Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Perseverance Payoff

Seven years is a long time to run after a dream.

While I've always written, I began writing seriously in May of 2005. Since then I've typed THE END on six novels, and I've penned the first scenes in book number seven. I contribute to two separate blogs, Spire Reviews and Inkspirational Messages, and I have a website (Brenda Anderson Books) that's currently under reconstruction.

Also, during those seven years, I've attended five writing conferences where I've learned from Angela Hunt, Ted Dekker, James Scott Bell, Tim Downs, and many more accomplished authors and teachers.

I'm in two critique groups with the best partners anyone could ask for (Thanks Lorna, Shannon, Jerri, and Steph). I've entered a handful of contests but never advanced past round one. I've met with numerous agents/editors; twice, I nearly signed with an agent. I've paid for several critiques, gaining improvement with each. And I've received some strange advice: frequently, I've been told that women won't read books with a male protagonist. (Really?) One editor told me that my characters were too messed up, they needed counseling, and should never get together. She said I should take out all the messy stuff and write something sweet. (Not gonna happen.) Once, when pitching to an agent, I told her my protag had previously lived with his girlfriend-- The agent stopped me right there and told me that women who read Christian fiction don't want to read about that. (Oh my!) It was a mutual decision that we weren't right for each other.

During these years, I've cheered on three critique partners as they published and have happy danced with friends as they signed with agents. But, I couldn't stop the niggling thought, "I've been giving it my all. When is it my turn to win?"
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.     Corinthians 9:24
In 2010, I attended the ACFW Conference in Indianapolis. The conference began with a very encouraging paid critique from a well-respected, multi-published author who told me she loved my writing and that she fully expected to stand in line for my autograph someday. Oh, I was flying high at that moment.

Then I crashed.

After pitching to editors and agents, no one requested I send more. That had never happened before. Even at my very first conference, with a terrible manuscript, an agent requested a proposal.

It left me wondering, "What do I do now?" After years of perfecting and even completing a novel in the romance genre in order to appeal to a wider audience, no one wanted me. I had no where to run.

But I couldn't stand still--I kept running, this time without seeking outside approval. While I still worked with my critique partners, I didn't attend a conference or enter any contests. I just wrote. I didn't write for the market, but rather what was on my heart, and I completed two more novels. In the process, I rediscovered my voice.

A voice I'm ready to share again.
Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me Heavenward in Christ Jesus.     Philippians 3:13-14
And I shared by entering two stories in the ACFW Genesis contest, one in women's fiction, and one in contemporary romance. To be honest, I didn't expect much, and my gut told me I wasn't going to semi-final, but then last Wednesday, April 18, at 12:16 pm (yes, I recorded the time), I received a call from the coordinator for the contemporary romance category who told me I semi-finalled. Needless to say, I was ecstatic! I called my husband right away, then I hurried an e-mail to my critique partners.

Then at 12:34 my phone rang again. I peeked at the caller I.D., and my heart started palpitating. It was the coordinator for women's fiction! After managing a thank you amid my shock, I called my husband again and flung off another e-mail to my critique partners.

I don't think my feet touched the ground for two days. After the Genesis contest coordinator announced all the semi-finalists later Wednesday evening, my Facebook page and e-mail were flooded with congratulations. My celebration was tempered, though, with the knowledge that several talented friends did not advance--I know too well how that feels and wasn't about to offer them the platitudes. Believe me, empty encouragement doesn't help immediately after a rejection.

Now, does semi-finalling mean that a publishing contract is around the corner? Nope. This is just the first lap in a multi-lap race. The precentage of finalling in this contest, of being in the top three in either of my categories, is a mere 15%. Not great odds, but not impossible either. With help from my critique partners, I know I did my best.

What this does mean is that working hard these past seven years has finally paid off with confirmation that I'm running the right race. To advance this far, I must have talent worth harvesting.

And so, regardless of the outcome of the Genesis contest, regardless of the results of the ACFW Conference in Dallas this fall, I'll persevere. I'll keep running this race, and I will continue to give it my all and leave the results in God's hands.

 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us...     Hebrews 12:1

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Author Spotlight on Sharon Hinck

One of the priceless benefits of becoming a writer has been meeting and making new friends. Over the past few years I have had the privilege of getting to know author Sharon Hinck. She has become a mentor, encourager, and best of all, a friend. Once I'm published, I pray I can handle the responsibility with half the grace as she.

So, I'm thrilled to let people know about the re-release of Sharon's novel, The Restorer's Son as an Expanded Edition (through Marcher Lord Press). I'm not typically a fantasy reader, but Sharon's Sword of Lyric novels are different. She draws the reader in using real-world characters, making it easier to identify with them even as they're drawn into a foreign world.

Sharon's a gifted storyteller and I encourage you to give her Restorer novels a try. You won't be disappointed.

THE RESTORER'S SON-Expanded Edition

Book two in the groundbreaking Sword of Lyric series, The Restorer’s Son won a Carol Award (2008) for speculative fiction.

Plunged again into the gray world of Lyric and Hazor, Susan and Mark search frantically for their teenage son, Jake. All signs hint that a trusted ally has betrayed them and threatens their son. A target of assassins and more political intrigue, false leads and near misses beset their path, which leads them into the dark prisons of Hazor before the One’s purpose is revealed.

Cast out by those he trusts, the new reluctant Restorer prefers to cross swords with the One rather than submit to His will. Pursued by his calling, he journeys to Sidian, where he finds a boy without a home, a king with burning questions, and a nation torn by darkness. As he embraces the tasks the One has set before him, this new Restorer learns that the One requires his all—perhaps even his life.

This new expanded edition of The Restorer’s Son includes an in-depth devotion guide for readers who want to dig into the spiritual themes of the book, bonus scenes providing glimpses of the story through a variety of characters, and fun extras including links to songs and recipes.

Sharon, I love all the new interactive features! What a clever way to add dimension to your book. What was it like developing this material for the new edition? 
     Books are like children. I treasure each of them in different ways, and among the novels I’ve written, I try not to have favorites. However, I confess that The Restorer’s Son has an extra special place in my heart. Because of that, it was fun to revisit the characters and world of this story. Kieran’s attitudes were loosely inspired by a verse in Judges where Gideon is told God will use him to save his people. Gideon’s response is basically, “If God is for us, why have all these bad things happened to us?” It’s a question many can relate to, and part of the reason that Kieran is such a beloved character.
     The new devotion guide gives readers an opportunity to dig deeper into the Biblical inspirations that helped inform the book, as well as find personal application. About forty pages of new content, including bonus scenes and a new song composed for the book, make this edition a new experience.
How did you decide where to put in bonus elements? 
     Working with the publisher, we decided it was important to keep the flow of the story intact and free from distractions. So the book is designed with a large back-of-the-book section that can be used either after finishing the story, or during the reading of the main story. Small symbols and page numbers at the end of chapters direct readers to bonus scenes, and QR symbols in the margin invite readers to explore audio files, or recipes, or rules for playing Perish – all without interrupting the story.
     It was important to me that people would feel that it was worth the investment to own The Restorer’s Son-Expanded Edition, even if they had a copy of the original edition, so we packed this book with lots of added value. 
As someone who owns all the original Sword of Lyric releases, I can't wait to get my new copies. It sounds like the new features will be very entertaining. But, besides an entertaining read, what do you hope people experience in The Restorer’s Son-Expanded Edition? 
     My hope is that readers will catch glimpses of the way the One speaks to each of us in the language we understand, and that we can go to Him with our difficult questions. For those who are walking very painful roads, I hope the story will help them feel acknowledged. The journey is hard, heroic, and sometimes frightening. But we are never alone. 
That's so true. We are never alone. Part of that is having people in our lives to cheer us on our life journey and, in this writing business, having cheerleaders is so important. Who is your biggest cheerleader(s)?
     My absolutely best cheerleader (although he’s never shaken a pompom) is my husband. All the best qualities of my male heroes are inspired by him, and he patiently listens when I’m full of discouragement and doubt about my work.
He sounds like my husband (and no, he's never shaken a pompom either) who's encouraged every step in my writing journey. Everyone's path to publication is different and inspiring. Could you briefly describe yours?
     I felt God nudging me to move into writing again. I had done a bit of writing for magazines, and a lot of writing for newsletters, scripts, marketing material, etc. during my work in the arts. I joined a Christian writing group, continuing to pray for direction about WHAT to write. I assumed God would guide me to go back into writing magazine articles. But all the writers in the group were working on novels, and it was so FUN hearing what they’d created each month. The thought took hold. What if I wanted to write a novel? Which genre? What kind of story? What sort of story would I like to read? Who would the protagonist be? What would be her core struggle? I created Susan Mitchell and threw her into an alleyway in Shamgar where a sword fight was going on...and The Restorer unfolded from there. When the manuscript was finished I brought it to a writer’s conference and accepted representation from an agent who liked the work. I kept writing, and it was actually my fifth finished manuscript (TheSecret Life of Becky Miller) that was first contracted, all the Restorer series sold soon after that. It’s so fun to see those stories have a new life. 
Thank you so much, Sharon, for stopping by Spire Reviews today! I hope you'll visit again when The Restorer's Journey-Expanded Edition releases.

An interview with Sharon Hinck at Inkspirational Messages following the release of The Restorer-Expanded Edition:

To order The Restorer’s Son-Expanded Edition: http://urlcut.me/aM3
Kindle version: http://urlcut.me/aM2

Sharon Hinck writes “stories for the hero in all of us,” about ordinary people experiencing God’s grace in unexpected ways. Known for their authenticity, emotional range, and spiritual depth, her novels include contemporary fiction such as The Secret Life of Becky Miller or Stepping into Sunlight and the groundbreaking Sword of Lyric fantasy series which includes The Restorer’s Son–Expanded Edition. She’s been a Christy finalist and has won three Carol awards.

Sharon’s undergrad degree is in education, and she earned an M.A. in Communication. When she isn’t wrestling with words, she enjoys speaking to conferences, retreats, and church groups. She loves interacting with visitors at her website and blog: www.sharonhinck.com and http://sharonswriting.blogspot.com/

Monday, April 16, 2012

2012 Christy Award Nominees

Once again the The Christy Awards have chosen the best in Christian fiction as finalists. I've read a number of these books (marked with *) and am not surprised at their nomination. A few more are on my to-read list. I'm also excited to see two Minnesotan's represented: Susan May Warren and Julie Klassen.

CONGRATULATIONS to all the nominees!

My Foolish Heart by Susan May Warren (Tyndale House Publishers)
Larkspur Cove by Lisa Wingate (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group)
*Wolfsbane by Ronie Kendig (Barbour Publishing)

The Amish Midwife by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould (Harvest House Publishers)
*Dancing on Glass by Pam Ewen (B&H Publishing Group)
The Touch by Randall Wallace (Tyndale House Publishers)

*Dry as Rain by Gina Holmes (Tyndale House Publishers)
*Promises to Keep by Ann Tatlock (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group)
*Words by Ginny Yttrup (B&H Publishing Group)

*An Eye for Glory by Karl Bacon (Zondervan)
*Southern Fried Sushi by Jennifer Rogers Spinola (Barbour Publishing)
*Words by Ginny Yttrup (B&H Publishing Group)

Forsaking All Others by Allison Pittman (Tyndale House Publishers)
Mine is the Night by Liz Curtis Higgs (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group)
Wonderland Creek by Lynn Austin (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

A Lasting Impression by Tamera Alexander (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group)
The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group)
To Die For by Sandra Byrd (Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster)

*Over the Edge by Brandilyn Collins (B&H Publishing Group)
*Pattern of Wounds by Mark Bertrand (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group)
*The Queen by Steven James (Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

*The Chair by Jim Rubart (B&H Publishing Group)
Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee (Center Street, a division of Hachette Book Group USA)
Veiled Rose by Anne Elisabeth Stengl (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

How Huge the Night by Heather Munn and Lydia Munn (Kregel Publications)
Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie Dickerson (Zondervan)
Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren (David C Cook)

The Christy Awards are also online at: 
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChristyAward 
Twitter: www.twitter.com/ChristyAward

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Novel Anticipation - More April 2012 Releases

Last week I spotlighted several debut authors releasing their first novel (see Debut Novel Anticipation). Now this week I'm excited to bring you new titles from four of my favorite authors. It's an eclectic group of books, so there should be something for all tastes.

Are there any other April releases you're looking forward to reading?

Lake Manawa Series #3
by Lorna Seilstad

Revell, 384 pages

The Ride of Her Life is the 3rd and final novel in the whimsical Lake Manawa series written by my good friend Lorna Seilstad. As Lorna's critique partner, I've had the privilege of reading this fun book in its early stages and can't wait to read it in its polished form.
Description: The only man pragmatic Lilly Hart needs in her life is a six year old. Widowed two years ago, Lilly leaves the shelter of her intrusive in-laws' home to stand on her own and provide for her young son by working for the summer as a cook at Lake Manawa.
However, her in-laws find that life utterly unsuitable for their grandson, and when a row ensues, a handsome stranger--who designs roller coasters, of all things--intercedes on her behalf. Still, Lilly is not about to get involved with any man, especially this cocky (though charismatic) gentleman. Little does she know she is about to begin the ride of her life.

by Ann Tatlock

Bethany House, 368 pages

Ann Tatlock is one of the most gifted wordsmiths around. Reading her novels is akin to listening to a symphony, and her character development is always unique multi-faceted. If you enjoy literary authors, you'll love Ann Tatlock.
Description: Jane Morrow has a dilemma. She's engaged to Seth Ballantine, a member of the National Guard's 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, and he's returned from Iraq severely wounded. Jane hasn't seen him for nearly a year, and with trepidation, she heads to the VA hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, where he is being treated.
Seth isn't happy to see her. He'd asked her not to come. He wants to end the relationship. But Jane loves him, and despite his injury, she's determined to convince him that they can have a life together. Her faith has never been strong, yet she hopes God will answer her prayers and tell her what to do. Beautifully written, Travelers Rest takes readers on a journey through pain and tragedy to a place of hope and redemption.

by Graham Garrison

Kregel Publications, 256 pages

Legacy Road is Graham Garrison's sophomore effort and a sequel to Hero's Tribute, one of my favorite novels from 2009 (and I'll likely reread it before diving into Legacy Road). I've been looking forward to reading this book for a long time.
Description: Wes Watkins's journalism career took off when he was asked to eulogize Michael Gavin, a stranger to Wes but a hometown hero to the humble folks of Talking Creek, Georgia.
While researching Gavin's life, Wes was confronted with an estranged relationship of his own that he wasn't prepared to address, having ignored for years the occasional letters from his imprisoned father. Wes has chosen to focus instead on his growing career and his budding relationship with Emmy.
His life is looking up . . . until his marriage proposal to Emmy goes south. Left to wonder if he can reconcile with Emmy before she is deployed to Afghanistan, Wes can no longer avoid the other reconciliation that troubles him. But when Wes uncovers a painful truth about his parents' past, patching things up with his father may prove impossible. Wes's life is close to spiraling out of control. Will Wes learn to forgive? Or will the best year of his life turn into the worst?

by Tom Pawlik

Tyndale House, 384 pages

Tom Pawlik has quickly proven himself a master in the Christian *horror* genre. After reading his books, you might want to sleep with one eye open.
Description: Some things weren’t meant to be discovered. Three people are each drawn to the small town of Beckon, Wyoming. A young anthropologist researches a Native American legend and makes a terrifying discovery. An ex-cop investigating her cousin’s disappearance finds herself in grave peril. And an aging businessman is lured by the promise of a miracle.
One by one they discover the town’s ghastly secret. The only question is . . . will any of them make it out alive?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Change Ahead ...

As of this coming Sunday, April 8, the "Debut Novels" page on Spire Reviews will come down. I enjoyed tracking the debut novelists last year and I still love finding new authors (see Debut Novel Anticipation - April 2012). The sheer number of first-time novelists provides hope for those of us who've yet to crack into the publishing industry.

Thank you to all the Debut Novelists who took time to provide information for this page. I wish you the best!

In news related to Spire Reviews, my website, www.BrendaAndersonBooks.com will soon be undergoing renovation. My current web host is changing systems and I'm not fond of the direction it's going, so I figured now is a good time to revamp the site, hopefully giving it a more professional appearance. It will be a work in progress for a while as I learn to navigate a new system, but I'm very excited about the change.

Thank you all for following Spire Reviews!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Debut Novel Anticipation - April 2012

April is not only rich with spring flowers this year, but it's also blooming with new releases including four novels by debut authors. As someone who hopes to be a "Debut" author someday, I love endorsing rookie writers. And I love finding new voices in fiction so I look forward to reading from all these authors.

Congratulations to you all!

by Becky Wade

Bethany House
352 pages

     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?

Alaskan Courage Series #1
by Dani Pettrey

Bethany House
320 pages

     Bailey Craig vowed never to set foot in Yancey, Alaska, again. She has a past reputation, and Yancey's a town that doesn't forget. She's returned only to bury her beloved aunt killed in the mysterious plane crash.
     Cole McKenna faces dangerous rescue dives and he faces the fear that a murderer may be threatening his town. But facing the reality of Bailey's reappearance is a tougher challenge. She broke his heart...

by Katie Ganshert

WaterBrook Press
320 pages

     Architect Bethany Quinn reluctantly returns to her Iowa hometown for an "in and out" visit---but then her grandfather dies and leaves her his farm. She wants to sell the place, but even that gets complicated with manager Evan Price watching her every move. Can Bethany make peace with her trailer park past---and find love?

by Beth Vogt

Howard Books
320 pages

     Allison Denman is supposed to get married in five days, but everything is all wrong. The huge wedding. The frothy dress. And the groom.
     Still, kissing the groom's brother in an unguarded moment is decidedly not the right thing to do. How could she have made such a mistake? It seems Allison's life is nothing but mistakes at this point. And pulling a "Runaway Bride" complete with stealing, er, borrowing her best friend's car doesn't seem to solve her problems.
     Can Allison find her way out of this mess? Maybe she just needs to stop orchestrating everything. Allison prefers being the one in control, and giving it up is not going to be easy. But to find her way again, she will have to believe that God has a plan for her and find the strength to let Him lead.

Stop back on Thursday, April 5 for Spire Reviews' News!

And then, be sure to watch for next Tuesday's post (April 10) where I'll bring you more April offerings.