Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Biz of Fiction

Two weeks ago, I was caught up in a wave of layoffs by my former employer. I haven't really discussed it publicly because the shock is still too fresh.

Upon hearing of my new "freelance" status, several have instantly asked whether this means I am going to start writing fiction full-time. Perfect as that sounds, the statistics are against me. (Even the great Elmore Leonard had to publish twenty-three novels before he had a hit.)

But now that I have my nights and weekends back ... and, well, all the weekdays, too ... at least I can get to writing again. In fact, 2008 was already the year I planned to reinvent myself. (I just expected to still have health insurance for my wife while I was doing it.)

Part of this new strategy starts with the free mystery story we're offering to subscribers to our newsletter.

Meanwhile, some advice on the business of writing from agent Chip MacGregor:
Interviews, Platforms, and Careers
State of Confusion
More on the "Part-Time to Full-Time" Discussion

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Meet the authors of HPMysteries

The new group-blog Spyglass Lane gives you the opportunity to meet the authors of the brand-new cozy mystery line Heartsong Presents--MYSTERIES! (Judging from the blog's links, that list of authors now includes Anita Higman, Candice Miller Speare, Christine Lynxwiler, Cynthia Hickey, Dana Mentink, Darlene Franklin, Eileen Key, Elizabeth Ludwig, Frances Devine, Janelle Mowery, Janice A. Thompson, Linda P. Kozar, Lisa Harris, Mary Connealy, Nancy Mehl, S. Dionne Moore, Sandra Robbins, Susan Downs, Susan Page Davis, and Yvonne Lehman. (You can also check in with the editors at their own blog, The Edit Cafe blog.)

As previously mentioned, this month sees the official launch of the subscription series. My wife and I already subscribed and are anxiously awaiting out first round of books. (All for the low price of $13.99 -- plus free books just for trying the club out!) Details about the offer here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

MURDER, SHE WROTE still going strong

April is a busy month for mystery writer-turned-sleuth Jessica Fletcher. Some twelve years after its cancellation, Murder, She Wrote is still doing brisk business -- including a new DVD box set and a brand-new novel. (No surprise, really, when you consider that CBS did not cancel the long-running series due to lack of interest, but because advertisers wanted younger viewers.)

In fact, 2008 will see two brand-new hardcover Jessica Fletcher mysteries: In April, Murder, She Wrote: Murder on Parade (NAL Hardcover), followed this October with Murder, She Wrote: A Slaying in Savannah. Penned by "Jessica Fletcher with Donald Bain," the two titles in 2008 means there will soon be thirty original novels in print starring Cabot Cove’s favorite mystery solver.

Meanwhile, the original 1984-1996 series starring Angela Lansbury continues its march to DVD. Season Seven was released last October. Season Eight comes out April. (Updates at

Not bad for a show that was replaced with something nobody even remembers.

Book news 29 Jan 08

Several items of interest from our friends at TitleTrakk:
The Rook by Steven James
T.L. Hines' third novel "The Unseen"
Blessed Are the Meddlers by Christa Banister
The Molech Prophecy by Thomas Phillips

And the folks at Keep Me In Suspense have an interview with Nancy Mehl. Her new cozy mystery In The Dead of Winter is one of the first titles in the brand-new imprint Heartsong Presents -- Mysteries. Mehl shares what got her started, the hardest part writing a book, and advice for aspiring novelists.

Megazeen Christian Comics

Megazeen, home of "Cheese-Free Christian Comics," has added a link to Erica's and my very own Fallen World on their online comics page. There are also all sorts of other important links, like for Mecha Manga Bible Heroes. And the long-awaited Megazeen: The Sci-Fi Issue will finally be out in February. Updates at the Megazeen blog.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

"Hi, Miss Sleepyhead"

After a hiatus, my wife Erica's online comic strip The Miller Sisters returns with Part 5, #17 on (Scroll to bottom of page.) Julia's inherited superpowers are revealed -- so, what does a Christian college girl do now?

Catch up on the story at The Miller Sisters Archives
Erica on ComicSpace
The Miller Sisters at

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Discovering new mysteries onstage

Big news for mystery fans out of the International Mystery Writers' Festival in Owensboro, KY: The 2007 fest swept the nominations in the play category for the Edgar Awards (pdf). On top of that, this summer's event will sport the U.S. premiere of a lost Agatha Christie play and the world premiere of new Sherlock Holmes mystery (pdf).

This year's festival is June 12–22. Info here.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Crime Fiction vs. Cozies

Over at my new ShoutLife profile, I posted a blog about why I've started leaning in the direction of whodunits. And it has kicked off quite the discussion ...


Between our website and her ComicSpace profile, my wife Erica has now posted all three installments of our indie comic FALLEN WORLD. The odd numbering is because it was our three-part zero issue. (To the non-comics readers out there, a "zero" issue is like a TV pilot.)

But, alas, life and other projects got in the way, so we never got around to the actual series ...

An FBI agent receives a cry for help from an unlikely source ...

A family squabble turns into a hostage crisis ...

FBI Agent Jonah Chang receives an ominous message from beyond the grave ...


Friday, January 18, 2008

"What got you started writing?"

Recently, someone interested in writing fiction asked how I got started as a writer. This is how I broke it down:

I started writing in school. It led to writing for the local newspaper and then freelancing for magazines (and, eventually, moving to Nashville to be a magazine editor for the last 14 or so years).

I got to be a novelist when I met the folks at Harvest House through my work and, over the course of a couple of years, I came up with something they liked and they offered me a contract. (That relationship has since ended; I now have an agent who is shopping a couple of projects for me right now.)

The thing that connects all the above together is that each opportunity led to the next opportunity for me. The school paper led to the city newspaper, led to the national small magazine, led to the national larger magazine ... etc.

So ... to boil all that down to a few action points:

1. Write a lot. Fiction, nonfiction, scripts, poetry, whatever. I am a firm believer that no writing is ever a waste of time. (To paraphrase Ray Bradbury, every write has a million words of bad writing within them; the trick is to keep writing until you get it out of your system.)

2. Look for all the opportunities you have within arm's reach. (Church newsletter, local newspaper, etc. Write book reviews, write a column, write short stories for an online zine, etc.)

3. Meet a lot of people. (Conferences, bookstores, writer's groups, etc.)

It is a really long road for most writers (I have hardly "arrived") ... so the advice many give is, only do this if you HAVE to. If you have the ability to not write, then this isn't for you.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Ten drafts, eleven drafts, twelve ...

As previously mentioned, I will soon (eventually) be giving an EXCLUSIVE WORLD PREMIERE short story to subscribers to my free newsletter WELL READ. The original plan was to initiate a holiday tradition and send it out for Christmas ... but it is looking like this first one is going to be late. (Well, "looking like" is being a little too gracious. We're already a couple weeks past the deadline.)

Here's the thing: Whereas one of my novels goes through three-four-sometimes five drafts before my time runs out ... this shorter piece has now gone through a dozen or more drafts. The difference seems to be that in a manuscript that has 80,000-100,000 words, there are all kinds of places to tuck in a clue or work in some foreshadowing. But when you're in the neighborhood of just 12-13,000 words -- especially with a murder mystery, which requires a lot of working parts -- there are not so many places where you can tuck in something and make it seem natural.

And since this is the launch of a series, I want it to be just right.

What this means to you:
1) If you are a subscriber to my newsletter, it's still going to be a few more days.
2) If you are not yet a subscriber, you still have time to sign up for this limited offer.

As the number of drafts pile up, it occurs to me that we can have a drawing at the end, too. For those who have an interest, one subscriber will win a package that includes hard copies of two or three of the previous versions of the story -- with all the scribblings and notes in the margin that entails. Anyone who wants the chance to compare the various versions (including the original 15,000 word novella) with the final product, this will be your chance.

In the meantime, I just hope to finally finish this story ...

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 Watch the trailer on YouTube.