Saturday, January 31, 2009

Football And Fiction

My Steelers are in the Super Bowl this weekend, so I'm a bit distracted... BUT, I managed to put the finishing touches on the manuscript of Cottonwood Whispers, the sequel to Fireflies In December. It looks like Tyndale intends to put Cottonwood Whispers out this September, and I'm looking forward to having everyone enjoy the continuation of Jessilyn and Gemma's story.

This book will pick up four years after the end of Fireflies In December, when Jessilyn is 17, and a little older and wiser... but still young enough to step into some trouble. For those of you who are reading Fireflies In December, take an extra glance at Mr. Poe, who will be center stage in the sequel.

The trials Jessilyn faces in this new book won't be based so much on racial prejudice, but on prejudice of another sort. She will learn even more about how unfair life can be and experience firsthand the reality that things don't always go as we'd hope, even though God is in control.

So put Cottonwood Whispers on your calendar for September. I'll give you updates as they come. In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed, or are currently enjoying, getting to know Jessilyn and Gemma.

A quick update! This Valentine's Day, I will be signing at the Glen Allen, VA Family Bookstore from 12-3. So stop by. I'd love to see you there! More signings will follow, and I'll post them here as they approach.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fire Up The Tivo!

So I had my first book signing yesterday, just a small informal one at the place where I work out, and it was a great way to get my feet wet. The ladies there were terrific, so encouraging and sweet. And I even had the opportunity to meet up with an old school friend I hadn't seen since graduation. So fun! It was a great way to get out there and start figuring out how to sign books without agonizing over it like I do with greeting cards. When the book first came out and friends were asking me to sign their copy, I think I drove them nuts trying to figure out what to say. They all sat there staring at me, thinking (or saying!) "Just sign something already!!"

Now I think I'm getting the hang of it, but if this is any indication of how long it's going to take me to get used to each part of this published author thing, I'm afraid to think of what my television interview on Monday is going to be like. My segment lasts five minutes.... and it took me about twenty tries to get comfortable with signing books... did I mention the segment is only five minutes? I'm praying I don't sit there stuttering for the first three.

But then talking has never been something I've had trouble with. Ask anybody, and they'll tell you I can chatter on for hours. It's just the focusing part that's difficult, so answering a specific question could be daunting. I could probably take five minutes just answering one question alone, but I imagine they plan on having me answer more than that. Oh dear...

So if you're in the Richmond area, tune in on February 2nd to WTVR 6's Virginia This Morning at 9am to see if Jen manages to string together several coherent sentences or just rambles. It's the day after the Super Bowl (Go Steelers!), so I'm sure plenty of you will be home!

Whether I nail it or flub it, it should be entertaining!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Sink Or Swim?

As I mentioned in my last post, most new writers feel that getting published could be relatively simple. I was there at one time myself. I didn't really think I'd get published with my first query, but I still didn't see it taking the almost six years that it actually took.

But that's the reality of it. There are always the unusual stories of people who had it happen overnight, but those are extremely rare. The fact is, it's a crowded market out there. How many people have you met who said they wanted to be a writer? Tons! It's a popular career choice, and editors are swamped with queries and manuscripts.

So where to start?

If you really feel this is where the Lord's leading, ask Him. I can't give you any better advice than to consult at every turn the One who gave you this talent. I can honestly say that the times I went off on my own without prayerful consideration and did what I or someone else said I should, I ended up wasting time and energy... and maybe a few tears. The fact is whenever I followed His guidance, I saw results. They may have been small steps forward, but they were steps forward, nonetheless, and forward steps are better than backwards ones any day.

Ultimately, there are some basics to pay attention to. Doing a little research on the industry is a good way to start. There are plenty of books and websites about the publishing industry, and a primer on the business can't hurt. It's always a plus to know what you can about what you're walking into.

When you think you have a general idea of what goes on, grabbing a copy of Sally Stuart's Christian Writers' Market Guide is a smart way to familiarize yourself with specifics. It's packed full of publishers of books and periodicals, giving information on what they're each looking for and how to contact them.

So we're taking this in steps here, and these are the first. Now that you feel you're meant to write, do a little investigation. But do remember that there are a zillion options for studying up, so always keep step number one in mind: consult the Lord. He's the only way you'll keep your head above water in a saturated industry.

And He's so much better than water wings!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

To Write Or Not To Write...

When I've gone to writers conferences in the past, I've seen one thing hold true in all of them: there's always one class the attendees depart from with heads hanging down, "I don't know if I can do this" looks painted across their faces. The class is always one that has to do with what it takes to get published, and the realities of this crowded writer's market hit hard in that conference room. This is the moment when so many have to ask, "Is this what the Lord's chosen for my life, or is this what I've chosen for my life?" It's an important question to ask since what we're really put on this earth to do has already been planned out for us in God's infinite wisdom. Do we really want to spend our time on something that isn't ordained by God?

I've had so many people ask me about my journey to publication, and I'd love to share some encouragements and ideas along the way through this blog. But none of that can start until I make it clear that my basis for writing, my inspiration for stories, and my ability to fight through the challenges of this career come strictly from the Lord. For all of you who have a personal relationship with Christ, I would encourage you to start by asking what He wants in your life. And for all of you who don't know Him personally, I pray you'll open your heart to seek the only One who knows you inside and out, and seeks to hold your hand through every step of life. (The best place to start is in His word, the Bible.)

I never had any dreams of being a writer. I wanted to be many things at one time or another, but a writer was never really one of those things. It wasn't until about five years ago that the desire hit, and it didn't take me too long to figure out where that desire came from. The Lord manages to surprise us sometimes, and I can't tell you how grateful I am He chose to surprise me with this new career.

But it wasn't easy. It was a true challenge to put aside whatever dreams I'd already conjured up for my life. I had my own ideas of how things should go, and I had to take a pretty long, tedious journey to get to a point where I knew that my life was simply about letting go and letting the Lord guide my steps. And I'm still on that journey now, having to fight to maintain proper perspective. I suppose I always will be as long as I live in this world.

So to all you hopeful writers out there, do yourself a huge favor and ask for His advice. Are you meant to be a writer, or does He have a surprise for you too? Maybe this is exactly what He wants for you, but then, maybe it isn't. Just open your ears and open your heart. Keep your eyes focused on Him, and trust Him to show you what you're meant to do each day. There is no better pursuit in life than to fulfill the very specific and perfect purpose God created you for. If part of your purpose is writing, then welcome on this journey! But if it's something else that He's chosen for you, enjoy the surprise of it all!

There's no greater way to live your life than by letting go of the edge and letting Him catch you.

Monday, January 12, 2009

You're invited to Novel Matters

I'm getting my blog intitiation by not only writing my own but also participating in Novel Matters, a blog written by myself and six other authors - Patti Hill, Bonnie Grove, Debbie Fuller Thomas, Sharon Souza, Kathleen Popa, and Latayne Scott. For our first posts, we'll all be making introductions by answering questions about ourselves and our work. Today is my first post, so stop by and get acquainted with all of us.

In future posts, we'll be discussing different facets of writing, sharing our thoughts on what fashions good fiction. It's a great place for writers or those interested in good fiction. So stop by, take a peek, and join in a discussion if you so choose.

Everyone's welcome!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Yes, I'm finally writing a new blog!

This road through publishing has definitely been golden so far, but I'm wishing there was a wizard of Oz at the end of it to figure everything out for me. I do, however, have a terrific team at PulsePoint Design to walk me through things, and fortunately, I now think I figured out how to blog. So here goes my first attempt at posting on my own.

It looks like Fireflies In December is catching people's eye, and it's been such a great experience seeing how readers have been touched by the story of Jessilyn and Gemma.

Books-A-Million has chosen the book for their book club in April, so I'm incredibly excited about that. The Lord is definitely evident in everything that's happening with Fireflies! I'll keep you updated.

My terrific marketing team at Tyndale set up a blog tour for Fireflies which took place today, Jan. 7th, so thanks to all of them for their hard work. And, of course, many thanks to all of the bloggers who took the time to share Fireflies with their readers. I'll be posting their links here as soon as I can gather them all up.

I'm so grateful to everyone who has supported me throughout, including all of you who are still dropping by to read my blog even though it took me weeks to update it! I promise I'll be back more than once every month, so stop by. And feel free to drop me a note. I'd love to hear from you.