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Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Cheapest Tickets to BookExpo America 2008

Sigh—is anyone else out there wishing they could see BookExpo? Or are most of us glad we’ve got the weekend free to write--and who really wants to go look at the overwhelming competition anyway?

So this post is for those of us who chose to work on our novels instead walking around with ti
red feet in pinched shoes(--ha, it didn't work. I still wish I were there!)

Well at any rate, here’s a few places where you can visit to keep updated:

BookSelling This Week is reporting daily “Live.” For a Free Subscription to Bookselling This Week: Please fill out their subscription form at

BookExpoCast: They’re not reporting live, but you’ll certainly learn here and there’s from the industry.

The BookMaven is updating daily:

BookTv on C-span2 will cover the Keynote address by Thomas Friedman today at 11:00 PM (I assume EST)

And what probably will be the most interesting off, is this blog where the writer is going for the first time and planning to give their observations.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Author Cathy Pickens ~ Interviewed

Cathy Pickens -- Biographical Information

SOUTHERN FRIED won St. Martin’s Press Malice Domestic Award for Best Traditional Mystery. Set in a small South Carolina hill country town, it was called an “assured debut, a cozy with some sharp edges” by Publishers’ Weekly and was one of five finalists for RT BookClub’s 2004 best new mysteries award. In DONE GONE WRONG, Cathy uses her own courtroom experiences when Avery Andrews
deals with a suicidal spree killer and a dynamite-toting paramour against the backdrop of a high-profile trial of a deadly drug. Poison pen letters and a run-away pig welcome Avery home again in HOG WILD. HUSH MY MOUTH is the latest in the series.

In her other life, Cathy is a lawyer and business professor at Queens University of Charlotte.

What is your current project?

I’m in that in-between phase, having finished Book #5 in the Southern Fried Mystery series and now planning what comes next. The problem isn’t having no ideas but having too many, trying to winnow the list down to the manageable. This is the time of year when I try to catch up with all the rest of my life, which falls into disarray during the months I’m immersed in a book. At the same time, the next project is percolating.

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 been writing and submitting since I was in junior high school, so I’m one of those over-night successes decades in the making. My first real sale was a short story, to the Sisters in Crime/PWA anthology Deadly Allies II. Sue Dunlap called to tell me she’d selected my story – which introduced the characters in my series.

That’s when I learned good news comes by phone. That was confirmed ten years later, when editor Ruth Cavin called to tell me I’d won the St. Martin’s Malice Domestic contest. Just as exciting as that first call.

I also learned in those earlier years that persistence trumps talent every time. I know writers who are much more talented than I’ll ever be, but they’ll never be published. Why am I so certain? Because they aren’t writing, or they aren’t submitting their work for critique, looking for advice about how to grow and improve. It’s important to learn your craft – and writing requires a long apprenticeship. The real driver is persistence.

Getting published is, in some ways, the easy part. Then there’s luck and timing and
the will to continue the hard work of improving.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work, or struggle in a particular area such as writers block or angst-driven head-banging?

All artists have self-doubt. It’s akin to stage fright. That’s what keeps our adrenaline pumping, keeps us always studying and working and improving.

Every project is different; every book starts with a usually unspoken quaver: “Can I write this? Will it be any good?” The secret is in the process, in the work itself. You work at your craft; you put your butt in the chair, bow your head, grasp your pen and set to work. That’s it.

What mistakes have you made?

Sending work out too soon, thinking it was ready long before it was. Thinking I was ready when I wasn’t.

A wise writer once told me the question isn’t, “How long did it take you to get published?” but “How long did it take you to get publishable?” Two very different questions.

I haven’t met anyone yet who hasn’t worked to get publishable. For me – and, I suspect, for most writers – the book that was accepted was far different from the book that was first shopped around. John D. MacDonald once said a writer’s apprenticeship was one million words. You keep working and improving. No short-cuts.

What is your favorite source for finding story ideas?

Reading and listening to people and observing life. Ideas distilled from books or movies are never as rich as distilled life itself; that’s the writer’s job: to distill and offer us the essence of life.

Small-town newspapers are great sources for me. A small piece in my hometown newspaper about some psychics visiting town tipped over my laugh box one day.

What if …? I began picturing the absurd lengths that guys with too much time on their hands could go to, setting up stunts for the psychics. The psychics became ghost hunters, and a parallel plot in “Hush My Mouth” was born.

Have you ever had one of those awkward writer moments where you got “the look” from the normals? Example, you stand at a knife display at the sporting goods store and ask the clerk which would be the best to disembowel a six-foot man.

I try not to do things that are too weird. Writers work best when they are observers, not performers.

I know I should have a humorous response to this, but I cringe a bit a the question because I recently talked to a new writer who was surprised when someone who answered the phone at the regional FBI office wouldn’t answer her question about the best way to destroy a body or some such question. Writers should strive to be professional.

Not that I haven’t asked questions like, “How much dynamite does it take to blow up a building?” but only of someone with whom I’ve taken the time to develop a professional relationship.

If I wanted to know about disemboweling a man, I would first study “Gray’s Anatomy” (please, the textbook, not the TV show) and comb through medico-legal books to see if I could find examples. (You’d be surprised what’s out there.) I would then ask a medical doctor, a medical examiner, or even a hunter for specifics. (Around here, I could find an ME who is also a hunter.) Let’s face it, some clerk in a knife store isn’t likely to know what you need to know.

Is there a particularly difficult set-back that you’ve gone through in your writing career? Or have you ever been at the point where you considered quitting writing altogether?

What I thought was my worst set-back came when I accepted a demanding (non-writing, bill-paying) job that meant I had to stop writing for five years. I thought I’d missed the window of opportunity, that I’d never get a mystery published.

Now, though, reading back through my journals during that time, I realize how much I was still thinking about writing, studying writing, learning the market. And I was changing as a person.

I left that very intense five years knowing what was valuable to me, what I wanted to do. I’d gained even more discipline and focus. I became even more grateful for the opportunity to do what I’d dreamed of doing, with an intensity that I hadn’t had before. The very thing I thought was a loss of opportunity gave me the tools I needed to succeed.

On March 16, weeks before my time in that dreaded job was to end in May, I got the call that Southern Fried had been accepted. I’d polished it up, re-written it once again and submitted it to the contest the previous October, part of the process of looking forward to the next stage in my life. What a next stage it’s been!

I think about quitting writing every other day. Then I realize I can’t. I really can’t.

What are a few of your favorite books?

Dickens, Austen, Shakespeare. Those are the absolute best. I love To Kill A Mockingbird. I don’t have room to list my contemporary mystery favorites: to name a few, Margaret Maron (Bootlegger’s Daughter), Nancy Pickard (The Virgin of Small Plains), John Mortimer’s Rumpole series, Michael Connolly, James Lee Burke … too many more.

Dean Koontz recently shared his take on the concept on “the writer’s sacred duty.” What comes to your mind at the mention of “the writer’s sacred duty”?

Madeleine L’Engle repeatedly talks about how we’re called to be co-creators with God. I agree with her, and other writers talk about this in the context of their spiritual beliefs.

Writers have a duty to tell the truth. That doesn’t mean we tell what really happened; it means we’re here to distill life to its essence, we’re to give readers a look at how things should and could be, to offer explanations, to offer hope, to give resolution.

Life is messy and doesn’t offer much resolution and truth is difficult to see. Writers help us see.

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

That too many writers, readers, and others don’t realize that it IS a business.

Do you have a dream for the future of your writing?

To be allowed to keep writing and publishing.

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

Both the writing itself and the promotion. Both of those are the best of times, the worst of times.

What aspect of writing was the most difficult for you to grasp/conquer? How did you overcome it?

Finding the time. I finally just gave up everything else. If writing was as important as I said it was, why was I watching TV, having dinner with friends, shopping, cleaning closets, and whatever else it was that I was doing?

What is the first thing you do when you begin a new book?

Go through my journals and “incubator” files, gathering the tidbits that look most interesting to me. Then I start talking to myself on paper. It’s messy … and magical.

Writing rituals?

In researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s work on “flow,” he said, in essence, we need to have work that matches our particular skills but that we also find challenging; then we just need to show up at the same time, same place every day and get busy.

I eat breakfast, then go into my lovely study with a cup of tea, sit in my chair, pick up my pen (currently one I found in Germany, always blue ink), with a Notabilia notebook from Levenger’s. (I write fiction long-hand, though I do non-fiction on the keyboard.)

I have a goal of a certain number of pages a day. If I get done quickly, great. For the lengthy editing or “re-visioning” phase, the number of pages per day changes, but not the routine.

Plot, seat of pants or combination?

I now refer to it as “planning.” I’m too obsessive not to have things worked out in advance, but I also let things change. Writers are endlessly fascinated with this question because we hope someone has found a magic solution. I haven’t met anyone yet who does.

I decided, on one book, that I’d spend lots more time “outlining” or planning the book, then it wouldn’t take so much time in the rewrite phase. Ha! It still takes time. It’s a long and messy process. Do what works for you. I have Post-It note cards, scads of notes filling notebooks, swirling, brightly colored and wildly scribbled large charts on art paper, time lines … and a plan that I’m willing to change.

What is the most difficult part of pulling together a book?

Letting go of it and sending it to my editor.

Have you received a particularly memorable reader response?

The emails and letter (yes, that’s singular) of concern over main character Avery’s eating habits. As one reader said, “She doesn’t eat many salads.” The reader was being nice – Avery hasn’t eaten a salad in five books. But she’s fond of fried chicken, banana Moon Pies, cobbler, macaroni and cheese (which, in the South, is considered a vegetable), and as many of the food groups in a fried condition as she can get.

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

I once clung to the lovely myth that, as a writer, I could withdraw to a mountain cabin and write. That is nothing more than a shimmering mirage. Shrinking numbers of booksellers, people buying fewer books, and more competition for leisure time and dollars means the book business is incredibly competitive.

I easily spend half my “writing” time on promotional activities. And I’ve heard the same estimate from lots of other writers. Being a successful writer today means being a successful small business owner, complete with book-keeping, website design, speaking engagements, travel arrangements, responses to readers, building relationships with booksellers and librarians … the list is long. A writer doesn’t have to do everything possible to promote, but every writer has to decide what plays to his or her strengths and do that. Not promoting is not an option.

Parting words? Anything you wish we would’ve asked because you’ve got the perfect answer?

If I had the perfect answer to anything, I’d still tinker too long with it … Thanks for inviting me. Feel free to contact me. Happy writing!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Author Interview ~ Sherri Sand

Sherri Sand is a wife and mother of four young children who keep her scrambling to stay ahead of the spilled milk. When she needs stress relief from wearing all the hats required to clothe, feed and ferry her rambunctious brood, you’ll find her sitting in a quiet corner of a bistro reading a book (and surrounded by chocolate). Then to elude that calorie consumption you might see her running on the trails throughout Eugene, a city considered to be the running capital of the world. Sherri is a member of The Writer’s View and American Christian Fiction Writers. She finds the most joy in writing when the characters take on a life of their own and she becomes the recorder of their stories. She holds a degree in psychology from the University of Oregon where she graduated cum laude.

How did you begin your journey of writing a novel? Is it something you always wanted to do?

I’ve always wanted to write. Even as young as eight, I can remember telling people I wanted to be an author when I grew up.

Tell us a little bit about your writing process. Do you have a direction in mind that you want to go? Or do you just see the characters acting out the story in your mind and simply write it down?

I usually follow the characters and then get a glimpse of where we’re going and try to keep the story moving with those goals in mind. I have had whole scenes settle into my mind at the most inconvenient times. It can be a challenge getting it all down onto a grocery receipt at the next stop light!

You have an upcoming release titled Leave it to Chance. How did you come up with the characters in your book?

They came to me. When I saw Sierra, I knew she was a mom who deeply loved her kids and wanted the best for them. Elise was so fun to write with her over-the-top ways. When she drove up to Sierra’s and pushed her ooga horn, I knew I was going to love her. And Sid is such a dear and reminds me so much of my father-in-law, Art. And Ross, how could you not love him?

Did the theme of forgiveness / unforgiveness that Sierra deals with come from your own life?

In a way it did, though I didn’t consciously implement it into the novel. Just like most of us living in this fallen world, there have been a couple significant events in my life that I had difficulty forgiving. I finally realized that if I waited until I felt like forgiving, it would never happen. And I desperately needed to forgive. The bitterness was choking the life out of me. So with God’s help and through His grace I made the choice to forgive and forgive and forgive. I wish I could say that there was instant peace and joy. Though I think that can happen for people when they forgive, I’d lived in unforgiveness for so long that I had to continually make a choice to forgive until the freedom came. And when that freedom came, it was a wow moment for me!

What would you suggest to someone who wants to become an author?
Start attending writer’s conferences. And if the cost is an issue, order tapes or CDs of the various workshops. Also join a critique group and really listen to the feedback. When I get input from my critiquing partners, I make a point to set aside any defensiveness and adopt a thicker skin. It’s not fun to find out that every word you write isn’t brilliant, but if you take the comments constructively you’ll become a stronger writer.

How do you find time to write? Any tips for someone who is working full time?

Set a word count goal. I try to write 1000 words a day, five days a week. If finding the extra time is difficult, start with 300 words a day. At that pace, you’d complete a full length novel (80,000 words) in one year. But the most important factor in writing is to turn the editor in your head off. Writer’s block comes from trying to create and edit at the same time. Don’t wait for the perfect idea to come floating along. Start writing now. Write anything. You want to create the habit so the ideas will come. The fear of failure keeps us from giving feet to our dreams—true failure comes from not trying at all.

What are the top three tips you have for submitting a successful book proposal?

There are many excellent books on how to write a proposal. Study them. It will ensure that the proposal you send in is polished and professional.·Don’t make the mistake of submitting substandard writing assuming that an editor or agent will see your potential and take you on. Make sure it’s your very best work before submitting it.·Get feedback from other writer friends or a critique group before submitting it. You’ll be amazed at how an already strong proposal can get stronger.

Novel Journey Reports from the Blue Ridge Conference

Gina and I had a blast on our first gig as faculty at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. Here we are getting giddy with Cindy Sproles.

Held at Ridgecrest, Yvonne Lehman puts on a great conference. After 25 years, she's handing over the Blue Ridge to Alton Gansky, but she'll continue to do the new Novelists Retreat in October. If you're a novelist with a current WIP, you'll want to check this out.

Gina and I taught on Building a Platform Before You're Published and the Best Advice From Novel Journey. We've interviewed so many authors, both CBA and ABA, and gleaned so much good advice, it made for a fun workshop.

For me, the highlight was the faculty talent show. That's right. Gina and I were in it. First of all, Eva Marie Everson coerced us into doing the Cha Cha Slide. And it got funky. Yvonne didn't expect to have to be in this, and what a good sport she is.

Then after the warm-up act, came RIDGECREST IDOL with yours truly as Simone Cow. Suzanne Hadley played Trala Blabdrool and Carmen Leal was Mandy Slackson. Eva Marie Everson hosted as Rhianna Fleasnest.

The contestants, famous authors, read selections from their books and we judged them. Here's the line-up:

Vonda Skelton came out as William Shakespeare's wife, reading Romeo a Juliet. Her wig and period costume had us rolling in laughter. Les Stobbe gave us the giggles as Daniel DeFoe, reading Robinson Crusoe. He had a hard time keeping a straight face when receiving his critiques.
Chip MacGregor did an incredible portrayal of Robert Louis Stephenson, reading Treasure Island. It was all Eva Marie could do to keep him on his feet.
Ron Benrey as Lord Edward George Earl Lyton Bulwer-Lyton, reading Paul Clifford.
Janet Benrey was a hoot as Dame Barbara Cartland, reading The Dawn of Love. She had the stuffed animal and feather boa, which she tried to convince us wasn't hers.

Gina Holmes had us in stitches as Charlotte Bronte, reading Jane Eyre. When she stopped because she couldn't remember a line, Simone shouted at her, "It's a book. Read it." Then Trala told her she loved Charlotte's second book.

Deb Raney was a highlight as Jane Austin, reading Sense and Sensibility. She read every comma, semi colon and period in the passage—all with a straight face. And earlier that day, she was seen giggling over a ... snake? Hmmm. I didn't think Brandilyn Collins was at Ridgecrest.

But DiAnn Mills as Yvonne Lehman, reading His Hands, stole the show. She had Yvonne down to a "T", including the walk, the hand fluttering at the podium and the wig. She looked like Yvonne playing herself.

During an "intermission" Mindy Starns Clark belted out a song that had us all gasping for breath between laughs. That woman has a fantastic voice! Who knew?

But the best part of the conference was that we've been invited back again next year. And I can't wait to see what they come up with for the talent show.

Be watching for news of a video post. Gina interviewed Yvonne and Alton on video. And you never know what Gina might ask.

If you went to the Blue Ridge conference, tell us your favorite memory and be entered in a drawing to win a book.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Guest Blog ~ Robin Jones Gunn

When I wrote the first Sisterchicks® book in 2002, I honestly thought it would be a standalone novel. The story was just something fun I wanted to write. Then USA Today ran an article titled, “Bridget Jones Goes to Church” and declared “Sisterchicks on the Loose!” to be the first Christian Chick-Lit novel. I’m not sure it was the first. Neta Jackson, Kristin Billerbeck and several other writers for the Christian market were also writing first-person stories during the same time that fell into the same category. But that was the unexpected bonus – we suddenly had a new category of fiction in the CBA and the doors were open to lots more wonderful books crafted by gifted writers.

So, there I was with a novel that sold 100,000 copies in a few months and had been so fun to write that when my publisher asked if I’d write another, I easily agreed. I knew I wanted to write the second Sisterchicks story about two friends going to Hawaii. I love Hawaii. I love any excuse to write and/or visit beautiful Hawaii.

Sales were still off the charts with Sisterchicks Do the Hula! and places like Target were ordering copies for their endcaps. Why not write some more? The big question was what location should I write about?

As I was pondering this, my agent and I were given a free cruise to Mexico! Ole! Janet and I became the real life “Sisterchicks in Sombreros!” as we set sail and the story floated off my finger tips.

Now what? More Sisterchicks novels, please. Okay. How about “Sisterchicks Down Under!” and “Sisterchicks Say Ooh La La!” and “Sisterchicks in Gondolas!” and “Sisterchicks Go Brit!”

Then my husband said, “It’d be great if your publisher would send you to all those places so you could do the all-important research before writing the stories.” And my publisher said, “Okay.”

For the past five years I’ve been living a writer’s dream. I’ve traveled to Australia, New Zealand, Paris, Venice and England and I have discovered that Sisterchicks are everywhere!

Sisterchicks are friends. Close friends. Women who care about each other at the heart level and share the ups and downs of life with each other in a way that keeps them going strong. In each of the novels a different pair of Sisterchicks travel to one of these corners of the world and discover together that God is much greater than they ever thought. They also discover more completely who God created them to be and how He is fulfilling His dreams for them in the next season of life.

Now that “Sisterchicks Go Brit!” is releasing, I’m finding that everything I’ve been writing about has become real, living truth in this next season of my life. God is much greater than I ever realized. He has dreams for me and He is fulfilling those dreams in unexpected ways. I’m learning to trust Him more deeply and rest in His love. This world He made is gorgeous. It is beautiful and amazing and mysterious. His ways are not my ways. His thoughts are not my thoughts. And I love Him so much. So, so much!

I’d be honored if you came by for a visit. You’ll find lots of info on the Sisterchicks novels and lots of photos from around the world. You can sign up to receive my Robin’s Nest Newsletter. I send out the newsletter via email about every six or eight weeks and offer contests and updates on new titles. You can also listen to some of my stories on audio.

What I want to tell you here is a little story behind the story of “Sisterchicks Go Brit!” I included some photos and travel journal details at the back of the book. This is a story I didn’t include in the novel or in the bonus material at the back of the book. I’m breaking the story here, exclusively! Hee hee!

On one of the days during my research trip to England, we took a train to the city of Rochester to have a look at one of the oldest churches in that part of England as well as see the last house where Charles Dickens lived. We found Rochester to be an uneventful jaunt. We were too late for evening Vesper service at the church. The Dickens home was closed that afternoon and the craft fair that had been taking place on the old castle ground had
just ended and the tents and booths were being taken down. The whole day seemed like a waste.

We stopped to talk to the security guards at the castle grounds to see if there was anything “fun” or “interesting” we could see before getting on a train and heading back to London. One of the security guards said, “You can direct traffic for me, if you like. That will be fun for you and interesting for us.”

I agreed and was given the guards’ stocking cap and lime green safety vest. He ran through a few basic traffic hand signals and I went to work. Indeed, it was fun for me and interesting, I’m sure, to all the curious onlookers. And here are the photos to prove it.

I thought about this bit of silliness the other day when looking through my England photos. I remembered how much we laughed and how good we felt getting back on the train to London even though nothing we set out to do in Rochester had been accomplished. I think the glee and sense of satisfaction was there because we stopped to play.

Why don’t we do that more often? Stopping to play is a wonderful, Sisterchicky, womanly thing to do. Laughter is good medicine. It revives our spirits. Every day we have agendas and lists of goals and some days nothing on the list is accomplished. Okay. So what? Relax. Stop and play for a few minutes. Don’t take yourself so seriously. It will be fun for you and interesting for the rest of us. I promise.

If I could offer you, as a reader, a small gift today, I think the gift would be this freedom to stop and laugh in the midst of all the pressing frustrations of daily life. As I look back over the years of writing the Sisterchicks novels I realize that is exactly the gift I wanted to give to women, whether I understood it or not as I wrote the first book. Each Sisterchicks book is an invitation to pause your routine long enough to laugh a little, turn your heart and your truest self back to God so that when you get on the train of your life to whatever is next, you’ll be refreshed on the journey with a sense of contentment and confidence that your times are in His hands. I hope you enjoy reading “Sisterchicks Go Brit!” and I hope it makes you laugh so that your spirit might be refreshed.

“O Lord, our Lord. How majestic is Your name in all the earth!” Psalm 8:1
“From the rising of the sun to its going down, the Lord’s name is to be praised.” Psalm 113:3
“Like your name, O God, your praise reaches to the ends of the earth.” Psalm 48:10
“No wonder my heart is glad and I rejoice . . . You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.” Psalm 16:9&11

Rejoice, Sweet Sisterchicks!
With a giggle,

Sunday, May 25, 2008

10 Standout Christian Fiction Book Covers

By Mike Duran

While a good book cover doesn't make a book "good," it can sure leave an impression. I recently perused the
AIGA Book Design awards and found myself lamenting the absence of inspirational fiction titles. So I turned to the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. Yet the ECPA Book Cover Awards appear to focus largely on non-fiction titles (and there are some really good ones). The lone fiction title in 2007's finalists was Bethany House's, The Dead Whisper On. Surely there must be more than one good Christian Fiction book cover! It launched me on a bit of quest.

So after endless Amazon surfing, hours wandering the local chains, I have compiled 10 Standout Christian Fiction Book Covers. Disclaimer: The following selections are not part of a scientific survey, nor am I employed by a publisher or marketing firm (although, for a pittance, I can shill with the best of 'em). These are my personal faves. The list is unordered, and I think representative of some of the better book covers in religious fiction.

Foreboding. Mysterious. But the name Adam conjures other images. Was the bridge of a nose ever so suggestive? Dekker does black. Again.

Masts, maps and vast blue. Looks like it was pulled out of a moldy chest along with some doubloons and a cutlass. But what's a Firefish?

Splash! Red on blue's a winner. But what about those little hands...

This is one of my personal favorites. The eye is drawn to that clamped, compressed, cranium. But what's going on inside it?

Beautifully minimal; word and image complement each other. And the cat's tail even serves as an exclamation point.

Sepia sky and water silhouette, drawing our interest toward the horizon. But what are they looking at?

Conjuring a confluence of questions. What's the pedestal for? Did that woman leave it? Or is she taking center stage? Maybe my favorite of the bunch.

Blues and blacks! Two levels of intrigue -- the broken glass and the man behind it. This cover seizes your attention.

The "star" part is obvious, but the "dark"? Our eye is drawn upward, but the face is just out of reach. Evokes the best -- and worst -- of rock.

Whimsical, pink and neon green. This is a superhero unlike one we've seen. And there's so many curves...

So that's my ten best. There was actually quite a few to choose from. Some other notable covers were...

Whaddya think? Any of these your favorites? What other Christian Fiction book covers have left an impression on you, and why?

Sunday Devotion-Beyond the label

Janet Rubin

Last month on Earth Day, I purchased a whole bunch of those reusable canvas grocery bags at my grocery store. I promptly came home, took a picture of them, and posted the picture on my blog, announcing proudly that I was doing my part to save the planet. The next week, when filling out a scholarship application, I had to answer a question about whether or not I thought it was important to be environmentally responsible and why. I wrote my mini-essay with passion and not feeling the least bit hypocritical- I mean hey, I was the proud owner of reusable canvas grocery bags after all, wasn't I?

So, a month has passed. I've gone shopping quite a few times. The thing is...I haven't used those fancy bags even once. I keep forgetting to bring the things with me! So on I go, contributing to the plastic-problem. Some environmentalist I am. Al Gore would be dissapointed in me.

It's easy to slap on a label. It's harder to live the life. Most of us hanging out at Novel Journey call ourselves writers. I tell people all the time, "I'm a writer." But the truth of the matter is, I really don't spend much time writing. Not seriously writing anyway. Sure we go through dry spells, periods of writer's block, hectic times when other things are a priority. But in order to truthfully say, "I'm a writer," there should be, over time, some sort of consistent writing going on in our lives.

My most important title is Christian. Lots of people call themselves Christians, but then rarely think of God or His leadership in their lives. Me too at times.

What good are earth-friendly grocery bags left at home? How does a writer who never writes anything share his or her gift with the world? And what good is a Christian whose label is nothing more than... a label?

James 1: 26-27 Anyone who sets himself up as "religious" by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world. [The Message]
Lord, We sure need your help. I'm so glad you aren't a God who's just a talker. You didn't just say you loved us; you showed us- coming to earth in the form of Jesus, dying on a cross, saving us from sin and death. You walked the walk. Please help me to live authentically, to choose my labels carefully and take them seriously. You know I can't do it alone. And thank you for grace, which forgives me for wasting plastic bags and checking email more than I write, and forgetting You between Sundays. But I want to do better. Please help. Amen.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

To Publish or to Blog

I find it interesting that some are giving their story away for free.

The non-profit ministry I work for is currently giving away free audio books of a Christian Allegory for young adults. They found the novel so powerful they decided to bear the cost of distributing it themselves. (If interested in a copy e-mail me through my profile.)

Apparently, we're not the only ones giving away a novel. This past week I found a Press Release stating that YA novelist Eileen Cruz Coleman is posting her YA novel chapter by chapter on her blog ( The novel landed a New York agent and toured publishers but without snagging the deal. While she works on another book, she’s giving away her novel.

"It's definitely not without risk. People may hate my writing. But hey, there's no point in spending months or years writing a novel if no one is going to read it," Cruz Coleman said. "The first three chapters are up and I am not looking back.”

When you add in devices like Amazon’s Kindle and the Sony Reader, the possibility of completely foregoing the industry and distributing your book freely—certainly is becoming an option.

The record industry has seen many changes as artists started to go independent--record their own albums, put on their own concerts, and sell their own CD's.

YouTube is opening doors for people to get their own following, regardless of whether or not they are on television.

New software allows people to become Graphic Designers, Film Producers, Engineers and Producers who years ago couldn't have done it without schooling.

So, who's to say someone can't give away their book and get a following before publication?

And yet, I still can't help but to think if you believe in your novel that much, why not fight for it? If it's that good . . . there's gotta be someone willing to publish it.

What do you guys think? Would you give away your novel for free?

Friday, May 23, 2008

“Postcard from the Edge,” Guest Blog by Kimberly Stuart

Kimberly Stuart is the author of the Heidi Elliott series, Balancing Act (NavPress, 2006) and Bottom Line (NavPress, 2007). Her third book, Act Two: A Novel In Perfect Pitch (David C. Cook), releases nationwide May 2008.

“Postcard from the Edge”

Dude. You people are motivated. I’ve followed your posts. I’ve read the archives. And you are no group of literary slackers. You write, you publish, you read, you edit, you respond thoughtfully to each other, and you eat balanced meals. Me, too. Totally.
But on the off chance that someone out there in Novel Journey Land is having difficulties writing today or this week or thus far in 2008, I’m Kimberly Stuart and I’m here to encourage, one writing ragamuffin to another.

My novel, Act Two, releases May 1, 2008. It represents a hearty helping of take-out, questionable hygiene, and dastardly inattention to important things childcare. I’m not trying to be melodramatic. Rather, I merely want to give a snapshot of what the Stuart home looked like in the months Act Two was being birthed. Perhaps this postcard from the edge will prompt you to take your own hand-printed journey toward finishing your work-in-progress.

First, I did not wear an ascot, sip sherry, and listen to Vivaldi by a roaring fire. Three books into this writing life and I’m still disappointed most of my work occurs on my couch with a cranky laptop, my eyes darting to the clock to make sure I don’t miss my daughter’s preschool pick-up time or forget to retrieve my son from his nap. No ascots, just jeans and shirts that may or may not contain a dazzling imprint of our lunch menu. (See above for nutritional information.)

Second, I worked for 1000 words, then shut my laptop in triumph and walked away. The word count is not the issue here. To each his or her own when it comes to output in a given day. But the benchmark is key. Fighting the urge to stare out the window at that fascinating elderly woman in a blue plastic headscarf who appears to be tap dancing in her front yard will, in fact, force you to write your novel, bit by bit. When the words are down for the day, reward yourself with head scarf intrigue, but not one scintillating verb before.

Third, I took a research trip. This was the first time I’d traveled with the express purpose of entering the world of my character and I must say, my next novel will place inside a spa in Fiji. For Act Two, I spent some time in New York, soaking up my surroundings, walking, eating, wandering in my protagonist’s “shoes.” Upon returning home, I filled in the gaps of my trip by quizzing mercilessly friends who live in Manhattan. The time I spent in my character’s stomping grounds, however, added authenticity and flavor to my story. Money and time well spent (and gloriously tax deductible!).

Finally, I took time away from the manuscript after it was finished but before submission. Stephen King writes about the value of this in On Writing. Sometimes deadlines don’t allow for this indulgence, but I cannot emphasize enough how the book and I both benefited from time apart. For me, this meant four weeks of “writing silence” before tackling a nitpicky edit. The result was a much cleaner submitted manuscript, which allowed my editor and I to dissect the arc of the story, character depth, sharpness of dialogue in a less hurried fashion. Something about that absence making the heart grow fonder… It was true of Chad White at junior high camp and it’s true of our writing.
Godspeed to each of you in your writing adventure! May you shower regularly, laugh often, and remember to show yourself grace now, worry about eating your vegetables later.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Creating Character by Jane Kirkpatrick

Most of my novels are character driven, only in part because they’re often based on the lives of actual people. The word Character comes from the Greek and it means “to chisel.” That suggests that it’s what’s left after we’ve been gouged out that is our enduring character. That’s true of our fictional characters as well. They need to be “gouged” out but in ways that are believable and congruent for the reader.

The book Structuring The Novel by Meredith and Fitzgerald, has been a huge help to me. Those authors ask three questions that I answer before beginning a work: What is my intention? What is my attitude (what do I feel deeply about)? What is my purpose or how do I hope a reader will be changed by reading this work? I spend hours writing answers to those questions and try to get the answer to each down to one sentence that I then type and put up on my computer, to help me remember why I began this project when I start to feel lost in that muddle in the middle. Almost always the answers involve a character who is trying to do something, accomplish something, act on their environment, want to make a change.

After I do that work, I begin with a motivational exploration of my character. What is her/his desire? What do they want in this story? Why are they here to share their lives with readers? A character has to want something badly and hopefully something important. I write down as much as I can about what I think that character might want hoping to come up with one main desire.

Characteristics are secondary to me. Most of us remember Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. We remember her little 18 inch waist (characteristic) or the way she said “Fiddle dee de” flipping her hair with her hand (characteristic). But the reason she and that story is memorable is not because of her unique descriptors, but because the most important desire in her life was to save Tara. Everything that happened to her after that was a barrier to her desire. Along the way she had other desires, to marry someone, to help birth a baby, but always the driving force was her desire to save the land. If only Rhett Butler had paid the taxes when she asked…well, the rest is history. And fiction.

So I highly recommend spending pre-writing time considering what your character wants. Maybe he doesn’t even know for certain what he wants and that’s fine. But as the author, you need to know what he wants. Angie Hunt says to think of the desires as having one internal and one external desire. I like that. It’s also useful to think of something tangible that the character can hold or reach that is a symbol of that desire that will be accomplished at the end of the book. That way the reader can cheer along with the character when they’ve achieved their goal. Awakening the Heroes within By Carolyn Pearson and A Writer’s Guide to Fiction by Elizabeth Lyons are both great sources to explore mythic desires of characters with lists included of well-known novels and what those character’s desired.

Then I have to imagine various barriers that will get in the way of that character’s desire and in the process “gouge out or chisel” their character. Asking questions such as what would the character lie about in order to achieve their desire? What do they most fear? Who would be the most helpful to them? Why might they resist that help? How can the worst thing that just happened to my character be turned into the best thing that happened? The questions will help move the narrative but also deepen the characterization of your protagonist.

In my latest book, A Mending at the Edge, Emma wanted a house, a home of her own in which to raise her children inside a religious colony. She did get what she wanted but there were obstacles and along the way she discovered she really didn’t so much need or want that structure as much as she wanted her family to be reunited whether in her own house or in another. An internal desire was to feel as though she belonged to a family and the story is also about how she came to love the people of her community as she was able to contribute to them despite earlier disappointments with them. The challenges she faced helped (I hope) chisel out her desires. She had to change to achieve them, experience grief and trouble, but in the end, she triumphed.

Often as I’m writing, there’ll be a metaphor that arises that can also help the reader experience the trials and triumphs of the character. Those metaphors can’t be forced, they just seem to come out of the writing and the author’s comfort with the character and the storyline. But they’re very useful in deepening the emotional connection with readers and are very helpful during revisions. The word metaphor is also Greek and it means “To change, to transform.” They say in Greece that the moving vans are labeled with “Metaphor” on the side. Ultimately, that’s the purpose of fiction, I think, to move people, to get them to consider new ideas, to feel deeply about something, maybe even to take action at some later time. I love it when people tell me they’ve read one of my books and then they’ve planned a trip to go to the places of the story and “walk where Emma walked” or where “Marie once lived.” That tells me that the character became real for them and hopefully offered something to consider for the reader’s character as well.

Spending time considering our own desires is always a good use of an author’s time. And one of my favorite Proverbs says Desire realized is a sweetness to the soul. We all have desires and by naming them, we increase the likelihood we’ll achieve them. Madeline L’Engle once wrote that we are named by the choices we make so if we want stronger characters, we need to name their desires. Our readers will appreciate that we did. Jane Kirkpatrick,

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Michelle McKinney Hammond ~ Interviewed

Michelle McKinney Hammond, a writer, singer, and speaker who focuses on improving love–driven relationships, is the founder and president of HeartWing Ministries as well as the co-host of the Emmy–nominated show Aspiring Women. Michelle is the bestselling author of The DIVA Principle®, 101 Ways to Get and Keep His Attention, Sassy, Single, & Satisfied, Secrets of an Irresistible Woman, What to Do Until Love Finds You, A Sassy Girl’s Guide to Loving God, and The Power of Being a Woman.

Time to crow: What new book or project do you have coming out?

My newest project is my second novel entitled “Playing God.”

You've written 28 books of non-fiction and two fiction books. How does writing fiction compare for you?

Fiction is an entirely different animal! With self-help or non-fiction you know where you’re going and can basically plot your course per your outline and the points you want to make. In fiction the characters come alive and take over as you go along so even I was surprised by the time I got to the end of the book. It’s a bit scary, talk about losing control, which is a feeling I don’t necessarily like!

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

I was just thinking one day what a mess we make when we don’t trust God and literally take our lives back into our own hands instead of waiting for and following His instruction for our lives. The different situations that arose popped up as I went along. There are several ‘what if’ moments where the characters have the chance to do the right thing. Tamara has the opportunity to continue to choose purity? Jamilah comes to a crossroads with letting go and trusting God to work out her situation and that’s just two of the dramas in this book.

Every novelist has a journey. How long was your road to publication? How did you find out and what went through your mind?

It was already contracted before I wrote it. Harvest House felt it was time for me to do a follow up after my first novel “The Last Ten Percent.” It took me about six months to complete the manuscript and another three months to do the edit. My publisher was patiently waiting for it, they are such nurturer’s.

Do you ever bang your head against the wall from the dreaded writer's block? If so, how do you overcome it?

I don’t bang my head against the wall. I stew… as in germinate. I find something fun to do that totally takes my mind off of it and then I get a spark and return to it. I’m never hard on myself because I’ve learned that if I get stopped it’s because I haven’t heard or experienced something that I need to draw from to finish the piece so I wait until I do and then I move on. It happens every time.

Novelists sometimes dig themselves into a hole over implausible plots, flat characters or a host of other problems. What's the most difficult part of writing for you?

Because it was a totally different experience that I couldn’t control, I would find myself stopping out of panic. As I became more aware of how the process worked, I let go more and then I would find myself in a rhythm, so I would have to say the most difficult part of writing a novel for me is letting go and allowing my characters to tell their story.

Also I don’t like anyone to suffer (smile) so I have to concentrate on not bailing them out of their problems too soon and not tying up all their struggles with neat little bows. Lets face it that’s real life, sometimes there are happy endings and sometimes there aren’t.

How do you climb out?

As far as plot goes you have to be cognizant of the big picture message. That will keep you on track and moving forward. Then be willing to let the story unfold and go where it must in order to take your reader on a journey that will hopefully not just entertain them but engage them and teach them a life lesson along the way. I am always returning back to my point to keep myself on track.

Where do you write: In a cave, a coffeehouse, or a cozy attic nook?

On my bed early in the morning between the hours of 2-6 am and in my office in the late afternoon. These are the times I get my spurts of creative energy.

You're an author, speaker, singer, and TV co-host. What does a typical day look like for you? Are you able to switch hats easily?

There is no typical day! The only thing that never changes is I have to walk my dogs. Other than that I am not a morning person because I work late into the evening or early in the morning and then go back to sleep so my engines don’t really kick in until about noon unless I have morning radio interviews.

After that a host of responsibilities await me from writing, to following through on details in my office, preparing for a speaking engagement or a taping, answering emails, brainstorming an event for my ministry… whew! You name it I’m doing it!

Some authors report writing 5-10 thousand words a day. Do scenes flow freely from your veins or do you have to tweeze each word out?

I write an average of five to ten pages a day. Once I get in a flow words come pretty easily to me. If I get stuck I go back and read what I’ve written. That usually gives me the impetus to continue past the point I got to when I stopped.

Briefly take us through your process of writing a novel—from conception to revision.

I usually get the concept in a title. Then I begin to get a vision of my characters and their dilemmas. That is usually all I have when I first begin. The first five chapters are usually the time when I am “painting” as I like to call it. This is where I acquaint my readers with the characters and lay the foundation for everything that is about to happen.

After that I write a sentence about what is going to happen in every chapter to give myself a roadmap moving forward. I don’t know what else is going to happen or why but I have the basic direction of where I’m going. As I get that particular chapter the character then takes over and tells its story. I reread the chapter when I’m finished add flourishes if I got bored or additional information that I think will help the story.

When I’m finished I close my eyes and send it off to my editor. They send me back their overall comments, directions for improvements and questions where they didn’t understand what was happening? I especially like that part because if they didn’t get it that means someone else won’t either. That lets me know I need to elaborate and clarify so the reader isn’t left guessing.

After I’ve made my changes and fixes it goes back to the editor. After they give it the okay a copy editor takes over to find anything we may have missed. After that round it goes to the galley stage. That is the actual printing of the manuscript. I read through it again to check for errors or anything else that is screaming at me for a fix and then off it goes for its final printing. The next time I see the whole thing it’s wrapped beautifully in its cover and hopefully in the hands of a captivated reader.

What are a few of your favorite books (not written by you) and why are they favorites?

Anything my Francine Rivers, but especially her Mark of the Lion series, “A Voice in the Wind,” “Echo in the Darkness” and “As Sure As the Dawn.” Just juicy! That’s all I can say. Her writing takes you on a ride that you don’t want to end even after the story is finished. I want to write like her when I grow up. Also “Blue Like Jazz” and “Searching for God Knows What” by Donald Miller. Pure genius, lyrical, funny, deep and profound… definitely food for thought that resounds with my heart. I think I have a crush on him.

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

Never assume your reader knows what you’re talking about. But don’t assume they are foolish either.

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 have to say I’ve been blessed in my experience with writing as well as publishing. I say find a home you’re happy in and stay there. It’s important to have a good support system when it comes to entrusting someone with what you write. You want them to be excited about your project and promote it. After all at the end of the day you want people to read all those words you bled for.

Be careful not to over commit yourself is the one thing I would warn any writer about.

It is difficult to write when the joy is gone or you’re writing something outside of your calling or expertise. Always write what resounds in your heart.

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

I do a lot of marketing between my publisher and myself. Of course there are the radio and TV interviews. I also do e-blasts online and run promotions on my website I am hosting a tea party book club event to launch “Playing God” in a couple of cities. I feature my books when I speak. You have to do the work and create the buzz if you want your book to make it.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

So many people say they want to write a book. If you choose to write a book it can’t be about the money because the average author doesn’t make that much. It has got to be because the words in your heart are like fire shut up in your bones and you feel you won’t be able to breathe until you get them out. Your writing has to be birthed from a passion to inform, help and heal people otherwise it can be hard work. It has to be a calling you were created for as opposed to a chosen profession because it requires a special grace from God. The bottom line is writing can be a very lonely profession, but so totally fulfilling the hours of isolation become a faint memory because the reward is so great… kind of like childbirth I’ve been told.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Interview ~ Megan DiMaria

Megan works in the marketing department of an upscale Denver portrait photography studio. She is also a freelance writer, crafting magazine articles and advertising copy. Her second novel, Out of Her Hands, will release from Tyndale in October 2008.

Time to crow: What new book or project do you have coming out?

I’m thrilled that Searching for Spice is now available, as they say, “everywhere books are sold.” Searching for Spice tells the story of Linda Revere, a married woman who decides she wants to have an affair—with her husband. As usual, life doesn’t go according to plan, but throughout her journey to a sizzling marriage, Linda learns some valuable lessons.

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

Searching for Spice was written as a response to a running joke I had with some girlfriends. You know, despite being long married, women still want romance in their lives. God hard wired us to crave closeness and a special connection with the men we love. Unfortunately, some times we need to remind them of that.

Every novelist has a journey. How long was your road to publication? How did you find out and what went through your mind?

In one sense, my road to publication was decades long. I first knew I wanted to write when I was in elementary school. I’ve always loved words and got my degree in Communications. Many years later, as a new mom, I went out and bought pens and paper (yes, it was about 26 years ago!) and sat down and prayed about a writing career. God clearly told me that was not my season to write a novel. In the early 1990s, I worked as a freelance writer and stringer for a local newspaper, but I still yearned to write a novel. In 1995, I prayed again and got the go-ahead. I began to write my first novel, completing it in 2001. Of course, it was awful. But I didn’t know that until I started getting more involved in the industry.

In 2001, I joined ACRW (I’m member # 94) and attended my first writers conference, the Colorado Christian Writers Conference in Estes Park, Colorado. Although I didn’t do a lot of writing in the next few years, I maintained my ACFW membership.

In 2004, I decided to make a solid effort to become published. I continued to attend conferences, CCWC and ACFW in 2004, 2005 and 2006. I joined a local writers group and an ACFW critique group. I studied books on craft, hung out with other writers and wrote and wrote and wrote. Oh, I also submitted and received rejections.

I started writing Searching for Spice in early 2004 to enter it into the ACFW Noble Theme Contest (now called the Genesis Contest). I would write and then ignore the story for months and then write a bit again. I was 99% finished with Searching for Spice when I went to the 2006 ACFW conference. During the last meal of the conference, I sat at a table hosted by Tyndale’s acquisition editor Jan Stob. Because of that unplanned meeting, she requested a proposal. I had five requests for proposals as a result of that conference. I went home, finished writing the story and sent out my proposals in October. I immediately got four rejections. A few months later Jan requested a full manuscript, and I got “the call” in March of 2007. I was at my day job when she called, and I actually jumped for joy.

Do you ever bang your head against the wall from the dreaded writer's block? If so, how do you overcome it?

I get frustrated at times, but the best way for me to overcome writer’s block is to push through it. I may run an errand or take a walk to let an idea percolate, but I can’t run away from the problem for long. Unfortunately I don’t believe there’s a magic answer. My solution is to simply work at it.

Novelists sometimes dig themselves into a hole over implausible plots, flat characters or a host of other problems. What's the most difficult part of writing for you (or was when you first started on your novel journey)?

I’m an intuitive writer (that’s my professional term for SOTP), and writing is a journey of discovery. Fortunately, it’s not often that I write myself into a corner.

How did (or do) you climb out (overcome it)?

When I realize I’m going in the wrong direction, I’m able get back on track without too much trouble. Usually I haven’t written myself too far into the corner. It always helps me when I realize I can trust God to give me more words when I have to delete “unusable” words. One of my first prayers for myself as a writer was for God to bless me with words. Sometimes I envision them raining down on me. It’s a wonderful image.

Where do you write: In a cave, a coffeehouse, or a cozy attic nook?

I write on a laptop, so I can pretty much go wherever I want. If the weather’s nice, 90% of the time I’m sitting outside on my shady patio. Inside, I bounce between the kitchen, living room, dining room and my bed. I’ve been known to write in a local tea café, Panera Bread and my all-time favorite quirky place, Grease Monkey.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I usually pray before my feet hit the floor. I have breakfast with my husband and two days a week, rush off to my day job. On Tuesdays, I go to Words For The Journey Christian Writers Guild. On my other days, I try to get to the keyboard by 9:30, but I don’t have a very structured work day. Most evenings I spend some time at the keyboard as well.

Some authors report writing 5-10 thousand words a day. Do scenes flow freely from your veins or do you have to tweeze each word out?

I can usually write about 1,500ish words a day without being stressed out. If I write 3,000 words, I’m happy.

Briefly take us through your process of writing a novel—from conception to revision.

My stories are character driven. I start with a feeling or goal that my character is experiencing. In Searching for Spice, my initial “feeling” was when Linda was kneeling on the floor, scraping cream cheese off her carpet and longing for a more exciting life. Of course I had to write a few chapters to lead up to that epiphany. I work my way through the novel adding one complication after another to prevent my characters from reaching their ultimate goals.

What are a few of your favorite books (not written by you) and why are they favorites?

When I was in college, I had to read Forever Amber for a course I was taking. I recall freaking out because it was soooo looong, but once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. That book totally transported me to another world. It was 900+ pages long, and it’s been called the first historical romance. It was written in 1944, and I haven’t read it since the 70s, but I still recall the sensation of sinking into the life of another woman. Wonderful. Another of my favorites is Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. I felt the heartbreak of Michael as he tried to love Angel, and I experienced Angel’s joy when she accepted that love. I also enjoy books by Maeve Binchy, they take me into a world I want to visit again and again.

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

The best advice I chose to take to heart is that writers don’t fail, they quit. I believed that if I put my head down and took a good run at being published, I might succeed. My version of doing this was to read books on craft, attend conferences, read, write, hang out with writers and join a critique group.

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 would have joined the community of writers sooner. I wrote for a few years before I even met another author. I think part of the problem was that I was timid about publicly acknowledging that I was a writer. I was afraid people would laugh or ask, “Who do you think you are?” It almost seemed too lofty a goal for me. But after I started hanging out with other aspiring writers, I began to believe that I could reach my goal of being a published author. I think it really helps your career to spend time with other writers. They are a tremendous source of encouragement, education and support.

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

I’m always looking for marketing opportunities. My day job is in marketing, so I’m always thinking of ways to increase awareness of my books. I have a website and a blog. I always carry around bookmarks and am not timid about passing them out. I’ve cast a wide net in my marketing and I’m not afraid to try something new.

I’m one of those people who have stayed connected to the people I’ve met through the years. Those connections are now helping my career. A friend I had when we lived in a small town in Pennsylvania in the 1980s is now manager of a Christian store. I found out last week that not only did he stock my book, but he called the women who used to be my friends and hand-sold the book. My husband and I met while both working at the same radio station in the 1970s (I was the six to midnight newsperson and he was the disc jockey who went on the air at midnight). When I got my contract, I emailed an old radio friend who’s doing a morning show in Albany, NY, and he agreed to interview me on the air. My first job in publishing was as a 17-year-old intern for the local newspaper. I dug up an old newspaper clipping with my photo from that time, scanned the image and sent it to an editor of that paper.

I hosted a book/career launch party and invited every writer, editor and literary agent I know, as well as some I’ve never met. I invited representatives from every bookstore and library within a 20-mile radius of Denver. I invited editors of local magazines and newspapers that I’ve written for. I understand that the book launch is more about generating publicity than having fun with family and friends, so it was held it in one of the coolest venues in Denver, in hopes that some folks would come simply because they want to be in the historic D&F Tower overlooking the city.

I mailed out influencer books to celebrities who I think may be intrigued by the concept behind my book. I’ve donated the opportunity to name a character in a contracted book to a non-profit organization’s silent auction, and I’ve put an article about my book in the newsletter published by my employer. I’m having a book movie trailer created that will be available online. I join online communities to network. I joined and have had many hits on my profile because I post photos. My husband is connected with Christian radio, and I arranged for an air personality to do a 30-minute interview that is airing on several stations. I’m creating some 30- and 60-second radio commercials that will air on those stations. I compiled a fairly comprehensive media list, and I sent press releases and requested interviews in newspapers, magazines and on local television and radio. Our county library district director hosts a community cable TV show about local authors, and I’ve contacted him to be a guest on the program.

I schedule book readings and book signings. I’ve offered to speak to school children and adult study groups. I speak to local writers groups. I’ve lined up appointments to speak to local book clubs after they read Searching for Spice, and I schedule telephone conference calls with long-distance book clubs.

Another thing I think is very important is to present yourself in a professional manner. Before I ever got my contract, I purchased professionally designed business cards. I put my image on the card, and that image was created by a professional photographer. As soon as Tyndale designed my book cover, I had a graphic designer create a bookmark and printed them myself. I also had professionally designed invitations for the book launch. I could go on and on. I have more ideas than time to implement them—but I’m going to try to do the best I can. I believe the enthusiasm I have for marketing and the ideas I generate about possible marketing campaigns is one of the qualities that made me attractive to my publisher. As writers, we can’t sit in our study and generate words, we also need to get into the community and generate publicity.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

Yes, write regularly, read regularly, join a writers group or two, hang out with writers, have your work critiqued and attend conferences if you can. I confess, many times in my writing journey I was tempted to throw in the towel. But the moral of the story is, don’t give up. Hold on to your dreams. Press on. Trust God.