Celebrate Valentine’s Day with Jane Austen

(From Vision Video . . . )

Jane Austen is one of the most celebrated writers of the 19th century. Her extraordinary novels like Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility have motivated men and women of all ages to embrace true love and to avoid allowing the classist expectations of society to thwart one’s dream of enjoying the love of a lifetime.

Two centuries later, her masterpieces continue to hit the best sellers’ lists and have served as the impetus for scores of producers and playwrights!

This Valentine’s Day, Vision Video is offering a special price on movies made from her novels. And having been a Jane Austen addict for years, I have to say these are my three favorite adaptions:

Click on the images to be taken to their specials.

Also, this week John Grisham gave his first interview to blogs to discuss his new book, THE ASSOCIATE, as well as some other controversial topics.
You can check them out here:
Also, check out John Grisham on Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Official-John-Grisham-Page/40299356186

Author Ben Rehder ~ Interviewed

Ben Rehder wanted to become a writer ever since he was dropped on his head as a toddler. As he grew into a young adult and the vertigo gradually dissipated, his passion for literature grew. Ben longed to craft the type of soul-stirring prose that would touch people’s lives and help them explore new emotional horizons. But he went to work at an ad agency instead.

Throughout his rewarding and fruitful career in the ad business, Ben has been known to write such imaginative and compelling phrases as “Act now!,” “Limited-time offer,” and “Compatible with today’s rapidly changing network environment.”

However, there eventually came a time when, as unbelievable as it sounds, writing brochures and spec sheets simply wasn’t enough to satisfy Ben’s creative urges. Ben knew: It was time to write a novel.

What is your current project? Tell us about it.

My agent is pitching a manuscript I finished this past fall. Unlike my earlier books in the Blanco County series, this one’s a standalone that takes place along the Texas/Mexico border. It’s not the best time for my agent to be pitching it, so cross your fingers for me. In the meantime, I’ve been writing a few magazine articles and other short projects. Plus, I have a dream of becoming the origami champion of south-central Texas.

Share your journey to publication. How long had you been writing before you got the call you had a contract, how you heard and what went through your head.

The short version: Made a New Year’s resolution to attempt to write a novel. (Notice the word “attempt” in there; that would’ve allowed me to keep my resolution without actually writing a novel.) Wrote the novel in about a year and a half. It took that same amount of time to find an agent. (I have more than 100 rejection slips, so don’t whine about rejection until you’ve joined what I call the “triple digit club.”) Once I had an agent, she found a publisher in about seven or eight weeks. That phone call–when she told me we had an offer–qualifies as one of the best moments of my life. I didn’t care how much money (or, actually, how little) they were offering; I was just thrilled that I’d be a published author. You know what? I’d say, eight years later, that I still look back on that moment with the same satisfaction.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work, or struggle in a particular area such as writers block or angst driven head-banging against walls? Please share some helpful overcoming hints that you’ve discovered.

Sure, I still have doubts occasionally, but then I remember that editors and agents have doubts about their abilities, too, and that generally makes me feel better in a sick sort of way. But my doubts are less about my writing and more about whether I have any realistic chance of “making it big.” It’s a fairly brutal business, and nobody really seems to know what sells books, so that can get you down. Writer’s block? No, I don’t really get that. In fact…I…uh…let’s see…I can’t find the right words.

What mistakes have you made while seeking publication? Or to narrow it down further what’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

That’s a tough question, because how can you really know what’s a mistake, short of making a pass at your agent or telling your editor he’s a pinhead? (I have done neither of those things, by the way.) My point is, when you make certain choices in your career, you’re choosing NOT to go down another path. There’s no way of knowing if that other path might’ve been a wiser choice. An example: My Blanco mysteries are comedic, even though the rule of thumb is that funny mysteries don’t sell well. (With exceptions, of course.) But if I’d written a “straight” mystery, maybe I wouldn’t have been published at all. Plus, as I’m sure some readers are thinking, there’s more to life than sales. All you can do is make an informed decision at each critical stage in your career, then hope for the best.

What’s the best or worst advice (or both) you’ve heard on writing/publication?

Everyone says to write from the heart–rather than to write something similar to the bestsellers–but you’ll have to decide for yourself whether that’s good or bad advice. It’s probably blasphemy on my part to even question the “write from the heart” bit, but you don’t see me on any best-seller lists, do you? Regarding promotional efforts, one thing that almost everyone says at some point is, “Well, it couldn’t hurt.” How about a tour? “Couldn’t hurt.” Postcards? “Couldn’t hurt.” Website? “Couldn’t hurt.” A tattoo of my book cover on my forehead? “Couldn’t hurt.” Again, nobody seems to really know what sells books, so there’s a lot of wasted time and money.

What is your favorite source for finding story ideas?

The ideas pretty much have to come from that idea factory between your ears.

Is there a particularly difficult set back that you’ve gone through in your writing career you are willing to share? Or have you ever been at the point where considered quitting writing altogether?

When my original editor left my publisher, that was a blow. Not only did we work great together, we’d developed a friendship. Also, your editor is your champion within the publishing house, so when your editor leaves, that can mean trouble. In this case, my new editor was every bit as sharp, but I sensed that I’d lost some momentum within the house. So it was time to try something new, outside the series.

With the clarity of experience what advice would you offer up to the wet-behind-the-ears you if beginning this writing journey today?

You only get one debut. Make sure it counts. Is this the novel that will launch your career and help you meet your goals? If not, should you set it aside and write something else? I don’t know the answer, but those are questions worth asking. In hindsight, I’d have to really contemplate if I wanted to “come out of the gate” with something more in tune with market demands.

Also, don’t spend so much money on any particular marketing tactic without pretty good evidence it works.

Lastly, if you receive a call saying you’ve been nominated for the Edgar, remember how you felt at that moment, because it will be hard to surpass in the future.

What event/person has most changed you as a writer? How?

My background is in the ad business, and that’s where I learned to write. There’s one particular person–my first boss–who had more impact on my writing than anybody else. Her name is Mary Summerall and she is one great lady. Also, I got some pretty good writing genes from my mother, so she deserves a shout-out. And, of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a tremendously supportive spouse, which I do.

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?

I wrote an essay for Newsweek about a dog I used to have. Her name was Esmerelda and she was a pit bull. Very sweet and friendly, and she remained that way her entire fourteen years. The overwhelming majority of pit bulls are just like her, though you wouldn’t know that from the media. Yes, I acknowledge the problem with pit bulls, but it’s never good to generalize. I hope my essay got that point across.

Dean Koontz recently shared his take on the concept on “the writer’s sacred duty.” What comes to your mind at the mention of “the writer’s sacred duty?”

Honestly, I’m not sure what that means. I don’t feel any sense of a sacred duty. I’m not obligated to anyone to accomplish anything in particular with my writing.

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

See above. Nobody knows what actually sells books. Oh, except for Oprah.

Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?

Obviously, I want to continue to make a career out of it, whether it’s with my novels, magazine articles, copywriting, or a combination of the above. Almost all authors want to be widely read, of course, and to get their books made into movies, and to make the bestseller lists, and to be interviewed on the Today Show. Those things would be nice, too.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

Writing really is hard work. I procrastinate a lot. My least favorite part is actually getting started each day. My favorite part is reading a scene I just wrote and knowing I absolutely nailed it. Also, seeing your first book on bookstore shelves for the first time is a great rush.

Describe your special or favorite writing spot.

My wife and I own a small “ranchette” in Blanco County, west of Austin, and I built a cabin out there in 1996. I love to write out there, away from everything. It’s possibly my favorite place on the planet. You can see a photo of the land and the cabin (if you look real hard) across the top of my web site.

What aspect of writing was the most difficult for you to grasp/conquer? How did you overcome it?

Gerunds are always tricky. I went to a gerund training school.

What is the first thing you do when you begin a new book?

Make sure I understand WHY I’m writing the book. Where am I going with it? I don’t outline, but I should at least understand the big picture before I begin.

Writing rituals. Do you have to sit somewhere specific, complete a certain number of words, leave something undone to trigger creativity for the next session? Some other quirk you’d like to share?

When I’m writing a novel, I set a weekly quota, and it’s appallingly low. Just two thousand words. But I always exceed it, and that makes me feel like I’m accomplishing more than I need to. Mind game.

Plot, seat of pants or combination?

Sort of a combination. As I mentioned above, I like to have a big-picture feel for the plot before I begin the novel, but as for specific scenes or plot points, anything can happen. My opinion is, if you outline too thoroughly, your novel begins to feel somewhat like a paint-by-numbers piece of fiction.

What is the most difficult part of pulling together a book? Ex. Do you have saggy middles, soggy characters, soupy plots during your first drafts…if so, how do you shape it up?

I like to have a lot of subplots that appear unrelated but come together near the end. That can be difficult to pull off. Like many authors, I can be halfway through and start to panic. But it’s always worked out. I don’t write a lot of drafts, because I edit as I go along. If I’m not happy with a chapter, I keep at it until I am happy with. Sure, there are times when I make decisions that affect earlier chapters, and I have to go back and do some rewriting, but it’s fairly minimal.

Have you received a particularly memorable reader response? Please share.

I once received an email from a soldier in Iraq who thanked me for giving him a mental break and reminding him of his home state, Texas. That was definitely a highlight of my career. He included some photos of himself reading one of my books in one of Saddam’s vanquished palaces. Pretty cool.

Have you had a particularly memorable peer honor? Please share.

Edgar Award nomination.

How much marketing/publicity do you do? Any advice in this area?

I’ve touched on this above, but here’s one other thing: When someone asks you to do an interview like this one, do it!

Parting words? Anything you wish we would’ve asked because you’ve got the perfect answer?

Readers don’t realize how much of an impact they have on the publishing industry or on a given author’s career. By buying a book, you are in a sense “voting” for that author and saying you want to see more by him or her. Is there one particular author you like who isn’t well known? Do you want to see more books from that author in the future? You know what you have to do to make that happen.

Author Interview ~ Erin Healy

Erin Healy is owner of WordWright Editorial Services, a Colorado-based consulting firm specializing in fiction book critique, manuscript development, and editing for publishers. Kiss, co-authored with Ted Dekker, is her first novel. Erin is the director of the Academy of Christian Editors and former editor of Christian Parenting Today magazine. She and her husband, Tim, are the proud parents of two children.

Tell us a little about your latest release:

Kiss is about the redemptive power of painful memories. It examines the contradiction between the benefits and the tragic consequences of trying to wipe the slate clean. When the personal cost of remembering is greater than the cost of forgetting, which would you choose? What if your most difficult memories could save lives? These are some of the questions that haunt the main character, Shauna, who awakens from a coma missing six months’ worth of memories. She discovers on awakening that her family accuses her of having irrevocably harmed her beloved brother, with the intention of destroying her father’s political career. Shauna can’t imagine she’d do such a thing, but she just can’t remember …

You co-authored this book. Can you explain the process for co-authoring a novel?

The process probably looks different for each co-author team. Ted and I have worked together for several years as an author-editor team, and we have similar ways of thinking about what makes a strong story. So the foundations for the teamwork—trust and vision—had been long established. The majority of the process involved us talking on the phone for hours while he filled the story with great ideas and I tried to keep my cordless adequately charged. We verbally beat story questions and scenes and options nearly to death long before a word was ever typed. Then I laid down the first rough draft and a new process began with both of us, writing, tearing apart, rewriting, more rewriting, editing, etc. The book is roughly 100,000 words, but at least 200,000 words were written to get there. Gotta love it.

How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific ‘what if’ moment?

The Kiss that exists today is the sixth or seventh generation of the idea Ted and I started with. I came up with a concept for a story about a woman who can relieve people of their most painful memories, a mercy “angel” whose good intentions go all wrong. Maybe this story will find its footing one day in a sequel about Shauna. Who knows?

Ted loved the idea of memory stealing and transplanted that device into a story concept that had bigger political and relational stakes, and Kiss grew from there.

Tell us a little about your main character and how you developed her.

Shauna is a young woman who’s in danger and doesn’t know it, because she’s lost her memory. Ted and I tried a few approaches with Shauna: Was she overall an angry person? Contrite? Fearful? Aggressive? Focusing on the emotional terror of Shauna’s situation gave us the direction we needed.

What would it be like to be blamed for devastating the life of a loved one—and not remember what you’d done? Answers to that question were not hard to imagine. We isolated Shauna from her family and friends; we separated her from the truth of her past and forced her to make a choice: Would she rather live safely in the dark or at great risk in the light? Shauna answered that question for us: her love for her brother and her hope for relationship with her father pushed her toward risk, and her driving need to know the truth propelled her straight into danger.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book? Least?

Most: the rewriting. Maybe it’s the editor in me, but that part came pretty naturally. Manipulating a manuscript is like playing with Play-Doh.

Least: the rewriting. After revision number six (or was it seven?), all I really wanted was a glass of wine and a twelve-hour sleep. Is it just me, or do others also find the creative process riddled with such love-hate tensions?

What made you start writing?

I’m not a hundred percent sure, but I have a hunch it’s rooted in my propensity to talk too much, and as a child I needed to find an outlet that gave my parents and sister some relief.

What does your writing space look like?

I do most of my writing in my garden-level home office, which has a view of garden mulch and a tree trunk. The walls are an unfortunate shade of baby-poop mustard (I think the prior home owners were going for gold) that I have not had time to repaint. So I’ve covered this up for the most part with bookcases and my favorite book-lover’s framed prints, illustrated by Nishan Akgulian.

What would you do with your free time if you weren’t writing?

“Free time?” asked the working mother of a ten-year-old and a five-month-old. “What’s that?”

What’s the most difficult part of writing for you (or was when you first started on your novel journey)?

Making it a priority discipline. I have a business, a husband, kids, a dirty house, and a million interests. Writing gets squeezed to the margins, especially if it’s not attached to a contract.

Do you put yourself into your books/characters?

Into my books, yes. They contain my curiosity, my love of a good puzzle, and a little of my hope-tinged cynicism. As for characters, I have no idea. I might not be able to answer that question for a few years, when hindsight might be more revealing to me. Either that or I’ll need to ask a psychologist for a professional assessment.

What message do you hope readers gain from your novel?

I hope readers might begin to see their most painful personal memories in a new light. I hope they can discover grace in pain and see these experiences as formative events that God can redeem and transform into meaningful parts of their history.

When God told the Israelites to commemorate their suffering (such as with altars and feast days), He wasn’t telling them to wallow in it, but to remember Who delivered them from it. If our whole history—good, bad, and ugly—keeps us focused on Him, our future will make more sense. I really believe that.

Briefly take us through your process of writing a novel—from conception to revision.

Take a long, hot shower. Flip through the mental file for ideas while the water heater runs cold. Repeat daily for up to three months. When The One presents itself, spend more days (and showers) writing a synopsis and erecting a skeleton outline of the main characters and acts.

Spend a lot of time online distracting self with irrelevant research such as whether characters’ first and last names are true to ethnic origins. Write the first ten pages. Shower. Rewrite these ten pages every day for two weeks, and do the bulk of it mentally while under hot water in the shower.

Calculate the minimum number of words that must be written daily to meet the deadline. Recalculate and consider whether thinking of this number in terms of pages is less intimidating. Decide the deadline for beginning has come and gone. Shower. Write. Shower. Revise. Shower.

Rewrite the story outline based on new ideas and revelations and characters who will not behave themselves. Rinse and repeat. And repeat. And repeat. Spend at least a week believing that the novel will have to be destroyed before the editor sees it and destroys the contract afterward. Realize it’s too late to prevent that.

Write the last twenty pages in one day without rereading them. Send the rough draft to at least two people who love you and would never say a negative thing about your work, and to at least two (different) people who have permission to tear the thing apart without apologizing. Await their replies in the shower. After receiving replies, cry in the shower. Then do the work. Fix it. Fall in love with the results. Send it off. Shower. Moisturize desiccated skin. Go to bed. Repeat.

What are a few of your favorite books (not written by you) and why are they favorites?

My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok. The themes of belonging and integrity in the context of faith resonate with me as a Christian who doesn’t alwaysfeel like she fits within the traditional norms.

The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. What amazing studies of the pursuit of excellence taken to extremes. I’ve come to see Rand’s works as instructive portraits of a hope for perfection—beautiful and God-given, though hers was misguided.

Silence by Shusaku Endo, one of Japan’s leading novelists.

In the mid-1600s, a fellow Christian betrays a missionary priest to authorities. He is captured, tortured, and eventually he apostatizes. I was captivated by the question of what strengthens and weakens faith in the face of unimaginable opposition and physical suffering. In what do we place our certainties of faith?

What do you wish you’d known early in your career that might have saved you some time and/or frustration in writing? In publishing?

I wish I’d acknowledged sooner that fiction readers care less about technical perfection than they do about emotional brilliance. Good storytelling starts with craft but must end with the human heart. Ted and other talented authors have taught me this again and again by example in the years I’ve worked with them.

How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?

As Kiss is my first book, and it’s being marketed as a Ted Dekker book, my answers at this point will be limited: I don’t do any marketing; right now I’m riding coattails of Ted’s marketing. And anything that works for Ted works REALLY well for me!

Tell us what we have to look forward to in the future. What new projects are you working on?

I’m excited about Burn, which the next book from Ted and me. Burn is an intense, brain-bending story about a woman forced into making a critical, life-changing decision … and what might have happened if she’d made a different decision. It’s a novel about the dramatic stakes involved in dying to self, and what life on the other side of that action looks like, for better and worse.

After that, I’ll have a solo novel before (we hope) another venture with Ted. It’s the story of a hard-working, loving single mom who is haunted—and hunted—by an offense that she can’t forgive. Readers can expect my stories to be page-turning thrillers with sharp spiritual edges. Like Ted’s, but different. They’ll have more romance than Kiss or Burn. And they might also have more than one word in the titles.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

Learn the craft. Learn how to respect it before you attempt to do anything subversive. Learn what moves your audience. Learn how to expose yourself and your work to the honest opinion of others, especially people who don’t like what you’ve written. Learn, learn, learn. “Your job,” write the authors of Art and Fear, “is to learn to work on your work.”


For fifteen years, Chicken Soup for the Soul, a world leader in life improvement, has been helping real people share real stories, bringing hope, courage, inspiration and love to hundreds of millions of people around the world. To help celebrate our 15th ANNIVERSARY, weʼre awarding 4 libraries with an assortment of exciting prizes.

2 libraries will each receive 2 baskets of books1 basket for the library to shelve in their collection and 1 basket to raffle off to a member of the community. Each basket will contain 28 Chicken Soup titles, including, Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Resolution: Great Ideas for Your Mind, Body and…Wallet, to help motivate your patrons as we turn the corner on a new year.

2 libraries will receive 1 basket, each containing 28 Chicken Soup titlesCHECK OUT OUR NEW LOOK!To learn how you can receive a free newsletter or Chicken Soup for the Soul story each day delivered right to your inbox, visit us at Chicken Soup.
Sweepstakes closes February 23(Open to librarians and library personnel only)