Category: Writing

The Power of Three

With a title like that, this article could be about Charmed or the Trinity or any number of things. Instead, it’s about the way many things are segmented into “just do these three things” and you’ll find success.

In the Book Proposal workshop I wrote about last week, the agent/instructor told us a major way we could build our platform was to write three articles.

Yes, the power of three strikes again. (Not the power of three strikes. All that gets you is OUT.)

Why Three?

It could be an arbitrary number. But there is some method to choosing three.

Three articles on one topic (but not the same elements of that topic) offer enough diversity that it can make your knowledge appear broad. In some cases, maybe broader than it is. Don’t get me started on that “pretending things” avenue.

These articles need to represent the “best” of my topic. They should showcase my hook and also what’s different about my approach to a common and well-covered topic.

They need to be well-written in the style of my book. And they need to be edited to perfection

Then What?

Now that I have three well-crafted articles showcasing my expertise on this subject, I’m set.

For what exactly?

To get the content out there.

I should pitch these articles to sites with large followings that would be interested in the topic. Maybe send the articles out to a magazine.

Yes, I have to be careful about reprint and copyright infringement, but that’s the main reason I have three articles. I can use some of them in forums that don’t require first or exclusive rights, and save one of them to sell to an exclusive market.

Also, I should reformat the information into live videos or coaching sessions. Anything that can get the information out into the world.

What’s the Point?

Other than getting my information out there, this exposure establishes me as an expert.

Which I’m not. However, every agent and editor will do an online search of me. These articles on so many different channels will show up as hits. And that looks like I have a large reach.

This is part of platform building that we often overlook. Especially since my experience is mostly with fiction platform building. That doesn’t lend itself in the same way.

As I mentioned last week, I’m not thrilled to spend all my energy talking about working through grief. It isn’t my primary gifting or calling.

But if I want to get a traditional contract for this book, I should do everything in my power to “follow the rules.”

That’s the main reason you’ll see my blog and my Facebook group focused on nonfiction topics for the rest of the year. It’s not because I’m not writing fiction, because you know I have five projects in the works.

My goal is to build a platform that appeals to a publisher. In reality, I’d rather talk about fictionalizing Bible stories and how that can further spiritual growth. Yes, everyone grieves, and I would be willing to speak on that topic too, but my passion is for the other.

Apparently, if you write a book, it’s because you’re an expert in that field. And from then on, you’ll only be seen as someone who can address that subject.

That’s so limiting. Especially for someone like me who can’t even decide on a single fiction genre to write in forever.

What is a topic you wish someone would write a book on?

Book Proposal Workshop Woes

A professional spends time and money on education. It’s no different for me as an author. I’ve spend money on conferences, retreats, online classes, books and most recently a workshop. This particular workshop claims to show me the best way to write a book proposal.

Fiction writers don’t generally have to write proposals. As the instructor of my workshop—literary agent Wendy Keller—is fond of saying, a book proposal is like a nonfiction book’s business plan. Because a nonfiction book is selling knowledge and the publisher who puts it out there wants to be sure the plan is sound (meaning has a good hope of making money).

This spring, I attended an online writing conference and one of the sessions advertised this workshop. Of course, like any good marketing campaign, it made it sound like there was a decent chance any sound proposals would be snapped up by the agency presenting the course.

Or not.

But what’s $199 among friends? Or would that be agent and possible future author client?

Or maybe, it’s a six-session course that gives feedback on every part of the proposal. By the time I finish, the whole proposal will have been seen by this agent and multiple editors. It should be as close to perfect as I can make it.

After that, I’ll be able to actually shop my nonfiction book Through the Valley of Shadows to my top agency choices. It might have the chance to be sold.

And this is one of my writing projects for 2020.

If only I wasn’t in the middle of writing first drafts and revising beta drafts and working eight-hour days teaching freshmen about refugees and imperialism.

If wishes were pennies, I’d be rich.

The Sessions

The first two webinars were horrible. Not because the information shared wasn’t good, but the first one had such horrible audio quality that it gave me a headache. The second one, the slides that the presenter shared weren’t actually shown. Not helpful if you’re trying to take notes.

After that, it wasn’t too bad. There was a combination of ideas and encouragement, but I didn’t feel encouraged.

Seriously. She basically said if you didn’t have a platform, her agency wouldn’t pick you up. And if you self-published your book, you were only hurting yourself. Unless you had a ready-made clientele.

I got the message…but not the T-shirt

Yes, she did give the framework necessary for writing a proposal. She had a few unique tips I hadn’t heard elsewhere, but in reality, there wasn’t much here.

Unless the idea that I “fabricate” speaking dates (nine to twelve months in the future) is to be considered an excellent piece of advice for a Christian author. (I wish I was joking.)

The Homework

The assignments were directly related to the lessons. The coursework divided the proposal into parts and each lesson covered one of these. The corresponding homework involved writing that part.

One of the pieces of the proposal that I hadn’t completed before was the comparative analysis. This involves reading as money books similar to the one you’re writing as possible. Our first week we had to find these books in the top 150,000 on Amazon.

During the following six weeks, we were supposed to read these six to eight books.

Yeah. Right.

A re-enactment of one of my THREE TBR piles before they collapsed

I read two books per week, but I didn’t want to read six books on the topic of grief. Not when the skies were gray and I had writing to do.

So, I’m still working on the last two of those books. Because I need to have read the by the time I send my proposal out. I can hope that the books will STILL be on the Amazon charts at that point.

The End Result

At the end, I had every piece of this proposal written. All except the final piece—Marketing Plan, also the second most important section of the document—had been read and reviewed by professional editors. I’d had the opportunity to rewrite each section according to the recommendations from said editors.

The entire proposal had final input from an editor. After implementing these suggestions, I would have the best book proposal I could possible write.

What I didn’t have was an agent.

But then again, did I truly expect the road to be easy? It hasn’t been this far.

And no matter what this agent says, if I don’t sell this book to a publisher, I’ll create an online course for it. I’ll get it out to people because I believe it has a needful message.

I know it’s helped me in the aftermath of grief, and I believe God can use it to help others find hope and healing, too.

What is something you’ve signed up for that didn’t have the expected outcome?

Why I’m Not Finished Writing This Yet

It’s that time of month when I’ve scheduled this blog to be a showcase for what I’m working on. Well, what I SHOULD be working on is NOT what I actually am working on.

And I didn’t hear much about last month’s share…from the same manuscript.

Did anyone even read it? Does anyone see these posts?

Is anyone out there?

Here I am posting a blog and wondering HOW on earth to make Martha’s story stretch for another 10, 000 words. Yep. That’s how much UNDER my goal I am on this one?

How do these things happen?

I get too many irons in the fire.

This is what I’ve been doing since I “started” drafting this book:

  • Overhauled LOVE’S EMERGING FAITH
  • Written a ton of blogs
  • Made too many memes
  • Started making weekly LIVE videos
  • Started a proposal writing workshop
  • Purchased ISBNs
  • Started an audiobook making project
  • Released a book
  • Promoted said book
  • Stalked said book’s sales on an hourly basis
  • Fine! “Said book” is MOMMY’S LITTLE MATCHMAKERS
  • Organized the next book in the REFLECTIONS series
  • Edited LOVE’S EMERGING FAITH
  • Started an IngramSpark account so I can distribute the REFLECTIONS series
  • Tried to upload the first book in the series
  • Requested new covers for series (several times)
  • Given up on formatting interior and begged an author friend to do it
  • Made her change it so many times I feel guilty
  • Wrote a scene or two in A LABORING HAND
  • Submitted LOVE’S EMERGING FAITH
  • Built up three regular clients for my Fiverr business
  • Went on an excellent “Laurel and Hardy’s Next Adventure” (see upcoming blog post)
  • Became a Lolly

YES! I’m a #firsttimelolly.

It IS as exciting as they say. And here’s a snapshot of my beautiful little granddaughter.

More about her and my grandmother name and being a first time lolly in an upcoming blog post. (Like I said, I’ve been writing a TON of these)

But now…another excerpt from the still-to-be-completed first draft.

From chapter 7 or 8. Haven’t completely decided on the layout yet. First draft, remember?

Mary followed me into the tiny space that contained fresh straw and bedding we’d been sleeping on—or tossing and turning on at least—since our brother passed into the next life.

In a hushed voice I told her, “The Master is come and calls for you.”

Another twinge tugged where my heart used to be whole.

Yahweh, forgive the little untruth.

He assured me that there was only truth or lies, no sizable ones of either.

Forgive this lie then. I justified it in my mind with, I’m only trying to help her find peace.

I sensed Yahweh wasn’t impressed with my reasoning.

Mary gasped. “Where?”

“I’ll show you.”

She followed me through the crush of comforters. Their voices rose.

“Where are you going?” Imma’s hand caught my arm but I swept it away and rushed toward the door.

Someone said, “She’s going to the grave to weep.”

Let them think what they would.

I took my sister’s hand and led her toward Yeshua’s circle of followers. As we neared, he broke away as before, and I dropped Mary’s hand.

She crumbled to the ground, and I let her.

Yeshua would pick her up.

Behind me, I heard the rustle of fabric and plod of footsteps. Imma had an arm around the shoulders of Avi’s girls and the women who’d been comforting us followed in a clot of black-shrouded humanity.

“Lord,” my sister cried, “if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.”

My throat ached at the strain of holding in my tears. I said the same words, but the pain that broke my sister’s voice removed all accusation from them. Faith and love met with confusion. Why hadn’t he come when I told him Lazarus was sick?

Yeshua glanced at her and up at me and the crowd of women. Many of them were joined by their husbands now. Our group hadn’t gone through town unseen.

Yeshua bent and touched my sister’s shoulder. Her in-drawn gasp turned into a sob. He guided her to her feet, gently, like a father helping an injured child.

Please let his touch have Heavenly comfort.

By the time she stood, his face was marred by the anguish scarring my heart. His gaze met mine. “Where have you laid him?”

From behind me, one of the men who’d helped us carry Lazarus to his tomb came forward. “Come and see.”

Our procession continued down the dusty road and cut onto a narrower path. It was then, as Mary leaned against my side, sopping the tears from her face with her veil, that I realized Yeshua could have been pointing to the graves during our conversation.

Something buzzed in the abyss where the monster of loss lurked after devouring my heart and half my soul. Something I didn’t recognize because I hadn’t truly allowed myself to feel it since Mother and the others had died.

I stopped several feet from the tomb, a step behind Yeshua. His shoulders shook, and I realized he wept.

I knew he had loved my brother. Some in the crowd muttered that very truth.

Why then hadn’t he come and healed him?

Don’t doubt. Just believe.

Yahweh, help me believe in Your perfect will.

Well, there it is. What it might have been like to be Martha in the moments before everything in her world changed.

What do you think? Do you want to keep reading?

What sort of things do YOU wonder about Martha?

A Snippet of What I’m Writing Now

Write. Write some more. Right now I’m writing the first draft of the first two novellas in my new REFLECTIONS series.


This isn’t the smooth and easy writing of fiction.

Because I’m writing a fictionalization.
Fiction? Fictionalization? Sounds the same to the average non-author type.

Except fiction is something completely formed in my muse’s imagination. If set in our real world, I have to be accurate with details, but as far as what characters say and do, I’ve got free license.

Not so with A LABORING HAND and AN ADORING SPIRIT. These novellas are based on the very REAL people Martha and Mary of Bethany. I don’t have much to work with except the Bible’s accounts.

Nothing like taking God’s inspired Word and making a fictionalized story out of it. SO–for those of you still wondering–a fictionalization takes an ACTUAL EVENT and adds fictional elements to flesh it into a complete and compelling story.

Not trying to imply the Bible isn’t compelling on its own because IT IS. But sometimes the things it doesn’t tell keep us from engaging with the characters the way we do in fiction.

You know, get inside their minds and hearts. Feel their fears and pains and indecision. If we can relate to Bible characters in this way, I think it improves our odds at applying their lessons to our lives.

So, here’s a familiar scene from John 11: 1-3 fictionalized and written from Martha’s perspective. (Beware: this is a first draft so there are probably all kinds of errors.)

From A Laboring Hand, chapter six (a rough draft):

His fever raged. Every bad memory from the worst weeks of my life suffocates me. I sweep and cook and bathe his face with water and roll him from side to side so I can put clean linen beneath him.

None of it matters. His shriveled arm clings to his side like a poultry wing. Muscles in his shorter leg twitch, dislodging the sheepskins I’ve heaped over him, hoping to break the fever. He thrashes and moans, and it is the poliomyelitis all over again.

Yahweh, I cannot lose another brother.

Losing two of them to that epidemic nearly broke me, and it did kill my family. The way Abba faded away afterward, losing his will to outlive his heir and the woman he loved.

But Lazarus is the only protector Mary and I have left. I know he really isn’t strong, but he’s a man of legal age and he keeps the meddlers at bay. Everyone knows I’m the one that works to provide for all of us. Lazarus is a good manager, though, and he’s been handling the scheduling and payments for many years. How will I run the business alone? Especially now that Mary is marriageable. And desirable. Unlike me.

Stop feeling pitiful and start being helpful, I hear Mama tell me.

“I’ll sit with him.” Mary’s voice barely pulls me back to the present.

The huge tears hanging on the edge of her thick lashes wrench my heart from my chest. She has lost as much as I have, and she feels everything so much more deeply. If I expect to fold beneath the weight of losing my brother, what will happen to her?

And that’s when I decide. “I am sending a message to Yeshua.”

Her lips tilt into the closest thing to a smile I’ve seen since this fever put Lazarus abed.

“He can heal anyone.” I know there’s more than faith shining in her glowing brown eyes, but I ignore it. That’s a talk for another time.

Instead, I nod my agreement. We aren’t like so many others who follow Yeshua because of his many miracles. He speaks God’s Word with authority, and He is the Messiah. We’ve seen him perform a few feats of divinity, but we’ve heard about even more. Blind men see and lame men walk. The paralyzed can move, a lad’s lunch feeds a multitude and lepers are cleansed.

Whatever afflicts my brother will be a simple matter for the Lord to cure. And we are his friends. He’s done greater things for strangers, surely he won’t begrudge this small favor to his friends?

I scrounge around for a scrap of parchment and scratch a short message. The one you love is ill. I sign it: Martha and Mary.

After tying my coin purse to my sash and covering my head with a shawl, I stride toward the well. Several young boys have been running messages for me, and I think I know where Yeshua and his disciples were planning to next teach.

A group of youths toss bean bags around near the community oven. The scent of baking bread reminds my stomach that I have neglected to eat. There’s been too much to accomplish, or at least I don’t wish to sit still for more than a minute because then the grief crashes in.

I see one of the orphans who sleeps at the synagogue and assists the rabbis.

That’s it for now.

What do you think? What would make it more compelling?

What I’m Writing Now

I’m not talking about this blog. One of the new things you’ll see around here this year is at least once per month, I’ll give you a glance behind the scenes…or more accurately between the covers…of whatever I’m writing at the moment.

Have you Seen These?

The current project is in “revision” mode. This isn’t my favorite. I think I’ve shared this meme before, but each time I see it, it reinforces my emotions in the two processes of being an author: writing and editing.

There is a series within the First Street Church Series published by Sweet Promise Press. This is a trilogy I’ve affectionately called, TEXAS HOMECOMING.

In Book One, Jaz comes home with a plan to find a post-military job and make a quick exit. Since her brother’s death, she and her father can barely occupy the same room without having harsh words.

Bailey dreams of leaving Sweet Grove, too, but when his sister returns home with plans to convert the family ranch into a resort, he knows he has to stay and help her. She’ll be his only family once their father succumbs to the cancer devouring him.

But what if they don’t inherit the ranch? What if a “blood” relative comes to claim it? Bailey seeks out a legal expert and finds his high school crush. Jaz can’t turn the handsome cowboy away, but she’s hardly prepared to start falling for him.

Even without a will, love finds a way.

 

 

 

 

The story continues in Book Two. I refer to this as “Jaz’s story” because she finally gets questions answered about her brother. Of course, a mysterious visitor makes an auspicious delivery. When Bailey sees Jaz embracing the man, he suspects the worst.

Because he knows he’s not worth loving.

Sometimes hope needs a helping hand.

I Have a Plan

When I originally concieved the idea for this series, I hoped to write THREE books outside of Sweet Grove. I was going to pull readers from the Kindle World into my own sweet romance world.

And then their were no more Kindle Worlds.

But there was Sweet Promise Press. And I enjoyed working with Melissa Storm and her crew of friendly and knowledgeable professionals. So, I decided to bring the characters back to Sweet Grove. It was supposed to be a Texas Homecoming anyway, right?

My new plan is to release the third book in the trilogy in April.

Then I’ll hire a designer to make a lovely Texas Homecoming print wrap and in the fall, I’ll release the trilogy in a print collection. All three stories (somewhere between 80,000 and 90, 000 words) together in a single paperback.

Doesn’t that sound like a fantastic idea?

Between the Covers

Now for the moment you scrolled past the rest of this to see. Here’s a scene from the second chapter of the book.

I hate to give too much away, but book three is Bailey’s story. Plenty of reviewers have commented about how static and even whiny Bailey has been in the first two books. Well, he’s not weak. He has a bad past.

And it’s about to come to Sweet Grove.

From the second chapter (this is NOT final copy and is subject to change and IMPROVEMENT) before it’s included in the final book:

Lonie Dyer was a piece of work. Jazlyn Rolle had met sweet talkers like him during her six months with Boldt & Associates.  It wasn’t the false charm that grated against her as much as the expectation to get something for nothing.

By the time he’d spoken two sentences, Jaz had known that the striking physical resemblance between Bailey and Lonie was all there was. Even without the sharp planes on his face and hardness in his eyes, Lonie wasn’t at all appealing.

“And who might you be?” That was the first sentence he’d spoken.

“This is Jaz.” Tess stepped around her as the two of them entered the parlor.

Lonie’s hand settled possessively beside a photo book of Central Texas on the edge of an antique table.

“A Sweet Grove native like my little girl?” His tone dripped honey, and Jaz figured the man could con a starving man out of his last meal.

Probably how he’d convinced the parole board a man with one armed robbery after another shouldn’t serve out a full sentence. Jaz had entered the man’s name into the county database as soon as Bailey had mentioned he was out of prison. Not that she expected him to show up in Sweet Grove. He’d burned whatever bridge he might have had to his children years ago.

“I thought you’d be in your room.” Tess gazed at him with expectation.

That’s when Jaz saw herself in her friend’s posture. Tess wanted his approval. Since she’d always yearned for Daddy love, Jaz knew the feeling exactly. But her friend missed the calculating way Lonie’s eyes narrowed, and Jaz knew Tess was heading for heartache.

Jaz stepped closer. Lonie’s gaze flashed to her and roamed lasciviously down her body.

The very same thing had happened so many times during her six years in the army that Jaz was surprised when she glanced down at herself. The uniform she expected to see was only loose boyfriend denim and a form-fitting sweatshirt. By the way the lust filled the older man’s gaze, it should have been something much more revealing.

“I’m Bailey’s girlfriend, and he’s on his way here.”

Lonie’s lips thinned into a reptilian smile. “Boy couldn’t wait to see me.” His dry chuckle sent a hoard of shivers down Jaz’s spine.

“Tess and I are going to hang out until he gets here.” Jaz turned Tess toward the doorway. “Let’s get some sweet tea. What’s on the menu for breakfast?”

She forced her backbone to steel as she marched her friend back to the kitchen. Tess responded about breakfast, but Jaz didn’t pay attention. Now that she’d met the man and seen the open desire in Tess’s eyes, she realized Bailey hadn’t been overreacting to send her to the ranch.

Jaz blocked the doorway into the kitchen by leaning on the side of the bar. Lonie pulled up a stool like he belonged there.

“Sweet tea?” Tess paused to glance over her shoulder at Lonie while pulling glasses from the cupboard.

“I never did sweeten to it.”

Once Tess turned away, Lonie shifted a leer to Jaz. She glared, unblinking. Maybe it would be smarter to pretend to fall for his slimy charm, but she couldn’t do it. Men like Lonie Dyer had too much power over women, and Jaz refused to be another conquest for him, even if it was only in his own mind.

Tess handed her a glass of tea and sipped hers. “What are your plans?” She set her glass down. “Did you want something else to drink?”

This wasn’t part of her normal B&B hostess routine, and Jaz wanted to snap at Lonie to leave the kitchen, since it wasn’t generally open to guests. But Tess’s hopeful expression killed the protest before it reached her lips.

“A shot of Jim Beam would be nice.” Lonie chuckled again, this time the sound more authentic, although it still grated on Jaz.

“How about a coke? I have Sprite or cola.”

Lonie shrugged. “Don’t go to any trouble for me, darlin’.”

As if she hadn’t already by loaning him a rent-free room. The front door opened and closed, and footsteps plodded toward the dining room. Jaz’s heart leapt, but Bailey would use the kitchen entrance, so it must be Tess’ other guest.

“That’s Mr. Gary.” Tess brushed past Jaz and into the hallway.

Lonie arched a scraggly eyebrow at her and smirked. “How long you been goin’ down on my boy?”

Jaz clenched her fist. “He’s not your boy any more than Tess is your darlin’.” She mimicked his syrupy drawl of the endearment.

What do you think? Are you ready to read more?

The Push to Write Nonfiction

In August, Forbes ran an article headlining the fact that traditional publishers sold more nonfiction than fiction. For an author, something like that might make you wonder, “Am I writing the right thing?”

When most people think about writing a book, they either think of writing the Great American Novel or a self-help book about something they know how to do well.

According to the statistics, 2013 was the last year that adult fiction made publishers more money than nonfiction. Go figure.

So I should be writing nonfiction.


Would it surprise you to know I have two nonfiction titles published?

I do. Both of them are Bible studies.

Would it shock you to know that the last writer’s conference I attended I was pitching a Christian living book (yes, nonfiction)?

No one was buying. Whereas every fiction book I’ve pitched at conferences has inspired plenty of upfront interest.
It was a shocking experience for me. In retrospect, I chalk it up to not knowing the correct way to pitch nonfiction. I needed to have more data, and a better hook.

Still, the experience left behind a slimy residue that makes me leery of moving forward on that nonfiction book.
Except, I’m writing another Bible study even now. I plan to release it this summer.

The abandoned proposal for the Christian living book? It’s also on the schedule for resurrection in 2019.

The Bible Study

Since publishing my second Bible study, I’ve been bombarded with ideas for another study. A dozen new ideas shined forth each time I sat down to brainstorm.

But none of them stuck.

For a couple weeks, I was sure WHAT IS TRUTH? Would win my interest.

I’m not going to push ahead on writing a Bible study without complete surety that God wants me to write it. To me that means the ideas for chapters pour out. A tone comes to mind and I can write a summary of each chapter using it.

And that didn’t happen.

Time and again I found cool ideas but their trails ran cold before a solid outline could be hammered out.

Until FEED YOUR FAITH popped up as I decided what to teach at the church ladies’ retreat in October. I gave them my chapter on lettuce (make that “Let us” from the Book of Hebrews) and the lesson wrote itself.

The chapter outline took a little longer, but before too long, it came forth. Now, half the chapters are written.

One thing I decided to do since my second study book is so slender is to have a devotional section. In this case, I crafted three days of devotional readings that will complement each lesson. AND I drafted a sample weekly schedule so each chapter can be considered during the entire week of the study.

Through the Valley of Shadows

The Christian living book has a darker message. It chronicles my own journey through grief. It’s different from any other book I’ve seen on the market in that it includes Bible exposition in every chapter.

Truthfully, in the throes of grief, I wouldn’t have been able to read this book. It’s NOT for people grieving at the moment.

Instead, it’s for people who are in the anticipatory stage. They have a terminally ill loved one. Or perhaps they work in ministry and feel inept when approached by a grieving widow or parent or spouse.

I’ve been there. And I’ve been the one grieving.

This book could be an important resource.

But it won’t be if I don’t write it.

I’d still like to try to get it traditionally published. This means I need to craft an amazing proposal that will snare my top choice agent.

In the end, I think I’ll self-publish it if I can’t get a traditional contract. The content is too important to stay on my hard drive just because I can’t “sell it” to an agent.

After all, I’m NOT a salesperson. I’m an author.

It wouldn’t be very broad-minded of me to ignore the potential nonfiction book market when I have no shortage of ideas for these types of books.

A shortage on expertise?

Well, that’s debatable. Maybe Forbes will research the dilemma and get back to me with the push I need to write that nonfiction book.

Writing Romantic Comedy

Writing romance wasn’t my calling. I swear it. But that’s what most of my published books are: romance.

Sweet romance paved the way for me. Now most of my published titles are Christian romance. I certainly wouldn’t consider my dream to write romantic comedy.

Not because I’m not funny. I think I’m funny. But my children roll their eyes at my jokes. And yet I’ve written a romantic comedy…and it’s coming your way soon.

I must be crazy. Who do I think I am to write a genre with such high expectations?

First Pick

I’m a first round draft pick.

What? When?

Sweet Promise Press opens submissions for all their series. Authors submit pages (mine were actually from LOVE’S LATE ARRIVAL, which is in NO WAY funny), and the series lead author and publisher read them. They make their “top picks” list for each series (and an author can only submit to ONE series at a time).

When the picks for MOMMY’S LITTLE MATCHMAKER were announced, I was chosen first.

I danced. I glowed. It was a moment of satisfaction for me.

And then reality set in.

Smiles instead of Tears

In nearly every book I write, there is one tear-jerking scene.

Not because a dog dies. Or a person dies. Usually, it’s a dark soul moment for one of my characters. They come face-to-face with the truth…and it’s heart-wrenching.

At least it is for me when I write it.

Reviewers have said I address “gritty” subjects, and my plots are life-like.

Yes, I want my characters to BE real to the readers. I want total immersion in my story world.

And when I deliver the happy ending, I hope readers walk away feeling empowered, as if they can slay the dragons in their lives.

That doesn’t sound like a ton of laughs.


Although I try to have some catchy dialogue, and scenes of irony are my favorite.

I’ve given Meredith an interesting quirk. She struggles with self-image (something I know about first-hand) and feeling like a failure. As a grandmother, she’s thrown into the “baseball mothers” mob and found to be a misfit.

One early reader said those moments made her sad. Another said they resounded with authenticity. Neither one of them were laughing.

So…I might be a little worried that I didn’t pull off the comedic voice.

Another “Mature” Romance

My shero in MOMMY LOVES THE BANKER is 45. Which makes her younger than me, and I’m NOT a senior citizen (but I guess I am mature…some days anyway). Don’t you have to be at least 55 before you’re considered a “senior”?

And still, I have reviewers saying they appreciated having “more mature” couples in the First Street Church romance series. Well, guess what? The series lead for MOMMY’S LITTLE MATCHMAKERS was excited about the “silver fox” in my story.

That would be Donavan. He’s all of 50, but like my own husband, his hair turned gray early, so he does have silver hair. And, somehow, he has a granddaughter the same age as my 45-year-old Mimi.

Both of them have been married before. Neither wants to do it again, but for completely opposite reasons. That’s enough to add conflict when they find themselves attracted to each other.

And, yes, Aunt B, we still feel attraction at 50. We might be sweating for no apparent reason, but we can still get butterflies when our handsome man gives us a smoldering glance.

Have you pre-ordered the entire set? You can grab all six of these stories for less than $12. Best of all, you’ll get all of them the day the first one releases.

Do you read romantic comedies? Who’s your favorite author in that genre? Or maybe you can list your favorite romcom movie instead.

Writing “The End”

November. It’s golden leaves turn brown and crunch beneath the soles of my shoes. (Shoes and socks?! Ugh!) Then the wind blows them away.

Meanwhile…at my computer…

National Novel Writing Month compels me to write at least 50,000 words.

For the past five years, I’ve attempted to accomplish this feat before Thanksgiving. Since the first day of the month was a Thursday, my favorite holiday came early this year.

Which means my Nanowrimo deadline came later.

Day One

It begins. I’m excited. I have prepped the two Scrivener files I’m using for the next two First Street Church romance novellas. If I draft both of them fully, that should take me closer to 60,000 words.

There’s a write-in at a local coffee shop from 1 PM to 3 PM. There are only two of us there, but words pour from our fingertips.

I update my word count on the nanowrimo.org website as frequently as possible.

Day Two

I’ve decided to write all Bailey Travers’ point of view scenes first and then return to write the shero scene. This is exactly how I wrote my young adult fantasy novel during November two years ago.

By the end of the day, I have 8,000 words.

Write on!

Day Three and Four

The weekend. I don’t usually write on weekends. This means I won’t get the badge for updating my word count five days in a row. *sad face*

Day Five

I’m scheduled to work at St. Helens Middle School. This position involves teaching seventh grade science for four hours and monitoring a study hall for an hour.

During the hour prep period, I start Jaz’s first scene.

Since I’m showing the same movie and discussing the same work sheet during all four class periods, I manage to finish writing the scene during the afternoon class sessions.

Day Six

I need to research a few items about the Texas Family Protective Services for Jaz’s story line. Also, I’ve missed my Monday scheduling of Facebook and Social Media, so my morning is unproductive as far as word count goes.

In the afternoon, I finish off all of Bailey’s scenes. I’ll be ready for Jaz in the morning.

Day Seven

I wake up with a sore throat.

Day Eight

I’m still lethargic from not completing the usual workout stuff. I’m in the Hot Seat during the weekly Novel Academy webinar, so I work on the dark moment for Tessa, the shero of the second novella I intend to write during November.

I do manage to get the SEQ filled out (although it changes somewhat during my 30 minutes of fame online), and write a scene from Jaz’s point of view.

I’m still ahead in the word count.

Day Nine

Finally, I have a 4,000-word writing day.

Word count by day-end: 20,875

Day Ten – Eleven

Weekend Again. I write this blog post and do laundry. Sunday, there’s church.

Day Twelve

Conquer the FINAL scene of November novella #1

(Yes, this manuscript might need additional scenes to complete it, but I’m ready for Tessa Travers to face her demons and fall in love.)

Except wait…this scene refuses to be written today, so on to the the opening scene of Tessa’s story. Hey, at least I wrote a couple thousand words.

Day Thirteen

Thanks to the repeated listening of John chapter 11, my writer’s brain gets a new idea. It would include redesigning the cover this book:

And releasing it as A PONDERING HEART next Christmas. After that, another new book written from the perspective of other Bible women would be released each month until Easter 2020, when the fourth (and possibly final) REFLECTIONS book would come out. (Thus, it’s a series so a cover redesign is imperative so all the covers can feel similar and I can’t afford to hire the cover designer who created what you see above for THREE additional covers.)

So, I wrote a scene for that first story (Maybe A SERVANT’S GIFT) to the total of 1,527 words.

Afterward, my muse allowed me to finish Jaz and Bailey’s story.

Thank you, Ms. Muse.

Daily total: 3,556 words

Day Fourteen

Edits on LOVE’S RECOVERING HOPE.

Must. Submit. To. Publisher. This. Week.

Day Sixteen

Tonight’s the night. Our local writers show up at the public library at 5PM and write and write and write.

Creative energy buzzes around us, increasing everyone’s typing speed.

There is pizza. There are sweet treats. Some drink coffee and others consume tea.

The past three years, I reached 50,000 words on this night.

So not happening this year. But the camaraderie is delightful and the story unfolds.

Day Nineteen

More of the same. Some scenes fly off my fingers. Others feel like I’m cutting them out with a dull Exact-o blade.

But…eventually…I reach the end of the second novella.

It’s Finally Over

Not really. Come January or February, these two stories will be subjected to my extensive rewriting and revising process before finding their way to beta readers and my editor.

If you’re a faithful reader, I’m planning for them to release in April and June 2019.

But, what is finally finished is the insanity of National Novel Writing Month.

Goodbye, November.

I’ll be heading to Hawaii in three weeks…and I’ve got some revising to do on my other April release before then.

National Novel Writing Month Again

November.

Five years ago, I participated in National Novel Writing Month for the first time, and I wrote a young adult fantasy novel.
It was beyond easy to churn out 50,000 words in less than thirty days.

This convinced me I could be a professional author. I have the ability to write at a professional pace.

And that manuscript?

I revised it and tried to sell it to agents. But no one was buying. So that book and the other two in the trilogy are slumbering on my hard drive.

Will I ever revisit them? Maybe. I did re-read them and I love the premise, but since my audience is engaged in my Christian romances, I don’t have an audience for these books.

I still wish to write the young adult fantasy books. I even submit the polished manuscripts from time to time. But since the doors aren’t opening, that means it isn’t the path God wants me to take at this time.

Still, it’s November, and I love the camaraderie of writing with others who are trying to create something from nothing. So, my plan for this National Novel Writing Month is to complete the final book in the Texas Homecoming trilogy and to draft Tessa Travers’s romance.

Texas Homecoming

The first book in this series shows up as book nine in the First Street Church romance series.

You can check out LOVE’S LINGERING DOUBTS here. I hope you’ve read it. If you have, what did you think?

The second book is on its way back from my line editor. Once I get the manuscript back, I’ll incorporate the editor’s recommended changes, make any small adjustments and read through it for a final polish.

It’s due at my publisher’s office by December 1. I’ll have it there early, and hopefully, LOVE’S RECOVERING HOPE will hit the shelves at Amazon before Christmas.

This means the love story between Jaz and Bailey is fresh in my mind. It should pour from my fingertips with ease during the month.

The working title is LOVE’S EMERGING FAITH.

This is the quick blurb I wrote for the nanowrimo.org website:

His past calls out his future in the ultimate showdown.
Bailey Travers wrote off his biological father the same day his grandmother gave him and his sister to the state. Too bad the thief and dealer is out now and back to ingratiate himself to Tessa Travers, who has none of the black memories Bailey hasn’t considered in a decade.
Jazlyn Rolle’s only back in Sweet Grove to help her mother recover from an automobile accident, but when she discovers a runaway in Cider Mill Park, she can’t leave the situation alone. He reminds her of the boy Bailey carries around in his soul, and helping the boy gives he more sense of purpose than anything her paralegal work has done.
While Bailey tries to keep his father from making off with more than a few antiques, Tess is pushing him to forgive the man and welcome him into their life. She can’t see past the charming exterior that pushed their birth mother into using and dealing drugs. This time, he won’t let Jaz rescue him. It’s time he faced down his past or he’s sure they won’t have a happy future.
Letting go of a sure thing, Jaz walks away from her job in Austin and embarks into a degree program that will allow her to be the County Children’s Advocate and administer a new halfway house for foster system kids. When her father shows up to support the opening, she’s come full circle.
Bailey will need every ounce of the emerging faith in God and himself to banish his past and grab the future Jaz offers him back on the ranch where he belongs.

Tessa Travers

As early as last May, I fell in love with Tessa Travers. She was a bubbling force of nature, and I decided she needed her own story.
But she didn’t come to me fully formed.

I had an idea that the romance would center around her determination to convert her family’s ranch into a dude ranch, and the hero would be her business partner, but I didn’t have much clarity beyond that.

After the pain of the Deep Thinker’s Retreat, I know better than to sit down to write without sketching out my character’s SEQ. I needed to know what Tess’s dark moment story was and what lie and fear haunted her because of it.

Furthermore, I needed all of those things for the hero, too. I had some work to do before that story was ready to be drafted.

But, I’ll manage to scribble down enough so the first draft won’t be too ugly.

Have you ever written a novel? What is the hardest part for you?

Professional in Need of Feedback

I’m a professional author. That means I write a story and send it off to my publisher. Right?

Wrong.

In most cases, most professional authors write a manuscript and return to it to rewrite, revise (not the same as rewriting), edit (not the same as revising) and polish (a cat of an entirely different color) as many as TEN times before sending it off to anyone. And often, their first readers are NOT their editors but a group of alpha readers, many of whom are writers in a similar genre.

Now that I’ve been a published author for four years, my manuscripts should be pretty close to perfect at the end of two or three drafts.

I wish.

My Process

Sadly, I don’t write a first draft that’s ready for public consumption. Not even by my Aunt Betty who dearly adores everything I write (because she loves me). Manuscripts I write have generally survived three passes from me before they go to my early readers.

  1. FAST DRAFT: Just as it sounds. I sit down with my character sketches, the major plot point beat sheets and write the story.
  2. REWRITES: A few weeks after I finish the first draft, I read through the manuscript and mark it with symbols. I mark where more detail is needed, where there is a plot hole, where I’m bored and where things don’t make sense. A week later, I sit down with that manuscript and rewrite all the troublesome areas. Usually, I will increase the word count by about ten percent.
  3. REVISIONS: Shortly after I finish the rewrites, I turn to page one and begin revisions. I start by making a scene chart. At the beginning of each scene, I ask what the goal of the scene is and whether it’s accomplished. If there is no goal, the scene is scrapped or rewritten to reflect a goal. I go sentence by sentence through the revised scene and cull needless words.

Now my manuscript is ready for beta readers. Generally, I send them a list asking them to look at specific aspects of the story, but I always invite them to comment about anything they like or dislike as they’re reading.


Once all the comments come back, my manuscripts get three more passes.

  1. MORE REVISIONS: First, I read-through the comments and make changes on a scene level as I see fit based on the beta commentary. Sometimes, I have to scrap or completely rewrite scenes. Other times, I need to add some meat. I may not work on EVERY scene in this pass, only the ones that needed work according to the readers.
  2. EDITS: I print out a copy of the manuscript and read it aloud. Yep, some people might find this crazy. I use a colored pen to mark up the manuscript. Usually I read a couple chapters and then return to my computer to input the changes. Sometimes they get changed again as I’m doing the inputting. This pass generally takes longer than any of the others.
  3. POLISH: I compile from Scrivener to a Word document. I do a few macro searches for overused words and change them out. Then I start at the first page and polish line by line, making sure spelling, grammar and punctuation are as perfects as I can make them.

Now, the manuscript is ready for my publisher.

This Story

This summer, Kindle Worlds closed down. I begged Melissa Storm, the author who owned the universe I’d published in there, to form her own small press. She did!

Sweet Promise Press is unique in that they are 100 percent shared series. Not only has she opened up the First Street Church universe that was the Kindle World, but she’s invited authors to pitch ideas for other worlds. Then she opens up submissions for these individual series.

As an author from her Kindle World, she invited me to the group right away. I submitted interest in two of the first five shared series, and I’m contracted to write a novella for the Mommy’s Little Matchmakers series in April 2019.

The novella is written. As I pen this blog, it is with an amazing editor for critical feedback about plot and character arc, as well as the style. Since I’ve never written this genre, I’m worried my sense of humor may get missed or not resound with readers.

One thing about Sweet Promise Press that was quite different from Roane Publishing (where my first fiction works were published)is that they only proofread. It is part of the author contract that a manuscript is line edited before submission.

This is NOT that edit. I’ve contracted the recommended line editor to handle that closer to publication.

My manuscript is with Kristen Corrects, Inc. for something more along the lines of a developmental edit. Except that would have cost about twice as much as what I’m paying her to do with the story. I’m hoping that I’ve got the story RIGHT and only need help with the comedic elements.


SO…I hope I sell enough copies of this story to offset the cost of TWO rounds of editing.

My Hope

I worked with Kristen on my first First Street Church novella, Love’s Late Arrival. She really helped me make that story shine.

I’m hoping she’ll be able to spot all the weaknesses in this new story.

In this case, readers deserve to get the best story. I know I can deliver a great story, but if I miss the mark on the humor, the reviews are going to scream it.

“Romantic comedy is supposed to be funny!”

Most of my stories have an edge of darkness. I always end on a hopeful note, but I’m a realist. I don’t write fluffy stories. My character face some hard issues, but they press on and find light at the end of the shadowy journey.

That’s not the case here. So I had to find lighter issues for my characters to face, but I didn’t want it to be trite.

If anyone can help me bring the story to a smile-inducing place, it’s Kristen.

What questions do you have about the writing or editing process? Are you surprised I spend so much time on each manuscript(and will still release three new novellas and two short stories this year)?