Archive | July, 2007

Allison’s Latest Book: 24-Hour Special

I’m at a writing conference this week and will respond to all the comments on Harry Potter soon. (You know how it is at a writing conference — just too fun to spend much time on the computer.)

However, today, August 1, is also the day Allison Bottke’s latest novel launches. As most of you will recall, I’ve done a series of teleseminar interviews with Allison in recent months in which she talks about mission statements, strategic planning, branding, and all that stuff. My life is amazingly better because of Allison’s advice, and many of our listeners have written to me to say how grateful they are for her help.

Allison is amazingly productive. She’s currently turning out several nonfiction books PLUS a novel each year. Her latest novel is launching TODAY, August 1, with a 31-day blog tour. She’s asked me to be the first blogger on her tour. So I’m interviewing her below, AND I’ve talked her into giving you an amazing deal on our teleseminar series, a 24-hour special for anyone who buys her book today on Amazon.com.

Allison writes Christian fiction for women of the Baby Boom generation, “Boomer Babes” as she calls them. I happen to be married to a Boomer Babe, and my wife really liked Allison’s last novel. I sent Allison some interview questions last week, and here’s what she sent back:

Q: People say that you write “women’s fiction with an attitude.” What does that mean?

A: It was my agent who first coined that phrase in reference to my work. He was trying to describe the kind of fiction I write but it’s not your typical romance fiction, and it’s not historical, and it’s not quite chick-lit. My lead characters are all baby boomers, in their 40’s and 50’s. They are all smart, savvy, sophisticated and a bit sassy. He told a publisher that my stories had “attitude,” that my characters had “attitude.” Thus, “women’s fiction with an attitude” was born. So, for the record, it’s my characters and stories that have the attitude, and not me.

Q: You’ve always been somewhat of a trendsetter in the Christian market, encouraging writers to have a strategic business plan and to be on top of marketing and such — now, it appears as though you’ve coined a new genre with your work — “Boomer-Lit.” Tell us about that.

A: Typical “chick-lit” is written for a 20-30 year old target market. The protagonist is usually single, and struggling with her faith, career, family, love-life and things young women often struggle with. In my books, I wanted to approach the issues that baby boomers are dealing with, things like the empty nest syndrome, aging parents, a change in career, retirement, menopause, and other health issues. I wanted to look at women in the prime of their life who were suddenly stepping out in faith to achieve the dreams of their heart. Women who weren’t afraid to take risks — who had the chutzpah to dare to dream big. That’s how “Boomer-Lit” was born.

Q: Your latest novel is ONE LITTLE SECRET, which releases today, August 1. Tell us about this book.

A: I developed ONE LITTLE SECRET first as a screenplay called JUST A HOUSEWIFE. When Bethany House wanted a second novel after A STITCH IN TIME, I immediately thought of this story, realizing that it would make some great Boomer-Lit!

For Ursula Rhoades, her ONE LITTLE SECRET becomes her one big problem! ONE LITTLE SECRET fits seamlessly into a culture obsessed with reality TV and celebrity lives (think American Idol and E! channel). Delving into the life of a fictional rock star, ONE LITTLE SECRET takes readers on a fun-loving ride through Hollywood and the famous GRAMMY awards.

In a land of glitz and glamour, Ursula Rhoades isn’t fazed in the least by the constant parade of Prada. She has a beautiful home, a loving family, and fulfilling volunteer opportunities that leave this fashionable and loving Bel-Air housewife completely content, even if she did have to give up her dreams when she married Don so many years ago. Enter Nikolai Prevelakis, or Nik Prevel to his fans, the hottest young music star in the country. But it isn’t enough. Handsome, famous, and living the life of a rock star, Nik isn’t content. When his path crosses Ursula’s, he sees the opportunity he’s been waiting for. But what seems like a harmless little secret changes their lives forever-and becomes one big secret everyone’s trying to figure out!

ONE LITTLE SECRET is a Hollywood fairy tale with all the pleasures of escapist literature mixed with gentle lessons on using the talents God has given you, the power of sacrifice, self-esteem, and the value of being “just a housewife.”

Q: Did I hear correctly that you’ve developed some sort of Hollywood contest to cast the film version of ONE LITTLE SECRET?

A: Yes sir, you did. We’re actually giving away an all expense paid trip to Hollywood for two in the event the movie gets optioned for a film. Your readers can vote on who they think would make the best Ursula and Nik — from stars like Catherine Zeta Jones and Antonio Banderas. It’s a fun and funky contest, how about you stopping by and voting, okay, Randy? Check out the contest here.

Q: Allison, you made your name writing nonfiction. What prompted you to step into fiction?

A: I’ve always wanted to write fiction. In fact, when I grow up I’d like to work in the world of film — writing screenplays. I have a deep love for creating those sappy, romantic comedy fairy-tale love stories that women can escape into. However, I had a major life-changing epiphany at the age of 35 that brought me closer to God in a very profound way. As a result of that, I founded an organization called: GOD ALLOWS U-TURNS. A vital aspect of that organization is a compilation book series of true short stories written by people from all around the world. The GOD ALLOWS U-TURNS anthology collection took off with its first volume published in 2001 and today, there are 23 plus books under the recognized GOD ALLOWS U-TURNS “brand.” That said, I was blessed to enter the world of publishing and get my feet wet—more important—I was able to make connections with editors and publishers who were able to see how I conducted my business.

I also began attending writer’s conferences as an instructor, and while there I was able to take classes as a student with some amazing novelists who generously shared their craft in workshop sessions. I soaked up everything I could about how to write fiction — taking notes — buying tapes — listening over and over again to teachers like Angela Hunt, Gayle Roper, Brandilyn Collins, James Scott Bell, Jack Cavanaugh, Lauraine Snelling, and Tracie Peterson. It was after taking a 3-day long intensive workshop with Tracie Peterson that I was able to fine-tune my work-in-progress and submit it with a proposal to Bethany House. The rest, as they say, is history. Bethany House signed me to write two novels and the whirlwind began.

Q: Your first novel, A STITCH IN TIME had some autobiographical elements. Are there any similar elements in ONE LITTLE SECRET?

A: Some? You’re being kind…there was a whole lot of me in “Stitch,” from the weight loss surgery aspect to the career as a professional fundraiser, to living in southern California. It’s been said that debut novels are often the most autobiographical in a novelist’s career. It’s also said that the second novel — the follow-up — is infinitely harder to write because you’ve used up pretty much everything you know in novel number one, and now the rubber meets the road for real creativity. (insert a big smile here.) That said, ONE LITTLE SECRET has far less of my real-life experience, which was a true joy to write! I had so much fun with this book!

Q: You changed POV’s entirely with ONE LITTLE SECRET. Your debut novel, A STITCH IN TIME was first person and ONE LITTLE SECRET is written in third person. Why did you change and which style do you prefer?

A: Like a ga-zillion other women, I first fell in love with the genre of “chick-lit” reading the 1996 release of Bridget Jones Diary by Helen Fielding. The intimate first-person POV allowed us to experience Bridget’s angst-filled journey right along with her. I was too green to know that first person POV is one of the most difficult to pull off. With ONE LITTLE SECRET, I wanted to see if I could get inside the head of a male character — as well as have more freedom of description and story telling that third person allows. I had a blast with this style. I’d have to say that while I enjoy reading first person, I enjoy writing third person more. All three Va Va books will be third person.

Q: I’m glad you brought that up, what about all this “Va Va Va Boom” stuff I’ve been hearing about?

A: You’ve heard about it? How cool is that! I lovingly call it the Va Va project. I’ve just been contracted by David C. Cook Publishers to write three new Boomer-Lit books in a series I’ve called THE VA VA VA BOOM series. All three books will introduce entrepreneurial boomer babes who own their own businesses. Additionally, each woman has a deep dark secret and a deep dream desire. The first book in the series will release in 2008.

Q: Okay, since you mentioned it, what is a Boomer Babe? And how did that come about?

A: Here’s the definition that appears on my web site. “A Boomer Babe was born between 1946 and 1964, we are women who are comfortable enough in our own skin to realize that the mid-life years can be some of the best and most exciting in our entire life. That the hubris of youth is behind us and the wisdom of the years has made us pretty darn attractive — both inside and out. We are Boomer Babes and we’re proud of it!”

For years I’ve been known as the “God Allows U-Turns Poster Girl.” I’ve been blessed with that moniker and it’s always a joy to share with people how my life direction radically changed. Yet over the years, I found myself being drawn to the challenges my fellow baby boomer sisters were experiencing. In late 2006 I woke up one day with the idea to develop a web site separate from www.GodAllowsUTurns.com devoted to boomer women. We launched the new business, www.BoomerBabesRock.com on January 1st of 2007. A cornerstone of the outreach is a monthly electronic e-zine that we call a “Dream-Zine.” It’s called Boomer Babes with Brilliant Dreams and our goal is to empower and encourage baby boomer women to achieve the dreams of their heart.

Q: Do you have a Mission Statement for your new Boomer Babes Rock! site?

A: Sure do! “Boomer Babes Rock, where fun, fashion, food, family, and faith merge to empower and inspire boomer women around the world!”

Q: Where can my readers find out more about Boomer Babes Rock?

A: Your blog readers can find more about what a Boomer Babe is by visiting this page on the Boomer Babes Rock! web site: http://www.boomerbabesrock.com/mission-bbr.html

And, they can sign up to receive our free monthly Dream-Zine by clicking here: http://www.boomerbabesrock.com/dreamzine.html

Q: Thanks for allowing me to launch your International Blog Tour here at Advanced Fiction Writing. Where else will you be this month?

A: I’ll be visiting 42 more blogs throughout the USA, Canada and Australia. Your readers can check out my schedule here, and I sure hope they check out some of the blogs on the tour schedule: http://www.allisonbottke.com/mr_blogtours.htm

Q: Any closing thoughts?

A: Randy, the fact I’ve been published at all boggles my mind. I want to encourage your readers who have a desire to write to never give up! I also want them to stop judging themselves against other writers. I’m a high school drop out with a ninth grade education and a GED. I quit school after the 9th grade to run away from home and get married. I was going to live happily ever after in my fairy tale dream.

But that’s NOT what happened. As a teenager, I was looking for love in all the wrong places. As a Boomer Babe, I know a whole lot more about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. I also know a whole lot more about pursuing the dreams of our heart…walking in God’s purpose for our life, and making life-changing U-Turns. Boomer Babes Rock is all about living the great American dream. It’s about deciding today… that THIS is the break-out year when you’re going to make things happen — and happen in a BIG way! And that’s what ONE LITTLE SECRET is about. It’s about a dynamic woman who takes a risk to make her lifelong dream come true.

Randy, writing is not about formal education, or who you know, or how long you’ve been at it. It’s about perseverance and risk and belief in yourself — and knowing that inevitably, God will make a way where there seems to be no way. Thanks, Randy, for hosting me on your blog today. As always, it’s been a joy visiting with you and your readers.

Randy sez: Thanks, Allison, for the interview. I hope your book has a great launch. Once again, I’ll remind readers that Allison and I are doing a 24-hour special on our teleseminar series on August 1, as an incentive for people to buy her book. We’d like to see a flood of sales of the book on Amazon on Day 1. To find out more about that incentive, check out the 24-Hour Special Page.

What Makes Harry Potter Fly?

It’s been a busy weekend. We went over to friends for dinner Saturday evening and got back really late — too late to blog.

I’ve read all the comments everyone made over the weekend and I’m reminded of a recurring question I’ve pondered over the years. If you read the Harry Potter books with a critical eye, you’ll notice that J.K. Rowling regularly breaks certain “rules.” For starters, there’s her constant use of adverbs in dialogue tags. She sometimes uses quite a bit of narrative summary (i.e., telling instead of showing). And often, we’re not in any particular character’s head.

And yet the story works. It works extremely well.

Why is that? What makes the story work? What magic does J.K. Rowling perform to bewitch her readers so effectively?

I have my own ideas on this, but I’d like to hear from you all. If you’re a Potter fan (as I am), why? And if you’ve read at least one Potter book and didn’t find it captivating, why not?

I’m sure there are lessons we can all learn by thinking about these questions.

I’ll be at a writing conference for the next few days, but I will have good internet access and should be able to blog every day.

Done Cruisin’

I’m finally getting back to blogging after two weeks of vacation. The first week was on that Alaskan cruise I told you about. Then when I got back, there was the new Harry Potter book to read and a TON of email to read and answer.

First, about that cruise: It was GREAT! We really had a good time. I’ve never been on a cruise before, but as we were getting off the boat, John Olson and I were already thinking about where we’ll go for the next one.

I suggested the Amazon. John was astounded that anyone would consider cruising a warehouse full of books. But I meant the Amazon River, and Princess Cruises really does do a cruise up the river. In any event, we’re thinking about it.

John and I gave 10 hours of lectures, and each of us did 5 to 10 hours of small-group and individual critiquing. I learned some cool things from John’s lectures. He’s already heard all my lectures, but I hope he picked up SOMETHING new.

Some pluses on the cruise:
1) Food is “free”. Not really of course, because you pay for it up front when you get on the boat. But that does mean it’s competitively priced, because before you get on the boat, you could go with another cruise line.
2) The food is great. OK, I don’t recommend eating the sorry, soggy, excuse for a vegeburger. That should never have happened. But generally, the food was terrific, and the buffet is open 24 hours a day. Can’t beat that.
3) Great people. The crew was very friendly, and the folks who came with us for our writing seminar were an excellent crowd.
4) Alaska! Alaska is cool. I didn’t know there was a rain forest in Alaska. Juneau’s in the middle of it. It gets about 100 inches of rain and about that much snow most years. This year it got about twice that. The trip up the Tracy Arm Fiord was worth the price of the cruise.
5) Eagles, whales, seals, otters, salmon, and other varmints. We saw a LOT of all of the above. We saw too many bald eagles to count in the wild, and a few injured ones in captivity. In Juneau as we were driving back to the boat on the bus, the eagles were as thick as seagulls are in San Diego.
6) Glaciers. Glaciers in the wild are blue. Aqua, actually. Very cool. The ones we saw are in full retreat. Global warming and all that.
7) Desserts. Lots of ‘em. I had intended to eat one desert for each writer in a group I belong to. It has 170 writers. Unfortunately, about halfway through the cruise, it became clear that my goal was far too short-sighted. So I had . . . 2 deserts for each writer friend. They had to roll me off the boat. OK, I exaggerate a little, but I doubled my lifetime intake of cholesterol, I’m sure.

Some minuses:
1) Those wretched vegeburgers. Gack! Vegeburgers should never have potatoes as the main ingredient. This should go without saying.
2) Drinks are not free. The first day on the boat, we learned this when about 9000 crew members offered us a special deal on drinks–a refillable container that could be had for only $31 that would get us all the sodas we could swill for the rest of the cruise. We declined all 9000 times. Then we found out that it was a pretty good deal, because they way overcharge on drinks. A small bottled water cost me a couple bucks. That is not competitive. But hey–once you’re ON the boat, they’ve got a monopoly on drinks. Not a drinking fountain to be seen anywhere. The buffet had orange juice in the morning, and you could get coffee or tea or hot water free. But cold water? Uh-uh.
3) I’ll take one more kick at those vegeburgers, just because there’s not much else to complain about.
4) Well, there is ONE more thing. I had hoped to blog on the cruise. I did have time. But the internet access cost $.50 per minute IF you brought your wireless laptop (I did). If you used their internet cafe and their computers, it was $.75. And the connection was slow and not terribly reliable. At those prices and with that kind of speed, I had to settle for grabbing my 100+ emails per day and only answering those that were true emergencies. Not a chance to blog or do real email.
5) Phone calls on the ship cost about $10 per minute. My wife made one 5-minute call before we discovered this. The rest of the cruise, we only called home to the kids when we were in port and could use our cell phones.

I had a chance to read some. I took along Harry Potter books #5 and #6. I was kind of fuzzy on #5 and could hardly remember anything in #6. I read both books on the boat, in time to pick up #7 the day we got off the ship. Good timing, because my kids would have KILLED me if we’d been still gone on the day Book #7 came out.

I read HP #7 pretty much straight through and finished it last Sunday afternoon. I’m a slow reader and I wanted to savor it. I thought it was GREAT. Fabulous. A worthy end to an epic tale. Now I’m rereading the whole series so I can read all those little bits and pieces in the earlier books and know what they really mean.

Anyone else read HP #7? How’d you like it? DON’T post any spoilers here, but I’d love to hear your reactions in general on the story.

Gone Cruisin’

I have not been able to blog the last couple of days because of the last-minute rush to get ready for the Alaska cruise that I’m going on. My buddy John Olson and I are running a writing seminar at sea and will be gone for seven days. John is bringing his whole family. I’m bringing my wife, leaving the kids and cats and dog at home to hold the fort.

The branding tagline for Princess Cruises is “Escape Completely.” I’m not sure if that’s possible. I’ll have internet access. However, as part of that escape, I’ll not blog about writing. If possible, I’ll blog a bit about the cruise and post some pictures. My wife forgot the USB cable for the camera, but we hope to scrounge one so we can transfer pictures to my laptop.

I’ll be getting on the boat in a few hours. Feel free to continue the discussion of writing while I’m gone. I’ll be back the day the next Harry Potter book comes out. See ya then!