Tuesday, April 23, 2013

When God Shows Up

I posted this on Facebook yesterday, but was compelled to post it on my blog ... an event of divine magnitude.

True story. This past Friday I experienced one of those precious and few moments in life. A time when God shows up; when He becomes as real as your surroundings. I’ll never forget it. Ever.

It was a cold, raw morning, rainy and dreary. After a 2,500 mile Televenge book tour, it was all I could do to get myself to my doctor appointment that morning. When I arrived, I dragged myself into the back of the building, grumbling and feeling a bit sorry for my weary self. My bones ached and I longed for my bed. Upon opening the door, I noticed the quiet of the place and felt the warmth from the heater above me. No one was around. Nobody but an elderly African American man sitting on a bench near the elevator and under a sign listing the building’s medical practices.

Hooked up to an oxygen tank with his eyes closed and his head bowed, he moved only his lips, and as I drew closer I heard the whispers of his fervent prayers. He prayed for his children, for his grandchildren, and for others I assumed were family or friends. He prayed and prayed, and never looked up. Not once. I stood there and I stood there. Mesmerized. No one came in or left the building. It was just the old black man and me—standing by the elevator, watching him intently.

Suddenly I felt it. If you have ever felt the presence of the real God, you know what I’m talking about. That powerful presence filled the lobby and I grew weak in my knees, because the old man began to pray from the scriptures in Deuteronomy. Being the writer that I am, I put it to memory.

“I know, sweet Jesus,” he said, “I know all these blessings shall come on me, and overtake me, if I hearken to Your voice. I will be blessed in the city, and blessed in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of my body … blessed coming in and blessed going out. My enemies You will smite before me: they shall come out against me one way, and flee before me seven ways. You shall command the blessing upon my storehouse, and in all that You set Your hand to …”

Glued to the floor, I could not move an inch.

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “if I keep Your commandments and walk in Your ways, I will be the head, and not the tail; above only, and not beneath…”

The elevator door finally opened. I let it close. I could be a few minutes late.

I listened to him finish his prayer, and when he said his final “amen” he opened his eyes and saw me standing there with my tears falling like the morning’s rain.

“Thanks,” I said. “I needed that.”

He smiled. “You’re welcome, sister. God knew you were coming.”

It was a year’s worth of church. I watched him struggle to his feet with his continual simile, and find his way to the parking lot where a family member or friend waited for him in the car.

Seems like no matter how I lose myself, God always knows where to find me.


Saturday, April 20, 2013


From the Heartland of Ohio and Indiana to the Blue Ridge Mountains of West Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia. From the streets of New York City to the deep south towns of Opp and Florala, Alabama. From the beaches of the Outer Banks to the honky-tonk sights and sounds of Nashville and everywhere in between ... the Televenge book tour has consumed six months of our lives with non-stop travel, speaking, and a plethora of media events. I could not possibly include every picture, but below is a sampling of the past 6 months in a snapshot.

And still ... the best is yet to come ...

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Brother, Can You Spare A Blurb?

Authors! Listen up..

If you are ever asked to blurb another writer’s book, I want you to look back and remember your own path …

That author who contacted you obviously believed your name and your words would help the success of their book. They contacted you for a reason. It’s an honor and not to be taken lightly. So when I hear of authors ignoring other writer’s request for a blurb, it makes my blood boil.

You may be busier than a one-armed paperhanger with no time to read even a few sentences of another writer’s work. That’s fine. Understandable. I get it. I’ve been there. But you take the time to return the email, letter, phone call, or facebook message, and give that writer the courtesy of two minutes of your time. Simply explain why you cannot write a blurb at this time. Easy. Two minutes.

It seems to me, if you’ve been blessed enough to have made it to the top, it's your obligation to turn around, offer your hand, and lift somebody up. It may only be a word of encouragement, but the least you do is offer a heartfelt apology for not being able to read the writer’s work. Their work that that contains the same blood, sweat, and tears that you’ve put into your own work.

Never forget; never forget where you came from, who you are, and the humble spirit you must hold to your heart; a humble spirit to see you throughout your success as a writer. For if you ever lose your humble spirit, then you have no right to complain if the "hand of God" lifts.

There is nothing ruder in this business, nothing more tragic and full of narcissism, than when a writer ignores the direct message, email, or letter from another writer. True, computers crash, emails get lost, people get sick … but when weeks have passed and all of sudden you realize you’ve got an email or message from another author, answer it. There’s no excuse. Kindness changes everything.

I’ve received warm and caring responses, both positive and negative, from NY Times Bestselling authors, as well as other wonderful authors. I’ve also been ignored by some big names in the industry, and strangely enough, some not so big names. I can tell you in all honesty, for those who couldn’t give me the courtesy of return email or facebook message, I will probably not buy another one of their books or invest any further time in reading their blog or facebook posts. But that’s just me. I would never name them, never defame another writer. I leave them to their own conscience.

But those who wrote or called back, regardless of their answer, I immediately fell in love with them, if I wasn’t already. It was the fact that they cared enough to return my email or facebook message. Two minutes. That’s all it took. Two minutes out of their day. For those two minutes they freely gave me, I will continue to read and recommend their work. And I can tell you; I’m not the only writer who feels this way. Writers are ALSO consumers. Never forget that.

Isn’t it the decent thing to do? Isn’t a kind reputation worth two minutes of your time?

We are never that good, never that big, that we have the right to be unkind, uncaring, and plain disrespectful to other writers.

Think about it.

Monday, April 01, 2013

NOW WHO’S THE FOOL? TIME FOR WRITERS TO GET REAL – Tough love for today’s writer

Literary agents once ruled the world and the publishers were their Gods. Now, it’s not the case. They’re all in a panic.
Make no mistake, they, as well as writers chasing after that brass ring, prefer to think of self-published books as vanity publishing. Too bad, so sad. Whether they like it or not, that is no longer the truth. I heard someone say recently that it’s a classic example of The Emperor Has No Clothes.
Wake up, Mahogany Row. Sit up and take notice, Bestselling Wannabes. The old dream is just about gone. Unless you’re one of the few debut writers who break out every year, gone are the days of six-figure advances and publishers who care about a new writer’s career. Writers pursuing a traditional publishing contract with one of the Big 6 are like office workers playing the lottery every week. Not good odds.
And I’ll say something here that everybody thinks and nobody says. At least not out loud. If you are one of the chosen few of the Big 6, it doesn’t mean you write better than the thousands who self-publish. Not anymore. Not by a long shot. Break-out writers are no longer just those with traditional publishing contracts! Can I hear an amen?
Every year, fewer writers are sending query letters to a long list of literary agents, only to wait up to a year or more for a response, of any kind. Yes, no, maybe, kiss my butt … something. Writers no longer kowtow to literary agents and editors who snub, ignore, and reject quality work because their ace in the hole has come out with a fifth or fifteenth book in a series.
I’ve been writing professionally, full time, since 2003. I’m not a newbie. Not to this business. I studied creative writing at Kent State, graduated from the Breakout Novel Intensive with Donald Maass in 2005, and attended and/or taught at over 25 writing conferences from New York to Florida. I’ve traveled on my own dime since 2006, speaking and selling my books at bookstores, book clubs, women’s groups, churches, civic groups, country clubs, and out of the trunk of my car. Over 200 venues. I've done the PR parade from TV to radio to sitting for hours at bookstores and book fairs.
Prior to signing a traditional contract with an independent small publisher in December 2011, I chased the dream of a contract with a major publisher. It was October 2010 and I decided to snail mail and email query letters to approximately 106 literary agents. I wasn’t stupid about it. I researched those who represented my genre, studied every one of their websites, and sent a beautifully written query letter I had spent months preparing.
Sixty-one agents never acknowledged my existence. 61! The remaining asked for partials, fulls, or rejected me entirely. I made notes of who rejected me with their horrible form letters and rude remarks, those who were cold or took more than two years to contact me at all! We writers have been told over and over about the stacks of manuscripts, the overwhelming amount of work a literary agent faces every day, but there's no excuse for bad manners. None. (Funny how writers must follow formatting and etiquette rules, but those same rules don’t apply to agents and publishers).

I made notes of the agents who were kind, rejecting me nicely, and those who were not kind, making me feel like poop. If you’re a writer, I’d be happy to send you the full list. It's quite interesting.
Eventually, I signed a year contract with a New York agent, a good one. Sadly, nothing happened. He couldn’t sell the novel. The publisher's rejections simply blew me and my agent away. Oh yes, I kept all 20 rejections from every New York publishing house who responded. My agent sent me their emails. They were over the top with wonderful compliments, but the reasons for rejection were so unsound, so ridiculous … well, at the risk of sounding like a “typically rejected author,” I’ll stop.

I suppose there comes a time when every writer draws a line. Reaches their limit. Sadly, in the past the only option a writer had was to collect those years of rejection letters, or simply give up. And a lot of them did.

Somehow, it all made me feel so subhuman. After a while, we decided there had to be a better way. And guess what? There is!
Thankfully, self-publishing and self promotion has become a viable option. A respected one. But like the sheep and the goats, writers will continue to be separated between those who will pay for quality editing, professional book covers, and publicity, and those who won’t. Writers, you can’t publish a lot of crap, stories full of errors, because you’re in a hurry to make a million bucks. Otherwise, we will look like those old vanity writers who never honed or polished their writing skills in the first place. And lately it appears as though some writers are turning out mistake-filled prose covered up by great marketing efforts, tons of social media promotion, and a local following making them radio stars, Toastmaster speakers, and highly promotable authors of bad books.
Book buyer beware!
Some in this business have gone so far as to say that publishers and literary agents are a dying breed, they just haven’t laid down yet. They say we are in a new world groping our way forward, but that life is too short to make a deal with a dinosaur industry where retailers can return unsold books to publishers. Many believe that antiquated process has got to stop. Everything has to evolve, or die out and the publishing industry is no exception.
Plenty of hurdles remain for the writer, and not every writer will clear them. But finally, we have more than one respected publishing option. A way to get paid every month instead of once or twice a year. Don’t plan on getting rich, but thank God, we’re no longer in Egypt. We crossed the Red Sea, and made it through 40 years in the desert. There’s more to be done, but the ball is now in our court.
In the end, it becomes simple. Readers just want to read great books. They don't care how it happens. I feel the industry will survive but will look very different to how it did before Nooks and Kindles took over the earth. Prepare for a wild ride, writers. This adventure has just begun. Some of us will stop wasting time, burn our bridges, and never look back. No matter how much we love our old-fasioned hardbacks, it's time to adjust to the current reality. Like Goodreads and Amazon. They don't care if you've written one book or fifty. They simply push, publish, or sell books in all shapes and sizes. What a novel concept!