Friends with benefits

I have a lot of new friends, now that I’m a writer. And those friends come with benefits.

Books.

Lots and lots of books. Books of all shapes and sizes, all genres. And my new friends want me to read their books. Because authors need reviews, and most people won’t take the time to leave them.

But because we, as fellow writers, know how important they are, we do it for each other. And the nice thing for you? You get to hear about books! Lots and lots of them.

So, we start with my good Twitter friend, Cheryl Burman, who wrote Keepers. Such a beautiful story. I highly recommend you take a trip to Australia and fall in love. With Teddy? Or Alph? Hmm. Choices.

Keepers by Cheryl Burman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Gorgeous prose, heart-rending love story, keeps you guessing till the end. This book tells the story of Raine and her brave struggle to survive … survive the war, survive her father’s illness, survive when her husband leaves. She has two wildly different men who love her, one she can depend on, one who at one time made her heart soar. Burman keeps you guessing till the very last chapter what Raine does for herself. It is a lovely story of courage, perseverance, and filled with beautiful descriptions of Australia.



View all my reviews

Gracias a Dios

How to describe the feelings when something unexpected but wonderful happens?

Shock. Disbelief. Excitement. Gratitude.

On Father’s Day Sunday, June 20, 2021, I opened my spam email folder, checking one last time for a missing notification from a businessperson who wasn’t doing his job to suit me. I was preparing to make a phone call in which I had rehearsed my indignant argument. No, scratch that. I’ll be honest. I was preparing to bite someone’s head off. But before I did that, I wanted to be sure the “missing” email wasn’t in my spam folder.

It wasn’t. But something else was!

It was an invitation to join the Elk Lake Publishing, Inc. family. I had a contract hiding in my junk file.

My annoyance vanished without a second thought. I was home alone and had no one to share my news with. I pummeled my feet on the ground and shouted. Both dogs came running, ears perked, tails wagging uncertainly. Were we under attack?

I started writing Protected six years ago. I did everything wrong that was conceivable to do. My Christian fiction, historical romance topped off at 145,000 words. I later learned industry average is 75,000 – 85,000. Oops.

I had point of view issues. My characters’ thoughts head-hopped. I misused dialogue tags. Had no idea what an action beat was. Dangling participles, echos, passive writing, over-explaining. My novel was a train wreck.

But God directed me to ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) through a contact on Twitter (a mostly God-less place, so that was a minor miracle in itself). At an ACFW meeting, I met Lena Nelson Dooley and invited myself to her weekly critique group meeting, which she graciously allowed.

The patient ladies at Lena’s – Nancy Lavo, Sara Meg Seese, Rachael Acree, Lisa Crane, Kelly Daniels – slowly and gently guided me through my first foray into editing. Each week, they showed me a different mistake I had made. Each week, they helped me learn how to write better.

I attended several online workshops, events I wouldn’t have known about or been able to attend if not for Covid forcing us all to learn to use Zoom. I read book after book on the craft of writing. Other books in my genre piled up on my nightstand, so I could learn what the market wanted.

I turned again and again to my sounding boards, who helped me formulate better ideas for my stories. Ronda Elston, John Peckham, Kathy Severe. They got me over many a hump when the idea pipeline clogged up.

Nineteen months and several rejection letters later, I found myself in a Zoom meeting at the Mt. Zion Ridge conference, in a breakout room I hadn’t signed up for and wasn’t supposed to be in, but somehow was, talking with Deb Haggerty, owner and editor-in-chief of Elk Lake Publishing.

And that, as they say, was all it took.

That’s all. Six years of writing. Nineteen months of revising. Several attempts to make contact with someone in the publishing industry. And week after week of meeting with friends who wanted nothing but to help me as we all worked together to improve our skills.

And now, I have a contract with a publishing house to send my book out into the world. I feel validated. Seen. Valued.

Was I all those things before Father’s Day? Yes. God sees me. He values me. He validates me. And as I move forward down this new and exciting path, I pray thanks to God, gracias a Dios, and I ask for his guidance to help me produce work that glorifies him.

Thank you all for your support through the years. I hope you enjoy what comes from this effort as much as I have enjoyed producing it.

We See What We Choose to See

We receive messages throughout our lives, messages that tell us what to believe. About ourselves. Our lives.

Maybe those messages are genuine. Maybe not.

This weekend, I got two different messages from two different people, but they both pointed the same direction.

The first happened by accident (or was it?). I attended the Mt. Zion Writer’s conference via Zoom. It started Friday at 10:00 am and finished Saturday at 6:00 pm. We had the option to sign up for a 15-minute session with an agent or an editor and pitch our books. I signed up. My appointment is on Monday. Friday afternoon, I slipped away from the conference to take a friend to the airport. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get back into the Zoom link if I closed it, so I left it open and blanked my camera. (Learned some tricks this year from students doing school online.) I figured I’d make it back in time to catch the last hour.

When I returned home, much later than I expected (because there were wrecks like every five minutes on the highway between my house and DFW airport), my screen had a message on it, inviting me to a breakout room. The conference was over for the evening, but the agent/editor appointments were happening.

The invitation confused me because I was positive my appointment was Monday, but I followed the link, thinking it must be something else. It took me to a breakout room with three other people. Two were talking, one had her camera blacked out. No one said anything to me when I popped in, but continued their conversation, so I lurked, listening. Turns out, the one talking was pitching her book to the other, who I assumed was an agent or an editor. Since no one yelled at me to leave when I appeared so unexpectedly, I sat there and listened, thinking I’d take notes on how to best pitch a book.

When they finished and the author left the room, the agent/editor person spoke to me. She asked me to tell about my book. I confessed I probably wasn’t supposed to be there, but that I had an invitation waiting for me on my computer when I stepped back to my computer, so I clicked it. She invited me to pitch my book, anyway. As we talked, I realized I knew who she was.

I heard her speak last year on a different online conference hosted by Kentucky Christian Writers. Her name is Deb Haggerty, and she presented a class titled Publishing 101: How the Publishing Process Works. She has a very interesting background. She is a published author, a blogger, and speaker, but at age 68, she bought a publishing company called Elk Lake Publishing, Inc. She is now the Editor-in-Chief of an independent, royalty-paying Christian publisher.

Deb Haggerty, Owner and Editor-in-Chief of Elk Lake Publishing

I was invited to pitch my book to a publisher. By a woman who re-invented her life at 68 to become something new, something that interested her, something she felt God led her to be.

I told her I remembered hearing her speak, and how impressed I was to learn her story. She encouraged me it is never too late to do what you want to do.

Even if you don’t know what you’re doing.

If you don’t know, learn. Dig in your heels, buy a comfortable office chair, park yourself in front of a computer, and learn.

A reinforced fact for my life—it’s good to get the perspective of experienced people who have lived through things you haven’t.

The second message came from the polar opposite end of the universe. Our eight-year-old granddaughter, Emma, spent the night. She came home with us after my husband’s birthday dinner at my mom’s. By the time we got home, it was almost 10:00.

We packed a lot of adventure into the few hours we had.

We read four books before bed. She wanted to help me choose books for an article I write each month, recommending books for various age groups. Emma looked at some of her favorites, then we read some she’d not seen.

She noticed things I might not have, like the colorful artwork in one book (When God Made You, by Matthew Paul Turner) which she thought was beautiful, and the expressions on the mouse’s face in Frederick, by Leo Lionni. Emma wondered why he looked sad.

Both available on Amazon.com

When we woke around 7:45 the next morning, she asked Papa to teach her how to make pancakes. Not the mixing part. That part is boring. The flipping part. She wanted to learn how to flip them. So we made a few disasters, then a couple of “taco” pancakes, and finally, we had success. She practiced until we used all the batter. Mission accomplished. She felt good about herself. Anyone want a pancake?

Success!

Next, I asked her to color the picture she drew for me the night before while we were at Granny’s. She had drawn an elephant, which reminded me of the hippo her father had drawn for me while he was in art class in high school.

Hippo, by Zach Fort, Elephant, by Emma Fort

She was conscientious about the colors she chose and took her time coloring so the shading came out even.

Her next project (it was maybe 9:00 by now) was a tug-of-war toy for her dogs, Jenny and Shug. She asked Papa if he had any material she could cut into strips, then braid. He brought her a pair of old blue jeans, and she cut three pieces of fabric about two feet long. I suggested we sew or staple them together at the top so it would be easier to braid them. She chose to sew. I got a needle, some thread, and a thimble to help her force the needle through the dense layers of material. I showed her how to wrap the thread around her finger, then roll it off into a twist that she could scrape into a knot. It took several tries for her to get it, but she wasn’t interested in hurrying. She wanted to learn. She had the strips braided in a snap. Then she sewed the ends to keep the braid in place.

Emma loves her dogs, Jenny & Shug. Jenny is a German Shepherd. Shug is a Basset Hound.

With that project completed, she asked if I knew how to knit. I do not, but used to know how to crochet. We sat and watched a YouTube video (a quite good one titled How to Crochet for Absolute Beginners: Part 1, by simplydaisy). We decided we needed to watch it again, so we sat through the entire thing a second time. Feeling confident we could do it, we chose a color of yarn and sat down to attempt it on our own. Immediately, it became clear we didn’t remember what to do, so we watched the video for a third time.

Emma showed no frustration, no impatience, didn’t throw the yard and the crochet hook down to look for something easier to do. We just tried again.

And we got it. She crocheted a bracelet for herself. Then she crocheted one for her mom. We even added a button to the second one, now that we knew how it worked.

Fierce concentration

A new fact for my life—it’s good to get the perspective of an eight-year-old.

When I get the same message more than once, especially in the same weekend, I sit up and take notice. The septuagenarian and the eight-year-old both taught me to have patience when trying something new, to follow through, to push past the mistakes and figure it out.

To see more for yourself than you might have originally imagined.

citation: https://www.azquotes.com/citation/quote/294025

To believe in yourself.

And, by the way, Deb Haggerty asked me to send her my proposal and my book.