Rare Earth by Davis Bunn

Another winner by Davis Bunn. There is so much great about this author that I fear I'm beginning to sound like a broken record (that is a vinyl disc for you digital natives).

In this novel, we are transported to Africa's volcanic field where people are suffering from drought and an eruption of a volcano. Mark Royce is hired to find out who is the bad guy. Bunn as usual infuses a situation with almost unbearable tension. (You'll bite your nails when reading the hotel room scene!).

Character development is quite interesting. With a few words, you can picture just exactly what each one looks like, and the personality development lends such color and dimension to the story. This is a completely stand alone story, although Marc Royce's story is continued. If you didn't meet him in Lion of Babylon, you'll be delighted to meet him in Rare Earth.

This is a 4 out of 5 star book!

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Rare Earth
Bethany House Publishers (July 1, 2012)
Davis Bunn


Born and raised in North Carolina, Davis left for Europe at age twenty. There he first completed graduate studies in economics and finance, then began a business career that took him to over forty countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Davis came to faith at age 28, while living in Germany and running an international business advisory group. He started writing two weeks later. Since that moment, writing has remained both a passion and a calling.

Davis wrote for nine years and completed seven books before his first was accepted for publication. During that time, he continued to work full-time in his business career, travelling to two and sometimes three countries every week. His first published book, The Presence, was released in 1990 and became a national bestseller.

Honored with three Christy Awards for excellence in historical and suspense fiction, his bestsellers include The Great Divide, Winner Take All, The Meeting Place, The Warning, The Book of Hours, and The Quilt.

A sought-after speaker in the art of writing, Davis serves as Writer In Residence at Regent’s Park College, Oxford University.


Marc Royce stares out of the helicopter, a sense of foreboding rising with the volcanic cloud. Below, the Rift Valley slashes across Africa like a scar. Decades of conflicts, droughts, and natural disasters have left their mark.

Dispatched to audit a relief organization, Royce is thrust into the squalor and chaos of Kenyan refugee camps. But his true mission focuses on the area's reserves of once-obscure minerals now indispensable to high-tech industries. These strategic elements--called rare earth--have inflamed tensions on the world's stage and stoked tribal rivalries. As Royce prepares to report back to Washington, he seizes on a bold and risky venture for restoring justice to this troubled land.

But this time, Royce may have gone too far.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Rare Earth, go HERE.


White space magic by Randy Ingermanson

One of the most common mistakes I see when I critique manuscripts is that the paragraphs are too long.

When I see a dense page of text that has only three or four paragraphs, I suspect the pace is going to be slow and the writing is going to be boring.

When I see a page with a lot of white space, I suspect the pace is going to be fast and the writing is going to have a lot of conflict.

Part of this is just a psychological illusion.

When a reader is reading a scene with a lot of white space, her eye zips rapidly down the page. Before she knows it, she's flipping the page, and then the next, and the next.

White space makes your reader feel like she's flying.

As I said, this is a psychological trick, and by itself it doesn't mean very much. Pace is about more than reading pages rapidly.

Pace is about the amount of conflict coming at the  reader on each page.

Fiction thrives on conflict.

Don't confuse conflict with mere physical action. Conflict is about trading punches, but most often those punches are verbal or psychological, not physical.

Conflict is a lawyer cross-examining a lying witness.

Conflict is a woman trying to get her man to tell her what he's really feeling.

Conflict is a baseball player stepping up to the plate with the tying run on third and facing the league's toughest pitcher in the final inning of the World Series.

Conflict is about back-and-forth.

You get the least conflict per page when you use a lot of description, narrative summary, and exposition. All of these tend to use long paragraphs that focus on a single thing.

You get the most conflict per page when you have a lot of action and dialogue and when you alternate rapidly between characters. Doing that will naturally give you a lot of short, punchy paragraphs.

The more paragraphs you have, the more white space on the page.

This isn't complicated, so I'm not going to belabor it. White space is magic, not because it CAUSES good writing but because it's an EFFECT of good writing.

If you've got a scene that your critiquers are telling you is slow and boring, take a look at how much white space you've got. You probably need more.

Look for every paragraph longer than five lines. Can you break it up?

It probably has some description or long explanation or something else that you're certain your reader can't live without.

Kill it. Get rid of it. Be a brute.

Here is where you protest that you can't do that -- your reader will hate you forever for cutting out that long horrible explanation about the history of mildew.

Fine, if it's that important, then cut it down to three lines.

But you know in your lying little heart that it's not that important.

It may be that the paragraph has no description or explanation at all. In fact, you may believe it's packed with action. The tiger and the vampire are locked in a wrestling match to the death.

But if that paragraph is longer than five lines, you're probably using narrative summary. You're telling your reader about the fight, rather than showing the fight.

If a fight is worth having in your story, it's worth showing, punch by punch, snarl by snarl, bite by bite.

Break up that long paragraph into a sequence of actions and reactions. One paragraph for the vampire, one for the tiger, back and forth, until you have a victor.

When you do that, you'll naturally produce a lot of white space.

Your eyes will tell you when you've done enough.

It's possible to go too far, of course.

You don't want to have an entire novel of one-line paragraphs. White space is wonderful, but there can be too much of a good thing.

I've seen two writers who used too much white space. Oddly enough, both of them are best-selling authors. I've never seen a bad writer use too much white space.

If too much white space is your problem, there's an easy fix for it. Just add in some interior monologue, some sensory description, and even an occasional bit of exposition to fatten up a few paragraphs.

White space is magic. White space is power. You know the drill. Great power, great responsibility.

Use it well.

This article is reprinted by permission of the author.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 31,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.


Long Game Discoverability by Randy Ingermanson

The buzzword that authors and publishers are using these days is "discoverability."

Is this sensible, or is this just the latest quackery? I'll give you my opinion, but first some context.

An enormous number of books get published every single day of the year. How is any one book supposed to stand out in the crowd when the crowd gets bigger and noisier every year?

That is the problem of "discoverability."

In the old days (say two or three years ago), publishers and authors had a few standard tools for getting a book discovered.

Publishers sent their books to the major reviewers. They paid hefty money to buy placement on the front table at Barnes & Noble and Borders and other booksellers. They paid publicists to get their authors on radio or TV.

Authors held book signings at bookstores. They put up web sites and blogs. They went on speaking tours. They hit the social media networks.

The purpose behind all of these methods was to get word-of-mouth going. Quickly.

The problem is that the old ways aren't working as well as they used to. There are far more books than there used to be.

Truth be told, the old ways never worked very well in the first place. For every success, there were plenty more failures, with no rhyme, no reason to explain the difference between success and failure.

Notice that most of the methods I mentioned above are actions with short-term effects.

The review magazines have an influence for the month they're printed. After that, not so much. Placement on the front table works for as many as days as you keep paying for that front table real estate. After that, not at all. A radio or TV interview is on today, gone tonight.

A booksigning works for the three hours you're in the store. After that, the bookstore people might remember you, maybe. When you give a talk, you can move a lot of copies at the back of the room today. As soon as you leave the venue, you don't move any copies. A tweet has
an effect for a few hours and then it's gone.

Short-term marketing made sense in the old days. Back then, a book had a shelf life of a few weeks. If it hadn't been discovered by then, the bookstore sent it back to the publisher for full credit and the book disappeared.

Publishers and authors had to play a short game because that was the only game in town.

They hoped that somehow, playing the short game hard enough would generate word of mouth.

Sometimes it did, and when it did, great things happened. But the short game has always been hit-or-miss. In the old days, if it didn't hit, the
game was over.

E-books have changed all that, because e-books are forever. There is no three-week ticking clock for e-books. Once an e-book goes on sale, it has an infinite length of time to be discovered.

That means that it now makes sense to put more effort into "long game discoverability."

If you spend all your marketing in short-term efforts, you are going to get all your returns as short-term results. But the instant you turn off the electricity, the marketing machine stops.

I suspect that there will be more winners in the future because there will be more choices. Because there is more time for each book to find its audience. Because more of the actual money goes to authors and less goes to those pesky "middlemen."

If that's true, then publishing is becoming a long game, and much more of your marketing effort should go into things that last. Things that make you discoverable next week, next month, next year, next decade.

You can only be doing so many things each day. If everything you do is for short-term results, then you can never get off the marketing treadmill.

Here are a few of the thousands of things that might make you more discoverable for the long haul. These are not guaranteed to work. A lot depends on how well you execute. But these are things that last:

* Web site articles or blog articles with content good enough to attract traffic from search engines.

Imagine spending an hour to write an article on a topic related to your book. Imagine posting it on your web site. Imagine that it brings in 100 page views every day. (This is not a huge number.) Imagine having a blurb about your book on that page.

In a year, that blurb would be seen by more than 36,000 people. In a decade, 365,000 pairs of eyeballs would see it.

That's not nearly as sexy as spending an hour on a TV show. But which do you think is more effective at selling your book, long-term?

* Guest blogs with an "about the author" blurb that links back to your web site.

I saw a question this morning on an e-mail loop for authors asking whether blog tours work. I have my doubts about the short-term effectiveness of a blog tour.

But I know for certain that a link from a blog to your web site lasts pretty much forever. Incoming links really help your site get noticed by the search engines. Incoming links last a long, long time.

If this is part of your marketing strategy, then do your guest posts on blogs that actually get traffic, because a link from a high-traffic blog is worth more to you.

I suppose doing a guest blog isn't as exciting as speaking to 100 people in a room and selling 25 copies of your book. But guess which one lasts longer?

* Your author page on Goodreads.

Goodreads is a social network for readers. That's the whole point of the site -- to help readers discover books and authors.

Any author can have a profile page on Goodreads. It lists all your books, with links to major retailers. It includes blurbs for each one. It lets readers click a button to become your fan.

There is a lot to like about Goodreads. You can post excerpts of your books. You can get various widgets to embed in your blog or web site. You can link in your blog so that new blog entries show up in Goodreads.

Facebook and Twitter get all the hype right now. But neither of these social networks are exclusively about books. Goodreads is.

If you've got limited time to spend on social media, then Goodreads seems like the smart place to spend it.

* The "Also Bought" list on the online retailers.

On every book page on Amazon, there's a section labeled "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought". There are similar sections on B&N and Smashwords. This is the online equivalent of browsing in a bookstore.

The "Also Bought" list means that each of your books is an advertisement for your other books.

If you have a sizable backlist of books, then your books can cross-promote each other very nicely.

This means that it's entirely possible that your best marketing strategy might be to just write more books. I don't know any way to prove this, but it's possible.

In my opinion, the days of exclusively using short-game marketing are over. If you want to see a quick bump in sales, then yes, use some of the short-term marketing methods.

But a long game now makes sense. Think about marketing tasks you can do today that will still be working for you ten years from now.

And relax.

Marketing isn't a lottery anymore. Now it's a matter of making smart long-term investments that will pay off forever.

This article is reprinted by permission of the author.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 31,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.


Nothing to Hide by Mark Bertrand

I've been intrigued by Bertrand's Roland March series. Bertrand has developed his characters into something that is compelling enough for you to keep turning pages. He also excels in writing in the present tense which is one of the hardest forms of writing prose. It is so difficult to keep the pace within the correct tense, be it something that a character did in the past, or will do in the future or what is happening at the moment. Present tense, for many readers, adds a breathlessness to action because you are running after a suspect; not the character ran after the suspect in the past tense. If not done correctly, the storyline can get convoluted.

In the first two novels, Bertrand accomplished the feat superbly. In this one (all books are stand alone) he doesn't seem to be on top of his game. It almost seems hurried and the quality has suffered. However, only someone who has read all the books would be able to tell. You won't be disappointed. The story line is good, new characters are developed well and you, dear reader, become suspicious the same time March does so you are not reading along and saying to March, "Dummy, you forgot that clue! Think about this! Sheesh, what a stupido." The suspense is very good, and you really feel for March as he once again stands on his conviction all by himself against the stacked odds.

I give it 4 of 5 stars. It's worth the money.


This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Nothing to Hide
Bethany House Publishers (July 1, 2012)
J. Mark Bertrand


J. Mark Bertrand lived in Houston, where the series is set, for fifteen years,
earning an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Houston. But after
one hurricane too many he left for South Dakota. Mark has been arrested
for a crime he didn't commit, was the foreman of one hung jury and served
on another that acquitted Vinnie Jones of assault. In 1972, he won an
honorable mention in a child modeling contest, but pursued writing instead.


A grisly homicide. An international threat.
The stakes have never been higher for
Detective Roland March.

The victim's head is missing, but what intrigues Detective Roland March
is the hand. The pointing finger must be a clue--but to what? According
to the FBI, the dead man was an undercover asset tracking the flow of
illegal arms to the Mexican cartels. To protect the operation, they want
March to play along with the cover story. With a little digging, though, he
discovers the Feds are lying. And they're not the only ones.

In an upside-down world of paranoia and conspiracy, March finds himself
dogged by injury and haunted by a tragic failure. Forced to take justice into
his own hands, his twisting investigation leads him into the very heart of
darkness, leaving March with nothing to lose--and nothing to hide.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Nothing to Hide, go HERE.
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