterBrook Press), an Aramis Black mystery:

The tattoos on his arms still reading “Live by the Sword” and “Die by the Sword,” Aramis Black is ready for a fresh start. Determined to set aside his violent tendencies, he opens an espresso shop in Nashville and begins to put his childhood memories behind him. The past isn’t finished with him, though. One ordinary day at the shop, a man is shot before his eyes, speaking dying words to Aramis that are all too familiar.

Aramis realizes that his path to freedom will demand forgiveness–forgiveness from God and forgiveness of others. Along the way, he must uncover the conspiracy behind a centuries-old mystery and the shocking truth of his mother’s death. The question remains: Will Aramis be able to conquer his past, or will evil get the best of him?

* * *


WHAT ARE YOUR WRITING HABITS? Habits are a good thing. I ignore the phone, put on headphones (usually with loud hard-rock music), and face the keyboard with grim determination. I tease the words along, then eventually I feel the passion start heating up. My inspiration comes during the act of writing.

ARE YOU AN "OUTLINE" OR "MAKE IT UP AS YOU GO" WRITER? I do both. I start with a basic theme and character conflict, then see where it takes me. Usually, around the fiftieth page or so, I have to pull the loose plot strings together and have an idea how I'll tie them all together. Of course, sometimes I get myself tied up in knots. But that's half the fun.

WHAT IS THE BEST THING ANYONE SAID ABOUT YOUR BOOKS? "Even heathens like it," one non-Christian reader told me. "And you made me think about God more than I have in a couple of years." When I first started writing, those were words I hoped one day to hear.

WHAT IS THE WORST THING ANYONE SAID ABOUT YOUR BOOKS? One reader thought that I glorified sinners, even asking if I was aiming my books for "Christians or sodomites." I answered that I am most definitely aiming for sodomites and other sinners, such as myself, who are in need of God's grace and the love of Jesus.

HOW MANY BOOKS DO YOU READ A MONTH? I read four or five novels a month, and usually a nonfiction title or two. I try to read Christian and secular fiction, to keep abreast with what's out there and the mindset that readers have. One of the great things about being a writer is all the advance copies of books I get. Free is good. Of course, I love to plunk down money to help other writers, but I'm also trying to keep food on my own table at the moment.

AS A READER, WHAT MAKES A BOOK INTRIGUING TO YOU? (WHAT DOES A BOOK NEED FOR YOU TO PICK IT UP?) Certain genres appeal to me at certain times. I love thrillers, mysteries, historical novels, true-life adventure, and literary fiction. I alternate between them. Primarily, though, I am drawn to books with believable characters. Of course, a great cover and a few trustworthy endorsements or reviews help "sell" me.

* * *

Wednesday: Eric Wilson at Davis-Kidd

Come back tomorrow for the conclusion of our Q&A with Eric Wilson. Find him online at WilsonWriter.com, and follow his blog at Amazon.com.

Related link: Q&A: ERIC WILSON, PT 2

More mystery and thriller novelists:
Q&A: JON L. BREEN (Eye of God)
Q&A: MELANIE WELLS (The Soul Hunter)
Q&A: ALTON GANSKY (Director's Cut)
Q&A: WANDA DYSON (Abduction)
Q&A: SANDRA BROWN (Ricochet)


Monday, October 02, 2006

Writing for a living

Here's the thing few wannabes realize: Most novelists do not make a living as writers.

The few who get to stay home and write novels for their dayjob either a) Are really, really famous; b) Got a really, really good contract with a really, really big publisher; c) Are independently weatlthy; d) Have a spouse who actually brings home most of the bacon and has the job that comes with health insurance.

There is no shame for a writer if you have to work at a regular job to pay the bills. It's the responsible thing to do.

A couple of weeks ago, I received this email:
I wondered if you'd mind sharing what problems or pitfalls you ran into when you started out in writing? I have had a few interviews for editorial assistant and media assistant positions but to no great success. I managed to get a stop gap job after graduating last year thinking it would not take long to find what I wanted but its now heading towards a year and a half of hunting.

I actually spent a few days thinking over my answer. I did not want to be flippant. Finally, I wrote back:
I didn't want you to think I was blowing your question off, but what you ask is so complicated. I have given up trying to think of that perfect answer, so I'll just ramble a bit.

If you are starting out -- and that sounds like what you are saying -- I suggest you take pretty much any opportunities to write that you can. In my experience, sharpening your craft in any kind writing -- scripts, newspaper stories, magazine articles, short stories, whatever -- helps you become a better storyteller. Don't be afraid to write for free as you're getting your first clips. You need to develop, you need to build a stack of printed samples of your work, and you need to develop a reputation as a writer who can be trusted to deliver.

Writing is a career that takes a while to build; don't assume you can make a living at it freelance. (At least, not anytime soon.) Most writers who work freelance have a day job.

Of those who have a day job, I am one of the lucky ones: I have been a magazine editor for some 12 years now -- which means I get to write, but also have health insurance and an office. But even that was something I worked into after years of writing freelance for pennies.

Also: Never pay anybody else to print you. (Unless it's Kinko's.)
I got this reply today:
Cheers, Chris. I'll get writing!! What you say all makes sense. I've just been beating myself up abit over it, not getting into a writing job straight away, fed up in my 'stop gap' job etc. Thanks for keeping it real with me.

I emailed back:
Don't let the "stop gap" job get you down! I have been writing since childhood -- but, at various times, I made my livelihood working at K-Mart, at jobs on campus, at Camelot Music, and even as a part-time community college instructor.


Even now, I write the novels during my lunch hours, and on evenings and weekends.
I know several published novelists struggling with some of these same questions. All I can say is:

1) Plant your crop and be faithful.

2) In the short term, be prepared to have a regular job.

3) Don't give up before your crop comes in.

Related links:

Wednesday: Eric Wilson at Davis-Kidd

This Wednesday, Oct. 4, my friend Eric Wilson is at Davis-Kidd in Nashville, signing his latest suspense thriller, The Best of Evil (WaterBrook Press):

reads and signs
The Best of Evil
Wednesday, October 4th at 6:00 pm

Set at a coffee shop in Nashville, The Best of Evil tells the story of Aramis Black who is ready for a fresh start, setting aside his violent tendencies until a man is shot before his eyes.

Watch for an interview with Eric on this blog tomorrow.

Related links:
Michael Connelly in Nashville
Update from novelist Eric Wilson

Sunday, October 01, 2006

FIRST Day: Dark Hour by Ginger Garrett

It is October 1st, time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and their latest book's FIRST chapter! This month's feature author: GINGER GARRETT
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.

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:

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!

Without further ado ... here is the FIRST chapter of Dark Hour by Ginger Garrett. Judge for yourself if you'd like to read more!

(There is a prologue before chapter one regarding the birth of Jehoshebeth... Athaliah is not Jehoshebeth's biological mother.)

C h a p t e r O n e

Fifteen Years Later

HER BARU, the priest of divination, opened the goatskin bag and spread the wet liver along the floor, leaving a path of blood as he worked. Retrieving a wooden board and pegs from his other satchel, the satchel that held the knives and charms, he placed pegs in the board according to where the liver was marked by fat and disease. He turned the black liver over, revealing a ragged abscess.

Athaliah covered her mouth and nose with her hands to ward off the smell but would not turn way.

“Worms,” her sorcerer said, not looking up. He placed more pegs in the board before he stopped, and his breath caught.

A freezing wind touched them, though they were in the heart of the palace in the heat of the afternoon. Athaliah cursed this cold thing that had found her again and watched the sorcerer search for the source of the chill before he returned to the divination. There was no source of wind here; in her chamber there was a bed, the table where her servants applied her cosmetics from ornate and lovely jars shaped like animals, a limestone toilet, and in the farthest corner so that no one at the chamber door would see it, her shrine. Statues of Baal, the storm god, and the great goddess Asherah, who called all life into being, stood among the panting lions carved from ivory and the oil lamps that burned at all hours. Here she placed her offerings of incense and oil, and here she whispered to the icy thing as it worshiped alongside her.

The baru watched as the flames in the shrine swayed, the chill moving among the gods. The flames stayed at an angle until one began to burn the face of Asherah. Her painted face began to melt, first her eyes running black and then her mouth flowing red. He gasped and stood.
“I must return to the city.”

Athaliah stood, blocking him from his satchel.

“What does the liver say?”

“It is not good that I have come. We will work another day.”

She did not move. He glanced at the door. Guards with sharp swords were posted outside.
“A dead king still rules here. You set yourself against him and are damned.”

Athaliah sighed. “You speak of David.”

The baru nodded and bent closer so no other thing would hear his whisper. “There is a prophecy about him, that one from the house of David will always reign in Judah. His light will never die.”

“I fear no man, dead or living.”

The baru continued to whisper, fear pushing into his eyes, making them wide. “It is not the man you must fear. It is his God.”

Athaliah bit her lip and considered his words. She wished he didn’t tremble. It was such a burden to comfort a man.

“Yes, this God. It is this God who troubles us. Perhaps I can make an offering to Him. You must instruct me. Stay, my friend, stay.” She patted him on the arm, detesting his clammy flesh. “I have dreamed,” she confessed. “I have a message from this God, and I must know how to answer Him.”

The baru took a step back, shaking his head. “What is this dream?”

“A man,” Athaliah said.

“Tell me.”

“At night, when I sleep and the moon blankets my chamber, I see a man. He is not as we are: he is coarse and wild. He wears skins hewn from savage beasts, run round his waist with careless thought, and in his mind he is always running, ax in hand, running. I feel his thoughts, his mind churning with unrest, and he knows mine completely. I hear a burning whisper from heaven and shut up my ears, but he turns to the sound. A great hand touches him, sealing him for what lies ahead, and speaks a name I cannot hear, a calling to one yet to be. I try to strike this man, but all goes red, blankets of red washing down.”

She licked her lips and waited, breathing hard. The baru nodded.

“You see the prophet of Yahweh, Elijah, who plagues your mother.”

The baru began to reach for his goatskin sack. He picked up the liver and put it in the sack, keeping an eye on the door as he wiped his bloody hand on his robes. She knew he was measuring his steps in his mind, thinking only of freedom from here, and from her.

Athaliah grabbed his arm. “I let those who worship Yahweh live in peace. They mean nothing to me; what is one God in a land of so many? Why would this God send a man to make war on my mother and then claim me also?”

The baru narrowed his eyes. “This God is not like the others.”

“How can we be free of Him?”

The baru thought for a moment then reached into his satchel. He pulled out a handful of teeth and tossed them on the ground at her feet. She did not move.

He squatted and read them, probing them with a shaking finger. She watched as the hair along his neck rose, and goose bumps popped all along his skin. The cold thing had wrapped itself tightly around him. She could see his breath.

“There is a child,” he said. “The eye of Yahweh is upon this child, always. I must counsel you to find this child and kill it, for when it is gone, Yahweh would trouble you no more.”

Athaliah murmured and ran her teeth over her lips, biting and dragging the skin as her thoughts worked back in time. “It is my daughter you speak of. Only a girl. But even so, I cannot kill her yet. I would lose my rights as the most favored wife. I will not risk my crown for so small a prize. No, I will find another way to get rid of her, and I will deal with this threat from Yahweh as I must.”

Athaliah walked to her shrine and cleaned the face of Asherah. She could hear the baru scooping the teeth back into the bag. She turned with a sly smile, pleased that her mind worked so quickly even with the cold thing so near.

“My mother has already angered this God. We will let her have our problem. She has a talent for these things.”

He had finished putting everything back into his two sacks and edged toward the door. She wondered if he would return. He was the best she had at divining dreams and saw in the liver so many answers. She sighed and tried to think of a word to reassure him.

“A farmer may own the field,” she began, “but much work is done before a harvest is even planted. Stones are removed, weeds are torn free. We must break loose the soil and uproot our enemies so the field will be ready. On that day I will sow richly.”

He managed a weak smile.

“Let your appetite grow, my friend,” she coaxed. “The harvest is coming.”

He fled so quickly she knew her words had been wasted, as all words were on frightened men. He would never return.


PRINCE JEHORAM nursed a silver bowl of dark wine and wished the business of inheriting a kingdom did not involve so much listening. He rubbed his beard, its thick clinging brown curls now flecked with gray. His beard was weathering his age better than the hair on his head, he realized, which had already surrendered to the assault of time, great gray streaks overtaking the brown. He knew his face was kind, though, not hardened or roughened by his years, but retaining a boyish appeal in his wry mouth and a small scar just under his left eye. Any woman could look upon him and see the child of mischief he once was. All women looked upon him and still thought to correct him.

He dined in a dim, private room with his advisers. The room was adjacent to the throne room, where he would one day rule, and was bare, save for an oil lamp on a low table. Cedar beams topped the limestone walls, giving the palace a sweet, smoky scent under the afternoon sun. The men sat around the table, scattered with maps, sharing a lunch of grapes, bread, wine, and cheese. Normally they would eat more, and in the dining hall, but the kitchen servants were busy preparing for the great send-off feast and it was easier to be served here.

Tomorrow, his father, King Jehoshaphat, would lead Judah’s army north toward Israel and King Ahab. Together, the two kingdoms would fight their inconstant friend Ben-Hadad to end his trade monopolies. Ben-Hadad fought alongside them against the cruel Assyrians but turned often and claimed the richest of trade cities for himself.

“There are implications, my prince,” Ethan said. Ethan was the tallest, and his skin turned red when he was angry, which was often. His temper had plagued him since he and the prince were boys, but now Jehoram no longer found pleasure in goading his friend. “If the kings succeed at Ramoth-Gilead against Ben-Hadad,” Ethan continued, “and the proposed alliance is accepted, your father will have obligations both to the north and south. In this way, Ahab’s kingdom will be strengthened by this victory, and your own kingdom will be compromised. Judah may weaken and fall at last to a king of Israel.”

“I have married the daughter of Ahab,” Jehoram replied. “I have given their daughter an heir and promised her the crown. I have curried the favor of the north well enough. They will not turn on me, for their own daughter is at my side.” He tried to entertain himself with the food and wine while his advisers prattled on. He wondered what would be served at the feast tonight. If the servants’ exhausted expressions were any indication, the spread would be remarkable.

“That is true, my friend,” Ethan said. “But you are wrong to think this is Ahab’s war. It is a woman who is shaping this new world. Think on this: What does the powerful Jezebel desire more than to bring glory to her own name? She wants the north and south reunited so that she may one day rule them both, a queen equal in power to Solomon.”

Ethan smirked as he continued. “Everyone knows Ahab wears the crown but Jezebel rules. With Ahab and Jehoshaphat together in battle, their voices silenced for a time, Jezebel will be listening for yours. Let her know a lion roars in Judah. We will never be ruled by a woman, especially one who hides behind her husband’s crown.”

Jehoram listened, running his tongue across his lips, catching a spot of wine resting just above his lip. Ethan was his truest friend, if a man about to wear the crown had one, but he was always ready for a fight. Jehoram preferred to suffer a blow and stay with his women and wine. He sighed. “Ethan, you look into darkness and see monsters, but I see only shadows. It has always been this way.”

Ethan frowned. “We are no longer children hunting with our fathers at night. Listen to me, for I am the voice of God in your ear.”

Jehoram turned his face away and crossed his arms. Then he sighed and reached for a bowl of grapes and began to eat. He did not like an empty stomach.

Another adviser bit into some cheese and leaned in. “Mighty Ethan is right. Jezebel wants to see you on the throne because of your union with her daughter Athaliah, but she is no ally. Listen to what I tell you: Something evil here stirs the water and watches.”

“These voices of doom!” Jehoram yelled, slapping his bowl down on the table so that it spilled. “These voices and whispers, will they not cease?” He gripped his head and glared at the men. Each had but one wife and thought to advise him on his many? “You warn me against women, even my own wife, but they are women and nothing more!”

Ethan scooted closer to him. “Do not play the fool. Athaliah practices her strange magic and you slip under her spell little by little. There is still time to save yourself, and the kingdom, if you are indeed a man and king.”

Jehoram rose and adjusted his robe around his shoulders, staring down at Ethan.

“Do even my friends turn against me now?” he asked.

“I have always been like a brother to you. I desire nothing but your good,” Ethan said, rising. Jehoram held his temper and the two men glared at each other, breathing hard.

The adviser Ornat spoke. “May I address the future king of Judah?”

Jehoram nodded and sat, returning to his grapes. He glanced at Ethan and shook his head.
Ornat was new to his inner circle, an adviser Athaliah had recommended for his influence among the people who did not worship the God of Judah. She promised his voice would balance the harsh messages the others always gave. He had long, straight gray hair that always hung as if he had just come in from the rain. A magnificent bump crowned his nose, but it was the only remarkable feature about the man, a man who looked as if he were melting before their eyes.

“Good Jehoram,” Ornat began, “the king knows you are a son who is not like the father. King Jehoshaphat has conspired with your brothers to ensure you never take the throne. They plot behind closed doors, taking their meals without you. I have heard the plans from my spies among the servants.”

Jehoram felt his stomach churn at the accusation. He would not allow such ridiculous talk and raised his hand to dismiss the man at once.

The arrival of Athaliah interrupted them, and all bowed as she entered.

“Jehoram, I seek your face with a burden on my heart. Hear me and help me, my lord and husband,” she said.

Jehoram looked at her a moment, his eyes having trouble adjusting to the light that streamed in when the door had opened. She stirred something in him, as she had from her first night in the palace, rain-soaked and announced by thunder, her sheer robes clinging to her tiny frame. She came bearing boxes of shrines and gods, like the dolls of a child, and she clung to them even in their bedchamber. She was the only wife who did not submit to his will, and he had found her exotic. Now she had grown, but his exotic pet was still wild, shaking off the customs and manners he tried to teach her. He knew she hungered, but not for him. His face burned with shame.

“Speak, Athaliah,” he said.

“Your daughter has grown quite pale of late. I have seen this sickness before.”

Jehoram sat up straight. Sickness in the palace would spread rapidly, a threat as swift and fierce as any Assyrian. “What sickness?” he demanded.

Athaliah smiled at him, then at the men reclining. “Of course you do not understand,” she said. “You are men. You have tended your kingdom well but neglected to see that your daughter has come of age.”

Jehoram exhaled and sat back, an indulgent smile on his lips. “And what remedy does this sickness crave?” he asked.

Athaliah bowed before Jehoram. “She must marry, my lord.”

Jehoram waved his hand, a broad gesture. Here he could be master. “I command, then, that she be married. If there is a commander well thought of, it would be an honor to give a daughter in marriage just before a battle.”

Athaliah nodded, just once. He felt his victory slipping away. “I have sent word to the north,” Athaliah said, “to my mother’s house, that a nobleman from my own home who serves in the ivory palace of my mother be given her. King Ahab has sent you his favorite daughter.” She smiled. “Now let us send ours to him. It will be good for Jehoshebeth to hold your name ever before my father, Ahab. And Jezebel would relish a granddaughter so near.”

Jehoram stopped and frowned. “It is Jehoshebeth you speak of? She is a special child to me. I would not have her sent north.”

“But you have given the order that she be married. There is no one else worthy of her,” Athaliah said.

Jehoram rubbed his chin and pretended to study a map. Finally, he shook his head. “I must think on this.”

Athaliah bowed low, her eyes closed. “May the God you serve bless all your decisions, good Jehoram,” she said. She straightened and looked at the advisers. Jehoram could not bear to see their eyes upon his bride, the only territory he owned and could not rule. He detected secrets moving between her and Ornat like a sudden spring bubbling up from a dark source. Only a few found it distasteful and turned away. Ethan was the first to scowl and return his glance to the prince.

“I will see you all at the feast tonight,” Athaliah said as she left. She wagged a finger at Ornat. “Take care of my good husband.”

Jehoram slouched in his seat and returned to his grapes.

Die Laughing: Funny Crime and Mystery Fiction


A woman with a complicated past returns home to become the small town's new sheriff. Best Mann For The Job is by the writer/artist team of Chris and Erica Well. Read it from the beginning at StudioWell.com. Watch the trailer on YouTube.