Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Beyond The Storm by Carolyn Zane

I don't read books that deal with natural disasters. No hurricane books. No crashing hotel books. No books about epidemics that ravage a country. I don't read about airplane crashes either. I was a little surprised at myself for requesting this book--especially now that I'm living in Oklahoma where tornados are common. Of course, the only reason I did is because I've read Carolyn Zane. She's an excellent storyteller. In fact, I challenge you to find a bad Zane book. Carolyn did an excellent job building tension. Every page I turned increased my anxiety. I read, I laughed, I cried, I constantly battled a heavy chest and a knot in my throat. Read more about her at the Christian Fiction Writers Magazine.

There was only one scene in the book that caused me concern. I thought, "Oh, how convenient was that!" SPOILER ALERT! Zane used a homeless man who happens to be a doctor to deliver a baby. I have to admit, when I bring Beyond The Storm back to mind--as I often do--I've grumbled at this particular scene, but guess what: It's not too much of a stretch after all.  Take a look at this article.

By the time you finish Beyond The Storm, you'll be wishing you knew these people. I can promise, you'll yearn to be part of Selma's make-shift family, sitting at her dining table, listening to her words of love and wisdom. And you'll definitely want to learn to quilt!

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Beyond the Storm
Abingdon Press (October 2012)
Carolyn Zane


Author of 35 books, wife, mother and yes…hot (flasher) lives with her fabulous husband, Matt and their 5 children and 3 dogs in the scenic Willamette Valley in Oregon. When asked to describe her family, Carolyn likens her crowd to the Brangelia Bunch saying modestly, “Only we’re better looking.” Right now,Carolyn is back in the saddle with her new title: Beyond The Storm, coming out in October 2012! In the mean time, be sure to catch her on the critically acclaimed TOOHOTMAMAS Blog where Carolyn and Wendy tackle Marriage, motherhood and menopause: How to do all three and stay out of prison! They are hilarious! You'll wet yourself, guaranteed! Visit them at: www.toohotmamas.wordpress.com.


After a tornado rips through her town, store owner Abigail comes across a piece of fabric from a wedding dress among the devastation. Abigail is moved to start collecting other swatches of fabric she finds – her neighbor’s kitchen curtains, a man’s necktie, a dog’s bed – which she stashes in shopping bags. As she pursues her seemingly absurd quest, horrible realities spark the question, “What kind of a God would allow such tragedy?”

As she struggles to reconcile her right to happiness amidst the destruction, Abigail begins piecing together a patchwork quilt from the salvaged fabric in hopes it will bring some peace. But a new relationship with Justin, a contractor, may require too much of her fragile heart. Will her pain and questions of faith give way to the courage to love?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Beyond the Storm, go HERE.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Vote! and Stuff

Our latest issue of Swamp Lily Review is available for your reading pleasure. We have some wonderful artists, photographers and poets in this issue. We’re focusing on an annual happening in our area called Vision/Verse.
Vision/Verse is an interesting event that reinforces the bond between the literary and visual arts by examining the role of inspiration in art, particularly how poetry can inspire art and how art can influence poetry. Read the editor's note, then click on Issue 2, Number 2 to meet our contributors.
Second: The Bayou Writers’ Group will host their annual conference on November 10th.  If you’re interested in a small, intimate conference in Lake Charles, Louisiana, then get more information and a list of speakers by clicking on this link.  Hope to see you there!

We voted today. We drove 10 hours to do so, because we can’t vote on November 2nd. We believe voting is one of our most important rights and responsibilities. I have family members who don’t vote, but they sure gripe about everything that happens in our country. I always wonder why they grumble when they’re willingly relinquishing their voice, their right to choose leaders and representatives. I guess it makes more sense to them than it does me. Sometimes we believe our vote isn't important. That's not true. Every vote counts.

I hope you go to the polls--rain or shine.

Have a great weekend!


Monday, October 22, 2012

Repurposing for Success

I don’t like the word cannibalism though I’ve used it often in reference to my writing. Now, I prefer to say, I’ve repurposed my novel, my chapters, my short stories.
I have so many books that don’t work for various reasons: weak conflict, flat plot, boring characters. Though I argue with all these assessments, I can’t force anyone to publish these particular pieces and don’t have the courage to epublish them myself. I guess in the back of my head, I wonder if these editors, agents, critique partners might be right. So … I’m repurposing. Did you know if you change the name of a character it really does help you change that character’s personality? True. While an Adrianna might be quiet, reserved--a Jackie is more aggressive. At least she is in my story.

The option book I submitted to Silhouette Romance after The Groom Wore Blue Suede Shoes came out was rejected. I’ve always liked my characters and portions of the plot, so I’m repurposing it. The first chapter was revised, combined with a portion of another chapter, and turned into a short story--little more than eight thousand words. I submitted it to Cajunflare Publishing owned by LoriLeger of Louisiana for her Christmas anthology. It was accepted and from what I understand, will be available on November 1st.
I met Lori more than a year ago before she leaped into her publishing venture. I had no idea at the time--and she didn’t either--that she would become what I call a regional (or small press) publisher. Being the insecure writer that I am, when invited to submit to her Christmas anthology, I made her promise if my story wasn’t worthy of seeing the light of day, she would reject it. And of course, she promised. Did I trust her? No! I was thrilled to learn a seasoned editor/author was also contributing to the anthology and volunteered her editing skills. Needless to say, when I submitted my story, I told the editor that I didn’t want to be published for the sake of being published--to please, please tell me if my story wasn’t worthy. Ever sent that kind of query to an editor? I told you in a previous post that I’m a sicko!

The editor deemed my story, A Child Was Born, worthy of publication. She didn’t hold back on the editing and marked every POV switch and lazy verb so I feel better about being included in Hearts, Hearths and Holidays, available in ebook and print form.  I’m excited and very nervous. I’ll show you the cover as soon as I get it.
In the meantime, what are you doing? Cranking up for NaNo? Me too! Getting ready for the holidays? Me too! Trying to decide who to vote for? Got that one nailed! Or just cruising along singing your song? Tell me about it.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Observations, Praise and Prayer

It’s frightening to learn how much I don’t know about writing--correct punctuation, powerful sentence structure, the show vs. tell, and correct POV.  

Ab. So. Lute. Ly.  Frightening.
Where have I been all my writing life? Why haven't I learned these things? I guess I've been marching to my own beat. Maybe I'm too hard-headed or just down-right unteachable.
Identifying reoccurring writing problems in my manuscripts puts fear in my heart--and my head. Certainly it makes me more aware, but talk about slowing the writing/editing process! Unless we do it correctly the first time. (And again, I have to wonder how published authors can whip out books so fast! Some of them make the same mistakes I make.)

And I have to admit, there's the rub. And, truth be known, THAT'S where I've been all my writing life! We're all told to read the popular writers, those who are churning out the books. They're certainly doing something right. They have the know-how. Okay, I read those authors I want to emulate. Really, tell me what I'm supposed to learn from them because I'm confused. They head-hop. I can't. They use adverbs. I can't. Don't tell me I have to know the rules before I can break them. Jeeze loueeze, that's not fair. The only reason breaking the rules works for them is because they're making money.

Now, Just point out to me what I'm supposed to learn by reading those wonderful bestselling authors like Nora, Stephen, Patterson, Child and others. Maybe ... storytelling skills?

I guess what I need to do is have the rules so ingrained in my mind that I don’t use words like, felt, feeling, as, see, saw, look, that, was, were, is, be, to name a few. I don't say Rosie blushed when I'm in Rosie's POV, because how could she possibly know? She can't feel it because she can't feel. Yes, I know heat can ravage her face like an Oklahoma drought ravages a field of corn. (ha, now that was fun.)

This is not a rant. Believe me, this is exactly what my blog title calls it: Praise, Prayers and Observations. Observations came first. Now here's the praise:

I got the edits back on my short story. There wasn’t a thing I didn’t agree with so I made all the changes suggested by the editor. What a learning experience! It makes me realize my constant handwringing is for nothing. I need to pay closer attention to choosing the right words, staying in POV and not over-writing.
Here’s a great new resource for anyone who is concerned about grammar and mechanics, technique and style, and plotting and characterizationCheck out one of the best articles I’ve read on point of view, called Why POV Matters by author/editor Alicia Dean. 

I make the same mistakes over and over again. Time to take my writing to the next level. The very thought brings on the handwringing!

Now here's the prayer: Lord, let me be teachable!

Have you identified any weaknesses in your writing? What do you think we're supposed to learn from best selling authors?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Good Enough!

I don’t like those two words. No matter how they're used. They attack me from all directions.

Is the manuscript good enough to send out? I ask myself those words way too often. I’m bad about preparing a piece for a specific market then sitting on it until the deadline passes, because I don’t think my manuscript is good enough.
I know there are writers out there who actually say, “It’s good enough” and shoot it off to an editor, agent, magazine, even though they could make their piece a little better.

Still, I envy them. I wonder ... How do they do it? What makes them so sure? Where does their confidence come from? Who determines when their piece really is ready to be sent to an editor? Their critique group? Their writing coach?

I have two submissions out. I’m waiting to hear if my novella and a short story will be accepted for ePublication. Sometime this week, I'll send the chapter to Harlequin--I thought it was ready, as you read in my previous post, but now I'm wondering, is it good enough?
 In my mind, everything I write needs so much more work. I keep thinking of my characters and the many ways I can make them stronger; I should have done more to strengthen the conflict. I'm so incredibly lacking when it comes to description.
I drive myself crazy!

 Since January of this year, I’ve probably submitted to four (five at the most) markets. That doesn’t include my articles for Southern Writers Magazine, of course. I have about an ounce more confidence in my nonfiction. Is this an illness? Do I need counseling? A writing coach? Probably. I do so much better when someone tells me what they want and when they want it. If they leave it up to me to set my own deadline, I'm a dying duck. I sit and quack good enough, good enough?

How many submissions do you make each month? Or during the course of a year? How do you know if they’re really good enough to be read by an editor? Or do you just slap it in an envelope or your email and say, who cares--it's good enough.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

New Authors Wanted

    LOVE INSPIRED® SUSPENSE is looking for new authors. They are launching a fast track submission period!

    Do you have an idea for an inspirational romantic suspense story and a first chapter?

    Do you enjoy writing about strong heroes and heroines working together to solve a mystery or overcome shared danger?

    Do you want an editorial response within a month?

    Then get a fast-track read in October.

    Here’s what to do: Read Instructions and a Q&A with Love Inspired Suspense editor Tina James.     
    Fast-track submissions received between October 15 and 26 will hear back from us less than one month after the closing date, before November 26.

      My submission is ready. Wish me luck!

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Writing Debate

The fact of the matter is …debates are not fun. Not for everyone! What if you had to verbally convince an editor, agent or publisher to buy your novel. I'm not talking about a ten-minute pitch. Picture this:
You’re at a writers’ conference. Instead of signing up for the Early Bird Seminar, you’re participating in a Writer’s Debate: You will stand at a podium with another writer and verbally try to convince editors and agents to take a chance on you and your manuscript.

Here’s how it plays out:

You have no notes and no teleprompter. You know your novel and characters--you’ve lived with them for a year so why would you need a cheat sheet? You've memorized a killer hook and a concise synopsis that sounds great. This time, because you're speaking, you’ll be judged on how you dress, how well you converse, your body language--everything visual. Could you do this? Would you want to do it?

Here’s what you should cover in the first round:
The title of your book and why you chose it. Give your one sentence hook, not a tagline. A sentence that creates interest in your manuscript. Recite your brief overview of your book--similar to the blurb on the back cover. Remember, pay attention to the way your speak, your tone of voice should be vibrant. Everything you say should make the editor/agent/publisher want to read your manuscript.
Back to you for more detail: Speak about your characters this time, their internal and external conflicts, and how they overcome and grow. List some plot points. Tell the editor/agent/publisher briefly your beginning, middle and ending, and how you want the reader to feel once s/he has finished reading your book. How many words is your book and how many chapters. Is the manuscript complete--no more revising and editing? Have you written or thought about book club questions and if so, how many have you created?  You'll also share information about what qualifies you to write this book. Where you've been published, Magazines, other books? What are your sales figures if you're a published author? Have you won any awards or have special degrees or certifications in creative writing? If you have nothing, no credits, etc, then tell us why. How long did it take you to write the book? How many books do you think you can write in a year? Are you a plotter or pantser? What kind of support group do you have? You should answer all these questions in your spiel. 
NOW YOUR COMPETITION SPEAKS AGAIN, MAKING HIMSELF SOUND VERY PROLIFIC AND KNOWLEDGEABLE. And this time he can point out weaknesses in your verbal proposal.

Your turn again:
Speak about your platform and how you are able to reach your target audience. Tell what you’ve already done, what contacts you have and what plans you have to market your book. Explain your social media presence and connections. Remember to speak with confidence. If you say you plan to be on Oprah, get ready for a heehaw unless you can prove that her people have contacted you.
Here comes the tricky part -- comparable books: you’ll want to tell about several novels that you see as similar to yours in some way. It’s your goal to develop a big-picture understanding of your book. This will show that you’ve done your research because you’ll recite the title, author, release year, and a couple of sentences about each book and how your book is similar and why/how it would appeal to the same audience.

They will ask each of you questions about each character’s motivation, jab holes in your plots. Once they’ve finished using you as a punching bag, they’ll ask questions about your market. Questions you should have thought of and have the answers to--like, who you see as the audience for the book? What will make someone buy your book? How you read your audience? Do you have any special relationships to the market?  What your audience does in its spare time, what books and periodicals they read, favorite TV programs, and how and why you feel you understand your audience?  They’ll ask personal questions about your writing and your home life, your support groups, professional affiliations, and how you give back to the writing community. They’ll ask what you see as your biggest challenge when it comes to writing.
When they finish their third degree, you will have a few moments for a last ditch effort to convince the powers-that-be to offer you the publishing contract instead of the other person.

Your competition has the same.

After such an event, no doubt you will duck into the hotel bar for a stiff drink, or to your room. Right before you pass out, you'll vow never to participate in such a brutal, demoralizing event again. Ever. But of course, you will because you'll do whatever it takes to sell your book.

I don’t blame you. I'm already practicing for the day selling a book comes to a writing debate.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

IWSG: Block Out The Noise

Visit IWSG
I have a few writer friends who have quit writing. Their reasons vary from health related to too many changes in the publishing industry to not enough money in writing.

I agree that the publishing industry has changed rapidly and every day there seems to be something new to learn. Sometimes I feel so far behind, I’ll never catch up. I’m battling a mental block when it comes to actually learning how to convert a manuscript to an eBook. Hopefully, I’ll figure it out. Instead of becoming discouraged or overwhelmed, I have to look at it as fun so it doesn’t seem too much of a challenge. At any rate, if you’re like me, dwelling on what you can’t do will paralyze you to the point you can’t accomplish anything. Dwelling on what I hear from other writers can paralyze me too.
I suppose you know that professional writers who get paid for their work don’t think very highly of writers who produce anything for FREE. They say things like, “If you write for free or substandard wages, you ruin it for the rest of us.” And they say, “If an editor can get a writer for free, why would they pay one?” 
Here’s a news flash:  We’ll never get paid what we think we’re worth.

Sure, being paid makes us feel valued. Receiving a check--large or small--makes us feel we’re actually doing something important, not being taken advantage of.  We’re smart enough to know that someone in the industry is making money--it’s just not us.
I’ve written for money and I’ve written for free. I’ve written for contributor’s copies, a byline and I’ve written for an online subscription. About the only place I draw the line is: no byline, no article. A girl’s gotta get something outta the deal!

I think the big questions for those of us who love writing and want to do it whether we get paid or not are:
Would we really keep writing if we never got paid? Do we love it that much? When we work on our novels, we’re writing for free but we hope and pray we’ll sell those books. If we knew we’d never sell them, would we keep writing them? Where can free writing take us? We’re always learning, of course, but can’t it lead (in the long run) to bigger, better opportunities? Of course, it can.

In the September 30th issue of Parade Magazine, there was an article on Sandra Day O’Connor by David Gergen. O’Connor graduated from Stanford Law School in 1952, and among the top students in her class. She couldn’t find a job. She applied for every job advertised on the placement bulletin board; not a single interview. Finally, O’Connor talked a county attorney’s office into letting her work for free until they could budget money to pay her. She says regardless of no pay, she loved her job. And we know what happened three decades later--she was appointed to the country’s highest court.
What would have happened if Sandra Day O'Connor had let pride, anger, bitterness keep her from doing what she loved and was trained to do?

  • I hope we all continue to do what we love and refuse to be discouraged by those who criticize us or unknowingly block our progress.
  • I hope you'll never be too proud to write for free, but always remember how much you love writing.
  • I hope you always remember that if you have a goal, a dream, a desire - there’s a way to accomplish it.
  • And that you'll always walk through the doors and windows that open. -Believe me, they open when you least expect it.

Take this opportunity to read the piece on SandraDay O’Connor in it’s entirety.