Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What Were You Trying To Prove?

Every once in a while I’m asked to explain Televenge, because secular folks don’t want to be preached at, and Christians don’t want to face the darkness that exists within the church. Granted, faith is powerful, it can be exploited, but some have been crushed beneath the heels of their own pastors, and should we choose to write about it, it becomes a delicate balancing act.

It was my determination that Televenge evolve as a story about how those who abuse their position in the pulpit can over time; literally destroy those who faithfully sit in the pews week after week. I wrote it as a woman of faith, not "an angry lady jabbing at any one pastor or specific religion because a mean church hurt me once," or someone trying to get attention. I can think of better, safer ways to call attention to myself.

For me, the gold perk of writing is working alone, months on end, in sweats and fuzzy socks with no thought of time or the way I look with no makeup. Despite what some may think, my faith sustains me daily. But I recognize that thousands have blindly followed only to have their family units, their core beliefs, and their way of life slaughtered by a “thus saith the Lord” from a man or woman in the pulpit. My biggest revelation, breaking free from my church, was that “touch not my anointed” works both ways.

In the end and without hesitation or apology, and regardless of denomination, Televenge uncovers the madness within the church, as well as big flamboyant pastors and their miracles. But more than that, the story embraces the healing balm of Gilead, the real faithfulness of Jesus Christ, and the peace of God that passes all understanding.

My answer to those who hesitate, “… just jump in and enjoy the story.” Can I hear an amen?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Patience For Pamela

Summer has come and gone and I've not blogged for a good while. I've been ... well ... wrapped up in other things and blogging (something I've held on to since 2005) just doesn't appear at the top of my list.

The Sanctum is currently in the review process with editors, via my literary agent, and I'm working on the next book, as well as putting together another collection of short stories. Southern Fried Faith. An edgy cross between Televenge and Southern Fried Women.

This entire process of publishing The Sanctum has been grueling, to say the least. I expected to see it published last spring. But as fate took over, a literary agent came into my path and the plan to self-publish was put on the shelf. A good thing, really.

So ... this story that is near and dear to my heart will take a bit longer than expected. Patience, a virtue that was left out of my DNA, has been ground into me as the years go by. It's painful and at times I feel as though I'm going to crawl out of my skin, but I've come to the point where I finally realize ... I'M NO LONGER IN CONTROL.

I can't steer this ship on my own. I've tried. In the end, if all I manage to do is write my stories and get them out there on Amazon, then fine. I've grown like the Apostle Paul. I've learned to be content in my situation.

And frankly ... that's all I have to say today.

Blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What Do You Bring To The Page?

As a writer, I've wondered what do I offer my readers? Do I possess what it takes? What do I have to say that anybody wants to hear?

Lofty volumes of prose line many library shelves. Some deliver profound messages, soothing to the ears. Some hold you spellbound with intrigue or humor. And then some curl the hair on the neck as you quickly turn the page to discover the killer. Besides constantly polishing your knowledge of the writing craft and striving for the title of great storyteller, there's another element to this writing thing.

The author's ability to share knowledge, life experiences, and enlightenments within the context of a story. To make it matter.

What have you learned or experienced in your life that you bring to the page? Many of us bring our writing degrees, our teaching degrees, our years of contributions to magazines, lit mags, newspapers, and we bring awards. Oh, so many writing awards. And, that's wonderful. Commendable, in fact. But that's not what I'm talking about.

To quote Dorothy Allison (one of my favorites.) She made this profound statement at the Maui Writing Conference many years ago. " ... writers come to the page for many, many reasons. In fact many of us do come in the hope of justice! We do come in the hope of balance! We do come with an agenda of love! But I'm telling you now, lots of us start with a desire for genuine revenge."

Do you bring revenge to your written pages? Anger? Truth?

"Are you saying there has to be some deep, dark reason why we write? Can't I just write for fun?"

Of course you can, and many do. But once again, in my humble opinion, the writing that lasts for generations is written from the cobwebbed corners of a writer's mind. Those basements and attics where the writer fears to tread, but goes anyway.

"But," you say, "I write humor."

Ah, yes. Dissect that humor. Much of our humor also comes from pain. You know that old cliche spoken in the midst of anger and frustration ... "We're going to laugh about this later." Laughter through tears ... it's a powerful emotion. Take it to the page.

"Do you mean, then, write what you know?"

Not just what you know, but what you feel. What you've seen. What matters. The gut-wrenching moments in your life that cut deep into your heart. Write about that. Write about the scars. Who gave them to you, and how you healed, or how you still suffer from those scars. Give your character a piece of your life story that you want to share with the world. Dig out the best and worst of your memories, and include them in your stories. Write not just what you know, but what brought you out of a dark spot. What event turned you inside out, not just what made you uncomfortable. Write your passions, your desires, what moves you. Write that.

Those are the guts of a good story. Bring that to the page.

Blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Best Writing Is Born From Anguish

I listened to David Wilkerson, a well-known fire and brimstone evangelist whose messages stir the emotion and bring most to their feet or their knees. Clips of his sermons are posted on You Tube. You can search for him there.

"True passion comes from anguish," he said. His words flew into me like a fiery arrow, illuminating my past. Wilkerson's message centered around anguish and how todays church is void of it. He's a big believer in, Cryin' Holy unto the Lord. He professes the church has gone soft, that we're basically a bunch of babies who want to be soothed and coddled. That we no longer tarry for hours before the Lord, prostrate at the altar. That God wants to see our anguish over the state of the world and our Godless nation. Wilkerson has that pastor voice. You know what I mean? He's learned how to wail when he speaks, allowing us to hear his heart as it breaks for the sins of mankind. And if you've grown up as a fundamentalist, it moves you. Even if you've never sat in a tent revival, I think it would move you.

Whether or not you agree with Wilkerson's message, you have to agree that true passion is definitely born from anguish. As a writer, I believe the heartaches and hardships we experience give us plenty to write about.

And plenty to talk about ...

But it's not about anguish over a fender-bender. It's not about a bad grade on a test. Or losing your wallet. Or a fight with your spouse.

Anguish, suffering, agony, grief, sorrow and angst ... comes from a break in your spirit. A temporary disconnection with yourself and the world around you. The loss of anything dear to you creates real, gut-wrenching anguish. The kind you feel down to the soles of your feet. Buckets of tears. Nobody wants to experience it. Nobody wants to go through something like that, and I hope and pray you never do.

But if you do, what you do with that anguish, how you channel it, will determine your future in many ways. And if you're a writer, it can propel you into another level. I've read books where I know, without a doubt, the writer has suffered at one point in his/her life. You can feel it in the way they put the story together. Raising the stakes isn't so hard, because they've lived it.

Not a pleasant topic to blog about, but I think it needs to be said. Personally, I hope I never see another drop of anguish as long as I live. I've had my share. David Wilkerson can wail as long as he wants about anguish, but I never want to experience it again. Ever. It's not a pleasant place to go to.

However, I want you to remember if you've closed the door on your anguish, the memories of it ... you may want to revisit that dark place again. Especially if you're a writer. Your writing changes. Something inside you clicks and literary takes on a whole new meaning.

My passion was truly born from the sorrow, grief, and the anguish of my life. Now, I can truly say, the joy of the Lord is my strength. A scripture phrase that has almost become a cliché in Christian circles, has power and new meaning in me. At some point the tears have to stop. The river of sorrow has to trickle to nothingness. We have to move out of that place and use what we've learned to write the story of our life. It's not something we want to think about, anguish, but be thankful for it. It's made you who you are.

And despite the fire and brimstone, that's a good thing.

Blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Towerless Sky

Oil from the Arizona still floats on the water at Pearl Harbor. Smoke from the Twin Towers still lingers somewhere in our atmosphere. I was reminded by a friend today that these events that rocked our nation will never depart from our hearts and minds. Thank you, Barbara.

I remember visiting the towerless sky in 2002, one year after the attack. Ground Zero still smoked, the fences still held the memorabilia of those who perished, and the air still smelled of death.

Who can understand why this happened? No one. But the peace of knowing God in times like these is the peace that passes all understanding.

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

There's No Social Media Like Speaking To Your Readers Face To Face

As a writer, my comfort zone, like most writers, is at home wrapped in the warm, soft blanket of creation. To create well-rounded, compelling characters, and pull them through the high stakes of their lives ... there is simply no place I'd rather be.

But every so often, a writer has to get out and meet their readers. Word of mouth is truly the best way to sell books, but guess who must get that ball rolling? The writer. Once an event is booked, once you arrive on the scene, how do you size up the audience? Is the speech you have prepared the right one?

Be proactive. If you want to get an audience on your side, first you need to choose the right length of time to talk. Sometimes, even when they give you an allotted time to speak, you know after arriving, to shorten it, skip the Q & A, or change the speech entirely.

How can you make that decision? There is no fast rule here. You must learn to analyze each audience. I remember hearing that one pastor offered this silent prayer every time he stepped into the pulpit: "Lord, fill my mouth with worthwhile stuff, and nudge me when I've said enough." Cute.

If you are the main event, if they came specifically to hear you speak, you possess much more latitude. But if you are the "scheduled speaker" at a business lunch, a monthly meeting, or a Mother's Day event, if the audience didn't come because of you, then do your homework and be prepared. Some folks in the audience, guaranteed, have never even heard of you. Unless you're a celebrity author, you've got to make that group fall in love you and want to take a piece of you home. Your book!
A program coordinator will typically suggest a specific length for your presentation, usually it's thirty minutes to an hour. Nod your head, appear appreciative, say thank you, then totally ignore whatever time frame they gave you.
Unless the entire program is focused on you and your books, meetings and conferences rarely stay on schedule. Technical glitches eat up time. Coffee breaks have a mysterious way of expanding. Attendees run late. Don't assume you will get all the time you've been promised.
Event planners have an agenda. They think in terms of "time slots." They need a speaker to fill their speaker slot on their schedule. Fine. But good speakers do more than fill time slots. As the invited speaker, your job is to entertain, enlighten, communicate and captivate your audience, all while selling your book(s) in the process. Tough process? You bet. But the good news, you can learn how to speak to your readers, be great at it, and have fun doing it!
Consider the place of the event. Is it inside or outside? Is it air-conditioned? Women and men? How many will attend and are the seats comfortable? It's hard to communicate with an audience when they are uncomfortable. If you talk too long, they will tune you out. If it's a lunch meeting, remember these folks need to get back to work. You want to give them enough time to buy your book!
What precedes your presentation? For example, if you're scheduled to talk right after lunch, understand that lunch often runs overtime and so you might get less time to deliver your talk. Also, folks get sleepy. Don't drag on and on. Give an interesting, quick, and to the point presentation. Talk in a friendly tone, don't fiddle with your hair, and smile! Some say, "be yourself" but as a speaker you may want to spend your time as someone else! What a great excuse to do that!
On occasion the program director may want you to speak while the audience is eating. Try to get them to change this. People want to visit with those at their table when eating, not have to listen to a speaker. I know, crazy, but it happens.

Often a cocktail hour or a reception follows and the audience will be itching to get on with it. Not a comfortable situation to be in. But you have deal with this. Don't just get through it, have fun with it. I've changed my speech several times, gearing it to the mood of the audience. If you don't think you're talented enough to do this, then I suggest you take a class in public speaking or join Toastmasters for a while, and learn how to manage your audience.

Always factor in a few minutes for starting late. I've sat in Rotary meetings that have run over, giving me a whole ten minutes to wow the room. I jump in with a quick reading, about a paragraph of my book, something funny, and talk about what will resonate with the audience. Enough to whet their appetite and buy the book. But never, ever look or sound irritated. Common sense, right? You'd be surprised.
When you arrive, are the women friendly? If it's a mixed group, will that bother you? Do they welcome you warmly? Most do, but every once in a while you walk into a freezer. Truly, that's when you make it a challenge. Your dog and pony show can surprise them all, have them rushing to your table to buy your book after your closing remarks. Even if you're a great speaker, be prepared for a non-responsive audience. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen.
Don't lecture. Find a coach to help you create compelling speeches about your work, research, and the book itself. Jodi Picoult is famous for her research prior to writing her novel. I've heard her speak on three separate occasions, and each time she spellbinds the audience with her story. I've also been in the audience of many other authors who put folks to sleep, or have no idea how to speak to a group. I've actually been quite embarrassed for them.
Allow time for someone to introduce you, and prepare that ahead of time. Make sure they have the correct bio in hand, or some interesting piece of news you would like the audience to know.
It's okay to use your notes, walk around, or stand behind a podium. Dress for the event. Don't overdress. And allow time for Questions and Answers. At most Book Clubs, the entire time is taken up in Q&A. It's very informal and I love this. It's easy, and the time goes fast.

But always, always allow time for selling your book.

Do your best. Once again, give the audience 100% and be prepared to shorten or change the speech upon your arrival. Never forget that the more you say, the less people remember. But take five minutes and read from your book. It doesn't have to be from the first page, but make sure it's a good part, and read in character if you can. I often turn into a Southern Fried Woman when I read. It's just a part of me, so it's easy. But find your niche. Know who you are as a writer and a speaker. It takes practice, hard work, and you must be fearless.
But more than anything, know your audience. If you can learn to read the faces in your audience, your success rate climbs. In being asked to speak, and in book sales. I've been professionally writing for over a decade now, and speaking for about six years, and I can tell you there is no social media out there like meeting your readers face to face.
Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Simple Secret To Writing

I've been thinking the more writers read how-to books, web sites, and blogs on writing, the more confused they can become. The more it stifles their energy to sit down and write that next story.

Most writers don't fear the first draft. We know it's a draft. It's not for public consumption. But what happens between writing that first draft and finishing the book? Hoping to find a nugget of truth, we pour over blogs and web sites and books that tell us what we "need to know" about pacing, voice, character development, on and on ... until it stops us in our tracks.

Writers are artists. As a whole, the doubt and fear we battle is like walking into a swarm of hornets. We just know we're going to get bit.

What happens as a result of that fear? If you are a writer, you've felt it. You know what I'm talking about.

But here is something to consider. Even Donald Maass started somewhere. And I'll bet he'll tell you he's still learning.

You've already gathered enough knowledge to write. You know the middle of the story matters, to show and not tell, to kill your darlings and prologues and keep backstory to a minimum. So while you're in the process of creating, as you write your next story, don't read any more blogs, how-to books, or web sites that tell you how to write. STOP IT.

Stop second-guessing yourself. Just write the story. Let it pour out of your heart. Weep over the keyboard. Burn the midnight oil until you've finished the second, even the third draft. Put your soul into it. Then, my writer friend, you have something to work with. To revise. To hone. To make beautiful. Then you can submit for critique, or to a professional editor for revision. Then you can refresh yourself in a how-to book as you EDIT.

Remember, there are a ton of "experts". Intimidation is a monster. Even the most seasoned writer questions their own talent from time to time. The secret is ... get the story out of you first. Overcome the fear of writing by writing for yourself first. It's the simple truth.

Blessings to you and yours.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Constipated Storylines

Here it is, the middle of August. Already. Where did this month go? Couple of family birthdays, mine included. But the bigger news, I've been working on a book proposal for The Sanctum. A literary agent is interested in shopping the book to the Christian publishers. I have to give it that chance. God always opens doors for me; sometimes I miss it, but sometimes I manage to step through it, in spite of myself.

I'm still struggling with the first draft of the next novel, but (and it's a big but) when I decided to get quiet and quit fretting over it, that's when the characters began to talk again. It's taking a new turn, and frankly, I'm surprised at the direction. Moved to tears over the last chapter, I tucked my tail between my legs and said to my protagonist, Okay, I'll shut up. You tell me the story. Use my fingers, and I'll just clean it up when you're done.

That's what happens when your writing hits a detour. A roadblock. You get constipated and it often becomes a test of wills between you and your characters. They always win with me. Eventually. I'm a storyline softie. I think until you understand the disappointments, the pain of life, you're not as open to the rough road of your characters. Writing the story in your head is difficult enough. Adding in the voices of the characters, it adds a new element. You either fight it, or yield to the seduction.

Sometimes I think that's why our writing improves in the midst of our own aging process. When I was younger, everything had to be perfect. Literally everything. Though I still battle with perfection on every level, I find my edges have softened. In my body, and in my writing. I'm not as hard on myself. I'm more open to my fellowman, and in the struggles of my characters. It's a nasty world out there. And as a Christian, I see many who shut their eyes to world Christ told us to save.

Writing reality is not like watching reality shows on TV. That's not real. They know there's a camera in the room. There's a producer on set. It's not real. Reality can only be found in books. Even if it's fiction. Think about it.

Allowing your characters to speak to you is necessary. Detouring from the outline of the story may save the story. Getting quiet is better than giving up. Wouldn't you agree?

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Inconsiderate Writers

"Who me? I'm not in a click!"

There's more than a "good ol' boys" club when it comes to writers and editors. There's something going on that reminds me of getting accepted by the popular clicks in high school. Writers who ignore, disrespect, and simply snub other writers and their work. I happen to be "friends" with many writers on Facebook, but there are those few writers who seldom post comments of encouragement or offer up words on any other writer's wall. Well. Other than those in their click. (I know, it's often spelled clique, but for this blog post, it's click.)

Now we all get busy, we all have deadlines, and it's not possible to post every day and on every wall. But it's become obvious to me. Some writers love appealing to their readers, but have nothing to do with other writers.

Good God. High School was over decades ago for most of us.

It's not only happening on Facebook. I was asked to speak on a writers panel last year at a very prestigious book conference. There were three female writers on this panel, and unfortunately, I was last to speak. The first writer began to read from her new novel. Thirty minutes into her reading I was about to slip a note to the moderator that said, "Are you going to ask her to stop, or do I have to?" During her reading, half the class had left the room, which meant by the time it was my turn to talk about my novel ... there may have been ten people who were brave enough to stay, and about fifteen minutes left before the class ended.

I was furious. But I kept my mouth shut, smiled, and congratulated each author for their work. Months later, I feel it's necessary to talk about writer etiquette, and plain ol' consideration for the other guy. Kindness. Caring. Selflessness.

I've been watching these writer Facebook clicks closely since I woke up one day to realize, that green-eyed monster still lurks among us long after that cap and gown ceremony. It hit me hard between the eyes when I went after blurbs for my latest novel.

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 FB 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.

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.
And for crying out loud, you're no longer in high school. Grow up. Offer a little word of encouragement to your Facebook "FRIENDS" ... Writers are ALSO consumers. Never forget that.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Can't Take The Heat?

I find myself reluctant to blog during the heat. We live in a century house with no air conditioning, which really isn't much of problem in northeast Ohio except for a week or two a year when the air is so humid you can barely breathe. It's difficult to move around. Cool showers twice a day help, but getting work done is a chore.

Today we woke to find cooler temperatures and I'm reminded of growing up without air conditioning. We didn't think twice about it. Nobody had it. Mom kept big oscillating fans in the kitchen and living room and we stood within inches after an afternoon in the sun, our hands sticky from a cherry Popsicle drip. Glasses of iced Kool-Aid sweat on our shorts. Hair pulled up into ponytails, our sunburned faces knew nothing about sun block. It was the 'sixties and we didn't give a flip about anything other than the next cold bottle of pop and maybe a trip to the local swimming hole.

Sitting here now in my old house with the bees and hornets swarming around the porch, I listen to the sound of summer's wavy heat floating through the screen door. I can't get away from it, I can only drown it out with a fan or two. By the time the trash truck picks up last weeks bags, the cicadas will join in with the bees. I watch the pond evaporate before my eyes. Time for iced tea and egg salad. Heat does a number on my appetite. And my worth ethic. My computer generates too much heat, becomes my typical excuse.

But ... then ... I'm reminded of the summers of my youth, when not even the heat could stop us from building tents over clotheslines and riding miles on our bikes to explore new frontiers. We never thought twice about sex offenders or that there was such a thing. Life was good and sweet and we had not a care or a worry in the world. Not even a skinned knee could stop us from a trip to the store where an electric Coca-Cola sign was the swinging door between worlds. A hand full of Pixie Sticks and cooling green bottles in a metal box was all it took to forget about the oppressive heat.

Since it's cooler today, I'll pound out a few pages. But my mind wants to listen to the giggles of girls, their secrets and their dreams. This next novel is in full swing, and I find that often part of the writing process is allowing your characters to take shape off the page first. This summer's heat is a good excuse to do just that.

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The "Good" Ol' Days!

IN 1910

The average life expectancy for men was 47 years.

Fuel for this car was sold in drug stores only.

Only 14 percent of the homes had a bathtub.

Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone.

There were only 8,000 cars and only 144 miles of paved roads.

The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.

The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower !

The average US wage in 1910 was 22 cents per hour.

The average US worker made between $200 and $400 per year.

A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year,

A dentist $2,500 per year, a veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 per year,

And a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.

More than 95 percent of all births took place at HOME.

Ninety percent of all Doctors had NO COLLEGE EDUCATION! Instead, they attended so-called medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press AND the government as 'substandard.'

Sugar cost four cents a pound.

Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen.

Coffee was fifteen cents a pound.

Most women only washed their hair once a month, and used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.

There was no such thing as under arm deodorant or tooth paste.

Canada passed a law that prohibited poor people from entering into their country for any reason.

The five leading causes of death were:

1. Pneumonia and influenza

2. Tuberculosis

3. Diarrhea

4. Heart disease

5. Stroke

The American flag had 45 stars.

The population of Las Vegas Nevada was only 30!

Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and iced tea hadn't been invented yet

There was no Mother's Day or Father's Day.

Two out of every 10 adults couldn't read or write and only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.

Eighteen percent of households had at least one full-time servant or domestic help.

There were about 230 reported murders in the ENTIRE U.S.A. !

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Is There Rhythm To Your Writing?

I’ve never written much poetry, nor have I tackled a song lyric. But I think I’ve been a writer long enough to hear the rhythm in my prose. Rhythm lends itself to your style, as well as your voice, which are two different things.

Voice is a unique way of putting words together. It's a deep feeling, a distinctive way of looking at the world, an outlook or belief that enriches an author’s work. How you develop your voice, to some extent, happens all by itself. Stories come from the subconscious. What drives you to write is often your own unresolved inner conflicts. Voice is a natural attribute. You no more control it than you control the color of your eyes. 

But don’t confuse voice with style. Style is more about the writing itself, than the story or characters.

As I write this, I'm thinking maybe rhythm is equally involved in both voice and style. I’ve been known to work a full week on one paragraph. For me, it must have a rhythm, a flow, almost like music. To get that, I have to read the paragraph, or the dialogue, or whatever it is—out loud. If it is dialogue, I must read it in the voice of the character, therefore, most of my “out loud reading” is done with no one around to hear me. When a writer reads their work out loud, much of what is corrected is the rhythm, the sound it makes—the music of the story we create that plays in the background of the reader’s mind. Music the reader is not aware of, but it’s there. It’s truly there. And sometimes that means adding words.

But here’s a shocker—it may not always be grammatically correct. Now, don’t get your panties in a wad over this. Writing in the voice of the character telling the story, the narrator, should always lend itself to the vernacular and not to the rules of the English language. A good example of this is in Wiley Cash’s new novel, a land more kind than home. A writer with a Ph.D. in English.

All of this brings me to the age old question, is less really more? Writers, how many times has that been drilled into your head? It’s a staple of every writer’s conference. We’ve had it pounded into us for decades now. Less is more. Kill your babies. Slice your novel in half. Hogwash. I’m here to tell you that may not always be the case. Sometimes, more is more.

Careful, now. If you accept that, it may change you. Creating rhythm may mean adding words …

From my new novel, The Sanctum (coming soon) …

I wiped condensation from my eyeglasses and shook the snow from my coat, imagining bulbs of daffodils and hyacinths, sleeping in her brown flowerbeds, and then blooming come spring. Winter’s wind blew cruel and steady. An occasional vicious gust burned my face as it shoved fog off the mountain.

Facing the porch steps, I wiped condensation from my eyeglasses and shook the snow from my coat. I imagined bulbs of daffodils and hyacinths sleeping in her brown and dormant flowerbeds, and then blooming come spring. Greeted by a dozen rocking chairs strewn over the wide porch, I saw myself sitting in one, drinking lemonade while my grandmother snapped peas. But at that moment, winter’s wind blew cruel and steady. An occasional vicious gust burned my face as it shoved the fog across the mountain.

I didn’t feel the flow, the rhythm, the music, until I wrote the second paragraph with more words. Truly, some editors would prefer the shorter one, but to me there’s music in the second. Poetry. Balance. The trick is not to go overboard, but find the balance.

Again, the best way to hear it is to read your work out loud. You’ll not only catch mistakes, you’ll create the magic needed to hold your readers in the palm of your hand.

Only you know your characters inside and out. Who they are, where they came from, and what they think. You must find not only the rhythm of your character, but within the entire narration. This comes with writing every day and discovering the rhythm in other great novels. But once you master it, it will carry your work to a whole new level. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Five Year Anniversary!

Where did the time go? Celebrating their 5th Anniversary, my son, Aaron, and his precious wife, Annie, have seen their first five years of marriage come and go. A new house, a new baby girl, they've been immensely blessed. Fraught with the same ups and downs as most of us, they've weathered any storms that blew their way, and have found peace and comfort in each others arms.

"For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh." Ephesians 5:31

I'm grateful today, looking back. That baby boy I once held in my arms is now holding a precious little one in his own. I'm also eternally grateful for Annie coming into his life. She has blessed us all.

Here's to the next five!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

BEA Televenge Anniversary (Writers Are No Longer Intimidated)

In June 2012, I attended my fourth BEA. I was about to release my debut novel, Televenge. It's overwhelming as author to stand in the midst of the Expo madness. It's like your first day of high school. As a freshman, you either allow the seniors to ignore, intimidate, and taunt you, or you make your mark early that you're a force to be reckoned with. It's pretty much that way with the Big Dogs of New York.

Published by a small, energetic, independent press, (Satya House Publications) Televenge went to New York with a hopeful group of folks behind it. As a result, my novel about the dark side of televangelism was an Editor’s Pick at the 2012 Book Expo, meaning out of the thousands of new books published, the Library Journal ranked it among the top 28. It also received exceptional reviews from book bloggers all over the world, from New York Times bestselling authors Lesley Kagen and Jacquelyn Mitchard, and even Publishers Weekly gave it a boost with a stellar review.
Published in October 2012, Televenge attracted immediate national attention from Fox News on numerous occasions, CBS Atlanta, scores of national media outlets, and a major Hollywood production company.

We’ve leveled the playing field. Self-published authors and those published by small press are the Navy Seals of the publishing industry. We invade the BEA focused on our mission, and then get out of town with something to show for it. We’re no longer intimated by the Big Dogs pushing their books. It’s just that simple.


Wednesday, June 05, 2013

What Do You Offer Your Readers?

As a writer, I've often wondered what do I offer my readers?

Some authors write lofty volumes of prose, poetic and soothing to the ears. Some keep their readers spellbound with intrigue or humor. Some carefully perfect the craft of curling the hair on our neck as we quickly turn the page to discover where the killer hid the body. Writers who transport us to exotic places, and hold us there; writers who punctuate their characters, and pierce the heart of the reader deserve to be noticed. Every once in a while, you run across a writer who can do all of the above. It's rare, but it happens.

Think about it. Is there an author you have read recently, or years ago, who created characters and a plot that lingered for days. A story that comes to mind at the strangest times. A writer whose novels haunted you for weeks, years? A writer who consistently moves you like few others? What in their voice gives them the edge? What common thread weaves their unforgettable stories to the cloak of your memory? How do they do it?

Besides constantly polishing your craft, I’m finding there’s another element to this writing thing we do.

How do you share knowledge, life experiences, and enlightenments within the context of a story? How do you make it matter to your readers?

Are you able to bring your heartbreak to the page? The pain of loss, rejection, abandonment, can you write about it? Can you pull from your most horrific memories, as well as your most joyous? What I’m talking about has nothing to do with your writing degree or your awards. Although commendable, that's not it. I’m asking what do you--as a living, breathing, human being--bring to the page?

This quote is from one of my favorite writers. Dorothy Allison’s words at the Maui Writer’s Conference were delivered with fire and fervency.

She said, “I’m here to deliver black coffee, I’m here to leaven your experience. I’m here to tell you part of why I’m a writer is that it’s one of the professions where you can be a fat girl and make it! … Writers come to the page for many, many reasons. In fact, many of us DO come in the hope of justice, we DO come in the hope of balance, we DO come with an agenda of love, but I’m TELLING YOU NOW, lots of us start with a desire for genuine REVENGE.”

So. Does there has to be some deep, dark reason why we write?

Many write for the fun of it. But once again, in my honest and humble opinion, the writing that lasts for generations is gathered from the cobwebbed corners of your mind. Those basements and attics where most writers fear to tread but go anyway.

What if you write humor?

Ah, yes.  Well, dissect that humor. Much of our humor comes from pain. We're going to laugh about this later. Laughter through tears is a powerful emotion. Many believe the angrier you are, the funnier you need to be. Take that to the page.

Do we, then, write only what we know?

Not just what you know, but what you feel. What you've seen. The gut-wrenching moments in your life that cut deep into your heart. Write about that. Write about the scars. Who gave them to you, and how you healed, or how you still suffer from those scars. Give your character a piece of your life story that you want to share with the world. Dig out the best and worst of your memories, and include them in your stories. Write not just what you know, but what matters. What has brought you out of a deep, dark spot? What makes you uncomfortable? Write your passions, your desires, and what moves you. Write that.

Those are the guts of a good story. Bring that to the page. Offer that to your readers.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Why Writers Plow Their Literary Field

I took a look back at my blogs and found this one. In the midst of writing The Sanctum, my soul was screaming. I've come a long way since then. I'm proud to say this novel has also come a long way, and will be released as an e-book within a few weeks. This field is now ready for harvest.

April 8, 2010
I've been plowing my literary field this spring. My office is a mess. I've written scenes for my next novel; they're splayed across a long, skinny table as I work relentlessly on this story. I'm concentrating on my research and pulling it in as needed. In a few weeks I'm visiting a wolf sanctuary. If my suspicions are correct, wolves are not what they have been portrayed. A critical piece of the narrative, the wolves represent the strange and the misunderstood. That which needs protected. Not destroyed.

As I roll deeper into the story, I'm finding--once again--my characters have voices of their own, totally separate and apart from mine. It's a bizarre metamorphosis. I look down and suddenly my fingers are those of a thirteen-year-old girl, fair and fragile. Within minutes, they turn old and masculine. They're covered with tobacco that clings to my arms like pine resin. They belong to a black man who types as fast as the wind. He's got a few things to say. Because it's 1960, and the times, they are a changing.

A scene change and my hands belong to another character. They're slow and angry, and hot to the touch. Dangerous. They belong to a man, this time he's white and wrinkled. The fingers pound the keys and occasionally they ball into a fist. But just like that, they fade into another set of hands and suddenly I'm needing to get up and find my own fingers again. I need coffee. A break. It's not easy allowing these characters to flow through you and come out your fingers. It's not easy.

I have to laugh. I think I've read and studied every good book on writing from here to eternity in the past twenty years. But nobody can teach you how to tell a great story. Don Maass has come about as close to anybody I've heard, but in the end ... I've learned it's almost a spiritual thing. My explanation is that we have to become somebody else.

We have go inside the man/woman/boy/girl/animal we're writing about. Look at the world from their eyes. A good storyteller can write it down and make it believable. But a great storyteller can become his or her character and make it real. I can only hope that in the end, that is my accomplishment.

One does not write to fulfill a fantasy. Or to become rich. A real writer writes until their eyes dim and burn, until their skin goes puckered and droopy, until their finger bones unhinge and scatter. Until they shrivel up and fade away. Take away a writer's pencil or keyboard, and you strip the soul away. A writer is many people, patiently waiting for their turn to tell their story. A real writer writes because if they don't, they go mad and become a conglomerate of all of the characters stored inside them.

That's it. It's how God made me. I can't help it. I plow my literary field and life goes on. Until one day when it stops. Hopefully, by then, every character inside of me will have had their chance to use my fingers.

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

No More Charlatans!

Slimy TV preachers (both men and women) who beg for money and then buy jets and gold toilets and subsidize their large families with six-figure incomes and estates … there’s no one to blame but their followers. Are folks really not aware of the oppulent lifestyles of the rich and religious? It boggles my mind when I see them on TV in huge arenas filled to capacity.

Charlatans! And it's not just southern preachers. These megachurches exist in every state!

Are you giving these people your hard-earned money?

Stop and think before you send in that tithe and love offering. Does God really need my money? Or does He really intend to test my faith on a regular basis by whether or not I give my last dime?

I swallowed that dogma for years and chased the feelings of eternal security until my feet were worn to bloody stubs.

Am I now an apostate? Have I forsaken the cross?


I learned that we cannot control God by "giving until it hurts." I've had it with folks praising God on camera and living like the devil when the house lights are turned off.
I've heard a TV preacher even go so far as to say … “Nobody living high on the hog around here!” Oh yeah? Hmmm. If a member of the congregation asked to review their books, would they open them freely? What about the jet parked at the airport? What about the millions spent on “mission” trips? Who benefits, really? Any idea how much that costs? Does a church really need millions every year to keep the electric on? The questions here are endless …

I guess another question is, who wins more souls? The little church with the white steeple down the street, or the gigantic church that covers several city blocks? The big, blustery televangelist or the quiet country preacher? Is one better than the other?
Seems to me we need to take a lesson from the new pope. Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis this year. Humble, the man cooks for himself, lives in a small apartment, and rides the city bus. It is said he has reigned-in the spending at the Vatican.

The following statement has explained away the sickening excess of some Pentecostal/charismatic ministries. I’ve heard it said numerous times. “God wants His people to have the best.” Um, no. Not at the expense of those who struggle to put food on the table. This could also be said another way. “God wants His Pastors to have the best.” That’s the way many evangelical churches have been run for the past few decades, and it’s time we said… ENOUGH.

Pastors have hopped on the Prosperity Message bandwagon over the years when they saw how much it added to their competitor’s bottom lines. But it’s way out of control. The guilt and shame they hold over your head, as if they're God with a big stick, it has to stop.

J. Lee Grady, who wrote Fire in My Bones in the May 2013 Charisma magazine said, “God opposes pride. Pompous religious display, ego-driven greed and Pentecostal popemobiles have no place in a Spirit-filled movement …”
He's right.

I think that’s the majority of televangelists these days.

No more bodyguards!
No more $10,000-per-night hotel rooms!
No more private jets!

No more Charlatans!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Middle Of The Book

Back in the ‘sixties when geezers over fifty drove DeSotos and watched Lawrence Welk and kids under twenty drove Volkswagen vans and painted peace signs on their faces and me and my sisters were the only ones on our block who wore bobby socks and saddle shoes, this girl moved two doors down with poker-straight hair and Bob Dylan records and no mother.

Well. Talk about your run-on sentence.

First sentences of any novel should do that. They should pin you to the wall and hold you like super-glue. A first sentence is filled with magic and pierces your heart or peaks your interest to the point that before you know it, you're five chapters in.

But what about the middle of the book? Doesn't it deserve the same?

Lately, I'm finding I've spent as much time on the arc of the story and the chapters following it as I have on that first sentence. Some novels I've read lately have left me flat in the middle. As if the writer had a great idea for the beginning and end, then just filled in the middle the best they could. Sometimes with paragraphs and chapters that have very little to do with the actual story. As a result, my eyes skim over a third of the middle just to find out what happens at the end.

I think the middle of any story should be every bit as thrilling as the beginning. It sometimes answers questions, agreed. Maybe even ties up a few loose ends. But a skilled writer knows how to up the ante, raise the stakes, and turn the tide in the middle pages in ways the reader never sees coming. A good writer can introduce a new character (another rule breaker) or change point of view all while keeping the tone and voice throughout. Keep me enthralled through page 200 and I'll be your biggest fan.

The middle should set up the ending without giving it away. But it's often the most overlooked. It is also where readers find giant pauses. A place they can stuff in their bookmark and put down the book. The question is, are they anxious to get back to it or do they hesitate to pick it back up again?

The middle of the story is where the heart is. Writers, by all means, pay attention to it. Give it as much love as the rest.

Blessings to you and yours.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Stainless Steel And Granite

I took some time off to regroup and spend precious moments with family. Now that I'm back to work, I'm finding myself overwhelmed with thoughts and ideas. The workload is heavy, but I'm slowly digging myself out. Getting organized is a process when leaving my desk for any length of time.

What has struck me funny the past couple of days is one, my blog is all over the place, and two ... I don't care. I blog when I can, when I have something to say, and I write only what's on my mind. Religion, current events, on writing, publishing, family matters, garage sales, or shopping for a new bra. I have no notion that folks follow me because I might have some awe-inspiring thing to say about writing or because I make them laugh with every blog. I don't. I know that. Blogging, for me, is a personal thing. My human emotions are up and down, and therefore ... so is my blog. It goes against all the current blogging rules, but again ... I've never been much for playing by the rules.

While I've been relaxing the past week or so, I've flipped on the TV a few times to watch my favorite HGTV shows. Once again, I'm astounded by the number of young couples buying homes with huge budgets. Couples who want (make the whining sound here) "granite" and "stainless steel." Couples who hate the color of the walls, the flooring, or that the two-car garage isn't "big enough." Michael and I shake our heads and laugh. Out loud.

Michael's first home was an apartment with no sink in the bathroom. They brushed their teeth in the kitchen. Michael shaved in the kitchen. Their tiny black and white TV sat on a cardboard box covered with a tablecloth. Rabbit ears. Need I say more?

My first home was a single-wide on wheels. I didn't have a color TV until sometime in the 1980s. Flatscreen? Not on your life. No such thing. Cable wasn't even invented yet. But we did have the latest gold linolium and shag carpet. Lord, we never replaced carpet when we moved to a new place, we just scrubbed the hell out of the old stuff.

Putting a roof over our heads and food on the table has always been priority number one. Having a decent car to drive and clothes on our backs was a struggle at times. In fact, I've never had granite. Or stainless steel. Or new furniture for that matter. Over my lifetime, I've purchased new mattresses, but that's about it. My furniture has all been second hand from my mother or my sisters or friends. I've done plenty of garage sale shopping in my lifetime, and have gone through more cans of spray paint than you can imagine.

So when I hear someone whine that the open-concept living isn't "big enough," ... I want to scream. And what's the deal with popcorn ceilings? I hate them, too, but for crying out loud. It's a roof over your head!

When did twenty-somethings start thinking they have to have the best of everything before their 30th birthday? When did "starter homes" become a thing of the past? Four bedrooms, three and a half baths? Are you kidding me? My son's crib stayed in the livingroom until he was two. There was nowhere else to put him. As far as I know, he's not had any trauma from it.

I think about the house I grew up in, how we only had one bathroom with no shower. Tub baths were the norm for us girls. Stainless steel appliances? Ha! My mother was happy when her oven worked. There was no dishwasher, except for me. Granite counter tops? White laminate with gold fleck. Not one family on my street had grainite counter tops.

What's wrong with a little struggle? Learn to appreciate even the small things in life, like an extra twenty bucks left over after the bills are paid, more than two pair of shoes, and eating out. What happened to us? Why are so wrapped up in labels and fancy cars? What's wrong with clothes from Kmart and keeping a car long enough to pay it off?

I'm wondering if I'm starting to sound like my grandmother and her "Great Depression" speeches. Still, I think we're spoiled. We've had it too good, and technology has changed us.

Look, there's nothing wrong with having it all. It's how you get it that matters the most.

I look back at the single-wide I lived in. It was nothing fancy, but it was clean and I was proud to pay that $100 a month rent. Those avocado-green kitchen appliances are long gone. It's been over 30 years since then. The road from there to here has been full of pot-holes and empty promises. I may not see my mansion until I walk through the Pearly Gates. Until then, I'm happy with my old farmhouse, my 2006 Honda, and shopping for bargains at Kohls. If there's one thing I've learned in my lifetime, happiness can't be found in stainless steel and granite.

Blessings to you and yours.

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 ...