Monday, August 25, 2008

Quite a Character

It’s funny how attached we can get to a fictional character we’ll never meet in real life. I mean, it’s not as if Miss Marple or Sherlock Holmes is suddenly going to show up at my front door for dinner and a cup of tea. And yet it’s these very characters who keep us turning the pages of a book late into the night to find out what they’re up to.

As a writer, I find it interesting at how very real my own characters become to me. I’ve heard of an author wanting to stop their characters on the street (or at least their human twin) and having to remind themselves that fictional characters really don’t grocery shop down the road from them. And no, writers aren’t crazy, even though we do tend to live at least part time in another world. Characterization in a novel is what makes the words on the page come to life and breath. It adds flesh to what would otherwise be nothing more than a cardboard figure.

Take for example my heroine, Pricilla Crumb. I’ve known Pricilla for about five years now. She began running around in the recesses of my mind far before I received that first contract to write her story. So by the time I was ready to put pen to paper she was almost as real to me as my next door neighbor. Almost.

This month, Pricilla’s second mystery is being released, Baker’s Fatal Dozen, but I recently finished writing the third and last book in the series. And while it might again seem a bit crazy to you, I found myself sad to have to leave behind this cast of characters that I’d been getting to know for the past couple of years. Like Max who loves Pricilla despite her quirky ways, his daughter Trisha who’s just fallen for Pricilla son’s who happens to own this beautiful lodge in the Colorado mountains. . .

Okay. You get the picture.

So what about you? What characters have you read lately that you just can’t get out of your mind? What made these characters jump off the page so you cared about what was happening to them? As writers, those are the stories we long to write, and as readers those are the stories we love to read.



Monday, August 18, 2008

Your Favorite Authors in One Fun Place

What's better than a booksigning with your favorite author? How about a booksigning with over 100 of them? That's right. On September 20, 2008, the American Christian Fiction Writers will present a booksigning at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota with over 100 Christian authors, including some of your favorite HPM authors! See a complete list below.

Tamera Alexander
Jennifer AlLee
A.K. Arenz
Diane Ashley
Karen Ball
Janet Lee Barton
James Scott Bell
Joseph Bentz
Terri Blackstock
Robin Caroll
Patricia PacJac Carroll
Jeanie Smith Cash
Eleanor Clark
Debra Clopton
Gloria Clover
Brandilyn Collins
Mary Connealy
Lyn Cote
Kathryn Cushman
Margaret Daley
KM Daughters
Susan Page Davis
Mary Davis
Janet Dean
Megan DiMaria
Brandt Dodson
Lena Nelson Dooley
Cecelia Dowdy
Sharon Dunn
Wanda Dyson
Lynette Eason
Meredith Efken
Leanna Ellis
Sharon Ewell Foster
Miralee Ferrell
Tina Ann Forkner
Darlene Franklin
Jonathan Friesen
Rhonda Gibson
Terri Gillespie
Debby Giusti
Beth Goddard
Cathy Gohlke
Rene Gutteridge
Cathy Marie Hake
Kelly Eileen Hake
Karen Harter
Rachel Hauck
Roxanne Henke
Cynthia Hickey
Patti Hill
Sharon Hinck
Joan Hochstetler
Steven Hunt
Angela Hunt
Denise Hunter
Jennifer Johnson
Jenny B. Jones
Golden Keyes Parsons
Deb Kinnard
Julie Klassen
Kathleen Kovach
Harry Kraus
Harry Kraus
Patti Lacy
Maureen Lang
Jeanne Marie Leach
Tosca Lee
Julie Lessman
Michelle Levigne
Sherri L. Lewis
Elizabeth Ludwig
Christine Lynxwiler

Richard L. Mabry
Sharlene MacLaren
Gail Martin
Debby Mayne
Vickie McDonough
Andrew McGuire
Susan Meissner
Becky Melby
Dana Mentink
Amber Miller
Judith Miller
Sara Mills
Siri Mitchell
Nancy Moser
Janelle Mowery
Elizabeth Musser
Mark Mynheir
Jill Nelson
Mae Nunn
John Olson
Donita K. Paul
Trish Perry
Marta Perry
Allie Pleiter
Cara Putman
Deborah Raney
Sandra Robbins
Paul Robertson
John Robinson
Martha Rogers
Cynthia Ruchti
Gail Sattler
Kim Vogel Sawyer
Shelley Shephard Gray
Virginia Smith
Lynette Sowell
Candice Speare
Kathryn Springer
Denice Stewart
Sarah Anne Sumpolec
Michelle Sutton
Camy Tang
Donn Taylor
Janice Thompson
Cindy Thomson
Missy Tippens
Carrie Turansky
ML Tyndall
Amy Wallace
Susan May Warren

Monday, August 11, 2008

Mysterious Life

Life is full of mysteries. Little ones. Big ones and everything in between. Like the Amelia Earhart thing--no one knows what happened to her. And Bigfoot/Sasquatch/The Abominable Snowman...what's up with that stuff? Oh, and let's not forget "The Legend of Boggy Creek too!" And the Chuppacabra--a fiendish beast that supposedly preys on small animals and people. A picture of the Montauk Monster was recently in the newspaper. Ugh, scary looking.

But what I really want to know is what happens to my husband's socks in the dryer. Surely there must be mysterious forces in the universe at work. Like matter and anti-matter, they separate. One is never found. Perhaps if an alternate universe exists, a woman with my name, only backwards, is pulling one sock from the dryer right now, wondering the same thing. . .

Why do men wear ties? What's the point? Why do we have organs we don't use--like tonsils and appendix? And I don't care much about crop circles, I just want to know why dead brown patches appear on my lawn. Aliens, perhaps? Or cinch bugs? Mysteries, they're all around. If I spill ink or coffee, why is it always on my favorite outfit? I have twenty coffee mugs, but out of them all, only my favorite one slips off the shelf and breaks. Why? Why? Why?

That's why I'm a mystery writer. I notice things--and wonder about them. One night, I looked out my upstairs window and noticed the neighbor lady out walking--in jogging clothes--at midnight! Why? At the grocery store,I wonder why someone has thirty bottles of capers in their cart. Who needs that many capers?

And speaking of capers--my mystery is coming out on November 4th. Misfortune Cookies. I love Chinese food, but the best part of the meal is when the fortune cookies are plonked down on the table with the bill. The funniest fortune I've ever seen is , "That wasn't chicken." Anywho--my character, "Lovita," opens a fortune cookie to a sinister message. I hope you'll read the books and find out how she and her sidekick, Sue Jan crack the case wide open!

Hope you spend the day looking around at things, glancing back over your shoulder and pondering the many everyday mysteries. Hey, why don't you share a few everyday mysteries with me? I'd love to hear some of the things all of you wonder about. So c'mon, post a comment!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Get to Know the Author...Susan Page Davis

My Love-Hate Relationship with Contests
By Susan Page Davis

My first two romantic suspense books were published in 2007, and I decided to enter them in a few contests to see how they stacked up. Let’s say it’s been educational.

Last year I’d entered a couple of my historical romance books and one children’s fantasy in contests, and had pretty good results. My Heartsong novel, The Prisoner’s Wife, won the short historical categories in both the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Contest and the ACFW Book of the Year. I entered another historical, Wyoming Hoofbeats, in last year’s More than Magic Contest, which has only one inspirational category, so it competed against a lot of longer books and placed third. I also put my children’s fantasy, Feather, in the BOTY. They didn’t have enough young adult books to “make” a YA category, so it went into the general fiction category—and placed third. Yep, I was psyched up and confident for the new year.

So, for this year I put Frasier Island in the IRCC, BOTY, and the Daphne Du Maurier. I also entered Finding Marie in the BOTY. Neither book placed in any of the contests. I was disappointed, even though my historical, The Lumberjack’s Lady, won its category in the IRCC. Was it worthwhile?

Definitely. When that many judges tell you something, it’s time to listen.
Though I had widespread scores in the contests (judges seemed to either LOVE my military themed suspense books or yawn over them), all agreed on at least one thing. The prologue in Frasier Island was a mistake.

Judges spoke as with one voice: that prologue was too long and totally unnecessary.

Know what? I agree with them. The ironic thing is that I originally submitted that book with NO prologue. The editor loved it, but felt I opened too abruptly, dropping heroine Rachel on an island with an antagonistic superior officer. She felt a prologue was needed to show why George acted toward her the way he did. She also asked me to show Rachel in her pre-Frasier Island life. The result was a very long, two-section prologue the length of a hefty chapter.

It wasn’t horrid. Judges even said it was a smooth read. It just wasn’t needed. They said I should have dropped the information it dispensed into the main story in pieces, and that I should have started—GUESS WHERE?—at chapter 1, with Rachel’s arrival on the island.

So my conclusion is just what you’ve been hearing on every hand lately: If the prologue isn’t absolutely necessary, don’t go there!

For what it’s worth, the judges loved my setting, and for the most part they also liked my characters, dialogue, and voice. There were a few nit-picky things that they didn’t agree on. For instance, one judge didn’t like Pierre, the character everybody loves. One thought the male dialogue was unrealistic. But the only thing they ALL hated was that prologue.

Finding Marie, on the other hand, scored very respectably and may have been a close contender in the BOTY. That was encouraging. And my newer young adult book, Sarah’s Long Ride, finaled in the contest. We’ll see what happens there in September.

So, in my love-hate relationship with contests, will I enter again next year? You bet. And I’ll go over all those judges’ score sheets many times, gleaning from them the perspective of knowledgeable and critical readers. Sometimes the judges are required to make comments if they give you a low score. These comments are invaluable. My future suspense books will be better because I didn’t place this year.

Would I recommend entering contests to other writers? Absolutely. Just be ready to lose and to rejoice with those who win—and to learn from the comments that tell you WHY you didn’t make it to the finals.