Monday, January 31, 2011

Digital Dose - Conference Buzz

This past week the Writer's Digest conference in New York generated a tsunami of comments and "a-ha" moments for those who attended. 

A recent post by The Write Runner's Andrew Rosenberg got the attention of Writer's Digest's Beth Friedman in her Best Tweets for Writers post.  His thoughts on the "Whoa" factor really hit home with a lot of authors. He talks about refining your pitch and wowing your intended audience. Check it out for details.

James Scott Bell, author of the Art of War for Writers, posted a great list of Opening No-No's. Some of his suggestions to chuck? Starting your cop drama with your MC cringing over his done before.  If you've ever seen a Die Hard movie, you understand the reason.

For those of you that missed it, counselor Jeannie Campbell had an awesome post over at her blog, The Character Therapist on The Sympathetic Antagonist. So excited because the character she analyzed was my own bad guy from my current WIP.  Check her out. She's an amazing resource for writers.

That has been your Digital Dose for this Monday.  Until next time...Go Write!

***I will have a guest blogger, Social Media Marketing expert, Phyllis Zimbler Miller here on Monday, February 7th. Drop by for some important things to know about Marketing and the Writer.***

Photograph by Vancouver Film School.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Have You Accosted a Stranger Lately?

A novel that I wrote a couple of years ago, a technology thriller, had a plot line that required a lot of research in entomology. 

Hear me out...

It had to do with a truth serum and pheromones and what not. I ultimately went in another direction and scrapped the whole pheromone thing for a plant-based formula...but at the time, I needed answers.  I tried to find what I needed from books, the library, and the internet, but I couldn't.

You see, the questions I had didn't exactly show up on Yahoo Answers. Although I have had cops answer procedural questions for me on that site.  I needed to speak to a real "Bug Guy" who could answer my questions.

I found a very patient, very nice research assistant over at UC Riverside.  I found him, ironically, through the Botany Extension associated with my garden club.

Over the years of writing and working toward getting published, I've done tons of research with people that are, surprisingly, eager to help. I've accosted complete strangers for insights into their occupation and have never had a bad reaction...never.

Social workers on family law, Artists on pigment properties, Concrete guys on tension name it. I even bothered a poor guy walking his dog to ask him if it was true that French bulldog puppies can't swim...apparently their heads are too heavy.

I whip out my little notebook like a reporter at a crime scene...everything you say is absolutely fascinating to me...and may be used against you in a novel. I let people know I'm using their stuff and they all seem to be pretty okay with that. You see people are passionate about what they might as well benefit from that enthusiasm.

So how do you research something you can't find by traditional methods?  Do you post it on an email loop or ask random strangers? How about any sci-fi or paranormal do you write about things that aren't invented yet?

I await your answers. Until next time...Go Write!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Flaming Twenties and Black Powder

Today is the No Fear Blogfest over at Dominic's Writes of Passage. So excited to read everyone's entry.

I've decided to post a scene from my second book in the Shades of Hope series entitled, Ruby Dawn. In it, the main character, Ruby goes after Jason who set fire to her clinic, framed her for drug dealing, and shot the man she loves. To say that she is terrified is an understatement...

Tiny is the teen-aged gang member that she helped. He is with her at an abandoned boathouse as she tries to find out if Tom, her love interest, is still alive. --- Ruby was in the trunk earlier because she'd been abducted by Tiny's gang to help their friend. They're allies by the time we get to this scene...

Chapter Forty-Five

I pulled Tiny by the shirt towards the SUV, my eyes searching for any other guards.
“What’re we doin’, Doc?” he panted, stumbling after me.
“I need some tubing, anything long.” I took the gun from Tiny and walked arm extended right up to the driver’s side of the SUV. I peered inside. No one. “Go Tiny, hurry!”
He nodded and ran off. I stood on my tip-toes and looked into the front seat, under the dash. The alarm light wasn’t blinking. I tried the handle. The door opened. A surge of hope rushed through me, and I climbed inside.
Sheila, my foster mom, had taken me camping in an older one of these. I reached my hand down along the side of the driver’s seat, found the lever I was looking for and pulled. Through the rear view mirror, I saw the little gas cover swing open. I smiled. Hopping out I caught sight of Tiny cresting the dirt mounds, running back from the car.
He held up loops of clear surgical tubing, smiling. “In the trunk, from when you were in there,” he panted. “Downey says she’s still trying to get through to someone. Don’t worry, I told them to stay in the car.”
“Thanks, Tiny.” I grabbed the tubing I’d used for Darnell’s IV, and ran over to the gas cap. Twisting it off, I fed the tubing into the tank. Turning to Tiny, I pointed to the back of the SUV. “See if you can get that open.”
He lifted an eyebrow but went over and lifted the back hatch of the SUV. I felt the tube hit the bottom of the tank. Finding the other end of the tubing, I sucked on it, trying to get the gas to come out. I saw the pale liquid rise in the tube, snaking through it like juice in a crazy straw. I gagged with the fumes and then spit as the gas started to pour down out of the tube and into the dirt.
“Tiny, what’s taking so long?”
I looked over my shoulder at Tiny’s shocked face.
“Uh, Doc,” he stammered.
“What?” I pulled off my shirt, leaving only my tank top. Wadding it up I soaked it with the gas, turning it in the dirt. I willed my mind to quiet down, to stop showing me Tom’s pain-filled face.
Tiny pointed into the SUV. “There’s something you should see.”
I grabbed my soaked shirt and walked over to Tiny, stopping short. Wires snaked along the inside roof of the SUV. I took in the pipes with caps, and the black electrical tape and bit my lip. Jason, wired the other SUV to blow, taking out the cops…he’d done the same with this one. I frowned. Blaine must have known he’d hide it here.
Against the side of the trunk, brick-sized bundles sat stacked. Wrapped with green duct tape and labeled with numbers, I guessed it was drugs.
“I don’t care, Tiny.” I said and held out my hand. “Give me your lighter.”
Groaning, he reached into this pocket and brought out the silver-capped lighter he was playing with while driving. I squeezed the gas all over the inside carpet of the SUV’s trunk, and then dangled the shirt over the tailgate.
“I don’t think this’ll just burn, Doc, the powder in the—”
“I know, Tiny. I know,” I interrupted. “Start running.”
I flicked the flame alight and held it to the end of my shirt, my hand trembling. The cloth went up with a whoosh and the Molotov cocktail bottles flying through my clinic windows flashed behind my eyes. I stepped back one step, then another, mesmerized by the flames licking higher and higher into the trunk.
“Doc!” Tiny yelled.
I turned and ran, sprinting full bore away from the hissing fire. The hair on my arms stood on end. A terrible blast threw me forward onto my stomach in a dirt belly-flop, the wind whooshing out of me. I struggled to my feet, bleary eyed. Ears ringing, I turned to face the SUV, still strangely intact. I turned to Tiny who peered out from behind an overturned wheel-barrel, and shrugged, looking back at the SUV fire.
He frowned. “Maybe the pipe bombs—”
The concussive wave tore over me, slamming me backwards and blinding me. The pipe bombs went off in a series of explosions. I buried my head in my arms and pulled into a ball, screaming. Shards of glass and metal splayed out in a cloud of dirt ripping scratches along my back and legs. My ears ringing, I could only hear the blasts as muffled booms. They stopped, and I peered over my forearms, panting.
“Tiny, Tiny, are you all right?” I yelled, but my ears wouldn’t work. Stifled sounds surrounded me, but I couldn’t tell the direction. Eyes searching for Tiny, I found him with his hand to his leg. Blood seeped out from between his fingers. I read his lips as he spoke to me, his voice a far away din.
He looked up at me. “I’m okay, Doc.”
I leaned over him, wiggling my finger in my ear, trying to clear it.
Eyes wide, Tiny raised a shaking hand in between our faces and grasped at the paper floating down from the sky. I stared, open mouthed at a singed twenty-dollar bill, still smoldering. I looked up, all around us, a storm cloud of money fluttered to ground like a ticker tape parade. Thousands of flaming dollars rained down on us. I stared speechless.
Tiny shoved his gun in my hands, pulling me out of my stupor. “Go!”
I took the gun and turned toward the boathouse, staring shocked at the flaming cavern the bomb blast tore into the side. My heart stuttered in my chest, terrified that Tom was under all of that debris.
Walk with me, Lord.
Steeling myself, I pointed the gun out in front of me, sucked in a breath, and ran into the fire.

That's it for my entry...I hope you take a moment to view the others in the blogfest. Thanks to Dominic for the great idea!

Until next time...Go Write!
Photograph by Meddy Garnet.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I Got A Book Deal!

My Shades of Hope Series just got picked up by White Rose Publishing

I am still in shock and very...VERY grateful to my awesome agent, Terry Burns at Hartline Literary who has been incredible.  

I just signed a contract this week for all three books...Thank you, Lord.  I am blessed beyond comprehension.

I'll keep you updated on release dates and what not. Just wanted to share my good news and thank you all for your critiques and encouragement. You guys are AMAZING!

Now...Go Write!
Photograph by kodomut.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Making Dysentery Fun Again - Survival Wednesdays

Do you remember in grade school when computer labs were starting to become common? Okay, so I'm old and elementary school was in the 1980's for me. Ahh, the smell of Aquanet and New Coke...

I remember my green-screened Apple IIe sitting all humongous and beige on the table in front of me. No such thing as a mouse yet...just you, the gaping floppy disk hole, and the keyboard.

We'd spend two hours every Friday playing Oregon Trails. A strategy game designed to help you with planning skills. All it really taught me was that if there was ever a survival situation...I was toast.

You had to use money to buy bullets and foodstuffs. Then you and your family set off in this pixelated outline of a covered wagon. Every now and then you'd get to shoot lines or "bullets" at "deer" and basically die of starvation or dysentery in the wilds of Oregon.

Fun huh?

It completely baffles me how so many people in the 1800's thought this was good idea in real life. Thousands of family's set off in search of a better way of living in the Westward Expansion

Manifest Destiny...

Evidence of the hardship could be found all along the Oregon trail and the routes to the Gold Rush in California. One would pass all kinds of things scuttled by traveling wagon trains. Furniture, dead and dying animals...anything you could live without was tossed to lighten the load.

When my family of eight moved five years ago to our current home, we couldn't fit all of our stuff in the largest U-haul truck they had. I ended up making endless mini-van shuttles to and from the two cities with boxes of "essentials" that were saved from my dumpster frenzy...the children ganged up on me 6 to 1 in favor of their toys. 

As I research and explore these intrepid people for my 1840's Historical Romance, I'm beginning to understand the call of adventure. The lure of making your own way and testing yourself against the unknown.  I'm also truly realizing the hardships and dangers faced by these pioneers.

My question to you is this...would you ever drop everything, pare down your life to transportable size, and take off for the unknown with only your family in tow?

I'm not sure I'd say no...

Until next time...Go Write!
Photograph by McD22  Photograph by dbking.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Interesting Things Going Down at #dbw11

Just an update for those of you interested in what's being said about the Digital Book World conference in New York this week.  A lot of to do about eBooks and of course, Google's growing market share in that field.  

Future has a list of Google eBook's bestsellers. No surprises there with romance as the top selling genre. It seems to be mimicking the NYT bestseller list. That makes the whole, "eBook customers and brick-and-mortar customers are two different species" argument a tad more interesting.  Are they?

The guy speaking at the conference from Goldman Sachs actually called brick and mortar booksellers an investment to steer clear of...ouch.  One thing that came out is the belief that indie booksellers can find a niche in the rapidly shifting market. I still love bookstores. I'm not giving up on them just yet.

This coming after hearing that 80% of Amazon's books are sold at cost. They're more interested in growing their market share than making money right now...pretty smart business move, actually.

Speculation at the conference on whether or not the prediction that multi-device homes are as common as we think.  I read books on my Droid, my PC, and in book form.  My husband wants a Kindle. I guess its not that uncommon after all. Still, most trade paper purchases are made by women...does that mean men are the eBook customer to court?   

If you're interested in following what's going on and what's being said at the Digital Book World conference, follow the hashtag (#dbw11) on Twitter.  

Until next time...Go Write!
Photograph Enkhtuvshin's 40D..

Monday, January 24, 2011

Digital Dose And The Twitter-Sphere

A lot happened this week in the Twitter-sphere. I'm here to give the highlights I found helpful as a writer. 

We start of with a post from guest blogger and author, Mary DeMuth, over at Rachelle Gardner's Rants and Rambles on 10 Ways To Be Awkward at a Writer's Conference. This is a hilarious tongue-in-cheek list that exhorts you to "Be a Stalker" and to be sure to "Get Visibly Angry" at rejection. Some helpful stuff couched in humor.

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Christian publishing giant, Thomas Nelson Publishers had a great post on Defending Your Brand Online. This is especially helpful to speakers and non-fiction writers. Amazing how a bad experience with you can snowball into thousands hearing about it via blogs and Twitter. His best piece of advice: Respond quickly.  Take that to heart.

For those of you with impending book releases or who are set to sign contracts, there are were two awesome Tweets to help with marketing. Alexis Grant had a post on How To Write a Press Release For Your Book and Weronika Janczuk wrote an eye opening piece on What Your Publicist Can Do For You.

Over all a great week to garner information for building a platform, working the marketing end of publishing your book, and honing your net-savvy. For a lot of authors, the business, especially the techie-side, of publishing can be intimidating but there are sources out there...take a peek.

Until next time...Go Write!
Photograph by Vancouver Film School.

Friday, January 21, 2011

An Amish Love - BookSneeze Review

Just in time for Valentine's Day, Thomas Nelson's release of a three-novella anthology entitled, Amish Love Tales is the perfect gift for those who love sweet romance. I wasn't sure if I'd connect with the characters. Not only was I pleasantly surprised, but I am now a fan of the genre. These stories are that good.

The three stories, A Marriage of the Heart by Kelly Long, Healing Hearts by Beth Wiseman, and What the Heart Sees by Kathleen Fuller are written with the depth and passion of the authors' full-length offerings. 

Love is love and these tales resonate with every woman who has been through a broken heart, needed a second chance, and longed to love with abandon again.

My favorite story, A Marriage of the Heart, is a sweet tale of a spoiled beauty and a man with a past just returning to the community. Their marriage of convenience develops into a moving tale of life-long love and sacrifice. 

With a peek into the cloistered Amish community as the background, these three novellas weave lovely tapestries of the healing power of forgiveness.

From a love returning in Healing Hearts to a tragedy overcome in What the Heart Sees, these authors of inspirational fiction pull you into their stories with lyrical prose, compelling characters, and a heart-warming message.

I read the book in one sitting and recommend it to anyone interested in seeing what the 'bonnet book bonanza' is all about as well as to those die-hard fans of the genre. Pretty and well packaged, this book would make an excellent gift.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Survival Wednesdays - Free Running

So I've been tinkering with this YA novel idea that has Free Running or Parkour in it. Its a type of urban acrobatics in which kids do stunningly dangerous and gravity-defying moves on buildings, roofs and ledges that would make any mother's hair turn white.

Sounds fun, right?

So in researching this wholesome activity, I found that there are a few things to keep in mind before trying it out.

First...You HAVE to be a fictional character or a trained professional.

Second...Wear the right clothes. This type of activity is not suitable for enrobed princesses, knights, any sort of caped-crusader or women wearing Manolos. Loose pants and t-shirts seem to be the popular choice.

Third...You  must be "Fit" as in, a testosterone fueled, adrenaline junkie whose parents are Cirque Du Soleil performers.

Fourth...Wear the right equipment like protective gear such as elbow and knee pads, gloves, helmet. And choose the right shoes.  Cause nothing breaks a five-story fall like some awesome kicks!

And Fifth...start easy. I would suggest a curb or possibly a tin can for starters. Don't attempt what trained athletes and professional stunt men use wires, pulleys, and landing pads for right off the bat. Work up to it.

After perusing countless videos its come to my attention that I don't see any of the ladies taking a header off of high-rises. Hmmm...I may have to remedy that.

Until next time, I leave you with my favorite Free Running Video.  Now...Go Write!

Photograph by Thor.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Do You Like Unexpected Visits?

NOT Salem
I recently completed my novel Bayou Blue and after revisions and sweat and tears...sent it off to my agent. I was having breakfast with a friend of mine who just read it and she was excited that a character from my first novel, Purple Knot, showed up in a few chapters of Bayou Blue.  I mean...really excited about it. So much so that she wanted to know if he would be the lead in the next novel.

I was kind of shocked. The character she referred to, Salem Pratt, was not the main character of the first novel. He was a peripheral, side-kick kind of guy. Now, of course, I find him interesting. I find him funny and magnetic and I'm fascinated by his past...but that's me.  I had no idea she would be so delighted.

Salem shows up in Bayou Blue and a little more of his hidden past and a surprising secret is revealed to the main character of that novel, who happens to be a friend.  None of this is ever mentioned in the novel to which he belongs...he's sort of popping into Riley's world for a visit.

Now I'm thinking, though...hmmm. Should I consider making him a main character in his own novel? It would be a departure...but might be fun.

My question to you is this:

Do you get a jolt of happy when a character from another novel shows up in what you're reading?  Would you ever do "spin offs" with in, give them their own entire book?

I'll be off plotting Salem's possible future. Until next time...Go Write!
Photograph by Kelli Taylor.

Monday, January 17, 2011

That My Children May Know What Courage Is...

"I want you to say on that day, that I did try in my love and serve humanity."

May you choose today to do something in honor of Dr. King's dream.  To find out how you can serve your community, visit The King


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Digital Dose

First lets start off with some freebies. Who doesn't love free books, right? The folks over at Family post titles of books available for FREE download on Amazon. 

You don't have to have a Kindle to do this. I download them to my DROID. You can get the app for your iPhone or even your PC.  If you follow them on Twitter, then you get updates...also free.  Of the fifteen newly released books on my DROID...all of them were free.

Next up is a relatively new site called It seems to me like Yahoo Answers on steroids. A bit better put together though. I've seen some great answers to technical questions and as the person who answers has to post their qualifications...its less likely to result in dumb answers by bored kids in study hall. Check out Media Bistro's article on how publishers and writers can use Quora to their advantage.

Janet Reid, Literary Agent, posted a warning to those looking to enter this writing contest on Twitter and her blog. The contest rules are mind boggling in their blatant grab for rights to your work. "In perpetuity and without compensation" Wow...AND its $150 bucks to enter.  Steer Clear.

Finally, I leave you with a link to Digital Book World's article on agents and the changing landscape of eBooks. Things that had never crossed my mind...apps and book trailers...reversion rights and the like.

This has been your weekly Digital Dose...Now Go Write!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Synopsiphobia - Fear of Writing A Synopsis

Writing a synopsis is one of the most grueling and intimidating aspects of the submission process. 

Query letters are easy compared to the dreaded 3-4 page synopsis that goes with your proposal. But this mini-novel is a very important part of the pitch for your manuscript.  

So making it the best you can possibly create is essential.

One major aspect to consider is format...

~ Not all agents or publishers accept the same type of synopsis.~

Some require a one-page, while others would like an "Extended Synopsis" of three or four pages.

They are generally written in PRESENT tense, THIRD PERSON.

~ This is regardless of your novel's POV.~

They are single spaced.

The top left-hand corner has your book title/name in the header. Some people also add the genre and word count.

There are three main sections: The Hook, The Background, The Stakes.

The Hook
Start with an exciting statement. What is the character's major dilemma or conflict? How might they react? You worry over the first sentence of your the same over  your synopsis.

The Background
Introduce your character with just enough info to make things clear. Who is the book about. What kind of person are they? Make sure they are sympathetic to your reader. Make them care what happens.

The Stakes
These are your plot points only list the MAJOR ones. List the public AND private stakes. Show how they escalate. Create tension.

Remember: This is NOT where you have cliff-hangers or questions. This is the whole story.

Finally don't forget the punctuation and grammar. This is a professional pitch for your product...polish it up.

There are many websites out there that offer more in-depth, step-by-step guides on the synopsis. One of the best is...Charlotte Dillon

Her website has a link to many winning synopses. Take a moment to check them out. What works for you...what doesn't?

The important thing is to keep in mind that this represents you as an author, so take the time to make it as clear, concise, and professional as possible.

Until next time...Go Write.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Survival Wednesdays - Twitter

My husband doesn't understand my Twitter fascination. He likes FaceBook and reading Blogs, but not Twitter. He thinks it's just a way to update your friends on what you ate for dinner.  The fact is, Twitter can be one of the best ways to grow as writer.

I'm not talking about working on brevity with its 140 character limit. I'm talking about connecting with other writers and industry blogs to keep abreast of whats going on in the publishing world.

You see, a many writers will Tweet things that are extremely helpful to you as a writer that you may not come across on your own. In neat little bits, you can get information on helpful articles, upcoming contests and conferences, new releases, even things that bug you don't make those mistakes.  People Tweet about blogfest you can join or critique circles.

And if you don't want to "Follow" a ba-zillion people, you can follow someone's "List." That way you can stay abreast of what's going on by glancing at what people on that list are talking about...its easy, manageable chunks of information.

The idea of what at RT or OH or Via in a Twitter post is can be confusing and a little intimidating.  For a great downloadable pamphlet by a truly funny guy, you should visit Brent Ozar's Blog. He explains everything from how to manage your account to how to reply...its a great step-by-step guide for the Twitter newbie.

Just know that people who regularly Tweet about writing often pass on some really great tidbits of information. I don't have the time to peruse all the Writer's Digest and Publisher's Weekly issues that come across my desk. But I do have a few seconds to scan the posts and click on an interesting link.

I encourage you to take a look at what's out there. You might be surprised. For instance, this post over at Burrowers, Books & Balderdash, first came to my attention as a ReTweet.  It's about why your first chapter is even more important in the Kindle Age. The blog post is both fascinating and instructive. Now that's something I can use.

What do you think? Is Twitter too much of a time waster for you? Do you find it helpful or frivolous? Let me know what you think.

Until next time...Go Write!

Monday, January 10, 2011

As Blue As Her Mamma's Eyes

Today is Monday and as I do every week I post an excerpt of the novel I am working on. I love getting all of the feedback and ideas from other authors in the ether. You all have been extremely generous with your advice and encouragement. Personal Blogfest Mondays - Yay!

I've been working on something new this time...well, not entirely new, it IS a romance -- but this time the story takes place in 1812, in a frontier town.  I have to admit that I truly am loving all the research involved in writing an historical novel.

This is Chapter One of The Prodigal's Bride...

Missouri Territory, Arkansas County
Roundtree Creek - December 2, 1812

     No word in three weeks. 
     Jessa’s heart thrummed with worry. Rising early to complete her errands in town, she sat outside the cabin on the small porch step and leaned over the Bible nestled on her lap. She tilted her face toward the pale morning sun hoping for a breath of warmth on her cheeks. The bracing winter air turned Jessa’s prayers into vapor as they left her lips in a silent whisper. 
     Opening her eyes, she peered out across the open field to the creek that bore her family’s name. Squinting to see through the crisp air with watering eyes, she held her breath in the hopes of seeing movement, anything, across the water.  The stillness hit her in the chest like a physical blow.
     Where are you Papa?
     Finished with her morning devotions, Jessa stood to scrape the cabin window chipping at the crystal frost with shivering hands.  Last night’s cold snap still lingered in the iced-over window and slush in the water barrel outside.  Eager to get the day started, Jessa paced the small porch. The woodpile to the right of the door looked painfully small. They’d had much more, this time last year. Her young brother, recovering from a bad cold, still slept inside and Jessa wouldn’t allow him to chop wood in his weakened state. Her father’s decision to make one last hunting trip before the storms came seemed like a wise decision at the time. It felt like so long ago that he’d set out with their neighbor from down the creek to hunt deer.
     Grabbing some wood, Jessa slipped back into the cabin, pushing the Z-braced door carefully closed. She looked over at her sleeping brother, James, as he lay curled up against the raised hearth. The rock stacked chimney, build with her father’s hands, was still warm from the dying fire. The blue stones from the nearby creek always reminded Jessa of her mother’s eyes.  Jessa wondered if she'd find a love like her parents out here in the woods and mountains. Was love too much of a luxury on the frontier?
     She tossed the wood on the glowing embers and sat down next to the warmth on her father’s rocking chair. It creaked and James’s eyes fluttered open.
     “Hey, sis,” he moaned. Stretching his scraggly limbs, he smiled at Jessa and hugged himself. “It’s cold.”
     “Don’t worry, James, I have more wood for tonight.” Jessa stabbed at the log with a metal poker. “We’ll be fine.” She hoped her worry didn’t betray her calm expression.
     James eyed her with the same pale eyes they shared with their father. “You look worried.”
     Jessa smiled. At eleven, he was very much like their father; down to the way he cocked his head to the side when he considered something curious. She, on the other hand, looked like her mother. Her hair fell in long, dark red waves to her waist when she combed it. The boys at school used to pull her braids and call her ‘carrot head’. She sighed when she thought of those days before mama got sick, when all her worries were about names at school.
     “I’m not concerned, James. I just miss him, that’s all.” Jessa’s voice cracked despite her efforts to be strong for James. She rubbed her palms on her pale blue skirts and tried to sound brave. “Nothing to worry yourself about.”
     His face pulled into a frown. “I miss him too, Jessa, but we’ll be glad when he returns.” James’s face lit up. “Maybe he’ll bring back so much meat we have to have a feast!”
     Jessa chuckled and ruffled his hair. “Maybe.”
     James kicked off the covers and stood with his hands at his hips looking at the window. “Is there snow?”
     “Not yet,” Jessa stood, walked to the row of hooks beside the door, and pulled on a pale blue cloak. “But I’ll bet we’ll have some for sure for Christmas, it’s that cold out there.”
     James grinned. “Snow for Christmas?” His face fell. “Aw, that’s weeks away.”
     Jessa’s stomach flopped. Just three weeks to finish her present to James. Poppa usually made him a toy out of wood, but this year with him being gone…Jessa forced a smile to her lips. “Get yourself ready, James, we’re heading into town today, remember?”
     James pulled his gaze from the frosty window back towards her. “Can we stop by the mill?”
     Jessa sighed. The saw mill sat in the middle of town, well out of their way. Still, James had always been fascinated with the way all the gears seemed to work together by themselves. 
     “Sure, but we better get going. It’ll take us a couple of hours to get there and back. We don’t want to be walking in the woods at night now, do we?”
     “Do you think we’ll see a wolf?” James looked at her wide-eyed. “Like Poppa did last winter? Remember we heard their howling out back?”
     “I remember,” Jessa said quietly. “And I hope not.”
Gathering a couple of carrots, some bread, and her last chunk of cheese, Jessa folded them into a cloth and stuffed the bundle into her basket. They’d need to eat on the way back.
     “I’ll be right back,” James said and raced off toward the ladder at the back of the cabin that led up to the loft.
     She heard him rummage through his things overhead. Wondering what he was doing, she shifted from foot to foot while waiting. The feel of the few coins in her pouch made her heart fall. What would they do when even that ran out? Jessa blinked back tears. Tucking her hair into her bonnet, she whispered a silent prayer.
     Lord, please help me to trust you.
     “I’m ready!” James shouted and clamored down ladder, stopping to jump from a high rung before Jessa could protest. He landed with a thud on the plank floor sending dust flying through the air.
     “James Matthew Roundtree!” Jessa shouted. “Don’t you dare fall and break your arm while Poppa is away.”
     James froze, his eyes wide. “I – I’m sorry, Jessa.”
Sighing, Jessa managed a smile and reached out to brush his bangs from his face. 
     “I’m sorry, James. You just scared me, that’s all.”
     “I’ll be more careful, Jessa,” James said solemnly. “At least until Poppa comes home.”
     His impish smirk that came with the latter part of his promise forced a chuckle out of Jessa.
     “Well as long as you wait until then.”
     “I promise.” James nodded, pushing whatever was in his hand into his back pocket.
     Jessa raised an eyebrow but let it go. “We better get going.”
     They walked together down the south trail toward town, their footsteps the only sound in the woods. The early morning sunlight filtered through the maple and oak branches dancing shadows on their path. James skipped beside her, never really able to simply walk; he bounced and leapt over ruts in the trail.
     Up ahead, James stopped short. “Hey, what’s that?”
     Jessa squinted at the black form in the weeds up ahead. “I haven’t the slightest.”
     As they neared the figure, Jessa’s stomach fluttered with anxiety.             The form looked large, like a sleeping dog. Her hand went out to James, stopping him by the shoulder.
     “Don’t touch it.”
     James strained forward, the lump just a few yards away. “I just wanna take a quick look at it.” He pulled from her grasp and ran toward it, freezing just a foot from the pile of black fur. “Jessa!”
     Heart ramming in her chest, Jessa hiked her skirts, running along the dirt path to get to James. “What? What is it?”
     James looked over at her with an ashen face. “It’s a man. A dead man.”
     Jessa reached James, pulling him back from the form. “What?”
     She didn’t wait for an answer. Leaning over James, she peered at the man wrapped in beaver furs lying in a heap by the side of the path. His long beard and dark brows hid most of his face and his crumpled body tangled with the long weeds obscuring his height. An angry wound tore a ragged path along his exposed shoulder.
     Jessa pulled James back with her as she eased past the form. Fear swirled through her as her eyes darted to the woods beyond the path.
     Picking up a stick from the path, James reached forward and poked the man in the side.
Jessa gasped. “Stay away, James,” she hissed.
     James wiggled out of her arms and turned to her. A nervous smile pulled at his flushed cheeks. “Why are we whispering if he’s dead?”
     Jessa blinked and then shrugged. “I guess we don’t have to.”
     “What do you think happened to him?” James asked as he gave the man a final poke for good measure.
     Blindingly fast, the stranger’s hand shot out catching the stick before James delivered another jab.
     Jessa screamed and yanked James away.
     The man moved, moaning into the ground. “Help me,” he rasped.
Finding her wits, she pulled James further down the path. “Hurry, James, we need to go and get help!”
     “But – ” James started.
     “Now, James,” Jessa shot back. “Let’s go!”

That is all for now.  I hope you all enjoyed a sneak peak at my WIP. I look forward to your comments. Until next time...Go Write.

Photograph by Jonas John

Sunday, January 9, 2011

And...We're Off!

THIS is the year you polish that manuscript to such a gleaming perfection that no agent will overlook it. Your queries with astound. Your proposals will be riveting....just get started!

Its January, time to get cracking on that project you waxed philosophical over during New Years. Get out your notes or outlines or whatever you pantsers get out and make those keys start clicking.

Take a chance on that story you've been mulling over, okay brooding over, and jot something down. Take the what ifs and wrangle them onto that paper. You might be surprised with what you see. Something with promise, something worth fleshing out, something worth all the sweat and tears it takes to complete.

Its a new Year, a new Month...a new Week, even.

I can't wait to read all of your blogs and tweets to see how you're doing. Consider me your personal cheerleader of the virtual writing world. You can do have it in you to create a spectacular piece of fiction. 

Rah-Rah-Rah...Sis-Boom-Bah!  Until Next Time...GO WRITE!
Photograph by Elvire. R

Friday, January 7, 2011

Industry News - Digital Dilemas

Publishers Weekly had an interesting blurb this month in their Publisher News section. It had to do with ebook sales for publishing giant Random House. It seems that for some titles released this fall, nearly half of the first-week sales were in ebook format. The article goes on to state that they expect digital format sales to increase significantly in the coming year.

I tell you this because I've been hearing in the blogosphere lately, the constant murmuring of authors who want to ride the same lucrative wave as the big guys. They're using self-publishing to do it. Internet giants like Amazon and Barnes and Noble offer the opportunity to get your stories out there.

This can be a wonderful thing.  On the flip-side, doing so may hurt your chances with royalty publishers down the road. So there are some things to consider...

Terry Burns, my agent at Hartline Literary, posted an interesting article on his blog, Cowboy Musings this week. It had to do with question of whether or not the decision to e-publishing your book on a site like Amazon might have a negative effect on your proposal to publishers. He surveyed over 100 editors in both main stream publishing and the Christian market.  Their responses were surprising, and I encourage you to head on over to his blog to read them for yourselves.

You see, publishers expect the digital rights to your book to be part of the package they're paying you for when they offer you a contract. The problem, is that once Amazon has your book available in Kindle form...they're not going to give it up.  And that is a dilemma that could knock your proposal out of the running.

Of course, ebook publishing is a wonderful opportunity for a lot of authors. Those who write non-fiction field, are a part of a larger organization, or who have a following all do exceedingly well with this route. Speakers and teachers get in front of their audience and self-publishing goes hand in hand with immediate sales at conferences where you make a real connection with your reader.

I encourage you to consider your future plans and hopes for your manuscript when deciding whether or not to self publish a digital version of your book. As always, its your dream, your direction, and ultimately your decision.

Until next time...Go Write!
Photograph by Andrew Mason.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Heart Mender - A BookSneeze Review

The Heart Mender by Andy Andrews weaves two compelling stories together in a message of forgiveness and hope. This captivating story begins with a man’s mysterious find in his backyard; a tin full of German artifacts and photographs from World War II. 

It is during the pursuit of the story behind these objects that we come to know the incredible story of Helen Mason and Lt. Josef Landermann. 

Widowed by the war, she happens upon his near lifeless body on the shores of her small Gulf Coast town and must decide whether or not to let him die.

What happens next is a touching story that explores overwhelming loss, the healing power of love, and the gift of forgiveness.

We journey through the dusty pages of history with the main character as he uses internet searches and interviews with long time residents of his sleepy town to pull together the true story of the U-Boat invasion of the American coast. 

Little known facts about the submarine attacks on our shores, the government’s attempt to quell panic, and the brave acts of the small Gulf town all intertwine with a personal story of two broken hearts longing for healing to make a riveting tale.

Not a war story buff, I was unsure of this book, but having been touched by the message of hope and love in this novel, I give it my highest recommendation. 

Filled to the brim with intriguing plot points, great tension, and a poignant romance, Andy Andrews delivers a compelling and powerful novel.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”