Monday, July 31, 2006

Last Day

Today's the last day to enter the contest on my website! Go to the site, read the first chapter of my novel Evergreen Secrets, leave a comment on the page, and you could win a free book! For more details, including the books the winner will choose from, visit this post. I'll announce the winner Wednesday or Thurday (after tomorrow's FIRST post).

Additional note: the first person to leave a comment on the site didn't include their name. I can't enter you in the contest if I don't know who you are! Leave another comment under the chapter and let me know your name. And for those of you still to enter - don't forget to include your name! Remember, those who leave extra helpful or insightful comments get two chances to win!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Promotion - Science or Fiction?

Romance Writers of America, currently holding their annual conference, lists a few statistics on their website. One is particularly noteworthy: fantasy and science fiction make up 6.4% of popular fiction sales (this figure seems to be from 2004). If we consolidate all the fantasy/SF titles in the latest CBD fiction catalog with the space presently given to them, it would be a two-page spread in an 80-page catalog, or 2.5%. To adequately represent the percentage sold, science fiction and fantasy need 5 pages (I am aware, however, that the percentages reflect the ABA, not CBA).

I did a book roundup for Church Libraries magazine on fantasy and science fiction a few years back - three pages of brief reviews (that was when I read White's books - didn't include them in the article). My editor passed one comment onto me from a librarian who had no idea what was good in the genre, but now knew what to order for her patrons. I believe we need more efforts like this - presenting books we love to those who will influence others.

The internet is a great resource, but many readers don't use it to determine what books to purchase. Print and word-of-mouth avenues are needed. I wish I could print up a full-color brochure, with covers and brief reviews of the fantasy and science fiction books I loved, and distribute it to bookstores. No one CBA publisher has emerged as a leader in these genres (though the Realms imprint could have had a chance to), and I believe this fragmenting has aided these novels getting lost among the big sellers: romance, historical, suspense, and women's fiction. I would love to see publishers getting together to promote their niche novels.

But wishing things were different doesn't change anything. If word of mouth is the best promotion, how are you promoting fantasy and science fiction to your friends and family this month? Today?

Stuart made an excellent point about instilling a love of fantasy in kids. I read the Chronicles of Narnia to my younger sister many years ago. I lent the DragonKeeper Chronicles to other siblings. I let a young friend borrow Tahn. And I convinced a peer to read one of my favorite books of all time, Arena. Will she pick up Karen Hancock's other titles? I can only hope.

Thanks, everyone, for all the comments. Stuart, I don't know how placement is made in the CBD catalogs. I know they've consistently had that one page for fantasy, sometimes mixed with classics, with Narnia and Anthropos holding center stage for years. Becky, I'm glad to hear a writer is including fantasy in her newsletter - your comment came in as I was writing this post.

Any more ideas for getting the word out?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Good Promotion a Fantasy?

The latest post on Speculative Faith addresses some common (cliched) story elements in CBA fantasy:

- A king or prince who is an obvious Christ figure.
- Miracles and demonic influence replacing magic.
- An idealized physical kingdom made up almost completely of believers (of varying strengths)
- Immediately recognizable evil. Immediately recognizable good. Very little grey.
- Points of direct and obvious divine intervention (usually very spectacular) and often reserved for the climax.
- Plentiful points of crisis in faith, to keep the heroes from being too powerful.
- Big neon sign pointing out “THIS IS WHAT IS TRUE” (or at least to me)

I breathed a sigh of relief as I compared the list to my own work in progress. No Christlike kings or miracles. I'd pulled one country from idealology to a more secularized country with religious roots. I'm revelling in my characters' shades of gray. And the other points I can steer clear of as I write.

I've read books like these, and don't want to fall into the same trap of ineffective allegory. Thoughts of these books brought to mind the recent CBD fiction catalog. I paged through it, soaking in all the summarizes of the books I don't have time to read. Past the new releases, the mass market romances, the bargin books, and kid's novels, I finally reached the page categorized as fantasy.

Notice the singular form of the word page.

One half of the page was devoted to Narnia. The audio dramas, the DVD, and the novels. Don't get me wrong, I love Narnia. It deserves a whole page, even. The other half highlighted three series - books by G. P. Taylor (Shadowmancer, etc.), the Kingdom series by Chuck Black, and The Archives of Anthropos by John White - plus had several line entries.

I've read White's books. Stuart's elements listed above could have been written with only this series in mind. I hated the books. Granted, they were written several decades ago with children in mind, and I read them in my early twenties. But why are they so distinguished in this catalog while Karen Hancock's Christy Award-winning Legends of the Guardian-King get only two lines? (And it would have been one if the series title was shorter.) Graham's Binding of the Blade series, L. A. Kelly's Tahn and Return to Alastair, and Kathleen Morgan's Giver of Roses all got similar treatment.

Five other fantasy/speculative series (or single titles) - beyond Ted Dekker's works - were sprinkled throughout the catalog, all without fanfare. Douglas Hirt's Cradleland Chronicles, Donita K. Paul's DragonKeeper Chronicles (incorrectly printed as Dragon Keepers Chronicles) Robin Parrish's Relentless, Kathryn Mackel's The Hidden (Outriders nowhere to be seen), and Jonathan Rogers' Wilderking series. (I may have missed a few speculative ones - more and more thrillers seem to be including speculative elements.)

Is it any wonder CBA fantasy isn't selling well? Mediocre titles are pushed to the front while excellent ones get lost in the crowd. Is a two-page spread so much to ask for?

Any thoughts?

Don't forget to check out Christian Fandom this week. And time is running out for you to leave comments on my website for your chance to win a free novel! The contest ends July 31st, so enter soon!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Christian Fandom - SFF Tour

I don't have much time to post today (even less since Blogger lost my first post), but I wanted to point you to the wonderful site Christian Fandom. It has everything a Christian fantasy/science fiction lover would enjoy - reviews, essays, stories, artwork, and more. I've barely begun exploring!

For more info on the site, visit these blogs:

Valerie Comer
Kameron Franklin
Beth Goddard
Rebecca Grabill
Leathel Grody
Karen Hancock
Elliot Hanowski
Sherrie Hibbs
Sharon Hinck
Pamela James
Tina Kulesa
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirtika Schultz
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Christmas in July Contest

As promised, a different kind of contest!

I've mentioned earlier my new website. I've slowly been adding my reviews to the site, and recently put up the first chapter of my novel, Evergreen Secrets. I'm looking for feedback on the chapter, hence this contest. And since the novel has a Christmas theme, it's Christmas in July!

Read the chapter, post a comment (on the website page, not here), and if I get at least 5 comments by the end of July, I'll hold a drawing for a free book! The winner will receive the book of his or her choice out of these selections:

Comes a Horseman by Robert Liparulo
Shivering World by Kathy Tyers
The Way of Women by Lauraine Snelling
A Nest of Sparrows by Deborah Raney

If you leave an extra helpful or insightful comment, you'll get two chances at the book of your choice! Plus I'll also list the website of the winner under "Winning Sites."

After you've left your comment, check back here in early August for the announcement of the winner, as I'll need your address to mail you the book.

Monday, July 10, 2006

River Rising and MusiChristian

As many of you know (especially if you read my previous post), River Rising by Athol Dickson won a Christy Award this weekend! I recently reviewed the book for Keepin' On Magazine (free registration required to read the entire review):

Step back into Louisiana, 1927. The last town carved out of the swamplands before the Mississippi meets the Gulf, Pilotville stands alone in a sea of segregation.

In my review I mention Dickson's other novel, They Shall See God, which I enjoyed far more than River Rising. Why? I've been pondering this for a while. Perhaps because I had to read River Rising quickly as my first review choice hadn't arrived. Perhaps I'm more used to quality writing now so good books don't stand out as much.

Those are external reasons. Within They Shall See God, the suspense is sharper, the villain more sadistic, the protagonists more relateable (though I readily admit that being female I may have a preference for female protagonists). Also, I found the contemporary conflict between Christians and Jews more intriguing than an 80-years-ago conflict between blacks and whites.

Did you happen to click the link above for They Shall See God? It leads to the website. MusiChristian is doing a special launch promotion this week, with special offers each day this week! I've already taken advantage of their first offer - a free Message Remix Bible with any order! I bought My Other Band, a compilation of side projects by members of bands like Relient K and Audio Adrenaline.

Shameless plug: If you go to MusiChristian or BooksChristian through this site, I get a commission on any order you place! They're a great company and their shipping is fast! I even got a prerelease order the day before it came out.

And I'm planning to post a different kind of contest later this week, so stay tuned!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Christy Award Winners

Here are the winners! (In bold among the nominees.)

Contemporary (Stand-Alones) GRACE AT LOW TIDE by Beth Webb Hart (WestBow Press) LEVI'S WILL by W. Dale Cramer (Bethany House Publishers) WRAPPED IN RAIN by Charles Martin (WestBow Press)

Contemporary (Series, Sequels and Novellas) LIVING WITH FRED by Brad Whittington (Broadman & Holman) MOMENT OF TRUTH by Sally John (Harvest House Publishers) THE ROAD HOME by Vanessa Del Fabbro (Steeple Hill)

Historical GLIMPSES OF PARADISE by James Scott Bell (Bethany House Publishers) THE NOBLE FUGITIVE by T. Davis & Isabella Bunn (Bethany House Publishers) WHENCE CAME A PRINCE by Liz Curtis Higgs (WaterBrook Press)

Romance A BRIDE MOST BEGRUDGING by Deeanne Gist (Bethany House Publishers) CHATEAU OF ECHOES by Siri L. Mitchell (NavPress) IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING by Susan May Warren (Steeple Hill)

Suspense COMES A HORSEMAN by Robert Liparulo (WestBow Press) LAST LIGHT by Terri Blackstock (Zondervan) RIVER RISING by Athol Dickson (Bethany House Publishers)

Visionary LEGEND OF THE EMERALD ROSE by Linda Wichman (Kregel Publications) THE PRESENCE by Bill Myers (Zondervan) SHADOW OVER KIRIATH by Karen Hancock (Bethany House Publishers)

First Novel LIKE A WATERED GARDEN by Patti Hill (Bethany House Publishers) THE ROAD HOME by Vanessa Del Fabbro (Steeple Hill) THIS HEAVY SILENCE By Nicole Mazzarella (Paraclete Press)

Some comments:

Overall, I'm happy with the winners. Romance was probably the one genre I didn't have a definite preference - I love all three authors. Would have loved to see the second Fred novel win - I like when multiple books in a series get Christys. Karen Hancock has won Christys for every novel she's published, and she definitely deserves them, though I did enjoy Legend of the Emerald Rose, too. I've read 10 of the 20 nominees, and there are 2 more I plan to read soon (one sitting in my to-be-read stack at the moment).

Was this the only year one novel was nominated in two categories? What if it would have won both, or do they have rules to prevent that?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Violet Dawn, Kanner Lake, and Java Joint

Here is something really different. But really cool.

Author (and blogger) Brandilyn Collins has written a novel that comes out in August called Violet Dawn. It is part of a new series she has started called the Kanner Lake Series. She sent out Advance Reader Copies to those who requested them and asked them to choose a character that they liked. Then she asked the readers to send her a make believe post from the character for a make-believe blog by the 'Kanner Lake' make-believe residents. This is going to be an actual blog full of ficticious bloggers written by real bloggers who liked Violet Dawn. Confusing? Well, it begins today, July 5th! Go check it out by pressing the button for Java Joint!

Saturday, July 01, 2006


Since these first chapters take up so much room on the blog, I'm only going to keep them up for a few days after posting. After that, you can still read the first chapter by clicking on the FIRST button either here or on the sidebar. Happy reading!

JADE, by Marilynn Griffith, Revell Books

0800730410, June 2006, Copyright © 2006. All rights reserved.