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Saturday, September 30, 2006

ACFW Contest Awards & Barbour Contract Awarded

Novel Journey would like to congratulate all the finalists in the Genesis and Book of the Year contests. The winners of each contest are:

Marian Merrit won the Genesis. For the complete list of the winners,
click here

and Colleen Coble won the Book of the Year. For the complete list of the winners,
click here

One tradition Barbour Publishing started in 2003 is to award a contract at the conference to a first time author for their debut novel. This year, the recipient was Cara Putman.

Cara, you received your first contract live at the ACFW conference with 400 of your fellow writers in attendance. How did that feel?

It was incredible to receive that first contract in such a public way. The best part was being able to share it with so many of the people who have helped me along the way since I started writing last year. And Colleen Coble’s excitement and hug made it so real! She and so many others have encouraged me and believed in me when I wasn’t sure why I was writing.

Tell us about this particular journey with Barbour.

At the 2005 ACFW conference, I had the privilege of hosting Jim and Tracie Peterson’s workshop. As Jim and I chatted prior to the worship, I realized we had a lot in common. He’s from Kansas; I’m from Nebraska. He was a history major; I’m a history minor. We both love WWII history. Because of that love, I asked if he’d ever heard of the North Platte canteen that served over 6 million service people between December 1941 and April 1946.

The wheels started turning. The next night I ended up at his table for dinner, and not because I planned to pitch a novel idea to him. But wouldn’t you know, the words popped out of my mouth. He sent me to talk to Tracie, and Jim said he’d like to see a proposal. This story poured from my heart for two reasons: 1) I believe the WWII generation made sacrifices that would be difficult to duplicate, and 2) the love story is based on my maternal grandparents. So it became a way to honor a generation and one very special couple from that generation.

I turned the proposal in to Jim in October, the complete manuscript in January, and made a couple requested additions in February or March. Then the waiting began in earnest. I really didn’t hear anything until Thursday night at conference.

I signed the contract this morning. And my mind is already plotting two more WWII stories from Nebraska that I hope to pitch to Barbour as additional books.

What was your family's reaction?

I called my husband while I was still hyperventilating. He was thrilled. He’s been such a support and encouragement to me. My six-year-old daughter was very excited, but my two-year-old was oblivious. My parents and siblings have been thrilled. I haven’t told my grandparents yet though I really need to since I’m using their names!

My dad did say one interesting thing. I kept saying “God is so good.” While he agreed, he also said, “But you sat down and you wrote the story He told you, too.” And he’s right. I could very easily have focused on my other books, but when God said write, I did. And now I can say He is so good regardless of whether I have a contract or not.

Has anything changed for you?

There have been two changes. The first is that I’ll get to see my first book in print in October 2007. But it’s only the first book, so I still have much to learn and do before I see a second contract.

The other change is that this confirmed I am right where God wants me for this season in my life. I went to conference desperate to hear from Him. I’ve spent sixteen months writing in the evenings after work once the kids are in bed. And I went to conference exhausted. Now I know that God approves of my efforts, and though I have no guarantees about what the future holds, I know who holds the future. And as I press hard after Him, I can’t wait to see what He has for me next.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Rumblings of Revolution

This week PW announced the price for the long-awaited, long-anticipated Sony Reader. I confess, I tend to be more enthusiastic about this product than the average person. I've been lurking in a Sony Group, so as not to miss any of the gossip. I've spent hours online trying to learn about its Japanese counterpart. Why? It's my opinion that the entire market is about to change, like music did with MP3 players.

So I am dying to know what you guys think. I've heard predictions that the product is doomed to fail , while I'm certain it's going to revolutionize publishing.

Here are some of my thoughts:

1.) I love that you can take ten books or more on vacation. Do I need ten books or more on vacation? Absolutely.

2.) I have waited a year and three months to read Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian because it's not available in paperback until October 3rd (yes, I know the exact date.) I just spent over $50 on fiction in Barnes and Noble, and even though The Historian is at the top of my 'wish list,' I was not willing to pay $25.95 for the hardcover. If publishers are willing to convey the savings to me (as in they have no printing cost, no shipping, and whatever else is saved) I am willing to read on a device. And, if I love the book (Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell,) I'll most likely go out and buy the real version as well.

3.) As a writer, don't we all dread people passing around novels? While I might not hesitate to share a book, there's no way I'm going to lend out my $350 Sony Reader. This has potential to increase sales.

4.) Recently, a woman told me that she only buys e-books because she can't see print like she used to. She told me about an online group of senior citizens who read e-books and discuss them. Why only e-books? They make the font larger and see the words. I imagine there's a good-sized market here.

5.) Editors, agents, reviewers, and authors ought to love this--we can take Word documents and read them on the Reader. Reviewers won't have to wait for the galley that the publisher won't have to pay for. I'd be able to download all my campaigns into memory stick and read them quicker. Imagine how compact a slush pile could become.

I've spent some time this afternoon talking to a Sony customer rep. I've learned quite a bit about the Sony Reader and am expecting more information soon. While we wait for that…. What do you guys think?

And yet more ACFW Pics

Jennifer Tiszai and Angie Poole

Mike Duran and his harem.

Mary DeMuth ... isn't she beautiful? Inside even more so.

Chip takes Gina to prom? No, just stopped for a quick pic at the award's banquet.

Returning Home

Gina is as good a friend as there can be. She still loves me. I don't deserve it, though. Not after what I did to her. I don't really know how it happened. Call it Sometimers.

I made the flight reservations for Reni, Gina and me, so we could all fly together. Reni was already in Atlanta for another conference, and Gina drove to my house from Virginia on Tuesday. Therein lies the problem. I think I was thinking about her state, and listed her as Virginia Holmes on the reservations.

Well ... it's possible for Gina to be a nickname for Virginia! Okay .. maybe not. Anyway, we had no inkling of trouble on the way to Dallas. But coming home ... well that was another story.

After arriving in the nick of time at the airport, Reni and I sailed through security, but not Gina: V. Holmes did not match her drivers license. They made her go to a security desk elsewhere. Then, to add insult to injury, she never knew Ane is a nickname. Not too many people do. So when they asked her about it, she said her friend, Ane Mulligan, made the reservations. They said there is no Ane Mulligan.

They finally straightened it out, but poor Gina was near tears with sleep deprivation. Add to that thunderstorms over Atlanta which delayed our flight 4 1/2 hours. Two of those hours were spent sitting on the tarmac. Well, we sat on the plane. The plane sat on the tarmac. We were supposed to get to Atlanta at 7:15, time to have a nice dinner when we got to the house. Right. We landed at 11:00 P.M.

Dinner? Oh, certainly. A nice cup of ice water and a pretzel.

But thankfully, Gina still loves me. Don't know why. :o)


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Memories Are Made of This

Deb and Colleen worked so hard for us. Thank you ladies!

Pennies, Gina and Janet Rubin (these girls both have a wacky sense of humor, definite trouble together).

Our critique group, The Penwrights, aka pennies. Gina, Janet, Mike Duran, Kelly Klepfer, (from the back right) Michelle Griep, Vicki Cato, Ane, Reni Bumpas and Terri Thompson). A few members are missing. What a love fest we had. We bonded big time.

(Gina snuck this one up). Reni was thinking of writing Muslim chick-lit. Ane didn't like the idea by her expression. We had a lot of fun in the room too. We're a bunch of weirdos.

This year's conference theme was New Beginnings. I found it to be quite appropriate - for me, especially. Gina has been telling me for months, no for years, that I write suspense. I argued with her, refusing to see it.

I love women's fiction. Deb Raney is my favorite women's fiction author, and a mentor. She's taught me so much. Then on Friday evening, Deb shot me down. She had a cohort. Colleen Coble. They both told me what I write is romantic suspense. Me. The Queen of the Big Honkin' Chicken Club. Sheesh. I guess when you have the Divas of Women's Ficiton and Romantic Suspense tell you that you don't write WF but RS, you gotta believe them. But does this mean I have to turn in my crown?

Of course, Gina, being the wonderful crit partner she is, didn't gloat - too much. *wink*

I really do have to thank Deb and Colleen, though. During the brainstorming session we had Friday evening, they gave me some wonderful ideas and encouragement - to soften the startling genre news. ;o) Both are wonderful mentors. It's hard to find words to fully thank you.

Deb, I've known you and learned from you for four conferences. Each one has taken my work up another notch.

Now I'm pulling out some of Colleen's novels to learn more from. :o)

And then there is my separated-at-birth-sister, Diann Hunt. Her critique encouraged me further, and gave me some wonderful new ideas! Thanks, Diann!!

I had a blast doing the conference preparedness course, but was unprepared for the sweet things so many said at the conference about it. One person gave me chocolate and another a hand made pair of earrings - coffee cups no less! She sure has my number. :o)

But for me, the highlight of the conference was when they were announcing the names of the people who had been nominated for Mentor of the Year and I heard my own name mentioned. I had told the Lord that if nothing else, this year I wanted to go as a servant to help others. I've been on a two year journey with the Lord about priorities. I learned it's all about Him and not about me. So I came to Dallas asking Him to make it about Him. I received so much more.

The wonderful worship brought us right into God's throne room. That was awesome. And all the wonderful Loopers whom I've gotten to know over the last year online, I got to hug and look into their eyes ... and when I did, I saw Jesus.

There are so many of you who I grew close to recently and feel like I've known you for years. Robin, Heather, Alice and Betsy - how much fun to burn up cyberspace with you!

So to everyone I hugged, I can't wait to hug you again in 07 in Dallas! And Lena, I'm hot on your trail, redhead! :o)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

More ACFW Conference Pics

Gina Squared.

For those of you who get me and "the other Gina" confused.

Gina Holmes on left.
Gina Conroy on right.

Gina's are cool!

Me with my friend Camy Tang. Camy did a GREAT job on the Genesis contest this year.

Her Asian chick lit book is coming out with Zondervan next year and I can't wait. If the book shows her personality, it's going to be fantastic!

Ane and the very sweet Diann Hunt.
(Ane is seldom seen without her coffee)

Monday, September 25, 2006

More ACFW Conference Pics

Michelle Griep bit me, then kissed the boo-boo. She's a freak but writes killer speculative time travel novels, so we put up with the weird "bite your cheek then kiss it better" thing she's got going. We're pretty sure it's a phase. Last year it was stomp your toe and then tickle you. I liked that a little better.


Gina, Brandilyn Collins, Janet Rubin and you know the crazy red-head on the end.

We did this every time a bell-boy held out his hand for a tip. We figured a smile was better than the couple of bucks he normally gets and you know how we hate cliches.

Awards ceremony. Liz Curtis Higgs and me.
I was going to wear a cute purple dress I had but Liz demanded we match, so I had to run out and buy the black one at the last minute. What a diva. (wink)

Two beautiful ladies, inside and out:
Dee Stewart and Mary DeMuth (I'd do a joke on this one but frankly Mary's claws digging into the back of your neck feels even more painful than it sounds.)

Freaky demon chicks:
Claudia Mair Burney & me.

(You have read Murder, Mayhem and a Fine Man by now surely. It's an amazing book!)

ACFW Conference Pics

Heather Diane Tipton, Robin Miller, Dineen Miller, Ronie Kendig

Mike Snyder, Me, Jeanne Damoff

David Gregory and yours truly

I think I was trying to give Mike Duran and Ane Mulligan horns, but in my sleep deprived state was a bit off. Nothing new.

ACFW Conference Notes Part I

Hi everyone! My apologies for not blogging from the conference as I said I would. Ane and I just couldn't do it. For one we were seriously sleep deprived, getting about two hours a night of slumber. We were goofy tired the whole time so we weren't very coherent.

But that wasn't the main reason we didn't blog from the conference. We have spent the last two to four years in on-line critique groups. Ane pulled me from the one she was in because she saw talent and the willingness to learn and apply what I was taught. I saw that in others and so on. Over the years we've pulled together a critique group of talented folks who actually use what we teach them and at least try not to argue. This group has become more than just writing partners, we've become prayer partners, shoulders to cry on, encouragers and some of the best-friends in my life.

It's an odd thing to call people you've never met close friends but most if not all of you will know what I'm talking about. So, to have the rare opportunity to touch these people, look into their eyes, share a glance and that sort of thing was something that Ane and I held on to and didn't want to let go. Not even to blog.

There is so much to share as usual from this amazing conference. One of the highlights was sitting in Mary DeMuth's class. I thought I knew Mary from our on-line relationship. I like Mary in cyberspace. I love Mary in person. Her sweet heart and hunger to serve God in an authentic way was awesome. She made me cry and made me think and made me want to go home and pour my soul out onto a piece of paper, without worrying about "pimping my soul" but as a sacrifice to my Lord. Thank you Mary.

I got to spend some time chatting with Brandilyn Collins who I know online and have met in person but I saw a side of her that touched me and inspired me. Most of you know she has the Scenes and Beans blog which is a clever publicity tool to promote her Kanner Lake series. Her bloggers, me included, knew she would promote us to the editors/agents we met with, but she went above and beyond, chiming in when a blogger was standing with an editor and really talking up that writer's talent. She didn't have to do that of course. She did it because it came natural to edify others. That's what I love about Christian writer's conferences and ACFW in general.

It's like a candidate for congress bringing their competition around a fundraising party and asking everyone to vote for THEM. That's what these authors do. They are (as my buddy Alton Gansky says) raising up their competition. All for the glory of God.


I have much more to say of course. And though it's embarrassing, I want to share with you how God dealt with my pride issue, because I'm guessing I'm not the only one who struggles with this.

The picture at the top of this post is me and Ane of course, and our friend "S. Dionne Moore" (aka Sandra) a critique partner of ours and a dear friend. (Her cozy mystery will be coming out with Barbour soon. We'll be interviewing her, so you'll get a chance to get to know her more.)

Our friend and critique partner, Mike Duran of has signed with agent, Janet Kobobel Grant. Janet is an awesome agent and Mike is blessed to get her but she is just as blessed because Mike is ridiculously talented, really fun to hang out with, has the heart of servant and a passion for the Lord. Congratulations to Janet and Mike for finding each other!

Another highlight was meeting Faith In Fiction's, Dave Long. He's even cooler than I thought he'd be. I actually sat down with him and pitched my story, which is always nerve-wracking. I always try to look and seem professional but I felt so comfortable I may have even said "dude" in my pitch.

I also got to sit down with my friend Claudia Mair Burney (Murder, Mayhem and a Fine Man). This woman is an angel online. She takes down her mask in her writing in a way I aspire to. We hugged and talked and shared with each other how we've been blessed by one another. She's so special that my words are inadequate.

I also had opportunity to hang out with the folks from The Master's Artists. How cool am I? They made me feel like family. We ribbed each other and laughed a lot. Phenominal group!

Dee Stewart and I spent a lot of time together praying, listening to each other, crying and brainstorming story ideas. She's another one I really liked online but I love in person. A very talented, very sweet lady.

Yet another highlight was hanging out with my conference mentee, David Gregory (Dinner with a Perfect Stranger). He's a best-selling author but as humble as can be. He was such a joy to get to know and I was honored beyond words that he let me show him around a little.

Stay tuned, we have so much to share and lots more pics.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Contest -- Win a Free Blog Design

Tonight, I stumbled across this blog: and saw there was a contest to win a free blog design. I found her because of this blog ( which she designed.

If you want to enter, you have to hurry. The deadline is 11:49 EST tonight.

Look soon for a publicity post about what author blog and websites should contain.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Just in from Dallas

With the majority of our readers attending the ACFW conference, I'm going to take a night off and not post about publicity. I spoke with Gina earlier this evening and she hasn't yet accessed the Internet, so I have the privilege of passing on the conference news.

Here are the highlights so far:

I'm excited to announce that veteran of the publishing industry Chip MacGregor is forming his own literary agency—MacGregor Literary. Hopefully when Gina is back online she'll be able to tell us what, when and the where.

Cara Putnam, ACFW member and fellow blogger, received a surprise contract during an announcement. Her debut novel will release with Barbour. [
Click here] to drop by her blog and offer congratulations.

That's all the news I have so far. Stay tuned for more updates.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Author Interview ~ Kathy Herman

Kathy Herman, the bestselling author of the Baxter series, Poor Mrs. Rigsby, and the Seaport Suspense novels, is at home in the Christian industry. She spent five years on staff at the Christian Booksellers Association and eleven years as a retailer at Better Books Christian Center in Tyler, Texas, where she specialized in children’s products. Not By Chance is her tenth novel. Kathy and her husband, Paul, have three grown children and five grandchildren. They enjoy world travel, deep sea fishing, and bird watching—often all at the same time!

What new book or project would you like to tell us about?

I’d like to introduce you to Not By Chance, the 4th and final book in the Seaport Suspense Series, which released in August 2006.

Not by Chance is the story of thirty-year-old Brandon Jones who walks away from a six-figures job in search of significance and loses his fiancée in the process. He goes to live with his parents in Seaport (a fictitious town in the Florida panhandle) until he can decide what he wants to do with his life.

He befriends Weezie Taylor, an African American woman who offers a good listening ear and intriguing spiritual insights. But when their relationship is misread by a group of racists, he finds himself in the middle of the worst hate crimes since the 60’s.

He develops a strong attachment to a biracial adolescent named Caedmon Nash, who mysteriously disappears just before a dangerous hurricane is predicted to make landfall. Brandon risks his life to find Cade, unaware that the divine appointment that awaits him will answer the deepest question of his heart and teach them both what true significance is.

Not by Chance is fast-paced and suspenseful and touches the hot button of racial prejudice, though on a spiritual level, this story makes us confront the realization that God has a specific plan for every person; and that none of us is here just by chance.

Tell us about your publishing journey. How long had you been writing before you got a contract? How did you find out and what went through your mind?

I always knew I had a knack for writing. I aced every essay test in school and used my writing skills in every job I had. Though I never once considered writing a novel, I did hope to write a children’s book.

At age 50, I retired from working in our family-owned Christian retail store due to joint problems. I decided to take a stab at writing a children’s book. I had specialized in them for the previous eleven years and thought for sure I could write them. After two weeks of staring at a blank laptop screen, I got depressed. My husband told me to write something—anything—it didn’t have to be a children’s book.

So I wrote a scene: a detective sitting on a park bench, a lake in front of him and a quaint little town behind him. He was waiting for something to surface in the lake…I had no idea what it was and was intrigued that I didn’t! The next day I wrote the prologue to Tested By Fire, which was my first suspense novel. When it was finished, I let my husband’s employees read it, and they got really excited.

I honestly thought it was a fluke, and that I could never do it again. But the next day I wrote the prologue for Day of Reckoning, and ten weeks later, it was finished. Same reaction from his employees. Then I wrote Vital Signs—same reaction. We decided maybe it was time to seek a publisher.

Long story short, we contacted someone we knew at my publisher of choice simply to find out the “process,” and was given an hour-long interview with their pub board at the Christian booksellers convention. We presented them with all three manuscripts. Two weeks later on a Saturday morning, we got a call at home from the VP of Editorial, who said he’d have a contract for the three novels out to us within ten days. My husband said, “Oh, Kathy’s got at least two more in her.” And believe it or not, the VP said, “Well, then, we’ll give her a contract for five.”

My reaction? Tears, joy, utter disbelief. When we hung up, Paul and I hugged and just thanked the Lord. After it all hit me, I realized I was about to get a contract for two books I hadn’t yet written and hadn’t even thought about. That was a little scary. I think it’s important to add that this simply isn’t the usual and almost never happens.

Do you still have self-doubts about your writing?

Sure. I can’t imagine there’s an author alive who doesn’t. In my case, it might have to do with the sense that I didn’t “pay my dues” by going to all those writer’s conferences before I got published. I didn’t have a chance to learn all the lingo writers use—or the in’s and out’s of writing a novel. I just jumped in and did it. And though I’ve had two CBA national bestsellers, Tested by Fire and All Things Hidden, and a significant reader following, I don’t think I can view my own work objectively.

The one surprise I’ve enjoyed with each of my novels is when reading the galleys. At that point, I’ve been away from the book for about two months—and I’m always shocked at how good it sounds. When I’m in the throes of the writing, I’m too close to my work to tell if it’s good or not.

Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?

Not quitting, but certainly doing less. Though I’m thrilled to be able to put out two novels a year, it is sometimes hard to manage overlapping deadlines, which involves a lot more than just writing—everything from promotion to cover design to proofing galleys.

What mistakes did you make while seeking a publisher or agent?

None, really. My husband was my agent in the beginning, and once I got established, getting picked up by a reputable agent wasn’t an issue. But I will say that I think it’s very important for authors to look for publishers that seem to be a good match for the type of writing they do.

I felt I was a good match with my publisher, and that’s why I submitted my manuscripts there. Same holds true when seeking an agent. If an agent truly likes your work, he/she will do a much better job for you than if you’re just another client. Unless an agent is excited about your work, I don’t think he/she will represent you well.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve heard?

Stay teachable. I think the most dangerous thing an author can do is get too full of him or her self and stop listening to the advice of other professionals.

What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

Write what you know. I think our work would be boring if we did that exclusively. It’s certainly a benefit to use what you know, but I think it’s important to research and learn as you go.

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

It bugs me that novels that are deemed “Christian” are often immediately assumed to be irrelevant to the majority of the population. Neither the characters in my novels, nor the problems they face are irrelevant. They deal with contemporary issues that could be right off the front page of the news. And they leave the reader with lots to think about.

What do you wish you’d known early in your career that might have saved you some time and/or frustration in writing? In publishing?

I wish I had understood that an abundance of beautiful, flowery words doesn’t necessarily make a novel good. I had to learn the idea of less is more—that the fewer words I can use to make the point, the better it reads. I can’t tell you how many words my editor cut in my early novels—paragraphs! They sounded pretty, but they did little or nothing to further the storyline.

Was there ever a difficult set back that you went through in your writing career?

My first editing experience caused me to question whether or not I had what it takes to write professionally. I was a newbie that needed a lot of direction, and my editor’s comments were tough on my delicate ego. It didn’t take long for me to learn to respect and trust his years of experience. In essence, I feel as though I “paid my dues” that first year after I got published.

What are a few of your favorite books?

A Nest of Sparrows, by Deb Raney; The Oath, Frank Peretti; Walking on Water, Madeline L’Engle; Leota’s Garden, Francine Rivers; Les Miserables, Victor Hugo; Blood of Heaven, Bill Myers; Your God is Too Safe, Mark Buchannan; Bettye, Lyn Cote; Cape Refuge, Terri Blackstock. The Gospel of the Second Chance, Max Lucado. Usually whatever I’m reading at the moment is my favorite. Right now I’m enjoying The Novelist by Angela Hunt.

What work have you done that you’re especially proud of and why?

I’m very satisfied with All Things Hidden, #3 in the Seaport Suspense Series. I think it was the best written, had the tightest storyline, and was the most emotionally moving novel I’ve written. I loved the characters, especially a little four-year-old girl who will be with me forever. This book had all the components I like in a novel: strong characters, suspense, emotion, spiritual challenge.

Do you have a scripture or quote that has spoken to you lately in regards to your writing?

Not just lately, but all the time: I Corinthians 1:18: For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but for us who are being saved, it is the power of God.” I am never ashamed to weave the Good News into my stories. It IS the power of God, and it’s surprising how many readers have told me how my books have drawn them back to God—or to God for the first time.

Can you give us a look into a typical day for you?

After I get my husband off to work around 8:00 AM, I sit down and write till about 6:30 PM. Depending on how much into “the flow” I am, I may not take much of a break. Some days it’s harder to get in the flow, and I take several breaks or go do something else for a while. On Saturday, I get up at 5:00 AM and work until about 1:00. Writing professionally is a full-time job.

Do you have a word or page goal you set for each day?

The actual count varies each day, but the goal is always 2,000 words.

Are you an SOTP (seat of the pants) writer or a plotter?

SOTP by nature, plotter to the extent that I must give my publisher the storyline a year ahead of pub date. But it always changes for the better as the story develops.

What author do you especially admire and why?

Angela Hunt. She can juggle dozens of projects at the same time and still produce wonderful novels multiple times a year. And she’s always growing and learning. I think she’s amazing.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

Most favorite: the element of surprise. I don’t have an outline to work from, but even the few times I’ve tried nailing down the story ahead of time, my characters invariably decide they’re going to do it their way. I just get inside them and let my fingers do the talking. It’s great fun!

Least favorite: Balancing my time and arranging my life around deadlines.

How much marketing do you do? What's your favorite part of marketing?

Truthfully, I don’t do much marketing myself. My husband manages a LifeWay Christian Store and is the marketer in our family. I do put out a quarterly online newsletter to my mailing list. And my publisher does a great job of promoting my books to retailers and consumers. I am always willing to do radio interviews and book signings and public appearances.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

If you have a passion for writing, don’t stop trying to get published. But don’t stop writing in the process! Keep those fingers moving and those ideas flowing. Your writing muscle can only be developed by using it.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Author Interview ~ Lauraine Snelling

Lauraine Snelling is known for writing about real issues within a compelling story, addressing topics such as forgiveness, loss, domestic violence, and cancer. She has published more than fifty books, including The Healing Quilt, The Way of Women, and Saturday Morning. The recipient of the Silver Angel Award and a Romance Writers of America Golden Heart, Snelling teaches at writers’ conferences across the country and at her home in California’s Tehachapi Mountains. She and her husband, Wayne, have two grown sons and a beloved Basset hound named Chewy.

What book or project is coming out or has come out that you’d like to tell us about?

The Brushstroke Legacy is a new venture for me in that it combines my two loves of writing both contemporary and historical. With three generations of women, the earliest in 1906, with great grandmother Nilda, an adult woman of today, Ragni and teen Erika, all are artists in hiding, I covered the gamut. I absolutely love this book.

Tell us about your journey to publication. How long had you been writing before you got the call you had a contract, how you heard and what went through your head.

I attended a write
r’s conference in 1980, writing had been a dream of mine since high school, and that propelled me into learning how to write for publication. For a change I did as I was taught and started out with query letters all over the place. My first contract was for an article, not a phone call but a letter, and I was ecstatic. I thought, this is it, I’m on my way. I followed the process with my first novel proposal too, again a dream of writing horse books for young girls. Baker Book House bought it. I sent it to them on the recommendation of my teacher, Colleen Reece, again starting with query, then proposal and finally the entire manuscript. It worked! They bought it. I wish all submissions had been as easy. Persistence is a necessary trait for writers to develop.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?

Every time I finish a book, I’m sure it is the worst I’ve ever written. I’ve learned that by the time I complete the rewrites, I have no sense of good or bad. I’m tired, tired of the book and so thankful I work with wonderful editors who not only help me see what works and what doesn’t, but remember to tell me that the book is good. We all need encouragement, no matter what stage we are in our writing career.

What mistakes have you made while seeking publication?

Not being consistent enough. Getting a good idea and not acting on it at the time. Then when I see someone else had the same idea published, even in the same magazine I’d thought about, I really wanted to kick myself. I think God has a big shaker of ideas, He sprinkles them out over the world and anyone can take one that comes to them and go with it. The smart ones do, the rest of us kick ourselves.

What’s the best advice you’ve heard on writing/publication?

Hang in there. Too many people give up too soon. Do your homework re improving your craft and your marketing. I lived by “sell it before you write it.” I still do, although now I write mostly novels, they are still sold before I write them.

What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve heard?

You have to get up early and write first thing in the morning. I am a swing shift person, more an owl than an early bird. When our children were still at home, I did most of my writing after ten at night. People are different and you need to learn what works best for you. The trick is to experiment until you figure it out. I’ve also learned that as the years go by, things can change and you need to adapt to that.

What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

I am not by nature an organized person. Discipline has always been a four letter word to me. I have had to learn both. Or rather am still learning both. I had never worked in an office so all those skills needed to be instilled in my brain. I am so grateful for friends and teachers who have helped me on this track. I read articles and books on organization, on building good habits, on systems that can help me. There have been helpful speakers on the same topics. Sheer desperation is a good motivator. Imagine my shock when I learned the people alphabetize their spices. Never entered my mind.

Is there a particularly difficult set back that you’ve gone through in your writing career you are willing to share?

The hardest set back was when our daughter died of cancer at age twenty-one. I didn’t write for three years, other than for the job I had. Finally at the insistence of the counselor I was working with, I wrote Marie a letter. Then I wrote God a letter and after that a small article called, “Gifts for the Griever.” Within six months I was aching to write full time again and left my job to be able to do so. By the end of the six months I gave myself to see if I could get going, I had one non fiction book contract and a three book contract for a series of horse books for young girls. Live gets in the way of our dreams at times and there are things we have no control over. A major lesson for me.

What are a few of your favorite books? (Not written by you.)

Peace like a River by Leif Enger, The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning, The Power of One, don’t remember the author. Soundings by Hank Searles, My Sister’s Keeper by Jody Piccoult, Soul Survivor by Phillip Yancey, Five Smooth Stones by Grown, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Crosswicks Journals and Walking on Water by Madelyne L’Engle, The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale, I could go on and on.

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?

This is a hard question to answer because I have written sixty books, plenty of articles, plays, some poetry, lessons and I’m proud of it all. That’s quite a piece of work. Writing is not an easy thing, especially a book, any book. What comes to mind is that I finished them. I am an excellent starter but I can look at all this and say, I finished each one of those pieces. Are they all the best that I can do? Perhaps not, but they were the best I could do at the time and within the time. My goal is for each book to always be better than the last.

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

That those of us who write commercial fiction are looked down on by those who write literary, and that many of the reviewers prefer the literary and take pot shots at the rest of us. However, there is justice. We sell a whole lot more copies of our books. Both romance writers and those who write for children are frequently asked, “And when will you write a “real” book?” argggg.

Can you give us a view into a typical day of your writing life?

That all depends on how close to deadline I am. I like writing about ten pages a day and if I would do that every day, I’d not hit the dreadful deadline despair days. Sometimes I have to run away from home to get the writing done, too many distractions here. My best days are when I get up, go for a walk and stretch, do my devotions, eat breakfast, write from ten until two, work on promo stuff, read, knit or cross stitch, fit email in around things, write a couple of hours in the evening, read, and turn out the light about 10:30. Hard for me to believe that routine is actually helpful.

If you could choose to have one strength of another writer, what would it be and from whom?

That I could write faster. I have so many stories I want to tell. Karen Kingsbury is my hero in this regard.

Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?

Two dreams: hitting the New York Times best seller list. Have one of my books made into a movie. I don’t ask for much.

Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?

Every time the writing isn’t going well, meaning fighting for every word, I threaten to go flip hamburgers at MacDonald’s. The thought of that usually gets me back on track. When the story is flowing, I could not be happier.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

Favorite: hearing that people enjoy my books and that reading my books can make a difference in someone’s life. How awesome is that? Also the euphoria when the story takes hold so that I lose track of time. I love “having written.”

Least favorite: being behind on deadlines.

How much marketing do you do? Any advice in this area?

I do a lot of marketing and publicity because I enjoy it. I am an idea person and love having other people do the work on it. What I find is that it takes a tremendous amount of time and energy that draws against my writing. My best advice: if you don’t like doing it, hire an expert; if you do like doing it but are short of time, hire an expert.
There are also a lot of good books out there and sites online to learn from. But instead of getting overwhelmed by it all, pick a couple of things and do them well.

Parting words?

I thank all the people who read and enjoy my books. Without faithful readers I would not be able to keep on writing. When people ask me what are my dreams, I tell them, I am living my dream. I am doing what I most love to do and I am making a living at it. What a privilege and delight. Thanks is such a small word but I want to always live a life of love and gratitude. God is so gracious and faithful.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Author Interview ~ John Anderson

John Aubrey Anderson grew up in Mississippi cotton country. After graduating from Mississippi State, he received an Air Force commission and has recently retired after flying twenty-eight years for a major airline.

What book or project is coming out or has come out that you’d like to tell us about?

My first-ever effort, a novel, is arriving in the bookstores as I write this.

Abiding Darkness initially anchors itself in the relationship between two children.
Junior Washington is an eleven-year-old black child. He lives in a small cabin out on Cat Lake; his parents work for the Parker family. He’s loyal, compliant beyond what would normally be expected of an eleven-year-old boy, and he’s a committed Christian.

Missy Parker, who lives on the other side of the lake, is the crown princess of the Parker family. At seven years of age she’s beautiful, wealthy, willful, and tough as a tractor tire. And, in the midst of the most defined segregation in our nation’s recent history, this little white girl and Junior Washington are best friends.

Like so many novels set in the South, Abiding Darkness has warmth, humor, and truth in it . . . but because it’s about an on-going war, it has blood on it.

It’s a thriller.

Tell us about your journey to publication. How long had you been writing before you got the call you had a contract, how you heard and what went through your head.

Maybe the story behind Abiding Darkness would read better if it were filled with words about the personal cost of the process, but the converse is closer to the truth.

Compared to what most authors have to go through to get their words in print, what has happened to me is nothing short of a miraculous gift. Some of you will understand the last three words in this sentence, some won’t . . . God did this.

The journey of Abiding Darkness, from its inception to its release date, amounts to a twenty-year walk in the park. Initially, it was a two-thousand-word short story I wrote for our children—a thing about the impact of a person’s choices. I filed a copy away, and it lay dormant for ten years. I pulled it out about the time I retired from flying for a major airline—sometime in the mid-nineties—and “piddled” with it for five or seven years.

In the fall of 2002, I found myself surrounded by a few hundred thousand words and felt a need to become more focused. In the spring of ’03, on the advice of a friend, I took three chapters and a synopsis to my first-ever writers’ conference and submitted them to my first-ever editor. As it happens, that editor, Gary Terashita, wasn’t looking for a fiction project, but his critique sheet is framed and hanging in our home . . . his handwritten note at the bottom says, “We need to talk.”

And talk we did. We arranged to meet for coffee, and I told Gary I was at the conference trying to trim the odds against my getting published—hopefully down to 10,000 to 1. I’ll never forget his response: “Well, right now, you’re sitting on about 50-50.”

The Black or White Chronicles were born in that little coffee shop . . . and I thank God everyday for Gary, the man who has become my friend and editor.
My appreciation for what God has done for me is too shallow, but I ask Him often to help me more fully understand what He has chosen to give me . . . the gift of getting published.

Do you experience self-doubts regarding your work?

That may be something that will come in the future. For now, I’m too busy writing to give it much thought.

What mistakes have you made while seeking publication?

The only thing that stands out is . . . I initially bit off more than I could chew. I put together an idea that spanned a time period of about a hundred years. My editor caught what I’d done as soon as he looked at the synopsis, and the one book became a series, The Black or White Chronicles. With that said . . .

I don’t track past mistakes well . . . my memory doesn’t work that way . . . and I wasn’t seeking to be published long enough to foul up much.

What’s the best advice you’ve heard on writing/publication?

“If you’re serious about being published, you need to go to a writers’ conference.”

What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

What are a few of your favorite books?

In the fiction realm . . . C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe is probably my favorite. I think John Grisham’s A Time To Kill is a great book, and I’ve read it several times. Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird is, in my humble opinion, a near perfect book. Watchers, by Dean Koontz, is another favorite.

In the non-fiction department . . . I started out to say great things about the Bible, but my words are inadequate. The Bible is the word of God . . . that says it all.

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?

This may come off sounding self-righteous, but I hope I never get proud of something I get to do with this writing thing.

Your site does not have sufficient space for me to record the myriad things God has done to bring me to this point in my life. The circumstances that propelled this project are saturated with the miraculous. Anything special that happens in my life because I choose to situate myself in front of a computer screen will be only by God’s grace . . . my job is to bang on the keyboard.

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

At the risk of sounding eccentric, I think harboring a pet peeve is not unlike deciding what you dislike the most and then posturing yourself to react poorly when you encounter it. It makes better sense to me that I would take things one-at-a-time. Some will be good, and I’ll enjoy them—other things won’t be all that great, and I’ll get over them.

Can you give us a view into a typical day of your writing life?

I’m coming up on four years of meeting deadlines associated with writing (some self-imposed), so I’ve been more time constrained than at any other time in my life. However, there are some things that take precedence over my writing schedule.

Because I have a totally supportive wife . . . and we do have a life . . .
I start each day with my quiet time—studying my Bible, taking notes, praying, and usually reading something from a devotional book while I have breakfast.

I try to get to the gym three times a week (I ride a bike on alternate days), we do some socializing with close friends, we have children and grandchildren with whom we enjoy spending time, and we do church stuff. Thereafter . . .

I disappear into the room we’ve set aside for my writing space, and—except for brief excursions—I stay there all day and most nights until ten o’clock or later. Some days I only get in eight hours, others sixteen. For now, that schedule takes up seven days a week, and I seem to be thriving on it.

I’ll be finished with Book Three within the next few weeks, and I plan never to sign another three-book contract. If I can, I’ll generate one book at a time and play an occasional round of golf.

If you could choose to have one strength of another writer, what would it be and from whom?

I’m afraid this is one of those questions that calls for more knowledge of the craft than I possess because (a) I don’t know anything about other writers’ strengths and (b) I know precious little about my own. However, if there is one attribute I’d like to cultivate, it would be the ability to write faster (see answer to previous question). Words come slowly to me. If I could get them on paper faster, I’d have time to go play golf, take banjo lessons, or wash my own car.

Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?

Finishing The Black or White Chronicles will be no small task. I see it as a six-book series, and I would like for every book to be better than the one before. Thereafter, I would like to be able to do an effective devotional book for men . . . something along the lines of 365 attributes a real man should cultivate as a part of his makeup.

Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?

Not hardly.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

Having a least favorite thing would be presumptuous on my part. A person does not have to be in the writing industry to know that a million people would cut off one of their fingers to swap places with me. I’ve been given this unbelievably great opportunity to work for long hours in a role that gives me energy . . . why would I voice a whisper of complaint?

My favorite? Having people I don’t know come up to me and say things like, “Oh, my gosh! I stayed up all night reading your book. When is the next one coming out?” Or even better, “Let me tell you what I learned when I read your book.”

How much marketing do you do? Any advice in this area?

My website is nearly up and running. I would like to use it as a tool to reach fans, but so far answering interview questions is the closest I’ve come to doing any marketing per se.
Advice? Not yet.

Parting words?

I’m honored that you would invite me to give my answers to your questions . . . and I appreciate your letting me show up on your site.
And in the to-the-readers vein . . .

For those who cannot be turned aside from the pursuit of being published: Think less about being a writer . . . and more about writing.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Question for ACFW conference attenders

What is everyone wearing for the awards banquet? I've heard some ladies are wearing sequins, others not getting quite as dressed. I hate being over or under dressed.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Product Placement—A Two Way Street

With the upcoming ACFW conference, I considered writing a post about publicity and conferences. However at this point in the game, the best advice I could give is: network, network, network.

Hopefully, everyone already knows this. If you do not, find Gina, follow her, and do what she does. (In a worse-case scenario, she can be bought—cheap too.)

So instead, I'm going to post about an article that grabbed my interest this week. It deals with product placement in books for publicity and marketing purposes.

Click Here] to read said article.
Click Here] to read an article by Bill Fitzhugh and how he used this tactic to gain publicity for his novel.

So far, product placement in books hasn't leapt to the point where M&M's and Pepsi are clambering to be partnered with upcoming best sellers. Nevertheless, the concept can work in reverse for writers. Placing specific names or products in your novel can help you gain attention.


--I've seen television and radio producers take interest in an author just because their show was either in a scene or mentioned in the novel.

--Or, let's say you’re writing mom-lit and your character relies on a real network of mom's called "Mom's Can Do." When you publish, there's a good chance "Mom's Can Do" will be willing to send an e-mail telling their members there is a novel that features them.

--Setting your novel in a real location can spark interest with local media and residents.

There is opportunity to add elements to your novel that will make it easier to publicize. Of course, in a society where we are bombarded with advertisements and messages, there's also the possibility of turning your readers off. So, plant carefully.

I hope everyone has a great conference!

Author Interview ~ Allie Pleiter

Enthusiastic but slightly untidy mother of two, Allie Pleiter writes both fiction and non-fiction. An avid knitter, harp player, and non-reformed chocoholic, she spends her days writing books, doing laundry, running carpools, and finding new ways to avoid housework. Allie grew up in Connecticut, holds a BS in Speech from Northwestern University, spent 15 years in the field of professional fundraising, and currently lives in suburban Chicago, Illinois. The “dare from a friend” to begin writing eight years ago has blossomed into a career that includes numerous public speaking engagements, two books on parenting; BECOMING A CHIEF HOME OFFICER and FACING EVERY MOM'S FEARS, and four novels: BAD HEIRESS DAY and QUEEN ESTHER AND THE SECOND GRADERS OF DOOM, MY SO-CALLED LOVE LIFE out now, and THE PERFECT BLEND in 2007. She has been married for 15 years, is the mother of two children and, most recently, a Havanese dog named Bella. Visit her website at

What new book or project would you like to tell us about?

I’ve been having a grand time working on THE PERFECT BLEND, my Fall 2007 Love Inspired. It’s in the first person, mouthy style that so many readers enjoyed from MY SO-CALLED LOVE LIFE, which is great fun for me. Plus, it’s about a coffee bar, so I’ve had to visit lots of coffee bars to get the details right (Wow, I love my job…).

Tell us about your publishing journey. How long had you been writing before you got a contract? How did you find out and what went through your mind?

Well, this is the wrong question to ask me. I sold the first book I ever wrote. Please, don’t hate me—it was all God’s idea and he made the journey so fantastic because He knew if I could take credit for it, I would. It took me three years to finish my first book, mostly because I had little children underfoot. I tell people 90% of my first book was written on a laptop in McDonald’s with my kids in the ball pit (ba-a-a-a-d mommy). It took me another year to sell it. As for the sale, I jumped up and down, screamed, and then came back to Earth when my daughter said “That’s nice, Mom. Are you going to be on the phone long?”

Do you still have self-doubts about your writing?

Are you kidding? Absolutely. Actually, I waiver somewhere between “I’m absolutely brilliant” and “this is absolute drivel” on a daily basis. Sometimes on an hourly basis. Even on my eighth book, I still wonder when someone will politely tap me on the shoulder and say “the jig is up—you’re outta here.”

Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?

No. There was a very scary time when I wasn’t sure I’d get another opportunity to write professionally, but even then I knew I’d probably just write for my own enjoyment. There’s no denying this is a brutal business, though. I tell people “the good is very, very good, but the bad is really, really bad.” A writer who hasn’t entertained the idea of throwing in the towel probably hasn’t been a writer for much longer than a week.

What mistakes did you make while seeking a publisher or agent?

It all happened so quickly and so wonderfully that the whole process seemed like a miracle. Sure, it was bumpy, and it took soooo much longer than I thought, but I have no regrets about how it all took place. Mostly because I feel like I had so little to do with it. I did go with my gut, and I think that’s important because so many times in this business you must make decisions without all the information you’d like to have. I’m a product of divine intervention meeting undiscovered talent (and by that I mean a talent I didn’t even know I had).

What’s the best writing advice you’ve heard?

“Shut up and write the book.” Really. Don’t whine, don’t make excuses about not knowing enough or needing more craft skills. Do it. Get out of your own way and just tell the story. It was the first piece of advice I ever got, and it’s still the best.

What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

The whole concept of writing a “breakout” novel paralyzes me. I know it’s very important to take your writing to the next level, but I shoot myself in the foot when I try too hard. And it’s not that it’s bad advice—it’s very good advice—it just takes me to a very bad place where no good work happens. You’ve got to honor that. You’ve got to trust your own system, your own style, and honor what works for you while letting the rest go.

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

I wish it had more to do with worthiness. Great writing goes unnoticed, mediocre writing meeting with outstanding success, your best work may have your worst sales and vice versa. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if inspirational fiction was the one place in life where good work always got you good results?

What do you wish you’d known early in your career that might have saved you some time and/or frustration in writing? In publishing?

That “shut up and write the book” really is good advice. That you should take concepts and skills and styles that work for you, and not feel guilty about leaving things that either don’t work or work against you. The author who cranks out 10 pages a day is no less a professional than the one who writes one perfect page. I also wished I’d realized early on that you need to work hard to keep an even keel. It takes effort not to let the huge ups and downs of this industry take you up and down with it. My first years were a roller-coaster emotionally, and that wasn’t much fun for anyone. Jesus will not love you one shred less if you never publish another word—or one shred more if you hit the Times Bestseller list.

Was there ever a difficult set back that you went through in your writing career?

I do think it’s very important to share the setbacks. They humanize this business by allowing us to see both sides. I had one episode where I was blindsided by an inexplicable failure. It wasn’t anything anyone could explain, but it just happened and became a huge threat to my career. It was a very dark place, and it lasted far longer than I would have liked. The strongest lessons, however, often cost you the most. I’m so much more stable now, so much aware of the fragility of what we do, and how I will not be any less of a person without published books. It probably won’t surprise anyone that I believe my best work came out of that season. I’m glad to have survived it and always blessed when I share it.

What are a few of your favorite books?

My all-time favorite novel, hands down, is Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. I’ve read every book in the series—and they’re enormous.

What work have you done that you’re especially proud of and why?

LOVE LIFE presented a huge change in style and format for me, as well as several risks (a book that talks to you? What was I thinking?!?). I feel like it goes deeper and farther than lots of my books even though it is funnier and smaller. Does that make any sense?

Do you have a scripture or quote that has spoken to you lately in regards to your writing?

I ran across a verse this week (Romans 2:7)that told us to “patiently do good.” I like that. That’s my everyday—patiently do good. The rest—especially in this business—is up to God.

Can you give us a look into a typical day for you?

Typical?!? Ha! I’ll try. Up at the inhuman hour of 5:45 am, crawling to coffeemaker to down the first cup with addict-like zeal. Then two hours of getting various children onto various school busses, after which God and I sit down for some time together over a bit more coffee. I weave my writing work into my day, so my to-do list (I’m a huge list-maker) might read: “laundry, chapter 6, schedule book signing, walk the dog (often to the coffee bar—sense a theme here?), get the oil changed, find red shirt for daughter’s French skit, rewrite synopsis, carpool, attend church committee meeting, vacuum, check email, find name of local rugby team for book research, etc.” I try to wrap things up by the time my kids come home from school, and spend my evenings reading or knitting if I’m lucky, in school or church meetings if I’m not. I probably spend 2-3 hours a day in writing or writing related tasks. If I’m on a tight deadline, then all bets are off (and the coffeemaker’s on….)

Do you have a word or page goal you set for each day?

Yes. I’m very specific about what needs to get done each day. It’s even calculated on a spread sheet. I write in short bursts, so it’s usually somewhere between 3 and 7 pages a day. I wish I could write in big, luxurious chunks, but I just can’t.

Are you an SOTP (seat of the pants) writer or a plotter?

A synopsis is right up there with a root canal for me. I understand the need for them, I know they make me a better writer, but I live for the surprise of not knowing what happens next. I couldn’t write from an outline with a gun to my head. So definitely the SOTP kind of author—that’s me.

What author do you especially admire and why?

Diana Gabaldon. She’s such a talent—rich, deep characters you never forget, huge, sweeping stories, and…rather enviable sales.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

Favorite: those letters that make you cry and thank God for your gift. And those moments where it’s just singing out of your fingers and you love every word of what you’ve just written.

Least Favorite: I’m an extrovert, so the solitary task of banging it out at my keyboard is a challenge. That and those pesky sales figures—if I wanted to live and die by numbers I’d have been an accountant!

How much marketing do you do? What's your favorite part of marketing?

I love public speaking, so the workshops I give related to my non-fiction books and the events related to my fiction are very energizing for me. I do only as much marketing as I can, however, without detracting from my writing. I do what I like, what’s fun, and what’s wise, but I don’t let it take me away from finishing Chapter 16. I think that’s especially important. For your own personal, professional, and creative health, you have to set your own boundaries—no one’s going to do that for you,

Do you have any parting words of advice?

“Shut up and write the book.” You probably saw that coming. Only, I’d probably soften it to “hush up and write the book,” because that makes me sound more compassionate.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Author Interview ~ Leigh Bale

Award-winning author Leigh Bale writes contemporary inspirational romance. Her works have won and finaled in numerous contests including the Duel on the Delta, the Orange Rose, and the Finally A Bride. In 2006, she won the prestigious Golden Heart Contest sponsored by Romance Writers of America for best Inspirational. A member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, Leigh also belongs to various chapters of RWA, including the Faith, Hope and Love Chapter. She resides in Nevada with her husband and a Siamese fighting fish named Oscar. She has two children and one unbelievably smart grandchild, and she firmly believes there is more to life than the happy jingle of slot machines and bright casino lights. Visit her website at

What new book or project would you like to tell us about?

I am delighted to announce that I have a new contemporary Inspirational coming out from Steeple Hill Love Inspired. The book won the prestigious Golden Heart Contest for best Inspirational for 2006 and is a poignant story of faith and healing, both the physical body as well as the heart and spirit. The title will be THE HEALING PLACE and it is scheduled for an October 2007 release.

Tell us about your publishing journey. How long had you been writing before you got a contract? How did you find out and what went through your mind?

Oh, boy! Have you got an hour? Truly my journey has been long and difficult. I wrote my first book on a typewriter in 1981, the year I married my husband. (Yeah, and we’re still going strong! ) I had no outline, no writing plan, no idea what I was doing. I just started writing out of boredom. We were poor college students and had only one car, so I was stranded at my place of employment all day long. I took my brown bag and sat in the office during the lunch hour and got this crazy idea for a book. I’d always been telling stories since I was a child, but this was my first attempt at a full-length novel. That book will never see the light of day, it’s so horrible, but it was so pleasurable to write and the finished product convinced me I could do it again.

Over the years, I continued to write historicals and my skill level increased. I finally discovered Romance Writers of America, joined a local chapter, got involved in a critique group, and started winning contests. It wasn’t until I’d written my first contemporary that I sold, though. When I stopped writing historicals, my “writing voice” changed. The effect was delightful.

In March 2006, my book finaled in the Golden Heart Contest. Later, I received a call from RWA stating that one of my final judges had requested the full manuscript. I was in Europe with my husband and daughter to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, specifically in the town of York, England, when I asked my husband to call our son back in the U.S. just to check in. (Okay, I confess I really wanted to know how our little granddaughter was doing. ) He checked his voicemail and told me my then-agent had called and said she had an offer and I had better call her back. It took me twenty minutes before I believed him. I tried to call the agent back, but I got her voicemail. It was agony waiting two more hours for her to call. She laughed and said it served me right because she had been trying to reach me for two days!!! Melissa Endlich of Steeple Hill had been the final judge in the Golden Heart Contest who requested the full manuscript and she bought my book! A month later, the book won the Golden Heart and, needless to say, I was swinging from Cloud Nine!

Do you still have self-doubts about your writing?

More so than ever. Now that I’ve succeeded in selling, I have the dreaded “can I do it a second time?” syndrome. But, I know the skill level is within me. I just need to pull it out, put my fanny in the chair, strap my muse next to me with duct tape, and force her to write. I’ll provide the fingers for typing.

Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?

Yesterday. Not kidding. Seriously. Even with selling, you have good and bad days and ask yourself if it is worth it. Writing is such a solitary, thankless job. Rejection, professional jealousy, poor critique partners, bad agents, ignoring other activities that could possibly give you more positive reinforcement, all make for a lot of sludge every writer has to wade through. I remember once a multi-published friend told me that, after writing and serving deadlines for some time, she no longer enjoyed the process. In fact, she had come to hate writing! Gasp!

She decided then that if she stopped writing, it wasn’t that she had “quit” writing, but rather she had “finished” her writing. Many people never “finish” writing and keep going until they die. Others write and publish numerous times before they “finish” their writing. Some “finish” for awhile, leave it, and then return later on in life. It is a process of growth and learning. Each of us needs to dig deep inside and put aside all the other voices in our heads and decide what is best for us and our family. What will make us happiest.

I always ask myself, “If I quit writing now, will I regret it in five years and feel that I was not “finished” with it?”

If the answer to this question is a resounding “Yes!” then I keep on writing and find ways to work around the yuck stuff. Endurance is a virtue in this field.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve heard?

Write. Until your fingers are nubs. When you reach the bone, use your toes. (Okay, yes, you can tell I’m a serious writer and have been doing this a loooong time, right?)

The only way you can get to the point that you are writing really strong fiction is by writing. Your great website, your writing memberships, your contest wins, and your critique partners, cannot sell your book if it’s no good. And no matter what your writer friends are doing or what others say, they aren’t there with you during the lonely hours when you’re putting your story down in black and white. There are just you and your computer or typewriter. So, remember to be true to yourself and learn to shut out the other voices of doubt and professional jealousy or other negative things around you. And write.

What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

The worst piece of writing advice I ever heard was that entering writing contests is a waste of time. If you keep contests in perspective, they can really work for you.

I sold off of the Golden Heart Contest. I had logged a lot of finals and wins in other writing contests, that helped me learn where my story flaws were. From that advice, I was able to strengthen my books. I loved entering contests that provide feedback from the judges.

Now, a word of caution: Some judges are horrible. Some don’t know what they’re doing. Some have never even written a book themselves and really have no idea what writing a complete book entails. Good writers make the craft look easy, so judges who haven’t tried it themselves really don’t fully understand good skills when they see them. The just go off of whether they like a book or not. In my opinion, this is poor judging. What one person likes, another might hate, but when you judge in a contest, you should put your personal preferences aside. So, yeah, judging isn’t always fair.

You also don’t want to be writing so much for the first 3 chapters of your book to enter contests that you ignore the rest of your book. Take all this in stride and learn what to throw out and what to pay attention to. Be honest with yourself. If your writing is junk, throw it out and do it better. Come on! I know you can do it.

An editor won’t ignore the sagging middle and weak ending of your book. They’ll just reject it. So, keep contests in perspective. But if you know the final judge is going to be an editor or agent you’d love to be involved with, then hit it and hit it hard. You can be nice and still be rabidly competitive. Then, after you send off your contest entry, focus on the rest of the book so it isn’t junk and it’s ready when that editor you’d love to sell to requests the full book.

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

Professional jealousy. Period.

What do you wish you’d known early in your career that might have saved you some time and/or frustration in writing? In publishing?

In writing, I wish I had sought out help from other experienced authors years earlier. I was always too shy to ask others if they would critique with me. I thought I had nothing to offer, and I realize I probably didn’t early on. But this industry is a “pay it forward” industry. It’s like age. There’s always someone older or younger than you are. Well, there’s always someone more experienced and someone less experienced than you are. So, try to jump in with both feet, seek out help, and then turn around and help someone else in return. But if you don’t ask, you’ll end up floundering around on your own when you could have someone mentor you a bit and you wouldn’t have to learn everything the hard way, like I did. Boy, do I ever regret not asking for help earlier on.

In publishing, I wish I had switched from writing Historicals over to Contemporary earlier. All these years I loved writing and reading Historicals so much, I just couldn’t see that I didn’t have as strong a voice for it as I did with Contemporaries. I was too stubborn and my academic background is in history. So, it took me way too long to get over that niche I had chosen for myself.

My advice is that, if you’re in a rut and what you’re doing is not working, try switching to something else just to see if you like the results. If you don’t, you can always go back. But it may open up a freshness to your “voice” and also open some doors. Jayne Krentz suggested this during an RWA Pro-Retreat at a National Conference a couple of years ago, and that’s when I grudgingly tried it out and voila! It worked for me. I am still amazed at the difference.

Was there ever a difficult set back that you went through in your writing career?

I do have a very personal experience I would rather not share. Yes, we all have those traumatic situations we’d rather not relive.

I can say that I had an agent whom I worked so well with and over a two-year period, I sent her six books and she didn’t sell them for me. I was SO exhausted and discouraged. Then, my daughter who was seven years old at the time was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. I quit writing for about four years while we worked to save her life. It was one of those times when I had to “finish” writing for a time, because I was too drained physically and emotionally to do any more writing for awhile and I had come to hate it by then, and I also needed to put my own desires on hold in order to help my child.

That was ten years ago. Now, my daughter still has health issues we are dealing with, but she is currently the top child in the world for survivorship of her type of brain tumor. Unfortunately, the year of chemo has taken its toll on her liver and she has some other serious problems. But it isn’t so overwhelming that I can’t still write. But I learned that NOTHING should take precedence over family. Nothing!

What are a few of your favorite books?

Wow! So many books, so little time. I am a voracious reader and could never name even just a few of my favorite books. My stack of “to be read” books is enormous and my husband rolls his eyes every time I buy another one. I guess I’m planning early for retirement.

I love mysteries, suspense, and truly romantic historicals and inspirationals. I have enough reality in my own life that I crave happy endings just because that’s the way I think life should be.

Currently, I’m reading In His Eyes by Gail Gaymer Martin.

What work have you done that you’re especially proud of and why?

My first sale was a real push for me. Because of the topic, it cut deep into my heart and I often felt as though I was pulling some of the words up through my tonsils.

Also, because of my own personal values, I have tried to avoid writing a lot of sex in my books. In today’s market, that’s tough because so many readers want Historicals with lots of sex in them. I didn’t have it in my books and I think that hurt me as far as selling was concerned.

When I wrote my first Contemporary Inspirational, all of a sudden I was thrown into a world where I had to find a way to fill the pages of my story with an enthralling tale without using sex as filler. Other writers may be different in this, but for me, it pushed me hard to expand my skill as a writer and really delve deeper into the characters of my story. I had to rely on their internal angst to carry the scenes, not physical acrobatics that would not be appropriate for the type of book I was writing. It was an epiphany for me to discover that I could do it successfully without having a sagging middle. No matter what, I will always be grateful for the opportunity to expand myself as a writer because of this book.

Do you have a scripture or quote that has spoken to you lately in regards to your writing?

Psalms 3 has brought me great comfort over the years, wherein David cries unto the Lord. I find a bit of humor in these verses, yet I believe David was entirely serious when he said, “Lord, how are they increased that trouble me! Many are they that rise up against me. Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.”

In my darkest moments, I have known that some people think I am utterly lost in God, and yet I know God lives and loves me. I have felt him in my life, always there, guiding and directing every facet of the road I travel, in spite of my failings.

Can you give us a look into a typical day for you?

Well, I’m a middle-aged grandmother who happens to still be taking college classes, so life is one thrill after another. (Or you could just call me a zoo keeper. ) I still have one teenager at home, so I have laundry, cooking, taxi driving, cleaning, church lessons to prepare, and a yard to tend. I am driven, so I spend the bulk of my day writing, planning, outlining, and dealing with the business end of my chosen profession. I have oodles of homework, classes to attend, and lots of doctor office visits because I have a daughter with some serious health issues constantly hanging over our heads.

When I feel overwhelmed by my life, I remember my mother teaching me to sew. If I was overly tired and making a mess out of my project, she would say, “It’s time to put it away now and come back to it later, or you’ll just mess it up and have to pick it all out later on.”

I’ve learned that this lesson applies to everything in my life. Sometimes, if I’m making an absolute mess out of something, it’s often because I’m exhausted and grumpy and I just need to put it away and rest and come back to it later on.

Try this sometime when you think you never want to write again. Put it away and come back to it tomorrow. You’ll feel better after you’ve been away from it for awhile. (Just don’t put it away so much that you don’t ever write your book!)

Do you have a word or page goal you set for each day?

No, but I do shoot for 25 pages per week. Sometimes I write 50 pages in a week, sometimes I write 6 pages.

With my personal life, I’m doing the best I can. I remember that if I don’t write, I have nothing to submit for publication. But I also do not have the luxury of telling my daughter to take care of herself, even though she is a teenager. For me, the focus is to never, ever quit writing once I’ve started a new project. Somehow, the pages get written. Later in life, things will undoubtedly change and I’ll have more time to myself. But I refuse to feel guilty because I cherish the moments I spend with my granddaughter, children and husband. When it’s my time to go, that’s what I’ll care about the most and I want no regrets.

Are you an SOTP (seat of the pants) writer or a plotter?

Both. I’ve written books I’ve really plotted out and planned, and I’ve written books that I only knew some basic scenes, goal, motivation and conflict for. My first book was a mixture. I didn’t know what the ending should be until it came time for me to deal with it, other than the fact that I wanted it to be a recognition that we are stronger in our relationships when we unite to face the problems life throws are ways than we are apart.

What author do you especially admire and why?

Why, Nora Roberts, of course. Good, bad, or indifferent, that girl has “been there” and it must be a lonely road for her to walk at times. Who does she trust? How many mistakes has she made along the way? Did she ever feel like quitting? Did she ever have a bad agent, or a cruel critique partner? I’ll bet she did. And somehow, she prevailed and continued to write. What an icon. Truthfully, I’ve only read one of her books, but I respect her work ethic and accomplishments.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

My least favorite part is the business end of the industry, when we have to put aside our emotions, be professional, and act like an intelligent, knowledgeable author. I’d rather hide in my office writing and never face anyone except my family. Unfortunately, that isn’t realistic, so I shower, get dressed and face the day with a smile on my face.

My favorite part is researching a new project, and then revising a new project after the hard labor of putting the book down in black and white is completed. I love cleaning up books after they’re finished because now I can shuffle and move scenes and “see” how to make the story stronger.

How much marketing do you do? What's your favorite part of marketing?

I am self-taught in HTML and Dreamweaver and learned to design and maintain my own website. That was a major victory for me and I’m very proud of it.

Currently, I’m building a data base of people who are interested in hearing about my projects and receiving my newsletter. If anyone out there is interested, I’d love to include you. To sign up, just go to my website at:

I actively send out Press Releases on what I have going on to newspapers, and I print business cards and book marks and am working to submit advanced reader copies (ARC’s) for reviews of my book by reputable reviewers.

Because I lived the research for my book THE HEALING PLACE, I love to give motivational talks and enjoy the opportunity to work with Make-A-Wish on talk shows and in various interviews.

My favorite part of marketing is meeting all the wonderful people out there who are genuinely interested in the core message of my stories. It is a pleasure to touch someone else’s life for good.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

See above where I talked about putting your work away when you’re making a mess out of it, and also my words about writing until your fingers are nubs.

Get mule stubborn and tough-skinned. Really tough-skinned. That doesn’t mean you should be mean or cruel or vindictive.

Don’t quit unless you are absolutely certain you can feel satisfied that you are “finished” writing. And set goals for yourself. Write them down. Written goals always seem more real and concrete, even if they are simple. Planning how to meet your goals gives you a roadmap to follow. You don’t have to show it to anyone, so shoot high. It’s just for you. Remember, “If you build it, they will come.” Build your roadmap and write the best book possible, and it will sell eventually. Only you can decide when you are “finished” writing. Until then, you never have to stop.