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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Getting Publicity & Making the Most of Book Expo America (BEA)

Here's some good advice regarding media at book conventions. (It's also good advice for dealing with agents and editors at conferences.) It was posted on May 26th, 2009, by Paul Krupin.

I won’t be at BEA this year, opting to stay home, work with clients (oh yeah, and go fishing for walleye on the Columbia River).

Many of you may want to hear my personal observations about working with the press at BEA.

If you haven’t already sent out news releases (20 to 30 days in advance), honestly, don’t bother.

Now, if you get an award — either a Ben Franklin or IPPY — you call me immediately but don’t worry, you can relax and enjoy yourself, get home and work on your press release announcement next week after the BEA.

Personally, and with all due respect to others might disagree with my opinion here, I’d forget the BEA press room.

One look and you’ll see. It is sort of like a cavern filled with media kits. Files and files of them, alphabetically presented. Filled for journalists to come by and take. It’s only open to journalists, but if you do happen to get in, it will be a shocker and an education to see how the kits are created. Most of them are pretty poorly designed and constructed, and make the same errors and omissions that journalists see all the time.

Oh, once in a while you’ll see a journalist come in and peruse the files, maybe even grab a media kit or two, but not many. The press file room is one of the loneliest places to be at BEA.

In all my years of doing this show, I have never seen or heard a media success story that was based on materials placed in the BEA press room.

If you look at what happens at the end of the show, 99 percent of the stuff is thrown away. Total waste.

Now what is cool is the press meeting room, assuming they have one. Over the years this spot has turned into a haven for the media to escape and be amongst their brethren. There’s free food for journalists. It’s a nice place to be if you can get in, and you can meet lots of cool people there. But you have to have a press badge to get in. There are armed guards at the entrance (no just kidding). But really, normal people (floor walkers and exhibitors) are not usually allowed or invited and doing business (god forbid) within these hallowed halls is not really condoned, except by invitation of a media person. But if you do get in, relax and meet a few good people.

And again, I’ve yet to see anything happen there that was really book publicity related. Journalists hang out, but good luck getting them to give you the time of day and getting a story. Better idea would be to make friends, listen, learn, commiserate, ask questions and think about what you hear.

My advice on the other hand is to look for media by their badges, stop and politely introduce yourself, talk to them, get a business card, give them a business card, and then write to them later, follow up individually. Ask questions and be friendly, but don’t expect anything. They can’t take your book since it’s too heavy to carry. Send them the book and materials later.

This is also wise even if you are an exhibitor.

Now understand, that these folks usually have their own agenda, their own goals, and objectives, their own job to do while they are there. They usually simply don’t and won’t respond at all to publicity seekers or people who see their badge and make a publicity pitch on the floor. In fact, if you pay attention to them you will see that they are tired, they are harried and feel accosted by people.

So be nice, offer them candy and a coffee, or a place to sit and relax. Be friendly and nice and be a human being.

There is one golden opportunity you can keep your eyes open for.

If you do catch a media person at a book doing an interview and taking notes, you can jump in and ask a controversial question or throw out a controversial comment. This is how to garner some quick attention and a quote. But that sound bite had better be good, timely and relevant. You’ve got to be fast on your feet to pull this one off. You can take lessons from Expertising Expert Fern Reiss on this one and turn this opportunity into gold.

But this is rare. Generally speaking, publicity opportunities are few and far between at the BEA.

BEA is all about learning and making contacts. Meet people, study the industry, find out about new technologies and other people’s publications and the companies, study the successful. Get business cards.

My advice is to forget collecting the free books or at least keep it to a tolerable minimum. Stick to books you’ll really want to read or study, or take home and give away to friends or loved ones for fun or to help someone.

Get in line a few times and get some nice celebrity autographed books. It’s fun shaking hands with some of these people.

Don’t break your back — you can always collect a box or two day by day and ship home from the floor, day by day, or from your hotel room.

Instead, collect catalogs, exchange cards, make requests and have people mail them to you. These are worth a lot later as well if you do business with people and want to learn about their companies by studying what they publish later at home

Even if you are an exhibitor, chances are slim that you’ll sell a lot of books or close major deals. It can happen, but mostly you are there to meet people and learn everything you can.

Before you go, if you can, get a hold of Dan Poynter’s tip sheet on how to get the most out of the BEA.

Here are my own suggestions. Make a list of every booth you want to go to.

On day one even before the doors open, and before you walk in, sit down and take at least half an hour to study the show guide, especially the map and learn where everything is located. Identify your “must see” locations with a color high lighter.

Then lay out your trip plans for the time you will be there.

Wear comfortable walking shoes.

Bring two very strong carry bags to collect stuff.

Be the student. Be open minded. Pay attention and think about what you see. Meet people. Learn everything you can. Take notes on cards or in a notebook. Ideas will come to you about what you will like to do with people. Record these ideas. Capture them and specifically identify the action you want to take — what specifically you will want to do (these actions will definitely occur to you as you walk around).

The contact and this action plan is perhaps the most valuable thing you can walk away from your time at BEA.

Follow up when you get home.

That’s how to mine the incredible resources and people that you’ll meet and see at BEA.

Have fun everybody! I’ll miss you. See you next year.

Paul J. Krupin
Direct Contact PR

A Sermon Just for Me by Marcia Lee Laycock

Marcia writes from Central Alberta Canada where she and her husband are involved in planting a new church. Her devotionals have been widely published and in 2006 she was awarded the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone.
Last Sunday, as I settled in my chair I prayed a quick prayer. “Talk to me, Lord.”

My husband tends to be a spontaneous person and I’ve gotten used to him doing unexpected things. Sometimes. But last Sunday he surprised me by announcing that I was going to give my testimony that morning, in 3 minutes or less. He hadn’t warned me about this, probably because he didn’t know he was going to do it until that very moment. As I walked up to the front I was thinking, Good thing I’m good at public speaking. The testimony part is a breeze, but in 3 minutes? No doubt he gave me a time limit because he knows my tendency to go on and on. He did have a sermon to preach that morning. So I did what he asked and all went well. As I expected it would.
Then my husband got up to preach. The sermon was on Mark 12:41-44 – a short passage of scripture that seemed straightforward as he read it out loud. The widow gave all she had. She was extremely generous. She put the religious leaders to shame. But my husband, bless him, took a different tack when he said, this little bit of scripture is really about pride and humility. Huh?
I felt God tapping me on the shoulder. I was feeling quite self-satisfied, having just given my testimony clearly, with just the right emphasis. In fact I was thinking, ‘I really am good at that.’ The more my favourite preacher spoke the more I felt like crawling under my chair. I knew that what had just happened was no coincidence.
God was talking to me but I wasn’t particularly happy to hear it.
Then my favourite preacher started talking about generosity. Okay, that’s better. I sat up a bit. Then he said, “the core of generosity is humility.” Oh. And he gave Haddon Robinson’s definition – “humility is confidence properly placed.” Oh dear.
When Proverbs 29:23 appeared in big bold letters on the screen I had to grin just a little. “Pride brings you low.” Right. I really should remember that.
I was encouraged, when my husband acknowledged that he, and everyone else in the room, all struggle with pride. It’s a big part of the human condition. The trick is to catch ourselves at it, repent of it, and put ourselves back in the place where we all need to be, at the feet of Jesus. Confidence properly placed. Right.
I definitely have to remember that.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Author Erica Abeel ~ Interviewed

Erica Abeel is the author of four books, including the acclaimed novel /Women Like Us, The LastRomance, I’ll Call You Tomorrow and Other Lies Between Men and Women, /and /Only When I Laugh, /a memoir. A former dancer, Abeel was until recently a professor of French literature at City University of New York. She currently writes film reviews, features and blogs for online film magazines.

Tell us a bit about your current project.

An impetus for "Conscience Point" was the love triangle at the center of "Brideshead Revisited" -- Charles/Sebastian/Julia -- which has long both intrigued and mystified me. So to work out what it was all about, I reimagined a similar trio in a novel of my own, set mainly in a region I know well: Long Island's Gold Coast, aka as the Hamptons. I also wanted to explore the struggles of accomplished baby boomers to keep from getting cashiered out in rapidly shifting times. And, finally, "Conscience Point" reflects nostalgia for that never-recaptured intensity of first love.

We are all about journeys...unique ones at that. How convoluted was your path to your first published book?

Well, for my first book, "Only When I Laugh," it was simple, partly because there were lots more publishers. Now, given the tepid response of many mainstream publishers to fiction, I had to discover a new home and "kindred spirit." And once I connected with Unbridled Books, I immediately sensed I'd found them.

Share some highlights or lowlights from your path to publication.

It's a real privilege to work with good editors. Greg Michalson at Unbridled is a terrific, insightful editor, who brought the novel up in subtle but decisive ways, and helped me make my heroine more sympathetic. Our phone and email confabs were definitely a high point in the path to publication.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work, or struggle in a particular area such as writers block or angst driven head-banging against walls? Please share some helpful overcoming hints that you’ve discovered.

A big impediment to writing a new novel is the need to promote the one that's already out there -- virtually a fulltime job in itself. You want to give the published novel your best shot. There are always self doubts until a novel-in-progress takes root in your subconscious and off-moments of your waking life. Now with my latest book I'm trying to A) polish and twist individual scenes; B) suss out the novel's larger meaning; and C) avoid writing scenes that sound too play-like. I try to set aside the prime time morning hours to inch the new book forward. It's about a group of college friends from the 50's who fail to fulfill their promise.

What mistakes have you made while seeking publication? Or to narrow it down further what’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

I wish I'd known earlier about the wonderful folks at Unbridled Books.

What is your favorite source for finding story ideas?

I don't really have a source -- I have to work with some core feeling -- anger, disappointment, longing -- otherwise the long slog necessary for a novel becomes impossible. That said, one source and inspiration for "Conscience Point" was the career and ambition of a well-known concert pianist friend. Something she once said to me found its way into the novel: "I won't move over till I fall over." I love that kind of fightin,' gutsy heroine.

Have you ever had one of those awkward writer moments you’d like to share with us, the ones wherein you get “the look” from the normals? Example, you stand at a knife display at the sporting goods store and ask the clerk which would be the best to use to disembowel a six foot man…please do tell.

Well, in my novel in progress I wanted to know how a closeted gay man might betray his true orientation. I'm still researching that, so stay tuned …

With the clarity of experience what advice would you offer up to the wet-behind-the-ears you if beginning this writing journey today?

It gets harder and somehow you have to be up to the task.

What event/person has most changed you as a writer? How?

A wonderful editor/writer who has since died, who "plumped the pillows," as she put it, of my "Hers" columns for the New York Times. She had an inspiring attitude, refused ever to be intimidated or so impressed she couldn't get the work done. She loved helping fellow scribblers. How I miss her! And her spirit and drive -- like that of my pianist friend -- infuses "Conscience Point."

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why? (Doesn't have to be one of your books or even published.)

I think I come into my own in the most satirical passages of my novels, including "Only When I Laugh," "Women Like Us," and "Conscience Point." I feel at home with that sharp-edged tone -- which is also in my journalism -- but I fear it may put off some independent booksellers who prefer something gentler. At readings, when I get to the party scenes among New York's highfliers, I myself have to laugh.

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

The disappearing press and the shrinking print review outlets.

Share a dream or something you'd love to accomplish through your writing career.

I'd like to create and lay claim to a "world" the way Updike did with upper crust suburbans.

What gives you the greatest writer buzz, makes the trip worth the hassles (besides coffee or other substances, or course )?

Reading reviews of "Conscience Point" that "get it" and feeling that by writing I've earned my keep on the planet.

What is one of the more unique or strange life experiences that has really given you an extra oomph in your writing?

I'm privileged to have lived through acquaintances (and a romance) with the Beat writers. I've also been the roomate of Yoko Ono in New York. This juicy history is feeding into my novel-in-progress.

Describe your special or favorite writing spot or send a picture if you'd like.

Oh, gee, just get in front of my computer and resist reading email. It's awfully unhealthy to sit there like a maniac all day though, don't you think? Essential to the long form is keeping in shape. I end the work day by running to the gym or doing Pilates.

What aspect of writing was the most difficult for you to grasp/conquer? How did you overcome it? What is the first thing you do when you begin a new book?

If you're not writing autobiographical fiction, the hardest task is finding the structure. And it's only through writing the whole damn thing that you discover both the shape and the book's deeper themes. However, I outline compulsively, over and over, to keep myself on course.

Plot, seat of pants or combination?

I have to write in the morning, after which my brain gets fogged. So my main ritual is to stave off all the distractions as best I can and just get to it, the earlier the better. Coffee is imperative. But now email and the web world is a major threat to the single-mindedness needed by a fiction writer.

What is the most difficult part of pulling together a book? Ex. Do you have saggy middles, soggy characters, soupy plots during your first drafts…if so, how do you shape it up?

Keeping the plot driving forward. Best method for doing that is constant rewriting with an eye to forward propulsion. As a movie reviewer, I learn a lot about narrative drive from studying films.

Have you received a particularly memorable reader response or peer honor? Please share.

Well, I loved that "Women Like Us" was a Book of the Month Club selection. And I'm generally delighted with the reception of "Conscience Point" and the way it excites readers. It's got a page-turner quality that readers really appreciate and that I studiously engineered. And I love that they're into the spooky Gothic quality of the novel, which I had such fun creating.

Have you discovered any successful marketing/promo ideas that you'd share with us?

I would just say be proactive and fanatical on behalf of your own work.

Parting words? Anything you wish we would’ve asked because you’ve got the perfect answer?

I'm far from having an answer, but the greatest challenge for a writer is to clear the clutter of both the internet and life's incessant demands, and somehow carve out time for the work. It also helps to have good teeth because dentists tend to destroy one's schedule.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Author Interview ~ River Jordan

River Jordan is a southerner with a global perspective. She began her writing career as a playwright and spent over ten years with the Loblolly Theatre group, where her original works were produced, including Mama Jewels: Tales from Mullet Creek, Soul, Rhythm and Blues, and Virga.

Ms. Jordan's first novel, The Gin Girl (Livingston Press, 2003), has garnered such high praise as "This author writes with a hard bitten confidence comparable to Ernest Hemingway. And yet, in the Southern tradition of William Faulkner, she can knit together sentences that can take your breath."

Kirkus Reviews described her second novel, The Messenger of Magnolia Street, as "a beautifully written atmospheric tale." It was applauded as "a tale of wonder" by Southern Living, who chose the novel as their Selects feature for March 2006, and described by other reviewers as " a riveting, magical mystery" and "a remarkable book."

Her third novel, Saints In Limbo has been painted by some of the finest fiction voices of today as "a lyrical and relentlessly beautiful book," and "a wise, funny, joyful and deadly serious book, written with a poet's multilayered sense of metaphor and meter and a page-turning sense of urgency."

In addition, The Deep, Down, & Dirty South – a southern girl recollects, a collection of short essays, has become a popular must have for everyone who loves River Jordan's words.

Ms. Jordan teaches and speaks around the country on "The Passion of Story", and produces and hosts River Jordan Radio on WRFN, Nashville.

When not traveling the back roads of America, River lives with her husband Owen Hicks, and their Great Pyrennees lap dog, Titan in Nashville, Tennessee. She thinks about where stories come from - places and people and moods of the heart while rocking on her front porch. And long after the sun sets over the ridge, she waits for the moon to rise, watches the stars come out, and stares off into the blue-night sky believing with all her might.

Tell us a little about your latest release:

Saints In Limbo is the most recent novel. It’s very southern with a mysterious twist. I love it and am very excited about the release. It is currently featured on the Random House website as one of the Editor’s Choice selections for the month. I’m very surprised and pleased for this distinction.

How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific 'what if' moment?

There was a moment but it was more of an image in my mind. An older woman sitting on the front porch of an old country house and whirlwind twirling, picking up dirt on the road in front of her house. I knew there was something special there and it continued to form and take shape.

Tell us a little about your main character and how you developed him/her:

The main character is Velma True. I think she is a compilation of all the older, wonderful women in my life. My Memaw and my aunts. She is also just fully Velma True. She’s an old southern, apron wearing, biscuit maker. And I sure hope some of them are here as long as the earth should turn.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book? Least?

I most enjoyed the story the characters were telling. The story surprised me all along the way. The least part is always the final line edits and proofing but that is really more about the final publishing process – not the writing. When I fall into a story I’m basically living in it until it’s finished and I surface and all of that I love.

What made you start writing?

It seemed as natural to me as breathing. Maybe, more so. Even as a young girl I kept a diary. In sixth grade I started writing poems and stories.

What does your writing space look like?

Anywhere I can be alone. And preferable have a window to glance out of on occasion while I’m listening or thinking. I used to always make certain that we had a bedroom or space that was designated as my office. But I didn’t get any more words written. I find that kind of space really helpful for taking care of bills and business. Writing – maybe a cave or a hilltop. It’s the solitude that helps me most.

What kind of activities to you like to do that help you relax and step away from your deadlines for a bit?

Two things – I love to go for drives. The Natchez Trace is really beautiful and peaceful. But that is more like a work exercise for me because I drive and listen to the story and where it’s going next. Total deadline stress relief? Movies. Going to the movies, sitting in the dark, eating popcorn and just being carried away to another place. It’s losing myself in another story that takes me out of the one I’m writing for just a little while.

What's the most difficult part of writing for you (or was when you first started on your novel journey)?

Not cleaning the closet, out from under the bed, the fridge, the backyard, my car – in other words – sitting down to write because as much fun as it is, it’s also work, work, work. So the most difficult thing is parking myself at the computer and knowing I’m going into that story place and won’t be back for hours. That’s why retreat spaces with one room and nothing of my personal life in them are great for this writer.

Do you put yourself into your books/characters?

Completely. I’m so lost in that place and those characters that if someone calls on the phone I sound a thousand miles away when I answer the phone. It’s better for me just not to answer.

What message do you hope readers gain from your novel?

That life is the most precious gift we have. In that I mean the relationships and people we’ve been blessed to take this journey with and that every moment has it’s own special magic if we will let it. Sometimes we lose our life in all those moments that are given over to frustration and worry and unhappiness. I think simple pleasures are the best and that family and friends are some of those greatest simple pleasures. Most of us take that for granted everyday.

Briefly take us through your process of writing a novel—from conception to revision.

Sometimes stories bubble up in me that I carry around for a very long time. So I may be carrying several stories around for years. When I first get a since of place or person, I let that go through a development stage inside of me before I try to put it on the page. Or else I end up writing chapters that will be tossed because it’s not quite the true story. When I hear the right voice and the place is solid in my mind, I begin. The blank page everyday is new to me and the characters are always saying or doing things that are a surprise. I’d describe my process as very organic and not very methodical.

What are a few of your favorite books (not written by you) and why are they favorites?

Okay. Let me see. A few of my favorites. That’s really tough because hundreds come pouring to mind. I’ll tell you a few not written by me or people I know or have met.

To Kill A Mockingbird - which everyone says but it is. The voice was so perfect, the story to simple and profound. I love everything about it.

West With the Night - it is just beautifully written. It’s an old book and not everyone knows it. What a jewel though. I will read it forever.

Ella Minnow Pea - it is one of the most little, creative works I’ve ever discovered.

Peace Like A River - I’ve read it twice and will read it again. The narration and the story just captivate me.

Gilead – how painfully, beautiful. What a great story.

On The Road With An Archangel – a beautifully written little tale, captivating and sweet. Maybe because an angel tells the story.

The Book of the Dun Cow – just flat out brilliant in the fable, its meaning and the execution.

Childhood books - Tom Sawyer, Nancy Drew, and Lord of the Rings.

The Spanish writers and a hundred books by author friends.

What do you wish you’d known early in your career that might have saved you some time and/or frustration in writing? In publishing?

That getting your first novel published will not change your life overnight. That you can do write a great story and still not get your story out to as many people as you like.

I think what I have learned from that is that the real story is real life. What’s unfolding around us is the greatest thing. My ideas of success have changed as I’ve gotten older and matured just a little.

How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?

Marketing is a little off and on for me. I feel a little guilty when I’m working on marketing because I feel I should be working on my next writing project. I think my marketing is best put by the fact that I love to attend readers and writers conferences and speak to people about Passion of Story. That’s not work for me because it is such a true love.
I love to do radio interviews as well because I love radio and talking about story. Those are the kind of things that just feel like fun instead of marketing work. I do mail out postcards occasionally and give away bookmarks at events and to bookstores when I’m there. But that would be my major marketing. Oh, and maintaining my website and other sites like facebook/my space, etc. Those are little busier. And I try to remember to do those after I’ve written my words and not when I should be working on my new novel.

Tell us what we have to look forward to in the future. What new projects are you working on?

The new novel in progress is about the people in a small, southern, coastal town and what happens in due time. I’m really enjoying hanging out with them and listening to what they have to tell me. It’s all southern moss in the trees and salty, gulf in the air. And the main character is just talking up a storm so I guess I should go write it all down!

Do you have any parting words of advice?

Believe. Always.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Guest Blogger Eva Marie Everson

Eva Marie Everson is the award-winning author of such works as Sex, Lies, and the Media, Shadow of Dreams, and The Potluck Club series. Her work, Reflections of God's Holy Land; A Personal Journey Through Israel was a finalist for ECPA's Medallion of Excellence award and is a finalist for Foreword Magazine's Book of the Year (Travel Essays). Things Left Unspoken is the first in a new line of Southern Fiction from Eva Marie and Baker/Revell Publishing.

Welcome to Adulthood, Eva Marie

One of my favorite reads – an article really – is titled “We Are Writers” (although I’ve seen it printed as “Leaping and Posturing”) written by Margaret (Meg) Chittenden. Within this ode to the craft of writing are these words:

When you start writing, the advice you receive from books and articles and at writers’ conferences can be e
normously helpful. However, it can also be confusing. I started writing in 1970. I was the most confused writer in the history of writing. I attended writers’ conferences and I came out by that same door wherein I went. One of the most confusing things I heard was “Write What You Know.” My problem was that I didn’t know anything.

Have you ever felt like this? Like you didn’t have a clue to who you are or what you are, and therefore feel as though you are giving no real value to the craft of writing?

I have.

The beginning of my writing career came in 1999 when Barbour Publishing (under the imprint Promise Press) published my first traditionally published work, True Love; Engaging Stories of Real Life Proposals. I knew very little about weddings and
engagements and all that. My own marriage proposal consisted of my soon-to-be-husband, a hot dog at Hardees and me blurting out, “Why don’t we get married?”

I’d said those words before but to no avail. This time they hit fertile ground. A week (or maybe it was two) later and I was a married woman. So with that wealth of information added to my firm belief that the sweetest marriage proposal of all time was
cried out in Gethsemane, I approached an editor with a gem of an idea.

Turns out, she’d walked
down the aisle of her church not two weeks earlier.

Within a year I had written two books for Promise Press and was talking to my editor about the fact that in 1997 I had written a novel, a work of Southern Fiction I’d thought up after I asked myself the question, “How long has it been since you’ve tasted honeysuckle?”

Susan, my editor, wanted to see the manuscript. I sent it via email – in those days, via zip drive. A day later I emailed to see if she’d gotten the file. She replied, “Don’t bother me. I’m reading a really good manuscript right now.”

It was mine.
[Insert very big grin here.]

Shadow of Dreams was published a year later, followed by Summon the Shadows and Shadows of Light.

I thought I’d hit my m
arket. My niche, if you will. But God had other plans. I compiled three books. Wrote a few more nonfiction titles. Edited a number of works. Then, in about 2002, Linda Evans Shepherd called me with an idea for a novel she called The Potluck Club. Did I, she wanted to know, want to write it with her?

My initial response was no, not really. It wasn’t that I wasn’t intrigued. I was. But I was also tired from whirlwind traveling. In short: I was pooped. But the more I thought about it, the more I knew I wanted to write this book with Linda. I called her back and we started plotting.

The premise of the storyline was simple enough: six friends living in the fictitious town of Summit View, CO. Of course what I knew about high country living (where Linda lives) one could put on the end of the proverbial pin. But I knew how to research and do it well, so I did.

I also threw in a character who was transplanted from Georgia. For fun, Linda threw in a character transplanted from Texas (like herself).

e Potluck Club was a wild success. Still is. It gave birth to other books: The Potluck Club Trouble’s Brewing, The Potluck Club Takes the Cake, The Potluck Catering Club The Secret’s in the Sauce, The Potluck Catering Club A Taste of Fame, and The Potluck Club Cookbook. In the process of all this writing and a few accolades along the way, I kept hearing a recurring theme: your character Goldie is among your best writing.

Goldie. My transplant from Georgia.

One day as I sat in front of my computer, swiveling back and forth in my oversized chair, I pondered what I wanted to be when I grew up. In other words: just what kind of writer did I want to be? I’d been reading some of Ann Tatlock’s work and found myself in a minor state of jealousy. Her writing went somewhere very deep, not just in place but in character. I decided then and there I wanted to be Ann Tatlock when I grew up.

Soon after, I came across the Margaret Chittenden article which I’d printed some time before and kept in a folder. I read, again, those lines about writing what you know. And
for the first time in a while, my vision was clear.

I know the South.

I know
Southern people. I know their nuances. I know their idiosyncrasies and their histories. I know they have five seasons: summer, fall, winter, spring, and football. Sometimes six and seven if you add baseball and basketball. I know that going to church is more than just a religion; it’s a social event. I know the value of family reunions. And handed down recipes. Of hunting and fishing with your daddy, no matter your sex. I know the strength of Southern women, their mantra being WWSD (What would Scarlett do?). I most certainly know the elements of Southern hospitality, that every Southern girl owns at least one of two things: 1) a deviled egg dish, and 2) a black dress to wear in case someone dies.

She most definitely owns a pair of heirloom pearls.

I know how to speak Southern. When Bucky Covington was sent home on American Idol, Ryan Seacrest asked how he felt about it. “Awww,” he said. “I don’ care. I juss wanna go home and petmahdawg.”

n looked puzzled, but I understood every word the boy said.

I understand the difference in a good ole boy and a Southern gentleman.

I also know the history of my own people.

One gray February afternoon as I sat on the back patio of my Florida home (you have to go north to get south of here), I thought about the day
my Uncle Jimmy was buried. It was also gray. It was cold. It snowed.

A minute later these words echoed in my head, “It snowed the day we buried Uncle Jimmy…” An idea was born on a first line. I bolted out of my chair, into the house, down the hall into my office. I slid into the oversize chair, pulled the keyboard to me, and began to write: It snowed the day we buried Uncle Jim. Not the kind of snow that flurries about your face or drives itself sideways, turning the world into a blinding sheet of white. This was angels dancing on air.

saved the few lines and went on my merry way. But something kept nagging me … namely this “what do I want to be” question. Every time I saw the file labeled “Heels on Wood” (my working title), I would open it, read, add a few lines, some paragraphs. Pretty soon a story was forming … one based on an element of my family history. I kept at it, adding more of the story as time went on. Months passed. Two years of them. And then, one day, I said to my editor at Baker/Revell (who publishes the Potluck Club books) that I wanted to try my hand at writing Southern Fiction.

She liked what she heard. She also liked what she read. So I went home and started writing – seriously writing – on a story with no absolute plot. The plot formed though as my characters and I got to know each other better. I wrote. I rewrote.
I edited and rewrote some more. Six months later, I turned in a finished work to my editor and started working on the next one.

My editor declared it to be very good. The marketing folks wanted to know who should endorse the book. “Ann Tatlock, for one,” I said. They agreed and sent her a copy. Ann wrote: A lovely and deeply moving story. I didn’t just read this story. I live
d it!

I saw Ann last week at a writer’s conference. I greeted her with a hug as I said, “Ah, the lady who I want to be when I grow up.”

She replied, “If your writing in Things Left Unspoken is any indication, you’ve already grown up, Eva.”

Welcome to adulthood, Eva Marie.

Things Left Unspoken
by Eva Marie Everson

Every family--and every house--has its secrets.

Jo-Lynn Hunter is at a crossroads in life when her great-aunt Stella insists that she return home to restore the old family manse in sleepy Cottonwood, Georgia. Jo-Lynn longs to get her teeth into a noteworthy and satisfying project. And it's the perfect excuse for some therapeutic time away from her self-absorbed husband and his snobby Atlanta friends.

the dust and the peeling wallpaper, things are not what they seem, and what Jo-Lynn doesn't know about her family holds just as many surprises. Was her great-grandfather the pillar of the community she thought he was? What is Aunt Stella hiding? And will her own marriage survive the renovation?

Jo-Lynn isn't sure she wants to know the truth--but sometimes the truth has a way of making itself known.

I decided to post my review here instead of on Novel Reviews this time. I emailed Eva when I first started reading Things Left Unspoken, and she asked me what I thought of the book.

Reading it was like sitting down with a good friend, listening to her reveal a family secret. When I read what Ann Tatlock said that she didn't read it but lived it, I thought that says it best.

Eva has a lyrical voice in writing, one that sings a haunting melody. You know the kind. They're the ones that linger, playing through your mind. Things Left Unspoken and the characters within will remain with you long after you turn the last page.

As the blurb on the back of the book says: Every family--and every house--has its secrets, these secrets may just surprise you with unexpected twists. Eva Marie has indeed grown into adulthood, writing-wise. I'm looking forward to the next book in her Southern series.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Christian Devotions' & SPEAK UP! Radio's Cindy Sproles and Eddie Jones

Cindy Sproles is the founder of Mountain Breeze Ministries and TINKERTIME Productions, a video trailer production company. She is a contributing writer to Novel Journey and Novel Reviews, and Christian Devotions. She writes for PML Programs and contributes to the Her devotions are published weekly in a Knoxville, TN newspaper and are read by readers throughout Tennessee. She co-writes the He Said, She Said devotions with Eddie Jones which publish in Common Ground Christian Newspaper.

Eddie Jones has authored two non-fiction books and written hundreds of columns and articles that have appeared in over 20 different publications. He's served as cruising editor for Carolina Living, was regional editor for Embassy Marine's Mid-Atlantic Cruising Guide and has written articles for the Waterway Guide, Latitudes & Attitudes, Carolina Style, Lookout and Maritimes Magazine. He has an English degree from NC State, with an emphasis in journalism.

Eddie, we understand Christian Devotions was actually your brain child. Tell us how it came about.

Isaac Newton was under an apple tree when he discovered gravity. I was sitting under a willow tree when the idea for Christian Devotions hit me. The similarity of these two great events, plus the fact that I dated a girl whose last name was Newton, have nothing to do with your question but it does allow me to mention my name and Isaac Newton’s in the same sentence and I think that’s pretty awesome!

Seriously, I was sitting on a bench under our willow tree when I heard God whisper, check out the domain, “” I went to my desk to see if it was available for purchase, discovered that .com was taken but .US was not, so I bought that one. Then for about two months I did nothing with it because I forgot about it.

Tell us what the mission of Christian Devotions is. I understand it's more than just devotions.

Our mission is to find professional writers who have said “yes” to God and coerce them into writing for little or no pay.

We’re also seeking new writers. This may seem like a contraction and it is but I think Lamaze and natural child birth are overrated. Opps, sorry. I meant to say contradiction. Stupid spell check. Where was I? Oh yeah, the new writers. We believe God is constantly nurturing new growth to replace the fruit that’s ripe and rotting. Not that professional writes are a rotten bunch. Well… maybe a few like that guy, whatshisname, the guy who wrote Mein Kampf. But my point is, fresh writers are the energy of this ministry.

Our second goal is promote Christian writing. I have no idea what that means but it sounds nice to say. All kidding outside, one of our aims is to help Christian writers sell more books, reach a larger audience and change the world for Christ.
us serious and took the ministry forward.

I understand you have video, audio, mp3.'s. Tell us about the incorporation of those venues and why you moved the website in that direction?

We use the major mediums of print, audio and video to reach our audience. If cell phones ever catch on we might try those, but they need to get the bugs worked out first. Our goal is present daily devotions in as many forms as possible. Like, say, a few weeks ago I asked Cindy if we should try posting the devotions in the clouds but she said our budget couldn’t support sky-writing. That gives you some idea of just how far out there we are.

How did Blog Talk Radio come into the ministry and what is your future plans for that venue?

Eddie: I’m sure you mean Christian Devotions, SPEAK UP! Blog Talk Radio just happens to be the hosting provider of the show. I attended the Book’em event in Waynesboro, Virginia last fall where I sold exactly no books. This happens sometimes. Actually, it happens just about every time I participate in one of these silly writing conferences. But I keep going back to the Book’em because it promotes reading among our youth and I’m all for that. I was a youth once and one day I hope to be one again. So, anyway, one of the speakers, Nikki Leigh, talked about virtual book tours which I thought was a really cool idea until I found out that it had nothing to do with time travel.

Her other suggestion was to start an online radio show. She said the hosting of the show was free which, as it turned out, was exactly how much money Cindy said I could spend on our next project. I signed up for an account and like everything else we’ve done, we moved forward without any idea of what we were doing. But God has provided. The shows are archived and can be heard for free on the Christian Devotions web site. In fact, I’ve added a best of Christian Devotions, SPEAK UP! that includes snippets some of the shows.

Tell us about the call to publish. Was this a joint decision between you and Cindy? Why did you start with the devotions on the site?

Eddie: Yes, it was a joint decision since anything that involves the risk of losing large sums of money must involve both of us. We started with the devotions on the site because we had enough great content to make one good book. Plus, we wanted the writers who’d supported us thus far to have the chance to actually earn some money from their writing. We offered to pay them for their devotion but a lot of the writers returned the money. Those silly Christians… they’re always so giving. Anyway, the writers can buy the book at a discounted price and sell it at retail, so they still get to make a little money off the project.

Weren't you worried about the economy? Why would you launch the ministry into a publishing venue when publishing houses are shifting employees or closing up shop?

I believe the Bible when it says God is the Word, he creates with words and His authority is the final word.

So when the people in the business of words recoil in fear, I figure it’s time to act like David and take on the giants. Of course, David ran the risk of losing his head and those in his camp probably thought he already had. Perhaps we’ve lost our minds, too, but if any book we publish causes someone to turn toward God then I think we’ve done the right thing.

What is next on the agenda for publishing for Christian Devotions as a publisher?

Eddie: Find the next Shack manuscript and publish it.

(Cindy: He’s such a goof. I say look for something more successful, like The Bible. That’s still a best seller, despite everything.) But we will be looking for something very unique.

Final words?

Cindy: So often folks attend writers conferences and when they leave they announce to the world they're starting a ministry. A few months later, the ministry has gone to the wayside. One of our hardest obstacles has been convincing the big dogs of Christian writing that we're serious. We are serious and passionate about the work that God has chosen us to do. He has opened the door a crack at a time and let us slip a toe in. When we stepped into the publishing aspect Eddie and I both knew the odds of failure were huge. Believe me, we had lots of well meaning folks advising us not to do it. But I think our own naivety has helped us.

You know, one of the overlooked aspects of David’s battle with Goliath was the fact that he wasn’t in the camp everyday hearing the drum beat of discouraging remarks. He off in the fields tending sheep. So I think sometimes it helps to come to a challenge with a clean heart that hasn’t been wounded by failure. Eddie kept saying, “God won't walk us into the river and let us drown.”

He was right. God has come through on every aspect of the ministry. And I believe, it’s because we do work hard to promote others. When you work for others; when you work with the heart of a servant, God works for you. We keep looking for unique ways to improve the site, for good writers and individuals willing to tithe of their time to help. And we’re open to anything within reason that will promote Christian writing and authors.

It's all about God and how we can be used to lead people to His word--either through listening to the radio show, reading the devotions or guiding them to good Christian worldview reading by authors who love the Lord fully.

We welcome submissions to the site (and we are particular about what is posted and the format). There are writer’s guidelines on the site, so check them out. We welcome unique people for radio interviews and we invite others to share in the fun. Christian Devotions is really one big (really big) family. We now host some 60 authors and their books on the site. Get to know us. Visit the site, send your friends to the site. This is how we grow the ministry and this is how we can promote our writers.

Oh, and thanks for having us on your site.

Eddie, any final words from you?

Yes, but after Cindy’s answer I forgot what they were.

Spirit and Heart: A Devotional Journey.

Spirit & HEART: A Devotional Journey is compilation of 30 author’s devotions. We were thrilled to have Yvonne Lehman, Virginia Smith, Ann Tatlock, Ariel Allison, Shelby Rawson, Loree Lough, Irene Brand and other Christian writers in this book. Along side of them, we placed new writers...writers who'd never been published. It takes the experience of a seasoned writer and couples it with new writers offering a great perspective. The mix was great.

Each devotion has a small journal section and corresponding building blocks of faith. We try to teach readers to develop that important intimate relationship with Christ by writing down how God speaks to them through the scripture or devotion, meditating on it and praying over it. We're pleased with our first effort and we look forward to the next. Spirit & HEART is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as Of course they can order through our site and . We're working on Lifeway and Family Books. And when folks purchase this book the proceeds goes back into the ministry.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

"Twilight" Author Dismisses Public's Interest in Her Mormon Faith

by Mike Duran

Mormonism has gotten a lot of press lately. What with Mitt Romney running for President last year, the LDS church's active support for California's Prop 8, and Stephenie Meyer's wildly popular teen vampire saga, you'd think Mormonism would be making some inroads into mainstream American religion. However, it appears the Latter Day Saints are still facing an uphill climb.

In The Fantasticks, author E.E. Evans writes, "It’s still very much a mixed bag when it comes to media coverage of the Mormons," citing a Pew survey revealing America's suspicion of Mormonism. According to the survey, one-in-four respondents said that they would be less likely to vote for a Mormon candidate for president. Furthermore, "Barely half of the public (49%) says they know 'a great deal' or 'some' about the Mormon religion, and just 25% believe that the Mormon religion and their own religion have a lot in common." But apparently this ignorance and/or apprehension has not prevented Meyer, an openly devout Mormon, from selling oodles of books.

The topic came up in a USA Today article:
[Meyer's] Mormon faith, she says, is of intense interest to the news media, but to her, it's just who she is.

"It seems funny that it's still a story," Meyer says, "because you didn't hear people saying, 'Jon Stewart, Jewish writer,' when his book came out. I guess being a Mormon is just odd enough that people think it's still a real story. Obviously, to me, it seems super normal. It's just my religion."
Being a Mormon may be "super normal" for Stephenie Meyer, but like it or not, her beliefs are still way out of the mainstream. Despite its burgeoning secularism, America remains a nation framed within a Judeo-Christian worldview. Meyer's attempt to downplay her beliefs by referencing Jon Stewart's Judaism is a typical Mormon apologetic. Latter Day Saints have long sought inclusion into the American mainstream, especially under the "Christian" tent. But no amount of spin or feigned shock can change the fact that Mormons believe:
  • There are many gods

  • God, the God of Earth, was once a man

  • We can become gods of our own worlds

  • Jesus is Lucifer's brother

  • Jesus was not born of a virgin; God had sex with Mary
While some suggest Twilight actually preaches Mormonism, seeing it as covert LDS propaganda, others downplay any religious underpinnings altogether. Interestingly enough, the Mormon-owned Deseret Bookstore recently pulled the series from its shelves. But why? A spokesperson for Deseret simply said, "When we find products that are met with mixed review, we typically move them to special order status." Huh? Is this "mixed review" from book critics or conservative Mormon membership? Is the subject matter (vampires, werewolves, and teenage angst) incompatible with church doctrine? Or is Twilight not "Mormon" enough?

Despite what the ACLU says, Americans are an incredibly tolerant people. You can believe what you want without fear of persecution. And obviously Meyer's beliefs have not kept her from selling books. What I continue to find interesting, however, is how surprised Mormons appear to be about the public's perception of their faith. During the Republican primaries, it prompted Mitt Romney to deliver an extensive speech on religion -- one in which he conveniently avoided all the controversial Mormon doctrines. Likewise, Stephenie Meyer's dismisses our curiosity: "It's just my religion."

In the end, I think this type of publicity is good for the LDS cause. Mormon women are often viewed as repressed, ultra-conservative, pioneer-like, husband-doting, baby machines. So a Mormon housewife writing a teen vampire novel can't help but demolish some stereotypes. What it doesn't do is change those oddball beliefs. And it's those beliefs that we Americans continue to see as, um, weird.

Borrowed Words

Marcia Lee Laycock won the Best New Canadian Christian Author award in 2006 for her novel, One Smooth Stone. Her poem, Dying to Live has been short-listed in this year's Word Guild contest. Winner will be announced in June at the Awards Gala in Mississauga Ontario, Canada.
“When you were out in the workforce, where did your paycheck come from?”
I frowned at the teacher and immediately thought of my previous employer. As a first year student in Bible College, and a brand new Christian, I thought it was a ridiculous question, not the stuff to stimulate deep spiritual thought.
The professor gave us a moment, then said, “If you’re thinking of an employer, you’re wrong. Your paychecks came from God and they belong to God.”

I was stunned. Of course he was absolutely right. That point marked a dramatic shift in how I thought about everything I considered “mine.”

Too often I think of the words I tap out on my computer as mine, especially when I have worked hard for them, when I’ve re-written and edited and re-edited until I’m absolutely certain it’s right. I claim it for my own. But it all belongs to God - every word.

There is a wonderful old hymn about Christ’s suffering and death, called O Sacred Head, Now Wounded. It is often sung during the Easter season, and I’ve often been moved by it, but singing it once in the company of a group of writers gave the last verse new meaning for me, especially these words – “What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest Friend, for this, Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?”

When I sang those words the reality of God’s gift to us amazed me. Our very language is borrowed from God! He gave it to us that we might use it to glorify Him. As I sang the words of that hymn, it struck me again, what an awesome responsibility we have as the stewards of language and of words. We are the borrowers, the users, but not the owners.

If we are true to that stewardship, we must acknowledge the struggle of life and of faith by using words we have struggled with, to convey it. I have become aware of this in my own writing in the past while, especially in my poetry. I’ve always put poetry in a ‘second class citizen’ category. Poetry has been something I’ve done when the mood strikes me, something I did not take very seriously. But God has impressed on me that I have no right to relegate any words to a second class level. They are God’s gift. I am in grave error if I treat them as anything less. We borrow language, words, images, the stuff of writing. It is up to us to acknowledge the original owner, to offer back to Him what we have done with what we have borrowed, and glorify the One who spoke the first word into existence.

“Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” 1Corinthians 4:2

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Summer Reading

Photo credit:, johnnyberg

I'm not sure who coined the term "Beach Read" or "Summer Reading" but it helped create the image that it's summer, time to read.

Here's my short list for the summer:

The Secret Life of Bees

Brother Odd

All the Numbers

The Blue Sword

What do you guys plan on reading this summer? Or, if you have a novel releasing this summer, tell us about it.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Author Robert Fate ~ Interviewed

N.J. readers. Robert Fate has given us an offer we just can't refuse. Read his comments about marketing and make sure you leave a comment. A dozen of you will be randomly chosen to receive one of Robert's Baby Shark books. Make sure I can get in touch with you for your snail mail addy should you be one of the lucky winners. Thanks, Robert. Deadline to comment...June 15th. Winners will be notified.

Tell us a bit about your current project.

In case some of your readers are not familiar with Robert Fate and his Baby Shark crime/adventure series, may I explain a bit about the storyline and the characters?

The Baby Shark stories take place in Texas in the 1950s.

Baby Shark is Kristin Van Dijk’s nickname. Baby because that’s what her father called her and Shark because she shoots a mean game of pool.

In the ’50s, she is the youngest private investigator in the American southwest and the only woman in Texas to carry that permit. She is Otis Millett’s partner at the Millett Agency in Fort Worth.

Kristin was 17-to-19 years old in book one and is 23 years old in book four. She’s a natural platinum blonde, five seven, and varies according to her exercise from 125 to 130lbs. She doesn’t think of herself as pretty, but folks say she is. Her standard dress is black Levi’s and boots with colorful shirts and a short leather jacket. In cool weather, she wears a black wool stocking cap.

She carries a Colt .38 Super Automatic and can use it. She also carries knives in her boots, and can use them, too. She learned to handle these weapons so she would never be afraid again. Read Baby Shark, book one in the series, to understand why.

Her on again off again boyfriend is a Dallas homicide detective named Lee.
Her dearest friend is Henry Chin, a Chinese/American who saved her life.
Her dog’s name is Jim, a 120 lb German shepherd who pretty much does what he wants.

The Baby Shark book titles are: Baby Shark; Beaumont Blues; High Plains Redemption; and Jugglers at the Border.

Now, about your question - Baby Shark’s Jugglers at the Border was finished this past month and is scheduled for release in September 2009. This is book number four in the Baby Shark series and will be introduced on the back cover as follows:

October 1958––When Otis Millett’s estranged wife, Dixie Logan aka The Dallas Firecracker, as she was known on the Texas striptease circuit, is murdered it spurs a manhunt that pairs Kristin and Otis with Lt. Carl Lynch, a straight-arrow homicide detective with the Fort Worth PD.

This blending of by-the-book and fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants investigative styles brings Kristin way too close to a ruthless cop-killing gang of bank robbers and their boss, a dreamy maniac who lives with his mother and hears voices.

The question that endangers Kristin’s life and leads to a chase from Fort Worth to New Mexico is where did Dixie hide the bank heist loot?

Hold on tight––once again bad men learn too late they should have taken Baby Shark seriously.

However, if you mean by “current project” what I’m writing at the moment, here is the answer to that: I am presently writing a standalone novel, not associated in any way to the Baby Shark series. I decided, just for a change of pace, to pen a contemporary noir in third person with a male protagonist. I call the novel Kill the Gigolo and it takes place in New York City and on the Pacific coast of Mexico. The book cover copy will say something like the following:

Al Foley, the Boston Godfather, didn’t have his boys simply kill Freddy Bledsoe. He had him mutilated by an IRA fugitive he harbored. So Freddy spent the final few terror-filled minutes of his life staggering about disrupting traffic at Broadway and Amsterdam until he collapsed and died from loss of blood.

The New York Post bought up every nasty cell phone picture taken of Freddy’s departure. Which meant most of the city had its nose in some mob business, and the feeling was the business was unfinished. The city held its breath; who would be next?

That would be Erik Lamar if Al Foley had his way.

Because what got his friend Freddy murdered, Erik was a part of. It was an incident really, a small matter in the overall scheme of things, but the old Irish mobster didn’t see it that way. So Erik got it––what happened to Freddy was a Girl Scout demerit compared to what was planned for him.

But first Al Foley had to catch him, and Erik was headed for Mexico––unfortunately, out of the frying pan and into the fire.

So, that’s what’s happening at the moment. If all goes as planned (laughter here), Kill the Gigolo will be released in the spring of 2010.

We are all about journeys...unique ones at that. How convoluted was your path to your first published book? Share some highlights or lowlights from your path to publication.

I might not have done this to you except you used the word “convoluted.” So, here’s a little bio biz to help launch this answer. Robert Fate is my pen name. The name on my birth certificate is Robert Fate Bealmear. I’m a Marine Corps veteran who lived in Paris and studied at the Sorbonne. I worked as an oilfield rough neck on a Texaco rig in Northeastern Oklahoma and a TV cameraman in Oklahoma City. I was a fashion model in New York City for a few years to earn a living while I co-authored a stage play with my buddy Don Chastain. We never sold it.

I was a project manager and later a sales exec in Las Vegas after working as a chef in a Los Angeles restaurant, where Gourmet Magazine asked for my Gingerbread recipe—actually, it was my grandmother’s recipe. Along the way, I owned a company that airbrushed flowers on silk for the garment industry, and then I wrote scripts for the soap opera Search for Tomorrow. With the support and encouragement of Bruce Cook, a good friend, I produced an independent feature film. As a Hollywood special effects technician, I won an Academy Award for Technical Achievement.

I live in Los Angeles with my wife Fern, a yoga enthusiast and ceramic artist. Our fabulous daughter Jenny is a senior at USC. We have a dog, four cats, and a turtle named Pharrell.

Along about the age of 70, I decided to write crime fiction, and that birthed the Baby Shark series, told in the voice of a young woman (or girl, as the Texans are fond of saying). Everything that I have done, everywhere I’ve lived and worked, every person I’ve met has inspired some aspect of my writing.

The “walk on” characters in my books, the people we meet––maybe only once in our lives and only briefly––tell us a lot about themselves in those few moments our paths cross. It is realism I’m striving for when I expose their lives in my stories, those momentary insights enrich our existence and, I think, round out a story. Years ago, the man on the bus in Thessaloniki who pretended to pull his hair while complaining that it was idioms that made learning foreign tongues difficult has helped me with Henry, a Chinese/American who works constantly to improve his English.

The publication of Baby Shark happened after many inquiries, many rejections, and the kissing of lots of frogs. Giving up wasn’t part of the plan, so I kept working it until I finally met an editor with Capital Crime Press, a small publishing house in Colorado who liked my writing––or probably more to the point––he liked the story and the way it was told. Fortunately, Baby Shark was appreciated and applauded by some influential web sites, 4MA and DorothyL in particular. That exposure led to the first book ending up on some top ten lists, winning some awards, and becoming a finalist for an Anthony at Bouchercon 2007. You have to think if the story could do all that, what were the rejections all about? But few books are everyone’s cup of tea. So I guess the message is to keep looking for your tea drinkers, those who like your work while accepting the fact there will be those who don’t.

Most recently, my publisher was instrumental in the sale of the motion picture and television rights to a Hollywood producer. Brad Wyman, producer of Monster (starring Academy Award winner Charlize Theron), has Baby Shark on his production schedule for 2009. I was thrilled by this turn of events and am grateful for all that’s happened, but in my heart, I don’t believe the journey of Baby Shark is anywhere near its end. I think there is more in store for Kristin, Otis, Henry, and Jim, things that haven’t even been considered yet.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work, or struggle in a particular area such as writers block or angst driven head-banging against walls? Please share some helpful overcoming hints that you’ve discovered.

Since I long ago relinquished all creative credit to that “other guy” who does the writing while I’m spaced out in alpha state, I never suffer writers block or angst driven anything. For example, I’ll be sitting in the living room staring out the window at the distant mountains and my wife will ask me if I’m working. See how that goes? It is most apparent to me when I’m reading something the “other guy” has written and I’m surprised by it. “Did I write that?” I look forward to every minute I spend writing. And, since writing is really rewriting and a book is never really finished, it’s a good thing there are deadlines. It’s difficult to stop doing something that is so enjoyable, so satisfying.

What mistakes have you made while seeking publication? Or to narrow it down further what’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

I’m not certain that mistakes would be the way to put it, but if writing is the fun part, marketing is the necessary part, and that’s something anyone seeking to publish a book should understand. With a small publisher, I quickly learned that marketing, promotion, and advertising were shared efforts. Every deal is unique about how sharing is defined, but the items mentioned above will need to be addressed to some degree no matter the size of your publisher. The big time writers––we know who they are––have these things happen for them like magic. But the rest of us, the majority, must do some or all of what generates sales or nothing, make that NOTHING, will happen with our books.

So, give up the idea that you can write it, go to Bora Bora, and just cash checks. It simply doesn’t work that way––for the majority. Write something that makes you a big time writer and all bets are off.

What is your favorite source for finding story ideas?

I don’t get ideas. That other guy does. I just nod my head and say thanks when they come rolling in. But, as far as I know, they emerge from the deep unconscious or maybe from some little something you noticed while out for a walk. All this is to say, I don’t know where ideas come from, I’m just happy they appear. In fact, your question has given me an idea.

Have you ever had one of those awkward writer moments you’d like to share with us, the ones wherein you get “the look” from the normals? Example, you stand at a knife display at the sporting goods store and ask the clerk which would be the best to use to disembowel a six foot man…please do tell.

It’s interesting how we have preconceived ideas about the reactions of others. I have asked policemen (after telling them I write crime fiction) about certain details concerning an act of violence or the use of a weapon and have never gotten anything but complete and candid answers. Maybe living in Los Angeles gives a writer an edge, since there are so many screenwriters and other creative sorts out here working in the entertainment industry. But I have telephoned businesses in distant cities, explained my need, and gotten cooperation, too. I’ve found Americans in general to be friendly and cooperative, if given a chance––also, I once called a business in the UK and got the same good-natured cooperation. That was to confirm the direction of traffic on the street where their business was located. They were amused to take a long distance call for that purpose, but gave me what I needed. Weren’t they surprised later to read that someone was murdered on their stoop?

With the clarity of experience what advice would you offer up to the wet-behind-the-ears you if beginning this writing journey today?

I have answered this question before and would say the same again. Marry wisely, someone smart and strong who keeps you honest, and never let a day go by without writing.

What event/person has most changed you as a writer? How?

My friend of thirty years or so, Bruce Cook, writer, filmmaker, teacher, insisted that I write a crime novel. I had written in many other forms and seen my work performed, published, and produced, but somehow, I’d convinced myself I could not write a novel. He insisted that I try. I wrote for seven months, threw it all away, and then wrote Baby Shark. Sometimes, when you’re loitering at the end of the board, someone just needs to give you a little push.

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why? (Doesn't have to be one of your books or even published.)

A poem I wrote for my wife to help her when she’s having trouble falling asleep. You see the mere mention of my poetry puts her in the arms of Morpheus. All I have to do is say I’ll get the poem from where I keep it handy and her eyes begin to flutter. In fact, it works on one of our cats, too. Out like a light. The whole house is snoring before I get past the first stanza.

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

You mean besides not being on the New York Times bestseller list?

Share a dream or something you'd love to accomplish through your writing career.

My initial goal was to write a novel. Then the goal became to write three novels in two years. Now the goal is to have written six novels in four years, and so on––three novels every two years. It would be good if readers liked them, too, of course.

What gives you the greatest writer buzz, makes the trip worth the hassles (besides coffee or other substances, or course )?

Being interrogated by a brilliant mind on a dynamic blog. It doesn’t get better than that.

What is one of the more unique or strange life experiences that has really given you an extra oomph in your writing?

Nothing specific, everything combined. Great friendships and lots of approval that started when I was young. I’m spoiled. My mother gave me a portable typewriter when I was thirteen. I was forty plus when my father-in-law came by the house while I was gone, took (stole) my new IBM Selectric from my desk and sold it. He gave me the check from the buyer and told me to get a computer. No discussion. Just a gentle nudge.

Describe your special or favorite writing spot or send a picture if you'd like.

I use an iBook G4 at a desk that faces a wall. Natural light comes from behind and to the right. Sometimes it’s noisy, sometimes dead quiet. It doesn’t matter. I give it over to the other guy and stay out of the way. My wife will advise me if the house is on fire. If I’m traveling or in a doctor’s waiting room, I write in longhand on a yellow tablet, but usually never use what I write, just refer to it when I’m back at the computer. I rewrite as I go. I don’t really do drafts. My final edit if from hard copy. I often read aloud what I have written, especially dialogue. My wife comes to the door and asks me if I’m working. See how that goes?

What aspect of writing was the most difficult for you to grasp/conquer? How did you overcome it?

Getting started in the first place. I was a geezer before writing the first novel. Now I can’t stop.

What is the first thing you do when you begin a new book?

I will have been thinking about stories for weeks, sometimes months. When I know I’m really going to start a book, I choose one of the stories, sit down, and start writing as fast as I can. After a few thousand words, I have a look, share what I’ve done with a few close friends, and then get busy straightening out the mess. While writing a book I think about it constantly, awake and asleep. I love being distracted (NBA playoffs for instance) because when I get back to it, i.e., let the other guy loose, the work usually goes well. It is rare, but sometimes I don’t feel like writing. So, I don’t. That never lasts long––a day or so, at most, and I never worry about it. When I’m ready, I go back to it. That’s the advantage to being self-employed.

Writing rituals. Do you have to sit somewhere specific, complete a certain number of words, leave something undone to trigger creativity for the next session? Some other quirk you’d like to share?

Nope. Nothing special. Just get some coffee, sit down, and write. Very dull guy. I find that messing with the last dozen or so pages completed is enough to get me back in the flow.

Plot, seat of pants or combination?

If you are asking if I outline, the answer is not really, certainly not a traditional outline. I make notes to myself that spur direction, but mostly I just start writing with a general idea of where I’m going and surprise myself when I find out I didn’t really know where I was going. Mostly, I have the story sort of figured out and then I visualize scenes and consider weather, sounds, time of day, time of year, and scents in the air – all the elements surrounding the characters and the setting. Weird, I know, but that’s what happens. It’s like building a picture, this happens, that happens, but where and what did it sound like? What did it smell like? Here is an example – in Jugglers at the Border, a few minutes after Kristin has shot and killed a man who came way too close to killing her, she leaves the farmhouse where it happened to walk down a dark country road and retrieve her car. The last thing she wants to do is mull over the violence she has just experienced. She looks around as she walks, considers where she is, and thinks about more congenial things.

The walk down the dirt road was cool and pleasant. I thought of my grandma’s farm and tranquil summer evenings and wished I were barefoot. It was overcast, but the moon must’ve been full beyond the haze to cause the sky’s dull glow. The mild breeze smelled of rain. No bugs or animals; they’d long ago hunkered down. Here and there across the silent farmland, single points of light pierced the darkness. Many miles away, along the thin southwestern horizon, lightning danced.

I want the reader to experience what Kristin is seeing and feeling and smelling and hearing and understand her need for gentle memories. That’s what I mean by visualizing a scene. Put a few of those together and the next thing you know, you have a book.

Have you received a particularly memorable reader response or peer honor? Please share.

To have had Baby Shark and Baby Shark’s Beaumont Blues both nominated for the Anthony Award were honors I will never forget. That was rare company for a new guy – see? Spoiled, once again.

Have you discovered any successful marketing/promo ideas that you'd share with us?

Write hard, market harder. How about this – I have four each of the three books in the Baby Shark series that I will send to a dozen of the readers of your blog. You devise the contest or method of distribution and send me the names and addresses and the books will be in the mail PDQ. This is marketing I enjoy. I will be delighted to have twelve new readers. To be clear: that is four copies of Baby Shark; four copies of Baby Shark’s Beaumont Blues; and four copies of Baby Shark’s High Plains Redemption. Ball’s in your court.

Parting words? Anything you wish we would’ve asked because you’ve got the perfect answer?

Perhaps, some time in the future, your readers might like to hear some of my poetry. Just a thought. Thanks for being so gracious.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The winner is:

Sherri has won a copy of Tina Ann Forkner's book Rose House.

Author Interview ~ Latayne Scott

Latayne Scott has published hundreds of magazine articles in both secular and Christian publications, and has published 15 books with publishers such as Zondervan, Moody, Baker, Waterbrook and Word.
She is represented by Janet Grant of Books & Such Literary Agency. She received the Distinguished Christian Service Award from Pepperdine University, and blogs with five other writers of “upmarket” Christian fiction at NovelMatters (http:/ Her personal web site is Her new novel is Latter-day Cipher (Moody, 2009), which some people have called “the DaVinci Code of Mormonism.” It is also available in a Kindle edition.

What made you start writing?

I remember being a toddler sitting in the cool, still, half-darkness of my Tennessee grandmother’s living room where she had a bookshelf. I pulled down book after book and pored over them. I knew those black marks were important because people paid attention when books or newspapers were open. I knew that what was on those pages had power, and I was determined to find out what it was.

I read voraciously when I learned how to read. We lived far from a library and were not rich, so I read the books I had over and over again: Alice in Wonderland, Black Beauty, The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, Little Women, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, all the Bobbsey Twins books, Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island.

I knew that I wanted to be able to use those powerful symbols on pages, and I began making stories out of my spelling words in my early grades. Often I escaped from the tumult of my home life by converting the fractious conversations going on around me into dialogue in my mind.

What's the most difficult part of writing for you (or was when you first started on your novel journey)?

Other than poetry, one children’s book, and a couple of radio plays that were professionally produced, everything else I had published was nonfiction up until I wrote my first novel. Even though I had taken a novel writing class years before, and was a very active reader (often listening to audiobooks as I did household chores and as I traveled), I didn’t think I could write book-length fiction. And other non-fiction projects kept springing up (like my dissertation.)

I knew I could write non-fiction well and didn’t think I had the courage to expose myself, to risk failure, with fiction. With non-fiction, I always document what I say (and so stand behind someone else, so to speak.) With fiction, it’s like wearing transparent clothing.

Do you put yourself into your books/characters?

Yes, I do. I guess you could say I have a skeptical heart, and it shows in many of my characters. In writing fiction from a biblical world view – embracing its depiction of reality that is transgenerational, transcultural, pantemporal – I try to be honest in taking into account the reservations a non-Christian might have regarding what I’m saying. One writing teacher taught me that the goal of excellent writing is to answer the possible objections to what you’re saying just as – or even before – such questions arise in the mind of the reader.

With all that said, it explains my adamance about how reality is portrayed in books that propose to depict the Gospel. If there’s anything I hate more than gratuitous violence or gratuitous sex, it’s gratuitous Christianity.

At what point did you stop juggling suggestions and critiques and trust yourself (as a writer)?

I trust my nonfiction. I still don’t trust myself with fiction.

Tell us a little about your latest release:

Latter-day Cipher (Moody, 2009) is an usual book. (Well, every author would say that, I know.) But I believe it to be the first attempt to tell, in a literary fashion, the many emotional factors involved in loving Mormonism and then deciding to leave it. In addition, the novel describes and explains many of the oddities of this religion, and has realistic characters wrestle with understanding its contradictions and lovelinesses. Cipher is a murder mystery, it’s true; but it is also a psychological thriller and a primer on modern-day Mormonism.

How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific 'what if' moment?

A very specific moment! My husband Dan and I were on a trip and listened to The DaVinci Code as we traveled. We loved the exciting plot (although, as a theologian, I have issues with some of his assertions because of my own historical research.) Dan turned to me and said, “You could write a book like that.” God may hold me responsible for my lack of humility, but my first response was, “Well, I hope I could do the actual writing better than him.” But Dan argued persuasively that Tom Clancy wrote about military issues because he was in the military, and John Grisham wrote about legal issues because he was a lawyer; and that I could write about Mormonism’s many convoluted secrets and strange beliefs because I had been a faithful Mormon for ten years.

So I thought… hmmm…. Blood atonement…. Hidden treasures in a mountain… Brigham Young’s phonetic alphabet… and Latter-day Cipher began to take shape in my mind.

Tell us a little about your main character and how you developed him/her:

Most of the action of the novel is seen through the eyes of Selonnah Zee, a journalist with a criminalistics background who comes to Utah on an innocuous writing assignment but finds herself in the middle of a series of mysterious crimes. At each crime scene the perpetrator leaves a note written in Brigham Young’s code. And each of the crimes has something to do with Mormon doctrine – like the old Mormon prohibitions against marriage between blacks and whites, for instance.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book? Least?

It was a trip, exhilarating, intoxicating, wheeee-fun. But it was also terrifying because I took such risks with language. In some cases my courageous editor Andy McGuire saved me from the purple Latayne.

What message do you hope readers gain from your novel?

I want people to feel how deeply I loved Mormonism, the richness of its culture, the resplendence of its hope – all of which are thus doubly disappointing when they turn out to be based on something false and empty. In the words of C. H. Spurgeon: “If God be thy portion, then there is no loss in all the world that lies so hard and so heavy upon thee as the loss of thy God.”

And, I hope readers will do what one other reader advised: Read Latter-day Cipher with an open Internet connection. Most people want to verify or follow up on aspects of Mormonism they never suspected were there.

What does your writing space look like? (Insert picture if possible)

I wrote my first book long-hand on stacks of spiral notebooks in a 4x8 space in my garage. But now I have a glorious office with a mountain view, a wood burning stove, and a laptop.

What kind of activities do you like to do that help you relax and step away from your deadlines for a bit?

I love watching 24 on the treadmill, gardening and cooking, reading murder mysteries and thrillers, having small private writers’ retreats for my friends, Egyptology, Spurgeon, hanging out with my family, getting away in my travel trailer.

Briefly take us through your process of writing a novel—from conception to revision.

You know already how Cipher began. But before I actually began writing, I reviewed my notes from the novel class, put myself through a workbook course called The Marshall Plan Workbook: Writing Your Novel From Start to Finish, and then outlined The Silence of the Lambs (because it did the best job I’d ever read of sustaining suspense with multiple POVs while doing incredible descriptions.)

What is the first book you remember reading and what made it special?
I don’t remember the first book, sorry. But I do remember my first mystery – a Nancy Drew – and I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever read.

What are a few of your favorite books (not written by you) and why are they favorites?

I say the Bible first – and not just because I write religious books. It is the mind of God, linguistically portrayed, and the source of new riches and insights, every single time I open its pages.

I read Spurgeon’s A Treasury of David most mornings. I love Annie Dillard, Toni Morrison, most best-selling mystery writers, Bonnie Grove, Kathleen Popa, Sharon Souza, Debbie Thomas, Patti Hill, Philip Yancey.

How do you think reading the work of others helps you as a writer?

If a writer loves words and respects their power, I love that writer, regardless of the subject matter. (Well, there are some subject matters too intense for me to read, I admit; so I might qualify that statement.) But someone who uses words to expand a slit into the limitless and kind light of truth, is someone who helps me aspire to a nobility of writing.

What do you wish you’d known early in your career that might have saved you some time and/or frustration in writing? In publishing?

Except for the few times I took my eyes off the eternal goals I’ve always had for my writing, I have no regrets.

How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?

One of my publishers’ marketing guys recently told me that I was “one of his hardest-working authors.”

One reason that fiction can speak to people's hearts is that it allows the reader to vicariously experience scenarios and work through solutions to problems as the reader accompanies the characters. I believe that's why issue-oriented fiction is often more helpful to someone embroiled in a problem than straight instructive non-fiction can be.
An issue I struggle with, and thus my characters in Latter-day Cipher struggle with, is the contrast between the good things about Mormonism and the contradictory issues in its doctrines and history.

I post regularly at one of the most open-minded online sites where people discuss such things -- the HBO Big Love discussion boards. There I interact with people who have questions about Mormonism and when I can, I answer their questions. If a writer is writing about an issue, he or she should go to the sites where people discuss these issues -- whether it's teen
pregnancy, divorce, abuse, or whatever. Don't go to the sites where people are likely to agree with you -- go where you can learn from people who are interested in your issue also post their frustrations and questions. You will learn from outside of your own point of view; and, if you have something helpful to give them (from your own 
research, statistics, online sources, etc.) you will not only help them but show them that you have something authoritative to say (and perhaps reference your own book along the way.)

Tell us what we have to look forward to in the future. What new projects are you working on?

I am committed to trying to write literary fiction. My present project is one that tackles the great issues of my life presently: Why are some of the noblest and best people suffering so?

These questions are asked by my protagonist, a woman living in the first century AD, who while being part of the most blessed generation of all time – who lived at the same time as Jesus Christ – yet suffered catastrophically.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

With the great access that everyone has to self-publishing today, I would urge any person who wants to write Christian fiction to ask himself or herself: What is my purpose in wanting to publish this book? And, have I been called to do it?