Monday, November 14, 2011

Jump Start!

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned being a bit low because I didn't seem to be able to get any enthusiasm for PEACEWEAVER in its original storyline. I ranted and grumbled a bit...

...but then I did what I should've done from the get-go: contacted my awesome crit partner and vented on her. Janny did what the most brilliant crit partners do -- she promised to mull the story for a bit and try to come up with ways to make it marketable.

Well, let me tell you, she did over and above the call of any crit partner's duty. She sent me a reasoned, thoughtful, page and a half summary of where the plot might go if I revised it according to the publishers', and my agent's, recommendations.

Did I use the words "blindingly brilliant" yet?

I sat down, read it over, caught her vision instantly and began to rewrite. I had to gut the story almost from page 1, but I'm 75% done with the rewrite now and it's just perking along.

What I needed -- and what I would recommend to any of you who write -- is someone to take an objective look at the piece in terms of story, and suggest a solution that would get the fire burning once more. Janny did this. I re-caught the enthusiasm I had for the original version, and making it work for the rewrite.

Rejoice with me! Did I mention "blindingly brilliant" yet?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Guest Arrives!

...and is interviewed. The charming and talented Cindy Hickey dropped by to answer a few of my little questions regarding how/why she writes such fun, suspenseful books. Here's her take on it all:

Cindy, when you’re not writing, what do you like most to read?

Wow, I love reading romantic suspense. Something to keep me turning the pages and holding my breath. Something that makes me want to keep the light on.

If you didn’t write in your chosen genre, which would you write, and why?

My agent has decided I have a historical voice. This still makes me smile, as I never thought I’d write in that genre. So, I’ve several Historical Romance proposals out there. Of course, they all have a mystery or a touch of suspense in them.

Where do you see the Christian fiction market going in the near-term?

I see it expanding by leaps and bounds, even more so in the ebook market.

What has been your biggest challenge since you decided to seek publication?

Getting that foot in the door the first time. Persistence pays off. You must keep moving forward, day by day, inch by inch. Never give up.

Name a few of your favorite authors.

Brandilyn Collins, Dorothy Gabaldon, Dean Koontz, Julie Lessman.

Care to share a writing habit you cannot do without?

Have some chocolate with you! I tend to zone out into plotting land with some dark chocolate M&Ms at hand.

Thanks, Cindy, for giving us your insights. Of course, she forgot to name Kinnard, but I don't write suspense, so maybe that's the reason.

Here's a thumbnail of her recent book cover. Isn't it a honey?

Get Cindy's books at or at

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Back in the Box

Home from the ACFW conference this week, free to process what I heard and what I learned.

I don't usually share sorrows. But I'm in a heavy mood over this one. It's nothing serious -- my loved ones are in health and I've really nothing to complain over. But my dear-to-the-heart 973 Wales book is not going forward in its present form. The story I wanted to tell is not the story the publishers want.

I heard similar things from two editors. The summary I presented on the one sheet caused pursed lips and raised brows. I explained that my plot points were true to their time, but heard, "Yes, I'm sure they are, but our readers will not accept them."

Point: though young women often were given in marriage in their mid-teens, my heroine cannot be in her mid-teens. She has to be older. Readers will not accept a main character who's considered a grown woman and ready for marriage at 15.

Point: my girl's true love and her husband have to be the same person. The readers will not accept that she loves one man and must marry another for political reasons. This, too, was true to the age, but the readers will not accept it.

Get the drift? The story I wanted to tell, how a woman can triumph over stiff odds, can come to love the quest for peace, can come to terms with an unwanted husband...all that must be taken out.

The more outspoken of us Christian fic writers talk about "the box." This far and no further. Write this and not that. Show these characters and delete these others. Deal with these themes and not those. Some of us would love to kick the sides out of the box, and some, including people I'm proud to call friends, have kicked the sides with some success. I honor them for it.

But not this story, and not at this time. Back in the box, PEACEWEAVER. The readers don't want you. Or so I'm told. To pitch this project (hopefully with some success), I'm selling out to The Box. I'm gutting my story.

I feel sad about doing this. What will be left (and I'm 40 pages in to the rewrites) will not be the story I wanted to tell. It may be something more banal, something perhaps less interesting, something I might not want to read were it for sale in a store. I hope as I overtype my original manuscript that it will be a better book than its predecessor, but hoping is all I can do until I see what it becomes.

Many factors in this writing/publishing life are beyond my control. My story and how I tell it are the only things I can control. Heaven knows I'm trying for quality.

I'm not complaining that the market is as it is. My wail is over the fact that it cannot be allowed to spread to cover a little wider span.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Readers with Short Attention Spans, Beware

...'cause this will be a longer post than usual.

I'm reading everywhere that the publishing industry is changing. This is no great surprise -- it's been in the process of changing since Urgh the Neanderthal first chiseled his name on a rock (don't worry, it's okay, he didn't get an advance either). What interests me is the speed at which change is happening; the anguish some folks seem to feel that their crystal ball won't tell them exactly where it's going; the all-of-a-sudden respect e-publishing has gained in some quarters; and the apparent desire of the print industry to either ignore it all or figure out how to keep the print market exactly as it is today.

Speed of change: it's mind-numbing. When I sold my first e-book in 2002, people asked me when it was going to be a "real" (i.e., print-and-paper) book. They also intimated that I should come back and talk about my writing when I'd made a real sale, that meaning a sale to a real, live publishing house with a New York City address. What could one do but grit the teeth and say something on the order of: "It's a real book because I have a real contract and they send me real royalty checks."

Fast forward 9 years. Now according to their own blogs, many established authors who've sold to the same real, live NYC publishing houses are embracing e-books: so much so that they're going direct-to-reader and e-publishing on their own. From one level of ignominy to another! What are they thinking?

Easy. Why let a publisher keep between 92% and 65% of the monies earned when you can keep a higher percentage yourself? Granted, these direct authors have costs: they must buy editing, cover design, and perhaps set-up. But once these costs are cleared, all the proceeds are the author's. Given the right kind of name out there with readers, why wouldn't they go this route?

Speed of change, yes.

Anguish? You betcha. It's out there. People who used to sniff at e-books are now having their stuff released that way. Sometimes the e-version releases simultaneously with the print version, sometimes not. I have resolved to be gracious and not ask any of these folks whether their e-version is a real book....

Scrambling: One author who recently signed a contract with an advance I wouldn't turn up my nose at, is now being told that since she went direct to readers and self-pubbed short stories that house had already rejected, she's in breach of her contract and must give the money back. I wouldn't want this kerfuffle for the biggest advance on the planet. I sense some frantic thinking on the part of this (unnamed) house: "Oh, no! We can't put a stranglehold on our authors' work anymore. What then must we do?" And some beancounter decides, "We won't let her get away with this! We'll yank her contract."

The truth is that nobody really knows how this is going to shake out. People who are taking their work direct to their readers are likely braver than I am.

But I find myself thinking about it.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Conflicting Projects, Conflicting Emotions

Writer's angst. Which of us hasn't experienced it?

My conundrum: I'm told my medievals aren't wanted. They won't sell. To make matters worse, instead of working on something that may sell, I've got a first century story niggling at my brain, trying to get out.

So what am I doing on these writing-Wednesdays? Working on the third medieval time-travel story, which I'm told will never see the light of day.

It's going very, very well -- probably because nobody but me will ever glimpse it.

Discouraged? You bet.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

No Post for a While, and Why That's a Good Thing

It's a good thing because I'm pleased to say I finished writing PEACEWEAVER! Yes, you heard me -- the 973 Wales book is done. For a brief period I thought I might never hit the ending. Then once I did, I was strongly tempted to change it.

"Don't," said Janny, my superlative and wonderfully honest crit partner. "It's a boffo ending. Touch it, and I get out the Righteous Nerf Bat."

I obeyed, of course.

In other news, I had a book I won't name, submitted for review. I was anxious to read it, since it's set in medieval England. But I bailed 40 pages in. Why?

Anachronism. Flaming, yank-you-out-of-story anachronism. Words and concepts that didn't exist until the 20th century, inserted into the 14th. Sorry. No excuse. There exist ample sites to research when a word or concept came into general use. I won't be finishing the book, no matter how keen I was to read it. Unfortunately, the author made finishing it impossible for this reader.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Your Saturday Free Teaser

Today I'm delighted to post the first few words, just to whet your appetite, for my friend Nike Chillemi's book BURNING HEARTS. Love it, go get it (from Desert Breeze Publishing).

Long Island, New York
September 1946

Erica Brogna hurried down Hill Street, eager to sketch her new design, a forest green taffeta dress with a swirling skirt for a twenty-fifth wedding anniversary -- her first significant assignment. She paused to inhale the salt scent on the ocean breeze, and her gaze lingered on a copse of red, rust, and gold maples near Ada's house and dress shop.
She smiled, pulling her cardigan tight around her, and dropped the newspaper Poppa asked her to bring to her mentor and employer. She retrieved the paper and saw Bess Truman smiling as she entered Walter Reed Army Hospital. With the war over, the First Lady visited broken soldiers in long-term care. Erica slapped the paper closed before rage and depression overtook her. So many boys had not come home.
Chin jutted out, she smoothed the pleats of her skirt and marched toward Ada's house. She'd think on pleasant things and hand the paper over without a fuss as she did every morning. Nothing would ruin this day.
She climbed Ada's wooden front steps and opened the door.
Smoke filled the living room Ada had turned into a fabric shop. Erica waved a hand in front of tearing eyes. Gray vapors, like swirling fog, partially obscured bolts of fabric stacked against the opposite wall.
"Ada! Ada, answer me please." Dropping the newspaper, Erica rushed toward the stairs, trampling Bess Truman's image. "Ada can you hear me?"
Coughing, she grabbed on to the cutting table in the middle of the room, steadied herself, and reached for the phone -- no dial tone. Perhaps the fire melted the line.
She yanked the collar of her blouse over her nose and mouth against the smoke. The stairs loomed before her, seeming as impossible to scale as Mount Everest. She lunged forward, gripping the baluster, and thrust herself up two steps. Since Ada wasn't outside, she had to be upstairs.
As Erica climbed, the smoke thickened and swirled around her. It was darker with each step.
One hand clasped the rail and pulled, and she advanced a few more steps. Heat blasted against her skin from above, and soft crackling sounds drew her gaze to the upstairs landing. Squinting into the smoke, she lost her grip on the banister, missed the next step, and fell backward tumbling to the bottom.
The back of her head smacked against the baluster, and wooziness followed sharp pain. She tried to stand but couldn't get her bearings.
Will triumphed over ability. She hoisted herself, ignoring the dull throb at the back of her skull. Her palms stung, the skin scraped off during her fall. She took a deep breath, and a coughing fit seized her. Shallow breaths were the better alternative.
Planting her penny loafer on the bottom step, Erica began her climb again, shaken but with new resolve. If she could reach the top of the stairs, she could also make it to Ada's bedroom.
Halfway up, the scratches on her palms pulsated as the temperature rose. So did her knees -- must've scraped those, too. The pungent smoke shrouding her darkened, and grit clung to her skin. She couldn't see the banister or the top of the stairs and each breath took effort.
Poppa's lectures on fire drills flashed into mind -- stay low in a fire to get fresh air. She dropped to her knees and crawled, ignoring her pain. A sickening smell made her stomach lurch.
Inch by inch she crept, now three quarters of the way up. Hot, putrid air assaulted her windpipe, and she doubled over, her insides trembling.
Heaving herself forward, she maneuvered up one more step, but the smoke pushed back, choking her. She sobbed, knowing she couldn't make it to Ada, and scrambled down, hoping she could find help.

Good stuff, eh?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Two Bits of Good News

My super crit partner, Janet Butler, has sold her VOICE OF INNOCENCE to Desert Breeze Publishing! Yay! This was/is the book she calls her "400 lb. gorilla" though I think by now it's gained some weight. Sure it is that it's found its wings! Congratulations, Janny.

Today also I wrestled the 973 Wales book, PEACEWEAVER, into submission and sent the proposal on to my agent. Now begins the bane of the publishing industry--the wait. Pray for me. Patience is not my greatest strength.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


In brief, this isn't the dirty word it was even a few years ago. It's gaining credibility, slowly for certain, but steadily. I'll admit to being a tad bit bemused by the whole model -- and even more so by the dialogue swirling around it. Should an author ever consider putting his/her work "out there" for the world to see, sans agent, acquisitions editor, publishing house, marketing department, sales force, distributor, bookstore? Or should we in Christian fiction still consider this business model as little better than anathema?

If you're looking for solid answers, I haven't any. I may come to some, in time. Certainly I'm reading the recent posts on the ACFW loop with great interest. Authors I respect are turning to self-pubbing for: out of print books to which the rights have reverted; works for which there's a limited audience and a platform to give them presence; books that cannot and will not fit into mainstream Christian publishing no matter how excellent their content.

I have several books in the bottom drawer, which fall into this last category. One that I truly love has as its central theme domestic violence. Don't worry--it all happens off-screen, since it's told from the point of view of the man who tries to help an old female friend who's the survivor of this violence. An edgy story, probably, though I've tried to handle everything with grace, nothing gratuitously, and adhere to Christian morals. However, though I've run it by my agent, I've never tried to pitch it.

Will this ever be number one on a publisher's wish-to-acquire list? Probably not. I've mulled self-pubbing this one primarily, plus one or two others that are finished and ready, over time. They definitely won't fit in any Christian publisher with whom I'm connected or would like to be connected. I trust my agent when she says, "No sale," on these. But could they find their feet in a market without the traditional gatekeepers who protect us from the unusual, the edgy, the out-of-the-box?

No answer yet. I'm still mulling. If I decide one of these can fly, you'll be among the first to know. Sure wish I knew!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Gotta Crow!

Pleased to announce that SEASONS IN THE MIST won this year's (2010) Grace Award in the speculative fiction category! I'm more honored than I can say. The Grace Award is an inclusive, reader-nominated, reader-voted award that spreads its arms to welcome small press, large press, e-published, and self-published works in Christian fiction. There's a lot of work out there that never gets attention from the more mainstream awards. So I'm cranked and thrilled!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Off With Her Head!

Sorry. Not literally. You see, Anmair of north Wales, the heroine of my 973 tale PEACEWEAVER, has gone and gotten herself captured by Vikings.

"What!" you say. "The Vikings raided in England and France, right? Not Wales!"

Au contraire.
They did indeed raid in Wales and for a while, were allowed to spend the winters on the island of Anglesey (a.k.a. Mona) off the northwest tip of the country. From this base they could sally forth every spring in their usual Viking hobbies of rape, pillage and destruction. Not nice fellas, these ancestors of mine.

Anyway, Anmair has been taken away to the Viking enclave near Dublin, Ireland, with the leader's intention to sell her and a few others as slaves. Wouldn't ya know it? His minions come down with the measles and the leader is cursing his bad luck. Has Odin turned his face against them all? Anmair rashly promises to help the measly horde and the leader promises that if she can't, if even one of his men dies, he'll offer her in sacrifice to the All Father, Odin. Only that way can he hope to turn his run of bad luck to good.

It's tense, all right. What will Anmair do to keep herself from being served up to Odin? I really have no idea. She has boldly told the leader that only the true God can be of help in dire situations, and she'll prove His power by saving the raiders. Can she do this? I don't know. Measles is no joke in adult patients. Does one of them succumb? Stay tuned -- our dauntless (so far, anyway) heroine is in a Viking longship load of trouble this time.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Focus is a Good Thing

I recently finished reading Jean Auel's THE LAND OF PAINTED CAVES, which continues the story of Cave Wonder Woman Ayla and her Hunk Muffin Mate. 755 pages. 300 could've been edited out and done the book no harm whatsoever, in my opinion.

The core problem? Failure to focus. Storytelling is a lovely pastime, but it cannot amble down every last tangential path. Some novelists seem to enjoy rabbiting away down this side route or that narrow opening into who-knows-where.

Not my thing. I'm still working on the first draft of PEACEWEAVER, my 974 Wales romance, and my biggest challenge is to stay on target. Stay focused. Tell the story I'm meant to tell and not follow these characters down too many cattle-paths. It's tempting. I know. I've been there. My books are better when I can dwell on one conflict, one main plot, one set of characters, and not wander all over the landscape, attractive as that is.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Shot to the Foot

You who drop into my blog with your "reader" hat on can cheerfully ignore the following. 'Fraid it's not for you, but for the rest of us, and in the nature of a rant.

I'm grieved to report that, once again, an otherwise well-meaning writers' group has shot itself in the foot. Ergo, all of a sudden, and with no prior warning, e-publishers have been deleted from an "Approved Publisher" list.

Now, before you think, "Oh, she must be talking about the RWA!" be assured I'm not.

I might as well be.

If you go back a few years in the RWA, you'll recall how some e-publishers fought to have their books recognized as "real" books, and their authors as real authors, and those authors' sales as real sales. What went down? You guessed right. Once several of these publishers came close to meeting the criteria, the criteria were arbitrarily changed to make it more difficult.

One envisions the Big Names in romance at the time breathing a sigh of relief. After all, those nasty little e-books were not going to compete with the real books! Le sigh...

Now another organization has followed suit.

Why should I care? you as a reader ask. You're right -- this infighting is among authors and publishers, basically a cupboard storm and not interesting to the readers. However, from where I sit it seems that whenever a voluntary group acts to the detriment of a subsection of its members, it has repercussions down the line.

What, then, must we do?

My stance at present is to let this simmer down a bit. I considered opting out of the organization, but then (for all its foibles) I will not be in a position to work gently for positive change. That's my choice, for now. It may not be later.

Meanwhile, let me state that I'm honored that Desert Breeze Publishing considers my work worthy of attention. They've just agreed to reissue my 2002 title, POWERLINE, and I couldn't be happier, regardless of what certain small minded writers' groups think of that.