When Mockingbirds Sing–New Book by Billy Coffey

Few books leave me feeling numb, but after I finished reading Billy Coffey’s novel, When Mockingbirds Sing, I had to sit back and take a deep breath.

It’s not an easy novel to read. One of the main point-of-view characters is a nine-year-old girl with an imaginary friend who, she claims, tells her what is going to happen. Another important character is an elderly man who is saddled with the care of his invalid wife, forgotten by his church family. To complete the story, the author uses the town minister to round out the points of view, contrasting him with the girl’s atheistic father, who is a practicing psychologist. Interesting mix of personalities.

This story is not a romance, or a thriller, it’s a story about faith and faithfilled people—the good, the  bad, and even the ugly.  The residents of the town consider themselves God-fearing folks, but when the new family leaves a busy city life to move into their midst, the townspeople  greet them with suspicion—especially their stuttering daughter. An invisible line is drawn to indicate how far the family can go to fit in. As the newcomers become more acquainted with different individuals, the town’s façade is stripped away, tragedy strikes, and the townspeople are forced to face their shortcomings.

The story could happen anywhere, in any mainstream church, in any community. The leading characters are everyday people and the  conflict is not an uncommon one.  Some readers may find this book offensive, because they will discover themselves on the wrong side of the imaginary line. Others may identify with the family and nod at the picture the author paints—well-intentioned people getting sidetracked from their original mission, allowing themselves to be absorbed into a clique of judgment, distrust, and lack of compassion.

In the book of Matthew, people ask Jesus when they had seen him sick or imprisoned? He answers: Matthew 25:40-41 (NKJV) “. . .inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these, my brethren, you did it to Me.”

Whoever reads this will not close the book unchanged. Available from Thomas Nelson Publishers and wherever good books are sold.

New Apps for Writers–Finding an Agent

In recent years procedures in publishing have changed as routinely as technology has advanced. When I first wrote in the late seventies, a manuscript was packaged with a cover letter and mailed in a manila envelope to the editor. In the event the prose was rejected, every article was accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope to insure the manuscript’s return.

Not so today. Almost everything is submitted electronically. Rejections fly home via cyberspace.

If you get a rejection, that is.

Some web sites state that if the writer doesn’t hear anything within six weeks, the company is not interested. No “Sorry Charlie” letters for you.

But more than that, with the deluge of written manuscripts landing on publisher’s desks, most, if not all, companies now require material to be submitted through an agent—one more hurdle for the beginning writer to clear.

I approached my first agent candidate in 2009. I loved her, took a class from her, and our initial meeting was fun. She asked for my manuscript, but six months later she wrote me a nice note saying that though there was a lot to like in my writing, she’d have to pass on representation for me because her agent load had increased substantially since we’d met. Rejection noted.

A second agent became excited about me when I was offered an initial contract with a major publisher. But after a couple of bends in the road we didn’t click. Another rejection notch on my gun.

A week ago, I signed a contract with an agent I’d met at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. A gracious lady with a reputation for getting things done in the publishing world, she honestly appraised  my work, made suggestions for change, and when I met her criteria, began the process of submitting to publishers. I’d finally cleared that hurdle I’d worked for several years to achieve.

Having her on my team is like breathing fresh air. She’s terrific—making the contacts for me, and reporting back on what she hears. I feel as if I’ve moved to a different level in my career. An amazing ride. I know God had this partnership planned from the onset.

If you are a beginning writer, and you’ve been turned down by an agent or two, don’t despair. Pray about your choices. Work on your craft. God in His timing will bring you together with the person He planned for you from the beginning. Trust me, it will be worth the wait.

On the Edge of Your Seat–Author Brandilyn Collins

Do you like to read something that makes your spine tingle, your heart race, and your mind scamper for clues? And yet, with all those elements the story still reads with clean text and faith-based characters?

Impossible, you say?

Meet Brandilyn Collins, author of seat-of-your-pants-suspense.

Violet Dawn is the first novel I’ve read in Collins’ prolific offering of  great stories. What I found were characters who were warm and caring, but action that made me truly not want to put the book down.

Collins writes in short chapters, giving readers enough thrill to make them tense and just enough information to keep them reading. At the end of every page, she hooks the reader into making the turn to the next one. In Violet Dawn, we know who the villain is, who the accused is, and watch as those investigating the crime approach their roles with loving hearts and discerning minds—not the cold, hardcore evidence-kinds-of-people we see in current sitcoms. A refreshing tale for justice.

This weekend Brandilyn will be the featured speaker at the Oregon Christian Writers Conference at Multnomah University in Portland. If you’re in the neighborhood you should drop by and hear her. I’ve met Brandilyn before at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in Fenton, CA and again at the ACFW conferences in Dallas and Indianapolis. She’s a funny lady with a great sense of humor, as well as an open and caring heart. At almost every event I’ve attended with her, she leads the prayer room team.

Check out her other offerings on her website: Seatbelt Suspense® at BrandilynCollins.com or at Amazon books or ChristianBook.com

Multnomah University

8435 NE Glisan St

Portland, Oregon

9 a.m.- 4 p.m.

Registration costs will apply where applicable


Never Begin With A Dark and Stormy Night

The stone wall prevented the branch from falling to the ground, avoiding more damage.

Even if it is …

Every writer with any experience knows *Snoopy’s classic introduction to his doomed novel should be avoided. Yet this past week no beginning could have been more fitting when Oregon preserved its reputation as a wet state and cloudy skies dumped record levels of rainfall over the Willamette Valley. Even diehard fans of the University of Oregon Ducks left the home game early, seeking shelter from what some described as a monsoon, their pockets and shoes full of water.

The inciting incident followed Sunday night—a  loud crash in my kitchen, as though the ice maker had deposited an entire container of ice instead of the usual cluster of four. My daughter emerged from the computer room to report the internet had quit. Further inspection revealed the modem connection missing its third light and a dead telephone landline. A check of the cables found everything as it should be, but when I returned to the kitchen and gazed out my window at the night sky, I stopped. Instead of seeing the shadows of tree limbs and fluttering leaves in the darkness, all I saw was the haze of a full moon filtering through the downpour.

Something was definitely wrong.

Begin Act II

Morning proved the disaster was everything we feared. A huge limb, about twenty inches in circumference and probably twenty feet long, had sheered off the trunk ten feet above the ground. In its path lay all the utility lines—power and phone alike. Those missing leaves from the night before were laying on the neighbor’s roof, poking three holes in his new shingles and causing leaks. And every tree service in the area jumped into emergency mode.

Armed with a chain saw, a pole pruner, and a ladder, my husband climbed on the neighbor’s roof and removed the branches. A call to the roofer followed as well as to the utility company. By late Monday my neighbor’s house was well on its way to recovery.

But we remained in anxious mode. The phone company wouldn’t touch the cable because it lay under the tree branch. The utility company unhooked us and reattached the line above the mess.

Climax and denouement

Finally, on Friday, the tree service arrived and removed the offending branch, the phone service returned and the internet restored. I won’t tell you how many e-mails were waiting for me after five days, nor will I tell you how many cupboards I washed filling Facebook time. All my husband’s work buddies are waiting to remove the stack of firewood created.

 The happy ending is no one was injured, life is good, and God is great.  Talk to you next week. I hope.

  • Snoopy is the wordless dog created by Charles Schultz who is always writing a book that begins, “It was a dark and stormy night…