Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Kathie's Rant

Deb writes: some of you may remember AJ Mercer, whose story was told in ANGEL WITH A RAY GUN. Her New-Age, ex-hippie, anything goes mother has been champing at the bit to talk, and I finally relented and let the insistent flower child have her moment.

Here's what Kathie says about recent developments:

Since she left home, I can’t remember a time that I haven’t been able to write AJ with all that’s going on. It’s definitely weird. Yet, I sit down and start: “Dear Pooch” and can’t seem to put down another word.

It’s so far out. The vibes are not feeling positive, and yet they don’t feel negative either. I can’t read them.

Giselle says I should blame it on midlife crisis.

Yipes, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning instead of the middle. Maybe jotting this down will help it make sense.

Now, you know AJ’s getting married. Married. Imagine a daughter of mine wanting to shackle herself for life to another human soul.

I’m not saying Matt’s not a good sort. He strikes me as good to the bone. The aura around him is a soft greenish-blue, and the vibes ring very true. From the first time we met, I had the feeling that you get what you see, and he utters no word other than the truth.

This is a very good thing in a male. They tend to throw up verbal smoke screens, and lies as thick as fleas on a squirrel. I haven’t met one who’s in tune with the Earth Mother at all.

Until last weekend, I never thought I would. Then I met Matt’s ex-boss. Whoa. The aura was such a pale lavender, I thought I was meeting a woman. But Dr. Jonathan Hale’s no girl. He’s all guy, and yet tells the truth…

“Call me Jon,” he says on first meeting, and although it doesn't seem dignified, he makes me want to. His handclasp is willing, firm for a man his age. My age. His eyes assess without judging, warm without ogling, welcome without coveting.

He’s very attractive in an Establishment sort of way.

Of course, he’s a Christian of Matt’s stripe. And AJ’s now, she insists. Such lack of harmony, believing there’s but one God (and they use He, not She!) and not multiple paths to the Great All.

I remember a conversation the night I met AJ’s fiancĂ©. Funny how it’s stuck with me. True to form, she and I squabbled. We’ve been doing this for years, in one form or another.  AJ claims I’m reactionary, but actually she’s stodgy. Lately we’ve seen plenty of advances in understanding the human spirit.  The age of Aquarius was real, why doesn’t anyone see that but people like me? We could have greened America.

But Matt, Jon, and the way they believe…AJ thinks it’s real. She claims I’m just into anything that’s up to date, or interesting, or popular. She says my way lacks stability. No roots in any one place.

I say with different people come different levels of spiritual attainment.  Everything can work in its place.  What works for me might not necessarily work for someone else. Obviously it hasn’t worked for AJ, or she wouldn’t embrace this whole Jesus and Pearly Gates ya-ya.

Matt did get me on one thing. He challenged me that with my way comes the idea there are no absolutes, and no ultimate truth. That one was a poser. I do believe in Truth—haven’t I spent close to five decades searching for it? And yet…it seems like this boss of Matt’s has some acquaintance with Truth.

I want to have nothing more to do with this Jon Hale. But I’m the bride’s mom—her whole family, actually—and since Dr. Hale will be hitching my daughter for life to another human being…

I’ve decided to cut him some slack. Even New Agers can wait and see.



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Whaddaya Luv?

Love the middle ages? The Cymry (Welsh) people? Battle? Reluctant heroes? Spunky heroines? Dastardly Vikings? Twuue Luurve?

If you love any of these things, you may want to check out a book...

PEACEWEAVER releases this Friday (yes! this Friday!) from Desert Breeze Publishing ( Get ye there and check out the cover awesomeness.

Seriously, I love this story as it came together. It was a joy to write. I hope my readers will enjoy it, too.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Whose Fault? -- and Announcing...

A post the thoughtful and smart Chila Woychick made on her blog this spring has had me thinking hard ever since.

Who should we blame that the general market finds Christian fiction to be banal and bland? Where does the responsibility lie that quality is not the first thing that comes to a reader's mind when thinking over our work?

You guessed it. Ours. The writers.

We cannot blame the publishers for this. What, exactly, could they do if suddenly all the Christian novelists decided not to submit the junk-food-for-the-believer's-brain that has passed for good C-fic all these years? What if they decided, say, to submit only novels that push the envelope a little? Only those stories that ask tough questions? Only those stories set in eras or places that are not completely and immediately recognizable by a 21st century audience with the attention span of a gnat?

Now, of course, this isn't possible. There will always be those writers who will simply shovel into the maw of the larger publishers any type of stories "they want." This translates to, "This will sell well for us with minimal work of any kind on our part. Keep the bland stuff coming--we love it!"

There are writers thinking outside this paradigm, which in my usual shorthand, I call The Box. There are quality Christian publishers who don't care to publish Box Stories. There are writers who've been told "no, we can only publish fiction set in the 18th or 19th century, which has a certain type of heroine and a setpiece hero, and you'd better not mention denominations, or dancing, or alcohol, or sin, or, or, or..." Some of these authors are frustrated, and rightly so. Some of the best of these writers are taking their work direct to their readers, or "indie" publishing.

I celebrate the freedom of self-expression, and the expression of truth for Christ, that the new electronic world gives us. I hope the banal, the easy, the repetitive, the non-challenging will soon be a footnote to Christian writing history, much as the monks' work on medieval vellum is now.

That said -- I'm striking my own blow for realism in Christian fiction. With ample and expert help from my publisher, that is. Desert Breeze Publishing will release the first book in the "Faith Box" trilogy on September 21, in print and digital formats. Take a gander at the cover and tell me if you think this is a "usual" book!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Rock Stars, Romance, and Jesus

How's that for a provocative post title? No, seriously -- I read a romance I really, really liked (and all of you know I’m notoriously tough to please). HER MINNESOTA MAN is set in—well, Minnesota. Brenda Coulter, author of all this bodacious terrificality, was kind enough to join us on JTTS today.

DK: Describe, please, what factors went into your starting the story 5 days after Jeb accepts Christ.

BC: Well, we see a lot of hero-gets-saved-at-the-end-of-the-story romances, don’t we? I wanted to do something different. I also wanted to show that getting saved doesn’t make a person’s life more comfortable, but less so. I mean, it’s easy to please ourselves, isn’t it? But living to please God . . . that’s a hard thing. Especially if you have never even been to church, how do you know where to start? And how are you supposed to respond when the people around you are laughing and pressuring you to get over your “foolishness” and return to “reality”?

A novelist always wants to open her story at a moment of great conflict for her protagonist, so I showed my hero being pressed on all sides as he struggles to find God’s will for his life. Right out of the box (I hope), readers who might otherwise have been less than sympathetic toward a rock-star hero will find themselves rooting for this poor guy who’s trying so very hard to do the right thing.

DK: I was surely rooting for Jeb! And Laney—she’s a tower of strength, but you show her struggling with faith questions. Do you feel that makes her a stronger Christian, or simply a normal one?

BC: I think she’s like most of us in that her faith sometimes wavers like a candle flame. The reader meets her at a particularly difficult time in her life: While she’s a true believer, she’s frustrated and emotionally exhausted to the point that she has stopped praying and attending church. She knows that’s wrong, and she means to get back on track. But just now, she’s feeling a tad resentful that God hasn’t moved to lighten her load.

DK: I can understand that, with all Laney has to deal with! How did you come to write the Three Graces? Do you know ladies like these?

BC: The Three Graces came straight out of my imagination, but I wish they were real. I would adore having tea with them, and maybe I would even ask them to teach me how to knit. I’d love to hug Millie and trade quips with Aggie and make Big Plans with Caroline.

DK: I’d like just to hang with them and see how triplets really interact! What went into your portrayal of the mainstream rock-and-roll singer’s life? Did you have to do “real-life” research?

BC: I watched a lot of “backstage” videos and read some Rolling Stone articles and also a bunch of on-the-road blogs by members of secular bands. It was fun because I love that music, even though I deplore the frequently unwholesome lyrics and the band members’ hedonistic lifestyles. (Over the course of my life, I have often whispered prayers for singers and bands whose lyrics have disturbed me. I imagine that’s where the idea for this story came from.)

DK: I came of age in the 70s, so I can relate to liking music I shouldn’t. At any time up to your decision to take your book direct-to-reader, did you feel any impulse to water down Jeb’s past life or his current struggles? What made you decide not to?

BC: My former publisher’s market research has repeatedly shown that in general, conservative Christian women don’t want to read about actors, sports stars, recording artists, and the like because those people are widely perceived as “hard-living” and unfaithful. I believed I’d written Jackson Bell in a way that would appeal to readers, but my editor was still compelled to “pass” on the project. Almost immediately, I was struck by the idea of self-publishing. My readers kept asking for longer books, and here was my chance to give them one. I would also be free to subtly depict the physical attraction between my hero and heroine without having to worry about those lines ending up on the cutting-room floor. I broke several more of my old publisher’s rules, and had a blast doing it. I was no longer writing for their audience, but solely for my own, and that was tremendously exciting. So this turned out to be a completely different book than it would have been had my editor bought the proposal. The story is bigger and more real, and I couldn’t be more satisfied!

Since I was previously published by Love Inspired, a huge name in Christian romance, some people have asked why I didn’t hire an agent to shop this story to the other Christian publishing houses. That simply never occurred to me. Self-publishing felt so right that I just never stopped to consider any other option.

I’m glad you made that choice. IMO, this was a story that deserved to be told. Brenda, thanks for two things: for writing such a terrific book and for sharing some of your heart for the story.

Potential fans and good-story-lovers, get HER MINNESOTA MAN at one of the links here:

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Readers, You Are Blessed

After all, gentle Reader, your job is merely to pick up, in whatever medium suits your fancy, and read what we labor and fuss and obsess about -- BOOKS.

You needn't worry about the industry. You are free not to care about what it's becoming during this time of transition. You couldn't care less about guidelines, imprimaturs, Themes We Cannot Write About, agents, editors, committees...

You get the drift. Your job is to borrow or buy and read, and hopefully enjoy.

Let's just state that it's not quite that easy from this side of the keyboard. Recently a dear friend and mine own mentor submitted a book for approval by a Catholic organization. They declined, for reasons I won't go into in huge detail.

Suffice it to say that because she omitted a minor plot point, it nuked the entire book in their eyes. Something that wasn't even necessarily addressed, but had to be in there because, let's face it...

...Christians are stupid. If every last thing isn't spelled out, we might tear our clothing, set our hair on fire, and run off screaming into the night in some wild midnight ride of apostasy.

Dear readers, all three of you -- Christians are not dumb. If one of my characters makes a mistake in my book, does that really mean my readers will scratch their heads and say, "Oh, Kinnard's character did this -- that must mean it's okay! Think I will go forth and do likewise!"

We're smarter than that. It's high time the industry gave us maybe an ounce of credit for it.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

An interesting Sunday (as in the old Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times."). On a certain Christian fiction writers' (not readers') loop, one member posted a question that led to a lively discussion: why is C-fic not recognized for its high quality in the larger writing/publishing world? Why no awards for C-fic titles such as the Pulitzer and others?

I don't want to add to the controversy. That's already been done by higher profile persons than me. Some of the on-loop comments have been downright nasty and/or snarky, and I propose to take a higher road.

What books in our market have you read lately, that you thought stood head & shoulders above anything you've read this year? Which would have stood out in the larger pack, had they been published in the so-called secular marketplace? Which were "too good" for Christian fiction?

My short list includes Sandra Byrd's TO DIE FOR. Also Siri Mitchell's A CONSTANT HEART and Susan Meissner's A SEAHORSE IN THE THAMES.

Notice how few there are? Notice that two out of the three are not first-line, highest-profile authors in our market? Maybe that's no accident. I gave up on Kingsbury when she started writing soap opera. The other best-selling Christian authors write in eras and settings that bore me into insanity, so I don't read them either. In fact I read very little Christian fiction these days, since most of it seems as interesting as overboiled porridge.

How about you, readers? What are your "too good" titles and why do you love them?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What? A Midweek Guest?

Minions, today welcome my guest, Janice Hanna Thompson. And yes, she writes under both names. Here's what she has to say about some topics of interest to us all:

DK: Welcome, Janice. What’s your latest venture?
JT: Thanks for having me. I’m thrilled to share about my latest book, MAKE MONEY WRITING, now available from amazon for kindle users. The book, which is loaded with helpful hints for freelancers, is free from March 12th – March 17th. After that, it will sell for $4.49.

DK: Talk a little about yourself and your writing experience.
JT: I write under the names “Janice Thompson” and “Janice Hanna.” I just signed contract #79 (For QUEEN OF THE WAVES) and have written in a variety of genres, including romance, historical, contemporary, cozy mystery, juvenile fiction, non-fiction and more. I’m best known for my light-hearted contemporary novels and for my quirky characters. I’m pretty passionate about writing, and even more passionate about helping others discover their writing talents and abilities. For the past seven years I’ve worked as a full-time freelancer, earning my living with my books, teachings, articles, and write-for-hire work.

DK: Why this book? Why now?
JT: For several years now I’ve divided my time between freelance writing and teaching. So many aspiring writers discover that I’ve published several books and they come to me to ask the inevitable, “How do I get published?” question, usually followed by, “Is there really money to be made in publishing?” Over the past couple years I’ve put together several freelance writing courses to answer their questions, but I felt the need to do more, so I compiled all of my mini-teachings into one book.

DK: What will readers get in one of your courses?
JT: The courses are very specific to their individual topics. MAKE MONEY WRITING covers a variety of areas of interest to the freelance writer, including: earning top dollar, magazine article writing, write-for-hire work, writing the novel and/or non-fiction book, the submission process, succeeding as a freelancer, and more. The book is not a textbook. Instead, it is motivational in tone and focuses on offering encouragement to freelancers and giving them basic tips for success in each of the areas listed above.

DK: Sounds interesting. Tell us a little more about it.
JT: It might make more sense to share some of the chapter titles because they will give you an idea of some of the topics readers will find in the book.
Earning Top Dollar
Jumping the Hurdles
In the Beginning. . .the Writer Set Goals
...and many more.

DK: What other projects are you working on?
JT: I’m currently writing QUEEN OF THE WAVES, a novel set aboard the Titanic, a very compelling setting. And I’m tickled about my upcoming release, Wedding Belles.

DK: What's going on in the world of your courses?
JT: Thanks for asking. I’m tickled about the recent release of my Non-Fiction Writing Course. I recorded this course in the studio several months ago and had a blast doing it. I’m convinced this is the most comprehensive package I’ve ever put together. Non-Fiction writers should be able to take this course and find some degree of success building their platform, writing short pieces and fully developing a non-fiction book. There’s even information on how to pitch (and ultimately market) the non-fiction book.

Here are some topics from the course:
From Magazines to Books: Building Your Platform
Understanding Non-Fiction Book Types
Best Selling Topics
Compiling Your Information (Braiding the Book)
33 Tips to Strengthen Your Writing

As with all of my courses, this one is available online at

DK: Janice, how can readers reach you?
JT: I love to chat with my readers! To learn more about my books, visit:
To learn more about my writing courses, including my new non-fiction course, visit:

Facebook: JaniceHannaThompson

Twitter: booksbyjanice

Saturday, March 10, 2012

New Weekend -- Another Guest!

Hi, peeps. Today we take a peek into the writerly heart of author Fay Lamb. Isn't that a cool cover, by the way?

DK: When you’re not writing, what do you like most to read?
FL: I love to read romantic suspense, but any story with quirky characters is an invitation to get away. The novel BLISS, by Tracy Bowden and Jenness Walker, has been an absolutely favorite. I love to laugh, and I laughed from page one until the very last well-placed line of that book.

DK: I'll have to get that one! I love to laugh. And you--if you didn’t write in your chosen genre, which would you write? Why?
FL: I'd write contemporary romance, not necessarily formulaic. While I have written formula romance, I like to tell a story that goes so much deeper than the love of two people. I like to show relationships with issues, lots and lots of issues and conflicts to overcome.

DK: That’s the best kind of romance of all! Where do you see the fiction market going in the near-term?
FL: Since God spoke His creation into being, storytelling has been a part of mankind. God's Word is full of true-life stories. Jesus used fiction to speak into the needs of those who sought Him. While I believe the fiction market is going through some pains caused by fast-growing technology, I don't believe the desire for a good story will ever fade.

I'm going to get in trouble with my next statement, but here goes: I believe Christian fiction will suffer if the publishers do not begin to understand their market. I was appalled when I sat across from an editor from one of the larger Christian publishing houses, and I was told that my writing was too complex for Christian readers. I decided at that moment to seek a Christian publisher that had a better opinion of their readers and who realizes that secular publishers reach across the aisle to attract Christian readers. In the same way, with stories that do not compromise God's truths, Christian publishers need to reach across those aisles and touch secular readers with stories of light and life—stories with meaning, stories that have the Only Answer to every dilemma.

DK: There isn’t one little bit of your statement with which I disagree! C-fic has many different subsets of readers, and so must become more inclusive. What has been your biggest challenge since you decided to seek publication?
FL: As mentioned above, my biggest challenge was finding a publisher that looked beyond formula and taboo subjects and realized that BECAUSE OF ME is a book that speaks of God's love, and shows the truth behind Romans 8:28: No matter what we face, what we've gotten ourselves into, God proclaims, "…all things work together for good" to those who love Him. That's a hard Scripture to embrace when we're walking through the fire, but when we're on the other side, and refined through our heartache and pain, it's one of the most wonderful verses to cling to.

DK: True, and precious beyond words. What about your favorite authors? Care to give us a few names?.
FL: My all time favorite author is James A. Michener, but I add to that list: Margaret Daley, Karen Ball, Francine Rivers, Rachel Hauck, John Grisham and Sharyn McCrumb.

DK: Sharyn McCrumb is one of my all time faves. Those books are hoots! About you, now--care to share a writing habit you cannot do without?
FL: One of my habits is what I call "free writing." It's allowing myself time to play with story and character. If I'm working on a novel, inevitably, another story will call out to me. The characters want me to come and play. You never know when a character is going to step on stage and give you the story of a lifetime. So what I do is promise myself that if I get a certain amount of writing done on the current work in progress, I can go and play with characters from another neighborhood.

Fay, thanks for being on JTTS, and thanks for your candor.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

New Weekend -- New Author!

Hi, all of you. Today we get acquainted with June Foster, whose book GIVE US THIS DAY just came out.

DK: When you’re not writing, what do you like most to read? Genre, favorites, etc.
JF: Before I started writing two years ago, I read end time prophecy fiction such as the “Left Behind” series. Since I've begun writing, I love to read in my genre - romance. I want to read the books my fellow authors at Desert Breeze write. I download mostly the inspirational romances. I've probably read six or seven of the authors now. I love Shawna Williams' writing because her characters must overcome their flaws to become more Christ like.

DK: Shawna is one terrific writer. And if you didn’t write in your chosen genre, which would you write? Why?
JF: I'd like to write romantic suspense one of these days. I'd love to allow my imagination to go wild and think of the twists and turns that keep readers turning the pages. And when there's a romance involved, it's all the more fun.

DK: Where do you see the fiction market going in the near-term?
JF: There will always be an interest in fiction. I think the e-book market is going to explode even more than it has in the last five years or so.

DK: You’re right! Its sure going to change things all around. What has been your biggest challenge since you decided to seek publication?
JF: The waiting game is difficult - to see if a publisher will like my work or send me a rejection letter. That's one thing I like about Gail Delaney of Desert Breeze Publishing. She's respectful of authors and answers promptly to proposals she receives.

DK: She is that, to be sure. Name a few of your favorite authors.
JF: Well, I know Deb Kinnard is one of them. Others are Latayne Scott, Mildred Colvin, Allison Pittman, Jerry Jenkins, and Gail Gaymer Martin.

DK: Hey, thanks! That sure is nice to know. Care to share a writing habit you cannot do without?
JF: Praying and asking the Lord to help me every step of the way. I rely on Him for ideas, words, and inspiration for my plots.

Thanks for guesting on the blog, June.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Modern Life and Its Challenges

Today I figured out the reason my heart lives in the Middle Ages. Granted, in the 10th-14th C. where I belong, we had our challenges: unsafe drinking water, childbirth, Viking raids, bubonic plague.

All these pale beside the challenges I faced today. I mean it!

To wit: the RT Booklovers' Conference is coming up. They have graciously agreed to make our e-books available to lovers of such media (which ACFW refuses to do, but do not get me started. Not today). To do that, we authors must go into a particular e-book vendor's site and load our title and publisher information.

"No problem!" I say to myself. Aye, me. Naive was I, and oblivious to the pitfalls awaiting me on said e-book vendor's site.

First, I must sign in. No problem. It already knows my name. I go in and click on that. Then it wants my e-mail addy. No problem. I enter it. Then it wants my password. I type my standard "nobody'll ever figure this out" password.

You guessed right. It rejects.

No problem. I shoot them an e-mail under the "forgot password" header. Apparently this happens all the time. They shoot me an e-mail with my gibberish password they created for me, probably eons ago when I allowed such things.

I return to said web site and enter the gibberish password.

You guessed right. It rejects. It says, "you already have an account."

Well, duhh. I feel stupid, but I already knew I had one, thanks very much. I shoot them another e-mail under the "create trouble ticket" header.

It's now 45 minutes later than when I began.

No problem, say I. I shall go tackle a different issue -- creating the postcards I need for each book for said RT conference, upcoming.

I've created postcards on this very popular site before. It was easy as a wink. I upload the .jpg file the publisher's created and sent me just prior to release. I include some back cover copy for the postcard. I click the "approve" box, place the order for my required number of postcards, and voilá! I'm done.

You guessed right. It rejects.

For some reason, the images I used to create postcards a year ago are now "not high enough resolution" to create them now. I try a different version. It rejects.

It's now an hour and a half and a phone call later. The customer service rep was very nice indeed, and she tweaked, buffed, polished, resized, reformatted, and basically did everything she could to my cover image.

You guessed right. It still rejects.

I'm done for today. Methinks it best to head back to the 14th century and mull the aftereffects of the Black Death. Much, much less stressful.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

What's the Worst?

Heh heh, another loaded question with many answers.

First, some background. I'm re-reading the late David Eddings' superb series "The Belgariad." I'm up to book 4 now, in which our intrepid heroes meet a religious zealot. Relg has a load of spiritual baggage heavier than a fully loaded semi-truck. One of his most consuming preoccupations is his battle against sexual sin. To Relg, everything is sinful, and he spends a great deal of his time beating himself up for it. He seems to feel that looking at a woman with impure thoughts is the "worst" he can do to sin against his God.

It's like that for many Christians, isn't it? What is worse in our Father's sight: having inappropriate ideas about a member of the opposite sex, or ...

...lack of charity?
...spiritual laziness?

The truth is, we simply don't know. Still, many of us seem to portray the inward idea that sexual error is worse than anything else we can do to grieve the Holy Spirit.

Yes, He wants us to walk in purity. That's a given, and foundational to our faith. But does He not also want us to walk in humility? in peace? in acceptance? in charity? in spiritual industry?

What's worst? Maybe it's time I, for one, got my priorities a little better aligned with His.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A New Week, Another Terrific Author!

Minions, today please welcome Dina Sleiman. Dina is a writer by choice, a dancer by nature, and someone who's very special to me. Today we find out what makes her writing life tick:

DK: When you’re not writing, what do you like most to read? Tell us what are your reading genres of choice. What are some of your favorites?

DS: When I am writing, I try to read great books in the genre I’m working on. Right now that’s historical romance, which is probably my very favorite. But when I’m not writing my reading is much more diverse. I actually enjoy all sorts of genres. Literary fiction is high on the list, but I also adore sci-fi, fantasy, and spec fiction. Cozy mystery is fun. I even read some thriller novels. My least favorite is suspense, but I still end with some of those too.

DK: You’re smart to “stretch” by reading outside your chosen writing zone. If you didn’t write in your chosen genre, which would you write, and why?

DS: In addition to romantic historicals, I’ve also tried my hand at contemporary women’s fiction and creative nonfiction. I actually have smaller publishing companies interested in both of those books right now. I’m a very organic sort of writer, and for the first few years of my career, I wrote rather impulsively. The contemporary women’s fiction came from my experiences teaching college and traveling in the Middle East. I’m glad I wrote it, because I think it meant a lot to my Lebanese husband. The nonfiction sort of exploded out of a collection of poems I’d worked on years ago when I discovered that format.

At this point I’m growing more focused and intentional about my career. I do think my niche will end up being in the historical/historical romance area.

DK: Where do you think the Christian fiction market might head in the near-term?

DS: I’m really in no position to predict, but I have noticed that Christian fiction is growing more realistic. A lot of topics that were taboo even a few years ago have become more common. Tattoos, Christians who drink in moderation, etc. This is huge for me, because I personally have no desire to be a religious, outwardly focused Christian. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that my dance emphasis (found in all of my books) has been so readily embraced, even by older readers. Not long ago, a number of Christian publishers didn’t allow dance to be mentioned. I’ve noticed recently that several Bethany books have depicted dance in a very positive light. And Zondervan has a novel featuring a ballerina and the whole dance world.

DK: What has been your biggest challenge since you decided to seek publication?

DS: My first few books were not very marketable. I was turned down by a number of agents and editors who loved my work but didn’t think they could sell it. My personal interests didn’t match well with the current state of Christian fiction, and I didn’t do enough research on the subject in advance. I’ve managed okay considering. And DANDELION has received wonderful reviews.

Right now, I’m focusing on correcting the marketability factor. I feel God has put a new desire on my heart to be more of a career writer and to help my children through college. It took some time and prayer to come up with an idea that I loved and that would fit the market, but I think the book I wrote this fall fits the bill. I hope it will be the start of something new and exciting for me.

DK: We'll await good news, then! Who are a few of your favorite authors?

DS: Francine Rivers (of course), Lisa Samson, Julie Klassen, Siri Mitchell, and Roseanna White are at the top of my list. Three out of five are now personal friends, which is pretty cool. In some other genres, I also really admire Tosca Lee, James Rubart, Steven James, Karen Hancock, and Kathy Tyers.

DK: Care to share a writing habit you cannot do without?

DS: Not exactly a habit, but I didn’t start writing seriously until I got my first laptop. In college I wrote a lot, but I hated all the time spent tied to a desk. For years I didn’t write anything longer than a skit or a poem. But once I had a laptop, I could curl up on a couch or a bed. That’s how I do all my writing.

Dina, thanks for sharing what makes your writing Dandelion dance!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Janet Butler Tells All!

All, that is, about her new Desert Breeze release VOICE OF INNOCENCE. I wanted her to interview here and tell something about how the germ of an idea became the story it is today. And a horking good one, too.

Deb: You’ve always called this book your “400 lb. gorilla.” What made you fall in love with this story?

Janet: Interestingly enough, the thread that made this the “book of my heart” isn’t even in the book now: it was the first scene I envisioned, one that takes place before the book begins. In this scene a young woman, in unrequited love with her older professor, is getting ready to leave a party at his house. She’s in the bedroom, about to pick up her coat, when she pauses and gazes longingly at his wife’s things on the dresser—you know, the hand mirror, the elegant brushes and perfume bottles—and thinks to herself that she’s just a fool, “a fool in a cheap little jacket,” longing for things she can’t have. I knew once I met that young woman, I needed to write this story, as much as the characters seemed to need it told.

Deb: Eeeenteresting! Lachlan is a multi-dimensional character with a heavy load of baggage. How did you make him so appealing?

Janet: Lachlan has always been a polarizing character: people either loved him or they hated him. He was stiffer, more pompous, in previous versions of the book; I’ve loosened him up considerably so we see more of his humor, more of the brightness that wants to come to the surface. He’s actually a fun guy, once he’s past all his troubles. But one thing has never changed with him: at the core, he is a mystic, a poet, and a romantic. What’s not to love?

Deb: Amanda’s struggling under a heavy load as well. How did you make her seem so sane when she was hearing voices almost from the first page?

Janet: I had to give Amanda a much firmer personality to deal with the voices, which did her a big favor. In earlier writing, she was much like Lachlan—more sensitive, more reticent, etc. Then I realized I had two people whose personalities were too much alike. So Amanda and I sat down and talked about it, and she told me she really didn’t have much time for nonsense; she has three brothers, so she had to be practical (and quick, to get her share at the dinner table). You’ll notice that she’s both pragmatic and decisive when confronted with the voices. She resists the urge to fly off into “what ifs” of the type Lachlan would be more prone to, and she’s feisty enough to tell off a (very unwelcome) ghost. Three brothers’ll bring that out of a girl.

Deb: I’ll say they would! And another matter – Carlyle College almost takes on the life of another “character” in VOI. What techniques make this fictional setting come real?

Janet: This is especially flattering to hear, since my intent was to write a very Gothic-toned story with VOI, and one of the keys to good Gothic literature is that the setting becomes a pseudo-character in itself. If Carlyle College, with its red brick and flower beds and manicured green, speaks to you…that’s exactly what it’s supposed to do. It’s supposed to evoke “traditional ivy-covered halls” in the imagination…while hiding deadly secrets and mysteries beneath its surface. Carlyle plays such an important part in the story as well because it represents so many things to so many people: it’s Amanda’s beginning, her first big break; it’s Lachlan’s last chance, the only thing that means anything to him; it represents status and solidity to other characters; and so on. I thought it the best backdrop to my characters’ drama, and in the process, it became the linchpin. (Besides, I love academic settings!)

Deb: I’d love to try one, too, but I’ve never dared. My memories of college are -- shall we say -- a bit misty by now. But how early in the writing of the book did you sense it needed to be a romantic suspense?

Janet: From the get-go. It started out as a “revenge” story in its earliest form—a young woman going to confront the man she thinks responsible for her sister’s death (with all the possibilities for danger that that implies), only to fall in love with him at the end. It morphed through various other plotlines, various other scenarios, but there was always an underlying mystery, a budding and somewhat forbidden romance, and the threat of danger to the heroine. Only recently did it become more fully developed romantic suspense with the additional “woo-woo” element that incorporates elements of danger and attraction for both Lachlan and Amanda. But it was always a “whodunit” with the underlying theme, “Nothing is what it seems to be on the surface.”

Deb: I’ll say you had to “go deep” with this one. During the writing, was the identity of the villain in chief a surprise to you, or did you know it was that person beforehand?

Janet: My VIC (villain in chief)’s identity has changed dramatically from the original! The plot originally had a totally different character involved with Lachlan in the beginning of the book, a letter that explained everything (and which a character brought out at a crucial moment), and even a confrontation between Amanda and the first Mrs. MacAndrews which was rather…interesting, to say the least. It wasn’t until this latest version that I realized who had the most to lose if the hero and heroine win…and why…and what that person would do to stop that from taking place. Then, I had a real villain in chief with a scenario that would make perfect, psychopathic sense (to them). Most of all, I’m thrilled when people have read this in manuscript and said they were surprised at who the “nasty” was; that’s another touchstone of Gothic fiction that I tried hard to get right. I hope I did!

Deb: In spades! Janet, thanks for shedding light on your creative process. Readers, go and get this book – you’ll enjoy the journey as much as I did.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Great New Read

And I must say I do love this book. Here's its cover:

Its author is my Blindingly Brilliant crit partner, Janet Butler. And can she do more than crit? You bet your scarlet rosebuds she can.

Here's some "get acquainted" info straight from Janet.

Deb: When you’re not writing, what do you like most to read? Genre, favorites, etc.

Janet: What do you mean, when I'm not writing? When am I not writing? J Oh…okay. I read suspense and mystery, some chick lit, romantic comedy, the occasional Regency historical, and "gentle" fiction of various types, including Christian fiction.

Deb: If you didn’t write in your chosen genre, which would you write? Why?

Janet: If I knew which genre I've chosen, that'd be an easier question to answer. J Actually, for all my "serious" writing career, I've wanted to write Harlequin Romances. The sweet little books. I've yet to figure out how to do one, however, since every time I sit down to write, some dark villain taps on my shoulder and says, "Hey, I could make these people's lives a whole lot more interesting, if you just let me." So…I tend to let them. You don't argue with villains.

Deb: Where do you see the fiction market going in the near-term?

Janet: Frankly, I don't like where I see lots of fiction going. I see a lot of despairing fiction: dystopian, nihilistic, stuff that deals in grit with no redeeming light, or authors who feel like they have to be obscene, depraved, or coarse simply "because they can." I'd like to see more books that don't make you want to jump out a window, or feel like you need to take a shower, when you're done with them. As far as where the markets are going? Who knows? I suspect it's all going electronic, or at least largely so. I like paper books, so this is not comforting to me. And I really dislike the notion of "enhanced" books. I'm a fiction writer; I like imagination. It seems to me that putting too many bells, horns, and whistles in a book is a fundamental violation of that imagination, and an intrusion upon the magic. Sorry. Not for me.

Deb: What has been your biggest challenge since you decided to seek publication?

Janet: There have been two: First, fighting the "impostor syndrome," that absolute conviction in the dark places of your writer's soul that you're really a fake, you really can't write at all, and one of these days, someone's going to rip away the veil in front of Oz and you'll be revealed in all your duck-tape-and-twine weakness. Second, trying to attract an agent; I've probably queried 100+ of them over the past few years, with only a few even requesting partials. Of course, with the way the industry is moving now, maybe that issue is moot, anyway.

Deb: Name a few of your favorite authors.

Janet: Mary Higgins Clark, Rochelle Krich, Diann Hunt, Sophie Kinsella, Jan Karon. How's that for a potpourri? I keep discovering new authors as I go, though, so stay tuned.

Deb: Care to share a writing habit you cannot do without?

Janet: Mwah hah haaaaah…you know what's coming: the Dreaded Synopsis! There. I've said it. Don't hate me because I synopsize!
Seriously. I have tried writing without an outline, and I've tried writing with one. With one is better. Years ago, I discovered that if I wrote by the seat of my pants, I had a lot of fun, but I lost the story in the process. Now that I'm older, I don't have the energy to chase down my characters and/or a plot clear to Abu Dhabi to figure out where I went wrong (Besides, airfare's just too darn expensive.). I also freeze up if I don't have SOME idea what's going to come in the next few pages. Mind you, nothing in the synopsis is carved in stone; stories can, and do, change from the first outline. But I need to have SOMETHING to work from.

So I synopsize.

And I also believe in a wonderful, well-chilled bottle of champagne… at the appropriate time.

Deb: A total delight, don't you agree? Except that champagne gives me a headache. You can have my share.

Janet's VOICE OF INNOCENCE releases January 15 from Desert Breeze Publishing. Go get this book! You'll like it.