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Monday, March 31, 2014

Sophomore Novel Slump

Today I'm hosting Historical Novelist Jessica Dotta. Since she's nearing the release of her sophomore novel, it's fitting that she's here to talk about the difficulties of writing that second book. So, let's have a big round of applause for Jessica Dotta!

Born in the wrong century‚ except for the fact that she really likes epidurals and washing machines‚ Jessica Dotta writes British Historicals with the humor like an Austen, yet the drama of a Bronte.

She resides lives in the greater Nashville area‚where she imagines her small Southern town into the foggy streets of 19th century London. She oversees her daughter to school, which they pretend is an English boarding school, and then she goes home to write or work on PR. Jessica has tried to cast her dachshund as their butler‚ but the dog insists it's a Time Lord and their home a Tardis. Miss Marple, her cat, says its no mystery to her as to why the dog won't cooperate. When asked about it, Jessica sighs and says that you can't win them all, and at least her dog has picked something British to emulate.


It’s about a month away from the launch of Mark of Distinction—a book that will be called my sophomore novel. Okay, I have to confess, I had to Google the term when I was invited to blog about it on Novel Rocket. Here, all this time, I thought, I'd graduated.

I did some reading and here's what I found.

Some call it the Sophomore Slump. (Ouch.)

 Some of have posted articles on that sophomore novels t have unexpectedly been surprisingly good. (How delightful, apparently people utterly doubt our abilities as writers.) 

The popular and successful ones have their own shelf on GoodReads. (Woot! How do I get there?)

But my very favorite was this article entitled: Why a Sophomore Novels Is So Different from the First. Here's a quote:

"After their first books come out, a lot of writers are left with a type of post-traumatic stress syndrome. It reminds me of one of my grandfather’s bird dogs who got lost during a hunt and spent the night outdoors in an electrical storm. The dog made it home the next day, but, for the rest of his life, he remained what my grandfather sagely described as “not right.  Recently published authors often have the same wild-eyed look of that bird dog, as if they’ve been through such a prolonged series of flashes and booms that they simply can’t begin to articulate the experience.

That quote made me laugh. By golly, she's right! Launching a potential publishing career is hard. And I even knew it was coming. For nearly a decade before publication I worked alongside a number of authors as editor, critique partner and publicist. Yet despite that and countless hours of working with media as a book publicist, I barely made it through the first storm. And there was still a book to be re-edited and a book to be written.

The article goes on to talk about how during this season a writer can lose their zeal. The ideal is gone but the reality remains, possibly affecting the writing. Here at least I'm thankful, for originally I wrote Born of Persuasion and Mark of Distinction as one book. (Only later did I discover 400K word novels are not welcome.) It worked out nicely for me, because my sophomore novel has always existed alongside the first book. They were twins, so to speak.

I did however walk through the Sophomore Novel Experience with the last book of the trilogy—in the midst of whirlwind or launching a book, editing a book, writing a book and working full time as a single mom, I realized I only had months to accomplish what first took me a decade to do before.

I now understand why it took me so long to break through the publishing wall—and I'm so grateful.

In the book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell studies what made high-achievers thus. He discovered there are factors already in place behind successful people. One of those was called the ten-thousand-hour rule. Simply explained, the hours invested into an interest or hobby needs to be approximately ten-thousand-hours. He cites the Beatles as an example. They hit the scene with mega success in 1964, but it wasn't as overnight as it seemed. Lennon and McCartney started playing together since 1957, and in 1960 they'd played in Hamburg, Germany. 

Here's a quote from the book: "It was a huge nonstop show, hour after hour, with a lot of people lurching in and the other lot lurching out. And the bands would play all the time to catch the passing traffic. . . . And what was so special about Hamburg? It wasn't that it paid well. It didn't . . . It was the sheer amount of time they band was forced to play."

"They had to learn an enormous amount of numbers—cover versions of everything you can think of, not just rock and roll, a bit of jazz too. They weren't disciplined onstage at all before that. But when they came back, they sounded like no one else. It was the making of them."

When I read that section of the book, I felt relieved because I knew I'd invested ten-thousand hours into the craft and marketing. I clung to that knowledge every time fear arose that I couldn't complete the series. I remembered the Beatles and the ten-thousand-hour rule. I would remind myself of how diverse their ability was simply because of the experience they garnered, and how because of it, they wrote music is identifiable their sound (or in our case, because we know our voice.) Eventually, much like I imagine the Beatles hitting the stage, I remembered who I was as a writer and blocked out the fears, reviewers and critics, and the predictions of what my editors would say . . . and just sat down and wrote.

It wasn't too long before I found myself on familiar ground . . .

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Joy of Our Adoption

Posted by Marcia Lee Laycock

I am very pleased to host historical novelist Christine Lindsay today for our Sunday devotional. Be Blessed.

Christian Author, Christine Lindsay

God had done an awesome thing. After twenty years of praying, I was going to be reunited with my first-born child that I had relinquished to adoption when she was three days old.
Sarah was a beautiful, well-adjusted, and happy young woman studying to be a nurse and planning her wedding to a wonderful guy. This was exactly what I had wanted for Sarah all those years ago when I was an unmarried mother and couldn’t provide for her. The door to future get-togethers for Sarah and I was sort of open. By all standards our adoption reunion had been a success.

So why was I so angry with God?

In adoption reunion books my trauma was explained as the cold and clinical stage of negotiating the birthmother role. I wanted to throw the book across the room.

This reunion was not what I had envisioned as I had prayed. Sarah and I were total strangers, and it was clear it would take a long time to build the relationship I yearned for. But that wasn’t what hurt the most.

Sarah’s parents did not want to meet me. They were hurting so badly that they stayed at home while Sarah I were reunited.

Twenty years earlier I had chosen this Christian couple from a portfolio, a couple who would raise Sarah to love the Lord Jesus. They had done exactly what I had prayed for. But each day that I had prayed for Sarah, I had prayed for her parents too. They were her mom and dad—how could I not love them? And, I thought, since we all love the same Lord, surely they will want to meet me and have a friendship with me when Sarah becomes an adult.  

But their hurt over the reunion, hurt me in return.

Sarah blessed me when she told me that she had never felt rejected like many adoptive kids feel. She knew that I had relinquished her out of sacrificial love.

But now it was me, as her birthmother, that was feeling rejected. My self-pity disgusted me.
Months after the reunion, I was alone one afternoon. My house was quiet, my husband at work, our three kids at school. I went to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. As I reached for the kettle the dam burst and I cried, and I felt the Lord’s voice, I have never forgotten you.

I set the kettle down. Each year around Sarah’s birthday when I was missing her, I had felt the Lord’s comfort in amazing ways. The verse that I’d claimed as my life’s motto came to mind.

Isaiah 49:15, 16a “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands . . .”

I lifted my face to receive my Father’s love.

For years I’d prayed to be brought visibly back into the triad of Sarah’s adoption, but God had done even better. He had brought me back full circle to His love. I was His child. Nothing could ever separate me from Him.

Christine Lindsay writes historical inspirational novels with strong love stories. Her debut novel SHADOWED IN SILK is set in British Colonial India during a turbulent era. Christine and her birthdaughter Sarah enjoy a warm and close friendship 12 years after their adoption reunion, and Sarah was happy to be the model on the front cover of Shadowed in Silk, and in the book trailer.

SHADOWED IN SILK was the Gold winner of the 2009 ACFW Genesis for Historical Fiction. The Pacific coast of Canada, about 200 miles north of Seattle, is Christine’s home where she lives with her husband and grown up family.

Visit Christine's website

Friday, March 28, 2014

What I Learned about Blogging from Katniss Everdeen

by Edie Melson

Visiting Katniss Everdeen country.
This past fall I was in Katniss Everdeen country.

I had the opportunity to spend the weekend with my BCGE crit partners on a writing retreat. (Waving to Charity Tinnin, AmandaStevens, Jess Keller Koschnitzky, and Erynn Newman.) We were tucked away in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains where part of the Hunger Games was filmed.

The weather was brisk and beautiful as we took pictures of the mill village that served as the set of her home in District 12. While I clicked happily away, I got to thinking about Katniss and how she’d played the game.

I realized I could learn a lot by applying some of her principles. Today I want to share what I learned about blogging from Katniss Everdeen.
  • Use What You Know: We each have a knowledge base to work from. Instead of re-inventing yourself, start with what you know and work outward from there.
Things I learned about blogging from Katniss Everdeen.
  • Focus on Your Strengths: Again, we all have things we do well. Don’t discount something just because you can do it. Let those strengths become your foundation.
  • Never Stop Learning: My grandmother had a saying, when you’re green you’re growing, and when you’re ripe you rot. And she was right. Once we stop growing we die, especially in this industry. Things change day to day and sometimes minute to minute.
  • Look for Allies in Unexpected Places: I don’t know anyone who wasn’t thrilled when Katniss befriended little Rue. It was an alliance that didn’t appear to benefit Katniss at all, but that friendship saved her life. Don’t discount a blog ally just because they aren’t at your level. As I mentioned earlier, things change quickly in social media.
Play the game, but not by their rules.
  • Be Willing to Put Others Ahead of Yourself: This is the truth I’ve build my career on. People don’t follow me because I’m all that. They follow me because I’ll point you to the experts.
  • Play the Game, but NOT by Their Rules: There are certain things we need to do to get noticed in the blog world and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is one of them. But there are lots of things we can choose not to participate in and directions we can go to set ourselves out from the crowd.
  • Do What Your Heart Tells You, No Matter What: Follow your gut when it comes to every part of social media. Passion can be seen, especially in the world of blogging and writing about something that touches your heart will gain you more than a million well executed posts that lack that emotion.

I believe that when we apply these truths, the odds truly will be ever in our favor!

What insights have gained while blogging? Share them below and we'll add to the list!

Edie Melson is the author of numerous books, as well as a freelance writer and editor. Her blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains ChristianWriters Conference and the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy. She’s also the Military Family Blogger at Guideposts. Com, Social Media Director for SouthernWriters Magazine and the Senior Editor for Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.