Saturday, January 30, 2010

Book Sneeze Review

“I prayed that the remote-controlled plane was searching for me. I prayed that the artillery fire did not hit the house where we were held. And I prayed for God to get me out of there.”

Buried alive is the compelling and inspirational account of how one man lived through 311 days as an Iraqi hostage. Told with frank and honest clarity, Roy Hallums’s account takes an unflinching look at the plight of hostages taken by extremists in the Middle East. Roy’s vivid retelling of his ordeal is riveting. Every moment; his abduction late one night from his office, to the abductor’s frantic shuffling between safe houses, to his final imprisonment buried below his abductor’s floor, is told in Roy’s straightforward narrative.

Roy recounts his interrogations at gunpoint by his insurgent captors, how he was kept blindfolded and bound for months, and his near starving conditions. During his captivity Roy encounters other hostages. A Romanian news team, an Iraqi man and his son, even one of the kidnappers who’d fallen out of favor. He chronicles his captor’s attempts to exact a 12 million dollar payoff from the U.S. Government for their cause and the eventual breakdown of negotiations.

Roy also details his family’s frustration, fear, and unrelenting faith during his nearly year long absence. Excerpts from his daughter’s diary tell the heartbreaking story of his family’s attempts to locate their missing father. He takes the reader behind the scenes as he details the efforts made by the Hostage Working Group that finally ends with the brazen, broad-daylight rescue led by Commander Dan O’Shea.

Peppered with pictures taken by his rescuers, this tale of desperation, indomitable hope, and the will to survive is well worth attention.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Saturday, January 23, 2010

In the Name of Research

Sometimes I wonder what life would be like without the drive to write. I certainly wouldn’t have tried half of the things I have done if it weren’t for my ability to rationalize that it was for “research.” I wouldn’t have walked into that shooting range and signed up for a gun class. I never would have known I would love…love, the smell of the oil and the feel of the metal weight in my hand. Never.

Afraid of heights, I never would have climbed to the top of that thirty-foot tree and zipped down a metal wire with nothing but some canvas straps and a prayer to keep me safe. I don’t see myself as the adventurous type. But I am very goal oriented and that has been God’s gift to me.

I love to incorporate adventure in my stories and part and parcel with that is having some thrills of my own. Not too many mind you, I am a suburban Mom with six kids, my poor husband’s heart skips a beat when I talk about evasive driving classes, but enough to keep the creative juices flowing. I am currently writing a sequence with skydiving. Now, as a responsible mother I’ve promised my husband not to jump out of an actual plane until all of our kids are in college. But I live near a great facility that lets you approximate the experience of a skydive free-fall with a giant indoor fan. I have already tried to talk a friend into going with me. She’s on the edge but, we’ll see.

My question to you is this: What would motivate you to step out of your comfort zone? Is it a painting class? Do you wish you could ski? How about something personal? Is there a fear you long to conquer?

I encourage you to try something you’ve secretly dreamt of doing. Don’t tattoo your knuckles or anything, I’m not taking any angry phone calls from family members on your behalf, but consider it.

The great inventor Thomas Alva Edison once said, “If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” I hope you astound yourself this coming week. Until next time, my friends, you are on my heart and in my prayers.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hunting for that good read.

I recently read an article about how we find our books. According to the poll most people choose books based on friend or stranger recommendation and not on direct advertising. People reported that reviews by friends and non professionals were the yardstick by which they decide whether or not a book is worth their time. Online purchases of books are mainly made after reading a review posted by someone who has already read the book. It doesn't seem to matter if you know this person or not. This struck me as strange considering all of the shelf decoration, media buys, and other publicity that goes into launching books.
My question to you is this - "What was the last book you bought, and how did you hear about it?"
Did you stroll the bookstore aisles and grab the one with the sleek cover and eye catching colors? Was it on an end cap or arranged creatively on a center table? Had you read the author before and went for name recognition based on a good experience?
Take a second to let me know. I'm interested in how you search for that one book in millions that is worthy of those rare moments you have to yourselves. For the record, I get most of my books from friend recommendations. I can't wait to hear what works for you. Until next time, friends, you're on my heart and in my prayers.

Monday, January 18, 2010

City Field Trips

One of the places I love to incorporate in a good mystery is a big city. There's something about the energy and movement that colors a scenario like no other setting. A foot chase in the jungle is very different than along a busy street, or a dark alley for that matter. The city itself is an important character in many of my stories.Whenever I can I take writing field trips to the places
my characters inhabit.
On one such trip I took to the streets of Seattle, Washington. I wandered through the city center, took the public transportation to the busy Pike Place Market and walked along the wharf like a good tourist. The things I wanted to see though weren't on any visitor's guide. My brother and I walked through the harder, edgier part of Seattle one night. I talked to tattoo artists named after animals and dodged a random collection of oranges barrelling down the hilly street towards us. I still have no idea who would send what seemed like a bag of oranges down the road, but I certainly remember it.
I took a notebook and used the bus rides to jot down every smell and color and unfamiliar sound that assaulted me. I came home with a collection of great descriptions. From the eye-searing green the guitar kid wore while playing for money on the corner, to the amazing way the sun split into shards through the roof of the public library. Pictures couldn't do Seattle justice. Weeks later, armed with my notebook, I wrote a story that took place in the very streets and buildings I'd visited. Seattle wasn't just where my story took place, it was a home to my characters right down to the West African restaurant down the street that makes the best Chicken Yassa in the world.
I encourage you writers out there to start a "Sensory Collection". Carry a mini-notebook with you and jot down whatever catches your eye or irritates your ears. You never know where the next quirky character trait, enthralling description, or humorous scene may come from.
Until next time, my friends, you are on my heart and in my prayers.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Building a career in books.

Getting published is a lot like construction. Most people only see the finished product. No one told me about the intricate network of skills, effort, and new technology that goes into building an audience. As a writer I'd always thought that my job ended with the last word I typed. The heroine is kissed, the bad guy ensnared, the world is saved. I'm done...right?
As it turns out, there are four dreaded words that float through the blogosphere striking fear into new authors everywhere -- "What is your platform?" My platform? I have to admit that I had to look it up when I first encountered the question last year. I thought a platform was what politicians ran on. I'm just trying to tell a story. Do I really need one? Can I order one, say from Amazon or something?
Turns out you build your own platform, one bit and one bite at a time. A platform is a web presence. Your mark on the Internet that gets your name out there and makes people aware of your book or movie, or whatever you're trying to share with them. Its all new to me, but I'm up for the challenge.
So now I am off to the races with the tweets and the updates and the blogs. It is both exciting and intimidating to share this journey with others. I hope to have some good news in the future regarding my journey to publication. Until then, my friends, you are on my heart and in my prayers. rb

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Great Year...

I honestly can't believe all that we've done this past year. I am amazed. My family has changed for the better...we have two new babies! I got to see my wonderful brother and his lovely wife when they came down for the holidays. Everyone is happy and healthy, praise God.
My resolution, this fine New Year, is to be persistant with my writing and blogging. I hope that all of you have a sparkle of something that you're looking forward to this year.
Until next're in my heart and prayers!