Thursday, August 31, 2006

Update from novelist Eric Wilson


Thriller writer Eric Wilson recently shared this update with his email list:
My first Aramis Black novel, THE BEST OF EVIL, will hit shelves in three weeks. Already it's getting some of the best reviews of my short career; and if you go out and buy the thing, it'll help make this a long career.

Check out my updated web site, with a new video and with a new contest to win a free copy of the book. You can also vote in the new poll, and see what dates I'll be out signing books.
About the novel:

“Spare your soul,” he ranted, “and turn your eyes from greed.…”

The tattoos on his arms still reading “Live by the Sword” and “Die by the Sword,” Aramis Black is ready for a fresh start. Determined to set aside his violent tendencies, he opens an espresso shop in Nashville and begins to put his childhood memories behind him. The past isn’t finished with him, though. One ordinary day at the shop, a man is shot before his eyes, speaking dying words to Aramis that are all too familiar.

Aramis realizes that his path to freedom will demand forgiveness— forgiveness from God and forgiveness of others. Along the way, he must uncover the conspiracy behind a centuries-old mystery and the shocking truth of his mother’s death. The question remains: Will Aramis be able to conquer his past, or will evil get the best of him?

Eric has actually already finished his fourth book, a sequel to The Best of Evil that will be out next summer ...

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

HEARTSONG PRESENTS: MYSTERIES

Blog Keep Me In Suspense reports about a new line of Christian cozy mysteries from Barbour Publishing:
Janice Thompson's trade fiction cozy, THE WEDDING CAPER, will be released in October in all your favorite retail venues to kick off this new line. In the back of the book will be a sign-up page for the new mystery book club. Starting in January, Barbour will release four cozy mysteries every six weeks in their book club for only $12.99 each cycle! You can’t beat that. Barbour is also getting ready to launch a website that will be up and running in early October where you will be able to join online.
More details at Keep Me In Suspense (including info about submissions).

Related links:
KEEP ME IN SUSPENSE
Suspense writer emerges from Triangle Lake
Q&A: COLLEEN COBLE (Fire Dancer)
FIRST Day, Aug 1: FULL TILT by Creston Mapes
Q&A: WANDA DYSON (Abduction)

Q&A: SUSAN MEISSNER, PT 2


Today, the conclusion of our email conversation with novelist Susan Meissner. Susan is the acclaimed author of several novels, including Why the Sky Is Blue, In All Deep Places, and A Window to the World (named one of the top ten Christian novels of 2005 by Booklist magazine). In October, she kicks off a new mystery series with Widows and Orphans (Harvest House), featuring lawyer Rachael Flynn.

She lives in rural Minnesota with her husband, Robert, and their four children.

* * *

PART TWO.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ASPIRING WRITERS?
Here's the deal: If you aspire to write, nothing can stop you but your own lack of motivation. That's the good news.

If you aspire to be PUBLISHED, lots of things can stop you. Bad timing, no agent, an underdeveloped manuscript, lack of a network, the list could go on.

Here's the absolute best advice I can give you if you are unpublished: (I don't have to give you advice on becoming a writer. If you write, you are one.)

1. Educate yourself. Subscribe to a writing magazine, take online courses, take campus courses, buy a market guide and study it cover to cover. Do whatever you can to become knowledgeable of the industry.

2. Write every day. Think of it as swimming laps in a pool when no one is watching. You are training for a future race when you will have an audience, but you have to get your practice laps in before you can even think of competing.

3. Attend a writer's conference. There is no better way to get face-to-face contact with editors and agents. These guys go to conferences looking to find the next future bestselling author. But when you pitch your project, make sure it's complete and as flawless as you can make it. Make sure you choose a conference attended by editors from houses that you know fit your project. Even if you are not ready to pitch a project, you grow as a writer when you attend a conference. The amount of learning that takes place turns your brain to ramen but when you get home and thoroughly digest what you've been taught, you will find that you have experienced an exponential growth in your writing skills.

WHAT DO YOU WISH NON-WRITERS UNDERSTOOD?
Just because I'm not writing doesn't mean I'm not working. I am always thinking, researching, contemplating, devising. Writing is half sitting at the computer and half observing the world as it spins. The days when I am not writing can be just as labor-intensive as the days I am.

WHAT DO YOU WISH OTHER WRITERS UNDERSTOOD?
You can't control the whole timing thing. You can be a stellar writer and still not get a contract if the timing is not right. Don't sweat what you can't control. Know the market -- that can help you choose a project that the market IS ready for. But in the end, you can only control the depth and quality of your writing.

FOR THE WRITER WITH A NEW BOOK, WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER THE BEST THING TO PROMOTE IT?
I'm a marketing weenie, but I do think even wimps like me can do a fair bit of promotion through a professionally-designed website and newsletter. That's what I do.


WOULD YOU RECOMMEND JOINING AN AUTHOR GUILD?
I recommend joining any kind of writing community. Writing is rather isolating. I have this amazing job where I do what I love, but I don't have any co-workers to chat with around the water cooler. So it's imperative to join a group of "co-workers" to bounce ideas off of, to vent with, to share your knowledge with, to network with. I'm a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (an excellent online community), as well as two other online groups that keep me connected. It's all about reciprocity. (Did I spell that right? Is that a word?) It's about giving and getting. You need to share what you know, you need to learn what others can share.

WHEN CHOOSING FROM ALL THE ORGANIZATIONS AVAILABLE, WHAT TRAITS SHOULD A NOVELIST LOOK FOR?
Look for a group where you can give and take. Obviously you want to find a place where you can find like-minded writers who share your passions and frustrations. Genre-specific groups are wise choices, although you might be surprised by what you can learn from someone who writes in a genre totally different than yours. Size of the group matters, too. Larger groups like ACFW have regional and local chapters that help foster a deeper sense of community. The main thing is to pick a place to belong where you can be yourself, where you can share what you know and where you can learn something new every day.

* * *

Many thanks to author Susan Meissner. Visit her online at SusanlMeissner.com. You may also sign up for her newsletter, or read this interview with the author conducted by her publisher, Harvest House Publishers.

Related link: Q&A: SUSAN MEISSNER, PT 1

More mystery/suspense authors:
Q&A: COLLEEN COBLE (Fire Dancer)
FIRST Day, Aug 1: FULL TILT by Creston Mapes
Q&A: ALTON GANSKY (Director's Cut)
Q&A: WANDA DYSON (Abduction)
Q&A: T.L. HINES (Waking Lazarus)

INTERVIEW ARCHIVE

"Ignorance is death."

J.A. Konrath continues to share some of his findings from his great 500-bookstore event. Although the tour ostensibly was the make (a lot of) acqaintances, he also took the opportunity to do some research.

And what he found ain't good news. He shares his impressions of the retail scene (as it pertains to authors) and issues a challenge to authors to help with some additional research: A Newbie's Guide to Publishing: The Great Bookstore Experiment

Mr. Konrath also makes these remarks:
If you're a writer, ignorance isn't bliss. It's death. If a customer isn't directly seeking out your book--because they read a review, or had it recommended to them, or learned about it somehow--then the only chance you have of selling it is to a browser, and there aren't that many browsers. Seven paperbacks on the new release tower might have a shot at selling a few by chance. A single hardcover spine-out in the Mystery section has very little chance of selling by chance.

You hear me preach about the importance of meeting booksellers, of self-promotion, of establishing brand and name recognition. Invariably, many writers will tell me that promotion is up to the publisher, that writers can't make a difference, that all they need to concentrate on is writing a good book.

My response is always the same: the bookstore is filled with good books that customers walk right past. If no one knows about your book, it is going to rot on the shelf no matter how good it it.
Find details of his "Great Bookstores Experiment" at the above link.

What am I doing wrong?

I am in the final days of revising my third novel, which I began writing last November. Yet, apparently, all I really need to write a novel is three days.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Go maketh a plan

Every novelist must do something to promote his or her own work. That much is obvious. However, as pointed out by mystery author J.A. Konrath (yes, this blog is slowly turning into a fan site), it is not enough to just go out there and do something:
You must start with a plan. And the plan must be carefully thought-out, with goals more specific than "sell some books."
He details a series of common approaches that rarely work for authors -- and suggests ways to make them work.

A Newbie's Guide to Publishing: Do Something

J.A. Konrath: Notes from a long, long tour (in progress)

Having accomplished his stunning goal of visiting 500 bookstores in a very short space of time, mystery author J.A. Konrath is actually still going. However, he takes a moment to share some examples of how various bookstores have responded to his visits: A Newbie's Guide to Publishing: Tour Day 52, 53, 54, and 55

Q&A: SUSAN MEISSNER, PT 1


Today and tomorrow, we talk with novelist Susan Meissner. She is an award-winning newspaper columnist, pastor’s wife, and high school journalism instructor who enjoys writing contemporary fiction from a Christian worldview. This October, she kicks off a new mystery series with Widows and Orphans (Harvest House), featuring lawyer Rachael Flynn:

When her ultra-ministry-minded brother confesses to murder, lawyer Rachael Flynn begs him to let her represent him. As she works on the case, she begins to suspect he knows who the real killer is but is unable to get him to cooperate with her. What is he hiding?

* * *

PART ONE.

WHAT ARE YOUR WRITING HABITS?
I spend part of my life in "writing mode" and part of it in "thinking mode." When I'm in the zone, I write about 3,000 words a day -- not because I must, but because my personal quirk is that I am volcanic when I'm writing. The lava thing is great in that I can write a 80-000-word novel in a relatively short amount of time, but I'm always mindful that lava is hot and smoky and tends to harden if it just sits.

I'm also an outliner, a plotter, a character-sketcher, and that's what I do when I'm in "thinking mode," which is where I wander before I even start the book. When I'm done writing for the day -- and I do make myself stop whether I want to or not -- I mentally take my characters into the next scene while I live out the rest of my day, seemingly devoted solely to my family. That way, when I sit down to the thing the next day, I've already planned out in my head what's going to work and what won't.

ARE YOU AN "OUTLINE" OR "MAKE IT UP AS YOU GO" WRITER?
Oops. I kinda already answered that in the first question. Actually, to be honest, I am both. Yes, I outline. Yes, I make it up as I go. The outline changes as I write. It's like Mapquesting a route to Disneyland from my rural nowhere town here in Minnesota. I can start out heading west on 1-80, like the map says, but if I take a detour and decide to check out a ghost town in Forgotten, Nebraska, well, I can do that. I may get to Anaheim a few days later, but I will eventually get there. The outline for me is just a map to where I'm headed. It's not a prescription that I must follow or perish.

WHAT IS THE BEST THING ANYONE SAID ABOUT YOUR BOOKS?
Trite as it may sound, when I get an email from someone who says they've learned something amazing about God's character that they never quite understood before, that gets me everytime. One woman told me reading my book Why the Sky is Blue changed her life. Hearing that changed mine.

WHAT IS THE WORST THING ANYONE SAID ABOUT YOUR BOOKS?
That I don't always provide the "they lived happily ever after" ending. It's true. I don't. But hey, that is how life is sometimes. Actually, it's that way most of the time. We can live happily, but that "ever after" thing is a myth. Hard times come. Yes, they usually pass. But sometime down the road, they return. That is how it is in a fallen world that needs Jesus.

HOW MANY BOOKS DO YOU READ A MONTH?
When I'm in write mode, maybe one or two. I hate that. But when I get the manuscript done, I head to my TBR stack (it's usually 10-15 deep) and I read one or two a week. Sometimes more. But all the laundry and stuff I let go while I was writing begs for my attention, too. So many books, so little time ...

AS A READER, WHAT MAKES A BOOK INTRIGUING TO YOU? (WHAT DOES A BOOK NEED FOR YOU TO PICK IT UP?)
Character development is what I look for in a book, whether it's literary or commercial. I want to read about people who matter to me. Writers who can create fictional people I actually care about are masters of the game. I aspire to be that kind of writer. Plot matters too, but to me, plot is the characters. And since we're being honest here, I must say that for me to pick up a book to read its back cover, it needs to have an intriguing cover. I judge a book by its cover all the time. We all do.

* * *

Come back tomorrow for the second half of our Q&A with author Susan Meissner. In the meantime, visit her online at SusanlMeissner.com. You may also sign up for her newsletter, or read this interview with the author conducted by her publisher, Harvest House Publishers.

Related link: Q&A: SUSAN MEISSNER, PT 2

More mystery/suspense authors:
Q&A: COLLEEN COBLE (Fire Dancer)
FIRST Day, Aug 1: FULL TILT by Creston Mapes
Q&A: ALTON GANSKY (Director's Cut)
Q&A: WANDA DYSON (Abduction)
Q&A: T.L. HINES (Waking Lazarus)

INTERVIEW ARCHIVE

Friday, August 25, 2006

Suspense writer emerges from Triangle Lake

Writer and friend Chris Mikesell was recently featured in this nice article from West Lane News:

Suspense writer emerges from Triangle Lake
If a writer wanted to find inspiration for a character who lives in a small, lakeside town, then Triangle Lake might be a good place to look. For local writer Chris Mikesell, the lake is part of his daily life, which may help explain his success at finding a voice for the fictional Wilbur Hucks of Kanner Lake, Idaho ...

Check out the whole story here.

Sample some of Mr. Mikesell's work at Flashing in the Gutters.

Related links:
THE CHALLENGES OF NOVEL MARKETING
CHECKING IN WITH KANNER LAKE

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Poll: Why We Stop Reading

Over at Forensics & Faith, Brandilyn Collins is conducting an informal poll on the when and why you as a reader may (or may not) put down a book and never come back: Why We Stop Reading--The Poll

Related links:
Brandilyn Collins keeps you in suspense ...
BRAINSTORMING YOUR NOVEL
THE CHALLENGES OF NOVEL MARKETING
CHECKING IN WITH KANNER LAKE
Q&A: BRANDILYN COLLINS, PT 1

Understanding RSS

With the proliferation of news and information on the Internet (and, in particular, the explosion of the blogosphere), RSS is more important than ever to keep track. But what is it? How does it work? Author and marketing expert Seth Godin walks you through the process here: Understanding RSS

Brandilyn Collins keeps you in suspense ...


Author blog Keep Me In Suspense recently interviewed best-selling novelist Brandilyn Collins. In the course of the conversation, Brandilyn shares about her latest thriller, Violet Dawn, and some of the innovative ways her publisher is marketing it. Check it out!

Related links:
BRAINSTORMING YOUR NOVEL
THE CHALLENGES OF NOVEL MARKETING
CHECKING IN WITH KANNER LAKE
Q&A: BRANDILYN COLLINS, PT 1

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

CSI: Dying in the Gutters


In one of the niftier ideas for a tie-in comic book, the latest CSI comic book mini-series takes place at a comic book convention -- and all the suspects are real-life comic book pros. Read an 11-page preview from IDW Publishing.


Related links:
THE COMPLETE DICK TRACY
NEW COMICS FROM WETA, BRERETON AND ... JOHN WOO?
INFUZE COMICS PORTAL
DEFENDING COMIC BOOKS
JAMIE COSLEY ON THE PULSE

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

"Hey, you've got it easy -- "

Erica Well's online comic strip The Miller Sisters continues with episode #110. Julia's inherited superpowers are revealed -- so, what does a Christian college girl do now?

(If you don't see the latest strip, click the "refresh" button on your browser.)

Listing at Onlinecomics.net

Still in and out this week ...

I am still preoccupied with writing my next novel (due to the publisher in a matter of days). As we try to get back on schedule, I hope to post at least one author interview this week. In the meantime, three items of business:

I have joined the Squidoo revolution. Check out my new Squidoo page: What an Editor Wants / What a Novelist Needs

Sign up for my free quarterly newsletter, "Well Read," and be eligibile for the free drawings!

I continue to receive some nice comments for my short-short crime story at Flashing in the Gutters, "Ruin."

Monday, August 21, 2006

500 stores!

Huzzah! J.A. Konrath has succeeded in his ambitious goal of visiting no fewer than 500 bookstores during this marathon tour: A Newbie's Guide to Publishing: Tour Day 49, 50, and 51

Salem Publishing's August Employee of the Month


GETTING TO KNOW YOU…

Full Name: Christopher Scott Well

Nicknames (keep them family-friendly, please): When I was a kid with a 10-speed bike, I always wanted the nickname “Flash,” but it never caught on.

Any family stats you’d like to share? Wife, Erica; family back in Illinois (mom, sister, brother-in-law, the two greatest nephews in the world); in-laws in Manhattan

Where is “home” to you? Wherever my wife is

Pets? Not in Nashville

Do you still have your tonsils? Yes (why, what have you heard?)

As a child, what did you want to be when you “grew up”? Batman

First album/cassette/8-track purchased: 45 RPM single of Sweet’s “Piece of the Action” b/w “Ballroom Blitz”

Name of your first date: Jeanne Shampine

What was the theme song at your prom? Probably something by Journey or REO Speedwagon.

Who was your “teen idol?” Can’t remember. When I was in grade school, Lee Majors (TV’s Six Million Dollar Man) was pretty awesome.

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? I don’t know ... three? ... five?

Favorite Movie(s) of All Time: I like a lot of movies, but Charade (1963, Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn) is my all-time favorite.

Favorite TV show(s): Cheers, Newsradio, Monk, Columbo, The Munsters and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Favorite book(s): Between Heaven and Hell, Peter Kreeft (an imaginary conversation in the afterlife among C.S. Lewis, John F. Kennedy and Aldous Huxley, all of whom died within hours of each other); The Philippian Fragment, Calvin Miller (a satirical “lost” book of the Bible); The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis (wherein a busload of Hell’s prisoners visit Heaven—and, shockingly, talk themselves into going back). Also: Maximum Bob by Elmore Leonard, American Tabloid by James Ellroy and Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami.

Favorite singer/band: Crowded House

Favorite (non-Salem) magazine: Wired

Favorite ethnic food (Taco Bell doesn’t count): Empanadas

Favorite concert: Crowded House (with opening act Sheryl Crow), once at 328 Performance Hall in Nashville, again a week later at the American Theatre in St. Louis; only seven days apart, but two completely different sets

Ever been arrested, and if so, why? No (seriously, what have you heard?)

Favorite material possession: My DVDs

Favorite vacation spot: home (although I would like to go back to Times Square when I have time to enjoy it)

City/country you’d most like to visit for the first time: Memphis

Do you speak (or attempt to speak) any foreign language(s)? I’ve got to re-learn Spanish before Erica and I have kids.

Do you play any musical instruments? If you had asked me in high school, I would have listed piano, guitar, alto sax, recorder and harmonica.

Guilty Pleasure(s): Well, I make a tidy profit selling bootleg nicotine patches to the elderly. (But I actually feel pretty good about it, so maybe that doesn’t count.)

What annoys you: People who ask me my “guilty pleasure”

Your worst habit: Making up some stupid answer when people ask me my “guilty pleasure”

Your best trait (don’t be modest!): I take everything very seriously.

Biggest celebrity you’ve ever met, and where/how: Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner (interview for Profile magazine) and mega-selling British pop legend Cliff Richard (I sat right next to him at a press luncheon—I was a nervous wreck!)

What’s the deal with Alec Baldwin? Under the terms of the restraining order, I am not allowed to comment on Mr. Baldwin.

Church you attend: Bethel World Outreach Center

Name three of your heroes (non-divine): Any man or woman who risks their lives in the line of duty as a police officer, fire fighter or soldier

PC or Mac? I am ambidextrous.

What is your idea of a perfect day? A day at home with my wife making comics and watching DVDs

Best advice you’ve ever been given? A friend told me to email this lady he knew named Erica Rodriguez who worked at DC Comics. My life was never the same again.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

Still working on my next novel, but thought I would drop in here to pass along this announcement I received via email:

Announcement:
Our new website is live!
There are multiple pages, including a blog!
The blog is linked through Blogger. I liked their format better. Besides, they'll be nicer to us about sharing bandwidth! We will use that to post the book reviews and you can also stop there to pick up the html for reviews and/or links.
We have a Reviewers Page (I'm still adding some new links of people who have checked in) It also tells how to get the most bang for our buck of blogging!
We have an Industry Links page, for christian fiction and author sites...and any Industry news we can find!
We have a book Schedule page. That will keep us all...including me...in the light as to the upcoming schedule.
The CFBA had a great first year. Now that it is moving to a multi-track format, which allows bloggers to focus on their favorite genre, it can only grow from here.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

You can go to the beach, I gotta write ...

If I am not blogging at my usual pace, it is because I am on vacation this week -- scrambling to finish my next novel for deadline.

Monday, August 14, 2006

"Fight?! Kenzi! What are you saying!"

The new arc continues with #109 of Erica Well's The Miller Sisters. Julia's inherited superpowers are revealed -- so, what does a Christian college girl do now?

(If you don't see the latest strip, click the "refresh" button on your browser.)

Listing at Onlinecomics.net

It only works if people can find your book ...

Novelist J.A. Konrath offers his latest update from the road at A Newbie's Guide to Publishing: Tour Day 41, 42, and 43.

He notes:
Of course, the only sure-fire way to sell a book is word-of-mouth. This can be done by the author, friends, family, booksellers, librarians, and to a lesser extent with reviews, ads, and publicity.

But word of mouth won't lead to a point-of-sale purchase if your book isn't in the store.

Like all sales, the goal is three-fold:

1. Inform consumers that the product exists.
2. Attract those consumers who are interested in your type of product.
3. Make it really easy for them to buy your product.
Joe's tour is now at 415 stores (and counting).

Sunday, August 13, 2006

ACFW Dos and Don'ts

Novel Journey pointed us to this: Mick Silva, acquisitions editor for WaterBrook Press, shares some "dos and don'ts" on preparing for the upcoming conference for American Christian Fiction Writers.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

your name in my next book (and free stuff)

Due to overwhelming demand, we have extended the special offer through
Monday, August 14! GO HERE! http://www.studiowell.com/Birthday06

Review: "Eleven on Top"

Over at Amazon, I just posted a review of Janet Evanovich's latest Stephanie Plum adventure, Eleven on Top:
Bounty hunter Stephanie Plum has had enough. After ten solid books' worth of being threatened, roughed up, shot at, fire-bombed, et al, she decides it is time for a career change. But Stephanie soon learns it's not so easy out in the job market, either ...

Write for TV for cash and prizes!

http://uncabaret.com/OtherNet.htmlThe Other Network TV Writing Contest
Deadline: Sept. 1, 2006
Get your script read by agents, managers, execs at Fox & Comedy Central, get notes from award-winning TV creators like ALAN ZWEIBEL, BOB ODENKIRK, CINDY CHUPACK. Submit original or spec scripts, any genre. Info, entry form and sample notes at http://uncabaret.com/OtherNet.html

Friday, August 11, 2006

Q&A: SANDRA BROWN

In the latest issue of Thriller Readers Newsletter (International Thriller Writers, Inc.), I profile best-selling romantic suspense novelist Sandra Brown, who has been on the New York Times best-seller chart a whopping 50 times.

Her latest hit is the brand-new Ricochet (2006), a steamy thriller about murder, betrayal, and a homicide detective’s struggle with his own rules of conduct. (In stores Tuesday, August 15).

Before launching her writing career, the lifelong Texan worked as a model, as a weathercaster, and as a feature reporter on the nationally syndicated “PM Magazine.” Once she published her first novel, though, Brown never turned back: She has written 65 novels (so far). There are now 70 million copies of her books in print worldwide, translated into 30 languages.

Here is the behind-the-scenes correspondence that went into the profile:

* * *

You are known for both your "romance" and your "thriller" novels. Do your readers follow you in both fields, or do you have two separate readerships?
Readers know how to distinguish a bona fide romance, written prior to 1988, from a novel of suspense that has an element of romance. I have diehard fans of each, but I'm pleased by the number who have read and liked both. I get mail from readers who began reading me early in my career, and have made the transition into thrillers with me. Others, just discovering my newer books, have gone back to read the romances, when ordinarily they wouldn't have picked a book from that genre.

Several of your older novels are being reprinted -- and in hardcover, no less! Does this create a situation where your new titles compete with new editions of old titles ... or does it create a synergy?
Collectors are delighted that those early books are now available in hardcover. But my agent and I have worked diligently to avoid confusion by insisting that if a book was previously published under a pseudonym, it says so on the cover. Fortunately we've had the cooperation of my backlist publishers not to publish a reprint too close to a new hardcover. Consumers are, I believe, smarter than publishers give them credit for. Readers know the difference.

What is it about International Thriller Writers that attracted you?
I wanted my name on the roster of writers who had already signed on. What writer wouldn't want to be a member of that distinguished group?! These are writers I read and admire. The organization's goal was to create a voice that publishers and media couldn't ignore. We've made tremendous progress, as evidenced by ThrillerFest and the success of "Thriller: Stories to Keep You Up All Night." I believe that our voice will grow stronger.

As a reader, what does a book need for you to pick it up?
For me the story is everything. I don't care if it's set on a wagon train or a space station, tell me a story. Every time I begin reading a new book, I do so with the expectation -- and hope -- of being drawn into another place, another time, another person's dilemma. I love make-believe.
Reading it, and writing it.

* * *

Many thanks to novelist Sandra Brown. Find her online at SandraBrown.net.

Sign up for the FREE "Thriller Readers Newsletter" and keep up with the latest profiles, news and reviews in the world of thriller fiction. Subscribers are also entered to win FREE BOOKS!

Related links:
Q&A: CORNELIA READ (A Field of Darkness)
Q&A: COLLEEN COBLE (Fire Dancer)
Q&A: ALTON GANSKY (Director's Cut)
Q&A: TASHA ALEXANDER (And Only to Deceive)
Q&A: LONNIE CRUSE (Murder In Metropolis)

INTERVIEW ARCHIVE

Thursday, August 10, 2006

EVELYN: #1 at Technorati!

With all the buzz surrounding Deliver Us From Evelyn, our rank on Technorati's "Popular Books" has jumped to NUMBER ONE!!!

Technorati is the blog authority, tracking 50.8 million blogs -- and they now say that Deliver Us From Evelyn is the most-discussed book on the entire web! (See it for yourself here.)

Related link: Offer extended!!!: Your ticket to FAME and FREE STUFF

Time is running out!


THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

If you bought Deliver Us From Evelyn as part of this special event, you still have to claim your premiums!
GO HERE!
http://www.studiowell.com/Birthday06

IT’S NOT TOO LATE!
Due to overwhelming demand, we have extended the special offer through
Monday, August 14! GO HERE! http://www.studiowell.com/Birthday06

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Today only: Buy Evelyn and get all these FREE PREMIUMS

YOU'RE INVITED TO A PARTY!

**
OFFER EXTENDED!!! GOOD THROUGH MONDAY, AUGUST 14!!!**

Today is my 40th birthday, but we're giving YOU the PRESENTS! Every person who buys DELIVER US FROM EVELYN from Amazon *TODAY* will be thanked BY NAME in my third novel, KINGDOM COME (in stores April 2007).

BUT THERE'S MORE! You *also* get the super-limited compendium 40 AND COUNTING, the literary equivalent of a "bootleg box set" in convenient pdf form. This collection offers 40 rarities:


40 AND COUNTING: STORIES

A brand-new collection of 10 short stories, including four that have NEVER been published.



40 AND COUNTING: LISTS
10 pages of crazy lists, like I've done over the years for 7ball and now every month in CCM Magazine. You know, stuff like "Signs Your Neighbor is a Leprechaun" and "Signs You Need to Get A Life." (It makes you laugh AND it makes you think.)


40 AND COUNTING: COMICS

Includes "Que Es Amor?" -- a BRAND-NEW tale written by me and penciled by my wife, Erica. PLUS: An assortment of scripts, pitches to Archie Comics, Marvel Comics, DC Comics, and even some rejection letters.


40 AND COUNTING: WHATNOT

"Lost" material from Forgiving Solomon Long and Deliver Us From Evelyn, fanfic from my younger days, a preview of my upcoming best-selling zany crime suspense thriller Kingdom Come, and more!

REMEMBER: Wednesday, August 9

BONUS HOURS:
For your added convenience, the event goes live 6PM Tuesday, August 8

… and ends NOON Thursday, August 10.

Complete Details: http://www.studiowell.com/Birthday06

(Between you and me, this box set is full of a lot of embarrassing stuff. So once this offer passes, it is going to disappear forever.)

Don't forget: August 9

It's tomorrow ...
Tell your friends and you could win ...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Q&A: COLLEEN COBLE, PT 2

Continuing our conversation with best-selling romantic suspense novelist Colleen Coble, author of the Rock Harbor Series and the Aloha Reef Series and such award-winning novels as novel Distant Echoes and the upcoming Fire Dancer.

Voted as American Christian Fiction Writers "Mentor of the Year" for the past two years, Colleen loves to share her experience with aspiring writers. She appears frequently on the CBA Bestseller list, and her 30-some novels and novellas have won or finaled in awards ranging from the Romance Writers of America prestigious Rita award, the Holt Medallion, the ACFW Book of the Year, the Daphne du Maurier, and the Booksellers Best awards. She writes romantic suspense for WestBow Press.

* * *

PART TWO.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ASPIRING WRITERS?
Read, read, read. I can't tell you how often I've talked to aspiring writers who tell me they want to write a book but they don't READ. Duh. It's crucial to read extensively in the genre you intend to write. You can pick up pacing, characterization, conflict, etc, just by reading.

WHAT DO YOU WISH NON-WRITERS UNDERSTOOD?
How un-glamourous the writing life really is. And how much hard work it takes. When you work a nine to five job, you can take a vacation and let someone else worry about the work while you're gone. It happens nearly every year that when we plan a vacation my edits or galleys or something else comes up and I have to take care of it on vacation.

WHAT DO YOU WISH OTHER WRITERS UNDERSTOOD?
How important it is to mentor aspiring writers. I remember what it was like to wander in the desert for seven long years trying to sell my first book. The discouragement was overwhelming at times. I had no other writer to ask questions of.

FOR THE WRITER WITH A NEW BOOK, WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER THE BEST THING TO PROMOTE IT?
Get in the bookstores face to face. Go in with candy and a smile and introduce yourself to as many bookstore employees as possible. It really makes a difference.

WOULD YOU RECOMMEND JOINING AN AUTHOR GUILD?
Yes, some kind of community is crucial to keep up your spirits and to learn the business. I highly recommend American Christian Fictions Writers.

WHEN CHOOSING FROM ALL THE ORGANIZATIONS AVAILABLE, WHAT TRAITS SHOULD A NOVELIST LOOK FOR?
Does the organization have writers who write your genre? Are they willing to be accessible and to help you? Are they respected? Have you heard of the published authors?

* * *

Many thanks to novelist Colleen Coble. Find her online at ColleenCoble.com and at GirlsWriteOut.blogspot.com. You can also sign up for her newsletter.

Related link: Q&A: COLLEEN COBLE, PT 1

More mystery/suspense authors:
FIRST Day, Aug 1: FULL TILT by Creston Mapes
Q&A: ALTON GANSKY (Director's Cut)
Q&A: WANDA DYSON (Abduction)
Q&A: T.L. HINES (Waking Lazarus)
Q&A: LORENA MCCOURTNEY (On The Run)

INTERVIEW ARCHIVE

Monday, August 07, 2006

Doc Savage is BACK, baby!

This from comics news site The Pulse:

DOC SAVAGE RETURNS!
The Doctor is in at Moonstone! Moonstone Books has just told THE PULSE that they are returning the popular Doc Savage, Man of Bronze to comic fans. They are working with the Lester Dent Estate to present a single volume of "new Lester Dent Doc Savage Stories."

"Ruin" at Flashing in the Gutters

Flashing in the Gutters, which features short-short crime fiction, has posted a second story of mine: "Ruin."

Q&A: COLLEEN COBLE, PT 1


Our guest today and tomorrow is best-selling romantic suspense novelist Colleen Coble, author of the Rock Harbor Series and the Aloha Reef Series. Her novel Distant Echoes won the National Readers' Choice Award and came in third in the Daphne du Maurier "Award for Excellence in Mystery/Romance."

This fall, she launches the brand-new "Smoke Jumpers" series with Fire Dancer: When a serial arsonist known as The Fire Dancer strikes in the wilds of Arizona, Tess Masterson finds she's jumping out of planes into roaring, angry wildfires more frequently than usual ...

* * *

PART ONE.

WHAT ARE YOUR WRITING HABITS?
I am at my computer by eight every weekday morning. Of course the first hour or so I "warm up" with email. (LOL) Email is important to most writers. It's our only connection with other people since writing is such a solitary profession.

ARE YOU AN "OUTLINE" OR "MAKE IT UP AS YOU GO" WRITER?
I have a rough idea of where I want to go, the main conflicts, the villain and his motives and how the book ends. Then I just start writing. I've tried everything from totally knowing nothing but the characters to having a scene by scene chapter and neither extreme work for me. I like to have the room for inspiration—so total plotting drives me crazy.

WHAT IS THE BEST THING ANYONE SAID ABOUT YOUR BOOKS?
That my characters are so real they find themselves praying for them. And that my books put them totally in the scene.

WHAT IS THE WORST THING ANYONE SAID ABOUT YOUR BOOKS?
That my character was two dimensional. (LOL) Talk about extremes, huh? I guess it's all about tastes.

HOW MANY BOOKS DO YOU READ A MONTH?
At least 10. Sometimes more when I'm not actively writing.

AS A READER, WHAT MAKES A BOOK INTRIGUING TO YOU?
I love suspense. The deeper and more convoluted the plot, the more I like it.

* * *

Come back tomorrow for the second half of our conversation with Colleen Coble. Find her online at ColleenCoble.com and at the four-author blog GirlsWriteOut.blogspot.com. You can also sign up for her newsletter.

Related link: Q&A: COLLEEN COBLE, PT 2

More mystery/suspense authors:
FIRST Day, Aug 1: FULL TILT by Creston Mapes
Q&A: ALTON GANSKY (Director's Cut)
Q&A: WANDA DYSON (Abduction)
Q&A: T.L. HINES (Waking Lazarus)
Q&A: LORENA MCCOURTNEY (On The Run)

INTERVIEW ARCHIVE

Somebody is going to win a lot of books!

Hey, everybody -- hopefully, by now you have heard about our one-day-only "box set" 40 And Counting (an original collection of stories, lists, comics and whatnot -- a $60 value!). We are ALSO holding a drawing for $144 worth of Harvest House mysteries and thrilllers, by Craig Parshall, Mindy Starns Clark and newcomer Brandt Dodson.

Entering is easy:

1) Tell your friends about the incredible event that is 40 And Counting.

2) When your friend takes advantage of the offer and emails us his or her confirmation code, your friend also says "[YOUR NAME] sent me" -- and BOTH of you are entered in the drawing. (One entry per confirmation code.)

3) Every person who drops your name is ANOTHER entry for you.

4) When we draw the winning entry, BOTH the person who emailed it AND the person who told them about the offer EACH WIN a prize pack -- a dozen mysteries and thrillers from these great Harvest House authors!

The event takes place August 9 -- deadline for entry is August 11.

Somebody is going to win a lot of books!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

"I need to understand why I can do this."

The new arc continues with #106 of Erica Well's The Miller Sisters. Julia's inherited superpowers are revealed -- so, what does a Christian college girl do now?

(If you don't see the latest strip, click the "refresh" button on your browser.)

Listing at Onlinecomics.net

THE YOUTUBE REVOLUTION


The video sharing site YouTube recently surpassed MySpace as the most-visited spot on the Web. Wired has a couple of stories about the video service -- explaining both the possibilities and the drawbacks:
Video Killed the Video Star
Desperate for an audience of millions yet don't have anything to offer? Fortunately, shame and notoriety can be yours just as quickly as you can make your own music video and say the word "YouTube."

YouTube's Unfair Terms
The insanely popular video site owns the right to redistribute anything that's been uploaded to its servers, and small content producers could end up getting ripped off.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Seth Godin's Advice for Authors

Bestselling author, entrepreneur and "agent of change" Seth Godin recently posted some advice for authors. Much of it is for non-fiction authors, but there are several valid points for novelists, too. Including:
5. Don't try to sell your book to everyone. First, consider this: " 58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school." Then, consider the fact that among people even willing to buy a book, yours is just a tiny little needle in a very big haystack. Far better to obsess about a little subset of the market--that subset that you have permission to talk with, that subset where you have credibility, and most important, that subset where people just can't live without your book.

18. Bookstores, in general, are run by absolutely terrific people. Bookstores, in general, are really lousy businesses. They are often where books go to die. While some readers will discover your book in a store, it's way more likely they will discover the book before they get to the store, and the store is just there hoping to have the right book for the right person at the time she wants it. If the match isn't made, no sale.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

It's official: Random House buys Multnomah

From today's Publisher's Lunch:

Random Announces Multnomah Buy

Random House has completed the purchase of Oregon-based evangelical Christian book publisher Multnomah, which rose to prominence in the market on the strength of Bruce Wilkinson's eight-million-copy seller THE PRAYER OF JABEZ.

Multnomah will "be integrated operationally" with Doubleday Broadway's WaterBrook Press in what will now be the WaterBrook Multnomah division, though each line will "maintain its distinct editorial identity." The company will relocate to WaterBrook's Colorado Springs offices.

Happy Birthday: P.D. James


Today is the birthday of mystery novelist P.D. James, creator of Commander Adam Dalgliesh. She turns 86 today.

Breaking the Top 5

I recently received an email asking how we got Deliver Us From Evelyn (written by a newcomer) into the Technorati Top 5 -- meaning that Evelyn, for one brief, shining moment, was the fifth most-discussed book on the entire World Wide Web, sitting alongside monster sellers like The Da Vinci Code and Harry Potter and The Devil Wears Prada. Here is how I explained it to him:

1) Build the network: For this event, I went to many who were part in my 2005 blog tour for Forgiving Solomon Long, because they were already acquaintances through that event. I also emailed several friends and posted on a couple of message boards. People with Web sites alone cannot do much for you in this sort of event, so you need people with blogs (including MySpace pages). I asked them to simply post the first chapter from Deliver Us From Evelyn.

One important note: You cannot develop a network like this cold. I did not contact strangers; these were all contacts with whom I had previously corresponded, or who had spoken highly of my novels in the past, or whom I had written about on my own blog.

(Now that the network is in place, we have used it for other novelists, too. Details here.)

2) Post a sample online for participating bloggers to see and copy for themselves. (And so all the pieces are in one place).

3) For Technorati to notice, everybody has to use this formula when linking a book: "http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0736914064". That is, "http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/[your ISBN number]".

4) Make sure every link is “pinged” on Technorati during the event.

5) Our huge eyeball count (more than 100,000 visitors) was a result of getting both CCM and Infuze Magazine on board. We also pulled in bloggers from International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime.

Not everybody I contacted was able to go through with it, and not every blog registered on Technorati. But then some others saw the event as it was in progress—and joined in, posting the chapter or links on their own blog or on a message board. One person emailed the chapter to hundreds of people.

In the end, about 60 joined in. Not every one of them was counted by Technorati—which only counts blogs, and only those that use the correct code (and not even all of those)—but it still gave us a nice number, and even those Technorati ignored still got a lot of new readers to sample Deliver Us From Evelyn.

One factor you cannot plan for is what other buzz books are in the Top 30 at any given time. On that particular day, Angels and Demons had something like 145 blogs linking at one time, and the next three on the list were close behind. Against those numbers, there was no way we could get any higher than #5. However, if we had done our event a week later, our 49 blog links would have actually gotten us to the #1 slot.

The other thing to keep in mind is that this Technorati event was not designed as an end in itself; while it did bring some short-term attention and sales, it was simply the platform to position us for the August 9 event.

By the way, our June 2 event went so well that several bloggers decided to make it a monthly project. On the first day every month, we post the first chapter from a different featured novel. Today, our August book, Creston Mapes' Full Tilt, is now sitting at #5 on Technorati's most popular books.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Q&A: DEAN RANKINE

Today, we speak with Australian cartoonist Dean Rankine, of Holy Cow! Christian Comics. In addition to his regular webcomics, he has illustrated books and contributed to a number of magazines and comic anthologies. Dean has also made flash animations and contributed illustrations to brochures, posters and publications for a variety of church and charitable organizations.

* * *

ARE YOU AN "ENTERTAINER" OR A "MINISTER"?
Is it possible to be a little of both? I could be an 'Enterister' or a 'Ministainer'. No? Well, I guess if I have to chose one I'll go for 'Minister' ('Entertainer' sounds a little shallow). I like to think that my faith-based comics have a certain depth to them. Though, with titles like "God's Love is Like a Conjoined Twin" and 'Live Organ Transplants: In the Privacy of Your Own Backyard," I can understand why people would think not. But, I'd also like to add that there's nothing as bad as a boring comic. So I really do try to have an 'entertaining' element while 'ministering' to people.

DO YOU HATE WHEN PEOPLE ASK WHETHER YOU ARE AN "ENTERTAINER" OR A "MINISTER"?
It's the first time I've been asked that question, but given time I reckon I could grow to hate it. That being said, there's plenty of other questions I despise more, like "Would you like fries with that?" or "How are you going to pay for that?" or "Would you like this free copy of the Watchtower?"

WHO ARE YOUR ARTISTIC INFLUENCES?
I reckon my artistic influences can best be described as, "When Cousins Marry" (stay with me here). Though, (as a kid) I used to be influenced mainly by Saturday morning cartoons, now I have very few specific outside influences. It's just me, sitting in my studio (with way too much coffee) and these strange little creations running through my brain. If I continue how I'm going my characters will be so "inbred" they'll grow third eyes and webbed feet.

WHO ARE YOUR SPIRITUAL INFLUENCES?
I guess Christ is my major "Spiritual Influence" (which is kind of handy, being a Christian and all). I've never heard anything that remotely resembles a "Word from God," though I sometimes get a bit of a "vibe" to draw a particular comic. But, all my faith-based work has a biblical foundation or is a direct retelling of an incident in the life of Jesus.

As a young person I was part of a Salvation Army church (though now I worship at the Vineyard) and that commitment to Spiritual and Social Justice has remained with me. Christian writers like Anthony Campolo, Ched Myers and (Australian) Dave Andrews have also been a major influence on my spiritual journey and reinforced my desire to live a life dominated by love and justice. Which is definitely easier said than done and something that I fail at daily.

WHAT IS THE BEST THING ANYONE SAID ABOUT YOUR WORK?
I've had some really nice feedback about my work over the years. Seth Wolfshorndl ("Rook City" webcomic artist) posted this on a forum, which I thought was really cool:

"[Dean] ... the way you present these stories is so quirky and charming that it's very accessible to Christians and non-Christians alike. Just keep it up, man! I want to be like you when I grow up."

WHAT IS THE WORST THING ANYONE EVER SAID ABOUT YOUR WORK?
Honestly, I can't think of anything. I'm sure there's been plenty of negative feedback, but I must have repressed it. Which is lucky, I'm such a sensitive soul if I remembered any of it I'd probably be curled up in the foetal position crying, 'Why, don't the cool kids like me'!

WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE ANYONE EVER GAVE YOU?
I recently attended a COMIX35 workshop in Sydney and Phil Watson (one of the presenters and Australian cartoonist) gave this advice, "Be yourself and be led by the Spirit." I reckon that's pretty good advice. Is it the BEST advice I've ever been given? Dunno. But, it's definitely up there with "Don't drink the water" on my list of good advice received.

WHAT IS YOUR ARTISTIC SCHEDULE LIKE?
I'd love to have more of an artistic routine, but I'm really all over the place. I look after my daughter three days a week (while my wife works) and I have a part-time job where I work three evenings a week. The rest of my time is spent drawing with a heap of procrastination thrown in for good measure.

ARE YOU AN "OUTLINE" WRITER OR A "MAKE IT UP AS YOU GO" WRITER?
I'm definitely an outline writer, though it sounds a little anal retentive compared to the groovy "make it up as you go" style. When I write I'm constantly thinking about how it will play out visually. I also write to my artistic strengths, which means you'll never see any giant robots or race cars in my comics (I just can't draw that kind of stuff). When I've gone from the script/thumbnails (I normally do these two steps at the same time) to the final artwork I'll sometimes make little changes in text if it's required.

ARE YOU A FULL-TIME ARTIST?
I pretty much do full-time hours, but only get part-time pay.

WHAT IS YOUR DAY JOB?
My evening work that I mentioned before is with a Needle and Syringe Program (NSP). I'm not sure if you have these in the U.S or not? But, what I do is drive around at night and hand out clean injecting equipment to Injecting Drug Users (ie: Heroin and Speed users). Even though using these drugs is illegal, the idea behind the NSP program is to provide "clean" needles and syringes to drug users so there's less chance of them sharing injecting equipment and in turn, passing on blood borne viruses like Hepatitis C and HIV AIDS. I know the job sounds a bit dodgy, but it's not nearly as bad as it sounds. And it's really taught me that people are people regardless of the life choices they make.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ASPIRING COMICS CREATORS?
I want to say, "Be yourself," but it really depends on what you want to do in comics. If you want to work for the mainstream publishers then you just can't "Be yourself," 'cause there is a certain mould you'll have to squeeze into.

However, if you just want to do the best art you can and put the spotlight on God, then you can definitely "Be yourself" because I think that's exactly what God wants. Let me try to illustrate what I mean" I'm a bit of a screw-up, I'm not good with people (though I've learned to fake a certain amount of confidence), I have a lot of angst and an equal amount of crazy thoughts. But, if I didn't have these things that make up my personality then I probably wouldn't be able to create the kind of comics that I do. I don't think I'm being very clear, but that's the general gist.

WHAT ASPECT OF GOD DO YOU MOST HOPE READERS GET FROM READING YOUR WORK?
One night I was out working with the Needle and Syringe Program and I was chatting to a girl on the street. She was a drug dealer and heroin user. She was kind of upset because the other dealers on the street had been spreading the rumour that she was a whore. But, then what she said amazed me, she said, "Well at least I know me and GOD knows me." I found that phenomenal! That this girl, who society would deem one of the lowest of the low—whose life up 'til then was probably just horrible, who was even then making some terrible decisions—still believed that God "knew" her. I guess that's the aspect of God that I'd hope my readers might get; That God knows them and loves them and wants to be involved in their lives.

WHAT IS THE ONE THING ABOUT CREATING COMICS THAT YOU WISH NON-CREATORS UNDERSTOOD?
That it's hard work! Art is a very personal expression. It takes a fair bit of courage to create a comic. It's kind of like childbirth. Except for the blood, the pain, the midwives, the forceps, the mother and ultimately ...the baby. But, I have developed a bit of a pot belly from sitting in front of the drawing board.

WHAT IS THE ONE THING ABOUT CREATING COMICS THAT YOU WISH CREATORS UNDERSTOOD?
That it's about storytelling! You could have the best style in the
world and draw the most dynamic heroes against gorgeous and exotic backdrops, but if you're not telling a good story then it's a lost cause.

FOR THE CREATOR WITH A NEW BOOK OR PROJECT, WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER THE BEST THING HE OR SHE CAN DO TO PROMOTE IT?
I made a commitment with myself to take up any (reasonable) opportunity to promote my work. So, I guess that's what I'd recommend. Obviously, don't do anything that would somehow compromise your integrity, but there's lot's of options open (particularly on the web). Grab these opportunities whenever you can. And who knows, one day you could even find yourself interviewed on Chris Well's Blog.

* * *

Many thanks to our guest, Dean Rankine. Keep up with his comics online at
Holy Cow! Christian Comics. He blogs at Will Draw For Food, and pipes in on occasion at the Christian Comics Yahoo! group.

Related links:
Q&A: KJ KOLKA (Cardinal Adventures)
JAMIE COSLEY ON THE PULSE


GUARDIAN LINE TO LAUNCH THIS SEPT.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

40 and Counting: Progress Report


We're now a week and a day away from our major one-day-only event. We are still putting together the four-part limited-edition "box set" (a $60 value -- FREE). 40 and Counting: STORIES and 40 and Counting: LISTS are both finished and ready to go.

My wife, Erica, is doing art for a brand-new comic book story as part of the third volume in the set, 40 and Counting: COMICS. Here is a sneak preview of the art, as currently taped to the wall of her art studio ...

Related link: YOUR TICKET TO FAME AND FREE PRIZES!

FIRST Day, Aug 1: FULL TILT by Creston Mapes


It is August 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:
Creston Mapes

Creston Mapes' first book, Dark Star: Confessions of a Rock Idol, has been selected by the Romance Writers of America (RWA) as a finalist for its 2006 Inspirational Readers Choice awards in the category of long, contemporary novel. Awards will presented this summer in Atlanta at the Marriott Marquis hotel.

Full Tilt, the second book in the Rock Star Chronicles, is racking up a number of fine reviews, many stating that its story/writing has surpassed the quality of that in Dark Star. His third novel, a psychological thriller based in Las Vegas, is due out in 2007.

As he has for 20 years, Creston resides in the Atlanta metropolitan area with his hometown sweetheart and four marvelous children. He loves reading, painting, morning walks with his dog, family outings, watching hockey, going on dates with his wife, meeting friends for coffee, and spending time in God's Word. Read Creston's Complete Bio



Rock Star Chronicles, Book 2
Full Tilt
a novel
by Creston Mapes

1
Black night. Familiar backstreets. Windows down. Cold air. Cruisin’ free.


Top of the world.


This was what it was about, baby. Lit on meth and movin’ at what seemed like the speed of light.


Lords of the night.


Over to Fender’s Body Shop on autopilot. Hands drumming on the dash and seats to the beat of the night and the pulse of the blood pounding through their veins.


Down the slope.


Whoa.


Past the dimly lit customer entrance and around back of the shop the Yukon swung and jerked to a stop. One, two, three of them exited the SUV and glided through the gate that was cracked open.


Wesley Lester was last to pass through the high chain-link fence. He slowed to peer at the snow-covered wreckage way out back of the shop, much of which had sat unchanged, like an eerie sculpture, for months beneath a haze of dim yellow lights. Dozens of mangled cars and pickups, SUVs, a hearse, vans, and an old school bus sat like jagged headstones in a haunted cemetery, some piled one on top of the other.


Several hundred yards away, in the vicinity of the far lamppost, David Lester’s black Camaro lay still and sinister. Wesley’s little brother and two teenage friends had perished in that car with David at the wheel. Seventeen years old. Too dang young to die.


After having rushed to the surreal scene of the wreck in nearby White Plains a year ago, Wesley had never ventured back to reexamine the remnants of his little brother’s car—or the totaled Chrysler that carried an elderly couple from Scarsdale, also pronounced dead at the scene.


On the way toward the huge body shop, Wesley shivered at the chill of the New York winter—a feeling his little brother would never experience again. Grinding his teeth, Wesley ran several yards, bashing the already dented door of a white Beamer. Spinning away, he welcomed the sense of release, thrust his dead brother out of his jumpy mind, and followed the others.


Brubaker led the way through the employee entrance, slamming open the heavy steel door against the outside of the fabricated beige metal building. "Ah, smell that?" he said, not looking back. "Good ol’ Bondo. Be high all day if you worked in here."


Wesley cruised in last, leaving the door wide open and purposefully taking a giant whiff of the pungent air that reeked of metal and plastic dust.


Like mice, the three figures zigzagged through a maze of half-repaired vehicles toward an area that glowed white, back in the far corner of the building.


As they drew closer to the dancing light and long shadows, hard-driving music mixed with the static sound of a welder. A dark blue ’65 Mustang sat up on a hydraulic lift, and beneath it—behind a welding hood—stood Tony Badino.


Brubaker and Wesley came to a standstill, fascinated by the sparks that rained down on Tony’s dirty, charcoal coveralls and scuffed brown work boots; the kid stopped between them, equally entranced.


Tony must have seen them but went on welding like a macho man, his brawny legs braced apart, tool belt hanging low around his lean waist, broad shoulders and triceps locked in place as he hoisted the blazing welder.


Brubaker was like a four-year-old. Constant motion. Bobbing his head, singing unintelligibly, rubbing his face and arms, and repeatedly peering back toward the door and out the dirty windows. His paranoia was enough to make anybody start seeing things. The kid in the middle watched spellbound as Tony melded metal to metal.


In the scalding flame, Wesley remembered his brother, curly haired and anxious, slapping a twenty-dollar bill into his hand for a teener—one-sixteenth of an ounce of some of the best crank Wesley had ever come across. Then he flashed back to David’s demolished Camaro hours later—what was left of the engine, parts of the car scattered along Post Road, still smoking.


Once again Wesley was slapped in the face by the fact that he was the one who had poisoned his brother’s bloodstream the day he drove to his death.


No. No. No!


It wasn’t the meth that killed his brother. It was the years of Everett Lester’s tainted music that had contaminated David’s mind. It was Everett’s empty promises and repeated letdowns that had sent David longing for the grave and a so-called better life on the Other Side. And Everett would burn for it; uncle or no uncle, he would pay. Because Wesley was hearing the voice again.


Wesley actually jerked when Tony snapped back the flame, lowered the welder in his right hand, and flipped the dark visor up with the other.


"Boys." He eyed the dazed kid in the middle.


"This is the dude we told you about, from Yonkers," Brubaker yelled proudly above the music, rubbing at the insides of his elbows with his wrists. "Needs an ounce."


Tony extinguished the pilot on the welder, lowered it to the concrete floor by its cord, then walked over to the stereo and turned it off.


"Slow down, Brubaker." Tony shook off his big, stiff gloves and removed the hood to reveal a tough face with small, pronounced features and a glistening scalp covered only by what looked like about two weeks’ worth of brown hair.


Reaching inside the front waist pocket of his coveralls, Tony pulled out a silver Zippo and a pack of Marlboros. Tapping one out, he stuffed it in the side of his little mouth and lit it with a grimy hand. As he took a long drag and snatched the cigarette away with his left hand, Wesley noticed a small tattoo of an upside-down cross on the inside of his wrist.


Tony was one creepy dude. Knew what he wanted. Had kind of a fiendish aura about him. People were naturally scared of the guy. Maybe that’s why Wesley liked running with Tony, because it was risky and unpredictable. That gave him a rush. And it didn’t hurt that Tony always had the best jenny crank on the street.


Grabbing a hanger light from the frame of the Mustang, Tony walked beneath his work, inspecting the length of the exhaust system.


"How do you know Lester and Brubaker?" He tapped the muffler, cig in hand.


"Uh…a friend introduced me to Wesley at a party," the middle kid said.


"When?"


"Last week."


"And Brubaker?"


"Met him a couple nights later."


"Been tweekin’?"


"Uh…when do you mean?" The kid’s eyes darted to Bru then Wesley.


"Tonight." Tony stopped and stared at him.


"Earlier today," Wesley interrupted. "Couple teeners."


Tony went back to inspecting his work. "That same stuff from the other day?"


"Yeah. Finished it off." Wesley coughed, feeling somewhat like a raw recruit reporting for duty before some high-ranking officer.


"This new cristy blows that stuff away." Tony glanced at the three visitors, his right eye twitching. "Just in from Pennsylvania. Keep you amped for days. I’ve been workin’ nonstop since yesterday—goin’ on, what? Thirty-five hours?"


Brubaker and the stranger nodded, swayed, and laughed. Wesley simply stared, promising himself he wouldn’t bow down to the grease monkey like everybody else.


"So you need an ounce." Tony held the light up close to the tailpipe.


"Yep," piped up the kid in the middle.


"Good old Wesley Lester. I can always count on him to bring me the finest clientele." Tony nodded toward Wesley. "Do you know who this guy is? Who brought you here tonight?"


The kid stared at Tony with hollowed eyes and shrugged.


"This is the great Everett Lester’s nephew. Bet you didn’t know that."


What the heck?


The kid turned to Wesley. "No way."


"Straight," said Tony. "You’re in the presence of the bloodline of one of rock ’n’ roll’s greatest legends."


"Dude," the kid exclaimed, "I saw one of their very last shows—at The Meadowlands. They played three and a half hours, at least."


"With Aerosmith," Tony chimed in. "I was there. Wesley was supposed to be there backstage, but Uncle Everett stood him up."


"That’s cold," Brubaker mumbled.


Silently, expressionlessly, Wesley agreed.


Tony smirked at Bru, but it went right over the head of the kid in the middle.


"I lived and breathed DeathStroke," the kid said. "Lester was so stoned out of his mind that last show, he could barely stand by the end. But they jammed their hearts out."


"And now he’s a Jesus freak." Tony’s eyes shifted to meet Wesley’s, but his head didn’t move.


Wesley met his glance without flinching. His nostrils flared and his temper cranked up like the flame on the welder. He searched Tony’s face for the reason he would be trying to push Wesley’s buttons.


The kid in the middle picked up on the friction.


Tony smirked, knelt down, and began banging his tools into the drawers of a tall red metal toolbox on wheels.


"What’s he like, anyway?" the kid barged ahead. "Everett Lester, I mean…"


Brubaker looked uneasy, twisting and bouncing slightly on his toes.


"He’s a loser, okay?" Wesley snapped, walking over to a workbench cluttered with jars of nuts and bolts and old tools. "Dude’s a lyin’ hypocrite. Dang waste of breath!"


"Where does he live?" the kid asked. "Does he still have a place in Manhattan?"


Wesley’s back was to the others. He fingered the tools without a word. I wonder if he’d shut up if I heaved this jar of bolts at his head.


Brubaker ran interference. "He has a farm near Bedford and a place in Kansas—where his wife’s from."


"Oh yeah, that chick who converted him," the kid said.


Tony slammed the middle drawer closed.


"That was some story. I heard she wrote to him ever since she was like a teenager—Jesus this and Jesus that. And finally it stuck…can you believe that? The guy went off the deep end!"


Tony stood, banging another drawer shut. "Some people hit you over the head again and again with that Jesus hype till you’re brainwashed. Seen it happen."


"Well, look at the guy," the kid said. "I mean…he’s changed! I saw him and his wife on Larry King Live and he, I mean, it’s like he’s a different person—"


"Let’s do this deal!" With three long strides and a commanding kick, Wesley booted a large piece of scrap metal twenty feet across the dusty white floor.


The corners of Tony’s mouth curved up into a quick smile as he raised an eyebrow at the kid in the middle, stomped out his cigarette, and walked over to an old white sink. Pushing up his sleeves, he rinsed his hands and squeezed a glob of gray goop into his palm from a bright orange bottle.


"You got the cash?" he asked the kid above the running water.


"Yeah, yeah." The kid dug almost frantically into his front pocket and pulled out a clump of folded bills.


"Count it, Wes," Tony ordered, still washing.


Wesley hesitated before snatching the wad and rifling quickly through the bills. "Fifteen hundred. It’s here."


Tony dried his hands with a dirty towel, wiped his face with it, and looked at himself in the smudged mirror above the sink. Then he found the kid’s reflection in the mirror. "You don’t know where this devil dust came from."


"Oh…d-definitely n-not." He smiled anxiously. "I don’t even know you. We never met, as far as I’m concerned. Nope. Never met."


Tony dropped the towel on the edge of the sink and walked to the tool chest. Lifting the top, he pulled out a Tech .22 assault pistol with his right hand and a good-sized bag of off-white, crystal-like powder with the other. Turning, he tossed the bag to the kid, who fumbled it awkwardly but mangled it at the last second before it escaped his hands. Embarrassing.


"You hear about the body that turned up in Canarsie other day? In the scrap yard?" Tony approached the kid, whose forehead was glistening with sweat.


Here we go. Wesley wished Tony hadn’t picked up the gun but, at the same time, found it strangely exciting.


"Uh…no." The kid eyed the piece. "No, I missed that."


"Well, don’t miss what I’m telling you." Tony’s voice grew vicious as he neared the kid’s face. "That guy had it comin’, okay? I know that for a fact."


The kid’s mouth was wide open, big eyes flashing, cheeks red as radishes.


"He was blabbin’ about where he got his rocket fuel."


"Listen, I…"


But before the kid could eke out another word, Tony lifted the modified Tech .22 sideways, shoulder-high, squinted, and blasted six rounds across the base of the metal wall beneath the workbench with one squeeze of the trigger.


Brubaker floundered back four feet as the smell of gunpowder hung in the air and the rattle of gunfire echoed in their ears.


The kid’s red face went ash white, and he looked as if he might lose his dinner.


Wesley kept a stone face, not wanting to show a trace of the fear that was making his hands shake.


"You know how many twenty-twos this mag carries?" Tony grabbed the fat magazine with his free hand.


The kid jerked his head in one rapid no.


"Twenty. And I got it rigged so I pull the trigger once and the thing can unload. You understand?"


The kid opened his mouth, but nothing came out.


"Word on the street is, the dude in Canarsie was a rat-squealing tell-all." Tony lightly tossed the Tech .22 in his right hand. "He got himself whacked for blabbing."


"Oh…don’t worry—"


"And the same will happen to you if you tell one soul where you got that cristy, you read?"


"Oh, hey, I read, I read. I’m not about to—"


"Now beat it!" Tony hoisted the weapon up to his shoulder and the kid scrambled an about-face, practically sprinting for the door with a blubbering Brubaker right on his heels.


Badino’s dark eyes locked in on Wesley, followed by the cock of his head and a smirk. "He ain’t gonna do no talkin’, now is he, Wes?"


Wesley watched the two figures scurry into the darkness. "No, I don’t believe so."


As Tony banged the Tech .22 back into the toolbox, two things occurred to Wesley: 1) He would love to see the bullets from that weapon rip through Everett Lester’s sickening, superspiritual flesh, and 2) if you ever wanted to commit a murder, Tony Badino was probably a very good person to know.

************************************

Excerpted from Full Tilt © 2006 by Creston Mapes, Inc. Used by permission of Multnomah Publishers, Inc. Excerpt may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of Multnomah Publishers, Inc.


This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


FULL TILT


published by Multnomah Publishers, Inc.


Published in association with the literary agency of Mark Sweeney & Associates, 28540 Altessa Way, Bonita Springs, Florida 34135
© 2006 by Creston Mapes, Inc.


International Standard Book Number: 1-59052-506-X


Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from:
New American Standard BibleÒ Ó 1960, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.


Other Scripture quotations are from:
The Living Bible (tlb)Ó 1971. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.All rights reserved.


Multnomah is a trademark of Multnomah Publishers, Inc., and is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The colophon is a trademark of Multnomah Publishers, Inc.


Printed in the United States of America


ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


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