Friday, June 29, 2007
Wow. I just finished reading The Oak Leaves by Maureen Lang. (At least now I can get back to my writing.)
Maureen is a gifted storyteller who seamlessly weaves the stories of two women, one from the 19th century and one living in the 21st century, into one novel. Talie Ingram finds the journal of Cosima Escott, her great-great-great grandmother. Talie begins to read the journal, thinking it will be an interesting diversion, but instead finds herself discovering a shocking family secret that could have implication for her life.
The Oak Leaves is a wonderful love story, showing us that the depth of God’s love is stronger than fear. Do yourself a favor, read this book. The Oak Leaves is one of those books that doesn’t let you put it down until it’s finished. And when you’re finished, you’re satisfied.
Monday, June 25, 2007
What a difference a year makes. Last summer I posted about the writing journey being like an uphill climb. http://megandimaria.blogspot.com/2006/08/uphill-climb.html. This year I’m finally nearing the pinnacle. I’ve got a two-book contract with Tyndale House Publishers for my women’s fiction. A dream come true. Actually, I’m on top of the world. Just like last weekend when my sweetie and I took a trip to the mountains. As I stood on that mountaintop, I could sense the great distance I’d come—from newbie writer to writing student to dreamer to published writer. Amazing. Praise God!
Here’s part of what I said in 2006, “Like most hiking trails, the one I was on started out smoothly and was clearly marked. I was fully confident that it would be a piece of cake. Then the path began to get steeper, and there were rocks, boulders and tree roots in the way. I was getting hot and sweaty. Even the water bottle began to feel like a 20 pound weight. I kept climbing upward and put my weary muscles out of my mind, and if my toe kicked a rock on the way, I remember to lift my foot higher the next time there was an obstacle in the path. I also tried not to get distracted by hikers who gave up and turned back before reaching their goal.
I bet many of those hikers could have had the thrill of reaching their goal if only they persisted. I have the same theory when it comes to being a published author. If only we persist, continue to strive for improvement and keep our eye on the goal, we just might reach that pinnacle we’ve dreamed of.”
Monday, June 18, 2007
But I had a few extra minutes on Friday, and I decided to read a couple of pages of Antonia’s Choice by Nancy Rue.
So much for good intentions. I think I wrote about two paragraphs all weekend. On the other hand, I was thoroughly entertained by Nancy’s story:
Toni Wells is a successful churchgoing career woman with full custody of her son. But her commitments escalate as she deals with defiant behavior from five-year-old Ben and takes a niece into her home. Toni cuts her hours temporarily to part-time, terrified of "losing herself completely" to her family. Then she discovers that Ben has been photographed and molested by a child pornographer. Toni must finally make a choice that's not really a choice: "Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it" (Mark 8:35, NIV).
By the time I was finished, I was so “there” with Antonia, that my jaw ached.
This isn’t a light, fluffy book to pass a few hours with. Antonia’s Choice sucks you into the stress-filled world of Toni Wells where you join her on a journey that is both deep and profound.
Do yourself a favor. Read this book!
Thursday, June 07, 2007
MD: Shelley, welcome to my blog, and thank you for the entertaining hours spent reading Over Her Head. You had me captivated from the very beginning. With my current schedule, it usually takes me a week to ten days to read a book. Over Her Head wouldn’t let me rest until the last page was turned—a time frame of about only four days!
I love the way you crafted some of your phrases. They were so good, a few stopped me in my tracks. Your characters became so real to me. I felt like I wanted to reach out and alternately hug and shake Laurie. Thanks, again.
Over Her Head is a story of tragedy. A young girl is found dead, murder is suspected. The heroine’s daughter is considered a suspect, one that even her mother questions.
What kind of mother suspects her own daughter of murder? Laurie Hale has the perfect life—and the perfect family to go with it. She imagines fun, love, and academic success for her daughter, Anna. But when one of Anna's classmates is found murdered and the police start asking questions, fear and suspicion threaten everything Laurie values. Anna isn't the only suspect—a whole group of teenagers seems to be involved, but none of them is talking, and the community is in an uproar. Laurie is asked to leave her prayer group just when she needs it the most, and her marriage bears the strain of the crisis. Laurie's only ally is Janice, the mayor's wife, whose own son could implicate Anna—or exonerate her. Ultimately, Laurie must face her fears: What if Anna really was involved in Randi Peizer's murder? And what kind of person is Laurie if she can doubt her own child's innocence? Only God can provide the answers when Laurie finds herself in OVER HER HEAD.
MD: What was your greatest challenge in writing Over Her Head?
SB: This book really stretched me … in fact, I got to chapter 5 or so and put my head on the desk, moaning, “I can’t do this.” The biggest challenge was the fact that I don’t have kids—and here I was writing about a woman with two, one of whom is a teenager. Fortunately, I have lots of friends with kids who kept me on the right track :) With a secondary hero who’s a cop, I needed to know a lot about homicide investigation (see my guest blog at http://cballan.wordpress.com/2007/05/29/474/ for a description of one harrowing morning). And lastly, my secondary heroine is a grieving mother. I’ve experienced grief, but nothing like losing a child in horrible circumstances. In these situations I just had to put my imagination deep into the character and try to be true to their emotions. Much easier said than done. Prayer helped :)
MD: How long did it take to write?
SB: About four months, I think.
MD: While you were on your journey to publication, what kept you motivated?
SB: Well, I wrote my first book in 1973 but didn’t see publication until thirty years later, with my sixth or seventh complete manuscript. That’s a lotta years … and a lotta motivation! I think it boiled down to knowing since I was 8 that I was going to be a writer. It’s not something you do, it’s something you are. I knew that some day I’d be good enough if I paid my dues and got my training … so that kept me going through a master’s degree in fiction and a bazillion rejection letters. As you know, this business is not for the faint of heart or the thin of skin.
MD: What does your writing day look like?
SB: Three days a week I work for an ad agency, but during the rest of the week, I’m at my computer in my home office by 8 a.m. I do PR stuff, e-mail, and accounting until 11, when I let the chickens out and we spend the next 4-5 hours rambling around the yard. They debug the garden and I write. Everybody’s happy :) Thank goodness for my AlphaSmart. I don’t know how I’d function without it.
MD: What helped you most to grow as a writer?
SB: Really good editorial. My editors have been consummate professionals. They’ve helped me see where I haven’t been true to my characters or my story, and have ruthlessly pruned my work to keep it as powerful as possible. I’ve been very lucky. My revision letters are getting shorter, so I must be getting the hang of it!
MD: What writing conferences do you attend?
SB: The Romance Writers of America conference, usually every other year, depending on where it is and how thin my pocketbook is. The Seton Hill Writers Retreat [http://www.setonhill.edu/o/index.cfm?PID=3&PRID=1148], where I’m usually on the faculty. Then, depending on the cash flow, I go to the ACFW conference or to Mount Hermon, which is just over the hill from me.
MD: What advice would you give to someone at the start of their writing career?
SB: Don’t be in a huge hurry to get that manuscript out. Make sure you polish it to a shine. Make sure your passion shows in its pages. And above all, let your voice ring in the words to captivate just the right editor for it!
MD: Thanks for stopping by, Shelley. What’s up next for you?
SB: Thanks so much for having me, Megan! I am so excited about my next project—a series of six "chick lit" books for teens that I'll be writing under a pseudonym. The Christian answer to Gossip Girl :: rubs hands in glee :: I’m just working on the revisions now, so watch for the first book in May 2008, and the second in August 2008!