Wednesday, September 29, 2010

On My Nightstand - A Promise to Remember by Kathryn Cushman

Two families face the unbearable agony of losing their sons in a car crash. Two women from opposite worlds deal with their grief.

Andie Phelps has it all. A successful husband, a loving son, and charity work fill out her busy life. Melanie Johnston, a single mom, works hard to keep a roof over her son and daughter's heads. One terrible moment changes their lives forever.

Melanie seeks a legacy for her son, while Andie tries to find a reason to go on living. Will they each succeed or destroy their lives in the process?

Kathryn Cushman handles the complicated dynamics of working through loss, forgiveness, and love with the delicacy of a brain surgeon. Her characters are well defined, passionate, and sensitive.

I reached for the Kleenex often, especially toward the end of the book. Having experienced the loss of my husband, her descriptions rang true and yet brought comfort. Writers and readers will both enjoy the rich, emotional nuances of this book.

Disclaimer: Neither the publisher (Bethany House) or the author gave me any payment for this recommendation.

Question for you: Have you read any books lately that moved you to tears? Please share with us.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Homerun Hitter

My Dad and Grandpa were rabid baseball fans. With one TV in the house, you can guess what occupied the 12" screen on a regular basis. In self-defense I learned the game.

The menfolk often regaled anyone who would listen to tales about the Yankee baseball greats. One that stands out in my mind is Herman "Babe" Ruth, a.k.a., The Sultan of Swat and The Bambino.

When Babe came up to the plate, pitchers quaked. They often gave him a base on balls, so they wouldn't have to pitch to him. The opposing team knew Babe would be swinging his mighty bat. Yet, while he hit a lot of homeruns, he also struck out more than most hitters.

As writers, every time we send out a query letter, a proposal, or meet an editor or agent, we're swinging our writing bat. A lot of times we strike out, but sometimes we get a hit. All of us dream of the day when we'll hit that homerun and come home with a book deal.

Babe worked hard, practicing and playing the game. He swung that bat and gave it his best shot. How about you? Are you in the game? Are you giving it your best effort when an opportunity comes your way? You may strike out a lot, but one of these days you may hit the ball out of the park.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Winner of No Greater Love by Kathi Macias

The winner of "No Greater Love" by Kathi Macias is...MARIA MORGAN!

Congratulations, Maria. Please send me your snail mail address via email. I'll forward it to Kathi, and she'll send the book to you.

Thanks to all who entered the giveaway. Watch for more in the future.

A special thanks to Kathi for a great interview and her generosity.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Round-Up - #124

John Robert Marlowe discusses false starts, late deaths, and appearances.

Shopping your manuscript around? Heather Sunseri tackles the subject of why we need a synopsis and how to write one.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Author Interview & Giveaway - Kathi Macias - Part II

Welcome to Part II of our interview with Kathi Macias. Be sure to check out the giveaway details at the bottom of this post. Kathi will give a copy of her book, "No Greater Love," to the winner of our drawing.

4) What advice would you give writers, who love both fiction and non-fiction writing? I'm sometimes torn between the two.

Good writers are often torn between the two, I believe. People often ask me which of my books is my favorite, and I answer that it's the one I'm working on at the time. Of course, it's easier to write with passion about the issues you care most about, but whether fiction or nonfiction, if  you approach the subject from a "people perspective," it takes on a deeper meaning. My fiction stories always unfold through my characters (the plot is almost secondary), and my nonfiction comes to life with personal examples (my own and other people's).

My advice? Study people. Learn how to bring them to life, to make them breathe, to help your readers care about them. That's the most important thing a writer can do to connect with his/her readers.

5) Your book, "No Greater Love," has a depth that's rare in fiction. Do you start with a theme and write your story around it? We'd love to hear about your process.

I usually start with a main character or two and the issue he/she is facing. In No Greater Love (which really is my all-time favorite of all my books!), I started with a thought way back in the 1980s, as I watched the violence and upheaval unfold in South Africa just prior to the release of Nelson mandela from prison and the overthrow of Apartheid. I found myself wondering what it would be like to be a true believer in Christ caught up in the middle of all that. And then I took it to the next step: What if someone considered himself both a Christian and yet one who believed in/supported Apartheid (as many did at the time)? And what if that same person fell in love with a young woman who was a devout follower of the ANIC (African National Congress, led by Mandela)? What would happen if their forbidden attraction/romance led them both to examine and question everything they'd ever believed or practiced? What would be the result?

More than twenty years later, No Greater Love has become a reality. Though I've received rave reviews on it, my greatest compliment came from a young high school student who said to me, "I loved your book. It made me want to be noble." Oh, that God has allowed me to be part of something like that brings tears to my eyes--and keeps my nose to the grindstone when I want to throw in the towel and go do something else! God calls us for His purpose--and for His glory. And so we  press on.

Thanks, Kathi, for a thought-provoking interview and for offering your book.

Giveaway Details: Please leave a comment and your email address. No email = no entry! If you are a Follower or become a Follower, you will receive an additional entry. Please let me no in your comment if you're a Follower.

If you haven't already commented on Part I of the interview (9/15/10), hop over there and comment for a second or third entry. If you're a Follower or become a Follower, please let me know.
Deadline: Saturday, September 25, 2010, at midnight. The winner will be chosen in a random drawing on Sunday, September 26, 2010 and notified via email. I'll also post the winner on the blog. When I receive the winner's snail mail address, I'll forward it to Kathi, and she will send you No Greater Love.

The contest is open to U.S. residents only and void where prohibited.

Disclaimer: I did not receive any payment for this interview or book recommendation. Contest is void where prohibited, and the winner is responsible for their eligibility.

Questions for you:  Do you ever feel torn between genres or fiction and nonfiction? Please share.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Seat of the Pants or Plotter?

It's no secret. I'm a Seat-of-the-Pants Writer, and a card carrying member of their club.

I must confess, however, that I'm a bit jealous of plotters and how they zip through writing their books. What a pleasurable experience to know your middle won't fall flat like a bad souffle.

Is there a happy middle ground where SOTP and plotting can co-exist in the heart of a writer? Where can I find such a prototype? Duh. Where do I go for wisdom in all areas of my life? God's Word and prayer have always brought the answers I need.

One of my greatest fears with plotting: the squelching of creativity. Yet when I look at God's Word, it says He had a plan from before the foundation of the world. The history of man as seen in the Bible is a stunning tribute to God's creativity. Like Him, we are faced with people taking unwanted twists and turns and an enemy, who wants to destroy the finished product. Yet, He keeps the plan, the desired end before Him, while bringing redemption to our disasters and foiling the enemy's agenda.

Somehow, some way, I'll plan my books without it turning into a lifeless memorial to my knowledge. Excellence shall be married to His life-changing Spirit that fills out the details and the nuances of story. How will this happen? I don't know, but I'll follow His path. I don't need to stress about it because I'm on assignment from Him.

How do you keep the creativity flowing if you're a plotter? Pantsers, please share your insights on the issue. Do you think plotting and pantsing are two sides of the same coin? Readers: What kind of stories get under your skin, and bring transformation to your life? I'd like to know.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Round-Up - #123

Does your work suffer from too much description? Casey, at The Writers Alley, gives a hilarious, but pointed, example of over description.

Kathryn Lang, at Author Haven, shares what she learned from her geometry teacher.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Author Interview & Giveaway - Kathi Macias - Part I

Kathi Macias is a popular speaker and Bible teacher, a blogtalkradio host, and an award-winning author of more than 30 books, including the Extreme Devotion series from New Hope Publishers and Valeria's Cross from Abingdon Press. A wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, Kathi lives in Southern California with her husband, Al, where the two of them spend their free time riding Al's Harley--hence, Kathi's "road name" of Easy Writer!

Since reading and recommending Kathi's book, "No Greater Love," I've wanted to interview her. Although we didn't connect at the Greater Philadelphia Writers Conference, I did pick up the CD of her workshop on "Issues With Fiction." Kathi is sponsoring a giveaway of "No Greater Love." Be sure to check out the details below.

1) Hi Kathi, thanks for joining us at Christian Writer/Reader Connection! I've been listening to your CD from the Philly Conference. You talk about issues-related fiction. Could you define this term and tell us how it became your passion?

Though I have written nonfiction and fiction almost equally, for a long time it was a real tough sell to get contracts for Christian fiction. That has changed over the last couple of decades, and I now find that my agent is able to land fiction contracts for me even easier than nonfiction.

I suppose I gravitated toward what I call issues-related fiction (stories based on true-life events and hot-button, often controversial topics) because that's what I care about and wht I like to read. I will always choose novels that deal with social issues over the standard romance or suspense novels that don't include such issues. I need more than just a good story to keep me interested! I want something that challenges me to change for the better! As a result, that's the type of fiction I choose to write.

2) You've helped a number of people write their stories. How did you break into this field?

I started out (MANY years ago!) writing a weekly newspaper column and doing some string reporting for them. That meant I wasn't really on their regular staff, but if something came up in my area and they didn't have a regular staff member who could cover it, they sent me. I seemed best at doing human interest pieces, and soon found that I was a natural at interviewing people and writing their stories--either in the third-person as a reporter or in the first-person as a ghostwriter/collaborator.

I believe that not only my journalism training but my interest in drama helped me most with that. Taking some drama classes and acting in a few stage plays enabled me to know how to "crawl inside someone's skin" and write from another perspective/viewpoint.

3) What are some of the steps you take when writing someone else's story? Do  you shadow them, interview them, etc.?

Lots of interview time--either in person and/or on the phone and email, etc. I gather all the written information that's available and study it. I also like to hear tapes of them s peaking, particularly if I can't spend a lot of time with them face-to-face. That helps me adopt their speech patterns so I can more easily write in their voice.

Giveaway Details:  Please leave a comment with your email address. No email = No entry!

You can receive an extra entry if you're a Follower or become a Follower of Christian Writer/Reader Connection. Please tell me in your comment if you're a Follower.

If you comment on Part II of the interview and leave your email address, you'll receive a third entry.

Only residents of the U.S. are eligible for the contest. The contest is void where prohibited.

Deadline: Saturday, September 26, 2010, at midnight. The winner will be drawn on Sunday, September 27th, and notified by email. I will also post the winner on the blog on Sunday, September 27th. When you send me your snail mail address, I will forward it to Kathi. She will send you the book.

Questions for you:  Have you ever interviewed someone? How did you prepare for the interview? Please share.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Light Came On

I can't tell you the exact moment it happened, but I'm glad it did. For six years, I'd been attending the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference and fighting my enemy, fear. Several times, I considered attending the workshops and skipping the whole editor/agent thing. While the non-fiction area flowed along, fiction left me bruised from hitting an invisible brick wall.

A couple of months prior to the conference, I spoke with a writer friend. When I explained the brain freeze and confusion, she gave me several tips:

1) Forget about selling your book at the conference. It isn't going to happen. An editor or agent might show interest and ask for a partial or full manuscript, but no one would commit to a contract.

2) If the editor/agent isn't interested or their house doesn't publish your material, ask them to suggest another publisher.

3) Ask them about market trends.

4) A conference is about building relationships. Get to know them as people. Pray for them and encourage them.

Some of the tension left me after that phone conversation, but I still didn't quite get it. I kept reminding myself of this excellent advice throughout the conference.

As the first day progressed, it looked like my book was doomed. No one wanted to touch futuristic fiction. I'm talking non-Sci-Fi, but definitely set a few years out from now. By the third day of the conference, I wanted to cancel my last appointment. My friend, Clare, urged me to go and explain the situation to the agent.

To my great surprise, he wasn't negative about the genre. He questioned me whether or not I'd researched the marketability of my book. I think my passion came through when I told him I'd been working on these manuscripts for years; the first book is the book of my heart. I had to write it. He said he liked my first paragraph (first paragraphs are CRITICAL!) and requested the full manuscript. Afterward, I wondered if he just felt sorry for me.

Several days later, I read an article on Camy Tang's, "Story Sensei," about agents. She urged the writer to send whatever an agent requests because they don't have time to gather manuscripts or proposals they really don't want. This got me past the whole, "maybe he didn't really want it" thinking.

Before I went to the conference, I prayed the Lord would give me favor and make the right connections. Here I'd been handed a golden opportunity. Was I going to throw it away? I purposely told people, not because I wanted to brag, but because I was afraid I'd chicken out. I'm reminded of a teacher's saying, "do it afraid." So, I did it afraid. Maybe this will be the beginning of a big break; maybe not. My job is to produce the best possible manuscript and trust God with the results.

Are you ready "to do it afraid?" Do you have any stories where you almost missed a great opportunity?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Round-Up - #122

Laurel, at Laurel's Leaves, talks about a writer's worst enemy.

Stephanie Grace Whitson, at Footnotes from History, discusses the dangers of layering present-day viewpoints onto other historical timeframes. Fascinating!
Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

On My Nightstand - Beyond This Moment by Tamera Alexander

Dr. Molly Whitcomb, Professor of Romance Languages, is banished to the Colorado Territory. Teaching children is a far cry from her university-level experience, but she hopes to salvage what's left of her life. Self-preservation motivates her to choose an elaborate charade, but what will happen when the truth is revealed?

Sheriff James McPherson can read people pretty well. Something about Molly doesn't ring true with him, but he's fascinated by this Georgia beauty. When she tells him the truth, he's forced to confront his own secret past.

Tamera Alexander, a masterful storyteller, starts this story off with a bang. Set in the Colorado Rockies, the plot emphasizes forgiveness, redemption, and second chances at life.

With well-developed, sympathetic main characters, I wanted to read without stopping. My schedule prevented this from happening, which heightened my efforts to find time. Be forewarned, block out some time. You won't want to put this historical romance down.

What's your favorite historical timeframe? 1800's? Revolutionary War? Civil War? Ancient history? European? Medieval?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Philly Conference Report - Part III

The Agents' Panel yielded some interesting facts.
1. Their lives impact what they represent. If they're dealing with a serious issue in their families, the last thing they want is a book on that subject.
2. On choosing an agent - look at the agent's bio, what they've sold, who they represent.
3. Send out to many agents. Pray over what you're doing.
4. Comparative analysis is VERY important for non-fiction, but not so much for fiction.
5. Comparative analysis should include: How is it similar? How is it different? Compare to something well known. Give the date published, book name, info about it.
6. Most publishing houses automatically cut the agent/author checks.
I could probably write posts for the next year about all I learned at this conference. I'll have a smattering of information throughout the coming weeks, including some profound quotes.
What have you learned at conferences or from sending queries/proposals to agents and editors?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Announcing a New Blog!

Announcing the "birth" of a new blog, Susie's Sandbox! Like an unexpected pregnancy, this one took me by surprise. You can read the story here.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I'll talk about things I like to do, money-saving tips around the Net, and anything else that catches my eye.

I hope you'll stop by and comment.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Friday Round-Up - #121

Debbie Roome, at PixnPens, gives a simple principle on word association.
Crystal Laine Miller, at Christian Book Scout, talks about writing with a grateful heart. She shares an amazing story about author, Tom Clancy.
Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

This & That - #7

I'm behind on my reading, so I thought we'd take a look at some fun and practical websites.

A friend tipped me off about a great, money-saving website called, "Hip2Save."Collin Morgan, military wife and mom to three children, shares deals she's found across the Internet.

Crystal Paine, at Money Saving Mom, not only has deals, but articles on being a better home economist.

Thanks to these two ladies, I've discovered some offers I would never have found on my own. How about you? Do you use coupons or frequent websites that talk about managing money?

Ah, and now for an award:

Thanks to Karen Lange, at Write Now, for this award. I'm a big fan of her blog, and I hope you'll visit her.

Terri Tiffany always manages to reach the heart with her blog posts. So, Terri, I'm giving this award to you.