Friday, February 27, 2009

More Conference Tidbits

Last week at the Christian Writers Guild's conference marked my first major book signing, and it was an incredible experience to be able to sign my book for so many people. After so many years of waiting, it's an amazing feeling to put your writing into someone else's hands. A few people told me they saw conferees digging right into the book after they got their copy, and I wish I had been around to see them and grab some pictures of them.

My agent sent me these pictures of the signing, proof that we were busy but having a great time, and it's moments like these that remind every writer why we do what we do. It's an incredible blessing to be able to share our work with others, to hear about their favorite parts, and have them point out insights into a book that even the author didn't see.

So much of writing today is used for the wrong purposes. Media is flooded with things that are untrue and unhealthy, and it is our purpose as Christian writers to bring something new to the table; to challenge the common perspective. So, if you truly believe the Lord has called you to write but you're out there thinking about giving up, don't. Just trust him and take that leap of faith.

You might just end up at a book signing table before you know it!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Conference Tidbits

I spent the past several days in Colorado Springs, CO at the beautiful Broadmoor Hotel for the Christian Writers Guild's Writing For The Soul conference, so forgive me for being so late in posting.

This year was so different from last year, when I was in panic mode over the Operation First Novel contest. The hours before finding out I won were so stressful, and the ones after I won were a giant blur. So it was sweet relief this year to go knowing that stress was behind me. This year that exciting yet frightening honor went to C.J Darlington, author of Thicker Than Blood.

As you know from my last post, C.J. is responsible for my latest online interview, and has been a great supporter of Fireflies In December since its release. So it was a true thrill to see her receive this years' award. The past winners were called on stage before the winner was announced, and I was so happy to be up there when C.J. took ownership of the giant check with her name on it! Keep an eye out for Thicker Than Blood. I can't wait to read it myself!

The winner of this year's Operation First Book award for non-fiction went to Mal King for Before The Last Leaf Falls. I was able to sit with Mal and his wife at dinner on Friday evening, and they are lovely people. I'm so happy for Mal's win and wish him the best of everything with his writing. Looking forward to reading his book, as well!

The conference continued to be exciting on Friday as I was part of a book signing panel. I had the pleasure of signing many copies of Fireflies In December for conferees who were so generously offered free copies of my book, as well as books by previous winners Tom Pawlik and Jan Watson. It was an amazing experience.

My appreciation goes out to the Christian Writers Guild for another terrific conference and for their continued work with their fiction and non-fiction contests. They, along with contest sponsors Tyndale House and Harvest House, do a great service to the many gifted writers who just need to be given a chance.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Setting The Scene

We've had some incredibly beautiful weather here in Virginia of late, and now I'm itching for spring to peek around the corner. I love warmer weather, particularly when it's accompanied by wind and a stray thunderstorm. Those are the days when I find the most inspiration for writing.

But beautiful weather doesn't just inspire me, it helps me create a setting for what I write. Fireflies In December wouldn't be quite the same if it were really set in December. There's something about the summer heat - complete with cicadas, crickets, and hot, sleepless nights - that makes Jessilyn's story more real. I've had people comment to me that they could feel the heat while they were reading, even though we're in the middle of winter. That just goes to show how important setting is. It transports a reader into the story. It may be one more piece to add to the novel-writing puzzle, but it's an important one. Taking a reader to a place they can feel adds depth to the characters and their plot.

Including small details in a story can make all the difference, bringing believability and relatability to fictional characters and stories. And it's a part of writing that requires little research. We can all observe our surroundings. When you write, don't forget to include the chirping birds, the tinkling wind chimes, the rumbling thunder. They can bring a story to life.

And that's what makes fiction feel so real.

I want to add a quick P.S. here to thank C.J. Darlington for her hard work on an interview with me on her website, She had some terrific questions, and made the interview tons of fun. Thanks, C.J.!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Capturing Characters

As can be seen in the comments from my last post, I'm surrounded by some great personalities, such as my nephew, who is full of "total awesomeness." These are the people whose words and ways fill our minds and color our world.

People have asked me where I get my characters, and I usually answer that my characters are an amalgam of all the people I've known or seen, whether in life, in books, or in film. If you pay a little attention to those around you, or to the forms of entertainment you indulge in, you can find elements of different characters all over the place. And if you allow those traits to mingle, the possibilities are endless.

But sometiems I've used very particular scenes and quotes from my life in my books. Consider one of my grandmother's most famous quotes: "Don't talk to strangers, even if you know them." I've used that in one of my romantic comedies. If you have a great line like that, why not make use of it? It makes a character more real to the reader, and it adds a personal touch to your writing.

So as a writer, keeping your eyes peeled and your ears opened is a great habit to adopt. You never know what sort of interesting characteristics and memory-making lines you'll pick up along the way.

Sometimes, the people in your life are more intriguing than anything you could make up!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Can You Say Super Bowl Champions?

That's right! Before we do anything here, we need to talk about the Super Bowl and how my Steelers finished it up by toting that trophy. What a game! I had my interview the next day, and with a cold threatening to steal my voice, I had to swear off yelling at the television. This is difficult for me with any sporting event, but with a game like that? Crazy! But I managed, and it was a thrill to watch them win even though they made me a nervous wreck in the process.

To put the cherry on top, I survived my television interview. The Lord really took over and removed my anxiety, so thanks to everyone who prayed on my behalf. If you want to take a peek at how it went, check it out here. This will take you to the station's video player. Just scroll down the list until you find me.

In a couple weeks, I'll be at the Christian Writers Guild's conference, and I can't believe it's been a year since Fireflies In December won their Operation First Novel contest. I also can't believe I don't have my conference wardrobe yet. Anybody else notice that the spring clothes come in way too early?? I need to dress for temperatures somewhere around freezing, but the clothes in the stores are all for sixty-degree weather. I'm checking clearance racks everywhere, but clearance racks tend to be all the things people didn't want... and there's usually a reason why people didn't want them. But even when you find things that you actually like, there's always the problem finding it in your size. Sigh... I may be wearing the same outfits on alternate days!

Clothing problems aside, this year has flown and crawled by all at once. A friend just remarked to me that it seems like ages since I won the contest, and in some ways it seems that way to me, too. That's probably because my life has changed so much since last January. But in other ways, I feel like I started writing 2008 on my checks just a few months ago. It's strange how life can seem poky and speedy all at once.

The slow parts may have something to do with the fact that I'm picking up this publishing business piece by piece, and that can be quite the learning process. And we all know how excruciatingly slow learning processes can seem. I've had my first book signing, my first online interview, my first television interview... but, I still don't have my feet fully wet. Instead, I feel like I've just tipped my toes in.

But in other ways, it's gone fast, and I've had a ton of fun along the way. Challenges aside, this has been a great ride, and I'm so grateful the Lord is taking me along on it. I can't wait to see what He has next.

That's life! (My nephew will have something to say about that phrase since I tell him that all the time!) Life is slow. Life is fast. It's easy. It's hard. It's tedious. It's fun. And we learn SO much along the way.

I just hope I learn how to find winter pants in February.