Friday, August 28, 2009

Monkey Magic

Chimp Relaxing
I like monkeys.

I like new shoes and chocolate, too, but that's beside the point. The point is monkeys fascinate me. (And I'm well aware of the fact that I'm using the term "monkey" for animals that may not technically be referred to as such. Let me post my disclaimer here that by virtue of my lack of primate knowledge, I will hereby refer to all monkey-type individuals by said generic term.)

I'm sure up close they smell unpleasant and have things crawling on them that I'd rather not know about, but from my seat at the zoo yesterday, eating my Cheez-its, I was amazed by them. The way they swing around on their apparatus with such incredible ease is a feat that would undoubtedly leave me in traction for six months. Which makes me confident in saying that playground monkey bars are poorly named. There is no human being on this planet that can swing around like those babies.

And the noises they make! We seriously have no right telling kids, "A monkey says, 'Ooh, ooh, aah, aah'". They without doubt do not sound like that. What I heard yesterday was far more phenomenal, and I can assure you I have never heard pipes like that in my life. They could be heard all over the park, hollering back and forth like a primate version of the Jerry Springer Show.

Combined with an occasional cry from a myriad of other animals, I could close my eyes and picture myself in the jungle. There was a slight breeze, water lapping in the moat around the monkey island, and enough bird cries for me to envision Tarzan swinging past me on vines. If it hadn't been for the kids crunching their peanut butter crackers, I would have been sold.

So why do I tell you about my monkey-happy trip to an imaginary jungle? Because that's just what it takes sometimes to get a scene right. When I'm stumped, there's no better way for me to shake off the writer's block than to find myself a good setting and just listen. That way, I can picture myself somewhere other than at my desk in the same place I've worked from a zillion times before.

You should give it a try sometime. Writing about a busy city street? Sit outside a Starbucks in the city. Quiet countryside? Find a nice park. A stormy day? A little more difficult, but it can be done. Get yourself one of those noise machines or a CD of thunderstorms. (Yes, they have those!) Whatever works. But sound is so useful for stimulating an imagination. Just think about how hungry you can get when you hear someone opening a candy bar wrapper.

Or is that just me?

Anyway, the idea is that finding some inspiration in our daily lives can sometimes be difficult so every now and again we have to manufacture our own inspiration. If we're already using said imagination to manufacture a setting in a book, why not use it to manufacture the setting we need to get into the right mood in the first place?

In writing Catching Moondrops, I'm back in Southern Virginia with Jessilyn, right smack in the middle of a long hot summer, and I was recently stumped on a scene that had to take place at night. So I went outside at dusk, closed my eyes and - with the help of some accommodating cicadas, crickets and frogs - pictured that entire scene in my head from start to finish. Then once I had a handle on it, I went inside to my desk, left the light off and wrote the scene in the dark just to keep me in that mode.

And voila! Scene accomplished, just like that. It's amazing what a little of nature's night music can do to a writer's imagination. Makes sense, really, when we think about the fact that the Creator of the universe is also the Creator of creativity. And what a masterpiece of ingenuity this universe is. There's so much out there to spur us on!

Now if only I was writing about monkeys...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Picture Worth 80,000 Words

When I was young, there was a tree in our front yard that was fully encompassed by a Wisteria vine. The vine was huge, like a tree itself really, and formed a perfect seat up in the tree where I could sit and watch the purple petals fall around me. I loved it!

Which is why the cover of Cottonwood Whispers particularly hit home for me when I first saw it. I could have been that girl sitting under that tree with those cottony tufts floating around me, perfectly happy to sit there and enjoy it. But when I received my first copy of the finished product last week, the cover blew me away all over again.

When I write, I try to make it the best book I can, and it's a wonderful feeling to be confident that those I'm working with are doing the same thing on my behalf. So thanks to Dean Renninger for creating the perfect cover! And thanks to everyone at Tyndale (Stephanie Broene, Sarah Mason, Maggie Rowe and Babette Rea, just to name a few) who worked so hard to make Cottonwood Whispers the best it could be!

Cottonwood Whispers releases September 1st! Check it out online at,, etc. And watch for it in stores next month.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Novel To Look Forward To

Now available for preorder from - Thicker Than Blood
by CJ Darlington, the latest winner of the Christian Writers Guild's Operation First Novel contest.

Christy Williams finally has her life on track.
She’s putting her past behind her and working hard to build a career as an antiquarian book buyer. But things begin to unravel when a stolen Hemingway first edition is found in her possession, framing her for a crime she didn’t commit. With no one to turn to, she yearns for her estranged, younger sister, May, who she abandoned in their childhood after their parents’ untimely deaths. Soon Christy’s fleeing from her shattered dreams, her ex-boyfriend, and God. May’s Triple Cross ranch could be the safe haven she’s searching for, but will the sisters realize that each possesses what the other desperately needs before it’s too late?

Here's what people are saying...

“C. J. Darlington is the kind of new novelist that makes us at the Christian Writers Guild proud. With careful attention to detail, emotion, and scene-setting, C.J. Darlington scores with her debut effort. Here is a special writer you won’t want to miss.”
Jerry B. Jenkins, New York Times best-selling author and owner of the Christian Writers Guild

“If you love a good read filled with adventure and ultimately redemption, I encourage you to brew the tea, settle into your favorite chair and pick up the page turner that is C.J. Darlington’s imaginative new novel of a modern day sisterhood that triumphs over separation and the raw challenges of life to find the real endurance of both family ties and God’s amazing grace.”
Rebecca St. James, Grammy Award-winning recording artist

Sounds like a great read, so pop on over and reserve your copy!

Monday, August 10, 2009

An engaging sequel

An engaging sequel

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Monday, August 3, 2009

A Couple Of Book Recommendations...

I recently had the week off which meant, aside from eating chocolate and taking naps, plenty of reading time on the front porch! And I was fortunate to have a couple good books on hand.

First, I finished up Things Left Unspoken by Eva Marie Everson. If you like a good Southern drama (and you know I do!), you'll enjoy this one. Set in the thick of the South, the novel follows Jo-Lynn Hunter back to her hometown of Cottonwood, Georgia for her uncle's funeral, where she snags a job remodeling the family home into a museum. But a crumbling marriage, family secrets, and violent attacks threaten to keep her from seeing the project through. It's an entertaining read with a great cast of characters and a lot of Southern charm.

Then I slipped on over to a crime drama, The Stones Cry Out by Sibella Giorello. If you're okay with the grittiness that comes with the genre, you should check this one out. FBI agent Raleigh Harmon is called in to conduct a civil rights investigation and is quickly drawn into a web of questionable politicians, angry citizens and witnesses who won't talk. But, knowing the sting of violent crime for herself, Raleigh is determined to discover the truth at all costs. Snappy writing and a quickly-paced plot make this one a lot of fun. And it's set in my hometown of Richmond, VA so it was particularly enjoyable for me to see the many landmarks I'm so familiar with!

So run out and grab some new books. Summer's almost over. Read 'em while you can!