Thursday, January 27, 2011


This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing   Rhythm of Secrets   Kregel Publications (December 22, 2010) by Patti Lacy 

I don't usually appreciate books set in Louisiana. Most of them make us look like idiots and exaggerate anything and everything that has to do with Louisiana culture. Not so with The Rhythm of Secrets. Patti Lacy had me wishing I could walk the streets of 1940s New Orleans. Two of my favorite books set in our state are Night Jasmine by Mary Lou Widmer and Five Smooth Stones by Ann Fairbairn. I'll add The Rhythm of Secrets as the third.

Lacy is a master storyteller. And she takes her own sweet time telling every intricate detail of the story, rounding out her characters until we readers could pick them out of a police line-up. I'd like to fault her for that because I like a faster pace, but honestly, I believe I took every breath her characters took, sighed every sigh, shared every tear. Lacy's characters aren't cardboard people--they're real. They're the kind we recognize on the streets, in the grocery stores, we think about them long after we've put her book away.

Patti Lacy is a top-notch writer. I became so fascinated by her skills, the rhythm of her story, that I had to know more about how she pulled it together. Read about the author and the book, then scroll all the way to the bottom to learn more about how Patti Lacy writes.

Patti Lacy, Baylor graduate, taught community college humanities until God called her to span seas and secrets in her novels, An Irishwoman's Tale and What the Bayou Saw. She has two grown children and a dog named Laura. She and her husband can be seen jog-walking the streets of Normal, Illinois, an amazing place to live for a woman born in a car. For more information, visit Patti's website at, her blog at , and her Facebook daily Artbites.

Sheila Franklin has masqueraded as the precocious daughter of avant-garde parents in colorful 1940s New Orleans, a teen desperate for love and acceptance, and an unwed mother sent North with her shame.

After marrying Edward, Sheila artfully masks her secrets, allowing Edward to gain prominence as a conservative pastor. When one phone call from a disillusioned Vietnam veteran destroys her cover, Sheila faces an impossible choice: save her son and his beloved…or imperil Edward’s ambitions.

Inspired by a true story, The Rhythm of Secrets intermingles jazz, classical, and sacred music in a symphony trumpeting God’s grace.

If you would like to read an excerpt of Rhythm of Secrets, go HERE. If you want to read an interview with Patti Lacy, keep reading.

1) Patti, how long did it take you to write The Rhythm of Secrets? Rough draft, from beginning to end?

Well, I can tell you EXACTLY, Jessica. This question is DOCUMENTED! I mean, I could TESTIFY IN COURT!!!

On the morning of July 8, 2007, I opened the Chicago Tribune. Coffee (yeah, I’m an addict of this substance. Also tea and chocolate) sloshed onto the table…and I didn’t care. Gail Rosenblum’s article about a mother giving up…and then reclaiming…a child caught my heart and wouldn’t let go. The idea for my third story rustled right there in the newspaper pages, begging to be SET FREE!

This third literary adventure ended, I guess, when I turned in my FINAL galley proofs sometime in November, I believe. Will you keep a secret? I was allowed not the usual ONE, but TWO have-at-its at the galley proofs. There were just so many rhythms to try to get in sync.

2) If you will, please tell me a little something about how you pull a story together--outline it completely, seat of the pants plotting or what? I know you say your stories begin when a mental image grabs hold of your imagination and when that image begins to haunt you, you commit it to a computer file. Can you elaborate a little about your writing/plotting process.

I use a modified snowflake process. Capture the story in a couple of sentences. Then I write a summary paragraph. The part I AGONIZE over is that long synopsis that encapsulates all the plot elements, the character. UGH!!! Then I do the old-fashioned Roman numeral scene outline.

As I am wildly emotional and flexible and let the Spirit whisper scenes, there’s much room in all my writing for seat-of-the-pants!

Getting the first draft on paper for me is ALWAYS like drawing blood from a collapsed vein. That is when one of my few writing rules SAVES me. DO THREE PAGES A DAY. No. Matter. WHAT. Three pages a day (yes, I get weekends off most of the time) is WELL over a novel in a year.

3) I know this is based on a true event--have you received any feedback from Sandy?

Yes!!! I sent parts of the manuscript to Sandy, who said they were SO hard to read, how did I KNOW HOW SHE FELT? That conversation SO rocked!!

4) Your sentences literally sing. How did you reach this point of writing perfection? Do you have a critique group? Beta readers? A husband who looks over your chapters? A fantastic editor who doesn't let you get away with sloppiness or is it God's gift to you?

Oh, Jessica, you are talking to the woman who was granted TWO galley proof reads because of such messy writing. Only God knows how many hours I spend editing, printing, reading, and then doing the whole thing again. I REALLY believe in reading aloud. I know, it’s a pain. But for me it helps find a rhythm.

I am gifted with TWO AMAZING critique partners whom I believe care as much about my work as I do. They intuit what my characters need and what needs to be slashed and burned. LOVE THEM! My agent is the same way, as are the fantastic editors I’ve so far worked with, both at Kregel and now at Bethany House.

Um, my shelves sag with writing books. I judge contests and see what works. EVERY BOOK I READ (well, now that I have a Kindle, there’s a few exceptions) I mark, make comments in the margins, line edit. It is WORK, all the time! So every one of these books is tax-deductible. I inhale books. In fact, most nights, I read myself to sleep.

5) You take stories you've heard and weave them into stories that entertain readers but also, that readers can identify with. Do people approach you and say, "I have a story you can write--" What's your response? You probably also have friends say, "Patti, I don't want to see that in a book!" :)

I’m getting more and more of that and am actually looking at two such stories right now. It’s really fun to see if I can puzzle-piece things from real life into a novel. My two critique partners are actually RIGHT NOW helping me evaluate a story from the 1940s Wisconsin!!! There’s also two I’m considering from Normal, Illinois (my town) and one about a Hispanic girl, torn at the border of Mexico and the U.S.

6) Your writing is perfect. It does make me wonder at, and admire (and envy) your very obvious God-given talent. But tell me about your editor and your relationship with her/him. Does s/he ask for revision? for fleshing out? for changes? You have to be every editor’s dream author.

Oh, my, would you post that on all the negative reviews? Isn’t that why freedom of speech is so great? One reader’s Les Miserables is another reader’s slush pile.

Let me assure you, though I did want to bask in the glimmery light of your compliment for just a moment, that my writing is EONS from perfect. I hammer away at this craft CONSTANTLY. Yes, my editors play a HUGE role in getting the writing right. (Did you like that little play on words?) Also throw another bouquet of roses or chocolate, in these women’s case, to those critique partners.

Oh, wait! I didn’t mention Natasha Kern, my AMAZING agent. Talk about a tough critic. She reads our proposals and rips them to shreds. Then we redo. Rip. Check out the dedication in Rhythms. Yep. That’s my Natasha.

Get the picture? By the time Natasha quizzes and questions and rearranges, the next step seems like an easy breath!

Another thing, my strength is prose. A weakness? Plot. Novel structure. Moral premise type thingies. Da-da-da-da. Here comes the cavalry. Oh, no! It’s just those great crit partners, again to the rescue. Yep. Those are their strong points!!! It so works!!!

Patti, I can hear God saying in his booming voice from the heavens: Patti, you will write stories for ME and about ME. They will be perfect. You will hear the perfect rhythm of my voice and heart.

Wow. Thank you. As I write, I DO feel the Spirit whisper. I am so grateful for that and LOVE those times. When I was rushing for my fourth baby’s deadline, just recently, God POURED ideas into my heart. My crit partners were on call, one even driving hard copies of the manuscript to my house. It truly was one of the most wonderful times of my life.

And there you have it, folks. Rhythm of Secrets by Patti Lacy and a few of her writing secrets. Another Lacy book set in Louisiana is What The Bayou Saw. Read about it HERE.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What Do You Want To Be?

Have you ever wanted to be an editor? I have. Nothing is scarier than getting what you want. I can remember when I was labeled Assistant Editor of The Times of Southwest Louisiana and sat down to proof and edit that first issue. Talk about fear! I realized just how much I didn’t know.

There are times I’ve longed to start a POD company and publish those wonderful books by friends—those books that haven’t found a home yet.

There are times I’ve really wanted to be an agent so I could aggressively pitch those books by friends that seem to have no advocate.

There are times I’ve thought about being a publicist so I could draw attention to my writer friends who seem to be doing nothing to promote themselves.

When am I going to find myself? Much to my husband’s chagrin, I really do want it all.

That being said … my friend Jan Rider Newman and I have joined together to produce—edit and publish—Swamp Lily Review, a journal of Louisiana literature and arts. (To get to know Jan better, read my interview with her HERE.) Over coffee we brainstormed ideas, talked about what we would do and wouldn’t do, fretted over finding the perfect swamp lily. Finally, we did find the perfect swamp lily, a photograph by Jeff Dalzel. Look in my right hand corner--I think you’ll admit it’s truly beautiful. We thank Jeff for allowing us to use it. Jan, a website novice, has slaved over pulling it all together. She’s done a marvelous job, and I look good because of it.

I invite you to read over our first issue of Swamp Lily Review. Today, I’m a publisher. Thanks Jan!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Some Things Are Just Weird

I’m in Houston this week. Looking out my 11th floor window, I see a fountain, the freeway and constant movement. In fact, Houston seems always to be in a state of movement. Even in this hotel, there’s activity everywhere—employees trying to keep guests happy, men and women attending business seminars. I feel totally out of place until someone hollers, “Hello Mrs. Ferguson.” That happens quite often. My husband befriends everyone he meets so they’re very curious when the wife comes to town. I feel as though they’re checking me out to see what kind of woman is married to the friendly, kind, inquisitive, helpful, godly guy they see each week. Is she as nice as he is or is she a demanding snob? Is she worthy--because he gives the young clerk advice on business courses and she actually grabs a pen and takes notes. He looks at pictures of the plumbing fixtures one of the young men has chosen for his new home. He talks to the valets about their foreign homes. They’re surprised when he's actually heard of their small cities, towns, villages, and that he can share trivia about their government. He even went to the hospital to visit when one of them had brain surgery.

This isn’t the blog post I’d intended. I wanted to tell you about my word—a word that jumped out at me and claimed me. I know writers who claim, choose, pray about or grab hold of a word for each New Year. I’ve never done that—never claimed, chosen, prayed for a word to guide or inspire me through a new year—but I’ve been pretty curious about how all that comes about. Well… now I know how it comes about. It just does.

My word leaped out at me when I was reading something. Everything around it fell away and it’s the only word I saw. It meant something to me. I recognized it. I knew deep down in my gut that it was MY word and something that I would experience over and over again during 2011. Sounds crazy. My word just came today—not all nice and neat at midnight of December 31, 2010 so I could officially start the New Year with it. And though my word just claimed me today, I can look back over the past few weeks and see that I’ve been experiencing it since the first of the year in a number of ways. Want to know what it is? Sure you do!


In 2011 I’m going to rediscover myself and my love for writing. I’m going to rediscover my love for God, for life, my art, my dreams, my goals, my poetry, my novels and their characters and my friends.

Evidently, I’m going to rediscover a lot more because when I look out this 11th floor window, in spite of the constant movement, all I can see is the good of my husband.


Do you have a word that symbolizes what your year might bring? Or a word that offers encouragement? Share!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Too Much Too Soon

Oh. My. Goodness. What have I done? I'm getting too busy too fast.

Jan 1 - NovelTrack - write 1200 words a day during the month of January. This challenge is through American Christian Fiction Writers. Today I wrote 1,321 but believe me it was like pulling teeth and I'm not sure what I wrote is salvageable. I had planned to start a new project but at the last minute, decided to complete one of my partials. The book is completely outlined. I thought that might make it easier. Who was I kidding?

Jan 4 - 22: Plotting or Plodding with Gail Gaymer Martin
I have Gail's how-to book and I'm looking forward to the class. I'm a horribly weak plotter.

Jan 7 - Poetry reading. I must be nuts!

Jan 22 - Bird by Bird 1-day Creative NF workshop @ McNeese.
Dr. Delma Porter is presenting this workshop. I have no idea what to expect.

March 1 - 31: MS Word for Writers by Catherine Chant
I'm really computer fuzzy. Probably know just enough to be dangerous so thought this class would give me an opportunity to ask questions if my questions aren't answered.

July 1 - 28: Curing the "What comes after the first 3 chapters" Blues by Beth Daniels
I'm really looking forward to this class! The title says it all. :)

To check out the classes, go HERE

And someone needs to hit me in the head with a STOP sign! or a WRITE sign?

What about you? Are you filling in your 2011 calendar?