Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Saying Goodbye ...

Prior to posting online, I'd written book recommendations for our church newsletter as a way to draw readers into our church library. When that newsletter was scaled back, so was my column.

It was time to move on to new adventures.

So, I began this blog some three years ago not to garner attention, but to make my book recommendations more readily available to church members.

The purpose of this blog has changed, so once again it's time to move on.

These past few months I've been working on updating my website (http://brendaandersonbooks.com/), one that includes a blog. Already my page views and visits are higher there than they are at Spire Reviews so changing over at this point, when my readership is low, is a no-brainer. I still plan on talking books on Tuesday, but it'll be at this address instead: http://brendaandersonbooks.com/blog/.

I won't be closing down Spire Reviews, but will be keeping it as an archival site rather than an active blog.

I wish to thank everyone who has visited Spire Reviews, those who have shared their time with an interview and/or commenting, and those who have faithfully followed me.

And I'm very grateful and thankful for all the friends I've made on this journey! I am truly blessed!


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Novel Anticipation - August 2012

August may be a slight month when it comes to the number of books I anticipate reading, but I'm excited that two of my must-read authors--Laura Frantz and William Kent Krueger--have books releasing. My reading list might be slim, yet quality. I'm also intrigued by a new release from an author I haven't read before, Julie L. Cannon.

Ballantyne Legacy Series #1
432 pages

To my delight I received my complimentary copy of Love's Reckoning from Revell this past Saturday. In my estimation, Laura Frantz is one of the premier authors of historical fiction in the CBA. She's not a formula writer--which I greatly appreciate--and reading her prose is like hearing a symphony. Add to that, she's a vivid painter of scene so the reader is placed right in the middle of action, and her characters are rich and three-dimensional. I have no doubt that I will enjoy Love's Reckoning just as much as I have her past novels, The Frontiersman's Daughter, Courting Morrow Little, and The Colonel's Lady.

Book Description
    On a bitter December day in 1785, Silas Ballantyne arrives at the door of master blacksmith Liege Lee in York, Pennsylvania. Just months from becoming a master blacksmith himself, Silas is determined to finish his apprenticeship and move west. But Liege soon discovers that Silas is a prodigious worker and craftsman and endeavors to keep him in Lancaster. Silas becomes interested in both of Liege's daughters, the gentle and faith-filled Eden and the clever and high-spirited Elspeth. When he chooses one, will the other's jealousy destroy their love?

For more Spire Reviews' posts regarding Laura Frantz's work click <here>.

Atria Books
336 pages

William Kent Krueger is a fellow Minnesotan who sets many of his stories in picturesque northern Minnesota. That alone makes his work intriguing, but its his superb storytelling that keeps luring me back for more. The majority of Krueger's work centers around Cork O'Connor who's part Irish and part Anishinaabe Indian. He's a former Chicago cop, former small-town Sheriff, turned private investigator. His books are not Christian and if you're offended by rough language (which he uses sparingly), then his books may not be for you. But his novels always include a spiritual element, one that favors Christianity as opposed to mocking it. If you haven't read William Kent Krueger before, I highly recommend giving him a try. And if you are the type of reader who needs to start at Book #1 in a series, pick up Iron Lake. You won't be disappointed.  

Book Description
    Cork O'Connor is sitting in the shadow of a towering monolith known as Trickster's Point, deep in the Minnesota wilderness. Beside him is the first Native American governor-elect, Jubal Little, who is slowly dying with an arrow through his heart. Although the men have been bow hunting, this is no accident. The arrow in the governor's heart belongs to Cork.
    When he becomes the primary suspect in the murder, Cork understands full well that he's been set up. As he works to clear his name and track the real killer, he recalls his long, complex relationship with Jubal, the Native kid who aspired to be a populist politician and grew to become a cunning man capable of treachery and murder. As Cork looks deeply into his own past, he comes face to face with the many motives, good and ill, that lead men and women into the difficult, sometimes deadly, political arena.

List of Corcoran (Cork) O'Connor novels, click <here>.
For more Spire Reviews' posts regarding William Kent Krueger's work click <here>.

Abingdon Press
320 Pages

Author Julie Cannon is new to me, but the concept of Twang has me intrigued. My daughter's dream is to become a performer so any novels that chronicle a music star's life pique my interest. Hopefully, when I'm done reading Twang, I'll have one more author to add to my must-read list.

Book Description
    Twenty-three-year-old Jennifer Clodfelter believes she is destined to be a country music star. When her passion, determination and homemade demo tape were rejected by every music label in Nashville, she refused to give up. In just three years, a combination of guts and raw talent have propelled her on a journey of fame beyond her best dream.
    Now Jennifer has all she ever wanted, only to discover that there is a dark side to the glitz and number one hits. She will have to decide whether to sing her pain to a loving audience or find the courage to face the music in the private studio of her heart.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Blogging like a Church Choir Soprano

You clench your jaw and your hands clutch the edge of the pew as the choir anthem approaches its climax. Covering your ears would be a more effective way to block what you know is coming, but obviously rude. Maybe if someone else made the move first ... In the pew ahead of you, the man's shoulders scrunch but won't reach his ears.

And then that soprano hits the dreaded note. Rather, she warbles around the high G but never quite touches it, and you feel your eyes wobble around in your head like a ball on a trampoline.

Sopranos are the stars of the show, right? The music is all about them. How many of you know what I'm talking about? You know, that church choir soprano who thinks she's marvelous and sings out for the world to hear but leaves people cringing in their pews.

Oh yeah, I've known a few.

For the record, I am a church choir soprano. I've always loved singing in choirs where I'm able to use the gift God gave me while blending in. I've had my share of solos, but I'd much rather be one voice with thirty others than draw attention to myself. While to some degree, everyone wants attention, I greatly dislike being the center of attention. I like blending in.

Those of us who blog know what it's like to blend in with a cacophony of voices. I'm *comfortable* in not having that soprano solo, but if I'm to be a successful author, I have to get over that. I need to get my name out there. The problem is, I'm afraid I'll blog like that church choir soprano. In my attempt to be heard, I question whether I'm striking all the wrong notes. Are my topics boring? Am I becoming annoying? Where do I draw the line with self promotion? Is it better to blend in, or stick out by singing badly?

Do I take a deep breath and aim for that high note? Even if my voice is wobbly, at least I'll be heard.

Is that better than not being heard at all?

As an aside, one of the greatest experiences I've had as a choir member was at the 60th Anniversary Celebration (October 2009) for KTIS (a local Christian radio station begun by Billy Graham). My husband and I and a handful of members from my church choir had the honor of singing in a 1000 voice choir that backed up Michael W. Smith. It was an amazing evening of worship, emceed by Matthew West, that also included music by Phil Stacey. Below is a video of our choir anthems.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Quality + Controversy = Sales

So far this year I've read 80 books, two of which I've marked Favorite: Travelers Rest by Ann Tatlock and My Stubborn Heart (Bethany House Publishers) by Becky Wade. Favorites are those rare books that I will read again. They're the unique novels that seamlessly weave together engaging story, multi-faceted characters, and intelligent prose creating a beautiful literary tapestry that I could view again and again.

I was thrilled to learn that My Stubborn Heart has landed at #18 on the August 2012 CBA Bestseller Fiction List. (Congratulations Becky!!) How exciting to see this debut author's name nestled among those names that have permanent residence on the list: Karen Kingsbury, Ted Dekker, and Francine Rivers.

Her appearance among these bestsellers makes me wonder to what extent controversy  played in propelling those sales. (In my opinion, the controversy was silly. Check out blog posts listed below for more info.) I'm not drawing quality into question here, but rather I'm pondering whether controversy helped draw readers to her book? How many readers picked up this book because they read of the controversy? How many only learned of it because of the controversy.

Personally, I'd love it if my someday-released books would spark a controversy. Just think of the free publicity! But the product I put out has to be quality (as is My Stubborn Heart) or sales will dive as fast as they rise.

What do you think? Is controversy good for Christian fiction? Do you believe it aids or hurts sales?

Blog posts discussing the controversy:


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Congrats Christy Winners & Carol Finalists!

I apologize for being late with my posting, but I do have a good reason: I've spent the past two days riding roller coasters with my family. Who has time to be on the web when you're having fun with family? Priorities, right?

But, naturally, in my absence, the Christian literary world hasn't been quiet as the 2012 Christy Award winners and the ACFW Carol finalists have been announced. I'm thrilled that two of my favorite books from last year (Words by Ginny Yttrup and The Queen by Steven James) took home Christy's. And in the Carols, three Minnesotans (Julie Klassen, Erica Vetsch, and Susan May Warren) are represented.

Congratulations to all!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Cartoon Encouragement

All too often failures seem more abundant than successes, especially for those of us attempting writing careers. It's important to have that little pick-me-up, something to remind us that failure is a teacher--something to tell us to keep pressing on.

Disney's MEET THE ROBINSONS is one of my favorite encouragers during those times. Here's a fun clip that summarizes the movie's purpose, reminding all of us failures to Keep Moving Forward.