And the September winner is….

Cozy Nook Books! Congrats! Thank you all for participating in my blog this month!

 

Next contest starts tomorrow! :)

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The art of winning and losing in the writing biz

 

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Was I surprised? Let’s make that FLOORED. I was sitting in California while my agent was busily accepting my 2014 Carol Award for Romantic Suspense in St. Louis. I did not imagine my crazy jungle novel would win anything, especially not when my fellow finalist was the amazing Irene Hannon.

Winning is sweet. And let me tell you, it doesn’t happen frequently, at least, not to me. I’ve got a few nifty awards, and I’ve got a raft of rejections, scathing reviews and such and sundry.  I’ve discovered that the winning and losing doesn’t come from these external things. So when do I consider that I’ve won?

1. When I get a letter in my post office box from someone that I’ve touched. They tenderly share their lives with me because we connected over a book. That’s a win. That’s precious. That’s from God.

2. When my teen girls say, “See, mom? Aren’t you glad you didn’t give up?” Believe me, they’ve seen me plenty discouraged, but they’ve also witnessed the gritted teeth, the fingers flying and the steadfast determination which is what I want to see in them when times get tough. That’s a win. That’s precious. That’s from God.

3.  When my hubby says, “You see? I’d knew you’d win.” He’s always been my humble supporter, the man who does everything from fix my computer to read my romance novel drafts, the poor burly man. He’s in my corner through the rejections, the scathing reviews and reader rants. He’s a winner, he’s precious, he’s from God. How could I ask for a better award than a husband like that?

What do you think makes you a winner? Last chance to enter the September contest for a signed book , a Starbuck’s card and a fall treat.

 

 

Banning books in schools…yes or no?

 

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I’m a writer.  I’m also an avid reader of  many genres and a parent of two teenage girls. So how do I feel about banning controversial books in schools? Hmmmm. That’s a sticky wicket, isn’t it? On the one hand, I absolutely believe that children need exposure to painful issues so they can broaden their own understanding. Schools often require young teens to read about rape, abuse,  racism, death and such and sundry. Do I want my girls to read about so called “heroic” characters who make choices that I disagree with from a religious standpoint? Um, well, no. While I know these things exist in the world and exploring them through fiction is healthy, some of these issues are presented in ways that I wouldn’t choose as a parent. I also know that all families do not believe what we do, so my choices should not be forced on them, anymore than theirs should be forced on mine. So, since there is no way to reach consensus for all families, should our kids read controversial books or not?  Maybe the bigger question is who gets to decide? I don’t know what the answer is, other than to be present for the discussions that inevitably occur around the dinner table with my children, and make it a safe place to discuss how our views intersect with those they’re reading about.

I do have a suggestion, however. I have noticed that there is a definite over-emphasis on the darker side of human nature in these novels. I get it. The dark topics are important, but so is joy, and unconditional love and, dare I say it? Laughter! So maybe the issue is not to strip the controversial topics from the curriculum, as much as it is to balance them with some positive, joyful themes. Just a thought. Here’s a link to a school grappling with the issue of book banning right now.

http://parkcitiesblog.dallasnews.com/2014/09/highland-park-isd-parents-start-group-to-protest-book-suspensions.html/

What do you think, bloggers? Are there books your children have read in school that you wish they hadn’t? Do you feel like parents should influence what their kids are asked to read in school? I’m eager to hear your thoughts! 

Two good reasons I should quit the writing biz

 

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Did you hear my  self control snap like a pretzel this week? I figured it must be audible at great distances. The writing business can be the MOST infuriating way to spend one’s time. There are moments, MANY moments, when I review the list of why I should quit this crazy business. Here are my top two reasons below.

1. When I’ve spent days, weeks, arduous months putting together a multi book proposal and send it along to my editor, like the proud expectant mother, and the response comes back something along these lines. “It’s not what we’re looking for.”

Whaa? I put my heart and soul into that thing. Character sketches, research, polishing the perfect sample chapters. Sending it out to my trusted cohorts for revision. How could the answer be no? But it is. And that’s that. As I tell my children, “no means no.” Sigh. I should have been an orthodontist.

2. When everything under the sun has to be done RIGHT NOW! That book that comes out in November? You’d better get those review copies out. Post a giveaway to Goodreads. Line up some blog chats. And that idea for a new series? You’d better have that sample chapter ready because there’s some interest all of a sudden. And your Facebook page has been languishing lately due to inactivity and why aren’t you doing your part to participate in the three group blogs you belong to, you slacker? No, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got family/church/teaching commitments. Book publishing waits for no woman!

Good reasons to quit, right? So why don’t I? Because it’s my passion, my calling and my blessing and as my father will tell you, “No blessings are free.”

So what are some things you’d like to quit doing? Is there something that keeps you hanging in there instead of walking away? Would love to hear your thoughts. Giving away a triple prize this month, a signed book, a Starbuck’s card and a fall surprise.

 

List of favorite detectives. Is yours on it?

 

 

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Hello, all. I’m just pondering ideas for a four book suspense series, but what kind of protagonist shall we create? What about that tried and true stalwart of suspense fiction…the hardboiled detective? But all detectives don’t need to be the bitter, hard drinking gumshoes. As a matter of fact of the three main types of detective (amateur, private investigator and police), some of the greatest fictional characters stepped way outside that box. Here are a list of my top three favorite fictional detectives.

1. Jessica Fletcher (amateur). Oh sure it was tempting to go with Miss Marple, but Jessica was not your wall flower detective. A writer, for goodness sake, with no investigative training and, dare I say, well into the middle to latter part of her life, well traveled and eager to experience life. And even though there seemed to be a body turning up everywhere she went, she maintained a sense of optimism and compassion. You go, Jessica!

2. Sherlock Holmes (private) Yes, he set the standard for the investigator for hire, brilliant, tireless, dogged. He also possessed an oddball set of weaknesses that make him endure as a character. First off, he was addicted to drugs and lacked many social graces of his era. He also struggled with fits of melancholy and a feverish desire for knowledge that almost ruined him from time to time. Now that’s an interesting p.i.

3. Columbo (police) Why do we love Columbo? Sure he’s a brilliant police detective, but there are plenty of them to go around. He’s interesting because he’s a mess. His dress and speech are sloppy. He’s annoying. He appears to be the most absentminded, imbecile to those who make the mistake of underestimating him. Brilliant, don’t you think?

So who is your favorite fictional detective and why do you like them? Giving away a triple prize this month…a Starbuck’s card, a signed book and a fall treat. All comments earn you a ticket in the September drawing. :)

 

 

Does Springsteen have writing talent? Why it doesn’t really matter.

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That baby Outlaw Pete certainly gets around! He’s the hero of Bruce Springsteen’s first children’s book and the star of his song, Outlaw Pete. Springsteen was inspired by a 1950’s children’s book entitled Brave Cowboy Bill. So does a rock star have the chops to write a children’s book? The answer is…it doesn’t really matter. He’s got what matters more, an amazing platform.

A platform is basically an author’s access to readers. Springsteen has plenty of access with 64 million albums sold in the U.S. alone. Other celebs like Dennis Rodman, Madonna, Henry Winkler have nifty platforms as well. Publishers will scoop them up because their name on the cover will sell rafts of books. Does that sound cynical? Should I be peeved because I’ve worked at my craft and struggled through years of trying to establish a platform by being devoted to the writing business?

Here’s the way I look at it. Those celebrities have worked just as hard to create their individual platforms. Dennis Rodman (while I am not totally sure he’s of Planet Earth) strove to become an excellent basketball player and Bruce Springsteen labored just as diligently in building his music career. They are creative, talented people who, because of their hard work, moved easily into the writing business. Besides, these creative, original thinking celebrities may have plenty of writing talent. I remind myself that one of the children’s books that had a profound influence on me was just such a novel written by Julie Andrews, entitled The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles. Sure, she might have gotten an easy in with her publisher because of her celebrity status, but as it turns out, she is a pretty nifty creative writer. Talented people are often talented in many ways.

Would you buy Bruce Springsteen’s new book? Why or why not? Giving away a signed book, a Starbuck’s gift card and a fall surprise this month.

Top three writing obstacles.

 

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Ah the perks of the writing biz are great, to be sure, but let’s not sugarcoat it. There are some serious obstacles to making a go of it in this strange business. Here are a few I’ve faced personally.

1. You need an agent to get published… and an agent is looking for published writers.

Uh oh. Most publishing houses will not accept unagented submissions and most agents prefer a client with some publishing credits under their belt. That’s an obstacle, now isn’t it? How does one get around that? I published a three book series with Barbour before I was acquired by my agent. There are still a few houses (like Barbour and Harlequin) who will take unagented work, so you can try to build your career that way which will make you more attractive to an agent. You can also build your writing credits by contributing to magazines, ezines, blogs, etc. and even self publishing if you’re enormously committed to marketing that ebook. Every publishing credit can only make you more attractive to an agent.

2. Hours in….money out. It’s a time consuming business to write a book. The fastest I’ve ever managed is three months. As my agent says, “A good book is better than a fast book.” That said, the time investment is huge on a book that may never see the shelf. So what’s the remedy for that? There isn’t one, really, except to stagger your work and make sure there are several income producing projects afoot at one time. Also, books can be self pubbed, of course, but the quality needs to be just as amazing as it would be in a traditionally published novel.

3.  The “write what sells” vs. “what I want to write” dilemma. I know folks who absolutely love what they write and it sells like hotcakes. Me? Not so much. I tend to write “quirky” I’m afraid, and that doesn’t always translate into mainstream sales. Obviously, my publisher and I both want my books to fly off the shelves, but I can’t justify writing about topics just because they are popular. So what’s the answer? Somehow, I need to find that balance. I need to hear from my publisher what they feel is going to appeal to their readers (and they have a keen sense of this) and I must write my own story that balances both what the readers want with what I am comfortable writing. Best case is we hit upon a winner that makes us all happy.

What obstacles do you have in your work or daily life? How do you overcome them? Giving away a Starbuck’s gift card, a signed book and a fall treat this month.

 

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