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.