Monday, December 31, 2007

It's That Time Again...

'Tis the season for new goals and dreams for 2008. Got any? I always enjoy making my list of things I'd like to accomplish but this year, I believe I'll let the year unfold as it's meant to, trusting God that it's all happening according to His perfect plan. However, I do hope I can finish another book, teach myself to write faster and lose pounds. :)

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

See you next year!

Sunday, December 23, 2007


'Tis the season to celebrate JESUS!

I pray
incredible joy
fills your soul
you and your loved ones
are warmed by
His presence
for Christmas

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Need One More Gift?

Some book stores are selling Chicken Soup for the Chocolate Lover's Soul packaged with a bar of Ghirardelli chocolate. Mmmmmm, good! If you prefer to buy a single copy you might want to take advantage of the buy one, get one half-price deals out there. Add a box of milk duds and reference my story on page 167. :) What a 'sweet' little gift for the mailman. Photobucket">

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Can You Identify with these Movies?

This short take is too wonderful not to share. I found it at First Day Blog Alliance. Take a look:

Okay, I've heard "It's not bad, it's just not good enough." Have you? So how do we make our stories good enough?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

In Memory of Lela

I went to a funeral last week. A very special writer friend/critique partner passed away. We used to sit around Lela's kitchen table--western/mystery writer Kent Conwell, novelist/travel writer Rogayle Franklin and me--munch popcorn and read each other's work. (Through the years, other writers came and went: Jane, Alice, Lauren and Chaney). We'd pass our chapters from right to left, writing comments in different colored ink. Every now and then, Lela would break the silence with, "Kent, I think this is the best thing you've ever written." She'd say it with such conviction we'd have no doubt it was Kent's best work. And then she'd say almost the same to us. Lela really meant what she said to each of us. There wasn't anything phony about her. We believed her, because Lela never lied.

Things I heard at the funeral:
"Lela was always upbeat."
"Lela was never in a rotten mood."
"Lela knew how to make people feel good."
"Lela was gracious, kind, never said anything bad about anyone."

It stands to reason that if everyone says the same thing, then it's true. Isn't that what they tell us about our contest entries? If more than one judge makes the same comment, then we need to take that comment to heart?

Lela was a genunine Southern lady, and a very good writer. She never seemed to get discouraged. She joyfully plugged away, writing, winning and placing in contests, and encouraging the rest of us. Maybe such contentment and professionalism came from being a successful journalist, interviewing handsome stars like Rock Hudson. She rubbed shoulders with the beautiful people. In her very special way, she was one of them.

I loved listening to Lela's writing and interviewing experiences, and seeing the yellowed newspaper clippings of her standing beside someone famous. She told me about interviewing one of the most beautiful women in the world. They were sitting at a table talking and Lela happened to look down at the woman's sandaled feet.
"That beautiful woman had the ugliest feet I've ever seen," Lela whispered to me. I can still hear the amazement in her voice. :)

I can't begin to describe the heaviness in my heart at losing this dear friend. Much to my surprise, her obit stated she was 86 years old. Not the Lela I knew. She was young and giggly and filled with dreams. She wanted everyone around her to be as happy as she was. She proved that by requesting we all leave the funeral home and grab a helium balloon on her behalf. They were waiting at the door for us:Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

And then we set them free with smiles on our faces. See the beginning of many as they floated into the sky.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I saw Lela a few months ago. I hugged her goodbye when I left her home, not knowing it would be my last time to see her. I can't remember if I told her I loved her. I never told her that out of all the fine ladies I know, she's the one I'd choose to be like. How does one become soft-spoken, kind, positive, continously happy and content? Maybe I should have asked her those questions instead of some of the writer-related questions I asked.

This is my friend. She was beautiful inside and out.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
July 2, 1921 - November 24, 2007

This scripture reminds me of Lela.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. ~1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Short Stories, Anyone?

In my younger days, I loved short stories. Reading them and writing them. I remember racing home during my lunch hour to read Hemingway's Nick Adams stories over a tuna sandwich. Nice break from my secretarial position in the district attorney's office.

I enjoyed reading the short fiction in Cosmopolitian, Redbook, Alfred Hitchcock magazine and Ellery Queen. Literary magazines cluttered my coffee table. Sadly, and in spite of all my creative writing classes, I never mastered the beginning, middle and end of the short story. Most of my rejections came back with "nice slice of life but not a short story." At some point I gave up. Unfortunately, I gave up reading them too.

Recently, I stumbled across a fun little literary magazine that has whetted my appetite for short fiction again. Check out The First Line. This is no fly-by-night literary magazine. The First Line has been around for ten years, and their purpose is to jump start the imagination and help writers break through the block that is the blank page. Each issue contains short stories that stem from a common first line. Can't get much more fun and challenging than that. How many different directions can we take when we start from the same place?

I have my very own copy of the Fall issue of The First Line, and I'm impressed. Want to write short stories? Believe me, it's a nice break from the long stuff. Why not accept the challenge The First Line offers: Create a story using their following line:

Sometimes the name they give you is all wrong.

The Deadline is Feb. 1, 2008. Check out The First Line for details and submission requirements. In fact, go ahead and subscribe. You won't regret it.

Sometimes the name they give you is all wrong.

Works for me--I've never felt like a Jessica!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

For Your Information

Here are a few quotes that also serve as writing tips:

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and lightning bug. ~Mark Twain

There are a lot of ways to enjoy a civilized life while keeping your feelings hidden--but not at the typewriter. ~Bob Baker

Typewriter? what's that? :)

I divide all readers into two classes: those who read to remember and those who read to forget. ~William Lyon Phelps

Begin every story in the middle. The reader doesn't care how it begins, he wants to get on with it. ~Louis L'Amour

All writing is a form of prayer. ~John Keats

And my personal favorite:

A bad book is as much a labor to write as a good one; it comes as sincerely from the author's soul. ~Aldous Huxley

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Plotter? Pantser? You Decide

My partipation in NaNoWriMo has been a learning experience. I had a very vague idea, made notes on the first three chapters then sat down and started writing something entirely different. So far I have little more than 10,000 words and I have no idea where they came from. :) I've never done this. I've never just sat with laptop in lap and pounded out a story. It's fun. I like my main character. She's a little ditsy but not unlike the rest of her family. I especially like the hero who's a pretty straight-forward kind of guy. :) I never did like (or trust) beat-around-the-bush, secretive people. Maybe that's why I have such a rough time with politicians, but we don't need to go there, do we? :-(

This spontaneous seat of the pants writing is teaching me that I can do it. More than that, it's showing me some bad habits and weaknesses I have. Funny how those things are jumping out at me now when I'm not supposed to be paying attention to anything but getting the story down. So, these 40+ pages I've typed are riddled with yellow and red highlights. I can't edit, but I can sure highlight where I want to go back and cut or flesh out. I guess that really does make me a plotter. I'm plotting my rewrites.

If you want to read more about plotting or seat of the pants writing, check out these sites. You can even take a quiz to learn who and what you are--writing-wise, that is.

And if you didn't participate in this year's NaNoWriMo, plot to participate next year. You won't regret it.

Check the following sites to learn more about Plotters and Pantsers:

Karen Story

The Writing Life: All Kinds of Writing

What kind of Writer are You?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


What fun! I'm all geared up to participate in this year's National Novel Writing Month and my computer is on the blink. It's so slow. But that's okay. I've plotted the first few chapters of a new idea. I'll be writing but I might not be posting too much.

Chris Baty is my hero this month. I've listened to a couple of radio interviews he has given and he sounds so . . . enthusiastic. His voice makes me want to sit down and produce something. This morning I read every word of his On Your Mark, Get Set . . . Dear NaNoWriMo participant and I like what he said: There is a door in your brain. That door has been there your entire life. ... Once you've stepped through that door into the vast reaches of your imagination, you'll be able to return there as often as you like. This is one of those quotes that find a special place on my computer so I can read it over and over and over again. :)

I'm a real sucker for contests and challenges such as this. I wrote a novel when I belonged to Survivor Writers, a Yahoo group. If we didn't produce seven pages per week, we got the ax. We'd have to sit out a week before we were invited back in. My group was actually the mini-group. The "big girls" had to produce fifteen pages a week. Whew!

My husband thinks I'm nuts when I do this sort of thing. He wonders why I have to have a carrot dangling in front of my nose to motivate me. I have no idea. I guess because . . . I like carrots. :-)

Am I the only person out there who requires a little something extra to get her going? I sure hope not!

Happy Noveling all you NaNoWriMo partipants. It should be real fun.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Talk To Me, David and Maddie!

Do you ever listen to people talk? Funny, huh?

Years ago I attended a great RWA workshop on dialogue. The editor who spoke to us was from LoveSwept, one of my favorite romance lines. Unfortunately, LoveSwept is no longer around. The editor shared a great tip with us. She said to watch the sitcom Moonlighting, pay attention to how Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis sparred with each other and we'd learn how to write dialogue.

But do you ever listen--really hear--the way real people talk?

I have a friend who ends every few sentences with the phrase, you know what I'm saying? I want to shout, "Of course, I know what you're saying, I'm not a complete idiot." I just grit my teeth and listen.

My husband ends every few sentences with the word right. No, I don't grit my teeth and listen. Sometimes I say Right! right back to him. Other times I say wrong just to get his attention about right. Once I even asked what I'm supposed to say when he says right. I haven't received a satisfactory answer.

My stepson ends his sentences with the word anyway. Something like, "We were driving over on I-10 and this car came out of nowhere and sideswiped the car in front of us. We thought they were going to crash but they didn't. Anyway. . ." And that's the end of his sentence.

In college I had a photography professor who used a word over and over again. It drove us crazy and by his own admission, drove him crazy too. One day he brought an empty bucket to class and told us to toss a coin in it every time he said that word. (Wish I could remember what it was--but too many years have passed.) Of course, you know what happened. We tossed our coins and he went home with coffee money. :) I wonder if he's still saying that annoying word and making money from it.

Before you decide I'm a meany for making fun of my family and friends, yes, I have a word I use too. It's not unlike how my stepson uses anyway. My word is . . . so . . ."I went to the ACFW conference and met my crit group there. We sat in one of the rooms and hate chocolate and discussed our plans to meet with editors and agents. I haven't really decided how I want to proceed from here. So . . . (shrug)" And then I'll look at you in a way that invites you to finish my sentence and tell me what to do. :-)

The point here is, we can't write our dialogue the way we talk in real life, but we can learn from those silly sitcoms. Try this: Sit with your eyes closed and listen. There's a rhythm to their interaction that you'll hear and feel. Listen to what they're saying and how they're saying it. Pretty soon, your dialogue will be just as snappy as your favorite TV characters.
Anyway. . .
So. . . (shrug)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Hooking an Editor: You Tell Me - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more
When you go to the book store, do you flip open one book after another to check out the first sentence or two? That's what I usually do. If the first paragraph grabs me, then I turn to the back cover to read the blurb. Then I thumb through to see if there's more narrative than dialogue. The book goes back on the shelf if I don't find a lot of dialogue on each page. Supposedly a good opening line is what will get an editor's attention.
Tricky, huh.

Read what a favorite editor wrote about opening lines.

Now in your opinion, what makes a good opening line? What grabs you?
And how do you know if your first paragraph has what it takes to hook an editor or an agent? I don't have a clue so if you have tips, leave them in the comment section.

Take a look at these first couple of sentences from published books:

1. Mary Alice flung her purse on my kitchen table, where it landed with a crash, pulled a stool over to the counter and perched on it. "Perched" may not be the right word since Mary Alice weighs two hundred and fifty pounds. Murder on a Girls' Night Out by Anne George

2. Chicago wasn't at its best on a snowy January day, but Allison Sayre had lived in Illinois's largest city all her life and she was accustomed to the capricious climate. The inclement weather hadn't caused her mournful face and melancholy mood. Heiress by Irene Brand

3. "I love you, Sarah. Will you marry me?"
Sarah Brannan sent the message mentally, then watched closely as the man sitting opposite her at the dining room table took another bite of chocolate meringue pie.
The Husband Hunt by Linda Lewis

4. So in the end, this was where a treasure hunter went when he died. It seemed anticlimactic--almost sad--considering the adventurous life he'd led. A Bride to Be by Kristin Morgan

5. Under normal circumstances, getting a Louisiana PI license is so routine as to be boring--you take a course, you pass a test, and you pay your money. Louisiana Bigshot by Julie Smith

6. "Miss McNeil, could I see you in my office right away, please?" The intercom speaker echoed with a loud click as the company's president hung up. At Arm's Length by Gail Sattler

7. About hundred yards below the house, to the south, the woods began, and it was here that Luisa said the devils lived. Some of them were shut up in the old well, now gone to salt and useless, and covered with a concrete slab. The Cannibal Heart by Margaret Millar

8. "Hey, Mom! Look at those women tearing the clothes off that guy!"
Erin pulled into the parking area beside a huge red and black tour bus, slamming her foot on the brake of her custom van just as two screaming females darted in front of her.
The Groom Wore Blue Suede Shoes by Jessica Travis

9. Frank Daggett sure hoped that was a town up ahead and not a mirage. he had been in the saddle so long he felt as if it were fused to the seat of his pants. Gerda's Lawman by Lena Nelson Dooley

I pulled each book off my shelves (and floor)at random. Which one of these openers make you want to buy the book? And why?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Chicken Soup for the Chocolate Lover's Soul

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketChicken Soup for the Chocolate Lover's Soul should have hit the stands today. What fun to be included in this book. I have to admit I've been trying for years to get accepted into a Chicken Soup book. Being the analyzer that I am, I've taken a hard look at my submissions that were rejected(ignored)and this one that was accepted and here's what I've come up with: my other submissions were painstakingly constructed. With this submission I sat down, whipped it out and sent it on its way. The difference I believe is that The Dud in White was written from the heart and with passion. Too bad I can't sit down and whip out my novels in one passionate moment.

Do you think we sometimes edit the passion out of our books and stories?

If you get a chance, pick up a copy of Chicken Soup for the Chocolate Lover's Soul and read my story.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


I've been tagged by my new friend, Erica Vetsch. Erica and I met in Dallas at the ACFW conference. We share an agent. :) According to Erica, I'm supposed to tell where I was/what I was doing 10-20-30 years ago. My husband and I put our heads together this morning over breakfast and this is what we came up with.

10 years ago - I had put my writing aside to sell real estate. Big mistake. I'd rather live in front of the computer than in my car. Jim, Chaney and I were (and still are) living in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Chaney was a freshman at St. Louis Catholic High School. Jim worked about eight miles from home, and that doesn't happen very often. For awhile, we were living a normal life.

20 years ago - Four year-old Chaney and I were living in a tiny, white-frame house in Longview, Texas. We called it The Cracker Box. We'd just moved from New Iberia, LA and we were waiting for another job assignment. Jim was camping out in Houston with his sister and working out of the home office. Jim and I grew up in Longview and we prayed to go back there. God is a very good and wise God. He gave us what we wanted temporarily to show us that we didn't need to live in Longview again. He had other plans for us. Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Leaving Longview, we went to Luling, Louisiana for three wonderful years. We made good friends at West St. Charles Baptist Church. I made a lot of great writer friends too. here's one of them: mystery writer Barbara Colley. I would move back to Luling in a heart beat!

30 years ago - I'm a late bloomer. At age 29 I'd gone back to college to finish my BA in English. At Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, I wrote my first novel in an Independent Studies class. My professor, Fred A. Rodewald was the greatest encourager I've ever had and we still keep in touch today.

Who can I tag? My friends and crit partners are super busy. Hope they don't hate me for this--here goes:

Elizabeth Ludwig
Janelle Mowery
Sandra Robbins
Marcia Gruver
Marilynn Griffith
Missy Tippens

Thursday, October 11, 2007

No Second Guessing Family :)

My husband is on vacation next week. He's the serious type so he'll have an entire list of things for us to accomplish. My daughter is coming home from The New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary for a week. We play a lot. (Probably too much.) I won't get any writing done, but that's okay. Family comes first. They rejuvenate me. Brainstorm with me. Encourage me. Next week will be great.

I hate second-guessing myself. When it comes to my next writing project, why would I want to write something that isn't fun to work on? I like to read books where the hero and heroine have serious problems-- realistic problems. But I also like slapstick romantic comedy that doesn't make a lick of sense. :) Remember the old Dr. Pepper commercial where the entire town danced through the streets singing, "I'm a Pepper, You're a Pepper." Describes my romantic comedies perfectly. I long to see couples, families, entire towns dancing in the streets for no good reason.
Trouble is. . . editors say there's "too much angst" in the serious works and "this could never happen" to the humorous.

And so comes the second-guessing: write to the market? write for myself? just write?
I've got a week to think about it.

sec·ond-guess (sknd-gs)
v. sec·ond-guessed, sec·ond-guess·ing, sec·ond-guess·es
1. To criticize or correct after an outcome is known.
a. To outguess.
b. To predict or anticipate: "She can second-guess indictments" Scott Turow.
To criticize a decision after its outcome is known.


second-guesser n.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2003. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Never trust second thoughts. Next thing you know there’ll be a third and a fourth…you’ll be thinking forever. -Richard, Ally McBeal

Post-Conference Depression

I've started a new project. I sifted through all my partials and proposals, then decided to write something completely new.
A short romance.
No suspense.
No mystery.
And frankly, no excitement.
Honestly, I don't have a romantic bone in my body so why on earth I'm trying to write romance is totally beyond my comprehension.
I may not stick with this one very long.
I feel like my friend S.S. After 19 published books, she can't quite get a handle on what she wants to do next.
I know what my problem is.

If I could close my eyes and ears
refuse to listen to those around me
what they're writing
what they're selling
what they're saying
all they're doing
listen to my own muse
my gut
my rhythm and soul
hear my own words
I'd be better off
But I can't 'cause
I'm so easily distracted
and everyone knows
it takes a village
(or something akin to a small country)
to write

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Fun Happenings at Conference

Pitching our novels to agents and/or editors is probably the scariest thing we do at conference. Practicing our pitches is probably next to the scariest thing we do. I don't have the courage to practice with real live people--especially at conference. Look what happened to my friend Christa when she pitched to my crit partner, Sandra. Nothing like a genuine yawn to make a girl feel confident.

By now you know that Marcia got a three-book contract, but that isn't all she was excited about. Evidently someone sent her a new picture of her baby miniature dachshund,Ruby. See Lisa and Janelle oohhh and ahhhhh? Okay, sweet puppies and book contracts: what more can a girl ask for?
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Conference was a real high for me because I got to meet my agent, Les Stobbe. Sandra's playing it cool. How can I be cool in a "Suspect Everyone" t-shirt? The way I'm hanging on to his arm, he's probably thinking he'll never get rid of me.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Ever been accused of looking like a celebrity? I've had several people at church tell me I look like Paula Deen. I didn't take them seriously, especially after I heard her accent. She's from Georgia and I'm a born and bred Texan living in Louisiana. I have no accent. :) When several ladies at conference told me I resembled Paula Deen, I came home, googled her and learned a little more. Okay... so we have a few things in common. She can cook . . . Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
I can heat up!
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Recuperating While Deep Editing

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket The ACFW conference was great. Unfortunately, I haven't recuperated yet. I told a friend I might be getting a little too old for four-day slumber parties. The good thing is that I've taken all I learned from the Early Bird session--Margie Lawson's Empowering Characters' Emotions with the EDITS System--and making one more pass through my manuscript.

If you missed the EB session, or think you don't need it, I'd advise you to think again. We never know everything. We can always benefit from more classes, more conferences, other writers. If we quit learning, we're in big trouble. :)

Margie Lawson, a counseling psychologist, has developed innovative psychologically-anchored editing systems and techniques that will teach you how to write a page turner. Check out Margie Lawson for more information.

I promise you won't regret it. Her course was an eye-opener for me.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

ACFW Conference - My Take

Funny how ten people can attend the same conference and come away with ten different opinions of just how good that conference was. A little like contest judges, heh? What it boils down to is this: a conference is what you make it. If you're attending with a chip on your shoulder, angry because you've received nothing but rejections since the last conference, then I venture to say you'll leave with a chip on your shoulder unless God knocks it off with a blessing or some insight. If you're attending to network, make friends, learn and share time with your crit partners, then I promise you'll have a great time.

I learned much at this 2007 ACFW conference. As I examined my WIP with colored markers, I learned to recognize missed opportunities where I can/should show intense fear, sorrow, anger (and other emotions). This is the second time I've taken Margie Lawson's class and I will be taking it again. That Early Bird session was worth the price of the conference for me.

Here are a few things I learned this year:
1) Get there early so you can visit, wind down, have a little fun before the work begins.
2) If you have more than two roomies, take your wash cloth to bed with you. Hide it under your pillow. This ensures that you'll have one the next morning. :)
3) Prepare one-sheets before you get to conference.
4) It's not a catastrophe if you don't have a one-sheet or business cards.
5) Take snacks.
6) Diet cokes are at the Marriott, you just have to know who to ask for one. :)
7) Buy all the extra stuff.
8) Pick up all the free stuff.
9) Hang out in the bookstore.
10)Hang out at the autograph party.
11)Don't hang out in your room.
12)Introduce yourself to strangers.
13)We all know each other from the loop; we just need to connect face to face.
14)Talk to the male writers; they aren't that scary.
15)Give hugs and tell those people who help you online how special they are. It's a blessings to get hugs back.

Okay, so I'm being a little funny, but I can't begin to tell you how much I learned from Deb Raney and Gayle Roper. I suppose the most important thing I learned from Deb is that out of all my wips, only one is women's fiction. Finally, the definition of Women's Fiction clicked inside my brain. From Gayle I learned that I'm learning in layers. I wish I'd hurry and get to where I need to be. :(

Thank God for my crit partners. Being the observer that I am, I never fail to learn more about them, notice funny little traits they have that make them who they are. Being with them over and over again a few times each year is akin to getting to know my fictional characters: Not in one big characterization dump, but in layers. Here's a picture of us at the banquet. Don't we look fine? :) Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Standing from left to right: Marcia Gruver, Elizabeth Ludwig, Virginia Smith (she used to crit with us). Seated from left to right: me, Sandra Robbins and Janelle Mowery.

I also learned that dreams do come true. What a thrill to see Marcia receive a three-book contract from Barbour. Here's what she looked like when she realized the editors were talking about her book series: Texas Fortunes. Janelle snapped this pic at just the right moment. ;) Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

God has blessed me with these special ladies. I learn a lot from them. Hopefully, I'm able to share and teach them a little something too. We're each so very different, yet we have much in common: we love our families, writing, books, other writers and Jesus--not necessarily in that order. That's enough to keep us together for a very long time.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Editors - What They Had To Say

The editors offered tips and advice. Read it and use it to your advantage. Read between the lines. Don't be naive when it comes to writing, selling and marketing your work. Don't wait around to be spoon-fed by an agent or an organization. Educate yourself. It has been said by one editor that the industry has a very long memory. You can take that bit of wisdom to the bank, as a favorite old detective used to say. Be a smart writer.

Sue Bower
Looking for terrific stories that entertain and change lives from 90,000 - 100,000 words. Contemporary and suspense.

Rebecca Germany
Looking for full length romance 85,000 and up.
Tip: Write passionately.

Susan Downs
Barbour Publishing, Heartsong Present, Mysteries!
Looking for cozies only from 55,000 to 60,000 words.
Tip: Study the guidelines.

Anne Goldsmith
Hatchette Book Group USA, Faith Words
Women's Fiction, big stories, dramas 75,000 - 100,000 words.
Tip: Read and write.

Natalie Hanemann
Thomas Nelson Fiction - Seeking historical and Romance - 75,000 + words.
Tip: It's all about the story.

My Note: Someone said, and I think it was Natalie Hanemann, It's important for writers to know who they are and what their brand will be. Have a sense of who you are.

Shannon Hill
WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. Looking for? I like being surprised.
Tip: Don't just think out of the box, blow it up.

Andrew Meisenheimer
Zondervan - nonfiction, fiction. Contemporary and suspense.
Tip: He agrees that it's all about story and says, Your proposal is a story.

Kim Moore
Harvest House - looking for great writing, soft historicals, good characters and plots. 90,000 to 100,000 words.
Tip: WOW me with a great opening.

Rebekah Nesbitt
Tyndale House - No westerns or scifi. 75,000 and up.
Tip: Write the whole book.

Karen Schurrer
Bethany House Publishers - historicals 90,000 - 110,000.
Tip: Good story, good characters. Let your characters tell me what they want to tell me.

Krista Stroever
Steeple Hill - Contemporary romance and historicals up to WWII.
Tip: The industry has a very long memory.

David Webb
B&H Publishing - David stated that he and Karen Ball have torn down and built up again B&H fiction. They're looking for contemporary women's fiction, suspense thrillers, historcial romance 80,000 words and up. It's a new day at B&H.
Tip: Find a hook.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Agents - What They Had to Say

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThis is what I learned from the agent panel. Read their comments. Check out their websites and blogs thoroughly. Most of them have detailed tips and guidelines that will help you prepare an impressive submission.

Janet Benrey about 20 -25 authors. She handls romantic suspense, cozies, romance and some thrillers.

Terry Burns wants good books. Check out Hartline Literary Agency for submmission guidelines.

Janet K. Grant has been an agent for about twelve years. Check out her submission guidelines and the fabulous authors she reps.

Joyce Hart has been in Christian publishing and marketing for 29 years. She's been an agent for 15 years. Her agency has over 100 clients and will look at adult fiction, all genres, non-fiction, YA, and some children's. Go to her website and familiarize yourself with her agents and her guidelines.

Beth Jusino reps from 20-25 novelist. She's with Alive Communications. You can spend hours on the Alive website ga-gaing over their big name authors. Be sure to read Rick Christian's Q&A. They also have some great examples of fiction and nonfiction proposals.

Natasha Kern works in CBA and ABA. She's looking for books that touch and inspire her. She's looking for storytellers. Natasha reps one of my favorite authors, Robin Lee Hatcher.

Steve Laube has been an agent for four years. He has a question for you to answer before you submit to him: Are your pages going to rivet my attention?

Wendy Lawton is with Books and Such and has been an agent for almost three years. She's looking for people who are writing with a heart for God. She also threw out the word eclectic.

Chip MacGregor is also a CBA/ABA agent. He says, "In fiction, I'm always looking for a read that changes me." Check out Chip's informative blog to be entertained and informed.

Kelly Mortimer is the owner of the Mortimer Literary Agency. That agency is growing fast. She's a relatively new agent with some big successes. She has no readers in her agency. Kelly reads every submnission for herself and handles unpublished writers. She works in ABA and CBA.

Les Stobbe has been and editor for twenty one years and an agent for fourteen years. He is known as a first book agent. He handles adult nonfiction and fiction and occasionally sells to the general market. Les has a heart for new authors.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

That Professional Look?

Preparing for conference this year, I gave up and sent everything to the cleaners. The last time I did that (yep, very same cleaners) I was preparing to travel to Longview, Texas to speak to The East Texas Writers Association, a writer's group I formed with my very own little heart and hands. I'd found a very flattering suit to wear: navy blue slacks and jacket with an attached white blouse. I don't know how to explain it any better than that. It was a two-piece but looked like three. Get the picture?

I'm always hitting the cleaners at the last minute, but that's beside the point. They're professionals. They should know not to clean/laundry/dry reds and whites together. Shouldn't they? I didn't notice until I arrived in Longview, shimmied into my professional attire and viewed myself in the floor-length mirror.
"Doesn't that white look a little tinted?" I asked.
Tinted? That's putting it mildly.

I stood before twenty-five plus people and tried to be the perfect example of success. In my smart navy blue suit, and faded, washed out, weird-looking pink blouse, I felt like I'd crawled out of a Goodwill grab bag. I think the lesson here might be 1) double check your clothing before you leave town. 2) Remove the plastic and take a magnifying glass to those whites. 3) Don't wait until the day before to take your things to the laundry. 4) Don't wear white? :-) 5) Always know that whatever can go wrong before a speaking engagement or book signing will go wrong. That's Murphy's Law.

Yesterday I took twelve items to the cleaners. If my white blouse comes back pink, then I can always fall back on the black one or the green one or the tan one. You know what I always say. . . be prepared. And suspect everyone!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Conference Prepared!

There's more to getting ready for a conference than selecting what you're going to wear. I have to get mentally prepared. Last year that was easy. I was an active member of Toastmasters so I was getting up in front of my group on a weekly basis and speaking off the top of my head. This year I've been holed up trying to finish my novel so my social skills are lacking.

I try to visualize myself speaking to an editor about my book, and I just can't quite see it. I do have an appointment so whether I see it or not, it will happen.

The big thing this year--at least for me--is meeting my agent. I'll walk away from him with confidence, feeling encouraged and that it's just a matter of time before I see my book in print, or I'll come away feeling I've made a huge mistake: that I've written an unmarketable book, that I've signed with the wrong agent or perhaps I've signed too soon, that I made a big booboo switching (once again) from nonfiction to fiction. But, regardless of how I feel on Sunday afternoon when I leave the ACFW conference in Dallas, I need to remember:

Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds. Isaiah 3:10 NIV

Father God, you've blessed me tremendously. Give me patience, Lord, and the wisdom to wait for only your best. Oh, and Lord, please help my agent be an encourager. Thanks!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Conference Beautiful!

What are you doing to get ready for the ACFW conference? Hope you're making more progress than I am!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Something to Think About

1. Whatever you're writing, is it being written with God's approval?

2. Whatever you're writing, is it being written in His authority?

3. Whatever you're writing, is it being written for God's acclaim?

And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Colossians 3:7

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23-24

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

If it doesn't glorify God, we shouldn't do it.
Think about it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Don't Listen to the Negative

Years ago, my husband and I wrote a mystery called Beginner's Luck. We entered a contest and won first place. That first place awarded us a read and an interview with an agent who told us the book/story/amateur detective was mediocre and couldn't compete with the many shelves of mysteries in Barnes and Noble, Borders, BAM and other bookstores. We listened to him. We believed him. We never finished that book. That agent knocked the wind out of us, discouraged us and we allowed him to do it. We put our story aside.

When I finally acquired an agent, and after she sold my first book, I created a 3-book romantic series. One of my characters was a literary agent. My agent told me no one wanted to read about a literary agent. She didn't try to market the series. I let her discourage me.

Awhile later an amateur detective series hit the stores. The sleuth--a literary agent. The series was written by the first agent who rejected my so called mediocre book. Evidently someone was interested in reading about literary agents.

And round and round we go. Where we stop, nobody knows.

I have always put professionals on a pedestal--the doctors, lawyers, policemen, teachers, editors, publishers and literary agents--and assumed all knew more than me. I was wrong. I know a lot. And there are times I actually know more than the professionals. I'm the authority when it comes to books I want to write and the passion I feel for them.

I believe all ideas are good. Some are better than others. Most need tweaking in some way. I believe ideas bounce around until someone grabs them and does something with them. Don't waste an idea because your agent or editor doesn't like it. Tweak it until they do like it.

Learn from my mistakes. Don't quit. Don't allow anyone to discourage you. Write your passion.

And never, never, never give up.

The writers who succeed are the ones who refuse to buckle under the failures that are heaped upon them; who reject the notion that they aren't as mediocre as industry professionals say they are. ~Jodi Piccoult

Monday, August 20, 2007

Revison: The Neverending Story

Revising my book, Miranda's Mistake, is probably one of the most challenging things I've ever done. Yeah, I might even put it up there with natural childbirth. Revision isn't as painful as giving birth, but just as scary.

I'm trying to keep the big picture in my mind. To do that, I need total silence and absolutely no distractions. I'm finding even the whir of the central air conditioning annoying. Am I creating bugaboos? Probably.

Last week I went off on a tangent, adding a vein of intrigue that doesn't work in my story. All the time I was doing it, I knew deep down in my gut that it was wrong. Still, I traveled that wrong road until I could go no farther. This week I'm cutting it.

I would say it's funny how desperation puts us on the wrong track, but it's not funny at all. I'm not laughing. Last night I printed out the entire book again--clean pages to read and mark up. One more time.

How do you keep the big picture in your mind when you're doing revisions? Don't tell me you only see one chapter at a time. How can that be when each chapter affects the next and the next and the next?

I thought I was being smart by just getting the story down as the pantsers advise. But the plotters might have the better idea 'cause there's something to be said for knowing where you're going and revising as you go.

Just get it down on paper, and then we'll see what to do with it.
~Max Perkins

Yeah, right! Revision. For me, it really is a never-ending story.

I lift up my eyes to the hills--from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1-2

I feel better already. :)

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Revision - What Fun!

The first draft reveals the art, revision reveals the artist.
~Michael Lee

Revision is one of the exquisite pleasures of writing.
~Bernard Malamud

In working on a poem,I love to revise. Lots of younger poets don't enjoy this, but in the process of revision I discover things.
~Rita Dove

There's different styles of writing, and then there's rewriting. For me, it comes from the heart first, from what I feel needs to be said, and from there I can shape it based on the reality that I live in.
~Omar Epps

Rewriting to me means, if I work on it for three days, I've rewritten it.
~Jules Shear

Rewriting is a large part of the whole job. And get rid of stuff that's not working. Just pare it down until it's a beautiful thing you can hand in, probably late, to your editor.
~Kurt Loder

The process of rewriting is enjoyable, because you're not in that existential panic when you don't have a novel at all.
~Rose Tremain

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.
~Elmore Leonard

Monday, July 30, 2007

Conference Blessings

There is a very creative buzz in the air. Murmurings about the ACFW conference in Dallas this September. I can't help remembering my first ACFW conference.

I drove to Houston all by myself. That's not unusual. I often drive to Houston by myself but this time I was attending a very large conference--alone. Sure I was meeting my online crit partner and good friend Marilynn Griffith, but we'd only talked via email. We'd agreed to room together, but what if she didn't like me? I was blasted by my insecurities as I circled the Airport Marriott trying to conjure up courage.

I walked inside and took care of registration then I sat and waited for something to happen. Kristy Dykes was sitting too and I'll always remember her kindness and encouragement. I don't approach strangers. I suffer from blank mind syndrome.

I recognized Mary immediately. She is every bit as charismatic in person as she is in her emails. We had fun rooming together. We laughed like crazy when my husband or hers--can't remember which one--called and couldn't tell us apart. Mary and I didn't hang together through out the conference. We split up and did our own thing. The trouble with that was. . . I didn't have a thing. I had no plans. I didn't have one sheets, pitches, proposals or appointments. I was there strictly to get the lay of the inspirational-writing-land.

As stressful as that conference was for me, knowing so few people, I came away from it so filled with the Holy Spirit that all I wanted to do was write. I didn't have a plan, but God did.

When I returned home, I was approached by a friend at the Beaumont Enterprise about writing for one of their inserts. I agreed. I could hardly believe the yes that came from my mouth. You see, I'd written NF many times before and truly hated it. It just wasn't my thing. Why was I saying yes?

Becky gave me my assignments and I met my deadlines. Within weeks I was asked to write for a Chamber of Commerce magazine and then a business magazine. I knew these assignments were a God-thing, and a result of attending the ACFW conference. How did I know? Because Becky had asked me to write for her several times before and I'd always vehemently refused. God wasn't opening this door for me. I believe He was giving me one more chance. A chance to be obedient. Several of the people I interviewed and profiled were very strong Christian businesswomen. Their stories would not have been told the way I told them if they'd been interviewed by someone else.

At the conference, we had been given the opportunity to dedicate our writing to God. I went forward. Someone prayed with me. I know without doubt God used the ACFW conference to change my heart about writing nonfiction and He used Becky to test my sincerity and my obedience. And because I was obedient, He blessed me. What would have happened if I'd returned home and once again, refused to write for Becky? I don't want to think about it. The blessings flowed. I wrote an article about Women In Toastmasters. You can click here to see how that article led to so much more.

My cup runneth over. :-) Thank you, ACFW, for being a place to learn and worship. You are a land of opportunity. :)

Last year, I attended the conference in Dallas and met critique partners, Sandra Robbins, Elizabeth Ludwig, Janelle Mowery and Marcia Gruber for the first time. We're all headed to Dallas again this year, and I know we each wonder what God has planned?

I pray we each truly believe God has a plan for our writing.
I pray we're willing to listen and learn.
I pray we're patient until He reveals that plan.
I pray that we're close enough to Him that we hear and recognize His voice.
I pray that we're obedient.
I pray that everyone at conference is there for the right reason.
I pray we're of one mind--to use our writing for His gain.
I pray no one is hurt or disillusioned but realistic about where they are in their writing.
I pray we show the love of Jesus to everyone we come in contact with because people are watching us with a critical eye.
I praise God for each and every ACFW member.

To God be the glory, great things He has done!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Making a Commitment

An agent has offered me a contract. I've signed it. \o/ Yes, Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
But I'm scared. Signing on with an agent means I'll HAVE to get my book polished fooling around. Reading his note over and over again, and staring at that contract, I asked myself all kinds of questions:
Can I do it?
Do I really want to do it?
If I really want to do it, why haven't I done it?
You know... all that searching, second guessing stuff we deal with. Commitment scares me. Especially this kind of commitment where I have to produce and all of you out there actually watch and see what I produce.

I remind myself of the man in Matthew who was given one talent of money and he buried it. He was fearful. He didn't have faith in his own abilities or his Master. And because of his fear, because he didn't exercise that talent or the understanding he had, he lost it all.

I'll go out on the weakest limb to encourage others to pursue their dreams, hone their talents, but I seem to have no encouragement for myself. It's almost as if I want to shoot myself in the foot before someone does it for me. :-)
Not anymore.
I want to be that guy who was given five talents and gained five more. I can do it because according to Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." And I believe it!

By offering me a contract the agent is saying, "Hey, you ain't half bad. Revise, clean it up, flesh it out and I think I can sell you." He's fanning into flame the gift God gave me (2 Tim. 1:6). And now I must be diligent in these matters; give myself wholly to them so that everyone may see my progress (1 Tim 4:15).

What about you? If you're anything like me, then go to Matthew 25:14 and read the Parable of the Talents. Make a new commitment to glorifying your Master. I did...and I will.

Praise God from whom all blessings flowwwwwwww!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Thank You! Thank You! Thank You... I think.

I'm baaaaaaack!
I'm so exhausted from trying to figure out these blogger problems I probably won't post again for some time. They've worn me down...whoever they are.

What have I learned from this? A lot. I know just what to do the next time it happens:

1) Have patience.
2) Hang in there.

And isn't that what a writer does?

Blogger Help for the Blogging Impaired

My blog has disappeared from the face of blogger. I understand since Blogger offers this free service, allowing me to blog, that they owe me nothing, but I'm on my knees here pleading... give me my blog back!


The Robots Have Set Me FREEEEEEEEE :-)

I've been unable to post for several days for the following reasons:

Blogger's spam-prevention robots have detected that your blog has characteristics of a spam blog. (What's a spam blog?) Since you're an actual person reading this, your blog is probably not a spam blog. Automated spam detection is inherently fuzzy, and we sincerely apologize for this false positive.

We received your unlock request on July 20, 2007. On behalf of the robots, we apologize for locking your non-spam blog. Please be patient while we take a look at your blog and verify that it is not spam.

Find out more about how Blogger is fighting spam blogs.

All I have to say is, yep, I'm an acutal person. And I can't believe I've been accused by . . . robots? :) I do appreciate that they've recognized that my blog is a non-spam blog, but I have to admit, it'll take quite a bit of patience on my part for them to verify that it's not spam. Figure that one out!

I did come across a really great blog that taught me a lot. Check it out. Blogger Tips and Tricks

Who Said Revisions Are Fun? - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Around the Block and Back

I've been reading Writer's Digest and The Writer for 40 years. I belong to many writer's groups. I've watched writing rules and trends come and go. My critique partners catch things I do in my writing that are no longer acceptable. Old habits are hard to break. Still, the basic rules are the same. Some things I hear and read on my various writer's loops, I absolutely refuse to believe. I will never put my manuscript in a colored folder and ship it off, hoping the editor will be drawn to its bright color. I suspect the author who spouted that bit of advice was trying to sabotage her competition. I refuse to believe that Barbie can help me with styles and fashions or description of any kind. I'd rather watch What Not To Wear than play dress-up with skinny dolls. I won't be buying a big exercise ball to sit on at the computer. I need to focus on writing not sitting or exercising or balancing or stretching. I don't intend to hire a publicist for $3,000 bucks a month. I know how to read a phone book, write letters and make phone calls. I can schedule book signings, interviews and send out flyers. God gave me a brain and a lot of people have been instrumental in teaching me how to use it.

God gave you a brain and I'm sure you know how to use it, so listen up:

You can learn how to write by reading how-to books, trade magazines, taking writing classes, joining a critique group and professional organizations and actually writing.

You can learn how to sell your book by reading how-to books, joining writer's groups, reading The Writer and Writer's Digest, and actually sending your work to editors and agents.

You can learn to market your book by reading how-to books, joining professional writer's organizations, reading The Writer and Writer's Digest and networking with other writers.

Wisdom from the Past:

Carl Jung: Through pride we are ever deceiving ourselves. But deep down below the surface of the average conscience a still, small voice says to us, 'Something is out of tune.'

Carl Rogers: If we value independence, if we are disturbed by the growing conformity of knowledge, of values, of attitudes, which our present system induces, then we may wish to set up conditions of learning which make for uniqueness, for self-direction, and for self-initiated learning.

Carl Sagan: One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we've been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. The bamboozle has captured us. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.

Christopher Reeve:
I think we all have a little voice inside us that will guide us. It may be God, I don't know. But I think that if we shut out all the noise and clutter from our lives and listen to that voice, it will tell us the right thing to do.

Use your brain. Listen to your gut. Take the lead. Go write.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. ~Annie Dillard

Lost, yesterday, somewhere between Sunrise and Sunset, two golden hours, each set with sixty diamond minutes. No reward is offered, for they are gone forever. ~Horace Mann

... we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that's so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.
~Paul Bowles

No time like the present. ~Mrs. Manley

I tend to take time for granted, even though my days are rushing by with phenomenal speed. I can almost see the calendar pages flipping as they do in those old black and white movies. I can't put time away for future use like I do fine china or monogramed Christmas napkins. Time is now. I want to wear Mrs. Manley's words like a second skin; I want to live them.

No time like the present. No time like the present. No time like the present.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Rockin' Girl Blogger?

How funny is this? Only my friend Christa would consider me a rockin' blogger. My daughter doesn't venture too far outside Facebook, and certainly no where near her mom's blog, and my husband doesn't even know about Praise, Prayers and Observations. Yes, this middle-aged, rockin' mama--uh, blogger--has a secret life. To my way of thinking, the more people who know I have a blog, the more pressure there is for me to perform, I mean, blog. :) But let me introduce you to a few of my cool blogging friends--my critique partners.

Lisa has been away at youth camp so she's probably recuperating. Actually, she had to get back to her full time job, her editing business, her writing, her husband... no time for recuperating! She definitely deserves the title Rockin' Blogger for being so organized.

Janelle just got home from a cross-country trip only to face getting a requested proposal/completed manuscript prepared and in the mail. She's got a house full of company and besides being a mom, a farm wife, and working at her church she has an ongoing battle with her computer. Yes, my friend Janelle, definitely deserves this Rockin' Blogger banner for not tearing her hair and kicking the dog. Don't hold it against her if her blog isn't updated.

Marcia just returned from a relaxing month on the Nueces River where she typed away on that great new book she's started. Marcia is new to blogging. Maybe this Rockin' Blogger award will give her incentive to make another entry. I'm waaaaiiiittttinng. :)

Sandra has been zipping up and down the highways of Tennessee transporting grandchildren to and from the airport, meeting with web designers, and plotting her next thriller. If you want to be looking over your shoulder every few minutes, just get your hands on one of Sandra's manuscripts. Who could know this sweet lady has a dark side? She definitely deserves a Rockin' Blogger banner.

We're a busy bunch, yet we love our families, volunteer in our churches, and still devote time to our writing. Hopefully, that will never change. I pray that when we're blessed with multiple contracts and deadlines, we'll remember what's truly important: our God, our families, our friends--and we'll continue to be cool Rockin' Bloggers.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

God Bless America!

Praise God for our veterans of yesteryear. We must never forget who gets the credit for the freedoms we have, of which we should be eternally grateful. My dear husband is in the burgundy shirt, bottom row, center. These few men and women, honored last Sunday at church, are about a third of those on stage.

God Bless our Military who are protecting our Country for our freedom. Thanks to them, and their sacrifices we can celebrate the 4th of July

Father God, be with each man and woman serving our country. Let them feel our love.

Amen and Amen

Friday, June 29, 2007

Quotes to Live By

“Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you. Love me and I may be forced to love you.”

“A true friend knows your weaknesses but shows you your strengths; feels your fears but fortifies your faith; sees your anxieties but frees your spirit; recognizes your disabilities but emphasizes your possibilities.”

“Do more than belong: participate. Do more than care: help. Do more than believe: practice. Do more than be fair: be kind. Do more than forgive: forget. Do more than dream: work.”

“Four steps to achievement: Plan purposefully. Prepare prayerfully. Proceed positively. Pursue persistently.”

“Leadership is based on inspiration, not domination; on cooperation, not intimidation.”

“We must be silent before we can listen.
We must listen before we can learn.
We must learn before we can prepare.
We must prepare before we can serve.
We must serve before we can lead.”

“Greatness is not found in possessions, power, position, or prestige. It is discovered in goodness, humility, service, and character.”

“We can throw stones, complain about them, stumble on them, climb over them, or build with them”

“Before you speak, listen.
Before you write, think.
Before you spend, earn.
Before you invest, investigate.
Before you criticize, wait.
Before you pray, forgive.
Before you quit, try.
Before you retire, save.
Before you die, give.”

William Arthur Ward, American scholar, author, editor, pastor and teacher

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Don't Worry ~ Be Happy

I've just completed my very first proposal targeting a Christian agent/market. Interesting experience, to say the least. I was challenged when it came to identifying the uniqueness of my book and my marketing plan. I'm not sure how one goes about finding comparison books or the why of comparison books, but I gave it my best shot. How could I not want to mention my name and Terri Blackstock's in the same paragraph? :)

After looking over the 50+ pages--again and again and again, I realized I was stressing. I started asking myself why I was putting myself through such an ordeal when the completed manuscript has already been requested by an editor. Time to back up, pray, ask for guidance. And that's when I remembered why I was preparing a detailed proposal for an agent: I want guidance.

There are a lot of us needing guidance when it comes to our writing. We need to back up and pray. Remember this song? "Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace."

Worry and stress is of this world. Worry and stress should not be attached to the stories written to glorify His name. Let's turn our eyes toward Jesus and trust Him with our writing future. He's the authority on guidance!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

On Second Thought...

Another suggestion has been made:

A principal unknowingly endangers her school when she tries to clear the name of a former classmate she sent to jail ten years ago.

What say you? Are you wondering how and why she sent him to jail? The word sent bothers me. And what you may not know is that 10 years ago they were seniors in high school and she squealed on him when she heard that he had plans to 'harm' their school. That's how he ended up in jail. Today she's the assistant principal of a very small private school. Do these unknowns make a difference? They do to me but we have to keep our one-liner short so every word must paint a picture.

I'll be out of pocket for several days so put your thinking cap on and help me out here. :)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Proposal is . . .

A suggestion was made regarding my one-liner. Now all I have to do is the following:

Cover sheet

Hook: School terrorism sends a principal in search of truth about the man she accused of a similar crime ten years earlier.


Uniqueness of book: (This includes comparisons)

Credentials of Author:

Marketing Plan:

Chapter by Chapter Outline:

Sample Chapters:

And we do this for every single book until we're rich and famous. :)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Let me Count the Ways

Some people call it a tagline while others call it a hook--a one-liner describing your novel that should grab an agent or editor immediately and not let go. No matter what you call it, writing one isn't easy. The one-liners below don't really describe my novel. They don't capture what I need to capture to pitch to an agent. They don't even grab me by the throat so I know they aren't going to interest an agent.

By reading the ten one-liners below, you have the essence of my story. Do me a favor. Find one you sort of like and rework it so that it sings. :)

1) The woman who sent him to jail is his only hope to clear his name.

2) A middle-school principal puts her school in danger when she tries to clear the name of a man she unjustly accused of terrorism.

3) Alex Hamilton, unjustly accused of terrorism, must find the person who framed him.

4) Middle school principal Miranda Smith tries to help the man she falsely accused of terrorizing her school.

5) Accused of a crime he didn't commit, Alex Hamilton falls for the woman who sent him to jail.

6) Alex Hamilton and Miranda Smith join forces to clear his name of the crime he didn't commit.

7) Alex Hamilton must prove his innocence of a ten year old crime, but he's being framed all over again.

8) Ten years ago a southern town is rocked by scandal when teenager Alex Hamilton is accused of a terrorist act against his school. Today, it's happening again.

9) Two old classmates join forces to find out who is terrorizing their school.

10) A middle school principal falls for the old classmate she accused of terrorizing their school.


Writing, Selling or Sailing?

Here are two of my favorite quotes. I've posted them before. This evening I'm revisiting and thinking about what they mean.

"To fall in love with a first draft to the point where one cannot change it is to greatly enhance the prospects of never publishing." ~Richard North Patterson

I believe a first draft of a book must be akin to a wedding cake without the icing. I can only imagine baking such an important cake, stacking the various layers, icing the entire monstrosity then placing the perfect little bride and groom on top. If we glob on too much icing and fail to make it smooth and creaseless, if we don't place the toothpicks in strategic places, our cake might topple over or appear unbalanced. It seems so much like taking that first draft and adding sensory detail, description, emotion, all those perfect, final touches that make it a book, a story that will grab hold of someone's heart (and head) and not let go until they turn the last page. We have to have just the right mix of all those final touches.

Oh my goodness, rewriting is horrible and wonderful and exciting and scary... . How do we know when the end is really the end? Is there anyone knowledgeable enough to tell us we've done all we can do, that it's time to send it on to an agent or editor? Unfortunately no, there's no one who can offer that kind of assurance. A critique group can only do so much. An agent can only offer his or her expert opinion and some may not be experts at all. The editor has the last word within the guidelines of her publishing company. Her last word may be an acceptance or a rejection. And if it's a rejection . . .

"Success is a finished book, a stack of pages each of which is filled with words. If you reach that point, you have won a victory over yourself no less impressive than sailing single-handed around the world." ~Tom Clancy

To keep our sanity, we have to look at those stack of pages and believe that we've truly done our best, and because we've succeeded in finishing a book, in some small insignificant way that's significant. Make sense? :)

Realistically, the reader has the last word. S/he might throw our finished product against the wall and vow never to read us again. Thankfully, we never know it unless we get a nasty letter or read about it on

Sailing single-handed around the world sounds easier than writing and selling a book, and satisfying thousands of faceless readers. - Custom comment codes

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

And The Good Times Rolled for Crit 3

Have you ever had problems following someone's directions?
Turn right at the Blue Barn.
Barn? What Barn?
The blue metal building?
The blue garage?
The blue shop?
No, the Blue Barn!

Do you see a blue Barn?
(I was only twenty minutes late--just looking for the blue BARN.
Okay, thirty!)

Meet the Crit3 girls: Sandra, Marcia, Jess standing, Lisa & Janelle seated. One of us is fearless. One of us can handle anything that slithers. Can you guess which one?

For a detailed report of our writers' slumber party, check out Sentiments of the Soul

To learn who is the bravest of us all, check out Janelle's Jottings

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Let The Good Times Roll

What happens when six writers get together for a slumber party? Stay tuned for details, and pray for us. :) - Create custom images

Monday, May 28, 2007

Plan of Attack

I've written The End, but now comes the real work--the rewrite. I'll have to tie up loose ends, plug holes, check and eliminate passive voice. I'll also have to get rid of most if not all ing and ly words, and sentences beginning with it or there. I have to make sure I'm showing instead of telling. :)

Even though best selling authors use it and there and ing and ly words all the time, and tell, tell, tell instead of show, show, show, I can't because I'm not a best selling author.

No matter how well we write or how wonderful our story is, if we don't have a track record, we can't break any rules. While reading our story, the editor or agent (or contest judge) should be able to see our characters, hear their accents, and smell the fragrance of the setting. The reader must have all the info she needs to follow our story. That's where it gets tricky. How much info is too much? I don't have a clue. I get very discouraged when I hear that readers don't like prologues, that editors don't want heros or heroines that are artists, singers, or writers. I continue to pick up novels where the heroines are artists, singers, and writers... so I guess that rule is also aimed at the unpublished. But I'm off track here. Back to revising the book.

Everyone knows that the very best thing to do before revising is to put the novel aside for at least three months. I don't know anyone who has the time to do that. I don't, and published writers can't because they're on contract and facing deadlines.

After reading Practical Tips for Writing Popular Fiction by Robyn Carr, I've designed my method of attack. During my first trip through my chapters, I'll be looking at a lot of things.

Index cards. Don't we love them?

I plan to list my characters as they appear in the story. I'll note how they are introduced, what I've written regarding their appearance, names, and primary traits. This will help me keep each character consistent. I don't want Miranda to be blonde at the beginning of the story and brunette in chapter fifteen. :) Miranda talks to God a lot. Since she lives alone, he's her best friend. I've noticed that as the book progressed, Miranda didn't talk to him quite as much. I need to take a look at that.

Another purpose of the cards is to put names to very minor characters I've referred to early in the book. By chapter twelve, I'd forgotten the school secretary's name and didn't want to take the time to look her up so I have some blanks lines to fill in.

Next, I need to draw up a time line as I read. It'll begin as my story begins. The principal is out of the country, but Miranda keeps saying he'll be home next week. The weeks come and go, but he never does come back. I've devised a plan to keep him gone indefinitely since there's no need for his return, but I need to take a close look at this. Really, I have no clue how much time has passed in my story. :( Yikes! I hope I don't find a huge mess.

Next, I need to track my plot. This will include my basic plot line, all subplots, character motivations, the events that occur and any other devices used to move the story along. There can't be any loose ends.

As I read the hard copy, I'll be fleshing out, fixing dialogue, entering descriptive and sensory junk that I truly hate to read and write. Sure seems like there's a lot to do. There's much to be said for revising as we write the story. Unfortunately, I'm not one of those writers.

The work never matches the dream of perfection the artist has to start with. - William Faulkner

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Genesis Finalists

The finalists for the 2007 ACFW Genesis contest!

Contemporary Romance (includes romantic comedy)
Jennifer Lynn Cary
Audra Harders
Catherine Hershberger
Roxanne Sherwood
Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Historical Romance
Linda Fulkerson
Audra Harders
Pam Hillman (double finalist in Historical Romance)
Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Romantic Suspense
Sally Bradley
Marci J. Burke
Dineen Miller
Dani Pettrey
Suzan Robertson

Sally A. Apokedak
Valerie Comer
Rebecca Grabill
Shannon McNear
Chris Mikesell

Historical Fiction (not romance)
Yvonne Anderson
Marcia Gruver
Tina Helmuth
Carla Stewart
Erica Vetsch

Young Adult
Sally Apokedak
Leigh DeLozier
Linda Fulkerson
Charlene Glatkowski
Rachael Phillips

Contemporary Fiction
Michael Ehret
Jennifer Griffith
Kathy Harriss
Myra Johnson
Angie Poole

Women's Fiction
Lynne Gentry
Ane Mulligan
Kristine Pratt
Kathleen Sprout
Ginger Vaughan

Martha Pope Gorris
Gina Holmes (double finalist in Mystery/Suspense/Thriller)
Janet Robertson
Janet Rubin

Chick/Mom/Hen/Lady Lit
Georgiana Daniels
Annalisa Daughety
Sabrina Fox-Butcher
Carrie Padgett
Jenness Walker

Congratulations to all the 2007 Genesis finalists and especially my critique partner, MARCIA GRUVER!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Race is On - Create custom images


It is not enough to know what to do, you must do what you know. ~ Dr Robert Anthony

Tomorrow is the day when idlers work, and fools reform. ~ Edward Young

Seize the day, put no trust in tomorrow.
Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today. ~ Benjamin Franklin

In delay there lies no plenty. ~ William Shakespeare

Putting off an easy thing makes it hard. Putting off a hard thing makes it impossible. ~ George Claude Lorimer

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Attitude - It Can Make us or Break us

I found a yellowed sheet of paper on an old bulletin board with the following paragraphs typed on it. I have no idea who gave it me. It's worth reading and remembering.

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes.” ~Charles Swindoll

Happy Mother's Day - Create custom images A mother understands what a child does not say. ~Jewish Proverb

For a mother is the only person on earth who can divide her love among ten children and each child still have all her love. ~Anonymous

The doctors told me I would never walk, but my mother told me I would, so I believed my mother. ~ William Rudolph, US track star

A mother's heart is always with her children. ~Proverb

The mother's heart is the child's schoolroom. ~Henry Ward Beecher

Never marry a man who hates his mother, because he'll end up hating you. ~Jill Bennett

If you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do well matters very much. ~Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary.
~Dorothy Canfield Fisher

You don't really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around - and why his parents will always wave back. ~William D. Tammeus

Friday, May 11, 2007

Maureen, We Hardly Knew You

Tonight I was stunned speechless. My favorite character on Close To Home was shot in the head. I thought she was only wounded, but Kimberly Elise was zipped up in a body bag before my very eyes. Did I cry? What do you think?

Kim is best known for her role in the films "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" and "Beloved." I think she's beautiful and I loved her hard-nosed honesty as the Close to Home character Maureen. But what really appealed to me was that touch of loneliness and sadness she portrayed . She quickly became my favorite, and I'm so sorry we didn't get to know her character better.

So I'm asking myself, will I stay with the show? I don't know. Over the past few weeks I've been annoyed with the Annabeth character, but that's another story. Right now, I'm mourning Maureen, and thinking about the loveable old guy I killed off in my book, Reinventing Rita. Do readers forgive us if we make them care for a secondary character only to knock him off? Unfortunately, the answer is . . . if we do it right. If there is good reason. If they can SEE that good reason. I use the word 'unfortunately' because I wonder how we know we've done it right? Usually, it's after the book is in print that we get the honest feedback.

I read the following quote on another blog:

"The important thing in writing is the capacity to astonish. Not shock—shock is a worn-out word—but astonish."~~Terry Southern, novelist and screenwriter

Now, I want to know:
How do we astonish?

How do we KNOW that we astonished?

Who determines if we have the capacity to astonish?

With an apple I will astonish Paris. Paul Cezanne :)

In truth, the only restrictions on our capacity to astonish ourselves and each other are imposed by our own minds. David Blaine

I Fought the Law

One of my characters changed his personality tonight. He didn't act like he usually acts. I've known him for several months and all of a sudden, he's coming across a little too casual and almost goofy. In fact, tonight he reminded me of Keith Mars, Veronica's dad, and I realized that's who he is -- a young Keith Mars.

I wonder what causes characters to change mid-stream. Am I getting to know him a little better, or am I going off on some tangent that'll screw me up and waste my time? I'm nearing the end of my book, just a few more chapters. I can't get tangled up with any more subplots.

Dwight Swain, author of Creating Characters , How to Build Story People, wrote: As a matter of fact, a character either in life or in fiction, may, for his own personal reasons, intentionally convey a false impression.

And I say, "Be careful, Sheriff. I won't let some off-the-wall lawman slow me down. "

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Please Mr. Postman . . .

If you ask me to name ten things I love, my mail box will be on the list. In fact, I can almost guarantee that if you show this picture to my daughter and ask her who it reminds her of, she'll point to her mother. ;-) I've always had an enormous affection for my mail box.
Mailing manuscripts and receiving checks or rejection slips was a joy to me, and I miss those days. Email just doesn't seem the same. I press the send button, and there it goes into a deep, dark hole. Who knows if the article, poem, proposal reaches its destination? What's worse, I believe email simplifies rejections. Hit reply, type "no thanks, doesn't fit our needs," and Ms. Editor is finished with me. Ever accidentally delete something? Oh, yeah, that'll work to someones advantage. Wonder whose?
Shhhhhh, let's just pretend we never received this crummy query.
This rant isn't an attack on editors or agents or even email. It's an attack on progress. I don't like it. I want to slow down this world. I want anonymity -- not just for myself, but for every agent, editor and author out there. I don't like knowing my favorite author has a snarly side, but I often see it on writing loops. I don't like learning that some agents are slackers or that they put their own writing before their business of being an agent, or that they're on another cruise or that they attend writers' conferences for the sole purpose of meeting with their clients, or that they're just downright mean. I don't like hearing that a favorite author has a radical, political side, or that she curses like a sailor.
The Internet makes sure I know all these things.
My daughter is right. I should have been a postal worker.