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Thursday, May 31, 2007

All That Matters

Rebeca Seitz is wife, mother and scrapbooker as well as the Founder and President of Glass Road Public Relations. Her current novel is Prints Charming a story about girlfriends and scrapbooking.

As some of you may know, I’m currently in school getting my masters degree in mass communications. This week, as I sat listening to my teacher expound upon the history of the television crime drama (yep, it’s really a class), I was struck by a profound thought (okay, I thought it was profound – but that could be the effect of the Diet Dr. Pepper and M&M combination I was sucking down to stay awake): these producers, directors, and actors we’re studying from the 1950s and 60s are remembered by so few these days.

For instance, can you name the most prolific producer of syndicated television shows of all time? He had a production budget of $6 million (in the 50s!!) and produced The Cisco Kid, Highway Patrol, and Sea Hunt. It was Frederick W. Ziv. Better yet, have you ever watched one episode of those shows? We watched Highway Patrol in class and, let me tell you, we’ve come a long way, baby.

As I stared at Frederick W. Ziv’s face on the PowerPoint presentation before me, I knew I was looking at a professionally successful man. And then I wondered if he was spiritually successful.

Did Ziv acknowledge the One who carved out this fabulous life niche for him? Did he tithe? Did he marry, have children, and teach them the importance of keeping God first? Did he pray about the direction he took his production company? Was each major decision analyzed and brought before the throne of the Almighty, laid at His feet, and left to His will?

Scripture tells us that non-believers are just as earthly successful (if not more so) than believers, so Ziv’s excellent career doesn’t indicate the presence of faith. I found an interview Nick Clooney did with Ziv and watched it. He said he knew he, “…had an affinity for writing.” Hmm, an affinity. Sounds like “created for a purpose” to me.
Ziv also wrote a book, The Valiant Muse, which Putnam published – before he entered the world of television. It was poems written by those killed in World War I. More voices that we’ve forgotten since their death. How many of those whose words were captured in a book that’s now out of print are singing in Heaven at this moment?

Which brought me back to my profound thought: how true the saying that what we do for eternity – for faith’s sake - is all that matters.

I may, indeed, be sitting at the helm of a groundbreaking publicity firm. It could all go up in smoke tomorrow or it could become a multi-million dollar venture as Ziv’s production company did. It could be a voice crying in the wilderness or it could have a profound effect on the publishing industry. Either way, though, I’m destined to die at some point. And when that time comes, what will I have done that lasts?

I’m blessed in that my professional life is juxtaposed with my faith because the firm represents Christian novelists. Great strides at work mean great strides for the faith. That’s true for you, too, as a Christian writer. How amazingly blessed we are to be given a career path in which we can make lasting, faith-based, change and growth in people’s lives.

And, yet, we could so easily let the stories become about something else. Many, many something elses.

Frederick W. Ziv and the countless others who have walked this earth, conquered their field, and been pronounced commercial successes serve as a reminder to me today: best-seller lists, sales in the millions, literary awards, six-figure contracts – it all falls away in the end. And what will be left are the words, the actions, that were taken for the faith.

Author Interview ~ Diana Gabaldon

Diana Gabaldon is the author of the award-winning, NYT-bestselling OUTLANDER novels, described by Salon magazine as "the smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting "Scrooge McDuck" comics."

The adventure began in 1991 with the classic OUTLANDER ("historical fiction with a Moebius twist"), continued through five more New York Times-bestselling novels--DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, VOYAGER, DRUMS OF AUTUMN, THE FIERY CROSS, and A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES--and a nonfiction (well, relatively) companion volume, THE OUTLANDISH COMPANION, which provides copious details on the settings, background, characters, research, and writing of the novels. Dr. Gabaldon has also written a historical mystery, LORD JOHN AND THE PRIVATE MATTER, and several novellas featuring Lord John Grey.

The most recent OUTLANDER novel, A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, won the 2006 Corine prize for Fiction, and the 2006 Quill Award for "best science-fiction/fantasy/horror"

What new book or project do you have coming out?

Well, LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE will be released in September (this year—2007),

followed immediately by LORD JOHN AND THE HAND OF DEVILS in December. BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE is either the second Lord John historical mystery—or the first, depending how you want to look at it. LORD JOHN AND THE PRIVATE MATTER, published in 2004, was technically the "first" Lord John novel—but I was under the impression that it was a short story when I wrote it . I knew BROTHERHOOD was a novel when I began it (and it's nearly twice as long as PRIVATE MATTER).

HAND OF DEVILS is a collection of three "Lord John" novellas: "Lord John and the Hellfire Club," "Lord John and the Succubus," and "Lord John and the Haunted Soldier." (The first two novellas have appeared in print, in a mystery anthology (PAST POISONS) and a fantasy anthology (LEGENDS II), but "Haunted Soldier"—which follows BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE chronologically—is brand new.)

I should add that there is a "Book Seven" in the OUTLANDER series, to follow A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES. These massive books take me 2-3 years to write, but I am working on it, as well as on RED ANT'S HEAD, a contemporary mystery.

How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific 'what if' moment?

Not at all. I just wanted to write a novel, in order to learn how. Having decided that for me, an historical novel would likely be the easiest thing to do (no genre constraints—as such—and I was a research professor; I knew what to do with a library), I chose eighteenth-century Scotland on a whim, having seen a minor Scottish character from 1745 (in his kilt ) on an ancient "Dr. Who" rerun.

(Despite the "Dr. Who" connection, I should note that this had nothing to do with the time-travel aspects of the book.) It was a perfectly straightforward historical novel for about three days. At that point, I decided that, while I needed a lot of Scotsmen because of the kilt factor, it would be a good idea to have a female character to play off them and create sexual tension—and since I'd already decided to use the Jacobite Rising as a backdrop, if I made her an Englishwoman, we'd have lots of tension.

Mind, I knew nothing else about her, save that she was an Englishwoman. So, on the third day, I loosed her into a cottage full of Scotsmen, to see what she'd do. Whereupon she refused to talk like an eighteenth-century person; just kept making smart-ass modern remarks about everything she saw—and she also took over and started telling the story herself.

"Fine," I said. "I'm not going to fight with you all the way through this book. Nobody's ever going to see this; it doesn't matter what bizarre thing I do. Go ahead and be modern; I'll figure out how you got there later." So it's all her fault that there's time-travel in these books.)

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…I got a literary agent before I finished the manuscript (not common; I was very lucky). When I did finish, he sent the ms. to five editors…and within four days, three of them had called with offers to buy it.

My agent called to tell me this. As I recall, my response was, "Oh" . "That's…good, isn't it?" "Very good!" he assured me.

Your first series was the Outlander, a time travel series. My husband and I both read them all and loved them. Was it a tough sell to publishers? If so, what kept you motivated to continue writing a genre that might not have seen the light of publishing day?

See above.

The OUTLANDER series is not finished, btw. I don't yet have a working title for Book Seven (which is what I'm calling it, by default), but there is one. Or maybe two. I won't know until I'm a lot farther into it.

Discuss how you approach the issue of the time-traveler and the time-resident realizing they're not from the same time period.

I just wrote it as I saw it happening. It doesn't happen often, and when it does, I just take into account the personalities on both sides.

Today, time travel stories are a tough sell. Why do you think publishers and/or readers are hesitant about them?

Possibly because so many of them are Just Awful, would be my guess.

Do you ever struggle with writer's block? If so, how do you overcome it?

No. I realized a long time ago that the only way past a writer's block was the obvious: you write. It doesn't matter if what you're writing is difficult, bad, frustrating, whatever. If you keep doing it, it gets easier, better, more satisfying, whatever. If you don't, it doesn't. Ergo, you gotta writer's block, you write. QED.

What is the most difficult part of writing for you (or was when you first started on your writing journey), i.e. plot, POV, characterization, etc?

Nothing in particular. Just the constant necessity of finding words—the best words—and putting them on the page.

(I should maybe add that I can't—as many people seem to—regard writing as an assemblage of separate pieces: plot, character, POV, grammar, etc., that all have to be dealt with separately and then somehow coordinated. It's just… writing.)

Where do you write? Do you have a dedicated office or a corner or nook in a room?

Well, I do have an office. But I can—and do—work almost anywhere. When I'm writing, I'm not actually where my body is, so it really doesn't matter.

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

Depends where I am in the book. In the early stages of a book, when I don't know anything about it, and am doing a lot of research, I may only be writing half a page or so each day—but I do write every day. That's important; if you don't, the inertia builds up on you, and the prospect of beginning gets more and more daunting. If you're writing even a little bit each day, it kind of keeps the gears oiled.

As I move into the book, though, and begin to have some idea of what's going on here and there, my "walking pace," as I put it, is about a thousand words a day. I maintain that through the greater part of the book. Then, as I approach the final phase—what I call The Final Frenzy—where I know everything, then it's just a matter of how long I can sit at the keyboard without falling over. I may be working 12-15 hours a day, barely pausing to eat or sleep. Luckily, this phase only lasts a few weeks, or I'd die.

What does a typical day look like for you?

This would be assuming that there is such a thing. Well, there sort of is. If I'm not having to go run around the world, make commencement speeches at universities (I'm doing one next week; the university in question is awarding me an honorary degree: Doctor of Humane Letters (yeah, I did ask them what an inhumane letter might be. You'd think people who deal with undergraduates would have more of a sense of humor)), or drop everything to copy-edit a manuscript or rewrite the catalogue copy…

I get up around 9 AM (ideally), get a Diet Coke, and stagger upstairs, where I spend an hour or two answering email, doing interview questions, making a to-do list for the day, and possibly carving a little wood. Around 11, I become sufficiently compos mentis to work, and start writing, just to get a foothold on the day's work.

Then my husband comes home for lunch, we hang around or run an errand or two—go get the car washed on our way home from Burger King, for instance--then I go up and work for another hour; maybe more, if the words are rolling.

If not, I may do research—go down to the university library or paw through my vast reference collection—or more business stuff (just saying "No," politely takes a lot of time. Saying "Yes," takes even more, because then the people who have invited you to do something next year start peppering you with requests for photos, bios, descriptions of what you're going to do, hotel preferences (non-smoking and 24-hour Room Service. For some reason, the hosts never believe me about the 24-hour Room Service.

If you do evening events—which I normally do—though, chances are good that you'll get back to your hotel after 10 PM. This means you eat out of the vending machine, or you call the nearest Domino's and hope they stay open after 10 PM).

Mid-afternoon, I go run the household errands: dry-cleaning, dog to vet, grocery-shopping, Thuricide ™ for the grape-vines (yes, I am an organic gardener. Despite the name, Thuricide ™ is a biological agent—it's actually a bacterium that, when ingested by grape-vine skeletonizers, causes them to starve to death. So much more humane than zapping them with Raid or DDT), etc. Then I work in my garden for awhile (herbs, vegetables, and flowers), exercise (I try to walk five miles a day, whether inside or out, depending on the weather), and fix dinner (love to cook).

Hang around with my husband for awhile. He likes to go to bed early, so I tuck him in around 10, then go lie down on the couch with a book—research or recreation—and if no one needs me for anything, I'll fall asleep in 15-20 minutes. Then I wake up automatically around midnight or 1 AM, and go upstairs to work. My main work-time is between midnight and 4 AM. Then I go back to bed.

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

I don't know. I do hang around with writers, and every now and then someone will say something that causes me to nod and go, "Yeah! What you said!" Don't keep track of them, though; there's a lot of good advice around—the only thing that matters is whether it's what you need at the time.

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?

Well…nothing, really. I didn't waste much time. I should perhaps point out that while OUTLANDER was indeed my first novel, I was in fact a very experienced writer at the time I decided to try writing a novel. I was 36, a professional scientist, a university professor—and in addition to all the things one has to write in process of getting advanced degrees and pursuing that sort of career, I'd also been writing freelance (everything from Walt Disney comics to software reviews for BYTE magazine, computer documentation and tutorials, and articles on how to clean a long-horn cow's skull to use as home decoration—basically, anything anyone would pay me for) for several years. I knew one end of a sentence from the other, and I knew how to write query letters, read contracts, and deal with editors.

And I was a research professor. I knew how to find things out, and I did—in terms of how publishing works (or worked; it's changed quite a bit over the last fifteen years), finding a literary agent, etc. As I said above, I had an agent some months before I finished the book, and he sold it (and the next two books) pretty much immediately.

As for saving time in writing….kind of not the point. I know what you're asking—did I spend months tangled up in my underwear and finally discover The Joy of Outlining---but no. I write in a very idiosyncratic way that depends in part on the way my mind works, and in part on the fact that I began writing fiction while having two full-time jobs and three small children. I.e., I write in bits and pieces, non-linearly, and gradually, the pieces begin to stick together; as I work, each book evolves into an n-dimensional geometrical "shape" in my head, and new pieces fit into it. I don't suppose that this is the height of efficiency—but as I said, saving time and being efficient aren't the point of writing a novel; the point is to write a good book. However you do that is the right way to have done it.

How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?

For the most part, Internet stuff: my website
, and assorted interviews like this one. For my last book, the publisher suggested doing a series of podcasts, which were remarkably popular, judging from the comments I received. I don't know whether the podcasts attracted any new readers, or just made the old ones happy , but it was a good idea, either way; I'd certainly do it again.

I don't do a lot of marketing, save when a new book is about to come out. Then I'll go do book-tours and the like. Otherwise, I have to pick and choose what I'll do in the way of personal appearances, because after a certain point in a writing career, that stuff will just eat you alive, and you have no time for writing books, personal life, or anything else.

I try to keep it down to two or three big jaunts (I just came back from one of these; a three-week, six-city hop that encompassed a National Library Week gig in Virginia Beach, a visit with my eldest daughter in Charlottesville, a dinner with my sister in Washington, DC, a Spanish book-tour in Madrid and Barcelona, and a rendezvous with my husband in New York, during which I also had nonstop business meetings with assorted editors, agents, etc.) a year, plus one or two one-day events that don't require a lot of travel—i.e., a day at the Arizona Book Festival, or a day at one of the sf/f cons in-state, or a public library appearance in California, Arizona, or New Mexico (anyplace I can reach and return from within a day).—a month. This means developing the capacity to say, "No," several times a week—which is regrettable, because I really enjoy talking to readers—but it's a matter of self-preservation.

For the new "Lord John" books, the publisher has asked me to do a "Long Pen" signing at this year's BEA (BookExpo). Rather than flying me to New York (where the BookExpo is this year) to sign galleys in person, which would take three days of my time, they'll instead have a technician come to my house and set up equipment that (theoretically) will allow me to chat with readers for an hour via a video-conferencing screen and physically sign their galleys. We'll see how this works, but it sounds interesting.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

Sure. Gabaldon's Three Rules on Becoming a Writer:
1. Read.
2. Write.
And (most important)—
3. Don't Stop!!

Good luck!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Author Interview ~ Debby Giusti

Always busy with church, school and community activities, when Debby Giusti and her family moved to Atlanta, GA, she knew it was time to settle down and write her first book. Despite occasional moments of wanderlust, she spends most of her time writing inspirational romantic suspense for Steeple Hill. Debby has written magazine articles for Southern Lady, Woman’s World, Our Sunday Visitor, Army and Family. She serves on the editorial advisory board of ADVANCE for Administrators of the Laboratory, and stories about her family’s outreach are featured in CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE VOLUNTEER’S SOUL and CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE CHRISTIAN SOUL 2.

What new book or project do you have coming out?

Thanks for inviting me to chat on Novel Journey. Your site is phenomenal, and I’m a frequent visitor. Keep up the great work.

Nowhere to Hide, my debut inspirational romantic suspense from Steeple Hill, was an April release so I’ve spent the last month traveling around Georgia and Alabama telling folks about my book. That’s been fun! Whenever I talk to readers, I always remind them that they’re the reason I write.

My second novel, Scared to Death, will be out in August. Book three—MIA: Missing in Atlanta—will be released in March 2008.

How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific 'what if' moment?

Inspiration for Nowhere to Hide hit one day shortly after my family and I moved into a new home that had a security alarm. Inadvertently, one of us tripped the silent alarm that alerts the police department of a problem. When I looked out the window and saw two police officers running toward my house, hands on their guns, I knew I had a great opening for my book.

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’m a medical technologist and started writing for medical magazines, then added some ladies’ publications as I increased my freelancing. Eventually, I turned to writing full-length fiction. Steeple Hill Senior Editor Krista Stroever called me on August 3, 2005, and said she wanted to offer me a contract for Nowhere to Hide. Luckily Krista prompted me to write down everything she said because, when I got off the phone, I was in shock and couldn’t remember anything except she wanted to publish my book.

Do you ever struggle with writer's block? If so, how do you overcome it?

My problem is more writer’s procrastination! I can always find something around the house that needs to be done instead of sitting at the computer, especially at the beginning of a story when I’m trying to get that first draft written. Now, I use my Alpha Smart--a keyboard with a small screen—for the first draft. It forces me to push forward to the end. Then I enter the text into my computer and start rewriting, which is my favorite part of the process.

What is the most difficult part of writing for you (or was when you first started on your writing journey), i.e. plot, POV, characterization, etc?

Hmmm? I’d have to say characterization. At first I created perfect characters who had no flaws and were very dull people. Now I like to pile on the problems and see how the hero and heroine work their way out of the mess.

Where do you write? Do you have a dedicated office or a corner or nook in a room?

I’m lucky to have an office, but since I’m an extrovert, I sometimes tire of being alone. That’s when I grab my laptop and head to the local Starbucks. Being surrounded by a coffeehouse full of people makes the work much more fun.

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

I should have a page count, but I don’t. Right now, I just spend a good portion of each day at the computer. Eventually the book gets done.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I usually write from mid-morning to late afternoon when it’s time to start dinner. In the evening, I’ll return to the computer to check my emails or do marketing work.

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

There’s a line I love from Art & Fear, by David Bayles and Ted Orland: Those who succeed have learned how not to quit. That says it all. Believe in yourself and your work and keep moving forward. Eventually your dream will come true!

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?

Oh, there’s so much I wish I’d known earlier. But perhaps one of the most important gems of truth came from Stephanie Bond, a wonderful writer and fellow member of Georgia Romance Writers. She always tells new GRW folks to remember that writing is a business and the book is their product. Had I taken her words to heart earlier I would have realized all those rejections weren’t personal. The editors weren’t rejecting Debby Giusti--they were rejecting my product that needed more work.

How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?

Since Nowhere to Hide is my debut book, I’ve put a lot of emphasis on getting to know readers by speaking at writers groups and community events. I’m not sure if that has led to more sales, but I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to meet so many interesting people. I also like to make up goodies bags with an excerpt from my book, a bookmark and some chocolate. That way folks get a “taste” of what my story is about.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

Often writers hit a plateau before they make their first sale. Seems they’re doing everything right, but their manuscripts are still rejected. Unfortunately, that’s when many folks stop writing, which is a shame because hitting the plateau means they’re so close. My advice? Consider making a slight shift in style or technique. Often that can move a story from rejection to sale.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Author Interview ~ Geoffrey Wood

Geoffrey Wood has been working in both coffee and theater for nearly twentyyears ---acting and directing, roasting and sipping. He holds a BFA inTheater from the University of Memphis, an MA in Theater from the Universityof New Mexico, and has worked in theater professionally, educationally andliturgically for the last fifteen years. Leaper is his first novel, but heloves it just the same. Geoffrey lives in the Cooper/Young neighborhood ofMemphis which he calls home.

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

My first novel releases June 19th, 2007, with WaterBrook Press a subsidiary of Random House. Leaper: The Misadventures of a Not-Necessarily-Super Hero follows three days in the life of a coffee shop barista who one day develops a superpower --if he focuses intently on a glare, say, from his watch, and thinks of a place who truly desires to be, he transports across space without the use of time. He leaps. Good news? Well, super-things don't work out as super-smoothly as one might believe.

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've worked in theater all my life: writing, acting, adapting, directing. But a few years ago I decided to try my hand at novels. I took six months off from the world and wrote two books, one of which I sold at a conference to WaterBrook. (I went to that conference for just such a purpose and had researched who would be there and their book lines.) The initial meeting was positive and my editor contacted me about a month later with the offer. Neurotic thoughts typically go through my head so mine has been a journey of doing the next step but remaining wary of all that could go amiss.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?

No, frequently.
No, daily, final answer.

What mistakes have you made while seeking publication?

I have been blessed. WaterBrook has been wonderful, my editor's a dream. I often wonder what more I should do for them --I guess I write the books. But they've taken care of me very well.

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

Work on a project as daily as possible, spend the hours each day and trust that those hours are progress even if there aren't many pages in hand at the close of a day. If you do that, for two, three, four days, the next will be breakthrough, almost always.

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

Write for yourself. (I enjoy writing, I can be indulgent in my vision, but ultimately I'm hoping to engage others, that's the fun part, so audience cannot be obliterated from consideration.)

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

I'm hoping just to have a writing career so I'll let you know if and when I pull that off.

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

As I Lay Dying by Faulkner. Mystery and Manners by Flannery O'Connor. The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving. A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby. The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy.

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

I wrote a short piece --more memory than short story-- about my grandmother. I like that one.

Take us through your process of writing a novel briefly—from conception to revision.

John Irving once said something to the effect that he will never begin to write until he's fully imagined. I like that guy. I usually take months scribbling on napkins, notepads, walls, arms and letting things stew. When I've got enough napkins I'll start to outline the book. Then I keep taking notes, blah, blah --till one day they start talking to me. At that point I write down what they tell me.
Then I over-write. I write everything they tell me and then I write what I see them do, then I make them tell me more. Once I have enough material then I go back and read it, try to shape it, make it better. That's all for draft one. Then my editor and I wrangle happily from there.

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

I would like to write three novels in the style I'm working now, hopefully improving that style with each effort. The I'd like to try something different, maybe something more southern. (I'm from Memphis.)

Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?
I quit thinking about quitting back when a dear friend told me, "Look, you're not ever going to not do this 'creating things' in some capacity. So stop worrying about it and do whatever you have to do."

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

Re-writes are hardest for me because I primarily hear my characters. When I hear them one way, it's hard for me to hear it differently, regardless of how needful the re-write may be. I think my favorite part is the imagining.

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

I have done what I can locally, and have not done as much as I probably should otherwise. However, I have no idea nor advice what else I could do myself. The folks at Random House have done much and I'm trusting things to them.

Have you received a particularly memorable reader response?

I just read the in-book-cover endorsements the other day. Somebody used the word "romp" I'm a big fan of that word. Somebody else called the dialogue "delicious." I liked that guy.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Bambi vs. Godzilla

Mike Duran's stories have appeared in Relief Journal, Forgotten Worlds, Alienskin, and Dragons, Knights and Angels, with articles in The Matthew’s House Project and Relevant Magazine. He was also one of ten authors picked for Infuze Magazine’s Best of 2005 print anthology. Mike is an ordained minister, has led numerous small groups and developed discipleship-training curriculum for several churches. He and his wife Lisa live in Southern California , where they have raised four children. Mike has written an unpublished novel entitled What Faith Awakes and is currently at work on a second. You can visit him at

It's the title of David Mamet's latest book. Subtitled On the Nature, Purpose, and Practice of the Movie Business, the book takes its name from a 1969 short animated film entitled Bambi Meets Godzilla. It was voted #38 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field. The cartoon is just under two minutes, most of the time spent on credits. It begins with a fawn munching clover and ends with the critter plastered under a massive, reptilian foot. The battle lasts approximately the blink of an eye.

While Mamet is hardly at the bottom of the industry food chain, he speaks often as an outsider, eloquently ranting against the powers that be and the corruption of those powers. And in that, Mamet gives hope to all us bambis.

The publishing industry, much like Hollywood, can appear monstrous -- a lumbering, impersonal behemoth that leaves aspiring authors stomped in its wake. We clamber after the creature only to find ourselves flattened by naysayers, rejections, deadlines, sluggish sales, tough critiques, or just plain lack of genius. It's the nature of the beast.

But occasionally, some greenhorn will rise up in protestation, arm their sling, and challenge the brute. It may not be the best career move, but boy is it gutsy.

Recently, I visited a team writers’ blog and stumbled upon a courageous little stone slinger. Oftentimes, the comment sections of our websites are just echo chambers, platforms for atta-boys, amens and self-promotional snippets. Nevertheless, on this particular post, the aspiring author was challenging the assumptions of some industry luminaries. After the blast, you could hear a pin drop in cyberspace. And then the big reptilian foot came down... or at least, a curt, defensive rebuttal from the team members. I've unleashed my share of harsh, ill-timed, stupid comments upon unsuspecting webmasters. But in this particular case, I felt the “little” commentator had a good point.

Question: Should a wannabe novelist dare challenge the industry she is seeking publication in? Isn't it smarter to heed those who've "arrived," rather than question them? Aren't we better off rowing instead of rocking the boat?

There's a fine line between being a rabble rouser and an agent of change. Perhaps they are the same. Of course, under Taliban rule, agents of change are usually left limbless. Thankfully, CBA authors and publishers are a lot more civil. “Speak the truth in love,” the apostle Paul said, and elsewhere, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition…” Of course, how this translates into the "business" side of things is another story. If anything, it means the tone of our discussions and in-house debates should be different, less hostile, less ad hominem. Nevertheless, many of these exchanges still result in flattened fawns.

After several years hanging around religious writer-types, I'm beginning to see a growing divide. On the one hand are those who enjoy "faith fiction" -- inspirational stories aimed at Christian audiences with explicit biblical themes, minus the unwholesome elements (like sex, liquor, cussing and buckets of blood). On the other hand are those who aim for a broader audience. They tend to tolerate profanity, do not require a clear-cut inspirational resolution (i.e., the protagonist gets saved, baptized and quits smoking) and feel boxed in by the “Christian Fiction” label. Oftentimes, the disagreements between these two camps can become -- how shall I say it -- nasty. As a result, many authors, willingly or unwillingly, end up outside the CBA fold.

But is it an either/or? Either you play by the rules, or you play elsewhere? Either you row the boat, or you get out? Shouldn't there be a middle ground where writers like me -- people that have a stake, at least an interest, in the future of "Christian literature" -- can voice contrary opinions or express concerns without feeling shunned, frowned upon, or driven outside the camp?

Almost a year ago, a team blog was launched that I've watched with interest.
Speculative Faith exists to mobilize what they believe is “a diverse and sizable audience hungry for Christian speculative literature.” In their mission statement, Mirtika Schultz writes:

~~We want to mobilize a reading and writing community that will impact the future editorial acquisitional decisions of CBA publishing houses. Right now, they are not favorably inclined toward speculative fiction.

~~We want better and more varied and just plain MORE novels from CBA publishing houses in our genre.

As such, Spec Faith exists to fill a hole in the CBA, to bring attention to what they perceive as an industry deficiency, or at least, oversight. Their tone is cordial, upbeat, Christian. But there is a fair share of banter. Most recently, the absence of a Visionary category in the Christy Awards has got them all abuzz.

I'm guessing that voices like this, though contrary, discordant -- even potentially annoying to some -- play an essential role in the Christian book industry.

CCM changed its name to "Christ. Community. Music." It’s part of an effort to broaden its appreciation of “Christian music,” to embrace believing artists outside the mainstream religious music industry. And this after 29 years of publication! In a recent interview, Jay Swartzendruber, editor of CCM Magazine, described this evolution:

Initially, the name CCM stood for “contemporary Christian music,” and we just assumed everyone just knew it. But by the late 90s, CCM was doing surveys, different things with readers and discovered that the name of the genre Contemporary Christian Music kind of had a smaller box than what the magazine wanted to cover.

According to Swartzendruber, many Christian artists “…started to quietly distance themselves from the term ‘contemporary Christian music’…” Bands like Sixpence None the Richer, P.O.D., Switchfoot and Jars of Clay were blazing trails into previously uncharted territory, getting airplay on secular stations and winning over non-believing fans. CCM was in danger of placing its artists and target market into a “smaller box.” The fact that after almost 30 years CCM would recast itself and rethink its objectives, says a lot about the group. Could a similar reevaluation be needed for the CBA?

Change, especially institutional change, starts slow, often occurring at the grassroots level before the executive. Kingdoms turn as much on peasants as potentates. But the bigger the kingdom, the slower the steering. While discussions about CBA boundaries, blind spots, and shortcoming can appear seditious, it may also be an important, much needed reformation cry. That these cries are issued from the peasantry should not lessen their urgency.

So here I am. Bambi. I love the Lord and His Church. Yet I've also got gripes about the state of Christian fiction. What do I do? Sure, throwing rocks at Godzilla may get him to look my way. But, it could also get me stomped. Oh well, maybe it's better to shut up and keep rowing.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Sunday Devotion- Ten Commandments for Writers #2

Janet Rubin

Deuteronomy 5:8-9 "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 9 You shall not bow down to them or worship them."

When God said not to make idols, I don’t think He only meant carved statues of false gods with funny names. He made a point of saying, “an idol in the form of anything.” He knew that anything could become an idol to us. We “make” things into idols when we let them control us, when we put them before God. As writers, we can easily become idol-worshippers if we aren’t careful.

The writing itself can become an idol. Let’s face it, the best way to improve our writing is to write. A lot. Every day if possible. We can become so focused on writing that God gets pushed to the backseat. Many days I’ve been guilty of starting my day off at the computer rather than in the Word. I am so anxious to get to the writing I want to do, that I don’t make time to talk to God and let Him talk to me. Or I squeeze in a five minute Bible speed-reading session, skimming Scripture while half my mind is still on my novel plot, then slapping my New King James shut before the words have a chance to sink in. After this sad excuse for a visit with my Savior, I spend hours intimately involved with imaginary people—my characters—trying to understand them, giving them my heart and soul and energy.

Our goals can become idols. What are you longing for? Publication? The best seller list? Book signings? Yeah, me too. And that’s fine as long as we can still say, “not my will, but Yours be done.” We must be careful not to let our goals become so important that we are willing to compromise to achieve them.

When we’re doing well with our writing, we receive praise from others—good reviews, compliments, attagirls(guys). The praise feels good. Real good. It can go right to our heads, satisfying like a drug we always want more of. As soon as our pride flares up, we become our own idols, walking around thinking, “Dang, I’m good.” We forget that the only reason we can write is because our Creator gave us the ability.

In this age of cyberspace, our computers can become idols—email and blogs and crit groups like addictions. This weekend I’m going away with my daughter for five days. All ready I’m worrying how I’ll function without access to email. Spiritually, I know this computer-fast will be good for me.

These are only a few examples; I’m sure there are more idols we writers kneel before. Ask God to show you if there are idols in your life.

Nothing compares to You, and no one else is worthy of my praise. But I admit that sometimes I put other things before You. Please forgive me and help me to keep my priorities straight. You know the desires of my heart and I lay them in Your capable, loving hands. Have Your way in my life and in my writing future. I know You have good plans for my and I worship only You.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Happenings in the Book World, May 26, 2007

Whew this week has a lot of news to report . . .

Those of you on the West Coast, Book Group Expo is happening June 8-10th in San Jose. Personally, I envy those able to attend. What could be more fabulous than authors, chocolate, and sipping wine? Over sixty authors have confirmed, including: Carolyn See, Khaled Hosseini, Anna Quindlen, Eric Brandt, and Elizabeth Gilbert.

For more information, including a full list of authors, the schedule of the literary saloons, click on the logo or visit:

Miss Snark has closed the doors on her agent blog as of 5/20/2007, but the contents can still be viewed at

S&S and their new contract has been making big splashes in our little circle. Personally, I think this discussion is something we should be paying close attention too. Shifting technology and trends suggest that authors have a chance to revive their stories or keeping them going. This is what I see at stake: Who ultimately decides when the story dies. But that's just my opinion, check this out.

In other Simon & Schuster news, they're teaming with Media Predict to form a contest that will select someone for publication by the book proposal. To learn more click here.

International Thrillers Writers is offering a scholarship to a debut author who'd like to attend ThrillerFest 2007 but hasn't the funds. Those who meet the criteria must: have a book scheduled for publication in 2007 or 2008 by a recognized publisher. They do not have to be a member of ITW. To apply send the following information to : Allison Brennan at

Contact information (address, phone number and email)
Pen Name (if any)
Book Title
Release date (tentative is okay)
Brief synopsis (one page or less)
Essay telling the committee in 500 words or less why you would like to attend ThrillerFest and what you hope to gain from the experience.

LongPen is hosting autograph sessions in booth # 1144 at BEA in New York City (June 1-3 at the Javits Centre, 655 West 34th Street). Authors will sign books into the show from across the Atlantic (with Tracy Chevalier from London, England) and across the continent (with Dean Koontz from his home in California).

Don't know what LongPen is? Click here.


ACFW Genesis Finalists:

*Contemporary Romance (includes romantic comedy)*

Jennifer Lynn Cary, Audra Harders, Catherine Hershberger, Roxanne Sherwood, Jennifer Hudson Taylor

*Historical Romance*

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

*Romantic Suspense*

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


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

*Historical Fiction (not romance)*

Yvonne Anderson, Marcia Gruver, Tina Helmuth, Carla Stewart, Erica Vetsch

*Young Adult*

Sally Apokedak, Leigh DeLozier, Linda Fulkerson, Charlene Glatkowski, Rachael Phillips

*Contemporary Fiction*

Michael Ehret, Jennifer Griffith, Kathy Harriss, Myra Johnson, Angie Poole

*Women's Fiction*

Lynne Gentry, Ane Mulligan, Kristine Pratt, Kathleen Sprout, Ginger Vaughan


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

*Chick/Mom/Hen/Lady Lit*

Georgiana Daniels, Annalisa Daughety, Sabrina Fox-Butcher, Carrie Padgett, Jenness WalkerCongratulations to all the 2007 Genesis finalists!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Anna David has been on staff at Premiere and Parenting, was a fulltime freelancer at People, had a contract with Us Weekly, and wrote a sex and relationship column for Razor. She’s done investigative pieces on crystal meth use among film executives and high-class prostitution in Hollywood for Details, prompting Liz Smith to praise her for “carving out a niche uncovering the seedy side of deluxe living.” She regularly appears on Today as a pop culture expert and Reality Remix (Fox’s Reality Network) as a relationship commentator. She’s also been on Hannity & Colmes, Showbiz Tonight (CNN), Dayside (Fox), The Best Damn Sports Show Period (Fox), The Most (MSNBC), The Other Half (NBC), Cold Pizza (ESPN), The Modern Girl’s Guide to Life (Style Network), Queer Edge (Q Network), MTV News, CNN, E!, and VH1.

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

Party Girl; HarperCollins, May 29, 2007

Tell us about your journey to publication. How long did it take before your novel was published?

I wrote the book in about eight months, and contacted the one literary agent I knew, who told me that he didn’t know when he could read it and wouldn’t consider looking at it if I submitted it to any other agents. Randomly, two agents had stumbled onto my website, where I had links to hundreds of articles I’ve written and emailed me to say that they were interested in me if I ever chose to go into book writing. The timing of all this was bizarre and amazing, as those kinds of emails had never come before or since. Deciding between the two was simple: one spoke so passionately and with so much knowledge about my book, immediately informing me that it was almost twice the length that it needed to be and we had to change the title to sell it because a book called Party Girl had just come out (we since changed it back, obviously). She also had a super glamorous name. (I can’t lie – silly things like this make a difference to me.) I reworked the book based on her notes and a few weeks later, she submitted it to about 10 houses. In an effort to drum up heat on the material, she told the editors that I was going to be coming to New York (from LA) so they’d better read the book quickly and let her know if they wanted to meet with me (this was all a vicious lie, as I had no impetus to come to town if none of them actually wanted to meet with me). I came in and met with four publishing houses on a Thursday and Friday and the following Monday, my agent held an auction. My top choice made an offer. That was in January 2006 and the book is coming out now, a year and a half later. They had me do a minor rewrite but most of the time has been spent waiting.

What mistakes have you made while seeking publication?

Not leveling my expectations. I have very black and white thinking, so I could only imagine my book not selling or a bidding war ensuing and netting me half a million dollars. When my book sold, I lamented the fact that it hadn’t made me instantly wealthy overnight rather than relishing in how truly lucky I was for it to have sold so quickly.

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

Start working on your next one. Rachel Resnick said that to me while I was losing my mind over choosing the right agent. She asked me if I wanted to spend my time worrying about the business angles of my career or actually writing and if I was more invested in the writing, why not use the time to start on a new project? It was excellent advice, not only because it got me to take my mind off of the business side – which I couldn’t control – but also because it got me to look at the bigger picture of my career.

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

I’m not sure this counts as advice but I remember when I was rewriting Party Girl getting a pamphlet in the mail from UCLA that said something like “Every writer needs to take a class if they hope to rewrite their book correctly.” And the class they were offering was, of course, a few thousand dollars. I’m very gullible and I believed them but I called my friend Melissa de la Cruz, who’s written something like 10 books and asked her if it was true. She laughed and I threw the mailing out and finished my rewrite.

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

That writing a novel isn’t that hard. Yes, of course it’s difficult on a certain level. But once it was done, I had the same feeling I did when I quit smoking, which was that if someone had told me how do-able this really was, I would have done it years ago. If you can banish perfectionism and accept the fact that what you’re putting on the page probably isn’t great but it doesn’t matter because you’re going to be rewriting it anyway, and then just sit at the computer every day, then you can write a novel.

What are a few of your favorite books?

The Great Gatsby, The Corrections, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Permanent Midnight, Wake Up, Sir!, A Clockwork Orange, London Fields, Rachel’s Holiday

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

I’m proud of my novel, Party Girl, because I believe I was able to take the most important experience of my life (getting sober) and write about it in a way that’s not overly earnest or preachy – in my better moments, I believe it truly could help people who might be terrified of that path to see that getting sober can mean your life is just beginning and not ending (as I had thought at the time). I’m also proud of some of the investigative pieces I did for Details – particularly this one about high-class prostitution in Hollywood, where I spent about six months infiltrating a world I knew nothing about and exposing some of its grittier secrets (I’ve actually fictionalized a lot of what I unearthed during that piece for the novel I just finished, Kept).

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

When I’m actively working on a book, I’m pretty obsessive about it so it usually means writing at all hours and then spending the time I’m not writing – when I’m out with friends or at the gym or the market or in a movie -- thinking about it and constantly pulling out a pad to write down ideas for it. I’m striving for more balance these days, however, so I’m trying to limit myself to working on it just during the work day for between three and five hours.

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

There are so many but the first that comes to mind is Jonathan Franzen’s ability to create such well-developed, realistic characters in The Corrections. I find that I’m really good at creating characters that are a lot like me but struggle with anyone who falls too far outside me or what I can imagine for myself. Franzen, meanwhile, manages to give us a mother grasping to hold onto her denial, a senile father, a lesbian daughter, and two frustrated but wildly different sons and each one of them rings as true as the other.

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

I’d love to be able to stretch more as a writer – do novels that aren’t based so much on my own experiences. My goal for the next one, for instance, is to have it take place somewhere besides Los Angeles. I’d love to be able to do anything I haven’t yet attempted: write in second person, write from the point of view of several different characters (a la Franzen), do flashbacks – anything that still scares me right now.

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

My favorite part is being in the flow and realizing that something is coming together or writing lines that give me the chills because they’re honest or true in a way I hadn’t ever quite been able to articulate or even realize before. Also, coming up with funny lines is always thrilling. My least favorite part is when it’s not flowing: those days that I can’t stomach the notion of sitting down in front of the computer, when I’m sick to death of my characters and of my mind.

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

I do anything I can. Some call it self-promotion, I call it marketing. I’ve built up My Space profiles, blogged, done every TV show I can and even made a viral video promoting the book. I have a newsletter sign-up on my website and am send out a blast next week to about 1000 people. I also hired an outside publicist and her efforts, combined with the contacts I’ve built up over the past decade of writing for magazines, have culminated in pieces on me or mentions of the book in places like Cosmo, Redbook, and the New York Post. My advice is do everything you can!

Parting words?

Thanks so much!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Author Interview ~ Jenny B. Jones & Book Giveaway

Jenny B. Jones is the author of A Katie Parker Production series. Though now an adult, she still relates to the trauma and drama of teen life. She is thrilled to see her writing dreams come true, as her previous claim to fame was singing the Star Spangled Banner at a mule-jumping championship. (The mules were greatly inspired.) The author resides in Arkansas, where, as a teacher, she hangs out with teens on a regular basis.

Your first novel just came out. Tell us about it.

In Between, my debut book, is being published by Th1nk (NavPress). It’s sort of like Annie meets Gilmore Girls.

The story is centered around Katie Parker, a 16 year old girl who can’t catch a break. With a mother in jail and a father unaccounted for, she finds herself in a mini-van bound for In-Between, Texas, home of her new foster parents. Katie finds or creates chaos at every opportunity as she adjusts to life with this family. Her foster parents, a pastor and wife, have a few secrets of their own, and life begins to unravel for everyone.

(One name will be drawn from comments to win a copy of In Between.)

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

This is a total God story. I had just decided to get serious about pursuing writing the summer before ACFW Conference in ’05. I have written all my life, but never with a driven purpose. So that summer I accepted the fact that there wasn’t a publishing fairy who was gonna wave her wand over me, and that if I really wanted to be published, I was going to have to get proactive.

So I signed up for the ACFW conference and signed up for a critique with a published CBA author that I thought was most likely to “get me.” In the meantime, I rededicated my prayer time to include the Prayer of Jabez and changed my attitude and expectations. God was gonna do something big in my life.

Fast forward to the ACFW conference in 2005. I’m going there armed with nothing but anxiety, big hopes, and my work in progress, which weighed in at a whopping 20 pages. I didn’t sign up for editor or agent appointments, as I was advised not to since I didn’t have anything close to a completed manuscript. But I was completely prayed up and totally confident (which is so not me) that God was gonna move some mountains for me.

I went into that conference with nothing but my giant, impossible expectations. On day two I had my critique with this author. She gave me some great advice and suggestions, then offered to contact NavPress and see if I could send them a proposal (which I didn’t even know what that was at the time!). On March 24 at 2:17 p.m. while driving down the Interstate 540 in Arkansas, I got the call from Nav and was offered a contract. I know the likelihood of that all happening is zero percent. I love that about God.

Do you still have self-doubts about your writing?

This is probably the part where I should be attempting to convince people to buy my books by saying, “No, no, I so believe in my writing. Yes, it’s so clear to me that I have the gift.” But that’s definitely not the case. Writing has given me daily (second by second) doses of junior high levels of insecurity (and we all know it doesn’t get any worse than that.). I doubt everything.

Was there ever a time you thought of quitting?

I just started! Why would I quit? …Oh, my gosh. What have you heard?

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

I think when trying to secure an agent, I didn’t slip him/her enough crisp bills. No, actually God took all of that out of my hands and just hooked this girl up in terms of finding a publisher. He obviously knew I would totally fumble. He knows me so well…

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

The author that worked with me at the ACFW Conference in ’05 said something to me I will never, ever forget. When I told her I had been advised not to pitch that week, she said, “The rules are made for everyone but you.” (Not me as in me personally, but for those willing to take the chance.) I have no doubt this author didn’t know she was saying something of monumental importance to me, something that so fit with my Prayer of Jabez attitude.

But when I heard that I got chills. I heard the hallelujah chorus. I felt the arms of God around me. I left that room and immediately burst into tears at how personal and amazing God is. It was my confirmation that God was right there in all of this. I went to ACFW with these ridiculous expectations, and He met me there. Now if I could just get Him to give into my ridiculous expectation of wanting my body to look like Jennifer Aniston’s (exercise free, of course)…

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

I’m lucky that I really haven’t gotten any poor advice. I think there’s a lot of really sound advice out there. A lot of rules and conventions that apply 99.9 percent of the time. But who knows? God doesn’t play by our little rules of convention. There are always exceptions. If you feel God telling you to go for it, then do it. Be obedient to Him and not what’s expected of you.

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

That there aren’t 30 hours to the day. My days have never been shorter. Any other pet peeves are of my own making. I procrastinate. I am an accomplished time waster. Seriously, if wasting time was an Olympic event, I would be bringing home the gold on a regular basis.

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’ve just started, so I can’t exactly look back yet. But I am really looking forward to the day when I have some experience under my belt and have a sense that I’m closer to knowing what I’m doing. But on the other hand, I wish I had started earlier. There are all sorts of variables that we think should be in place before we start writing that book or go back to school or climb that mountain. I should’ve just jumped in sooner. But now is good too. I like now. ; ) Also don’t wait to start writing when it feels more natural or comes easier to you. The day writing gets easier? Does that occasion even exist?

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

I have a writing career? That sounds funny. Oh, you were serious. Um…no. But it’s daunting to know that no matter what life dishes out, from the daily blahs to a personal or family emergency, I am still accountable to that keyboard. Sometimes I get paranoid and think, "What if I get attacked by a rabid schnauzer? And I end up in the hospital for a week? And when I get out my arm is broken and in a cast. And I can’t type. And what if I’m so doped up on pain meds that I can’t do anything but drool, let alone create a cohesive plot?"


You know, as a teacher, I can call in a substitute for these common rabid dog attacks. But as a writer the show must go on.

What are a few of your favorite books?

I love Much Ado About Nothing by Shakespeare. Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts. I love Billerbeck’s Ashley series. And I think some of the best books written are by YA author Richard Peck. If you like humor, great character and setting development, you MUST check out A Year Down Yonder and A Long Way from Chicago.

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

When I was in the eighth grade I entered a local writing contest. My Christmas short story won me a turkey. A turkey. When you taste the good life that writing can bring (such as poultry products), there’s no going back.

I’m also proud of the second book in the Katie Parker series, On the Loose, which comes out next September. With the first book, part of you thinks it’s just a fluke deal. Like everyone at the publishing house was inhaling markers and white out the day they signed you. And you worry that it was just a random thing that you were able to complete a novel. So when the second one is done, more of a sense of “okay, I really can do this” sets in.

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

Two things I keep posted. One is the line “Deliver me from mediocrity.” I think it’s from a Relient K song. (I could be totally wrong, but that’s what I’m going with). I pray over that idea often.

The other is from Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

This is my life verse and the theme for my series. I love the possibilities hinted at. I love the idea that we can cook up some great plans for our lives, but God wants even more for us.

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

I’m a full time teacher, so I go teach junior high kids all day. I wake up. Pray. Pull out hair. Go to work. Pull out hair. Come home. Pull out remaining hair. Eat dinner. Write.

I try to get in about three hours of writing, but not every day. I’m really involved with my friends, family, and church. Okay, and with certain TV programs. I write on Saturdays, but recently became convicted that I need to take Sundays off (I know, I’m a little slow on the draw).

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

This varies. I feel okay if I get 1500 words in a day. Sometimes this doesn’t happen. At all. A great day is about 2400 words. I’m still trying to find the magic recipe for making sure those days occur more often. I’m also trying to figure out the magic formula for making cellulite disappear, so if you anyone knows the answer to either situation, please let me know.

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

I’m mostly SOTP. Unfortunately some days my writing is more S.T.O.P. An ideal day involves me having a one page brainstorm for that day’s chapter and then going with it. The writing goes so much faster, and it seems to really jive and flow (Did I just use the word jive?). But those days are not as frequent as I’d like. Most of the time I’m 99.9% SOTP, and that’s been hard for me. I’m such a plotter wanna-be.

What author do you especially admire and why?

I am really into ABA author Meg Cabot right now. She has a great website that really speaks to young girls (or girls my age). And frankly, she has one of THE best blogs. I’m not into many blogs, but hers is hilarious. I think her blogs are funnier than her books. And I like that she hasn’t totally bought into the hot trend in girl YA, which is centered around characters that are very shallow, very loose moraled (is that a word?), and very socialite-ish.

I’m also a huge fan of Kristen Billerbeck. Her Ashley Stockingdale series is SWEEPING through the large singles ministry at my church. It’s like she wrote about us. (And I don’t mean that in a good way. It’s kind of pathetic. We really DO eat at the same places all the time. And we ALL have a Martha Stewart drill sergeant type in our Bible study groups, right?) I really respect how Kristen blazed a trail for CBA authors and author-hopefuls. Had I not read her books, I think I wouldn’t have realized that the Christian market can be a place for reality and humor. She has made fallibility funny and genuine. Her characters aren’t perfect and they make mistakes, but they are in pursuit of Christ, and it’s a fun ride.

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

Favorite is all the “what ifs” right now. Who knows what this journey is going to lead to in terms of ministry and career goals? And even if I only have two books to my name, I’m glad I can cross something off of my life’s to-do list. (But I hope a few books isn’t it. Because then I’ll have to focus on something else on the list like skydiving or climbing Mt. Everest. And…ew. All those require physical activity. And sweat.)

Least Favorite: Time loss with family and friends. Or being stressed all the time because you’re never really done. And I wish it came easier to me. Sitting down watching Oprah comes naturally to me. Why can’t writing feel like that? I want writing to be as easy as opening a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and eating the whole thing. Maybe next week…

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

Yeah, the marketing aspect stresses me out. I’ve been able to glean a lot of ideas from ACFW, so that’s been helpful. Some other ideas I’ve come up with on my own include: going on the Today Show and talking to Matt Lauer (I would never call him glib), sky writing some promos, having the In Between cover explode into fireworks at Disney World, putting a big sign on Times Square (right next to P. Diddy), and creating a series of commercials to air during the next Super Bowl. I’ve had a little trouble getting anyone to talk to me about these ideas those.

Until those things happen, check out:

Do you have any parting words of advice?

Yes, I have advice. My advice is that if you are someone who has real advice, please contact me. I’m so clueless.

Seriously, join a group like ACFW. Get connected. Take advantage of every opportunity such as conferences, forums, critiques, etc. Get a critique group. I’d still be on page six if it weren’t for mine. And just pray your little heart out. I understand that we have a small chance of getting published—like two percent or something? But I think God looks at our numbers and our statistics and just laughs. Isn’t he so much bigger than two percent? If it’s His will for you to write or be published, then nothing’s going to stop Him. 100 % guaranteed.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Author Interview ~ Shelley Bates

A transplanted Canadian, Shelley Bates grew up on Vancouver Island and currently lives in California. Whether typing search warrants and making undercover phone calls for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or editing marketing collateral for the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley, Shelley has always found that everyone has a story. Most people have stopped telling her theirs in case she puts them in her books. Between books, Shelley enjoys playing the piano and Celtic harp, making historical costumes, and spoiling her chickens rotten.

Your new book, Over Her Head, comes out in May. How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific 'what if' moment?

There sure was.
Back in 1997, my mom sent me an article about a murder that had occurred at my junior high (it was a tough school in the seventies and clearly, nothing had changed) where a gang of teenagers swarmed a girl who wanted to join their clique, and drowned her under a bridge. The event absolutely horrified me. I got that prickly feeling on my neck and shoulders—which only happens when I know I’m going to write about something.

It bubbled away on the back burner of my mind for several years, while I thought, “What if a Christian mom found out her daughter was in a swarm like that—and did nothing to help the girl? What would that do to their relationship? To her marriage? To her relationships in her church?” Heh.

So that’s when I began writing. The title comes from the imagery in Psalm 124: “Then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us: Then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul: Then the proud waters had gone over our soul.”

And FaithWords—bless the art department’s heart—came up with a cover that reflected this perfectly. The heroine is outdoors looking up at the sky—but it also looks as though she could be underwater, swimming toward the light. It’s absolutely wonderful.

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?

Certain moments are etched in your memory forever: Saying “I do.” Where you were when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit. Getting The Call. At 10:45 a.m. on August 8, 2002, an editor from Harlequin called to say she wanted to buy my master’s thesis. I had written it during the M.A. in Writing Popular Fiction program at Seton Hill University, and it was my first book-length sale.

I’d been writing with the goal of being published since I was 13, so it was the culmination of many years of education and, well, a lot of pages! But every one of those pages taught me something, and every one brought me closer to that goal of publication.

Do you ever struggle with writer's block? If so, how do you overcome it?

I don’t believe in writer’s block. People on deadline can’t afford that luxury :) I do, however, believe in the underlying meaning of these temporary halts in production: that I’ve taken a wrong turn plot-wise … that there are too many consequences to a scene … that I’m not being true to my character … that I’m in the wrong point of view for that scene. Once I analyze the real problem, I can move through the halt and get back to work.

Where do you write? Do you have a dedicated office or a corner or nook in a room? Any special music to help your muse?

When we built our house after the old one fell down in the earthquake, we included an office for me in the floor plans. I love it. It’s my kingdom. I have a stand-up workstation as well as a regular desk so that with my back problems, I’m not locked into any one working position. I don’t usually write my first drafts indoors anyway.

I take my AlphaSmart outside, let the chickens out of their pen, and we ramble around the yard together. I sit on a stump and write while they debug my garden. The neighbors have gotten used to it

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

You bet. In order to make deadline I have to write 30–40 pages a week. I don’t worry about exactly when those happen, but as long as the page count is up by that much at the end of every week, I’m good. Needless to say, I’m not a proponent of the “you must write every day” school. It works for some writers, and works well. It just doesn’t work for me, so I don’t stress over it.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Well, I’m a freelance editor, so I work part-time at an advertising agency. On those days I don’t write. But on my writing days, which I protect ferociously, I’m up by 7:30 and at my desk by 8:00. I do e-mail and any PR stuff until 11, and from 11 to 4 I write. After that my husband gets home from work and we have dinner, watch TV, go swing dancing or for a walk. Normal couple stuff :)

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

Jenny Crusie was the guest lecturer at Seton Hill during my first term, and she said, “Start where the trouble starts.” That helped me eradicate my tendency to info-dump in the first chapter, helped me pick up my pacing, and helped me with the art of the kickin’ first line. Smart woman, that Jenny. So many months of craft lessons, packed into five words.

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’d heard Jenny sooner. I wish I’d read Robert McKee’s Story and Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation, Conflict and Chris Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey earlier … that probably would have shaved a couple of years off my apprenticeship as an unpublished writer.

It’s important to become as educated in this business as you possibly can. That means learning who the distributors are and what they do. Learning how the publishing process works so you can work inside it when you get there. Learning how to pace yourself and manage your schedule so you don’t mentally implode the first time you realize what “back-to-back deadlines” really means.

And how do you do this? Talk to published folks. Participate in industry discussions at your local writers’ group meetings. Sidle up to booksellers and ask them questions. All the people in the industry love to talk about the industry. Use this to your advantage.

How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?

Marketing is what I do in my day job, so it seems natural for me to apply it to my writing. It’s important to find out where your pain thresholds are, though. If you’re the woman throwing up in the restroom before you have to give a talk, maybe the speaking circuit isn’t the best way to promote your work. (I used to be that woman, by the way. Things have improved and I do speak in public with some degree of comfort now.)

I think online marketing is smart. Start with a website and move outward to MySpace, ShoutLife, writing bulletin boards, and e-mail loops. You can do all those things in your jammies with a cup of coffee at your side. I like to have bookmarks and postcards to send out; other writers don’t.

Develop relationships with as many booksellers as you can, and visit them regularly. And speaking of that, a visit to your publishing house, in my opinion, is a must. Go at least once, so they have a real person to connect with the manuscript coming in.

Building relationships is key to all marketing, whether it’s with your publisher, your booksellers, or your readers. As E.M. Forster said in Howard’s End, “Only connect.” It’s vital.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

The most important thing I’d want any writer to remember is: Believe in yourself and your work. Don’t let the rejections get you down, because you’re the only one who can write your particular story from your particular point of view. You’re the one with the passion, so let it show on the page.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Author Interview ~ Chuck Black

Chuck Black wrote Kingdom’s Edge to inspire his children to read the Bible with renewed zeal. This parable led him to write the Old Testament allegories, Kingdom’s Dawn and Kingdom’s Hope. Chuck added three more titles to the series, Kingdom’s Call, Kingdom’s Quest, and Kingdom’s Reign which will be released in May of 2007.
Chuck is a former F-16 fighter pilot and currently works as an engineer for a firm designing plastic consumer products. He has a degree in electrical and electronic engineering and served eight years in the United States Air Force. Chuck and his wife have six children.

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

Kingdom’s Call, Kingdom’s Quest, and Kingdom’s Reign, the last three books in the Kingdom Series published by Multnomah Books, a division of Random House. These books will be released May 15, 2007. Kingdom’s Dawn, Kingdom’s Hope, and Kingdom’s Edge, the first three books of the series, were released in May of 2006. This series is a compressed chronological allegory of the entire bible set in a medieval time period which covers two generations of characters. It contains a great deal of medieval action and adventure while teaching biblical principles.

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.

My journey to publication is unusual and one that I wouldn’t normally recommend to an aspiring author. It is one that has left many in the business scratching their heads wondering, “How could this have possibly happened?” I never intended to write a book, or publish a book, or be an author. Before writing my first book, I had absolutely no experience in writing or publishing…zero! Quite simply, I wrote a story for my children that was intended to inspire them to read the Bible and deepen their relationship with the Lord. That simple story launched me in a direction I never anticipated.

I wrote a parable of the life of Christ set in a medieval time period where the knights, swords, castles, and battles were all directly symbolic of events in Scripture. The response from my children was remarkable. After a couple of months of nudging, I finally convinced my wife to read the story. She finished it with tears in her eyes and convinced me to attempt to publish it. After reading about the depressing and overwhelming odds of even getting an agent to consider the work, I nearly quit before I began. Instead, with much prayer, we decided to self-publish the work. My wife edited the book, and I designed the cover and interior. A couple of months later I had five hundred copies of a book in my garage without any idea if I could sell a single copy.

We took the books to a homeschool convention where I was to conduct a seminar. I was given a booth in exchange but didn’t plan on spending more than an hour or two manning it. Much to my surprise, I spent every hour for two days straight taking orders from families who wanted a book to inspire their children to get excited about their faith. I had unwittingly stumbled into a gap in the literary market, and there was enough room for a book like mine.

After writing three more books to make a series out of the story, our self-publishing business was beginning to overwhelm me and my family. The books were becoming quite popular and our little company was doubling every year. By year five, I prayed for the Lord to take the Kingdom Series and lighten my load. After a phone call to Multnomah Publishers, I sent samples of the books to them for evaluation. They became so excited about the books that within ten days we were discussing details of a four-book contract. Remarkably, they fast-tracked three of the books for release just seven months later, with three more to be release twelve months after that. It has happened so fast and furiously that I find it difficult to even consider myself a legitimate author. I haven’t endured the years of rejection or the bumps and bruises that most authors experience before getting published. I think that is why I still considered myself just a simple dad that wants to inspire my children.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?

My faith is such an integral part of this whole story, for I would never have taken any of the steps that led me here without encouragement from the Lord in the form of opportunity and positive feedback. Through the years, I have been confirmed over and over that I should move forward with the Kingdom Series and future works. I wish I could say that this has removed all of my doubts, but I must admit that there are times when I still doubt. However, I am grateful that encouragement seems to come just when I need it most.

What mistakes have you made while seeking publication?

I have made numerous mistakes while self-publishing my works, but the road to getting published with a major publishing firm has been fast and singular so I don’t have much to comment on regarding this.

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

Find multiple people to read your work who will be brutally honest with you. Then be ready to accept the critiques and adjust.

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

That won’t work.

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

As a pilot in the Air Force, you quickly learn that some people have it and some people don’t. Even though flying a plane may be natural you still need to learn the specifics of the plane you’re going to fly. I think the same applies to writing. I didn’t need to know what to write, but I did need to know how to write it. Most of it came naturally, but I wish I’d taken a little more time to learn the specific writing techniques that editors require.

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

Quite honestly, these six books have taken on a life of their own, and I often feel like I’m just along for the ride. I am so grateful for the success and yet humbled by it all. Within a year and eight months, six books will have been published, and I’m still dizzy from it all. Not having planned on a career, I can hardly call anything I’ve experienced as a set back. I’m just thankful to be allowed to be here.

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

As a youth, I loved science fiction. I think those books inspired me to be both an engineer and an author. John Christopher’s “The Tripods” made a lasting impression on me as a teenager, and I couldn’t wait to share them with my children once they were old enough. As an adult I thoroughly enjoyed “Piercing the Darkness” by Frank Peretti, “Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan, and “The Hidden Value of a Man” by Gary Smalley and John Trent.

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

This may be hard to believe, but it is the first book that I ever wrote, Kingdom’s Edge. Having never published a single piece of literature, this book was straight from my heart as a father, written to please my heavenly Father. It is not my best work, but it is my purest work. It almost feels like a miracle.

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

Not yet, but I’m sure I’ll find one.

Take us through your process of writing a novel briefly—from conception to revision.

My inspiration often comes from listening to music. There are a few songs that so overwhelm me I can’t contain the words that are waiting to spill out. I often spend many hours lying in bed or driving on the road pondering a story. After a few days (or weeks) of mentally creating the story, I begin to outline. Scenes and dialog often come in non-sequential fragments that I write down. As I create the significant events of the story, I then write to tie these events together.

My methods are probably unorthodox, but it seems to work for me.

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

My goal is to please the Lord. As trite as that may sound, I would walk away in an instant if He was not pleased with my writing. Beyond that, it is to inspire others to get passionate about Christ. And finally, I hope to leave a part of my passion alive through my books for my future generations to experience and to know my heart.

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

Yes…many! I’ve felt a bit like a fish out of water all along the way, which often left me wondering what I was doing pretending to be an author. But in truth, I discovered a deep love for being creative with the English language. This accidental writing career has opened a whole new dimension of life that brings great joy. It’s not as exciting as holding your newborn baby in your arms for the first time, but the experience generates similar feelings.

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

My favorite part of being a writer is creating a work that inspires people to change their lives. I love writing something that others can’t wait to read…it doesn’t even feel like it’s me. The worst part of being a writer is not having enough time to do it.

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

I don’t have much to compare to. Having grown into this career from a self-publishing track, I was pretty motivated to continue marketing and generating publicity to promote the books. Balancing and coordinating my efforts with the publisher has been a learning experience. The team at Multnomah has been absolutely wonderful to work with and was willing to be very flexible with me in my unique situation.

Have you received a particularly memorable reader response?

This is difficult, for I have been encouraged by the words of many parents and young people that have read and enjoyed the books. When a book makes an impact on a readers life, that is humbling and powerful. Here is one of the most memorable:

“When I started to read it I could not put the book down. I was wrapped up in the story from the beginning. It showed me how to be filled with compassion and love for others. The prince rules forever!”

These words from this young man are enough to keep me writing until I’m ninety-nine.

Parting words?

I’m pretty sure I’ve broken all the “rules” and am an enigma to many. In fact, I am guessing that my story of the road to publishing is one that agents and publishers alike may want to hush and ignore for the difficulty it would bring them should someone purposely try it. As I mentioned at the start, it is not one I would recommend although there is a lot to learn from it. I think perhaps what my story says is this: if you’ve written something good that people like, don’t give up…don’t give up…don’t give up…