Sunday, July 12, 2015

Ever Had One of Those Days? (PLUS a big announcement!)

This is joyous little Molly chasing bubbles.
This is what I looked like that day--well,
not exactly, since I'm older, taller, a tad,
well ... not so ... uh, slim, and I seldom run
around the yard chasing bubbles anymore.
Other than that, you're looking at ME!
Some days are just better than others. Most days start out normally enough--I get up, get myself ready, drink my coffee, feed Molly (my 3-year-old granddaughter) her breakfast as her mom and dad leave for school and work, dress her in fresh clothes, etc. If it happens to be a day when my son-in-law or daughter are home, the Molly chores are relegated to them and I'm free to write, tweet, blog, email, edit, Facebook, and perform all the other myriad duties of a writer.

Yesterday was one of those days.

Once at my desk, I found myself once more wending my way through the mine-littered jungle of social media marketing that's taken its toll on me recently. I've been reduced to a whimpering, quivering, complaining ball of self-pity. Just when I think I've mastered one form of media, another pops up, and I'm forced to learn its particular ins and outs. My publisher and writing cohorts have witnessed my slow, but gradual introduction to Twitter, and if not for them, I'd have given up and crawled into a corner. I haven't been shy, either, about confessing my frustrations, but some days I find I learn a little more about "stuff" and a lot more about myself.

Yesterday was one of those days.

It occurred to me, fresh from yet another rant, that I was belittling something writers would've given their comfy computer chair for just a few years ago. In the 80s, I think email was the closest most writers could come to marketing their books without spending money, other than what they paid to have internet service. Once in a while, a writer would create a newsletter but for the most part those were read mostly by family and close friends. With the onset of the internet for both home and business use (gasp!), our reach expanded world-wide, but unless you had a website (and believe me, I didn't), there was little you could do but buy an ad on the internet or use your trusty email list. In the 50s, not that I remember them in any detail, mind you, computers were the stuff of science fiction and a computer or two in most homes (in countries where circumstances allowed it) was off-the-charts crazy. No way, no how. If you had a book published and your publisher didn't do all the marketing, you had to buy ads for newspapers or magazines. Some days I think about things a little more deeply.

Yesterday was one of those days.

I realized that as frustrating as learning (and in some cases, relearning) Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, websites and other media forms with which I'm not familiar can be, they are all free. Can you imagine how thrilled we'd be if after paying for these wonderful tools for marketing, advertising, creating relationships, making contacts, keeping in touch with friends, colleges, and family members, they were suddenly declared free? If after spending money on marketing--money that most of us don't have to throw around--the powers-that-be declared that from now on we could garner world-wide attention to our work at no cost. Some days I come to my senses.

Yesterday was one of those days.

To top off my victory against my fear of social media and the resulting pity parties, I was invited to appear on Atlanta's WATC, Channel 57, for an interview about my upcoming Christian novel, Misstep. Talk about one of those days! When I'd whooped and hollered and danced around long enough (please see above picture), my publisher, Tracy Ruckman of Write Integrity Press, and I talked about this God-granted opportunity. Fortunately, the edits for Misstep were nearly complete, so she was able to send them to me immediately. At long last, my book will be published! And following Misstep, will come the 2nd and 3rd books of the Road's End series--Faux Pas and Misjudge. Yes, some days are better than others.

And yesterday was one of those days.

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Only Thing We Have to Fear is... Getting It All Wrong

I know many of you long for the freedom (uh... nope), ease (yeah, right), and wealth (hahahaha) of all writers everywhere, and think the life of said writer is one long session of retiring to our garrets, drinking copious amounts of coffee and other caffeine-laden drinks, staring out the window at the scenery beyond, and making things up. Let me set you straight.

Aside from that freedom, ease, and wealth baloney, you're... absolutely right! That's exactly what we do. It's not so cut and dry for the non-fiction writers among us, of course, but for those of us writing fiction, it's just that simple.

Or is it? Let me explain.


This is not, I repeat not what the window looks
like in my garret. It is pretty, though, isn't it?
It's actually the window in a church
in Maine near Acadia National Park. 
Yes, we retire to our "garret," which in most cases is not up a long, winding, stone stairway to a tiny room at the top of a tall tower with a window that faces the east when we want to see a sunrise and the west when we want to watch a sunset (it's a magic window), but rather anyplace we can find to plunk down our computer. It might be one of those fancy "office garrets,' or a simpler "couch garret." It might be a comfortable "bed garret," or an uncomfortable "bathroom garret." Of course, there are the ever-popular "Starbucks" and "Barnes and Noble" garrets where you'll find several writers using the same garret you are. (Have I used the word "garret" enough, or would you like me to expound on that topic a bit longer? No? Okay.)

Moving on. Yes, we often drink coffee. Or tea. Or wine. That's why Starbucks and Barnes and Noble are so popular for writing. However, taking your computer to a wine-tasting event is often frowned upon, and you have to keep moving around to different wine stores because they won't let you come in a second time, but at least the drinks are free.

And we do stare out the window, unless we're in the bathroom and have to stand on the edge of the bathtub to look out one of those skinny, rectangular, frosted windows and find out we can't see anything anyway, so we might as well not try because sure as shootin', we'll break a leg trying.

Lastly, we do make things up. To a point. Our imaginations are our best friends during our writing sessions, but even making things up requires diligence and hard work lest we screw things up. I once attributed the quote, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself," to Winston Churchill, and was chastised (none too gently, I might add) and told it was actually Franklin Delano Roosevelt who used those stirring words. Using the wrong colloquialisms for the period is another problem historical book writers have to worry about. For instance, having your knight from the Crusades saying, "Hot dang, that was close!" isn't going to cut it. Even readers with little or no knowledge of ancient languages know that knights would more likely have said, "Hot dangeth, that was nearbyeth!"

In short, writers of any genre--with the exception of speculative or science fiction--have to stay true to the period, geography, language, dress, and historical events that were/are indicative of the location and period we're writing about. We don't want to jar our readers with a glaring inaccuracy... like a wrongly-attributed famous quote, for instance (not that I would know anything about that). We strive to make our job of making things up a pleasure for our readers no matter what or where we've placed our characters.

We just don't plunk them into the bathroom at a wine-tasting event.

Until the next time...


Monday, May 18, 2015

Michael and Me

What on earth, you ask, do Michael W. Smith (internationally-known musician, composer, and singer) and I (an author known to my immediate family, mother, and grandmother) have in common? (Well, maybe you didn't actually say it, but humor me.) Plenty, I reply, plenty. And here's the proof:

Michael W. Smith is as kind and considerate in real life
as his songs are soul-inspiring and joyful when he performs them.
It's a joy to know a favorite entertainer is just
what we hope they are.
A picture!

Yes, that's me with Michael's arm on my shoulder. Even though I look like one of those life-sized cardboard cutouts, and I'm paler than most snow drifts, that's me standing next to the great (and incredibly handsome) Michael W. Smith at a meet-and-greet just before his concert on Sunday, May 10th. Since meeting him, I've been completely blown away by how much we have in common.

1.  Michael and I were both at the World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on the evening of Sunday, May 10, 2015! Can you believe the coincidence? Yes, he was there to do a concert with the talented and insanely beautiful Amy Grant, and yes, I was there for the concert, but still... both of us there at the same time? What are the chances? (Pretty darned good, since we bought the tickets a millisecond after they went on sale.)

Here I am looking nowhere near as beautiful as Amy Grant,
who is not only talented beyond belief, but sweet and funny
in real life. 
2.  Michael is married and his wife's name is...are you ready for this?... Deborah!(My name is Deborah!)

3.  Michael was born in October and I was born in November! (Just one month apart and maybe a year or two (okay, a few years) apart, but hey, it's still pretty weird.)

4.  Michael is a composer, musician, and wildly-popular singer. I'm a writer, took piano lessons for two years, and I... get this...sing along with Michael. I know, I know. Pretty wild, huh?

5.  He lives in Tennessee. I live in Tennessee. Just gets stranger and stranger.

6.  Michael graciously accepted a copy of the children's adventure book, Laramie on the Lam, for his grandchildren. I wrote that book. Of course, I took two copies with me to the concert (one for Michael, and one for Amy) for the purpose of giving one to each of them. Still... seeing my book in the hands of Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant was a thrill.

7.  And last, but certainly not least, Michael loves the Lord. I love the Lord. He composes, plays, and sings for the glory of our Father. I write, edit (and then write some more) for the glory of our Father.

You've probably figured out by now that I'm spoofing the things I have in common with Michael. Except for that last one. It was very apparent from the way he treated his fans at the meet-and-greet and his audience during the nearly 3-hour concert that his love for God is genuine. What a wonderful role model for younger generations and what a thrill for his older fans to know he's the real deal. We need more Michael W. Smiths and Amy Grants in our entertainment realm and in the world as a whole.

The love for God displayed in his music and during his concerts is also contagious. I dare anyone to sit through a concert of Michael W. Smith's (or Amy Grant's, for that matter) and not want to worship our Heavenly Father.

Thanks, Michael. Thanks, Amy. Thank You, God.

Until the next time...

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Excellent news!

My wonderful agent, Terry Burns of Hartline Literary Agency, has placed my Road's End series with Write Integrity Press! I'm blessed and honored to be a part of this wonderful publishing house, its employees, and its family of writers.

Just when I thought my three books (Misstep, Faux Pas, and Misjudge) would never see the light of a publishing day, it happened. And just as quickly, I was made comfortable by the welcoming words of editor Tracy Ruckman who made me feel right at home.



I'm not quite sure when Misstep will be published or how soon the other two books, Faux Pas and Misjudge, will follow. I'll let you know when those details are worked out. In the meantime, what I do know is that I'm happy, excited, and proud to be a part of the Write Integrity Press family.

The Road's End series tells the stories of Pastor Hugh Foster (former Air Force colonel and chaplain) and his wife Melanie and how they deal with the ornery, lovable, feuding, patriotic, and well-meaning, but sometimes inept citizens of Road's End, Virginia. I can guarantee lots of laughter, adventure, shenanigans, love, inspiration, and perhaps some tears along the way. Please join me on a hilarious and touching journey with the good (and crazy) folks of tiny Road's End. You won't be sorry.

And before I forget, once again I find myself thanking God for Terry Burns, agent extraordinaire!

Until the next time...

Friday, April 3, 2015

It is finished!

It's been far too long since I checked in, friends. Life has kept me busy, but that's no excuse to stop communicating. I'm writing this on Good Friday at a little past 2:30 p.m. While I know I'm not in the right time zone and I may be a bit off on the timeline, I'm counting down the minutes until our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ cries, "It is finished!" and takes our sin and the punishment for that sin (death) upon His holy shoulders. It's more than I can comprehend, but God knows I'm struggling to understand the depth of His sacrifice for His children.

Perhaps I will never understand completely how horrible His death really was. I can imagine, of course; I can try to put myself in His place, but that's laughable in its impossibility. How a man, righteous or not, could tolerate the pain and degradation He endured before He was nailed to the cross is beyond belief. But to endure all that knowing that once He reached Golgotha, He would be nailed--not positioned with soft fabric, not even tied with ropes, but nailed--to the cross and left to hang in the sun for however long it took Him to die--well, that defies comprehension. And He was God. He was the Creator of all that was, is, and ever will be. He is the Alpha and the Omega. And yet, he died such a lowly death for us.

It is now just after 3:00 p.m. My Lord has died upon the cross for me. He has taken my sin with Him and offered me His forgiveness and love and guidance and friendship and salvation and everlasting life with Him after my own death, which no matter how gruesome it may be, could never be as bad as His.

I often wonder how we humans would react if we were told we could have everlasting life in Heaven for only one million dollars per soul? You can bet there'd be a lot of panic, murder, thievery, embezzlement and other cutthroat activities in our scramble to secure a spot for our everlasting soul and those of our loved ones. What if God required His children to be crucified on the cross, just as His Son was, for the privilege of living with Him for all eternity? How many takers would there be to die in such a gruesome manner to secure your soul's forgiveness and an eternity with our Heavenly Father?

Luckily, none of us have to endure either of those scenarios, because in His divine love for us, God has offered salvation (forgiveness of our sins and an eternity with Him) to all of us for... absolutely nothing. He doesn't want us to equate money or other earthly goods with the Best of the best. He doesn't want us to die in our sins, so he offered His Son to die in our stead. Could you do that? Could you watch your son die so horribly for the sins of others? I don't know about you, but I couldn't. No way. But God did. And I'm sure it hurt Him immeasurably more than it would hurt us to see our sons hanging on that cross, bleeding, scourged, thirsty, broken, mocked. Can you imagine a hurt that great?

So if we admit our sins, recognize Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and ask for forgiveness, He writes our names in the Book of Life! No strings attached. I don't know about you, but that's one book I want my name in! I could reach the top of the bestseller list everyday for the rest of my life and it wouldn't mean one iota as much as having my name among the other saved souls in this world.

Rejoice, for on the third day, He will rise! He has defeated death. He has taken our sin. He has invited us into His family. He has offered us an eternity in His Presence. Are you one of His children?

Until the next time...



Monday, September 15, 2014

It's About Time!

     Okay, readers, take out a clean sheet of paper and a pencil. It's pop quiz time. (Has your stomach sunk to your ankles yet?)

     All right then, can you tell me which of the following is the hardest part of being a writer?


     1.  Coming up with story ideas
     2.  Plotting the book
     3.  Researching the book
     4.  Writing the book
     5.  Editing the book
     6.  Writing and editing the proposal
     7.  All of the above


     Time's up. Pencils down. And the answer is..... ready? None of the above! Yep, the hardest part of being a writer is the waiting. (I know I cheated by not giving you that option, but hey, it's my blog and I get to do what I want.) Back to my thoughts.


     Waiting, as any writer will tell you, is without a doubt the hardest part of our profession, and it doesn't matter if the wait is twenty seconds or two years. Time slows down when you wait. (That's a scientific fact I just made up.) It also speeds up at the most inopportune times, but that's a topic for another day.


     Time crawls like traffic on the Beltway on Monday morning after two semis tangle when you're waiting for your agent to tell you if your proposal and manuscript are ready (and worthy) to send out to prospective publishers. It might be seven seconds since you sent that email to him, but it feels like seven months. He might get back with you in ten minutes, but to you, it might as well be ten years because that's how much you've aged.


     Time flows like frozen yogurt in Antarctica when you're waiting to hear if This Is the One Publishing House wants the full manuscript, or if it made it to this or that committee, or if they think it would make a great series.

     Perhaps worse, though, is that time screeches to a whiplash-inducing halt when you're waiting for the contract to arrive before someone at the publishing house decides they really don't like your plot/characters/ writing style/pacing/humor/hair color/or homemade tomato soup after all and yells "stop the presses" (if anyone ever says that anymore) and the whole thing goes down the drain.
   
     But all that zips by at warp speed compared to waiting for your book to be... published. Yes, when that happens, when we finally have a contract signed, and we know for certain our baby will see the light of day, somehow time is altered so that a day is like a thousand years.


     Sound familiar? I don't think that's what Peter meant when he wrote, "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day." (2 Peter 3:8), and he almost certainly wasn't talking about writers. Still, we can take comfort in knowing that even in Biblical times, folks didn't like to wait.


     It's nobody's fault and no one is prolonging the wait just to make us writhe in agony while we wait for that one special email with our edits or cover art. No, they're working just as hard to get our books published as we did to get them written. (And I know this is hard to swallow--I know it is for me--but there are other authors out there whose books deserve the attention of the staff at This Is the One Publishing House just as much as ours do. Yes, that's right. Odd, I know. You mean the publishing world didn't come to a screeching halt when my manuscript arrived? No, Deb, it didn't.)


     For them, however, time flows much more quickly than they desire. There aren't enough hours in the day for the emails, phone calls, meetings, decisions, conferences, reading, and whatever else editors and their staff members do to make our dreams come true. They want to see our book in print with its pretty cover with our name splashed across it and glorious back cover copy smelling all booksy and inky paper-like and those glorious words that we wrote inside those covers just as much as we do. After all, their salaries (and the future of the publishing house) depend on how much that book and hundreds and thousands like them can bring in. They are every bit as invested in our books as we are.


     But as with all good things, they do happen eventually. (Thought I was going to say "come to an end," didn't you?) They happen and we're thrilled and the editor and staff are thrilled and our agent's thrilled and the hard work of marketing gets kicked up yet another notch and we're so darned excited and yes, thrilled, and happy and so are all the others and then... it dawns on us that we need to write another one (which we should've been doing all along in-between checking our email seventeen times an hour). Because there's no reason why we can't writhe in agony and write the next best seller at the same time. It's what we do, folks.


     When you really think about it, no matter how long it seems to take to see our book in print, it takes only as long as God allows. It's all in His timing, His perfect timing. We can writhe and wring our hands and moan and groan and second-guess ourselves and our value as writers and check our email all we want, but if it's not in God's perfect timing that our book be published at that particular day or week or month in time, then it's just... not... time.


     Until the next time...











Thursday, August 7, 2014

A fairy tale come true...

Finding time to be a writer--just a writer, not a mother, daughter, grandmother, friend, neighbor--is tough. That's not news to anyone who writes, or paints, or does any other creative endeavor, because being creative seems to be put on the back burner when it comes to our life's "to do" lists.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to attend a two-week residency at the Golden Apple Art Residency on Ripley's Neck in Harrington, Maine. This glorious place, comprised of nine and a half acres of the piney woods of Maine and bordered on one side by the rocky shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean, is devoted to the advancement of the arts in an environment that encourages and celebrates creativity. Each artist (there were four of us, all women) has his/her own private cottage and individual studio (in the bottom floor of the main house). Our meals were all included. Delicious breakfasts and lunches were delivered to the studio commons area and our evening meals were held in the main house. Together, the four artists and our hosts, Shelley and Greg Stevens, ate luscious, regional fare prepared by Shelley, talked, laughed, and formed bonds for life. 

There was one other writer there, Yvonne Navarro of Arizona, who has 22 published books to her credit! The others were artists were Erin Overmeyer, an art teacher from Michigan, who painted beautiful pictures in acrylic of abandoned schools to showcase the downward spiral of neighborhoods and communities when schools close, and Anne Gochenour, Central Michigan University Art Gallery Director, who did gorgeous work in mixed media.

Part of the beautiful landscaping
at Golden Apple Art Residency
The scenery was gorgeous, the environment natural and inspiring, the food delicious, and the company wonderful. While our lifestyles, spiritual and political views, and backgrounds all differed, we respected the opinions of others. At the end of the two weeks, you'd have thought we'd known one another for years. Besides all the pampering I enjoyed, I worked hard. And I mean hard. Our studios were available to us 24 hours a day, and although I wore out long before I even approached the all-nighter stage, I accomplished everything I set out to do. I took over 1500 pictures, added several thousand words to my WIP (and edited the rest of it), and commuted with God--the three goals I set for myself.

But in addition to all the pampering and beautiful surroundings, I also experienced another advantage to getting away from it all. The encouragement and inspiration other like-minded individuals, artists of one kind or another who value creativity, was a shot in the arm. While I know, logically and through social and professional networking, there are others out there who share my passion to write for God, sometimes I feel alone. Apart. Rudderless.

And now I feel refreshed, part of something greater than myself, and anchored. Doesn't get much better than that! Many thanks to my hosts, Shelley and Greg Stevens of Mt. Pleasant, Michigan (when they're not in Harrington, Maine). If anyone is interested in applying to the residency, you can find out more at www.goldenapplestudio.com/residency. Believe me, you won't be sorry.
The town landing just down the
shoreline from the residency, where the
lobster boats chug out every morning (early, early morning)
and return every afternoon with their fresh catch. 

View from the shoreline just a few steps
away from my cottage...