Friday, July 28, 2006

Presenting...Interview with Melanie Wells

Please see the archives for reviews of both books.

I have a penchant for suspense, especially the supernatural. So naturally my reading would take me to Melanie Wells' work. Not only is she a fantastic writer, she's insightful and humorous, too. She will also return your e-mails, which is an added plus. :) I just had to interview her, so here it is...(I didn't even have to mow her lawn in return. What a peach.)

1. What is your writing story? How did you start your journey as a novelist?
Like all writers, I started out as a reader. I can remember sitting up by myself at 2 a.m. reading my Dr. Seuss books when I was 4 years old (like most writers, I am also an insomniac). I also had the entire collection of Grimm’s and Anderson’s fairy tales, which I read obsessively. This could be, by the way, why I write such dark stories. Those fairy tales are some tough mojo – people are always getting cursed or transformed into swans or left to die alone in the woods. I tried writing stories when I was a kid, but they were terrible and depressing, since all my characters were orphans (fairy tale influence). I didn’t make a serious attempt at writing until about ten years ago. I was living in Steamboat Springs, CO, and it snowed 15 FEET in one month. There was nothing else to do, so I started writing a novel. And that was the beginning of the end.

2. You have two books out now, published by Multnomah - When the Day of Evil Comes, and its sequel, The Soul Hunter. I've seen others compare your "spiritual warfare" elements to that of Peretti and Alcorn. Would you say their statements are accurate? Why or why not?
I would say the comparisons are accurate only in a very general sense. My books are very different in tone from theirs – I make a point to keep mine quirky and funny, whereas their books feel more serious and dramatic to me. And I think our theology of angels and demons differs as well. I wouldn’t mind our book sales being comparable, though! If as many people like my books as like theirs, I’ll be in the Caribbean by now.

3. Tell us a bit about the idea behind your Day of Evil series.
The idea behind the series came from a dream I had at my best friend Trish Murphy’s house. She’s a singer/songwriter in Austin, TX. I was there for a writer’s week – we write all day and then fry chicken or make tuna casserole at night – and had a dream about a creepy white guy with a slash on his back. There was a ring and a necklace also and the whole thing was set at Barton Springs in Austin. I wrote the first chapter of When the Day of Evil Comes the next day and we spent the rest of the afternoon at Barton Springs talking about the creepy demon dude. We named him Peter Terry after two ex-boyfriends we don’t like (if you date a writer, you’ll pay the price if you ain’t nice).

4. In what direction do you think the CBA should be going in regards to the fiction it publishes? What is your hope?
I’m not sure how to comment on this because I’m not a huge fan of the concept of “Christian” fiction in the first place. I don’t like to use Christian as an adjective. I think it’s off-putting. I’d like the CBA to produce challenging, literate, interesting fiction, just like the rest of the world should aspire to do. Why should we be any different?

5. What is the hardest part of writing for you?
The solitude. Hate it.

6. Is there any ritual you go through before you sit down to write?
Other than re-folding my socks, sorting my coins into piles by date and type and generating lame reasons to send e-mails and generally avoiding writing entirely? Um, no.

7. You have a great sense of humor. Do you want people who have read your books to come away laughing, thinking, constantly looking behind them, or all three? (I ask because I did all three.)
If you’re not doing all three, I’ve blown a tire and need to change something. Definitely all three. In equal measure.

8. I noticed that in the picture of you on your website, a coffee mug sat closeby. Is coffee your secret vice?
I’m a tea person. Besides, if it were a secret, I couldn’t possibly tell you, could I?

9. When will your third book be released? Give us a teaser.
The third book, which I’ve tentatively titled Suffer the Little Children, is due out in October of ’07. It will feature the little girl, Christine Zocci, from the first two books, and also the little boy Nicholas Chavez from The Soul Hunter. Dylan will be back, of course, as will Peter Terry. And I think I’ve actually figured out how to tie up all the loose ends (the wedding ring, the necklace, Peter Terry’s identity – the whole banana), which will be a relief to everyone, especially me.

10. What is your best advice for yet-to-be-published authors?
I made myself a promise when I started writing that I would let anyone who asked read my stuff. And for years, I did that. I learned more about writing from those first terrible drafts (and all the depressing feedback I got) than from anything else I could have done. Let people read your work, then toughen your spine, thicken your skin, and listen to what they have to say about it.

11. Is there anything else you'd like to tell the readers?
Little known (but illuminating) facts about me:
I love office supplies. If someone at the office walks off with one of my pens, we have a kangaroo court and a public hanging in the parking lot.
For some reason, I never have stamps.
When I was little, I wanted to be a product demonstrator when I grew up (demonstrating shampoo, makeup… whatever – as though this is a real job).
My dog, Gunner, weighs 5.7 pounds and is two tons of trouble.
The first concert I ever attended was K.C. and the Sunshine Band (lame).

Thanks so much, Melanie. That's more information than we wanted to know *grins*. I've listed the links for your sites below. Everybody, go check her out!

Friday, July 21, 2006

For You are my hiding place...Psalm 32:7a

"The truth, Sir, is that God's viewpoint is sometimes different from ours - so different that we could not even guess at it unless He had given us a Book which tells us such things." - Corrie ten Boom to a German lietenant while in prison

"I pity the poor Germans, Corrie. They have touched the apple of God's eye." - Casper ten Boom, watching German soldiers taking Jews and sympathizers away

"If I go home today, tomorrow I will open my door again to any man in need who knocks." - Casper ten Boom, when told by a Gestapo chief he would be freed if he would not cause any more trouble (Casper's arrest eventually led to his death)

"Thank you for the very crowding here. Since we're packed so close, that many more will hear!" - Betsie ten Boom praying with Corrie in their barracks at the Ravensbruck concentration camp, flea and lice-bitten and near starvation

These quotes come from The Hiding Place, the well-known true story of a Dutch family providing underground assistance to Jews during World War II. These brave Christians acted on their belief that all life was precious, and that giving one's life for another was a privilege.

We are so blessed in America. Over-blessed, I think. We have too many distractions that keep us from getting to know God - to sit quietly in His presence and learn from Him. I often wonder how I would respond in tragic times. Hopefully, I would act in faith, as the ten Booms did. They had next to nothing materially, but they had all they needed in Christ. May God not have us become destitute in a war-ridden country in order for us to become totally dependent on Him.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

A New Project

Here's a rendering of the fictional town, Struggle Creek, Tennessee, the setting for a new team novel.

Almost two years ago, this newbie writer joined an organization called Faithwriters. It's a place on the web to showcase/share your work, make writer friends, be challenged, better your craft, and perhaps gain notice in the publishing world.

Right now I'm working with some friends from Faithwriters called Peculiar People on a collaborative novel of sorts. It's a unique idea - one plot, twenty-four authors. It's kind of a small town mystery with a production for the deaf thrown into the mix. A very novel idea, if I do say so myself (pun intended).

I can't wait to see how it turns out. There are some very talented writers in this group ( I do not include myself), and it should end up a quality piece of work. Stay tuned for updates.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Presenting: Kathryn Mackel interview and review of The Hidden

540377: The HiddenThe Hidden

By Kathryn Mackel / Thomas Nelson

Boston psychiatrist Susan Stone receives a phone call from her stepmother in Colorado. Her father Charlie has broken his leg and needs her to assist with his horse farm. Still reeling from her husband’s recent death and son’s suicide, Susan reticently returns for a short time. Having left Colorado behind, along with acidic family memories, Susan struggles with the change of venue. Will she be able to face her past and strangle the demons that threaten to consume her?

Charlie, relegated to a wheelchair, asks Susan to deliver the foal when his prized Arabian is due to give birth and the veterinarian doesn’t show up. She does the best she can, but as a result of her imperfect method, both horses near death, needing further medical treatment. After receiving a verbal barrage from the stable girl, Melissa, Susan jumps on another horse and rides into the hills, seeking refuge from her mistake. She half hopes never to return, but instead of ending it all, she is thrown off her horse near a dark cave. What she finds there will change her world forever.

A young man without a name is bound in chains. He has no memory of who he is or how long he has been there. Can Susan help him, and in doing so relieve the guilt of failing to help her own son? She uses psychiatric techniques to draw out the stranger’s memory, but the answers make her even more confused. And who needs therapy more, him or her?

Another mystery surrounds the ranch: the discovery of charred remains. No one knows what on earth could cause such horrific effects. As sheriff Rick uncovers more clues, he suspects that the murders have something to do with the stranger. But what? Who is the man, really, and how is he connected to the murderous burnings?

One important background character provides supportiveness and kindly wisdom throughout the story– Jeanette, Susan’s stepmom. Her rocklike stability makes the others question their faith or lack of it. It’s interesting to see how Melissa, Rick, Charlie, and the stranger react to her.

This tale ultimately revolves around the unseen. Evil lurks around us, and most of the time, we can’t see it with the naked eye. But it is still in a battle with good. Which will we choose to ally forces with? Are we ready to encounter the evil within ourselves, as well as without?

I recommend The Hidden on the grounds of its high suspense, spookiness, and positive thematic elements. The author approached many topics including depression, suicide, suffering and forgiveness in a thought-provoking manner, leaving me fodder to mull over well after the last page was turned.

Now for the author interview (thanks, Kathryn!):

1. Where did you get the idea for The Hidden?

It’s hard to answer this without giving away the twist of the story. So I’m going to be a bit vague and say that, after reading a couple of seldom-discussed verses in two of the epistles, I got the concept for the plot. What was always important to me was not trying to explain these scriptures—because I can’t—but to use them to explore forgiveness.

From the moment I first conceived of the story, it had to be in Colorado and had to involve horses. I mention that because I’m from New England and don’t ride. It’s a curious thing about stories—sometimes they seem to take their own life, beyond the author’s control.

2. This is a supernatural tale, yet you hold the main theme as
forgiveness. What do you hope the reader takes away from the story?

In The Hidden, Susan Stone is abused by a mentally-ill mother and neglected by a father who can’t cope. She leaves home, choosing to be estranged from her family for thirty years. Rather than acknowledging her pain and injury—which is significant—she compensates by becoming the ‘perfect’ mother. The irony is that she was a good mother and, as a widow, single-handedly raised a gracious son. Yet when faced with his decision to do something she was against, she rejected him in the same way that her own mother had been rejected.

I believe the hardest people to forgive are our parents. Because of that, it can be very hard to trust a loving Father. Even a believer walking in faith may not admit that but allow bitterness to fester deep down, where he or she doesn’t have to deal with it.

When we’re gravely injured psychological, emotionally, and spiritually—like Susan Stone—we simply can’t get out of our own way. That pain is real, and our Lord knows that. When we pretend otherwise, or running cursing in the other direction, bitterness grows and grows until it becomes toxic. Redemption is not about changing the past but about changing us—giving us a new life, a new hope, and the power to forgive.

If even one reader comes away seeking forgiveness—and the divinely-given power to forgive—than I’ll have done my job.

3. What is your favorite and least favorite thing about writing?

My favorite thing is when I hit my stride. That means I know my characters, have found the voice for the novel, and I know where I’m going. What I love about this is that this is where craft leaves off and inspiration takes over. (Not that craft isn’t always important.) This is the time and place where the Holy Spirit can supply the vision—where I can find Christ in my writing. For example, the scene in Outriders when Brady kneels to give the giant Jasper a clear shot at his neck was not something I planned. But, beyond my rational-writer control, for a moment I knew that Jesus would do this if he were in this situation. And so Brady did. When I experience writing a moment like that, I am blessed beyond words. And I pray my readers are blessed when they read those moments.

My least favorite thing is writing synopses. My fiction students would be delighted to know I have been through this agonizing process recently in preparing a proposal for a series I’m writing. It’s a whole lot easier to critique them than to write them. This proposal was tough because I had to summarize the series as a whole, plus three books (with only one written), plus where the series could go from book four on. Then I had to write a full synopsis for book one. A good exercise for someone who teaches fiction, but painful!

4. Is it difficult to write across genres? Explain.

I have bounced around, haven’t I? I’ve done blockbuster Sci-Fi, family, and suspense screenplays for Hollywood. Supernatural thrillers and fantasy for adults. Sports and Sci-Fi for kids. A writer doesn’t ‘choose’ genre so much as write in areas he or she has aptitude and inspiration. If someone asked me to do romance or chick lit, I’d fall apart.

What is very difficult is working on different projects at once. Right now I’m working on a kids’ sports book, a screenplay, and a thriller novel. Sometimes I feel like my mind is stretched like a rubber band, then snapped.

5. What can we expect from you in the future?

I’m writing the screenplay for The Hidden for Namesake Entertainment. I’ve worked with them before (Can of Worms, Hangman’s Curse). They’re about to bring out Ted Dekker’s THR3E and are making Peretti/Dekker’s HOUSE right now. Trackers comes out in October. That’s the sequel to Outriders (The Birthright Project). And I’ve got a couple of projects out in proposal form.
6. Is there anything else you'd like to say to the readers out there?

Thank you for supporting Christian fiction. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

To those of you who are writers, don’t give up. Work on your craft. Be fierce with your weaknesses and just as fierce developing your strengths. I just read the acknowledgements for Colleen Coble’s latest (out this fall) FIRE DANCER. She speaks about those “long first seven years when no one wanted to buy anything”. Now she is a premier writer of romantic suspense.

Writing is often such a lonely, thankless job. Hold to your vision, work on your craft, and when you face rejection, keep going.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

And the Winner is...


Stay tuned to see if she is the lucky grand prize winner.

Thank you to everyone who entered the contest. I enjoyed each and every one of your entries. Hopefully, I'll be able to run another contest very soon.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Redemption review and pirate poem contest!

93593: The RedemptionThe Redemption

By M.L. Tyndall / Barbour Publishing

Welcome! After you've read my review and the Q & A with MaryLu Tyndall, please enter my contest! Post a pirate-y poem less than 100 words in the comment section for a chance to win a free copy of The Redemption! The winner will be placed in the drawing for the grand prize: two tickets to see Dead Man's Chest!

Fans of romance, historicals, or Caribbean pirate lore will love this tale. Set to release soon after the movie Dead Man’s Chest, it contains familiar pirate-y elements such as sword fighting, shipwrecks, hangings, cannons and swarthy sea-faring men. Not to mention a fair lady in distress who is taken captive by the most handsome pirate she’s ever seen. Weave in faith, hope, perseverance, and yes, redemption, and you’ve got an action-packed yet heart-warming story.

Charlisse Bristol runs away from an abusive uncle in search of a father she’s not sure is even alive. She will brave any obstacle to feel his loving arms around her just once. But when the merchant vessel that carries her is destroyed in a storm, she finds herself shipwrecked on a small island alone for weeks.

Just when she has lost hope of rescue, a band of pirates arrives and makes camp on shore. She sees no alternative but to sneak in unnoticed in hopes of satiating her empty stomach. Her plan foiled, she is captured and brought to the captain of the ship, Edmund Merrick. But all is not as it seems. Merrick may be rough around the edges, but his honor won’t allow Charlisse any harm. In fact, he resolves to protect her until she can find her father.

Can Charlisse see past Merrick’s seemingly horrid occupation to the heart? Will she be able to put the past behind her and accept what her search yields? Where will she ultimately find love in the sea of deceit that surrounds her?

My hat goes off to MaryLu Tyndall for causing me to enjoy a romance novel. I can’t remember the last time I’ve read one, as I prefer supernatural and high suspense thrillers. But my fascination with the Pirates of the Caribbean proved to heighten my enjoyment of this novel. It is well-written, interesting, and carries a fresh twist to the conventional pirate story.

(Q&A with MaryLu Tyndall:)

1.) Tell us a bit about the story.

My story begins with a horrific storm at sea in which Lady Charlisse Bristol becomes shipwrecked on an island. She has run away from an abusive uncle in London and sailed to the Caribbean in search of a father she has never known. After weeks of combating the elements, her salvation comes in the form of a band of pirates and their fiercely handsome leader, Edmund Merrick.

Captain Merrick has only recently given his life to God and turned his back on a life of piracy to become a privateer. While battling his attraction to this winsome lady and learning to walk a more godly path, he offers to help Charlisse on her quest-until he discovers her father is none other than Edward the Terror, the cruellest pirate on the Caribbean. Edmund must find a way to win this lady's love while shielding her from his lecherous crew and working to bring her father to justice.

2.) What sparked the idea to write about pirates?

I've always had an obsession for pirates-those swashbuckling heroes who roamed the wild Caribbean seas in their tall ships. The Golden Age of Piracy was such an adventurous and romantic time in our history, and having grown up in that part of the world-south Florida-it grabbed my interest at an early age. What sparked the idea for the novel, however, was the Disney movie, Pirates of the Caribbean. After I saw it several times with my daughter, I had a desire to write about pirates that wouldn't go away. Why do the evil pirates get to have all the fun? Why not write about a Christian pirate?

3.) As you researched this subject, what most surprised you?

The biggest surprise for me was discovering that not all pirates were vicious thieves and murderers. Many, in fact, were commissioned by their countries during times of war to disturb merchant shipping lines and fleet movements, and in general to play havoc with their enemies. In fact, one of the most notorious pirate captains, Henry Morgan, commanded his own fleet of pirate ships, called the Brethren of the Coast, whose sole purpose was to raid Spanish ships and towns in the Caribbean. He was eventually knighted by King Charles II of England and became the governor of Jamaica. These facts aided my story a great deal as many of these pirates, who turned privateers, had strong religious convictions.

4.) How long did it take to write your first novel?

I began writing The Redemption in the Fall of 2003, but it was slow going at first. I was working full time as a software engineer, not to mention my responsibilities at home as wife and mother. I'm sure many of you can relate. There just doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day! Consequently, I did not complete the novel until early Spring 2005, yet I still didn't feel it was ready. I hadn't written in a while and needed some counsel, so I hired two editors to go through my manuscript, and I entered four contests for the feedback. I made the final cut in two of those contests and felt encouraged, but I must admit, I learned a great deal more from my editors. By the end of Spring 2005, I had polished the manuscript the best I could and went looking for an agent. God's timing is always perfect. I was laid off from my job of fifteen years the same month my agent took me on as a client and began submitting The Redemption. By September of that same year, I had a contract in hand from Barbour for the entire three book series!

5.) How long must we wait for the sequel?

Not long! The second book in the series, The Reliance, will be released in January 2007, and the third book, The Restitution, will be out in stores, June, 2007. As you can tell, I've been very busy!