Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Shameless Shout Out for New Releases

One of the great privileges of being a writer is making so many new friends who happen to be authors. There's little I enjoy more than encouraging these friends in their writing endeavors and giving a shameless shout-out for their successes.

Three friends have novels releasing this month. While I've read them all in pre-edited form (and they're all fabulous, of course), I can't wait to read the final product.

The Biloxi Series
Debut Novel by Jerri Lynn Ledford

Deep South Press 2011

He hadn’t protected them.

When Homicide Special Investigator Jack Roe’s daughter is killed in an auto accident and his wife dies from a drug overdose, he abandons a promising career as a Military Police Officer. If only he’d been there when they needed him, he could have saved them both.

He didn’t protect her.

Six years later, Jack is in Biloxi, Mississippi to be close to his sister and her daughter, Lisa. As long as he’s around, nothing can happen to them. But then he’s called to the hospital in the middle of the night and learns that Lisa has been abused by her mother’s boyfriend. Jack must confront old wounds that never healed, and a burning anger that’s been buried for far too long.

She can’t protect him.

The same night, a woman’s body turns up on the beach. A few days later, so does another one. Jack must deal with his past and his present while he and his partner, Kate Giveans, race to find a killer before another woman dies. But Kate harbors a secret that just might get Jack killed.

I met Jerri a few years back through ACFW when we were assigned into the same critique group. We currently blog on the same group blog, Inkspirational Messages.

Although this is Jerri's debut novel, she is no stranger to writing. She's got a zillion books out there on Google Analytics and SEO and all those technical aspects of working the internet, the kind that make my head spin.

I had the honor of working with Jerri these past months on Biloxi Sunrise. She's woven together a very engaging story melding plot and character with just the right blend. I highly recommend giving this novel a try.

Check out Jerri's website: http://www.jerriledford.com/
Also find her at: http://inkspirationalmessages.com/
Don't forget to *like* her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jerri-Lynn-Ledford/147815135313371

Note from Jerri:

I'm embarrassed to admit that there has been some kind of formatting glitch with Biloxi Sunrise. At this time, there are numerous typos and errors in the book. However, I'm working furiously to correct them and will re-upload the book as soon as all of the corrections are made. These errors are entirely my fault and were NOT introduced by the wonderful people that edited the manuscript.

Click here to purchase Biloxi Sunrise through Amazon
Click here to purchase Biloxi Sunrise through Barnes and Noble

by Nicole Petrino-Salter

WinePress Publishing 2011

Breath of Life tells the story of embittered, wounded, and divorced Michael Jamison who, after a prolonged period as the casual observer of a lovely woman, discovers his attraction to her supersedes remaining a stranger. With a smarting ego and nothing to lose, he figures out a non-threatening way to introduce himself. He is overwhelmed with her pristine beauty and is challenged to change everything about the way he’s lived his life so far.

In Nicole Petrino-Salter, I've found a kindred reading spirit. We're both avid fans of Vince Flynn, Steven James, & Lisa Samson, to name a few. I LOVE talking books with Nicole. We typically have the same opinion regarding books and often share insights that will never make the printed page.

Breath of Life is Nicole's third release--she offered me the privilege of reading it several months ago. I love how she gets inside Michael Jamison's head and heart. She really makes him come alive. I enjoy thought-provoking, character-driven novels, and Nicole delivers that with Breath of Life.

Check out Nicole's excellent blog: http://hopeofglory.typepad.com/into_the_fire/
Click here to purchase Breath of Life

by Shannon Taylor-Vannatter

Heartsong Presents 2011

Ad exec, Rayna Landers meets bull rider, Clay Warren at the State Fair of Texas. While Rayna thinks she’s content solo, Clay longs for marriage and family. Though poised to win his third world championship, his ranch is in a slump. Clay convinces his publicist to hire her advertising firm in a last-ditch effort to keep his employees and lasso her heart.

Soon the city girl is on the ride of her life, until the rodeo unearths buried memories from her past. Clay sees her through the trauma, but an injury and his stubborn determination to get back in the hypothetical saddle threatens their budding relationship. Can they rely on God to find their common ground or will they draw a line in the rodeo dust that neither will cross?

I met Shannon a few years back when, just like with Jerri, we were assigned into the same critique group through ACFW. (Our other critique partner is Lorna Seilstad, author of the popular Lake Manawa Summers series. Yes, I'm in very good company). Anyway, Shannon introduced me to romance fiction. Being somewhat of a literary snob, it's a genre I used to avoid, but Shannon convinced me that there are quality romance authors out there, Shannon being one of them. Since meeting her I've even made my own attempt at writing romance in order to appeal to the market (read Shannon's very kind endorsement here).

Rodeo Dust is Shannon's fourth novel released through Heartsong Presents, and the first of a second series. I had the honor of critiquing this book as well. Her male lead Clay Warren, who has a unique and fascinating rodeo job, is definitely a hero to root for. If you love romance, you have to read Shannon's books.

Find Shannon on her website: http://shannonvannatter.com/
at her Inkslinger blog: http://shannonvannatter.com/blog/
at Inkspirational Messages: http://inkspirationalmessages.com/
and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shannontaylorvannatter

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Eye-Catching Covers

Let's face it, regardless of the phrase "Don't judge a book by it's cover", we're all guilty of it. That's why it's so important for publishers to create a cover that catches the eye. I've spotted a few covers recently that have warranted a second glance. I may not read the book--ultimately, the story is what matters--but at least they captured my attention, exactly what the publisher wants.

Here are a few of my favorite new covers:

(Note: I did not realize, until I wrote the captions, that three of the books are put out by B&H Books. Kudos to B&H for creating intriguing covers.)

by Ginny L. Yttrup
B&H Books
Release Date: February 15, 20112
by Mike Dellosso
Realms Publishing
Release Date: February 7, 2012
by Brandilyn Collins
B&H Books
Release Date: March 1, 2012

by James L. Rubart
B&H Books
Released September 2011

Friday, October 14, 2011

INSPYs ... Meet the Judges

The complete judge list is now up for the 2011 INSPY Awards: INSPY Judges. I'm thrilled to judge for the General Fiction category alongside four other excellent reviewers.

Look for the winners to be announced on December 12, 2011.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Debut Author Spotlight ... Christine Lindsay

by Christine Lindsay

My writing journey was birthed through the sense of loss.

After a 20-year separation, my birth-daughter Sarah and I were reunited. But her adoptive parents were heart-broken that I wanted to be a part of their child’s life after all these years. They couldn’t bear to meet me.

As for me—seeing the beautiful grown-up woman Sarah had become brought back all the pain of relinquishing her in the first place.

For months after the reunion I cried when the friendship I’d prayed for seemed as far away as it had been all the years of our closed adoption.

My husband came to me one day with a brand new pen and journal, and said, “Write it.”

That journal grew into a book, and I felt the call to put the emotional healing I had received from God into fiction.

Back then I didn’t know there was such a thing as ‘purple prose’. And I had the disease bad. I started to learn the craft through courses, attending conferences, joining critique groups . . .  I took my non-fictional, birth-mother story and set it in a romantic suspense.

I thought it was wonderful . . . until I sent it to an agent.

The 4 years I’d spent on learning the craft were only the beginning. Thankfully this agent saw some promise in my writing, and after a 6 month re-write they signed me and my manuscript.

My family and I rejoiced. “Publication won’t be long now.”

I didn’t know then how slowly the world of literature turns as my agent shopped out my book. Molasses in January is an over-used metaphor, but accurate. Two years later my agent broke the news to me that my first manuscript needed to be shelved . . . for now.

But as my agent had been shopping out that first book I had been busy writing. My second book would be more like a novel I liked to read. Similar to those by my favorite secular author, MM Kaye, who wrote the block-buster novel Far Pavilions in the 70’s. But I wanted to write my ‘British Raj’ novel from a Christian viewpoint.  Three years of research later, while working full-time and writing at night, I had another completed manuscript.

Again, I thought it was wonderful. And again, my agent thought it needed work. At this discouraging time someone suggested I join the American Christian Fiction Writers.

Through ACFW I met the critique partner that is my dearest writing friend to this day. Over the next year Rachel Phyfer helped me polish my British Raj novel.

But by now I’d been writing close to 7 years, and battled frequently with the question—had I heard God’s call to write? I’d turned down promotions and dropped down to part-time work because I felt writing was my priority. But had all this been merely my vain imagination?

Each day during my prayer time I hold this desire to write out on my open palm. But in 2008 I asked the Lord to either take it away or send me something super clear to encourage me to persevere.

That’s the year I won a scholarship to the ACFW conference.

There I met other writers, and got to know Rachel better. She encouraged me to enter the Genesis contest the following year. I did, and to my utter shock won the Gold Genesis for historical novel for 2009. Golden Keyes Parsons accepted on my behalf.

I thought for sure winning the Genesis would ease my way into publication. And it did open up opportunities. Major houses read my novel, other agents were interested. But alas, my setting in India didn’t appeal, and some editors thought my story leaned slightly toward the edgy Christian category.

By the fall of 2010 I received my final rejection. I’d been writing seriously for 10 years, and thought that was the end.

But one October morning I opened up an email. WhiteFire Publishing, a small and new house felt I had written a powerful story of redemptive love, and they loved the setting of India.

This last year has been a whirlwind. I’ve seen the Lord arrange for my birth-daughter Sarah to be the model on the front cover of my book. My kids and family are delighted.

My husband just grins and says, “I told you so.”

It’s been a long journey. Twelve years since I was reunited with Sarah and wrote out my pain in a journal, to getting an email from Sarah the other day that she received her copy of Shadowed in Silk in the mail.

Just another of those sweet serendipitous things God does to encourage me to persevere. My birth-daughter got to hold my literary baby before I did.

He does make dreams come true. Don’t give up!

You can find out more about Christine's inspiring adoption story on her website: http://www.christinelindsay.com/about.html

Christine also visited Spire Reviews back in May and told the beautiful story behind her cover: http://spirereviews.blogspot.com/2011/05/debut-author-spotlight-shadowed-in-silk.html.
*Warning - you may need to have tissues handy*

by Christine Lindsay

WhiteFire Publishing
335 pages

She was invisible to those who should have loved her.

After the Great War, Abby Fraser returns to India with her small son, where her husband is stationed with the British Army. She has longed to go home to the land of glittering palaces and veiled women . . . but Nick has become a cruel stranger. it will take more than her American pluck to survive.

Major Geoff Richards, broken over the loss of so many of his men in the trenches of France, returns to his cavalry post in Amritsar. But his faith does little to help him understand the ruthlessness of his British peers toward the Indian people he loves. Nor does it explain how he is to protect Abby Fraser and her child from the husband who mistreats them.

Amid political unrest, inhospitable deserts, and Russian spies, tensions rise in India as the people cry for the freedom espoused by Gandhi. Caught between their own ideals and duty, Geoff and Abby stumble into sinister secrets . . . secrets that will thrust them out of the shadows and straight into the fire of revolution.

Click here for Amazon Reviews

Christine Lindsay is an award-winning writer of Christian Inspirational Historicals. Shadowed in Silk is her debut novel, which won the 2009 ACFW Genesis award in the historical category. Christine, her husband, and their grownup family live in British Columbia, Canada. She loves being Nana to her three little grandsons.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Debut Author Spotlight ... Kat Heckenbach

by Kat Heckenbach

A journey starts with a beginning, a first step, but I honestly don’t know where mine fell. I grew up with dreams of being an artist, and thought drawing was the only place I had creative talent. And even that dream dissolved after I got to college, where the art classes were cheap copies of the advanced classes I’d had in high school. I switched my major to science, and ended up teaching math at a tutoring center. You see, everything except writing.

Then one day in August of 2007, I was talking to my husband about feeling like there was something I needed to do, but I had no idea what. He looked me in the eye and said, “If you want to write a book, I’ll be supportive.” The words hit me hard, and I left to clear my head with a trip to Barnes & Noble (which shoulda been my first clue that writing was hovering there). As I strolled around, memories surfaced that had been buried for years—me, as a teen, scribbling on a legal pad, wishing desperately to see my name on the spine of a book someday.

And so I sat down and wrote. I gave myself one chance. Either words would flow, or they would not. If they did, I’d put 100% into getting the book published. If they did not, that day would be my one and only attempt at writing.

The words flowed, and by the end of five single-spaced pages I was shaking. I shook with excitement, and a little fear, but mostly surprise. I truly had not expected it.

After that, my journey becomes like many others. Finding critique partners and writers groups, researching agents and sending queries…getting rejections…editing and rewriting again and again.

In between, I wrote short stories. An odd mix of them, but they got published. My inspirational personal experience stories appeared in Sunday School magazines. Other personal experiences ended up in Chicken Soup for the Soul. My fiction—primarily fantasy, sci-fi, and horror—has appeared in a variety of speculative fiction magazines and anthologies, both online and in print.

Despite everything I’d read about short story sales helping you to land a book deal, I made no progress toward selling my novel. I believe it is mostly because I write in what I call “the void.” That place that’s not mainstream Christian, but not quite secular either. It’s an area of risk, and these days publishers are shying away from risk.

And then one day my art came into play again.  Grace Bridges from Splashdown Books posted a callout for an artist to do a drawing for a book cover. I took the challenge, and my rendering of a key now sits prominently on the cover of The Duke’s Handmaid by Caprice Hokstad. Grace asked me to do two more jobs after that. Our online chats proved we worked very well together, and eventually she asked if she could read my manuscript.

Well, let’s see—what did I say?

Oh, right. That would be, “YES!”

Grace, fortunately, is all about risk. Risk on types of fiction other presses are afraid of. But she had a full catalog, so she encouraged me to try elsewhere. I did, but to no avail. I made the top five in a contest of sorts with Port Yonder Press, but they wanted to focus on adult fantasy, so I didn’t make the final cut. Still, it was encouraging. And after the contest was over, Grace was looking farther along in her schedule than she had been before. This time, she saw room for me.

So, while, I can’t pinpoint my first step, I know I chose the right path.

by Kat Heckenbach

Splashdown Books 2011
Middle Grade fantasy, 294 pgs

Angel doesn't remember her magical heritage...but it remembers her.

Magic and science collide when she embarks on a journey to her true home, and to herself.

Angel lives with a loving foster family, but dreams of a land that exists only in the pages of a fantasy novel. Until she meets Gregor, whose magic Talent saves her life and revives lost memories.

She follows Gregor to her homeland...a world unlike any she has imagined, where she travels a path of self-discovery that leads directly to her role in an ancient Prophecy...and to the madman who set her fate in motion.

Kat Heckenbach is a graduate of the University of Tampa, Magna Cum Laude, B.S. in Biology. She spent several years teaching, but never in a traditional classroom–everything from Art to Algebra II—and now homeschools her two children. Her writing spans the gamut from inspirational personal essays to dark and disturbing fantasy and horror, with over forty short fiction and nonfiction credits to her name. Her debut novel, MG fantasy Finding Angel, is available in print and ebook.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

2011 INSPY Shortlist

There are several book award programs for Christian fiction, the Carol Awards (via American Christian Fiction Writers) and the Christy Awards are two of the most widely known and respected. But there's a new award that looks at inspirational literature through a slightly different lens, the INSPYs - The Bloggers' Award for Excellence in Faith-Driven Literature.

While the INSPYs are limited to books that reflect the Christian faith, not all books are published by CBA publishers. General market books and authors are considered as well.

The INSPYs are blogger created and blogger judged. Given the proliferation of bloggers who talk books, it only makes sense that those same bloggers have a say in who's the best in faith-driven literature.

I've read a number of the books on this year's list and I look forward to reading several more.

Congratulations to all who made the shortlist!

INSPY Shortlist:

Creative Nonfiction

Little Princes by Conor Grennan, William Morrow, January, 2011
One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, Zondervan, January, 2011
Passport Through Darkness by Kimberly L. Smith, David C Cook, January, 2011
The Waiting Place by Eileen Button, Thomas Nelson, June, 2011
The World is Bigger Now by Euna Lee & Lisa Dickey, Broadway, September, 2010

City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell, Henry Holt & Co, September, 2010
The Blackberry Bush by David Housholder, Summerside Press, June, 2011
The Reluctant Prophet by Nancy Rue, David C Cook, October, 2010
Wolves Among Us by Ginger Garrett, David C Cook, April, 2011
Words by Ginny Yttrup, B&H Publishing, February, 2011

Back on Murder by J. Mark Bertrand, Bethany House, July, 2010
Darkness Follows by Mike Dellosso, Realms, May, 2011
Digitalis by Ronie Kendig, Barbour, January, 2011
Over the Edge by Brandilyn Collins, B&H Publishing, May, 2011
The Bishop by Steven James, Revell, August, 2010

A Heart Most Worthy by Siri Mitchell, Bethany House, March, 2011
A Hope Undaunted by Julie Lessman, Revell, September, 2010
The Preacher’s Bride by Jody Hedlund, Bethany House, October, 2010
Within My Heart by Tamera Alexander, Bethany House, September, 2010
Yesterday’s Tomorrow by Catherine West, Oak Tara, March, 2011

Speculative Fiction
Heartless by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, Bethany House, July, 2010
The Charlatan’s Boy by Jonathan Rogers, Waterbrook Press, October, 2010
The Falling Away by T. L. Hines, Thomas Nelson, September, 2010
The Resurrection by Mike Duran, Realms, February, 2011
The Skin Map by Stephen Lawhead, Thomas Nelson, August, 2010

Young Adult
A Girl Named Mister by Nikki Grimes, Zondervan, August, 2010
Losing Faith by Denise Jaden, Simon Pulse, September, 2010
Saint Training by Elizabeth Fixmer, Zondervan, August, 2010
The Fences Between Us by Kirby Larson, Scholastic, September, 2010
The Truth of the Matter by Andrew Klavan, Thomas Nelson, September, 2010