Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Three questions for Brandilyn Collins

Today, tomorrow and Friday is the Christian Fiction Blog Tour for Brandilyn Collins' new book, Web of Lies. The book, the last in her Hidden Faces series, brings together two of her popular characters, forensic artist Annie Kingston and Chelsea Adams, who sees visions sent by God. Here's how Brandilyn describes the book on her Web site:
A nightmarish vision. A murder in broad daylight. How are they connected?

After witnessing a shooting at a convenience store, forensic artist Annie Kingston must draw a composite of the suspect. But before she can begin, she hears that Chelsea Adams wants to meet with her-now. Chelsea Adams-the woman who made national headlines with her visions of murder. And this vision is by far the most chilling.

Chelsea and Annie soon find themselves snared in a terrifying battle against time, greed, and a deadly opponent. If they tell the police, will their story be believed? With the web of lies thickening . . . and lives at stake, who will know enough to save them?
The two characters are off on another roller-coaster ride -- there's a reason why Brandilyn describes her stories as Seatbelt Suspense. Fans of suspense stories will want to check this one out.

Brandilyn is a prolific blogger, too, and has an ongoing discussion of Christian suspense and writing over at Forensics and Faith. In fact, between her Web site and her blog, it was hard to come up with questions for her, but I tried. I sent her three questions and she very graciously answered them (and even threw in a little story as a bonus):

1. What do you like best about being a writer?
Brandilyn (BC): Oh, I can think of myriad things.
I punch no one's time clock. (Even so, the deadlines can be killers.)
I can work in my jammies. (For hubby's sake, I do get dressed by the time he gets home.)
I have lots of writer friends. (And novelists tend to be a bit . . . eccentric.)
I have an excuse for talking to myself. (Conversing with characters, naturally.)
I get to tell boys who want to date my daughter that I "kill people for a living." (Said daughter just rolls her eyes, but it works on the boys.)
And, oh yeah--I get to create Story.

2. What mystery/suspense authors are your favorites? (Whether they've influenced you or not)
BC: Hands, down, Koontz. I admire his turn of phrase, his long career, his pushing at the boundaries of suspense (going everywhere from his frightening novels like Intensity to those with lots of humor, like Life Expectancy).

3. What's one question no one asks, but you wish they would? (and then answer it :) )
BC: Not sure there's anything left unasked, with all the interviews I've done. People who haven't read the "Never-Ending Saga" on my blog, Forensics and Faith, will ask about my journey toward publication in fiction. I send 'em to my blog with the post-script that this story is long. However, it is also encouraging to others who are trying to be published in fiction to see what it takes to break into the market. And I promise that the story is never boring. A suspense author is not allowed to tell a boring story. Even if it spans ten years, and chronicles one rejection after another. The individual posts of the story (which totalled in the sixties, as I remember), end with hooks. Well, they have to. I teach how to write hooks.
If you find this answer unsatisfying, you might ask me what's one of the dumbest things I've ever done. Which would remind me of the time when I was about eight and arguing with a friend who was twice my size. A very athletic, strong friend. I was determined to beat her up, but I had to lure her to my yard first. (On my own property, you see, I would acquire the SuperKid strength it would take to overcome this Amazon.)
Just so happened my dad had just bought me a huge (and I mean HUGE) all-day sucker. More like all-week. It was gorgeous, too, with one long swirl leading into the middle, and colors of red and blue and green. Aha! A world-class idea flashed into my brain. I unwrapped the sucker, stuck it in the ground beside a huge oak in our front hard, and hid behind the tree. Figuring my nemesis would see the sucker and run over to steal it (she was just that mean, dontcha know). At that point, I, with my superhuman strength, would POUNCE from my hiding place and knock her silly.
Sucker sat in ground. I waited. Impatiently.
Waited some more.
I got hungry. The sucker looked real good.
I resisted.
Soon it looked better.
No, I would not bow to tempting wiles. After all SuperKid did NOT need sugar to make it through an ominous mission.
I passed the time pumping myself up. Dreaming of victory. Man, I'd be the talk of the neighborhood. Nobody would mess with me--ever again. My chest puffed out, my chin lifted as high as it could. A sneer overtook my face. Yeah, yeah, just wait til ol' Meanface crept up to that tree. At first sight of her greedy fingers I was gonna--
"Hey, there, Little Miss Stupid!" A singsong, sarcastic voice pierced my grandiose thoughts. "I see you behind that tree! And I don't want your ugly sucker!"
Instant humiliation washed through every vein in my body. I tried to think of some flimsy reason why I should be behind that tree--a reason other than waiting for HER--but none came to mind. So I did the only thing I could. Shoulders stooped, chin down, I pulled up the candy-on-a-stick and shuffled into the safety of my house.
I tried to mitigate my shame by eating the sucker. (Just think what you're missing, Miss know-it-all Amazon!) Doggone thing didn't taste half as good as I'd expected.

Thanks, Brandilyn! And if you're curious what's next, she's got a book coming out later this year that's the first in the Kanner Lake series. It's called Violet Dawn and you'll be hearing more about it, I'm sure.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Good reading

One of my daily stops is The Master's Artist. It's a group blog about being, what else, an artist for our Master. Now Mike Duran has interviewed the blog's administrator, Jules Quincy Stephens. It's a great interview -- check it out.

One of my fellow Covenant bloggers, Brad Boydston, is preparing (with his wife) to be a project missionary at Pacific Islands Bible College in Guam. He's posted the first of his newsletters with more details, including information on how you can support them. (My round-about connection to Brad is that the church he has pastored for several years, Cornerstone Covenant in Turlock, Calif., was started by a former pastor from Clay Center. Brad has also been a moderator for a Covenant listserve I've belonged to at various times. The Covenant really is a small world.)

I'm not the only one who doesn't want to give up completely on the Royals.

Finally, tomorrow is Blog Tour time again and I'll have a short interview with Brandilyn Collins, author of Web of Lies and other Christian suspense novels.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

4 things

A friend of mine tagged me for this via e-mail and so I thought I'd post my answers here, too. I'm not going to tag anybody because most everyone I know has been meme'd to death, but you're welcome to have fun with this if you so choose.

How well do you know me??
For instance, did you know...

Four jobs I have had in my life:
1. nurse's aide
2. laundry/housekeeping aide in a nursing home
3. newspaper reporter/copyeditor
4. college instructor

Four movies I would watch over and over:
1. Tootsie
2. About a Boy
3. The Goodbye Girl
4. While You Were Sleeping

Four places I have lived:
1. Bowen, Ill.
2. Linton, Ind.
3. Lincoln, Ill.
4. Clifton, Kan.
Four TV shows I love to watch:
1. House
2. Numbers
3. WKRP in Cincinnati (I know it's old, but it's my favorite)
4. 60 Minutes

Four places I have been on vacation:
1. Nashville, Tenn. (quite a few times to visit relatives)
2. San Antonio, Texas (twice -- World's Fair in 1968 and last year for a convention)
3. Dale Hollow Lake, Ky.
4. Chicago, Ill. (both when I was a kid and as an adult)

Four of my favorite foods:
1. Pizza
2. Lasagna
3. Meat loaf
4. Fajitas

Four places I would rather be right now:
(not sure I'd rather be anywhere but here, but here's four places I'd love to visit)
1. London
2. San Francisco
3. Washington, D.C.
4. Someplace with a beach

Friday, April 21, 2006

Friday stuff

It's a beautiful day here. I hope you're having a lovely day where you are, too. Just a couple of notes today:

A correction: Kathleen Popa's To Dance in the Desert will be published by RiverOak in 2007. You can still read the first chapter here. It's a lovely story and I'm looking forward to when it comes out.

If you are interested in journalism, if a free press matters to you, you may want to spend some time reading Jay Rosen's blog, PressThink. Rosen is a professor who has been observing journalism culture and related issues for a long time. He's an original and articulate thinker and you'll come away with a lot to think about, whether you agree with him or not. I first became familiar with him when I was a grad student and read some of his writing about public (or civic) journalism. I got to hear him speak a couple of times at journalism education conferences and was impressed. His posts are usually pretty long, but interesting and worth your time.

I guess that's all, folks. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

I ran over a goat because the voices told me to

Pick the month you were born with:

January--I danced with
Febuary--I loved
March--I choked on
April--I licked
May-- I kicked
June--I murdered
July--I sang to
August--I had lunch with
September--I ran over
October--I smoked
November--I yelled at
December--I kissed

Pick the day (number) you were born on:

1-------a cat
2-------a monster
3-------a phone
4-------a fork
5-------a gangster
6-------a mexican
7-------a llama
8-------a banana
10-------my neighbor
11-------an ipod
12-------my dog
13-------chuck norris
14-------a stuffed animal
15-------a goat
16-------a pickle
17-------your mom
18-------a spoon
19-------my best friends boyfriend
20-------a football player
21-------a permanent marker
22-------my boyfriends tounge
23-------a noodle
24-------my girlfriend
25-------a baseball bat
26-------my sister
27-------a cd
28-------my science teacher
29-------a thorn bush
30-------my cell phone
31-------A homeless guy

Pick the color of shirt you are wearing:

White------Because I'm sexy
Black-------Because I'm a ninja who wants Taco Johns
Pink--------Because that's how I roll.
Red---------Because I love her/him
Blue--------Because the voices told me to
Green------Because I hate myself.
Purple------because im an ass
Gray--------Because I was drunk as hell
Yellow------Because someone offered me 1,000,000 dollars
Orange----Because I hate my family.
Other-------Because im NOT homosexual.

Then post your answer as your subject

(Thanks to Megan for this very strange, but amusing, exercise.)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Do you remember what day this is? I remember. You can also visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial Web site.

I want to be like David Crowder

OK, that sounds rather strange coming from a middle-aged woman, but in a way, it's true, and here's why. When I listen to the David Crowder Band's most recent album, A Collision, I am in awe of the way he has blended different musical styles into one coherent whole. Instead of being locked into one musical style, he has borrowed and adapted from a whole range that includes blue grass, rock, a bit of ska and some techno-pop. And it's not just a mish-mash of styles; the style of each song is an integral part of the song itself. I can't imagine a song like "Foreverandever Etc." in any style other than sort of a ska/punk fusion. And "I Saw the Light" could only be bluegrass. The whole album works as a unit that is greater than the sum of its parts. (It's a truly excellent album!)

What does that have to do with me, a middle-aged female writer? I want to resist pigeonholing. I want to be a writer -- I am a writer -- who writes a story in whatever way is best to tell that story. So some stories are cozy small-town mysteries but others are grittier crime stories, and some stories are not genre specific. Right now I'm working on a fantasy story for this contest. The story is called The Dragon in the Basement and it's fun to write.

But I am beginning to notice something about my stories. I tend to gravitate toward tales of outsiders (believe me, a guy with a dragon in his basement feels pretty much out of the mainstream). So I think there's a common thread or theme to my writing (in a general way).

I don't know if this is a viable option for someone who wants to be published. It seems that most writers become pretty firmly entrenched in a genre and don't break out of it until they become very famous and wealthy. But I think that I should tell a story the way it needs to be told, not mold it to fit some notion of what "type" of writer I am. Thus, I find David Crowder to be an inspiration.

"Dancing" through a chapter

Kathleen Popa is blogging the first chapter of her novel To Dance in the Desert. It will be published next year by WaterBrook (I think), but she's giving us a sneak peak this week -- it's delightful.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Peterson on perseverance

This is a good quote from Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction (ch. 11, Psalm 129, pp. 128-129):
The central reality is the personal, unalterable, persevering commitment that God makes to us. Perseverance is not the result of our determination, it is the result of God's faithfulness. We survive in the way of faith not because we have extraordinary stamina but because God is righteous. Christian discipleship is a process of paying more and more attention to God's righteousness and less and less attention to our own; finding the meaning of our lives not by probing our moods and motives and morals but by believing in God's will and purposes; making a map of the faithfulness of God, not charting the rise and fall of our enthusiasms. It is out of such a reality that we acquire perseverance.
I read this last night and it just jumped out of me. It's not about us, it's about God. I found the idea of making a map of God's faithfulness resonated especially with me.

Psalm 129 is one of the Psalms of Ascents -- the psalmist says the wicked have afflicted him from his youth, but the Lord is faithful. It's good to remember, to focus on God's faithfulness instead of myself.

Story at Flashing in the Gutters

I wrote a short story and submitted it to Flashing the Gutters and it's posted! It's called Thy Brother's Life and it's sort of a be-careful-what-you-wish-for story. One of the things I've observed about noir and hardboiled fiction -- you don't see too many stories by women in that genre. Interesting. But sometimes I want to tell a story that's a little darker -- sometimes, as Switchfoot says, "the shadows prove the sunshine." Not that I'm claiming this story is resonating with great themes or anything, but I think it has its moments. Let me know what you think. You can leave comments on the story or here.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Friday links

Here's a couple of new places I've found to read some good stories:
Flashing in the Gutters is a place for flash fiction (the editor limits stories to 700 words). This is one by Mark Bertrand that I liked. I'm itching to try to write something for it.
Communique is an online literary and arts journal for Christian writers and artists. It's been around a while, but I've just discovered it (thanks to Dave). Check it out.

Have a blessed Easter weekend.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Reading notes and a bit of a rant

Where did the week go? This is what happens when one is sick on Monday and comes to work still feeling yucky on Tuesday. So I have tons to do at work -- but I did anyway! But I thought I'd write about what I read over the weekend: Thud! by Terry Pratchett. As always, Pratchett tells an entertaining story and skewers EVERYTHING imaginable -- from PDA's to children's literature -- and gives you something to think about in the process. He slips the occasional deep thought in unobtrusively while you're laughing.

But ... Yes I have a couple of issues with this book. It needed another proofreading -- there are too many typos for a major publisher to be able to get away with. For any publisher to get away with, for that matter. I understand how hard it is to catch every single mistake in something the size of a novel, but it became annoying. I can't just read past misspelled words or other typographical errors.

My other complaint is Pratchett's choice of pronouns. Specifically, throwing subject/pronoun agreement out the window and using they or their in place of he or his or him as a generic singular pronoun. (To me this isn't a feminist issue, it's a grammar issue.) I know this is how we often talk, and it's becoming more common in writing, but it still feels wrong and it trips me up everytime. Terry Pratchett is a good writer who makes effective use of wordplay of all sorts. His grammar is usually impeccable, in a very British way of course. Which all makes this usage seem even more wrong. (And I don't recall that I've ever noticed it in his writing before, but it's been quite a while since I read one of his books.) There are plenty of ways to write a sentence so that you don't get trapped into this kind of usage. I wish he, or his editor, had made use of them.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Friday reading

I've been busy this week, but not with blogging. I don't have much in the way of original thoughts today, but I did find some good reading elsewhere. Here's a list.

Jordon Cooper posted yesterday about the unproductive way we frame debate as Us vs. Them.
In a similar vein, Lisa Sampson linked to this article about the "separation of church and hate" on the BreakPoint Web site. It's all very thought-provoking and interesting.

Jordon also linked to this brief review of a book by Eugene Peterson that sounds like something I want to read. The book is called Eat this Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading. I also want to read another book by Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places.

Speaking of reading, Mark has posted his thoughts about the differences in how men and women read novels and what that means for us as writers. Good stuff, professor.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Congrats 'Cats!

The K-State women's basketball team won the WNIT championship in front of a sell-out crowd Friday night. Yay!

Things you don't want to hear your children say when you return from a retreat

I went to our church's women's retreat Friday night and Saturday -- it was wonderful and I came away refreshed and blessed. Good thing. I got home Saturday afternoon and walked in the house. Sam and Tim and one of their friends were in the living room. The following exchange ensued:

Me: Where's Dad?
Tim: Oh, he's at the hospital with Joel.
Me: At the hospital with Joel! But the car's outside.
Tim: He rode in the ambulance with Joel.
Me: In the ambulance!!!

At this point, Sam intervened and started from the beginning since he thought I was getting a little excited. I thought I was handling it pretty well, but I'll admit I was showing some anxiety. Apparently, Joel had experienced some pretty bad back pain throughout the day and had been wearing Bob's back support (the kind people who have to do a lot of heavy lifting wear). Then he took it off. And then at some point he passed out right in front of the front door and couldn't get up. So they called 911. They had to take the front door off the hinges because Joel was right in front of it. He's a big kid.

It hadn't been very long, so I went up the hospital and got there before they took Joel for x-rays. It's a little weird seeing your kid laying on a back board. But he seemed to be doing pretty well. After the x-rays and blood work, the doctor still wasn't sure why he passed out, but could find nothing wrong in the tests. He said Joel probably had been having back spasms and the pain, or maybe taking the back brace off (sudden rush of blood from the upper to lower body), could have had something to do with blacking out. He prescribed a muscle relaxer and sent us home. Joel's doing a lot better -- the muscle relaxer seems to help -- but he's still having some pain. Prayers would be appreciated.

And if anyone related to me is reading this and gets concerned, it's OK. I should have called, but really Joel is doing fine and the excitement of it all has passed.