Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Christmas List for Readers

Okay, I'll admit it: I'm one of the crazies who hits the stores the day after Thanksgiving. (No, not Walmart. I'm not THAT crazy.) But for me, this day is about so much more than shopping. it's about spending memorable times with family. You see, I get to spend the day with my mom, sisters, sisters-in-law, and now our daughters.

We're usually at the mall by six a.m. At that time, it's pretty quiet yet. We shop for three to four hours then go out to eat where we often laugh ourselves to tears. I'm so blessed to have this close family. I can't wait till this Friday!

Of course one of those stores I'll be shopping in is the local bookstore. Needless to say, I love giving books! ... If you love to give books too, I have a few suggestions, some of my top reads of this past year.


by Sally John
by Ginny L. Yttrup
by Nicole Petrino-Salter


by Lorna Seilstad
by Laura Frantz
by Shannon Taylor Vannatter


by Nicole Baart
by Denise Hildreth Jones
by Athol Dickson

by Mike Duran
by Robin Parrish
by Mike Dellosso

by Tim Downs
by Steven James
by Jerri Lynn Ledford
Biblical Fiction:
by Cliff Graham
Happy Shopping & Happy Reading Everyone!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Preaching to the Choir

When a book or movie is labeled as "Preaching to the choir" we all know that's not a compliment. My question is, Why Not?

I've been a member of "the choir" since grade school and, frankly, I need to hear the preacher's message too. Sometimes I need that message drummed home. I don't want it hidden among metaphor. I don't want the preacher to hold back out of fear of turning someone off. He needs to proclaim his message truthfully and loudly. Unashamed.

Just like sometimes, I need to read that preachy book. I need to have the message broadcasted billboard-like across its pages.

The success of the recent movie release, Courageous, is proof that I'm not the only one who doesn't mind preachy. That movie defines message media. The sermon is blatant and unapologetic.

And viewers love it.

A recent look at Rotten Tomatoes shows a 37% reviewer approval on its Tomatometer, yet 94% of viewers liked it. After six weeks in theaters, Courageous ranked #12 in its weekly gross (per Box Office Mojo), amazing for a movie that shows in 2/3 fewer theaters than wide releases.

I've seen it twice. Once as a pre-screening with my teenage son and two friends who DO NOT go to "religious" movies. They liked it. I saw it with my husband, son, and daughter later. My husband will deny it, but he shed a few tears as he held our teen daughter close. Yeah, the acting isn't the greatest, and some of the dialogue is stilted, but that didn't take away from the story or the message--a message that is drastically needed today.

I know this is just one example, but in my opinion, sometimes a sermon mixed in our stories is exactly what we want.

What do you think about preachy books? Movies? Can you think of any overtly sermonizing novels/movies you would recommend? Or that you can't stand? Why?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Author Spotlight ... Shannon Taylor Vannatter

by Shannon Taylor Vannatter
In 1999, I decided to write a book, so I just did. Afterward, my local librarian steered me toward a market guide. From there, I learned how to write queries and proposals--well, I thought I’d learned. I’m certain it gave at least fifty-two editors a good laugh.
But, I got two rejection letters with handwritten notes saying I had a great plot, I just needed to attend conferences and learn to write. Learn to write? Why attend conferences when I can just write? So, I wrote two more books and actually got one Print on Demand published.
I thought I had made it. And in all honesty, I finally attended my first conference so I could be a big dog. A big published dog. And sure enough, I was a big dog. No one else at the conference was published, other than the speakers.
I was queen for a day and to top it off, the conference hosted several contests for essays and short stories. I won two first place awards. Oh, I’m telling you, I had arrived and was certain publishers would fight over my books.
After the book came out, reality sank in. Bookstores didn’t buy my 171 page, $21.95 paperback book. I had to pay $15.95 for each copy and since I’d just had a baby and quit my job to be a stay-at-home-mom, I couldn’t afford many copies. So, I sold a rousing 178 copies of my very badly written, unedited book. With those rousing numbers, the publisher rejected my sequel even though the book had a cliff-hanger ending.
About that time, my husband/preacher decided to do something shifty. He only does shifty things for me, mind you. He went to a bookstore, which of course did not carry my book, and ordered it. The shifty part: he had no intention of buying it. Knowing the book would eventually be put on the shelf, he hoped eventually somebody would shell out big bucks to buy it.
But my book wasn’t even in their system. However, the clerk told him they had another title by that author. Huh?
This is how we found out that another Print on Demand company had published the first very badly written book I ever wrote. We got a lawyer, who mentioned plagiarism and big money. But I didn’t want big money, I just wanted the publisher to stop publishing my book and pay me the piddly royalties he owed me from the piddly three books he sold.
The lawyer sent the publisher a cease and desist letter: requesting he stop publishing my book and pay me my cut. It got really ugly with the publisher, who sent me a really nasty, un-Christian-like e-mail, swore he didn’t publish the book, and finally admitted, “It accidentally got loose in his system.” Huh?
I never did get my royalties, but the book is out of print, unless Amazon digs it up for the Kindle.
Finally, I decided all of this was getting me nowhere fast. Maybe joining a writers’ group, attending more conferences, and learning to write might not be such a bad idea.
Through local groups and conferences, I learned the basics. Finally in 2005, I discovered American Christian Fiction Writers. The first time I attended the conference, I learned that I knew nothing about publishable writing. ACFW took me to the next level and I’ve attended every year since, but didn’t join until 2008.
Once I finally joined, I also joined a critique group, which took me to the next level.
It was somewhere along that point when I began entering Romance Writers of America National contests and ACFW’s Genesis. In all, I entered five contests and placed second in two RWA’s. One second place finalist even went to a big-time editor, who said I’d started the story in the wrong place.
The feedback I received from the judges in these contests was invaluable. And though I can’t say that a contest got me published, I can say the judge’s comments got me to the next level and publishers really started to take notice after my two second place wins.
In 2008, I attended the ACFW conference in Minneapolis where Heartsong Presents acquisitions editor JoAnne Simmons' eyes lit up over my story. 
A mere three years later, which seems like at least ten, my fourth book, Rodeo Dust just released through Heartsong Presents.
What's next? Rodeo Hero, the second book in my Texas rodeo series releases in March 2012. I'm currently working on book 3, Rodeo Ashes set to release in June 2012.

by Shannon Taylor Vannatter
Heartsong Presents,October 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?
Central Arkansas author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife. Her debut novel, White Roses won the 2011 Inspirational Readers Choice Award in the short contemporary category. The 18th Annual Heartsong Awards named Vannatter 3rd Favorite New Author. At the same awards White Roses was voted #1 and White Doves #8 in the contemporary category. The Arkansas Democrat Three Rivers Edition voted Vannatter one of 20 to Watch in 2011.
She has taught fiction workshops at The American Christian Fiction Writers Conference in St. Louis, MO, Life Press Christian Writers Conference in Memphis, TN, and Ozark Romance Authors Conference in Springfield, MO plus a ten session writing class as a continuing adult education course at Arkansas State University.
The first book in her Texas rodeo series, Rodeo Dust will be available through Heartsong Presents in October. Rodeo Hero and Rodeo Ashes release in 2012. Learn more about Shannon and her books at http://shannonvannatter.com and check out her real life romance blog at http://shannonvannatter.com/blog/.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Novel Anticipation ... The Drop

Finally, this November, Michael Connelly's next Harry Bosch mystery is coming out! Can you tell I'm excited?
For those of you who haven't read any of the Bosch series (17 books with a minor appearance in another Connelly novel), you're missing out.
Bosch is an LAPD officer who's a bit curmudgeonly and slightly maverick. Plus, he's got an impressionable teenage daughter at home so you know his stories will have more depth than the average mystery. The author, Connelly, always does an excellent job at blending plot and character, something I always look for in mystery/suspense.
No, you will not find any Michael Connelly works in your church library, (he does do a fair amount of swearing and periodically has sexual situations) but, his works are typically a fight of good vs. evil in addition to dealing with the shades of grey in between. I've read all of Connelly's novels and, unlike so many other authors in the general market, he does not denigrate Christians. He's occasionally had religious figures in his novels, and they've always been treated with respect. So, maybe it's not church library material, but I have no qualms recommending his books to Christians.
So, if you enjoy a good police procedural, if you're a fan of J. Mark Bertrand, Mark Mynheir, or Brandt Dodson, I recommend you pick up a Harry Bosch mystery from Michael Connelly. You can find his complete list of works on his website: http://www.michaelconnelly.com/extras/series/.

by Michael Connelly
Little, Brown and Company, November 2011
Harry Bosch has been given three years before he must retire from the LAPD, and he wants cases more fiercely than ever. In one morning, he gets two.
DNA from a 1989 rape and murder matches a 29-year-old convicted rapist. Was he an eight-year-old killer or has something gone terribly wrong in the new Regional Crime Lab? The latter possibility could compromise all of the lab's DNA cases currently in court.
Then Bosch and his partner are called to a death scene fraught with internal politics. Councilman Irvin Irving's son jumped or was pushed from a window at the Chateau Marmont. Irving, Bosch's longtime nemesis, has demanded that Harry handle the investigation.
Relentlessly pursuing both cases, Bosch makes two chilling discoveries: a killer operating unknown in the city for as many as three decades, and a political conspiracy that goes back into the dark history of the police department.
Michael Connelly is the author of the recent #1 New York Times bestsellers The Fifth Witness, The ReversalThe ScarecrowThe Brass Verdict, and The Lincoln Lawyer, as well as the bestselling Harry Bosch series of novels. He is a former newspaper reporter who has won numerous awards for his journalism and his novels. He spends his time in California and Florida.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Author Journey ... Nicole Petrino-Salter

by Nicole Petrino-Salter

Let's face it, there's still very little "respect" associated with self-publishing. If a writer proclaims--sheepishly or proudly--that they're self-published, most royalty published authors (and wannabes) form a condescending smile and their immediate thoughts rush to "She's impatient" and/or "No one would publish her work because it's inferior." The success of The Shack stunned some writers because it's no secret the little story that sold millions demonstrated that less-than-perfect writing sometimes has little to do with selling novels.

I wrote my first novel because God told me to write a Christian novel about horse racing, the industry in which my husband and I worked for over 30 years. It's a not-so-inside joke to professionals in the Christian publishing industry when they hear the mantra, "God told me to write it." This little phrase makes the Top Ten Things of what not to say at conferences or in any communication with professionals, the reason being that the instruction itself does not insure the individual who speaks it can actually write. And my first novel is very much a first effort. A huge tome that took 8 and 1/2 years to write during seven days a week of working at the track, homeschooling our son some of those years, and lay ministry at church. There would be six to nine month periods of no writing whatsoever. All the writing I managed was longhand in spiral notebooks. When it came time to decipher my handwriting and transport the story to the new computer my son received from my parents for graduation from high school, the "editing" began. Obviously that process only refined Hope Of Glory (yes, the O in of was capitalized on purpose) to a point since the saga wound up being 744 pages in a very tight template. Lots of unnecessary words in there and sooo many horse names.

Then the search for publication ensued, thinking once the book was written it could get published. Uh-huh. Silly girl. And very unschooled in the "biz". I don't know how to describe the sense that lurked in the background about self-publishing. Now some of you are laughing out loud. How else could a 744 page Christian novel about horse racing ever get any kind of traction from a Christian publisher - or any publisher for that matter? You're right. Not gonna happen. So I found an outfit that advertised in a Christian publication and followed up on it. As I look back, I figure they'd publish just about anything. I'm sure they've grown in their business practices since then, but suffice it to say, the end result was much inferior (with the exception of the cover) to my two novels produced by WinePress (The Famous One and Breath of Life). I won't wave the pricey tag in your face for Hope Of Glory because I don't want anyone accusing me of giving them heart palpitations. And this was after I received 1000 novels with two critical errors in them which the Lord showed me the next morning after they were delivered. I can't describe the sick feeling after all the jubilation. Those 1000 novels ended up at a recycler and the book took years to pay off. Hope Of Glory holds some interesting testimonies for all its clumsy construction, and I give away copies as ministry novels to racetrackers, friends, and strangers.

My second novel came as a result of a powerful prayer burden for an actor. Simultaneously with that heavy prayer for his salvation, The Famous One formed. When I'd learned significantly more about the biz, I submitted it to a well known Christian literary agency and the story made it into their final process for acceptance or rejection. Since it eventually ended up self-published, you know what they decided. A few years later I inquired at WinePress and purchased a package for the book which I should mention exceeds the norm for CBA novels in length (word count) which is why it's more expensive than most. To participate closely in the process after having the work edited by a professional (and surprisingly left mostly intact) proved to be rewarding. The marketing factor is the only downside to the experience.

And so it happened that before WinePress changed their packages, my latest novel Breath of Life got locked into an inexpensive package, and the process began again. And also again I'm in the uncomfortable position of attempting to market my work. Believe me, by this time I've heard all the positive reasoning for selling one's books. However, I've never heard any concrete facts given for what truly works - other than word of mouth which can take a very long time if you write a niche novel.

My journey in self-publishing satisfies my independent spirit but really it's all about the road God has chosen for me. And don't expect me to tell you why because I can't. Marketing is not my best suit. In fact marketing makes me feel like I'm standing exposed in my underwear. I can tell you I love the stories I've been inspired to write. I can talk about why they don't fit comfortably into some of the current CBA publishers' requirements. I can discuss the characters with you because I love them. But push you to buy a copy of one of them? Not so easy for me.

So why do it? Because nothing in this life is incidental. The Lord has His reasons for our directions even when they don't necessarily make sense to us. Apart from Him, I can do nothing. I've completed seven novels and have three more in progress. I keep going because He gives me characters and words to accommodate their lives. This is my journey. For what it's worth.
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 and is overwhelmed with her pristine beauty and is challenged to change everything about the way he's lived his life so far.

Praise for Breath of Life:
A bestselling novelist hiding her loneliness behind a pen name, Shay is more of an innocent than her stories let on with only two vices: shoes and cigarettes. When one of them attracts the attention of another lost soul looking for love, Shay's story takes an unforeseen turn. In Breath of Life, Nicole Petrino-Salter proves to be a minute chronicler of the human heart. She imbues her tale of second chances with a quiet emotional intensity that builds page after page." J. Mark Bertrand, author of Back on Murder and Pattern of Wounds.

Nicole Petrino-Salter writes love stories with a passion. She's devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ, her family, friends, and her pets. You can find her most days on her blog: hopeofglory.typepad.com where she welcomes your visit.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Debut Author Spotlight ... Jerri Lynn Ledford

by Jerri Lynn Ledford

I guess I’ve always wanted to be a full time writer.  It just wasn’t always clear to me that it was a viable career path.
“Choose a real career. Unless you’re Stephen King, you can’t make a living as a writer.”
Ok. I dropped out of high school out of sheer boredom and tried on a few different careers. Dropped out of college. And wrote stories when I had time. I didn’t really try publishing until I was in my mid-20s. Even then I didn’t try real hard.
My thirties were fast approaching before I decided I wanted get serious about writing. I had sold my first non-fiction article a few years before. It didn’t count. At $25, it sure couldn’t be considered a viable way to make a living.
Besides, I really wanted to write fiction. I spent a couple of years writing, rewriting, and submitting short stories. I attended online classes, joined a local writing group and met a couple of great writing mentors. But my career went nowhere.
I also wrote my first novel. Then I spent some time polishing it and put it in front of an editor from Rutledge House at a conference. He loved the writing, but the subject matter of the book was “too intense.”
So, I put it on the shelf and went to work for a temp agency. They put me in a position working a call center job that I despised. I had two young kids that I wanted to be at home with but we needed the money. Even if most of what I made went to pay for daycare.
That Christmas season, my son came home from school the last day before Christmas Break with Chicken Pox. I had to take off work. About the time he cleared up, my daughter got them. More time off.
By the time the kids got better, I’d spent some serious time trying to find places to sell my writing. My desire to be a “real writer” was strong.
When I called to let my bosses know I was coming back to work I was told, “Come on in on Monday and we’ll let you know if you still have a job.” Uh, really?
I talked it over with my husband and we decided I would stay home and try to make a living writing. Non-fiction. Articles.
It took a couple more years and a lot of determination, but I was bringing in enough along the way to give us the little bump that we needed to keep our heads above water. We were used to living paycheck to paycheck. My income was a bonus.
Then a friend that I knew though an online message group needed help.  She had more work than she could possibly finish and she needed a strong writer that could write accurately and fast. About technology. Could I help her?
Wow. Um. No.
I didn’t know the first thing about technology. My computer skills were self-taught. And I had no idea what she was talking about.
“Just do the research. Call these people,” she named off a list of experts. “Ask questions. They’ll explain it to you. Then write what you learn.”
I could do that. I could learn anything. And that one little fact led me to a career with an income that very quickly exceeded my husband’s. I’d done it. I’d become a “real writer” with hundreds of articles published, and I was bored out of my mind, and burning out very quickly.
Then I got another call. “Jerri Lynn, I’ve signed a book contract and I don’t think I can write the book.  Will you co-author it with me.”
Wow. Um. No.
I’d never written a full-length book. I had no idea how to go about.
“The outline is written. It’s like writing a collection of articles that all fit together. And the money is pretty darned good for a first book.”
I could do that. Three years later I’d written more than a dozen books, most of them without co-authors.
During all of this lots of “life stuff” was happening. My kids were growing up. I homeschooled for a while. Got a divorce. Moved halfway across the country and then moved a little further. Started a new life. And spent a lot of time writing fiction that never saw the light of day.
Another of those “and then” moments came along. I got a call, because my name was associated with many articles and books related to Google. “Jerri Lynn, we’re redesigning some training, can you do some work for us and what’s your hourly rate?”
I quoted high, impressed them with my ability to write and understand what they needed, and I landed the corporate contract of a lifetime. But the best part? It freed me up to write fiction again. I was making enough money that I didn’t have to work myself into the ground (most of the time). I had time to figure out where I wanted my career to go next and how I planned to get there.
I dusted off the old novel, read through it, scrapped the biggest part of it, and started over. That novel ended up being Biloxi Sunrise, the first in a trilogy. And by command decision (command being me), it was released in digital format, self-published, in early October.
The next two books in the trilogy are in the works. Biloxi Sunrise will be out in print at the beginning of 2012. And I’m still working the corporate contract. 
The plan is to be self-sufficient with fiction before that contract goes away. It’s been a long journey, and one that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend for everyone. I don’t even know yet what the outcome will be.  But I know a few things for certain. I’m not Stephen King. And it’s completely possible to make a very nice living as a writer. If you’re willing to do the hard work.

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.

Jerri Ledford has been a freelance business technology writer for nearly 20 years.  During that time, over 1500 of her articles, profiles, news stories and reports have appeared online and in print.  Her publishing credits include: Intelligent Enterprise, Network World, Information Security Magazine, DCM Magazine, CRM Magazine, IT Manager’s Journal.

She develops and teaches technology training courses for both consumer and business users including courses on security, customer service, career skills, and various technologies for companies such as: Franklin Covey, IBT Financial, Writer’s Village University, You Don’t Say, LLC., Hewlett Packard, Sony, Gateway, Forbes and CNET.
When she’s not writing for a consumer audience, Jerri also produces corporate collateral–white papers, case studies, web content, templates, help documents, and presentations.  Her corporate clients include Franklin Covey, Microsoft, Switch & Data, The World Health Organization, FujiFilm, Coca-Cola, and NaviSite.
Fiction is Jerri’s first love. Her first novel, Biloxi Sunrise, released in most digital formats in October 2011, and will release in paperback in early 2012. Biloxi Sunrise is the first in the Biloxi series. The second book, Biloxi Blues, is due out in Spring 2012.

Important 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.
Biloxi Sunrise is available at the following retailers:

You can learn more about Jerri or read her blog at: http://www.JerriLedford.com