Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Dragons, Knights, and Angels

Dragons, Knights, and Angels Magazine showcases short fiction and poetry with a supernatural bent - fantasy and science fiction - from a Christian worldview. I usually prefer novels to short stories, but I've loved every story I've read on the site. And the poems were awesome. As Johne Cook (former managing editor of DKA) explains:

"Writing stories with a moral core is a tricky line. We are not at all interested in stories that preach. Stories submitted to DKA for publication will be examined first on their merit as works of sci–fi / fantasy / poetry. Writing is a privilege and an honor, and it is as much art as craft. As God is the Great Creator, we expect great stories as He fills your cup to overflowing."

This level of excellence is reflected throughout the site. Unlike many online publications, DKA pays their writers, and they don't fill the site with annoying ads to compensate. Instead they have top-notch contests (the winners of their 2006 poetry contest were announced today) and rely on donations from those looking for more high-quality fantasy/science fiction writings.

One excellent story is Damage. If you visit nothing else on the site, at least stop by and read this one.

What are you waiting for? Click over to Dragons, Knights, and Angels now. But if you're still not convinced, visit the blogs below for more opinions on this great site.

Jim Black

Jackie Castle

Valerie Comer

Frank Creed

Christina Deanne

Kameron M. Franklin

Beth Goddard

Todd Michael Greene

Leathel Grody

Karen Hancock

Elliot Hanowski

Katie Hart

Sherrie Hibbs

Joleen Howell

Jason Joyner

Karen and at Karen's myspace

Oliver King

Tina Kulesa

Lost Genre Guild

Kevin Lucia

Rachel Marks

Shannon McNear

Rebecca LuElla Miller

Caleb Newell

John Otte

Cheryl Russel

Mirtika Schultz

Stuart Stockton

Steve Trower

Speculative Faith

Friday, October 13, 2006

Stolen Lives

You are driving home behind your wife and daughter after meeting up at a grocery store. You watch as an eighteen-wheeler swerves purposely into their lane. You stare in horror as your family's car spins and collides with the tractor trailer.

Your life will never be the same.

And you vow that the trucker's life will never be the same, either.

When crooked justice determines the tragedy of his family's death was an accident, Robert Whitney turns his grief to revenge at those who wronged him. The witness selling his lies to the highest bidder. The state trooper willing to buy the tainted story. The trucking company manager willing to pay them off. And the murderer himself.

With skills honed by his computer programming business, Robert hatches a plan to steal the lives of those who stole his. He will let them suffer, then end it all.

Brian Reaves' tightly woven thriller, Stolen Lives, has been called a modern Count of Monte Cristo, and the comparison is apt. Fleshing out vivid characters with deep motivations, Reaves makes the twisting plot matter intensely to all of them. I didn't want to put this book down. Highly recommended.

Go here for a flash trailer for the book, and visit Brian's awesome website for more about his novels.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Violette Between

I began Violette Between with a healthy dose of skepticism. I'd never read any books by the author, Alison Strobel (though I do read her blog). The cover screamed "women's fiction" and I'd been bored by that genre before. The last book I'd read with a coma/dream sequence had been a self-published monstrosity. And characters named Violette, Alexine, and Xavier - I love odd names, but it seemed a little much.

I got through the first chapters - introspective beginning . . . okay, anticlimactic fall, seemingly rushed diagnosis. And then the love stories began, and I was caught up in their telling.

Christian, who gave up on God six years ago when he lost his wife, can't bear to imagine what losing Violette would do to him. Though their relationship had a difficult start and still is rocky, he loves her. His scenes mix his current pain with memories of getting to know Violette.

Violette, trapped in a coma, finds herself reliving her past with Saul, the man she loved and married. As the scenes continue, she knows she doesn't want to lose him again. But can she stay in this in-between place forever?

I ended up falling in love with this novel, and I'm sure you will too. Recommended.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Win Free Books!

Besides the chance to win a copy of Dark Hour (scroll down - contest open through October 16th), here are some other ways to win books - a lot of them.

In case you haven't heard about it yet - I'm launching a review enewsletter this January called Waterfall Books. Once a month, I'll send out a newsletters chock full of reviews of the best Christian fiction - including genres as diverse as science fiction and romance, and historical and suspense. All you need to do to subscribe is send a blank email here.

But why should you subscribe at all? Can't you just stop by Amazon and get a bunch of reviews on any book you want? Sure, sometimes. But Christian novels are often scarce on reviews, and many reviewers are unfamiliar with Christian fiction, don't know much about the craft of writing, or give away major plot twists in their reviews.

I've reviewed 200 Christian novels for magazines, websites, and this blog, and I've read hundreds more. I've written two novels and am working on a third, and continue to study the craft of writing fiction through books, articles, writer's blogs, and courses. And I abhor reviews which give away the end - or even the middle.

But the focus of the reviews in Waterfall Books won't be critical analysis. Yes, I'll evaluate the books carefully. But I'm writing the reviews as if a good friend comes up to me and asks, "Know of any good books to read?" The answer is "Yes, and here's why." I developed a rating system to give an accurate picture beyond, "Yeah, that's good," "Yeah, that's really good," "Yeah, that's excellent," and "You have to read this book!"

And like a good friend doesn't recommend 50 books at once - this newsletter narrows the focus of the widening shelves of Christian fiction at your local CBA bookstore and the 10,000 titles to choose from on Amazon without falling back on only the "top picks" culled by Wal-Mart. At the same time, diversity in the reviews will allow you to find excellent books in the genres you love.

Another reason to subscribe - free books! Through January, I'm drawing a name and mailing out a novel for every 20 subscribers who join, then adding another novel to the grand prize pack every time I mail one. If 500 people sign up, I'll have awarded free books to 25 lucky people, and the grand prize pack will include at least 25 novels!

And there's another way to get free books - telling others about Waterfall Books. Instead of a random drawing, the people who do the most to promote the newsletter will receive these influencer prize packs:

Top Influencer will receive:

A Bride Most Begrudging by Deeanne Gist
The Cubicle Next Door by Siri Mitchell
Shivering World by Kathy Tyers
All She Ever Wanted by Lynn Austin
Beyond the Blue by Leslie Gould
CD - My Other Band - Volume One
Four selections from my ARC/galley pile

Second Top Influencer will receive:

Comes a Horseman (hardcover) by Robert Liparulo
River Rising (hardcover) by Athol Dickson
Mark of the Cross by Judith Pella
Three selections from my ARC/galley pile

Third Top Influencer will receive:

A Garden to Keep (hardcover) by Jamie Langston Turner
The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Caught by Neta Jackson
Paper Moon by Linda Windsor
Three selections from my ARC/galley pile

How do you win one of these packs? By telling others about Waterfall Books! Email friends, post about it on your blog, send out a myspace bulletin, whatever. Be creative! Whenever you've done something to promote Waterfall Books, email me (theloneislands@yahoo.com) to let me know. I'll give you one point for each promotion - two points or more for creative or extra influential ways of spreading the word.

I'll tally up the points in January and award the prize packs!

Links ideal to include:

Thanks so much!

Note: All books will be either new or gently used. A few may have slight publishing defects.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Catching Up

I finally caught up with my Bloglines reading. That service is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it helps me keep with all sorts of blogs and other feeds, and a quick response (like with my Yahoo email notification) has allowed me to even win free stuff. A signed copy of Kristin Billerbeck's latest Calm, Cool, and Adjusted is on its way to me right now. I don't have to stop by rarely updating blogs every week or month - it'll let me know when my friends finally get back to it. And I don't have to worry about missing anything.

The curse part? How much time I spend on the thing. I am currently subscribed to 81 feeds. Probably 60 post 3 times a week or more. The 4 comic strips don't take long, but some of the others . . . And if I fall behind during the weekend, it can get overwhelming. Plus, I miss most blogs that can't be subscribed to on Bloglines - unless they're xangas or myspace blogs I can subscribe to through their services.

A few days passed without me reading all the feeds, but today I had some free time since the family wasn't running errands as planned. So I got caught up. And afterwards didn't feel like doing anything, and couldn't figure out why. I finally started this blog entry and realized my brain was overloaded with information and needed to dump somewhere before I could do anything else.

And as far as anything else goes - I have a huge amount of stuff I've committed to and need to do. I just wrote up a list last night. Things like my next review for Keepin' On (go to the site to read my latest review on Authentic Relationships), a CD review for Title Trakk, an article on the awesome Christian rock band Strive, a critique for a fellow writer, and reading the next book for the CFBA tour. Speaking of blog tours - though I enjoy them, it seems like they've overtaken this blog. It's nice to have steady content as I focus on launching my review newsletter, but I do want to make this blog more than just a blour stop. Maybe when I've caught up on other stuff.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Dark Hour - Ginger Garrett

Bit late on this blog tour as well. I just stayed up past 4AM last night finishing Dark Hour. Cramming, you might say. But I didn't intend to. I planned to read a chapter or two more before bed and finish the rest in the morning. Ha. Well, I did finish the book in the morning, but not exactly how I'd anticipated. Since I already knew the rudiments of Athaliah and Jehoshebeth's story from Scripture, I kept reading to discover how Ginger Garrett brought their tale to life in a new and engaging way. As I finished each chapter, I thought, "I should get to bed, but I just want to see how she handles this next bit," and I kept reading.

Dark Hour is an epic tale of Judah's bleakest days prior to the reign of Joash. The characters gain new dimensions and the fast-paced plot has several twists. The POV changes were a bit confusing - not that they weren't clear, but the story would cut away to another character before important scenes and it grew a little frustrating for me (who cares what Elisha's doing at the moment? I want to see what's happening with Jehoshebeth!). Also, many of the "blood and destruction" scenes seemed to have a cinematic feel of pain and confusion - good for conveying the tone, but hard to understand exactly what was happening. Of course, I also was reading the book very late at night, too.

Visit others on the CFBA tour (see sidebar) for more info about this great book, click the FIRST button in the post below for the first chapter, and also see below for information on how to win your own copy of Dark Hour! Leave a comment on either post telling me which you prefer - first chapter or review - when you decide what book to buy/read, and I'll enter you in a drawing for a free copy of Dark Hour!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Dark Hour - FIRST Day

It is October 1st, time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and their latest book's FIRST chapter!

This month's feature author is:


Guess what? The publicists for Ginger have agreed to a book contest for each FIRST member's blog post on Dark Hour! For this blog, I want to know which is more helpful to you with deciding to buy a novel - a review or the novels first chapter. I'll randomly pick a name to win the free book from every commenter who gives their opinion on this topic - so, comment and you might become a winner!

About the author:

Ginger Garrett is an acclaimed novelist and expert in ancient women's history.

Her first novel, Chosen, was recognized as one of the best five novels of the year by the Christian publishing industry. Ginger enjoys a diverse reader base and creates conversation between cultures.

In addition to her 2006 and 2007 novels about the most evil women in biblical history, she will release Beauty Secrets of the Bible (published by Thomas Nelson) in Summer

Ginger Garrett's Dark Hour delves into the biblical account of Jezebel's daughter and her attempt to end the line of David.

And now, a special Q&A with Ginger Garrett:

1.) First, tell us a bit about Dark Hour.

I was praying about what book to write after Chosen, and accidentally left my open Bible on the kitchen table. (A dangerous thing, since in my house, small children and large dogs routinely scavenge with dirty hands and noses for snacks!) As I walked past it, I saw a caption about someone named Athaliah and a mass murder. I stopped cold. I knew it was my story.

Athaliah was the daughter of Jezebel--a real woman in history--who tried to destroy all the descendents of King David in a massacre. God made a promise that a descendent of King David would always sit on the throne, and one day a Messiah would come from this line. If Athaliah succeeded, she would break the promise between God and the people, and destroy all hope for a Messiah.

One woman, her step-daughter, Jehoshebeth, defied her. She stole a baby during the massacre and hid him. Between them, the two women literally fought for the fate of the world.

2.) What drew you to write biblical fiction?

The similarities between the lives of ancient women and our lives. We get distracted by their "packaging," the way they dressed and lived, but at heart, our stories are parallel.

3.) How much time is spent researching the novel versus writing the novel?

Equal amounts, and I don't stop researching while I write. I have a historical expert, probably the best in the world in his field, review the manuscript and point out errors. The tough part is deciding when to ignore his advice. He pointed out that most everyone rode donkeys if they weren't in the military, but a key scene in the novel involves riding a horse to the rescue. It would have been anti-climatic to charge in on a donkey! :) So I ignored his advice on that one.

4.) Dark Hour takes its reader deep into the heart of palace intrigue and betrayals. Were parts of this book difficult to write?

I left out much of the darkest material I uncovered in research. It was important to show how violent and treacherous these times and this woman (Athaliah) could be, but I tried to be cautious about how to do it. The story was so powerful and hopeful--how one woman's courage in the face of evil saved the world--but the evil was depressing. I tried to move quickly past it. I wanted balance. Our heroine suffers and some wounds are not completely healed in her lifetime. That's true for us, too.

5.) What would modern readers find surprising about ancient women?
They had a powerful sense of the community of women. They also wore make-up: blush, glitter eyeshadow, lipstick, powder, and perfume! They drank beer with straws, and enjoyed "Fritos": ground grains, fried and salted. Many of our foods are the same today, but they loved to serve pate made from dried locusts, finely ground. Ugh!

Click the FIRST button to read the first chapter of Dark Hour!