Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Writer's Ultimate Goal

The best library event ever! The room filled quickly at the Stark County Library, because at this particular library, they can't keep their five copies of Televenge on the shelf. There is a waiting list for Televenge, as well as the five copies of Southern Fried Women, and the list is growing.

There's nothing like speaking to a packed house and selling out of your books.

The warm support from those who had already read the book became evident as they opened up after my reading, and expressed their love for my work. It touched me deeply and I want to express my heartfelt thanks to each person who attended last night's reading.

To speak about your book is one thing, but to speak to a group who is sincerely there to support you and lift you up ... there's nothing like it. Afterward, the books we brought to sell sold out in a matter of minutes. Grateful for every kind word and gesture, I realize this is why I do what I do.

It's not just about making money. It's not just because I love to write and can't see myself doing anything else. It's because my message touches people on some level. It's not just a fluffy story with a protagonist, a bad guy, and lots of pretty prose. Something tangible seeps out of me as I write, and somehow I manage to get that onto the page. It then reveals itself to the reader, who in turn, is changed, blessed, and find they're wanting more.

That has always been my ultimate goal. As a writer, you can't ask for more than that.

Blessings to you and yours.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

How Do You Handle Adversity?

No matter the thickness of your skin, adversity comes to us all. When you pour your broken heart and scraped-thin soul into your work, you don’t want rejection. After decades of hard work, to have your scheduled presentation cancelled due to "possibly offending the audience with religious controversy," you have to wonder why you put yourself out there. We won't even talk about the lost revenue.

To have a major institution cancel you by an email from a third party within weeks of presenting, without a full explanation, or even the hint of an apology, as if you were nothing at all but a blip on their schedule ... it's cruel, really.

But it is not the end of the world. To say the least.

I guess few writers wear their feelings on their sleeves. Or blog about it. But I figured, why not? This has not been an easy row to hoe. Might as well see the downside, as well as my victories.

We take the bad with the good and hope for the best. When you get right down to it, my husband lost his 18 year-old daughter to a childhood illness in 1997, and he’s also a recent breast-cancer survivor. At one point in my life, my children and I were homeless. There are a lot worse things. A lot worse.

In the end, God always has a way of turning my adversities into advantages. And I like that.


Blessings to you and yours.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Writers! What Are You Willing To Do, And Where Do You Draw The Line?

It’s no secret. Vast changes occur daily in the publishing industry and award writers with options. Or do you look at it that way? I’m taking a survey, and asking writers:

Should you continue to jump through fiery hoops while submitting to agents, who may or may not read or answer your query for weeks or months, if at all?

Should writers spend chunks of writing time putting together the items listed below (or something like it) when the market is already saturated?

If editors were open to unsolicited manuscripts, are you confident you could obtain publication with a major house on your own?

If you are an un-agented writer, what are you willing to do to get noticed by a literary agent?

Is self-publishing your first choice, or your last resort?

Be honest. When it comes to literary agents, where do you draw the line?

Proposal Cover letter
One-page sell sheet, summarizing your manuscript
Story Synopsis
Market analysis
Competitive analysis
Marketing strategies
History of the manuscript
The first fifty pages

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

One Hell Of A Review From One Hell Of A Blogger

These are my favorite excerpts from Sara's Organized Chaos, a blog, dated January 22, 2013. You can read the entire blog and follow this up-front and in-your-face blogger at .

She's sassy, a strong woman of character who doesn't hold much back. I guess that's why I like her. She uses words that will offend some, but gosh darn it ... she speaks her mind without reservation. Whether or not you agree with her, she gets her points across.

You may have to cover your virgin ears, but ... hey ... like I said ... I like her. I like her a lot. I've actually liked each and every blogger on this blog tour. Supportive, each blogger has given great reviews, for which I'm grateful. Generous with their words, the blogger's reviews on Televenge are gifts to treasure. This one especially.


She gave me one hell of good one. So good, I had to quote some of it on my own blog.


I'll be honest with you. When I first opened my package and saw how huge this book was, I know I said out loud, "Jesus Christ, I need to start looking to see how many pages there are going to be. Shit." It's 584 pages. I know, you're hyperventilating, aren't you? Well I'm going to tell you that every piece of this book is needed. You know I hate fluff and I'm the first one to tell an author to stop putting so much useless shit in your book just to make it a normal sized novel, you're wasting my time. But not the case in this book. I really thought it would be and I kept looking for it, but in hindsight, you need everything. Everything plays a piece in the end, ultimately.
I don't know where to even start. Seriously. I'm sitting here wondering how to review this but I'll tell you that when I finished it? I had to not read for a few days. I had to emotionally get my shit together because it takes a lot out of you ...
The most fascinating thing about this book is the religion aspect. Anyone who knows me knows I don't subscribe to church. I have never thought that a pastor or a preacher has any right interpreting a piece of religious writing that may or may not be true. The fact is, nobody really knows and the people who don't acknowledge that, scare the shit out of me ...
Every time you think you've figured it out, you didn't. You're so wrong it's shameful. And as the book winds down you think surely there can't be any more surprises ...
And when the entire ball of yarn unwinds and you see everything as a timeline? Man. I'd have to think any other person would give up hope all together but Andie doesn't. Andie is the epitome of a strong woman ... I still can't get over how so many people failed her. People who really loved her knew something wasn't right and they either hid hurtful secrets or turned a blind eye and said Jesus said this is how it should be. And to know that there are so many people in the world that really believe Jesus thinks this kind of behavior is OK is insane. And terrifying.
For this being such a huge book, every loose end was finished. Well, there is one with Suri (yes, you read that right) that I wish we knew more about. I won't even tell you who Suri is because it would ruin a huge plot point in the book for you. But everything else? Tied up, perfectly. Well, as perfectly as all of these troubled characters could be ...
I can't tell you how much I want you to read this book. I want you to read it right now ... You'll enjoy it, love it, be horrified and hopeful all at once. I am even going to say it's probably one of the best books I have ever read. Truly. I can think of just a few books in my lifetime that I've read that have pulled at me and this is one on a very short list. I can't explain it, it just is.
Thank you, Sara!!!


Monday, January 21, 2013

What's The Highlight Of The Week, Pray Tell?

Sometimes I don't know if I'm comin' or goin' ... the days fly by and every once in a while I get a glimpse of where I want to be ... Today, Charlene Wilson honored me by her interview. It's the featured Highlight of the Week.  Charlene's book blog is a thing of beauty (in this writer's opinion) and it made me take a look back at just how far I've traveled on this journey. Where I've come from ... where I'm going ...

I've traveled thousands of miles ... navigated many cities and hundreds of small towns ...

from coast to coast ...

I've stood on every type of landscape, spoken to well over 200 groups in every type of venue, been on TV and radio, and have had my picture taken with some well-known authors, agents, and editors.

But one thing never ceases to astound me. One thing stands out in my mind as the crux of real achievement. Something no writer can do without. It is the one thing critical to a writer's success. I've discovered it takes more than the natural talent of a great storyteller. It takes more than knowing your craft like you know your name. It's not about how many writing conferences you rack up in a year, or the prestigious contacts you've made. It has nothing to do with social media, or landing an agent, or a book contract. Degrees, awards, accolades, and TV interviews ... none of it means a thing, without this one thing. One vital attribute. Humility.
I've always said a writer can live without a lot of things. Courage isn't one of them. Humility, my friend, is the other.
There's nothing wrong with taking pride in your work. But you've got to look back. See how far you've come, in order to know where you're going. Without a humble spirit, you can't help others. You can't pay it forward, and you've got to pay it forward. Kindness, a gentle spirit, and the ability to be truly thankful each and every time someone puts you and your work on their blog, web site, and facebook page. Every time somebody mentions you, or says something kind or good about your work it's not always possible to thank them all, but in your heart you better offer up a word of thanks. You must. He knows the intent of our hearts, He knows. And I have to believe it's the secret to success.
Without humility you won't stay on top long. You won't even see the top that few have seen.  You'll ride a wave, but it'll take you out to sea and drop you into a cold ocean, instead of setting your feet firmly on a golden shore.
So for me, this week ... the Highlight of the Week is an honor, but it's also a humbling experience. Any success I experience is due to the hundreds of folks who have cheered me on and the thousands of readers who have taken a chance and bought the book. For that, I'm eternally grateful. And forever ... humbled.
Blessings to you and yours.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Vows To Last A Lifetime

Ten years ago TODAY, I married my best friend. A man of integrity, wisdom, and strength for the both of us. There's not a lot more to say, that I haven't already said about him on my blog and on Facebook. So, I'll just quote myself.

From the acknowledgements in Televenge ...

And last but never least, I want to thank Michael Cable. If it had not been for your unfailing love and unswerving patience there would be no Televenge. None of this could have been possible had you not picked me out of the miry clay many years ago and given me this whole new wonderful life. Your constant devotion made it possible for me to be a writer. Not once in over ten years did you complain of my endless hours of writing. Your uncompromising belief in me is mind-boggling, and your sacrifice epitomizes what it means to love me as Christ loves the church. Thank you for never allowing me to give up. With you, I found unconditional love and the true meaning of the word, husband. I’m grateful to be made from your rib, a man of extraordinary integrity, insight, and strength, the vessel through whom God has chosen to love me in ways I never thought possible. There are no words.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

To Hold Time In Your Hands

I've been antiquing all week-end. One of my favorite things to do ... as a writer. Michael and I took a quick trip to Columbus to visit with our daughter. Among the things we love in Columbus (besides eating in fabulous Columbus restaurants) is to hunt the best antique shops.

Antique shops are a place where the writer can connect with history up close and personal. I'm not talking about expensive antique furniture. It's the little things that set my soul on fire. Vintage linens and jewelry, a set of tin canisters from the 1950s, hats and purses from the 1920s, quilts, book ends and of course, old books. My mind wanders while the stories percolate under my skin. I'm usually itching to start writing after a weekend of antique and thrift store shopping.

Sunday we discovered an antique mall where someone had collected thousands of old postcards from every city in Ohio. People communicated via postcards from the late 1800s until they installed telephones in the 1930s and 40s. To me, postcards were the first form of TEXTING. It was a way to send a "quick" message to Auntie in the next town or state.

It cost a one cent stamp to send a post card. All the cards in the bins were addressed in a simple fashion. Miss Bella Juhn, Mansfield, Ohio. Somehow, it magically arrived in Miss Bella's mailbox. No house number, no zip code. The Mansfield postman just knew where Miss Bella lived.


Sifting through those postcards, I wanted to spend the day reading each and every fascinating one of them. My daughter bought three to frame. Each card cost from one to two dollars. Can you imagine what the sender of that postcard would think if they knew we paid two dollars for their penny postcard?

I bought only one. One that begged me to take it home. The card was postmarked Wooster, Ohio, July 24, 2:30 p.m., 1909 from a man to his sister in Mansfield. It reads as follows:

Dear Sister,
I got your card this morning. It was a beauty. Well I am trying to be good but I can't, so I'll just be careful and let it go at that. I heard a lot of darkies sing last night. They were wonderful. It was the Ferguson Jubilee Singers. I never laughed so hard in my life. Goodbye, your brother.

A simple note from a brother to his sister in a town about forty miles away. Communicating was by telegraph or post. Or showing up unannounced. His sister had told him to "be good." Hmmm. I can imagine an entire scene based on that one sentence. And of course the word "darkies" caught my eye. As if it was normal to say. The other side of the card is an old picture of some park in Wooster, Ohio that no longer exists. It's a housing development now.

Holding this piece of history in my hands, my fingers tingle. Any old picture, like the one above, is packed full with story. Old books, photographs, postcards, letters, and maps--an abundant supply of story. Mixing the real of the past with fiction is a calling for some. It's up to the writer to pull it out and make something beautiful out of it.

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Oh, To Be A Balanced Writer

This is me. Speaking to a large group of readers. It's part of what I do. But it's not really who I am. Although I enjoy speaking in public, I'm a writer who speaks. Not a speaker who writes.
Writers must find comfort in their own work. In what they write. Even a small amount. Agreed, we must first be a reader to become a good writer ... but sometimes ... it's good to pick up your own work and read it. For the fun of it. For the comfort of it. Don't try to rewrite what's already published, just enjoy it as a reader. Here's why:
Perfection is an impossibility. During the writing process, you can strive for it, but obsessing over perfection is like trying to walk on water. You're not Jesus. Believe me, when I say I struggle with perfection. To the point that it's painful.

We're constantly bombarded and overwhelmed by the industry and it's changes. By the plethora of writing information on the Internet, social media, and every new book published on writing. At some point in your career, you feel as though you must read and study it all.

It's impossible.

What gives a writer a leg up? Is it a degree and a fancy teaching position? A long list of popular published books by Random House? A presenter spot on writing conference rosters across the country, proving your expertise to the wannabes?

It looks good on a resume. I'll give you that. It may even raise a few literary eyebrows when it appears on your book proposal or query.

But is it enough? Is it a guarantee of success?

Writers must maintain. Although some well-knowns are continually guaranteed a spot on bestseller lists, you're probably not one of them. (You know who these folks are.) Early in their career they blew straight to the top, selling thousands and making millions. They made their publishers rich. So they're guaranteed those coveted bestseller spots, resting on bitter laurels. Amazingly enough, readers feel safe spending their book money on yet another novel by ... well ... you know the Walmart list. Costco. Kmart. Walgreen's. Target.

Other than the Walmart author, how many writers are secure in their career direction?

Few, if any.

So where does that leave us?

The apostle Paul said to be content in every situation. Can we attain even a measure of contentment on our journey to publish?

We must be content to just ... write.

I'm not saying don't bother studying the industry. Not at all. But don't be consumed by it. At some point you must trust that someone else has your back. Someone of your choosing must take the reins, fill in the gaps, and help you once the book is written. You can't do it all. It's impossible. And stop feeling guilty about it. Unless you have some well-deserved help, that slippery thing we call publicity is going to slip through the cracks. You're a writer. You need to research, outline, and write that next book. Doesn't matter if you self-publish or have landed a contract with one of the Big 6. (Or is it 5 now?) You've got to find a trusted individual who will make the connections with your agent, editors, reporters, and book those appearances for you.

You're only one person, after all. Quit whining about it.

This morning, I found comfort in the pages of Televenge. Other than reading in public from chosen chapters, it's been a while since I've flipped through the chapters and randomly read from my own book. I found a great deal of comfort there as I recalled the struggle for finding the right word, and how I cried at the end of certain scenes or when finishing that first draft. It all came back to me, the journey of that book. The warm feelings of security in knowing ... I'm a writer.

I'm well aware of the push for writers to "get out there and build that platform!" Well, yeah. It's a necessary evil. We got to work our tail off. Right. Heard it. Something we're destined for, like it or not. So you might as well buck up. You must meet your readers. Get out there and speak, no excuses, on social media sites and up close and personal. Which is why this profession is not for everybody who thinks they have a book in them. But at some point, we got to find a balance.

We have to hold on to those words ... I write.

And be at peace.

Blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013


In Kathryn Stockett's novel, The Help, when Stuart asks Skeeter, "What do you do with your time?" she answers emphatically, "I write."

I wonder what went through Kathryn's mind when she wrote those two words. I write.

It's the second day of the new year, and yesterday on the first day of the new year, I pulled the covers over my head and screamed ... "NO MORE! I'M SICK OF IT. I DON'T WANT TO DO THIS ANYMORE!!!"

Can we get real, here? Can we stop with the cutesy blogs and read something real? Can I write my heart this morning without backlash? Without somebody thinking I'm wallering in self-pity? Because I really just want to write what I'm feeling today, without pretense. Without agenda. Without that forced smile we all know so well.

Time to hash out a few words and see if anybody out there ... relates.

Every day I read all the wonderful blogs by other writers. Encouragement abounds. Positive messages and quotes and anecdotes fill the Internet. Every time I open my email, it's overflowing with writers, editors, bloggers, literary agents ... some folks I know, others I don't ... all telling me what to do and what not to do to be successful in the new year. It makes me wonder. How many of them have given up at some point. Just chucked in the towel and said ... enough. Enough of this bullshit.

The market is over-saturated. It reminds me of Noah and the ark. Only a select few are hand-picked by the "publishing gods" to travel on the ark, while the rest of us tread water, pound on the doors, and scream to be heard.

Now ... God knows ... I'm grateful. For every positive review of Televenge. For every letter of love and support. There have been many. I'm thankful for those who have expressed encouragement on my behalf and continue to do so. I'm not talking about that. That's not what this post is about. But the journey with Televenge as my debut novel has also taught me a few new things about the industry. The biggest is that although I've been a writer since I was a bitty girl, a full-time writer since 2003, the struggle is FAR from over.

In fact, I feel as if I've bounced along this pioneer trail on a wagon train heading west for over a decade. I've nearly drowned crossing the Mississippi, manuevered through a few prarie fires, and fought off one too many Pawnee with only a double-barrel and a fast horse. And now ... I'M STANDING AT THE BASE OF THE DAMN ROCKY MOUNTAINS.

I thought, at least, I would get a glimpse of home. How the hell do I get over this mountain?

It's enough to send a body under the covers.

Through all the unfairness within this industry, it doesn't matter. Not anymore. There's plenty of broken dreams out there. An abundance of struggling writers pounding on the ark. What is it that will set some of us apart? The story of a lifetime? The perfect editor/agent/publisher/book deal/book tour? Thousands of Facebook friends and Twitter followers? When the moon/stars/plants all line up?

None of the above.

The answer is simple. To get out of bed every morning, and write. To not think about the outcome or the awards or those who have let you down. The answer is to put social media on the back seat of the bus, and your butt in the driver seat. To do the one thing God has called you to do.

I'm a writer. It's what I do. The unvarnished truth is after all the new year resolutions are made and broken, after all the glass half-fulls are put to bed, I'm still wagon-training.

This morning I woke up and realized ... I can't go back. I've come too far. What is it that makes me get out of bed? What is it?

I write.

It's just that simple.

Blessings to you and yours.