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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Make the Library Your Friend

The library is really one of those places where dreams can come true, where magic is on every page, and where miracles can begin to take shape. For the writer it's probably the best place to start a buzz about their work. I know writers who have held signings at local Christian bookstores, and have even been to a couple of conventions myself, but these events fall flat many times because you are the outsider. Even following some great advice by writers like Brandilyn Collins won't assure you great sales. You see people like to know the author, but being creatures of habit they will stick to their favorite writers and overlook you...unless you give them an idea to look your way.

I work at our local library so I have a head start on some things. Still I find that I could have done better, much better. Let me share with you some of my insights.

Contact all the libraries in your area and offer to do a free reading. Patrons would be given the chance to purchase a copy of your book, and your autograph, but I strongly suggest making this of these least importance. Instead of a signing offer the libraries one of the following; a reading of your work, a chat about your particular genre, or a course in writing your particular genre. What this will do is give you contact with the very people who would most likely be interested in purchasing your work.

Get to know the library staff and even bring them the occasional box of cookies or chocolate. I know of some patrons who bring in flowers or plants. Create a bond that goes deeper than a patron/staff relationship and it can work wonders for you. As you are doing this be sure to ferret out the person responsible for acquiring your libraries fiction works. If your library is part of a larger system you may find your acquisition staff member frequently overwhelmed by the sheer volume of their task. Get to know also the library director. These are two people you will want in your corner when you broach the idea of placing your book on their shelves.

Once a library has opened its doors to you to hold a reading or whatever it is you are planning, start contacting the media about it. (Make sure you have the dates and times correct). Arrange it so the director will introduce you. When they do, step up, book in hand, and make sure they don't get away. With reporters jotting notes down or recording them on a mini-cassette recorder and photographers are snapping pictures, you address the assembly and present the library with your book. Say a few words then give it to the director. Then call for a round of applause for the director and the other staff members who have worked so hard to make events like this take place. After the applause dies down you can start your reading or teaching. What you have just done is use an event you have basically invited yourself to to purchase some great media coverage.

You may be thinking this is small potatoes. Not so. In our library James Patterson's book Cross, which was placed on our shelves around the same time or at least in the same year as my book, is the number 2 book of that period for checkouts with 50 since 2006. During that same time only one other person has come close to that number. That would be me, with 58 checkouts, and still people are just learning that I'm around or that I write. Had I followed the formula above more closely not only would the checkouts be even higher, but so would sales. In any event the most significant thing you can do for your book is to get someone to say something good about it. Words like, "You've just got to read this book" will have a greater impact than all the mass market approaches, at least in the long run. The road to the bestseller's list is best begun with starting a good solid buzz, and the best place to do that is at your library.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Obstacles Unique to Christian Writing

Obstacles Unique to Christian Writing
by David Brollier

Since this is going to be basically a rant, I thought I better stick my name on it instead of getting the lot of us in trouble. Still, I find that even those cozy writers who have found ways to placate the Christian Booksellers Association, better known as CBA, struggle with some things that really have me stymied. Their pressure on the different Christian outlets puts pressure on the Christian publishers, who in turn amp up the pressure for the writer.

Here's the problem in a nutshell. As a writer, any writer, Christian or otherwise, the important thing is to be as realistic as possible so the story is believable. Unfortunately that means, for many of us, the usage of some words we would rather not use. That may sound like a breath of fresh air to some of you, but it is very difficult to write a story with a main character who is not a Christian yet talks cleaner than a parish priest out of the 50s in some small town.

Take for instance my main character, Detective Nat Adams. Although a Christian he still struggles with his temper. Day in and day out he deals with a world that is so horrific that most of us wouldn't want to deal with it. What say we thank God for our local police force right here. Anyway, in getting my manuscript ready for publication I sent it out to an editor. She had a lot of good things to add, had many great suggestions and caught a host of my mistakes, but then she came upon the following sentence, "Gosh I miss the City", I said feebly trying to get my foot out of my mouth. Nothing wrong with that sentence, right? Well according to her I really messed up. I was informed that the Christian market would not look favorably on my use of the word "Gosh". That bugged me a little, but I could get over it. It was what she suggested that got under my skin. She actually suggested I use "Horse feathers". Is this for real?

Please, understand I am in no way knocking the editor, because they are only reflecting the climate of a group of people who don't have a clue about what it takes to create a story, make it believable, and struggle to keep it clean. I've read some of the Christian publishers' submission guidelines and substitute words for profanity, particularly with reference to Jesus and God, will assure a swift rejection.

In another place in my story a non-Christian says, "Shoot, I don't know what I'd do under similar circumstances." In this case I was told to "Giver her a different fave word or an action."

I am not in favor of using the publishing company or my gift as a writer as an excuse to spout out profanity at the drop of a hat, but give me some credit...no give the character some credit. You know that she wouldn't say "Shoot" any more than Nat would say "Horse feathers". Some of you who know me may have an idea of what words I wanted to use, and did not. The problem is that Christian publishers are so fixated on this that they can't allow some creativity. Okay, that's a generalization. Some authors get away with stuff I can only dream of if I'm to be published by a Christian publisher. Most, however, must sanitize their work to the point of oblivion.

So I guess I'm letting off steam and directing this at the publishers and those wonderful people in the CBA. Non-Christians, by and large, are going to use profanity, and should be allowed to do so in at least a limited sense in Christian fiction. Even Christians have the occasional slip of the tongue. Why do you think James spent all that effort on chapter 3 in his letter? Yes, the tongue is a fire ignited by the very fires of Hell. I just used a "swear" word here, but don't write me off. Here's what James wrote by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God.

"And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell." James 3:6 (KJV)

Even the Bible is somewhat sanitized. No wonder we have some people out there preaching a candy-coated gospel. Paul says, "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." Gal. 1:8. The word for accursed here is anathema, which means to ban, excommunicate or curse. The Song of Solomon would definitely qualify as erotic literature, even back then, and more so today.

My point is, allow us to show our characters as people really are. There should be a difference between Christians and non-Christians, and largely it can be seen in the way we speak, and I'm not talking about Christians going out and preaching. I'm talking about how a Christian can find something other than a cuss word to say when things go wrong...most of the time. We are still a work in progress. Non-Christians, well, they don't have access to the power to keep them from sinning so we shouldn't expect them to live up to God's standards. We should let Jesus live in us so brilliantly that He is the example they wish to copy. At that point we can tell them that it "is not by strength, nor by power, but by My Spirit," that we can even in a limited sense live up to God's standards. Yet at the same time He accepts us, not on our own merit, but on the merit of Jesus who is the only One who kept the commandments perfectly. He is our righteousness. We find our life in Him. How can we let the world know of this great love if we can't create characters they will believe? We have our characters saying things like "horse feathers" and the world laughs at us. That's fine and dandy as far as that goes, but in the middle of their laughing they've just missed the truth and love and mercy we were trying to get them to see.

If Satan blinds the eyes of those who wish to see the Truth, then why is it these religious people are helping him put the blinders on these people? Makes me wonder. Am I frustrated? You bet I am. Yet I will trust God to see me through. If I say something overly crass, something that He did not intend for me to say, I take full responsibility for that. I do make mistakes. Just ask my wife or my kids. However, there are those times when a foul, but colorful word may just be what is needed for someone to take the story seriously...and that, my friend, is the whole point. If I were writing to make a living perhaps I would turn out cookie-cutter, sanitized works, but I don't write for that. I write because I believe in the power of words, especially God's Word and that He wishes to reach out to everyone and draw them into His love.

I write to reach people, and I'm not the only one. I can make a list of some fairly famous Christian authors who are also struggling with these obstacles. Here's the real kicker...the obstacle doesn't belong there. We have to power to remove it, even if it does mean keeping an unsavory word in our works. After all, don't we all really appreciate the bright sunshine after a long dark night? Imagine a world where there is no darkness. That's the kind of world Christian publishers and the CBA would have us create. It's coming, but it isn't here yet.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Secrets of Jonathan Sperry






For some The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry may seem a bit bland. Following the lives of 3 young boys in the Summer of 1970, the romantic attraction one of them feels, and their encounter with a gentle old man who had compassion, wisdom and kindness like they've never seen before turns that Summer into a Summer they would never forget. It was the Summer they grew up, spiritually more than anything.

Through word and example Jonathan teaches the boys, and those who follow, about the importance of the Bible, the love of Jesus and the Fatherhood of God. It is a life so dramatic that the main character, the one young boy "in like" with a girl rewrites his letter to the girl he wants to date. From mowing lawns to eating pizza and struggling against the town bullies this is a story that is uniquely timeless, gentle and at the same time powerful. I give it, without reserve a full 5 star rating.

You can find Secrets of Jonathan Sperry at:
ChristainBook.Com
Amazon.Com

Thursday, March 10, 2011

To Save a Life






In this hard-hitting and sometimes foul-mouthed story about two friends that let circumstances alienate them from each other we have a movie with a very solid Christian message, one that reaches the hard-core issues that face our kids today, and our families. This can be an uncomfortable film to watch, and at times rather gruesome, but it is a raw tale of desperation, loneliness, depression, and how the love of a friend can be revived even after death, but first the living friend must battle his own demons and work against the desires of his peers and the status quo of the church young people.

I found To Save A Life a totally awesome movie. Some of the photography could have been better, maybe even some of the acting, but overall it was done with great professionalism. More than that it isn't one of those movies that has everything all worked out. Yes, Jesus is the answer, but sometimes we still need to come to grips with life as twisted and horrible as we've made it. You plant corn you get corn. You plant thorns you get thorns. This is a story about a boy who planted thorns, and when the harvest came he found that all he had to show for it were bleeding hands. Follow him as he finds his way through a maze of social difficulties to find peace with God, and himself.

You can purchase this online at:
ChristianBook.Com
Amazon.Com

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

I AM





This movie never seems contrived and certainly doesn't seem to fit what we would normally call a Christian movie, meaning it doesn't follow the kind of mold we'd expect it to. I AM is a movie that follows the lives of a number of different people who, one way or the other, are all connected, even if they don't know it. It all begins with the greed of this woman who, learning she has cancer, bribes a doctor into having her body preserved through cryogenics, and practically forcing her brother to help her with the scheme. As each member makes their choices we run through the commandments, all of them, in a very real and practical way. The teaching of these commandments and portrayal of God isn't that of an angry being using the Law to beat people over the head, but rather that of a loving Father who has placed certain boundaries in place to protect His children. When they break these commandments God is right there counseling them to repent and return to Him.

The movie seems confusing in the beginning, but after a while you can see the threads coming together. In a sense it had to be confusing, for who can pin down the comings and goings of the great I Am? This is a thinking person's movie, not strictly entertainment. It is produced, directed and acted very well, but you have to think your way through it. It refuses to let you just let it wash over you. For those willing to work through it this is a real treat. I give it at least a 3.75 star rating.

You can pick a copy at the following locations online, and probably find it in many local stores as well:
ChristianBook.Com
Amazon.Com

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

FireProof






FIREPROOF was put out by the same people who put out FACING THE GIANTS. While we start off with a firefighting crew coming back from a fire we quickly learn that this has to do more with marriage than with fires. The acting is pretty good, although some places it feels a little predictable or contrived. Maybe better direction would have made it better, but overall it was a great movie anyway.

The movie makes us face ourselves in the brash light of Truth and asks "Do you really want to change?" The "Love Dare" is something that a father gives to his son in the hopes that his marriage can be saved. Little by little God uses this tool to chisel away at those things in his life that are creating obstacles in his marriage. The thing is you can apply this to almost any relationship situation. Bottom line, if you don't have a good relationship with God through Jesus Christ there is little possibility with having any good, lasting relationship with anyone, because God is the source of love.

The real challenge is do you really love your friend, your partner, the person who lives next door to you? Do you? If you do, remember, you never leave your partner, not if you want to stay fireproof. Troubles come, but staying with your partner during the hard times is the measure of your love.

I give it a solid 4 star rating, but wouldn't go higher. For couples who want to strengthen their marriage, or for anyone who wants to build strong friendships, FIREPROOF is a great movie.

If you want to purchase Fireproof you can find it at the following places, as well as probably your Christian bookstore, Walmart and other stores:
ChristianBook.Com
Amazon.Com

Monday, March 07, 2011

In the meantime



While we go through our reconstruction period it occurred to me that there are some Christian movies that I could review. So with your permission (or if you will indulge me) I'd like to review a number of good Christian movies I've seen recently. After all these are also works of Christian Fiction.




Now I'm not going to try to remember actors' names or even the characters as I may not have seen these recently, but these movies have all had a great impact on me. FACING THE GIANTS is a story about a high school football team, their coach, and how that fits in with God's plans. The story begins with the coach going through just about every problem imaginable, and that following a defeat that lost the team a bid for the championship. The car breaks down and there's some stink in the house he and his wife can't seem to identify. We begin to learn almost at once that this isn't a football movie, not really. In fact it isn't until the coach releases all his cares and burdens into the hands of God, the football team included, that things start to come together. Through a lot of prayer, a lot of self-examination, the story picks up and shows us what real commitment really means.

I could sit here and tell you all about FACING THE GIANTS, but you want a review, not to be told every little thing about it. The acting is done very well, at least I though so, and while there are a few Christian "cookie cutter" moments, the movie is embracing, compelling, challenging and one of the best Christian films I've ever seen. Can someone say "Victory in Jesus"?

Personally I give this move a solid 4 star rating, possibly more. So if you want to watch something tonight and would like a positive retreat from all the garbage on TV you might try renting FACING THE GIANTS. Then consider the giants in your life and ask yourself, "Am I really committed to letting God slay the giants in my life?"

So where can you buy this movie (if you don't borrow it from the library)?
ChristianBook.Com
Amazon.Com

Friday, March 04, 2011

CFRB Starting Over

The look and feel of CFRB may seem the same at first, but we are starting all over. I am going to soon delete the members and then open it up to membership again. This is because so many are "members" but do nothing. Some of these have legitimate reasons, while others just seemed to have forgotten us. The burden has been placed on a few people, and that isn't right.

Of course I have been part of the problem. Insisting on a certain direction I have possibly forced some people into a position where they couldn't do these tours.

Here are some of the changes to expect:
CFRB will be made up of
Leadership
Members
Friends
Where Leadership are those members who have devoted themselves to carrying out various functions of leadership needed. Some may work on design, HTML, notifications, or moderating.
Membership will be those who are willing to devote themselves to reading and reviewing books for CFRB (minimum 3 per year unless you are going to do some of the posts for the CFRB page)
Review posts must be uplifting, or at least positive for the CFRB tour books.
Friends are those who would like to be members but just don't have the time. Many of them have their own blogs and do reviews for others. All that we would expect from you would be a notice to others on their blog when CFRB is having a tour week. Also we would ask that when you read a book for your own pleasure that when you post your review you would also put up a link the the CFRB site. This identifies you with us without making you do special CFRB reviews.

I'm hoping that together we can make an impact for the Lord.

A couple of things to keep in mind.
CFRB will continue to be a ministry, not just a showcase (although that is primarily how we minister)
CFRB will require some kind of activity from all its members on a monthly basis.
CFRB will lift up each other in prayer

Also look for interesting posts that may crop up in between book tours. I think you'll like the new CFRB. In any event keep us in prayer so that we will conduct ourselves as God so desires.

David Brollier - coordinator CFRB

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