Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Blessing Of A Distraction

Now I know why people have babies when they're young. Whoo-wee. I took a day off from writing to watch my 15-month old granddaughter, Lily. But what a grand day we had, reading storybooks, dancing, and playing with every kind of blinking, talking, singing toy you can imagine. Where do they come up with these toys? What happened to Jack-in-the-box and rag dolls and plain old blocks? These days we have baby cell phones, and personal computers, and even baby remote controls for those toddlers who would rather play with daddy's remote than the hundreds of bright, shiny toys in the corner.

I loved spending the day with Lily. She's a pretty perfect little girl with cobalt blue eyes the size of nickels, chocolate curls that fall down her neck, and a tiny rosebud mouth that grandma can't stop kissing! Oh my goodness, I could eat her up! Biteable legs, I swear! She's just starting to walk, but isn't quite sure after two steps. She's faster on all fours and boy-howdy is she. She can get away faster than her dog, Rocky ... who really ... could take her or leave her.

I suppose most every grandmother's heart bursts at the seams when they talk about their grandchildren. Lily is my third, after Andrew and Lauren. But Andrew and LaLa (a nickname that has stuck) live in Phoenix and we're lucky to see them once a year. Michael and I dream of the day we all live in the same state. We not only dream about it, we pray for it. Grandchildren are a wondrous thing when you think about it. It's like God wasn't finished blessing you after your last baby was born; He had to figure out another way to keep adding on to that blessing.

Maybe some folks would contest the word 'blessing' when it comes to describing children, but for Michael and I, our children and grandchildren have been the biggest blessings of our lives. In between writing and getting all wrapped up about my work, I have the blessed distraction of grandchildren. And they're about the only thing that can distract me these days, take away my focus. But they're a welcome distraction. I hope you have a few little distractions around your house as well. They sure do keep us grounded, don't they? Remind us of why work so hard to leave the legacy of the written word. So those little distractions have something to remember us by.

I loved feeding, bathing, and playing with Lily yesterday. I think I even changed a poopy diaper or two. This morning I'm tired and my knees are a bit sore from playing on the floor, but it's a small price to pay for taking the day off. Sometimes a writer needs distraction. It's refreshing.

Blessings to you and yours.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Social Media Meltdown

I'm in the midst of social media meltdown. Thank God I have an expert working on all of it for me, as well as fantastic publishers who have made me realize I need to be "connected" to readers by way of Facebook and Twitter. I admit I've kept my nose to the grindstone the past two years, working my behind off on two novels and haven't kept up with it. But all that is about to change.

Very soon I'll have a new look to my blog, my website, and book page on Facebook and Twitter. I'll be able to tweet with the best of them. It's going to take a little time, but I see my updated self on the horizon, and I guess it's about damn time.

Oh, for the days when all we needed was a pen and paper. But those days are long gone. Hmm... that's even a little before my time. I should've said a ream of typing paper, a fresh ink cartridge, and a new bottle of white-out. Now. That dates me. But keeping in touch with readers is a must in this market, and so we old farts got to learn the ropes.

At least I know if I want to read a certain article in the New York Times, I can pull it up online. That I don't have to find a newsstand that sells the paper. I can find my way around the Internet and I'm a whiz at word processing. I think I type over 100 words per minute, or something like that. Not that anybody cares. But downloading software, changing domain names, installing feed burners -- um, not so much. I don't have a clue.

It's why I have an expert who is doing it for me. She's superfantastic. So there's more to being a writer these days than just putting words to paper. Unless you enjoy the business of writing, you better be prepared to hire some help. Otherwise, you'll find yourself two years behind the times and wondering ... am I supposed to tweet or twerp?

Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Southern Billboards

Just got back from a whirlwind trip to Nashville. My publisher, Satya House, represented Southern Fried Women at The Southern Festival of Books this year, and as the author -- I signed books for six hours on Saturday. I must have sold and signed over a hundred books! Of course my husband and my publisher's husband had a lot to do with that. They took a handful of publicity cards with a description and picture of the book and walked up and down the length of the mall, distributing cards, talking with groups of women, and just pushing the book. Bless their hearts.

But, by God, it worked! I think I sold more books than even some of the featured authors. At least my line was longer. Folks stood in line to chat, buy a book, get it signed, eat free candy, and then move on. Of course, after all these years, I do know how to work a crowd. Above everything, I let them know I'm grateful. A few wanted their picture taken (with me) and although I'm not very photogenic ... as a humble writer, I do it. I do it because I love my readers. I love 'em to pieces. I'm grateful for every ounce of love sent my way, especially from readers.

And it was great sitting at the table with Julie Murkette, publisher extraordinaire, who has become quite accomplished in her own right. She's good at encouraging me and I'm looking forward to talking with her more in the near future.

Nashville is a vibrant Southern city. Full of country music, party people, and girls in cowboy boots. I understand I missed a nude karaoke contest outside our downtown hotel at 3 in the morning. Hmm. Sorry I missed it. But I think the thing that amazes me most about the South is not the sinners, but the saints.

Driving on Southern interstates you will find a plethora of religious billboards. Michael and I have driven on every interstate from New York to Florida to Mississippi and Louisiana, and inevitably there are always a series of billboards that capture my attention. This past weekend it was a group of three ginormous signs in a farmer's cornfield spread out over several acres.
The first one read, ARE YOU READY?
Next one: HELL IS REAL

It reminds me of my recent blog post from this past summer.

We attended a community sale at an old Moose Lodge in North Carolina, which has since been turned into a church. It wasn't long and I realized most of the money lenders, oh, excuse me --vendors--were church members who had set up their tables to not only sell their junk, but also to whip a little Jesus on us unsuspecting folks who only came to shop.

We walked past one vendor who had parked his shiny red pickup truck smack in the middle of the lot and set up two tables of pure clean-out-my-basement junk, consisting of moldy rugs, faded pictures of kittens in gold frames, and dusty macrame plant hangers from 1982. But that wasn't the best part.

He had opened both doors of his red pickup and turned the volume up on his CD player so that the good Lord Himself could hear it. I suppose Mr. Vendor wanted us to know what a good Christian he was and that we all should dare to be as good. I spent the next ten minutes walking around listening to a church choir belt out the last few lines of the Lords Prayer--"For thine is the kingdom ... and the power ... and the gloooooorrrrrreeeee ... foreeeevvvver ...." full tilt.

Man - o - man. I felt like I was in the middle of a Saturday Night Live skit.

Here's the thing. Doesn't the Bible tell us to just let our light shine? I'm not sure that means to build a bon-fire in the middle of community yard sale. Somehow, the red pickup just cheapened it. It did nothing but drive folks away. I think it's one thing to be proud of your faith, it's another to shove it down an unsuspecting person's throat.

It's no wonder the Bible Belt gets a bad rap.

So next time you drive past the PREPARE TO MEET THEY GOD sign on Interstate 71, just remember that yes, we all have to meet God someday, but that lightning bolt sign isn't anything but another reminder of the scare 'em-to-death sermons too many of us grew up with. Smile and drive on. And thank God for His mercy, grace, and His infinite patience with all of us.

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

If There Was Ever A Time ...

I went to lunch yesterday with my sister-in-law. A drive in the country to lunch and to Walmart to pick up a few things and although it was raining, the trees captured my attention. I'd forgotten just how breathtaking and beautiful autumn is in Ohio. Living over ten years in North Carolina, I found that autumn usually didn't arrive until sometime the end of October or the first of November. And unless you live in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the leaves in the south just don't have that vibrancy and sparkle that the leaves do in the north. They just don't. So I was pleased to spend the day driving around in the midst of all that color.

Of course Elaine and I chatted about one thing and another, and like all good sisters-in-law, she allowed me to ramble on about my work for a good hour. Bless her heart.

But I've been thinking about little else these days. My manuscript, my pursuit to get it published, my life's work. For days now, I've been bombarded with emails about books and articles and memoirs and interviews with authors regarding books on cults. Here are the three that are attracting the most attention:

Holy Ghost Girl by Donna Johnson
A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres
When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

This thrills me to no end. It's my thinking, that if there was ever a time for Televenge, a story about the dark side of televangelism, it's now.

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Poem About Marriage

After the rant I posted yesterday, I thought this morning I would soften it up a bit with a little poetry. I'm starting to read more and more poetry these days, finding I rather love it. This morning on (an excellent web site for readers) I read a poem that is worth repeating. Thank you, Mr. Mallouk, for this lovely look at marriage.


The Long Marriage

Tonight I close my book, turn off the light
and settle in beside you, finding in the just
right camber of my pillows and the space
between us the familiar comfort of our life.

I close my eyes, the stage goes dark and I
notice there are just the two of us
in the theatre and you are already asleep.
I listen to the rhythm of your shallow breath.

When we fell in love, I went first. Stepping
from the sidewalk, I darted between the cars
and got to the park on the other side
only to find you had never left the curb.

You are displeased. You have come a long way.
I am nowhere to be found. You are naked, standing
at the water's edge. The water is clear, the quarry
is bottomless. It's mid-May and too cold to swim.

Still, you dive in. When I find you, your goose
flesh and nipples blend seamlessly. We are breathless,
warm only where our bodies meet. You dive down,
your white soles recede into the darkness.

We are in your family's home, sitting at one end
of the dining room table, your parents at the other.
Your father leans on his elbows, listening.
Your mother weeps silently, her hands in her lap.

I am backed into the kitchen corner of our row
house, sprawled on the floor, my head in my hands.
You are lying awake in our bed, face to the wall.
But for the fading echo of slammed doors, there is silence.

Two dream images: a ship runs aground on
a small island (in a week your period is late);
the wrong building materials are delivered to
the house (in a day your bleeding begins).

I am bending over you, looking down.
You are giving birth, pushing. Your left knee
and arm interlocking at my elbows. Her head-
the purple flower of your bloody thighs.

We are camped in the Blue Ridge and the puppy
is lost. We search on either side of the ravine. You
have taken one frightened child and I the other.
We call back and forth as darkness falls.

In the empty great room of the house we designed,
we review the punch list with the builder. My voice
dissipates in the cold drafts. We will move
again in ten years, never having unpacked.

You are poring over photographs: children
posing in oversized shoes and hats, mugging for
the camera; proud parents framing the graduates;
your parents' unlikely last trip to Ireland.

It is still night yet the room is lit
with moonlight streaming through
your grandmother's Irish lace curtains.
Shadows silhouette the far wall. I realize

I have grown old. My breathing is
shallow and you are sitting by the bed.
When you take my hand, I feel your
thin bones beneath my calloused fingers.

Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I Want To Hire Drew Rosenhaus!

So I'm watching football yesterday, until my husband decides all of his teams righteously suck and he turns the channel to 60 minutes, the TV show. They're doing a segment on sports agent, Drew Rosenhaus, and for the next half-hour I sat glued to my flat screen ready to crawl out of my skin. If you don't know Drew Rosenhaus, he's the sports agent Tom Cruise imitated in the movie, Jerry Maguire.

People either love Drew Rosenhaus or hate him. He's a shark, there's no doubt. Lance Briggs with the Chicago Sun-Times says, "He's a guy that gets it done, guys go to him because he's a shark. He's going to go in there and take care of business. He's not going to leave anything on the table. He allows a player to see his value more so than most."

I'm like ... YEAH! Isn't that what an agent is supposed to do????

Okay, I get it. The world of professional sports is not quite the same as the publishing industry. I get it. But my God, c'mon! To have a literary agent muster even 2% of that guy's presence, it just might turn the big dogs on Mahogany Row up there in Fat City on their ears.

Strong words for a writer like me, I guess. But maybe if the rest of the world's writers would quit trying to suck up to every literary agent who attends a writing conference, quit bending over and taking whatever they get, quit believing everything they read on the Internet, quit pussyfooting around and try to change things in this industry, maybe then ... just maybe more of us would get published. Even make a living at it.

They tell us writers can't get published without agents. Seems to me, without writers--nobody in this industry has got a job. It takes all of us working together and finding answers to the problems plaguing us.

Technology has only made a dent in publishing--as far as writers are concerned. Things need to change. Writers need better access to agents who will fight for them. I realize we still need to separate the sheep from the goats when it comes to good and bad writing, but for the purpose of this blog, let's assume I'm talking about writers worth their salt. We all need to be on an equal playing field.

A writer's world today is definitely different than even a decade ago. It's evolving, but it's still way behind when it comes to Agents/Editors/Publishers and what's happening on the rest of the planet. I know these days most agents/editors are reading manuscripts on their I-phones or I-pads, but they're still sifting through thousands of slush piles. How do you change that? In the end, doesn't it all boil down to money?

You can bet Rosenhaus
gets a nice chunk of change for what he does. Do literary agents get paid enough for what they do? If they did more on behalf of the writer, couldn't they negotiate a bigger piece of the pie? Editors, I hear, change jobs like they change their underwear. About every day. The cost of printing, marketing, and publicity costs a few bucks. Publishers divide their publicity money according to the ever-present popularity contest going on between writers. So how do we change it for everybody, how do we make it better for writers, as well as the rest of book-reading world?

All I know is that until we start, until we get fed up with the way things are done, we writers are going to be sitting on manuscripts that should've been published years ago while the folks resting on their laurels are putting out book number 34. Those bestselling writers we all know so well, those big names everyone recognizes will continue to publish because their editors, their publishing houses know some housewife in Barnes & Nobles or Sam's Club is going to buy it. She's going to buy it because she only has so much money to spend on books and she'd rather risk her 30 bucks on a mediocre story than on some writer she's never read. And until she reads a great review on a debut novelist, or hears it from a trusted friend, she'll stick with the tried and true.

I know my best friend, Tina, who reads three new books a week and belongs to a large book club is just starting to understand my frustration. Traveling this road with me, hearing what I go through on a weekly basis, she refuses to read anything but debut novels, at least until the next Diana Gabaldon comes out. So I think there is one way to change things. Writers need to infiltrate book clubs. Let the readers know what's going on and what it really takes to get published. Create some empathy on behalf of the writers who give them the books they love to read. Encourage readers to read debut novels. In the end, some won't care a hoot. But some will. It's a start. It's something.

So there you have my rant for the week. I don't even pretend to have all the answers. Not even a little bit. And if I had money to put where my mouth is, you can bet I'd do more than just rant on my blog. But I do know that until a little bit of Drew Rosenhaus rubs off on this industry, writers are still going to bend over and take whatever they can get.

And that's just plain wrong.

Blessings to you writers out there, today. Blessings to you and yours.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Writing With A Cold

I've been fighting a cold for days, but it won. I feel like I'm living underwater. My head is full, my throat is killing me, and my ears feel like they did when I was a kid and spent too much time in the pool.

I know. Yuck.

I managed to shower today. And we've got bright blue skies for a change. A final kick of warmth before the cold, raw Ohio weather sets in. The trees out in the pasture have turned bright shades of russet, lemon, and gold. I'm most comfortable at my desk with a cup of hot tea. Pouring over my manuscript still occupies most of of my day. As I look back on the years it took to get me to this point, I feel all fuzzy-headed. Tired.

I figure it's either from the cold or another bout of discouragement.

I think it's time to get up and stretch, walk outside and catch an autumn breeze or two, and then refill my tea mug. Try to breathe.

What? I shouldn't admit to discouragement? Every writer battles it. Even the most accomplished. But when our bodies are down, it only enhances the feelings.

So we wait until our heads unclog before passing judgement on the last chapter we wrote. Otherwise, it might end up in the trash along with hundreds of used tissues.

Writing with a cold ... not a good thing to do. Maybe it's time to just curl up with a good book and read.

Blessings to you and yours.