Secrets and a giveaway from author Jody Hedlund

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Today I’m sharing in the excitement of author Jody Hedlund’s newest release, UNENDING DEVOTION. Publisher’s Weekly calls it “a meaty tale of life amid the debauchery of the lumber camps of 1880s Michigan . . . exciting and unpredictable to the very end.” This is stop #2 on Jody’s blog tour sharing fun secrets you probably didn’t know about her.

There’s also a signed copy of her book to be won. Check out the details below.

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Secret #2: The secret source of my writing inspiration

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

The secret of my writing inspiration is my bed. Yes, I really do get most of my story ideas when I’m lying in bed at night before I fall asleep.

Ideas stay in my heart and mind at all times during the course of writing the first draft. But it’s at night, in the quiet of the house, when my mind slows down and when my body is at rest, that I can hear my characters, that I fall in love with them, and they become real to me.

Interestingly, the moment I turn my book in to my editors, the characters leave my heart and head. It’s as if hitting ‘send’ severs the tie with them—which thankfully prepares me to be more objective with my work during the editing phase.

After the story is out of my hands, then usually the very next night, as I lie in bed, I begin the search for a new story and new characters. I begin to sort through ideas, always trying to find something fresh and exciting.

In fact, if I don’t have direction for a story, I start to feel lost. Then when I’m lying in bed, my mind is restless. And that undercurrent of restlessness remains until I latch onto another story and new characters.

Of course, I do find inspiration from many other places besides my bed. I glean ideas from biographies, history books, interesting people, old photographs, etc.

But it takes a quieting of the mind and the peacefulness of rest for those ideas to simmer and to come to fruition.

Are you building enough quiet and rest into your life to fuel your creative energy? Where do you find your greatest inspiration?

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Thanks for sharing with us today, Jody! Next time I’m lacking a good story idea maybe I should just go to bed! 😉

 To celebrate the release of UNENDING DEVOTION, Jody is giving away a signed copy. Leave a comment  on today’s post (along with your email address) to enter the drawing. Valid only with US or Canadian addresses. Giveaway ends at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, September 6th. Winner’s name will be posted on Friday.

For more secrets about Jody and additional chances to win her newest release, visit her Events Page to see where she’ll be next in her “Fun Secrets About Author Jody Hedlund” blog tour. Also join in the Pinterest Photo Contest she’s hosting. Find more information about it on her Contest Page.

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Jody would love to connect with you! Find her in one of these places:

Website: http://jodyhedlund.com/
Blog: http://jodyhedlund.blogspot.com/
Facebook: Author Jody Hedlund
Twitter: http://twitter.com/JodyHedlund
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/jodyhedlund/

 

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The dilemma of labelling Christian fiction… or not

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Last week agent Rachelle Gardner posed a question on her blog that has generated almost two hundred comments, and the discussion is still ongoing. She asked, “Should we label Christian fiction?”

“There has been a controversy brewing underground for awhile now, ever since publishers started promoting books by offering a limited-time free download. Many of the Christian publishers have done these promotions, but whenever Christian novels are promoted on Amazon as free downloads, many people download them without realizing they’re Christian. They start reading and when they realize it’s “Christian” they become enraged. They feel like they were hoodwinked somehow. And then they leave 1-star, angry reviews on Amazon….These responses are leading people to ask whether Christian fiction needs to be clearly labeled as such, maybe in the “Book Description” on the Amazon page.” [Rachelle Gardner]

My response was that I like to know what I’m buying, so I favour labelling, but I foresee great difficulty in labels accurately reflecting content.

Since making that comment I’ve had conversations with two people who hold widely differing opinions. When I look at some of the faith-based novels on my shelves I find only one that admits to being Christian. The others are listed as History/Fiction or not labelled at all. I’ve come to the conclusion there isn’t an easy yes or no answer about labelling that would satisfy every reader and writer. I had no idea it was such a controversial subject!

What’s your opinion? Indulge me. I’m curious.

Do you check back cover blurbs and labels, or perhaps research writers or publishing houses for clues about what to expect before you buy a book from an unfamiliar author? Would you steer clear of a book labelled as Christian fiction? Would you be annoyed if you picked up a book that was not identified as having Christian content, and later discovered it did?

And if you haven’t already read Rachelle Gardner’s post and ensuing comments, I highly recommend it.

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What’s right and wrong with Christian fiction?

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Does anyone really know what constitutes good Christian fiction? Four years ago I was invited to do several book reviews for our national church magazine, The Presbyterian Record. The books ranged from historical fiction to children’s fiction, and I chose to consolidate the reviews in one article, incorporating the reactions of fictitious readers.

Those reactions reflected conversations I’d had with people whose experiences with Christian fiction were frequently negative. They told me plots were too often superficial, with stilted characters, unrealistic conflicts and predictable conclusions.  Any romance reminded them of a television commercial where the closest lovers got to each other was running through a field of wildflowers, arms outstretched for an embrace. I have to admit their opinions mirrored my own, based on what I’d read twenty years ago.

But things are changing. After reading the designated books for the review, I realized many written in the twenty-first century were more satisfying than I expected. There were still shortcomings, but that’s just as true in books written for the secular market.

Although the guidelines of CBA publishers have relaxed a little, allowing for more true-to-life plots, and authors are writing grittier Christian fiction in ever-expanding genres, criticism of it still exists. In their blog posts yesterday authors Katie Ganshert and Jennifer Hale both discussed the question of why.

Jennifer suggested it may be in how we deal with the conversion scene. She said, I really don’t enjoy books where the character “gets saved” and everyone lives happily ever after.  That’s not realistic. And nine times out of ten, I skip reading the “conversion scene” in a novel.  Why?  Several reasons.  But mostly because there is no cheesier part of the book than the conversion scene. It’s a very difficult scene to get right.”

Katie asked, when dissatisfaction with Christian fiction is expressed, “[is it] Christianity in general that bothers these readers, or the way the Christian themes are handled?”

I’m not sure the answer can be reduced to a generalization, but I’m interested in your opinion. If you don’t read Christian fiction, why not? And if you do read it, what genre do you prefer? What do you especially like or dislike about many of the stories?

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I hope you’ll join me here on Monday for an interview with
YA author Dave Ebright.

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Interview: Author Christine Lindsay

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Today I’m pleased to share an interview with debut author Christine Lindsay.

I discovered just recently that Christine and I are almost neighbours. We both live in BC’s Central Fraser Valley just outside Vancouver, which is on the Pacific coast of Canada, about 200 miles north of Seattle.

Christine says it’s a special time in her life as she and her husband enjoy the empty nest, but also the noise and fun when the kids and grandkids come home. Like a lot of writers, her cat is her chief editor.

She writes historical Christian inspirational novels with strong love stories. She doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects such as the themes in her debut novel SHADOWED IN SILK, which is set in India during a turbulent era. Christine’s long-time fascination with the British Raj was seeded from stories of her ancestors who served in the British Cavalry in India. Shadowed in Silk won first place in the 2009 ACFW Genesis for Historical under the title Unveiled. Shadowed in Silk is being released by WhiteFire Publishing in two stages this year, first as an eBook on May 1, 2011, and as the printed version September 1, 2011.

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Christine has kindly offered to give away of a copy of SHADOWED IN SILK in either the ebook or paper format to someone who comments on this post before 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, May 3rd. If the winner chooses the ebook it can be claimed this week. If the winner’s choice is a paper copy, a coupon will be issued for when it’s available in print.

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CG:             SHADOWED IN SILK is your debut novel. Please tell us about the story.

CL:  After the Great War, Abby Fraser returns to India with her small son, where her husband Nick is stationed with the British army. Nick hasn’t written in four years, and when Abby finally catches up with him, she discovers that he has become a cruel stranger.

Major Geoff Richards is broken over the loss of so many of his men in the trenches of France. While Geoff is a devoted Christian, he struggles with anger over the way his British peers treat the Indian people he loves. Geoff also can’t help but notice that Nick Fraser is mistreating Abby and her little boy. Meanwhile Geoff is ordered to search out a Russian spy, throwing him into Abby’s social circle.

Abby discovers that Tikah, one of the servants, is more of a wife to Nick than she is. This other woman is Muslim, and she also is mistreated by Nick.

Amid growing political unrest within India, and threats from Afghanistan, tensions rise.

Abby and Geoff, caught between their own ideals and duty, stumble into the path of the Russian spy, and straight into the fire of revolution.

Shadowed in Silk deals with—and I think delicately—a tough subject, spousal abuse. It’s about how women are often mistreated in eastern cultures as well as western.

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CG:            Where did the idea for this story come from?

CL:            I’ve always loved novels set in India, especially those by the great MM Kaye. But the story of Abby came about from watching my mum who was abused by my father when I was growing up. However, I want the readers to know there are no overt graphic scenes of violence in the book. In fact I’ve been told that I deal with the subject in a delicate manner. And there is so much more in the book. There is romance, and great adventure, as well as true historical events that shook the British Empire.

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CG:            This isn’t your first published work, is it? Would you like to share a bit about your contribution to THRIVING AS AN ADOPTIVE FAMILY? 

CL:            I contributed to the non-fictional book compiled by David and Renee Sanford who are adoptive parents. I am a birthmother—a woman who relinquished her child to adoption. Adoption changed the way I look at everything, especially how I view God. I wanted to show how birthmothers often feel invisible.

It used to be that a great many birthmothers couldn’t even talk about their experiences, or the pain of giving up their child. Most birthmothers relinquish their child out of tremendous love for their baby. I wanted people to understand that.

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CG:            Everyone has a story about “the call” and “how I found my agent/editor/publisher.” Can you share a bit of the journey that led you to your publisher, Whitefire Publishing?

CL:              Shadowed won the 2009 ACFW Genesis under the title Unveiled, and that garnered a lot of buzz for me and my book. But most of the CBA houses passed on it. At the same time, my agent decided to leave the business, and another very well known agent was ready to sign me up.

But after I gave this new agent the bad news, that about six of the major houses had already turned SiS down, she had to back out of her offer. I was pretty devastated. I’d been writing seriously for about ten years.

So there I was about two years ago—agent-less, and with a book no one wanted. I went on a missions trip to India, and was willing to give up my desires for a fictional career in order to do non-fictional work for free. That was when God seemed to bring my dead and buried fictional book back to life, and I got the call from WhiteFire. It just goes to show that you can’t out-give God.

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CG:            How long did it take you to write SHADOWED IN SILK?  Was the first draft close to the finished product or did it go through multiple revision transformations?

CL:              Multiple revisions for sure. I was working full-time when I first started researching this setting and era.  And the actual writing took a while because of my job. It probably took about four years in all, on a part-time basis. But I’m glad I didn’t give up on it. As people are reading it, they are delighted with the exotic setting and historical detail, and I’m pleased with how it all turned out.

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CG:            Are you a writer who plots and outlines first, or do you dive in and figure things out as you go?

CL:             I outline first, but as I write I often find the story takes on a life of its own, as I’m sure you’ve heard before. The characters start to come alive. So I am a bit of both—an outliner, and a seat of the panster.

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CG:            Give us a glimpse of where you do most of your writing.

CL:             In our new townhouse there is a nice little office that overlooks a pasture. I sit on our old couch and tap away on my laptop, usually with the dog at my feet, and the cat beside me.

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CG:            Were there doubts, low times or obstacles for you along the way? How did you overcome them?

CL:            Oh my goodness, were there doubts, etc. Many, many times. But each time I would relinquish my hopes and ambitions to God in the same way I surrender myself to Him as a living sacrifice each day. What’s the sense in banging your head against the wall, if something you want isn’t God’s plan for your life?

So I was always willing to give up my dream if the Lord wanted me to do something else. But each time I asked Him if I should quit, He would do something amazing to encourage me to keep on. One year He arranged for me to win a scholarship to the ACFW conference.

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CG:            Do you have any advice for writers who are a step behind you in their pursuit of publication? Anything that you wish you’d known before you waded in yourself?

CL:             It will probably take you a lot longer than you think to polish your craft, and for the Lord to set up certain things for you to be noticed, to be in the right place at the right time. It will cost you much more than you realize in time, energy, and maybe even cost you financially. To become a writer can often mean giving up things in order to follow that calling. It’s not about making money. In fact you could make more money at your old day job. Ask God first if He wants you to do this. And surrender yourself to Him every day, and keep in mind—it’s all about Him. Nothing else is worthwhile.

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CG:             I understand SHADOWED IN SILK is being released as an e-book now, and then in book form in September 2011. What are your marketing and promotion plans.

CL:            Promotion is harder than writing the book. Very uncomfortable. WhiteFire will use every connection they have—and they have many. Because it’s a small traditional press just starting out, they have a small line, and can easily promote each of their books fairly.

As for me, I am getting the word out on a more personal basis. Naturally, I’ll do all I can online to make Shadowed be noticed. But at the same time I never want to be pushy. It’s my desire that in every communication I have with readers, that I encourage them in some manner. It’s not about me just selling my book. I want to remain true to my prayer—to help others come to know God better. That means my book may not sell very well. But the Lord will provide my daily bread.

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CG:            Where can people buy copies of SHADOWED IN SILK?

CL:            The paperback format will be released September 1st but is currently available for pre-order at Amazon.com. The ebook version is available now in all formats from eBookIt and in Nook format from Barns & Noble.

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CG:            What’s next? Do you have another story in the wings?

CL:            I have two—one is the sequel to Shadowed in Silk, and it’s called Captured by Moonlight. It will continue on with two of the characters from SiS, and will have lots of danger and suspense as well as romance.

The other book I’m working on is a historical romance set in Washington State in 1910. I call it Sofi’s Bridge for the time being. It’s about a young woman who feels duty-bound to ignore her artistic gift. And in 1910 it wasn’t very acceptable for a woman to want to design bridges.

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CG:            Anything I haven’t asked you that you’d like to take the opportunity to mention?

CL:              Like I said before, you can’t out-give God. After my reunion with my birthdaughter, I began to relive the pain of giving her up in the first place. God comforted my heart by encouraging me to write. So my birthdaughter became my muse. Through no planning on my part, it just all sort of happened quickly, the Lord arranged for my daughter to be the model on the front cover of my debut novel. Only a tender-hearted Father would do something so intricately kind.

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CG:          Thanks for sharing your publishing story with my readers, Christine. I wish you God’s continued blessings  and much success with SHADOWED IN SILK.

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If you have any questions for Christine, please leave them in a comment below. And don’t forget… someone who comments will win a copy of Christine’s new release, SHADOWED IN SILK. 🙂


          Christine’s email: Christine.lindsay.writer@gmail.com

          Websitewww.christinelindsay.com

          Contributor to: International Christian Fiction Writers Blog

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Book Giveaway – Last Chance

Just a reminder: tomorrow morning, Friday at 9:00 a.m. PST comments will close on the draw for Brandilyn Collins’ EYES OF ELISHA, a Christian murder mystery. Check out yesterday’s post for details and if you’ve never read one of Brandi’s books and would like to be in the draw, just add a comment. I’ll post the winner’s name at noon tomorrow.

EYES OF ELISHA: A Book Review and Giveaway

Author Jeanette Levellie and I made a deal. She had committed to reviewing EYES OF ELISHA for Brandilyn Collins but then discovered it wasn’t her “cup of Starbucks”. What to do? It was a dilemma solved by finding someone else who met the same criteria that had initially won her the book, and I ended up being that person:

  1. I had never read a Brandilyn Collins novel before;
  2. I agreed to review it on my blog; and
  3. I will pass it on to someone else who fits ( 1.) above.

If you’ve never read a Brandilyn Collins novel before and, after reading my review, think you’d like to read EYES OF ELISHA, please leave a comment with your name before 9:00 a.m. PST this Friday, February 12th. I’ll make the draw and post the winner’s name at noon Friday.

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I’ve explained before that I don’t read a lot of Christian fiction. I’m just not into the syrup and slop that characterized my first experiences. Granted, that was decades ago and more recently I’ve found a few Christian authors whose novels I do enjoy. Brandilyn Collins has just become one of them.

From the back cover of EYES OF ALISHA I read, “The murder was ugly. The killer was sure no one saw him. Someone did.“ This didn’t sound like a typical Christian novel to me… and it isn’t.

Like many of us, Chelsea Adams is a Christian living in a secular society where violence happens and visions handed down from God are viewed with skepticism. When she experiences a victim’s last moments in a terrifying vision, Chelsea is compelled to report the murder to the police, but they have neither a body nor evidence of a crime. Using her vision as a guide, she locates the body and an investigation begins that puts more lives in jeopardy, including hers.

Brandilyn Collins manages to combine high suspense with Christian values, treating both with convincing honesty. There is no simplistic moralizing or Bible-thumping evangelizing, just faith, everyday realism, and a nerve-jangling mystery.

I’d rate this a strong four out of five and recommend it to anyone who loves an exciting story. And if you haven’t read any of Brandilyn’s novels and think you’d like to read this one, just let me know. I’ve already provided the review so if your name is drawn you get to sit back and just enjoy the read.

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EYES OF ELISHA

Zondervan (2001)

ISBN 10: 0-310-27532-6

ISBN 13: 978-0-310-27532-9

What Did I Say?

When people speak, words tumble out unleashed into the lives of those who are listening. It’s much the same when writers give their creativity free rein on the page. The difference is that writers can rethink their words before anyone else has an opportunity to absorb them.

 

I was pondering the impact of words when I came across Noel DeVries’ recent post on the Novel Journey website. She quoted C.S. Lewis:

We must attack the enemy’s line of communication. What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects–with their Christianity latent.”

Noel went on to say, “It’s all very well to preach embed your faith, but can it be effectively practiced?”

 

I have just finished revisions on my current w.i.p. and Noel’s question made me think about what kind of a story I’ve written. It is definitely not a Christian novel but I do see subtle indications of Christian witness in the lives of some of its characters. Is this what she means by “embedding” my faith? If so, it was not intentional.

 

So does that mean our words, whether spoken or written, may have a purpose entirely apart from what we intend? That’s an unsettling thought!

 

Searching Through the Morass

I don’t read much Christian fiction.  In fact, for years I avoided reading it altogether because the plots I had encountered were painfully simplistic, the narrative and dialogue purged and unbelievable. However the research I did while preparing a book review for last summer’s ‘Presbyterian Record’ magazine exposed me to a changing reality. During the past decade a greater quantity of good Christian novels has unobtrusively been making its way onto bookshelves, and I have discovered a few Christian authors whose fiction I really do enjoy —  Linda Hall  and  Jane Kirkpatrick  are two.

 

Both women have recently published new books that have already been well received: Linda’s July release, “Shadows at the Window”, has been named a ‘Romantic Times’ magazine Top Pick for July, and Jane’s April release, “A Mending at the Edge”, was on the ‘Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association’ Best Seller list the first week of its release.

 

Undoubtedly there are other good reads around, too. The thing is to find them without having to wade through all the not-so-good ones en route. Searching through the morass tends to ignite my impatience and I leave behind me a smoldering trail of unfinished books. There must be a better way!