It is a curious thing to be able to type your name into the Amazon search box and find a book with your name on the cover. When the book dropped (that's publishing lingo) I must have looked it up a dozen times. The next day my publisher texted to tell me that the book was #1 in Methodist Christianity. That didn't last terribly long, but still.
Filling the Void started with a conversation. Rev. Kristin Joyner is a United Methodist pastor. In the spring of 2018, she and I were talking about the many stories of good things accomplished by congregations that never get heard. We realized that if those stories were going to be heard, we were the ones who were going to have to tell them.
We reached out to clergy members throughout Washington State and asked them to tell their stories. Specifically, where they see God at work in the Pacific Northwest.
The stories came in. Stories of hope, and stories of transformation.
Each chapter was written by a clergy person who had witnessed individuals and congregations working with God in transformation, and embodying the love God has for all.
I submitted the book to a huge publishing house. Crickets...
I submitted the book to a small publishing house who responded within twenty-four hours. In less than two weeks, I received an offer. Woo hoo!!
Kevin Slimp, the patient publisher of Market Square Books, explained that massive amounts of money would not be made on this book. Not a problem, Kristin and I decided that proceeds would benefit the United Methodist Committee on Relief.
It was a seriously cool experience. However, working with clergy was a lot like herding cats - it took a lot of patience and perseverance. Not sure that I'm ready to do it again.
September 29, 2019
Cleaning out my office, I came across a notebook that was filled with story starts. Two to three pages of meet-cute scenes with snarky dialogue, and then ... nothing. Flip the page and another story start. Another meet-cute with different names and a different setting, and then ... nothing.
You get the picture. I prefer to write by the seat of my pants. I can't be bothered to outline a story, I just have an idea and go.
Which is strange, because I am a list maker. Grocery lists, chore lists, to-do lists. So it would make perfect sense that I would be a plotter; a writer who outlines from start to finish knowing what the ending is going to be before they put pen to paper.
It wasn't until I collaborated with Celeste Joy on a novel that I saw the value in outlining. It was like having a road map for where you want to go. We did the same thing for our second novel.
When it came to writing my own novel, #HotAndHandy, I fell back into old habits. Which was why it was taking me forever to get the story down.
Then I chatted with this wonderful author/editor who recommended a book to me. OMG was it helpful. It allowed me to plot and pants at the same time.
Now, my book isn't finished yet, but I'm following a map, and it is making life a heck of a lot easier.
Reading for me is a pleasure, a passion, and a joy. Here are some books that resonated with me and I remember fondly.
August 19, 2019
I’m pretty superficial when it comes to recreational reading – I like books that make me smile and have a Happily Ever After ending. But I am often challenged to step away from the light and fluffy and read something that’s good for me. It’s kind of like having to eat your vegetables before you can have dessert. Sigh.
I belong to a book group comprised of women who read both broad and deep. As a result, I have been exposed to some seriously thoughtful stuff – both fiction and non-fiction. One recent book that provided lots to chew on was “Good and Mad” by Rebecca Traister. The author looks at the history of women’s anger, the double standard perpetuated against women, and the transformative power of collective fury. We had quite the discussion that evening, and I don’t think that I will be able to look at women in the news the same way again.
We also read “The Birth House” by Ami McKay. I love historical novels set in rural Canada and this one does not disappoint. Dora Rare is the first daughter in five generations of Rares. In a superstitious community, she is different and is blamed for unusual and unhappy events. She reluctantly becomes a midwife in a small town in Nova Scotia just before the first world war. Life is not always kind to women. They have little control over their bodies and their futures. But Dora manages and does it quite well, pissing off a lot of men in the process.
My running partner is one of the many people in my life with whom I talk about books. She introduced me to “The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek” by Kim Michele Richardson. It took me a few pages to get into, but OMG has this book got me by the heart. Set in Kentucky coal mining country in 1936, it follows Cussy Mary, who is a traveling librarian and, wait for it, has blue skin. Look it up, it’s a real thing. People refer to her as Bluet and not in a kind manner. The preacher thinks she is an abomination that needs to be cast out. The doctor thinks she is a medical anomaly that needs to be researched. But the readers who live in the hills and valleys think she is a blessing, because she delivers the world to them through books. I enjoyed this so much, I had to read the ending twice.
August 7, 2019
Written by Kate Quinn, The Alice Network is a story about two women whose lives were shaped by two different wars. I dragged my feet because I wasn't really interested in another book about war. But it was recommended to my by my sister, and she has never steered me wrong.
Speaking of which, she led me to Australian author Jane Harper. The Dry is a murder mystery set against the backdrop of a drought in a small farming community. The ending left me breathless. And the second book was equally as compelling.
I in turn introduced her to Joe Ide. His first book is titled IQ, which is also the name of the main character. IQ investigates crimes in his community of East Long Beach. Very engaging and satisfying. You can't help but feel for the guy.
Recently I discovered Rebecca Zanetti. Hidden is the first book in her Deep Ops series. This is a romantic suspense novel featuring beefy men with decidedly unromantic names. I mean who names their heroes Malcolm and Clarence? But the stories also feature a German shepherd dog with a drinking problem. What more do you want?
I adored Amor Towles lovely book A Gentleman in Moscow. Set in 1922, Count Rostov is sentenced to house arrest in a grand hotel. Over a span of thirty years the count's life changes considerably. The book is both captivating and heart-breaking.
Maggie & Abby's Neverending Pillow Fort-Will Taylor; Jane, Unlimited-Kristin Cashore; Does My Head Look Big in This?-Randa Abdel-Fatah; The Water Seeker-Kimberly Willis Holt; Dumplin'-Julie Murphy; Nothing But The Truth-Avi; The Diary of Anne Frank-Anne Frank; Don't Breathe a Word-Holly Cupala; Wizard for Hire-Obert Skye; Girls Made of Snow & Glass -Melissa bashardoust; Alls' Faire in Middle School-Victoria Jamieson; The Confidence Code-Claire Shipman & Katty Kay; A Blade so Black-L.L.McKinney; The Invisible Library-Genevieve Cogman; Restart-Gordon Korman; Resistance-Jennifer Nielsen; Camino Island-John Grisham; Grant Park-Leonard Pitts; The Worst Best Man, The Christmas Fix , The Fine Art of Faking It, Finally Mine, Whiskey Chaser- Lucy Score; Small Town Girl-LaVyrle Spencer; Book Boyfriend, Cocky Roommate, Hot Single Dad, Broken Miles, Forbidden Miles, Sidecar Crush, Reckless Miles - Claire Kingsley; Possession, Kingdom, Poet, Let There Be Light, Breakaway-A.M. Johnson; The Purpose Driven Life- Rick Warren; Christmas in Harmony-Philip Gulley; Fresh Catch-Kate Canterbary; The Dry-Jane Harper; Lethal White-Robert Gailbraith; Kingdom of the Blind-Louise Penny; PRIDE-Ibi Zoboi; Us Against You-Fredrik Backman; Naked in Death-J.D. Robb; Hot Head-Damon Suede; The Life She Wants-Robyn Carr; The War That Saved my Life-Kimberly Brubaker Bradley; Stud in the Stacks, Mr. McHottie, The Pilot and the Puck-up, Royally Pucked, Beauty and the Beefcake, Rockaway Bride, Hot Heir, The Hero and the Hactivist - Pippa Grant; Romancing the Werewolf-Gail Carriger; Pride & Precipitation-Heather Horrocks; Righteous, Wrecked-Joe Ide; Trudy Madly Deeply-Wendy Delaney; The Kiss Quotient-Helen Hoang; Crazy Rich Asians-Kevin Kwan; The Outside World-Tovah Mirvis; Pressure Head, Relief Valve, Lock Nut-JL Merrow; Riptide-Kathryn Nolan, Widdershins-Jordan L. Hawk; Record of Blood, A Bitter Draught, From the Ashes-Sabrina Flynn
Whew! Just got back from Emerald City Writers Conference which is presented by the Greater Seattle Romance Writers Association.
I know, a lot of you do not, nor ever will write romance. But here's the thing, writers conferences are valuable. There are classes on marketing, project management, taxes, pitching, as well as the craft of writing itself.
Add to that the value of networking with other writers, and a weekend conference is worthy of the time and expense.
So check around and see if there are any writers conferences near you that may help you with your own particular project.
And yeah, I have indeed started writing. But, I will always be a reader.
December 10, 2017
I am almost finished reading a book that is not particularly good. At times, I considered adding it to my reject pile, but something kept pulling me back.
This happens to me a lot.
In the past, I have kicked many books to the curb without a backwards glance. But since becoming a professional reader, I have become a more compassionate reader.
Yes, I managed to say that with a straight face.
The thing is, I have great respect for writers, particularly writers who have the grit and stamina to finish a book. And writers who are then willing to share their work with the world? Wow.
Which is why I don’t post negative reviews on social media or Amazon. Especially for books that have been self-published. Often, self-published books have never been professionally edited and have significant errors. I understand authors thinking that they are saving themselves some money, but in the long run, a negative review can cost a lot more than a proof-read.
An author’s first book is often not their best book. Like everything else, writing improves with practice. One friend gives an author a two-book try, before making a judgement. Another friend, when encountering a new author, does not start with the author’s first book. Not a bad idea, but difficult if it is the start of a series.
So tonight, I will finish reading that book, and appreciate the author’s efforts to take a story from an idea to publication.