Friday, July 27, 2012

Diary of a Writer: Starting A New Book

I'm starting a new book. It requires a lot of thinking... A lot of staring at out the window. A lot of noodling.

Let's see, what is this book about? What story question can I ask? What is the journey of my protagonists.

This will be my second book in the Royal Wedding Novels. The first "Once Upon A Prince," releases next April from Zondervan.

I'm tentatively calling this story "An Uncommon Princess" because she is just that, "uncommon."

The Lord is dropping these salvation and bridal themes in my stories lately.

I love grasping and molding a high level spiritual theme because it gives me understanding into the journey of the characters.

But yea, midway through writing, in the throws of deadline and mucking through the middle, don't be surprised to hear a heavy "Sigh" or two coming from my direction.

Hey, random questions: "What do you think is the best way for an author to get her book to the readers?"

"How can she best interact with old and new readers?"

"What makes you a forever fan of an author?"

Thank you for responding.

Now, back to me... LOL.

Back in the '90s when we sang that song, "It's all about You, Jesus..." I used to tease the teens and sing, "It's all about me..."

Sure the metaphor was lost on them but I had fun anyway. Got to be kind of my signature song for awhile. Ha!

Praise the Lord it's NOT all about me. What a drag that would be.

Well, I'll make this a short post. Have a great weekend.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Diary of a Writer: Busyness! ICRS Trade Show!

Hey all!

Just back from the International Christian Retail Show which took place this week at the Orange Country Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.

It's a straight shot from my house -- about an hour plus -- and I drove over Sunday night to spend a few days.

I love trade shows. I love meeting people, catching up with old friends, making new ones, walking the show floor, standing in line for the newest and lastest books.

My first trade was in '87. Vegas. With my first job. I was a software trainer and we helped support the trade shows. I got the honor of being the "in the round" speaker.

Someone sat at the proprietary computer program, ran the software while I talked about the system's features.


So, I love trade shows.

Javier by the giant iPod! He freaked.
But I was looking at the giant book! 
Monday morning my friend Javier LaBoy and I led worship for a small prayer gathering.

Author Gayle Roper sharing on the ACFW panel

Then I went on the trade floor and helped with the ACFW panels.

That was fun. Since the show is for retailers, we focused the power and importance of story and fiction.

We also shared about Fiction Finder, ACFW's database that helps reader find the kind of novels they love to read.

In the afternoon I participated at the Fiction Event put on by the lovely Suzanne Kuhn.

I was able to talk about The Wedding Dress for a minute or two, then sign for the retailers.

I sat next to Colleen Coble and we ran out of books lickity-split!

Me with Kim Alexis

The big highlight of the Fiction Event though was meeting supermodel, Kim Alexis.

I said, "Kim Alexis, wow!" She was there promoting her book with Mindy Starns Clark, "Beauty to Die For."

At the 13th Annual Christy Awards, I was the guest blogger, helping Tyson Wynn of Wynn-Wynn let online attendees know what was going on in the room.
With Tyson Wynn at the Christy Awards

Allen Arnold was the keynote speaker and he was so good, so quotable I was able to blog a lot for the online viewers.

You can view our live blog here.

Tuesday I sat again for some ACFW panels and walked the show floor. I learned a few things.

The new buzz word is "discoverability." Meaning, how can readers discover you and your work. Social media is a part of that but I'm not sure what else is involved.

Seriously, I think the word was invented this week so the definition is still be molded. But I get where "they" are going.

Cozy mysteries sell well in e-book.

Trade books are still the largest part of the market because people still like to hold a trade book, but the market is still changing.

From Allen Arnold's keynote: Be present as much as you are productive. Your main priority is to live life and walk with God. You can't write about what you are not.

Allen really focused on having a relationship with Jesus above being great writers or great publishers. I really appreciated that about his talk.

I'm home now. Catching up and starting to write my next book, tentatively titled An Uncommon Princess. ;)

With fellow belle and Christy nominee, Lisa Wingate
Goofing with agent Chip MacGregor
Oops was this the serious picture?

With friend and ACFW ass't conference director Allison Wilson.

With the humorous Dave Long, BHP editor.

With Christy Winner Steven James.

With Christy Winner Ronie Kendig.

With Christy Winner Julie Klassen

With a future Christy Winner, I'm sure, Dani Pettrey.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Diary of a Writer: Sweet Caroline & Helping Others Pt 2

... So there I am. Zombied on a Sunday afternoon, knots in my stomach, talking to Susie Warren on the phone.

"Send it to me," she says.

"What? My manuscript?"  Gulp. It's horrible. She'll be the first to see I can't write. But I was desperate. I emailed it. Oh, praise the Lord for email, seriously!

She called me an hour later. The book was good. I just needed some direction. By later afternoon, she returned my first chapter, rewritten. No small feat to do with someone else's manuscript.

I got the gist and feel of what she was telling me and started my own rewrite that night.

By Monday I'd gotten some sleep and was feeling a bit more hopeful. Even excited. I could do this!!

With Susan May Warren Feb 2012
I never let up in my prayers and hope in the Lord. I'm a bit of an optimist, a dreamer, so I thought, "I can think it stinks but my editor might love it."

By now you're wondering why I didn't ask for an extension.

Because, I don't like missing a deadline. I wanted a reputation as being a solid author who turned her work in on time.

And there was no reason for me to ask for an extension. I had plenty of time to write the book.

Also, my editor was pregnant and a month away from maternity leave. If I asked for a week's extension, she might have had time to get to my manuscript before she had her baby, but maybe not.

On top of that, Hubby and I were heading off to NY with a worship team to do a mini conference. So I was traveling the first week of March.

Any extension request would have to be for 3-4 weeks and for sure my editor would be spending time with her new baby, not mine. :)

Besides, asking for a few extra days, even a week isn't so bad, but three or four weeks? No, I couldn't do it.

Of this I was confident, I could fix whatever was wrong with the manuscript after a substantive edit. I'd rather turn a book in on time then roll up my sleeves to perfect it after wise input and feedback.

Tuesday I took a short break to meet author friend's Davis Bunn and Mark Mynheir for coffee and Barnes and Noble. I still had a lot of rewriting to do by Thursday's deadline, but hanging with author friends would inspire me. And I figured I could stretch my deadline by one day to Friday.

When I returned home that afternoon, I got my second miracle. The first was Susie's help and invaluable input. The second was an email from my editor.

Out of the blue she wrote that they'd decided to put me on a 9 month release schedule and therefore I didn't have to turn in Sweet Caroline until May 25th.

I was ecstatic. I had three extra months. Three! Months! Forget the extended deadline and release. Forget my editor would be out on maternity leave and not read my manuscript. Forget the delay in payment. I had three months!

Wahoooo! Thank you, Jesus, thank you, Jesus!

Believe it or not, I took all of March off. I just needed some distance. But I worked hard April and May, turned the book in on time to the lovely Leslie Peterson substituting for Ami McConnell.

Sweet Caroline went on to win ACFW Book of the Year and First Place in Sweet Romance for an RWA contest.

Now here's why I think the delayed release notice was a miracle. Later that fall as I was writing Love Starts With Elle, I got an email from my editor, checking in, seeing how I was doing with Elle's story.

"It's due December 1st, right?" she wrote.

My heart stopped. No, March 1st. We were on a 9 month schedule, weren't we? I remembered reading the new deadlines in an email, didn't I. But who knows... I might have made it up in my head. LOL.

Yet Elle was set to release six months after Caroline. Which yay, I liked being back on a six month release schedule but it meant Elle had to be turned in much sooner! We compromised on Feb 1. A more generous compromise to me than to them, which I was grateful.

I'll have to blog about that journey next. Because when I hit send on Love Starts with Elle, I wept. Wept! For sure, for sure! this was the end of my writing career. Ami would know: Hack!

But six books later, I'm still here. God is sooo amazing to keep me on the journey. I've got some good insight from Him on this writing thing to share too.

Stay tuned....

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Diary of a Writer: Sweet Caroline and Helping Others

My plate is full. I'm starting a new novel. Editing a My Book Therapy book. Reading a play for a friend. I love this because I know the play will be produced. I'm not an expert on plays but I know something about story.

Also, judging a contest, mentoring a friend who finaled in a contest, and reading a couple of synopsis for writer friends.

It's not a burden though it keeps me busy. Even a bit distracted but I love helping others. Truly, I've been so blessed it's a bit hard to say "No" to those requesting help.

Why do I say "Yes?" Because I remember what it was like when my heart burned to write. Burned to be published. Burned to have input from someone who knew what was what. I was desperate for a helping hand and leg up.

And the Lord sent people to me. I am forever grateful to Him. To them. So I love giving back.

Yet, I'm eager to get planning and writing this next book. Rattling thoughts are loud.

But I don't know the ending of this book yet and it's hindering my beginning and protagonist identity.

It'll come to me. It always does. God is so very faithful to supply the job He's called me to do.

Repackaged cover
 When I was writing Sweet Caroline I hit the skids. I'd gotten the publisher's catalog in the mail and saw the advertising for my new book, Diva Nashvegas.

While that was exciting, the stats on the first Nashvegas book, Lost In Nashvegas socked me in the gut.

My heart palpitated as I read the comparative units sold. Surely it was a misprint. Or, you know, numbers from the first few months.

I was discouraged. A bit embarrassed. This book was supposed to knock chick lit on it's ear as the first "redneck" chick book. Instead, I was knocked on my ear.

At that point, I felt I'd failed everyone. My publisher, my editor, my agent, myself. I was terrified to call anyone to talk about it because I thought I'd hear the cold truth. "You're not good enough."

I'd been struggling with Sweet Caroline, finding the right tone, finding a deeper layer to my voice, all the while knowing as I wrote a chick lit the genre was on it's way out. So the catalog news only added fuel to my self imposed fire.
First Cover. Won a Carol Award with this one

Deadline approached. Another author read what I had so far. Days away from submitting the book to my editor, the author wrote saying, "You need more tension. Perhaps another story line?"

Blow to the gut. But, I took it to heart and sat my butt in the chair for 15 hours on a Saturday writing and rewriting. Went to bed late, woke up at 3:00 a.m. to write before church.

Yet there was no way I was going to weave in a good sub plot. What a mess.

I went to church. Walked around like a zombie. So discouraged. So tired. My writing career was over. My editor would discover what she was bound to suspect after the low Nashvegas sales. "Rachel is a hack."

Original cover idea
I sought prayer from anyone who would listen that Sunday morning. I needed a miracle. Like, you know, God downloading a new book to me overnight. I'd wake up with it written and edited beside my bed.

Hey, anything is possible. Especially to the desperate.

Several praying friends exhorted and encouraged me that morning. I determined to go home, plant my butt in the chair, clean up what I had, and submit the best book possible on Thursday.

So tired, I could barely think. God did not download a new, grand, better book to me.

Instead, He sent me a friend. I called Susan May Warren and saw the first of two miracles....

(to be continued)

Monday, July 02, 2012

Diary of a Writer: New Season!

Last summer I found myself at a crossroad. We'd just moved into a new house. I'd set up shop in my new office and... waited.

I didn't have a new book contract. The Wedding Dress was in edits. Love Lifted Me was with Sara and edits. I had one more book to write with Sara but otherwise I was an author seeking her next project.

Inspired by Prince William and Kate's wedding, I'd put together a Royal proposal and delivered it safely to my agent's hands.

But it didn't feel like business as usual. I felt like I was in a new season with more transition coming. Our unexpected house move was more than just, "Hey, a cool new home at a stellar price."

It was as if the Lord was showing Himself, getting our attention, proving Himself in this physical change.

We sensed change for my husband though we weren't sure what. He still worked part time as a teacher and full time as a pastor.

The summer months were calm. Busy with house guests and settling into our new home.

Then the fall came and a chance to sell my royal idea. When Zondervan brought an offer to my agent, I knew it was the right one. After six years with Thomas Nelson, it was hard to say goodbye. I've loved my time with them and working with such an great team.

But I learned about more than book publishing the last few years. I embraced core lessons of my heart that I pray never go away!

The doors of this new season in our lives were still opening and I prayerfully moved forward.

I never want to do anything out of conceit or selfish ambition. Though I fail at that goal, it is my goal. I want to walk with honor. I want what the Lord wants.

But sometimes He says to us, "What do you want?"

Ever read about Cain and Able? Cain kills Able his brother and God comes looking for a reason "Why?" He has a discussion with Cain about it, then pronounces his punishment. He'd be a vagrant and wanderer on the earth.

Cain argues back. "Hey, no way, others will try to kill me."

First thought I had was, "Well, dude, you killed your brother. You're lucky God is letting you live."

But the Lord of Host, in His infinite mercy and wisdom, replies to Cain, "I'll put a mark on you so no one harms you. If they do, seven times worse will come up on them."

Wow! I've not killed anyone and I struggle with God showing any mercy toward me once in awhile. "Rats, I mess up again."

But the Lord is willing and able to reason with us as we walk faithful and obedient. John 15 Jesus assures us if we abide in Him, He'll abide in us and we can ask whatever we will. God wants us to bear fruit. He glorifies Himself when we do!

So I reasoned with Him. I'd been praying for and asking about reward. I was writing books, working hard, doing all I could to write the best books possible but the reward was small.

Book writing is an intensive, slow turn around business. There are a lot of ambiguities. There's no real formula for success except "hang in there and keep at it."

My friend Debbie Macomber once said she was a twenty-five year, overnight success.

There is no guarantee going forward that I'll have a certain amount of success. I'm not even sure what "success" always looks like, but I have a few ideas. I'm presenting them to the Lord, talking to Him about it.

I know there's more for me. The churning in my spirit keeps my mind and heart alive with that hope. But I don't try to imagine the outcome. A good friend of mine gave me that advice once and I'm learning to embrace it.

This summer I was to write a final book for Sara Evans but we've put it on hold for awhile as she pursues other things. I'm so glad for her success with her latest album.

Once Upon A Prince will be my next book in 2013 and my first title with Zondervan. This month I'll be working on royal book 2, about a princess.

Other changes abound. My husband went back to youth ministry in November and this month, he's returned to church full time and will not return to teaching this fall.

We knew God spoke "reversal of the reverses" last year and it took eighteen months for us to know what it really meant. But we've seen it happen live and in person!

What an amazing God we serve. How He loves us, OH how He loves us.

Change is hard. Crossroads confusing. Everything is not always smooth and peachy keen but we are at peace. Full of joy. Always hoping and abounding in Him.