Thursday, January 31, 2013

Pay attention! It will benefit your book.

It's the little things in a book that touch the heart and senses and cause the reader to settle into the story, accepting the setting as something so integral to the plot that it becomes a minor character.

I read a book 28 years ago that had a scene of an old woman welcoming a visitor to her home. The visitor was younger and had better eyesight. She could see that although the woman pretended all was well, she wasn't able to maintain her home to previous standards. The telltale sign? -- Cobwebs emerging from the corners.

I've never forgotten that little detail, and it enriched the story for me.

Over the holidays my 15-month-old granddaughter was visiting. She loves my wall clock. It chimes on each quarter hour and tolls the number of hours at the top of the hour -- Westminster chimes, pretty. I've lived with a chiming clock for 34 years, and to tell the truth I don't even notice when it ticks off the minutes of my day. But my grandbaby stops whatever she's doing when she hears the chimes. Her eyes light up, she claps, and she even sings along with the chimes.

That's a great example of paying attention and noticing the setting. If I were to write a book and use a clock like mine in it, the chiming could assume a greater significance. It would heighten tension in certain situations and dredge up memories for my characters. I could play with the clock as a device other than as a simple timekeeper.

How about you? What little details do you think could deepen a story?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing

Self-publishing or traditional (royalty-paying) publishing has been a choice authors have made forever. But now, with the ease of self-publishing, the choice has been more important than ever.

What should you do? Fret no more! Literary agent Rachelle Gardner has released the first of her four-book series, A Field Guide for Authors, this month. The first title, How Do I Decide? Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing, is an easy-to-digest guide for selecting the road to publication that will best suit you.

How Do I Decide? is filled with practical information -- the first chapter is a glossary of publishing terms, demystifies the process of traditional publication, and explains the process of self-publishing.

This book is an easy read, coming in at a manageable 76 pages. As someone who doesn't often read non-fiction, this was important for me.

You'll also like the Author Perspectives, short pieces by different authors who discuss the pros and cons of their publishing choices.

To help you decide, chapter five has a checklist to run through to figure out which publishing option best suits you. The final chapter is full of great resources for both traditionally- and self-published authors.

At $3.99, this book is a bargain. The advice is honest and spot on. That's an assessment I can make because Rachelle just happens to be my literary agent.

But wait, there's more! (Yeah, sounds like an infomercial pitch, but it's the truth.) Subsequent titles in the series:
Successful Blogging: Tips & Tricks for Building and Growing Your Blog
Where Do I Start?: Getting Your Writing Carreer Off the Ground
How Do I Get an Agent?: What to Do and What to Expect

Rachelle Gardner is a literary agent with California-based Books and Such Literary Agency, representing both fiction and nonfiction. In the publishing business since 1995, Rachelle previously worked for two publishing houses in positions encompassing marketing, sales, international rights, acquisitions and editorial. She has also edited over 150 books. As an agent, she loves helping authors strategize and build their careers, and takes great joy in sharing the important mile- stones in a writer’s journey. She never tires of talking about books and publishing, and working with authors is her dream job.

Email: Follow Rachelle on Twitter.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Do dreams expire?

Is it ever too late to pursue a dream?

Can you ponder a dream for too long, and miss the opportunity for accomplishment?

I like to consider the words of C. S. Lewis: It's never too late. Is he correct?

I should hope so. We're all so busy, sometimes we forget to dream or don't have time to set goals. But in the quiet, solitary hours our mind and our hearts wander to what if. What if I try . . .

Are you wondering if it's too late? Are you wondering if you've missed your window of opportunity? Perhaps you should have started your efforts toward your goal ten years ago when the dream began to burn in your heart.

Are you wondering if you can find success after you've tried and failed? A local pastor, John Leach of Jubilee Fellowship Church in Lone Tree, CO, said, "Failure doesn't mean game over. It could mean try again with experience."

I don't know about you, but I'll go with the wisdom that points to hope and second chances. Keep on striving, or start taking steps to see your dream become a reality.

Do you believe God has planted a dream in your heart? If so, then get on with it!

Consider these words from scripture: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

I'll leave you with the words of another wise man, Winston Churchill. "Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts."

And for me that means, "Write on!"

What about you? What dreams are you going to pursue?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Roe v Wade -- A sad anniversary

Forty years ago this week the Supreme Court voted to legalize abortion in the US.

Way back then, in 1973, I'd never even heard about abortion. That is until the day when a classmate in the Catholic high school I attended came up to me in the cafeteria. She looked right then left, and slid a manila folder across the table to me. I couldn't imagine what she had to be so secretive about.

The folder held black & white photographs of a dead woman lying in a pool of blood after an abortion.

I was horrified, of course. But at the same time I couldn't imagine that much desperation. Surely there had to be another way to deal with a temporary situation. My heart has always gone out to those in desperate situations, by my heart has also gone out to babies who were denied life.

Back in 1973 -- and for several years after -- I was a modern thinker, believing it was up to each woman to decide the fate of her child.

Since then I've changed my mind. In the meanwhile I've known many women and men who have bitterly regretted the decision to abort their babies.

One day about 30 years ago as I was letting myself into my home, a townhouse, my neighbor's ex-husband was walking to her door. I recognized him from the many times he'd come by to pick up their middle-school aged son. I knew my neighbor and her son were away on vacation, so it was odd that her ex showed up.

He told me she was killed in a car accident. His son was staying with relatives, and he was cleaning out the townhouse. He was selling a lot of the furniture, and I ended up buying a picnic table. We'd chatted, and it was clear he was heartbroken over her death. I offered to make us lunch.

We ended up sitting at my picnic table for lunch every day that week. Mostly, I listened as he talked through his grief. He regretted his divorce, and a few years earlier had asked her for a reconciliation. Unfortunately it was too late. She'd already moved on.

One day at lunchtime he came to my patio clutching what looked like a thick journal. He was so overcome with emotion that it took a minute before he could speak. The journal was a secret one. It was all written to "Alice." Alice was the name she'd given to the baby they both decided to abort ten years earlier.

At the time she became pregnant they had a toddler, and their careers were heading upward. All the worldly reasons told them to dispose of this unplanned pregnancy. They discussed the situation, and she aborted. They never spoke of it again, and he thought she'd moved on. But apparently not. The journal spanned the years from the abortion until my neighbor's death. Her ex-husband was horrified that she lived with such guilt and grief that had never been shared -- partly because he had the same emotions.

You don't hear much about post-abortion grief. Perhaps it's not PC to discuss, but it's there. Abortion doesn't just kill babies, it wounds men and women.

The woman who was at the center of the case, "Roe," is Norma McCorvey. She speaks out now against abortion and has pledged her life to overturning the decision.

Right now Ireland is in a political battle to keep abortion illegal. I pray they'll prevail. This week there was a pro-life demonstration that drew the support of 40,000 people.

I found this article thoughtful. It's from an Irish newspaper but references American thought on abolition.

Abortion is a scar on our culture. It makes me sad. It causes pain and death to more than the babies who are swept away.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


I hope you're encouraged by this message, but truth be told, it's encouragement for myself. Write on, friends!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Blessed, not stressed

We're 10 days into the new year. Do you have a lot of plans and goals for 2013? Hang in there, and don't forget to keep your chin up and remember these words . . .

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Smell the rain and listen to the music

Goodness, we're all so busy!

And now a new year has started and we're off with a vengeance. We're running to the gym, cleaning our closets, going through our list of resolutions, looking for new jobs, trying new recipes. Busy, busy, busy.

I'm not saying those activities are bad, but are we also making time for the simple pleasures that feed our soul and connect us to humanity? I know most folks recommend stopping to smell the roses, but I prefer to smell the rain. Sometimes I'll step out on my porch to smell that lovely, earthy fragrance and listen to the sound of a billion drops of water refreshing the earth.

This video is of a world-class violinist who played in the D. C. Metro during rush hour. Days earlier he played at a prestigious venue where tickets went for $100+, but here nearly no one seemed to pause to notice or appreciate the beauty of the music.

It was their loss, those rushing past. Didn't they even have one minute to tarry? Let's try to open our senses and notice the beauty around us.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

I face 2013 with a wonderful sense of anticipation. What is in store for me? What challenges will present themselves?

A tradition in my family is to greet the New Year with prayer. We approached the throne by 12:01 a.m. It’s glorious.

My prayer for you is that you will achieve all that God intends for you in 2013, that your prayers will be answered in delightful ways, and that your year will be filled with love and accomplishment.