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.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Novel Anticipation - July 2012

July is a month of suspense here at Spire Reviews. Sprinkle in a little romance and the books highlighted this month should hold appeal for all readers.

Thomas Nelson, 384 pages

I always look forward to reading Sibella Giorello's next novel. Her (romantic) suspense is intelligent and challenging. Her prose is mature, and her relationships are authentic. You won't find eye-rolling romance in her novels--it's all very real. If you haven't read Sibella's work before, I encourage you to start with her debut, The Stones Cry Out, and work your way through all five Raleigh Harmon books. You'll be begging for more.

     After the FBI suspends her for bending its rules, Special Agent Raleigh Harmon is looking for a chance to redeem her career and re-start her life.
     Sent undercover to a thoroughbred horse track, Raleigh takes on a double life to find out who's fixing the races. But when horses start dying and then her own life is threatened, Raleigh realizes something bigger-and more sinister-is ruining Emerald Meadows.
     She's never felt more alone.
     Her one contact with the FBI is Special Agent Jack Stephanson, a guy who seems to jump from antagonistic to genuine friend depending on the time of day. And she can't turn to her family for support. They're off-limits while she's undercover, and her mother isn't speaking to her anyway, having been confined to a mental hospital following a psychotic breakdown. Adding insult to her isolation, Raleigh's fiance wants them to begin their life together-now-precisely when she's been ordered not to be herself.
     With just days left before the season ends, Raleigh races to stop the killing and find out who's behind the track's trouble, all the while trying to determine if Jack is friend or foe, and whether marrying her fiance will make things better-or worse.
     Raleigh is walking through the darkest night she's faced, searching for a place where the stars shine bright.

B&H Books, 400 pages

This is the fourth book in which Struecker and Gansky have collaborated, all centering around a Special Operations team. Each book could be classified as Page-Turning action yet the authors deftly weave in a subtle faith message. Where Gansky brings years of writing expertise, Struecker's Ranger experience (Black Hawk Down fame) brings authenticity to the characters. As with Sibella's series above, if you haven't read any of this series, I encourage you to start with the first, Certain Jeopardy, where you'll first meet the Spec Ops team. I guarantee you'll speed through all four novels.

     Amelia Lennon no longer wears a uniform or carries a weapon. An Army trained Foreign Affairs Officer, she's negotiating a dispute with the Kyrgyzstan government that threatens to leave the U.S. without an airbase in that region. She traded her gun for the power of words, but now she needs both.
     While following her government contact - Jildiz Oskonbaeva, the lawyer daughter of Kyrgyzstan's president - Amelia witnesses an attempt to abduct her. She manages to prevent the kidnapping, but now the two women are on the run in a city that's erupting into chaos.
     Master Sergeant J.J. Bartley is the Special Operations team leader tasked to rescue Amelia and Jildiz.
     With two new members in his unit - one with a secret that could endanger everyone's life - J.J. must soldier his unit through crazed mobs intent on overthrowing the government. Back home, his pregnant wife is misinformed that her husband and the team have been killed. But before this is over, Bartley will find out that's the least of his problems.

Tyndale House, 384 pages

I was pleasantly surprised by Janice Cantore's debut, Accused. I enjoy romantic suspense when an author doesn't overdo the romance angle, when the romance seems organic to the story. Cantore wrote it perfectly. I'm certain Abducted will be as deftly written, and I can't wait to pick up my copy.

     After solving the mayor’s murder and exposing corruption among the top brass in Las Playas, Carly Edwards is happy to be back on patrol with her partner, Joe, putting bad guys behind bars. For once, everything in life seems to be going right.
     But then everything starts going wrong. Slow to recover from an injury, her ex-husband, Nick, begins pulling away just as they were starting to get close again. Meanwhile, when Joe’s wife lands in the hospital with a mysterious illness, their baby is kidnapped. As Carly chases down every lead in a desperate search to find the baby, her newfound faith is pushed to its limits.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Excellent Legal Fiction Debut

While unpublished authors may decry this down-turned publishing economy that makes it difficult for them  break in, the reader is definitely benefiting. The debut fiction that has come out these past two years is often better than that of seasoned authors. Anyone familiar with this blog knows that I love supporting the debut author--the works that have come out these past couple of years have made it easy to support them. Todd M. Johnson's The Deposit Slip is no exception.

This legal thriller hooked me from the very first chapter and kept me captivated, escalating the conflict throughout. Johnson created intriguing characters that I cared about. His pacing was excellent and didn't become bogged down with tedious courtroom drama. This novel was as much about the characters as it was about the legal conflict presented. The Christian element isn't in-your-face, but faith is part of the undercurrent pulling the story along.

If Todd Johnson's follow-up novels maintain this quality, I can easily foresee him joining the ranks of Randy Singer, Robert Whitlow, and James Scott Bell as a top writer of Christian legal fiction.

Other Christian legal fiction writers of note: Don Brown (JAG fiction), Craig Parshall, Diane and David Munson, Rick Acker.
by Todd M. Johnson

$10,000,000 Is Missing.

Erin Larson is running out of options. In the wake of her father's death, she found a slim piece of paper--a deposit slip--with an unbelievable amount on it. Only the bank claims they have no record of the money, and trying to hire a lawyer has brought only intimidation and threats. Erin's last chance is Jared Neaton.

How Far Will One Lawyer Go to Find the Money?

When Jared wearied of the shady ethics of his big law firm and started his own, he never expected the wheels to fly off so quickly. One big loss has pushed him to the brink, and it's all he can do to scrape by. 

And How Far Will Someone Go to Stop Him?

He's not sure if Erin's case is worth the risk, but if the money is real, all his problems could vanish. When digging deeper unleashes something far more dangerous than just threats, both Jared and Erin must decide the cost they're willing to pay to discover the truth.

Todd M. Johnson has practiced as an attorney for over 30 years, specializing as a trial lawyer. A graduate of Princeton University and the University of Minnesota Law School, he also taught for two years as adjunct professor of International Law and served as a US diplomat in Hong Kong. This is his debut novel. He lives outside Minneapolis, Minnesota, with his wife, his son, Ian, and his daughter, Libby.
Website: www.authortoddjohnson.com

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Not Your Typical Romance

by Becky Wade

This novel completely surprised me. When a novel is described as contemporary romance, I expect a nice, casual read, but this was so much more. I loved the unique prologue and epilogue (for those of you who skip prologues, don't! It even convinced my husband to read this book--which he enjoyed, by the way). The characters were quirky, but not over the top, and the prose was musical. Against the backdrop of redeeming an old  house, the message of redemption was demonstrated, not preached. I loved how real the characters were in this book as well. They were imperfect, messy, broken people any of us could identify with.

Debut author Becky Wade seems to have an innate understanding of the head/heart condition by seamlessly weaving head/heart issues together. You're a front-page witness to two people falling in love with their heads and their hearts. The reader can't help but be emotionally tugged into the story.

This is one of my favorite books this year. I look forward to reading more from Becky Wade.
Story Description: Burned out, Kate Donovan jumps at the chance to restore her grandmother's house in Redbud, Pennsylvania. But when she arrives, she becomes involved in a project she didn't expect. Handsome former hockey star and contractor Matt Jarreau is clearly wounded, hiding from people and God. Can Kate help him face his past---whether he likes it or not? 

by Dineen Miller

I know they say (just who are *they* anyway?) that a novel about a married couple can't be labeled romance, but I heartily disagree, and Dineen Miller proves otherwise in her debut novel.

Lexie Baltimore is a sculptor whose husband is an atheist. Her greatest dream is for him to share her faith. Throw in a grieving widower pastor who is the epitome of what she wants in a husband and you have the makings of an intriguing story. But, the author takes this novel much deeper than that.

Spiritual warfare is at the center of the conflict between Lexie, her husband, and the pastor. The author handles it skillfully and creates a page-turning, emotional story.
Story Description: Lexie Baltimore is in the supernatural battle of her life. In obedience to God's calling, Lexie uses her art and dreams to help others. But will she have enough courage to help herself when she becomes torn between her atheist husband and a godly man? A widower and a father, Pastor Nate Winslow is drowning in darkness. Will he resist his treacherous assignment to win Lexie's heart or give in to the attraction between them? As events unfold, Lexie becomes entangled in a twisted plot. Will she overcome the evil assailing her or yield to the dark side?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fiction for Fathers

Wondering what to get your dad for this coming Father's Day? Look no further than your local bookstore. For that fiction lover, you can find some terrific novels and/or series. These are some of my favorites.

by Steven James
(Revell and Signet Select)

I was hooked with James' first book in this series, The Pawn. Since then, I've impatiently awaited his next annual release. James has proven himself to be a skilled storyteller, one who garners interest across genre, age, and faith. This series is recommended for anyone who enjoys thrillers.

Opening Moves, a prequel, comes out in September.

More Steven James on Spire Reviews here.

Major Jeff Struecker and Alton Gansky's
Special Ops Series

I first learned of Major Jeff Struecker when I read The Road to Unafraid (another excellent book) that chronicled Struecker's road to faith, including his part in what is now known to as Black Hawk Down (book by Mark Bowden). Since then he has teamed up with veteran author Alton Gansky and together they've delivered a series of can't-put-down military ops novels. If you're interested in learning the perspective of a Christian in special ops, read this series.

The next book in the series, Hide and Seek, comes out in July.

Check out reviews of Struecker/Gansky books here.

by Cliff Graham

This series follows the Mighty Men of Israel (see 2 Samuel 23 and 1 Corinthians 11). It's a fascinating take on the men who stood closest to King David. The war descriptions can be gruesome, but they fit the subject matter. War isn't pretty. The first two of five books, Day of War and Covenant of War, are available for purchase. A movie based on Day of War is currently in production.

More Cliff Graham on Spire Reviews here.

by Graham Garrison
(Kregel Publications)

Touching stories surrounding a dying war hero who chooses an unlikely candidate to deliver his eulogy. These stories will give you a greater appreciation of Independence Day as well. Beautifully written and appreciated by men and women alike.

More Graham Garrison on Spire Reviews here.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Novel Anticipation - June 2012

The month of June provides more exciting reading opportunities, including (2) debut novels. I love the variety too: a police procedural, a legal thriller, a medical mystery, and an historical romance. Any of these would be perfect lakeside reading.

Roland March Mystery, Series #3
Thomas Nelson Publishers
352 pages

The body was an undercover agent working to bring down Mexican drug cartels. The feds want the case closed rather than risk exposing other agents in the field, but March can't abide letting a murder go unsolved. And he doesn't have to dig long to figure out something isn't right. Someone is covering something up, and it seems that everyone has something to hide. Maybe even March, as the case soon intersects, unexpectedly, with the murder that led him to become a homicide cop, all those years ago.

debut novel by Todd M. Johnson
Bethany House Publishers
368 pages

Erin Larson is running out of options. In the wake of her father's death, she found a slim piece of paper--a deposit slip--with an unbelievable amount on it. Ten million dollars. Only the bank claims it has no record of the deposit and stonewalls her attempts to find out more. This lawsuit, her last chance, has brought only intimidation and threats. Now she needs to convince Jared to take a risk, to help her because the money is real. And both need to watch their backs as digging deeper unleashes something far more dangerous than just threats.

Bloodline Trilogy Series #1
debut novel by Jordyn Redwood
Kregel Publications
304 pages

Dr. Lilly Reeves is a young, accomplished ER physician with her whole life ahead of her. But that life instantly changes when she becomes the fifth victim of a serial rapist. Believing it's the only way to recover her reputation and secure peace for herself, Lilly sets out to find--and punish--her assailant. Sporting a mysterious tattoo and unusually colored eyes, the rapist should be easy to identify. He even leaves what police would consider solid evidence. But when Lilly believes she has found him, DNA testing clears him as a suspect. How can she prove he is guilty, if science says he is not?

Thomas Nelson
352 pages

Sophia Makinoff is certain that 1876 is the year that she'll become the wife of a certain US Congressman, and happily plans her debut into the Capitol city. But when he proposes to her roommate instead, Sophia is stunned. Hoping to flee her heartache and humiliation, she signs up with the Board of Foreign Missions on a whim.
     With dreams of a romantic posting to the Far East, Sophia is dismayed to find she's being sent to the Ponca Indian Agency in the bleak Dakota Territory. She can't even run away effectively and begins to wonder how on earth she'll be able to guide others as a missionary. But teaching the Ponca children provides her with a joy she has never known-and never expected-and ignites in her a passion for the people she's sent to serve.
     It's a passion shared by the Agency carpenter, Willoughby Dunn, a man whose integrity and selflessness are unmatched. The Poncas are barely surviving. When U.S. policy decrees that they be uprooted from their land and marched hundreds of miles away in the middle of winter, Sophia and Will wade into rushing waters to fight for their friends, their love, and their destiny.

Release dates taken from Christianbook.com

Monday, June 4, 2012

2012 Genesis Finalist!!!

Oh, I know this is old news already; it's so last Thursday! But I had a few more important things to do this past weekend than write a blog post. You see, besides going to see Snow White and the Huntsman (much better than I thought it would be!) with my family, I had to make revisions to my Genesis entry.

I received The Call  on Thursday, May 31at 12:02 (yes, I recorded the time), telling me my Contemporary Romance entry was a Finalist. The category that began with approximately 100 entries was now down to three. Needless to say I was ecstatically stunned. Still am, to be honest. (Read more about my Snoopy Dance <here>.)

I'm blessed and humbled to be included with such terrific authors. And I'm so very grateful to my brilliant critique partners (Lorna Seilstad, Shannon Vannatter, Jerri Ledford, and Stephanie Prichard) for providing their ever-honest critique of my work. Additional thanks goes to Steph Prichard for providing last-minute editing of my revised entry. My biggest thanks goes to my family for always supporting and believing in me. I've said it before, but it bears repeating: I am blessed!

As for my Women's Fiction entry, I received the scores on Saturday and was immensely pleased with them. I don't doubt that I was very close to being a Finalist in that category as well. More affirmation that I'm where God wants me to be.

Today I'm going to celebrate, then it's time to get back to work.


Contemporary Romance
Brenda Anderson
Amy Matayo
Cindy Wilson
Contemporary Fiction
Michelle Massaro
Anne Prado
Chris Storm
Historical Fiction
Nancy Kimball
Kathleen L. Maher
Terri Wangard
Historical Romance
Karen Barnett
Brandy Vallance
Becca Witham
Rich Bullock
Christen Civiletto Morris
Matthew Sheehy
Romantic Suspense
Arlene Coulter
Kelli Hughett
Pat Trainum
Speculative Fiction
Caleb Jennings Breakey
Carla Laureano
Amanda G. Stevens
Women’s Fiction
Susan Hill
Rachel Moore
Erin Taylor Young
Young Adult
Kathleen Freeman
Teresa Lockhart
Rondi Olson

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

New Writing Blogs to Love!

We all know that continuing education is a must for all authors, published or not. Thanks to the internet, much of that education is a keystroke away, but the blogosphere is replete with so many voices that it can be overwhelming. I’ve chosen to follow a small handful of blogs, each with a different emphasis. Just this year, two friends have created author-craft blogs that I’ve found immensely helpful. Hopefully, you’ll add them to your blog roll.

I met Stephanie Prichard and her co-author husband, Don, roughly six years ago at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference, but it was a year or two later at the same conference (while taking the Nangie class—Nancy Rue and Angela Hunt) that we became friends. We’ve since become critique partners, and, oh my, does she have hawk eyes! Commas don’t dare slip out of place while under her perusal. ;-)

I love Steph’s quick wit and her honesty (which is painful at times). She and her husband are also fantastic storytellers. I can’t wait for the world to read the novel they have woven together!

Steph has recently plunged into the world of blogging with her grammar blog, Grammar Yammer, where she daily teaches five-minute lessons. With this blog she’s provided a quick and easy way for all of us to improve our grammar. Check it out!

    Stephanie Prichard is the grammar queen for American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). Her editor chose her because her lessons are spiked with humor to entice the reluctant student to laugh and learn. She also writes a monthly, online humor article for The Christian Pulse.
     Her major in college was English/Lit, but the source of her passion for grammar comes from her youth, when life with her army officer dad exposed her to a fantastic array of cultures around the world. She learned five foreign languages, and although she sniffles over the sad fact that she can’t remember a word of them now, they served to broaden her base for understanding the English language.
     Steph’s goal for her blog is to prosper the writing community. What could be more basic to the art of wordsmithing than grammar? And, one might add, easier to push aside? Today’s publishing industry doesn’t coddle writers with poorly presented manuscripts. More than ever, authors need to be responsible for the quality of their work.  Good grammar is as necessary a tool as any for the skillful writer to acquire, use, and stay on top of.
     With this in mind, and knowing what it’s like to juggle a busy schedule, Steph designed Grammar Yammer to teach daily lessons in five minutes max. No fancy-dancy words like “genitive case” or “non-restrictive appositive noun,” either—just simple, sensible explanations, always with examples. At the end of each lesson is a teeny test to help ingrain the content. MWF feature grammar and punctuation, while TT spotlight writing skills. Thursdays from May 24 to October 4 will teach 20 Figures of Speech to help add sparkle to your writing.


I met Michelle Lim a few years back when our Minnesota chapter of ACFW was in its infancy. From the beginning, I was amazed at how rapidly she formed ideas. When planning, she’d be tossing out her 20th suggestion, while I was still formulating my first. The same goes for plotting--her mind sparks ideas at lighting speed. Since she began her blog, Thoughts on Plot, I’ve learned she is also an excellent teacher. I love how she weaves story into her education process. Her blog has quickly become one to watch. I highly recommend it.

     Thoughts on Plot is a blog that journeys with the writer, celebrating their ups and downs while learning more about the craft of writing. Each day includes a blog varying in topic from writing craft, professional tips, faith, and featured guest authors. Laugh, cry, and celebrate the writing journey with www.thoughtsonplot@wordpress.com.
     Michelle Lim is a Romantic Suspense writer with three complete manuscripts that have earned recognition in The Rattler Contest in 2012, the Genesis Contest in 2011, and the Frasier Contest in 2010. She is the Brainstorm/Huddle Coach at My Book Therapy and she serves as Vice President of MN N.I.C.E. (Novelists Inspiring Christian Excellence), a local chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers.
     Michelle's website: http://www.michellestreetmatter.com/

And the Winner of THE TELLING is ...

*** Kat Heckenbach ***

Congratulations Kat!
Please send your mailing address to: BrendaBryantAndersonATcomcastDOTnet

Special thanks to Mike Duran for providing an engaging interview and the book for the giveaway. I greatly appreciate it!

And thank you, readers, for making Mike's interview the 3rd most popular post ever (so far) on the Spire Reviews blog. I hope you'll stop by again.

(Name chosen via the old-fashioned way--
my daughter pulled Kat's name out of a Minnesota Twins cap.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Author Spotlight on Mike Duran

I wish to thank author Mike Duran for stopping by Spire Reviews today for a brief chat. For those of you who haven't read his blog (deCOMPOSE) before, I encourage you to hop over there after reading this interview. Mike is rarely bashful about speaking his mind, and his posts often encourage thoughtful and heated debates. I've discovered it to be a challenging forum that continuously inspires my growth in faith.
Also, Mike has generously offered to give away (1) copy of his new release, THE TELLING. Please see below for instructions on how to enter this contest.
Good morning, Mike. Thank you for stopping by today, and congratulations on your new release, THE TELLING. I loved your debut novel, THE RESURRECTION, and anticipate your sophomore work will be equally engaging—just like your blog deCOMPOSE.
One reason I enjoy reading your blog is because you're not afraid to stir the pot, thereby encouraging discussion. Have you ever found your opinion swayed by the debate?
Oh yeah. I’m blessed to have such wonderful commenters and facilitate such fun, interesting discussions. One such time was my review of Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. It remains one of my most visited, hotly debated, posts (http://mikeduran.com/2011/04/redeeming-love-a-review/). The reason I even got to the place to read and review a romance novel was because of my blog readers. I’ve said some pretty snarky things about romance and romance readers in the past. Over time, I’ve felt my views changing. Of course, it’s still not my chosen genre to read or write, but the discussions helped me to a more balanced perspective, I think. I’m glad I read that book. And though it reinforced some of the opinions, it also changed some. So, yeah. My opinion is shaped, if not swayed, often.
A frequent topic on your blog is the quality of Christian fiction. One of the goals of Spire Reviews is to spotlight *Christian fiction* that raises the standard. Have you discovered any Christian fiction authors or novels that you would endorse? What, in your opinion, elevates them above the rest?
Wow! More than I could mention. I’ve read enough to know that there’s great-to-mediocre stuff in both markets. So I’ve never bought into the complaint that all Christian fiction is junk. Currently, I’m reading Athol Dickson’s Lost Mission. Dickson is such a great writer. Not sure how any objective person could read his stuff and still say that Christian writers are hacks. Tosca Lee is another Christian author who I consider a fantastic wordsmith. Tim Downs, T.L. Hines, and Robert Liparulo, just to name a few others. Last year I read Leif Enger's Peace Like a River and just adored it. While not considered Christian fiction, its themes are blatantly spiritual. Admittedly, I haven’t read much in the Women’s Fiction category, even though it comprises probably three-fourths of the Christian publishing market. Frankly, I think that’s one of our shortfalls at this point.
Well said. You mentioned several of my favorite authors, and I would like to add that there are several excellent women’s fiction writers within Christian fiction (see Authors Who Dare Write Different list in sidebar).
Regardless of genre, are there authors you read regularly? Are there any you wish to emulate?
I love Dean Koontz’s books, especially his Odd Thomas series. What I like about Koontz is his humorous, existential ruminations. He’s writing about something “bigger” than just his characters. I’ll never forget one Christian acquisitions editor telling me at a writers conference that Dean Koontz was writing some of the best Christian fiction out there. Go figger. Another writer who has deeply influenced me is G.K. Chesterton. His The Man Who Was Thursday remains one of my all-time favorite reads. It’s complex, dense, and full of wit. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy is so full of philosophical clarity and joy, it captivated me when I first read it. Those two writers, Koontz and Chesterton, are definitely at the top of my To Be Emulated list.
I loved your debut novel, The Resurrection, and am looking forward to reading your sophomore effort, The Telling, which releases the end May. What is The Telling about, what inspired you to write it, and do you have a third novel in the works?
The Telling is about a disfigured modern day prophet who’s renounced his gift and cloisters himself in a ramshackle bookstore on the outskirts of Endurance, a quaint but quirky city on the northern fringes of Death Valley. Through an odd series of circumstances, the least of which is the discovery of his murdered doppelganger, he finds himself front-and-center in a quest to close one of nine mythical gates of hell.
While The Telling could be classified as a horror story, it’s really about destiny. A recurrent question asked in the novel is, “Do you find your destiny, or does your destiny find you?” The Telling is a story about people who, in the midst of horrific circumstances, are grappling with a larger purpose to their lives. What is destiny? Is it human or divine? Can darkness—inside or outside us—short-circuit our destiny? Or are some scars actually destined? It was really a fun, challenging story to unravel.
My third novel is in the works. It’s a little different from my first two, an Urban Fantasy about a paranormal reporter who must investigate the murder of his girlfriend, only to learn of a larger plot to build a massive conductor to the spirit world. It’s fast-paced, supernatural noir. The book’s tentatively entitled The Ghost Box and is currently being shopped.
The storyline of The Telling sounds intriguing, and I love the thematic elements! Sounds engaging and profound. The Ghost Box sounds interesting too!
When you're not writing, what are you doing?
Since I’ve been contracted, my life has really changed. It’s honestly something I did not calculate. I work a 40-hour week outside the home, so writing just takes up pretty much the rest of my time. It’s extremely hectic and has involved a huge re-thinking of my priorities. Blogging also takes up a lot of my time. I enjoy doing it, but it’s really pretty hard to put out good stuff on a regular basis without spending time on it. I am constantly gathering material for my blog. I also love to garden and watch a lot of movies. Netflix has become an important tool in my writing workbox.
Can you briefly describe your journey to publication?
Well, it’s definitely not the journey I would have chosen! I was a minister for eleven years—full-time staff at a Christian church. I got into the ministry as a young man and a new Christian. I had a wife, four kids, and was on a steep learning curve. But the pressures eventually took their toll (as they do with many ministers) and, after a lot of teeth-pulling, I felt like I needed to step away.
But after I left the ministry, I kind of drifted. I didn’t jump straight into writing. In fact, I had no idea that’s what I’d end up doing. I returned to construction and kept one ear to heaven. This went on for three or four years. At the time, I subscribed to World Magazine. They sponsored a fiction contest by Westbow and I decided, rather impromptu, to enter. I’d never written fiction. But years in the pulpit had taught me how to work with words and engage an audience. To my surprise, out of thousands of entries, my story received an honorable mention. That affirmation sort of got the ball rolling on a possible writing career. As a result, I eventually was asked to join an online writing group. And that was really just the beginning of a whole other journey.
Thanks again, Mike, for stopping by Spire Reviews today! I wish you the best in all your future writing endeavors.
About Mike
Mike Duran is a novelist, blogger, and freelance writer whose short stories, essays, and commentary have appeared in Relief Journal, Relevant OnlineBreakpoint, Rue Morgue magazine, and other print and digital outlets. He is the author of the supernatural thriller THE RESURRECTION (Realms, 2011), which was a finalist in the 2011 INSPY Awards, an e-book fantasy novella entitled WINTERLAND, and THE TELLING (Realms, May 2012). Mike contributes monthly commentary at Novel Rocket, one of Writer's Digest 101 Most Helpful Websites for Writers. Mike is an ordained minister and lives with his wife and four grown children in Southern California. Mike's novels explore the boundaries of belief, the fragile tether between science and superstition, the depths of despair and the reaches of faith. You can learn more about Mike Duran, his writing projects, favorite music, cultural commentary, and arcane interests, at mikeduran.com.
Realms, 304 pages
A prophet never loses his calling, only his way.

Disfigured with a hideous scar from his stepmother, Zeph Walker lives his life in seclusion, cloistering himself in a ramshackle bookstore on the outskirts of town. But Zeph is also blessed with a gift—an uncanny ability to foresee the future,to know peoples’ deepest sins and secrets. He calls it the Telling, but he has abandoned this gift to a life of solitude, unbelief, and despair—until two detectives escort him to the county morgue where he finds his own body lying on the gurney.

On the northern fringes of Death Valley, the city of Endurance is home to llama ranches, abandoned mines, roadside attractions...and the mythical ninth gate of hell. Now, forced to investigate his own murder, Zeph discovers something even more insidious behind the urban legends and small-town eccentricities. Early miners unearthed a megalith—a sacred site where spiritual and physical forces converge and where an ancient subterranean presence broods. And only Zeph can stop it.

But the scar on Zeph’s face is nothing compared to the wound on his soul. For not only has he abandoned his gift and renounced heaven, but it was his own silence that spawned the evil. Can he overcome his own despair in time to seal the ninth gate of hell? 

His words unlocked something deadly,
And now the silence is killing them.

Drawing for THE TELLING
To be entered in the drawing, tell us, in the comments below, one thing that intrigues you about Mike Duran’s blog (http://mikeduran.com/). One comment per person will be entered. The drawing ends Monday, May 28 at 6 p.m. CST. The winner will be announced on the Spire Reviews blog on Tuesday, May 29. Winner must provide a mailing address in an email to BrendaBryantAndersonATcomcastDOTnet.