Friday, November 28, 2008

Author of the Week: Diane Wylie

Welcome to Grit for the Oyster, Diane!

Can you give us a little bit of information about your publishing history?

I finished my first manuscript after two years of writing and began to look for a publisher. I started with the big New York publishers, having had no idea there were smaller publishers available. After many rejections I wrote a second manuscript, this one a historical romance. By that time I had joined several online chat groups about books. When I started to look for a publisher this time, someone told me about ebook publishers. So my first book was published as an ebook and Print on Demand. I learned a lot about publishers in the years that followed and along the way, I found Vintage Romance Publishing, who has now published two of my books, SECRETS AND SACRIFICES and JENNY’S PASSION, with a third, LILA’S VOW, due out in March 2009.

What has been the best part about being published?

The best part is meeting all kinds of people, both in person and through the internet, and, of course, hearing how much they enjoy my books.

Will you share with us how you come up with ideas for your books?

A large part of my ideas occur to me as I am researching the history and background information. One little tidbit of information will lead to a new idea. For instance, while I was researching JENNY’S PASSION I read about the infamous Civil War prison in Andersonville, Georgia. I knew I had to include it in the story. It worked well!

Do you plan your stories first with an outline or does it come to you as write it?

My characters tend to take the lead and carry the story, no matter how hard I try to plan it.

What do you want readers to remember and carry with them after reading your book?

I would like them to remember that age-old saying, “Love conquers all” and believe it!

What are your dreams for your writing?

If I could dream the impossible dream…I would love to see one of my books made into a movie. One of my readers already picked out the actors for one of my books. If you go to my website,, you can see who Mary picked on the Letters page.

What do you wish you had known when you first started out as a writer for publication?

I wish that I had known how common it was to get rejected. I took each one personally for so long, until I realized that it was not personal, it was all business.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

I’ve had my share of rejections along with way, but on the whole, it has been a great experience.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

For JENNY’S PASSION it has been 15 months since I signed the contract to its release in November 2008.

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

A television commercial. I think an ad would reach the largest audience through TV.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

Self-promotion is very important, especially since no one else will do it for those of us who are not big name authors. I promote my books through my website (, blog, newsletter, MySpace, YouTube, Bebo, LinkedIn, and various Yahoo chat groups. Every little bit helps. In addition I purchased an ad in the United Daughters of the Confederacy magazine. I am hoping that will be a good place to find readers of Civil War romance.

Where can readers find a copy of your book?

You can find JENNY’S PASSION and SECRETS AND SACRIFICES by Diane Wylie on ,,,, or by ordering a copy through your local bookstore. Thank you very much for having me at Grit for the Oyster.

Thank you very much for stopping by our blog. We wish you great success!

You can find Diane on line by clicking here.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Creative Takes Work

Happy Thanksgiving!

In a few minutes, I have to start a variety of Thanksgiving dinner preparations. I'm going to bake pumpkin pies, roast a turkey. create a apple, cranberry, grape salad, boil some potatoes--you know, the list goes on. All the while, I'm going to try not to eat very much. I don't want to gain weight between now and Christmas. Practicing self-discipline and thanksgiving is my goal for today.

Before I start my kitchen tasks, I thought I'd report in on my attempt to be more creative. Last week I told you I'd let you know how I did.

Earlier this week, I was looking for something that didn't include turkey to make for my extended family who were coming to dinner the evening before Thanksgiving (yesterday).

A friend suggested, "You could use my pasta making machine and make your own pasta. It's messy but creative."

Perfect, I thought. You may recall that my goal for the week was to try something creative regardless of the mess.

So yesterday, I made pasta for 13. The process is time consuming. It includes mixing and kneading the dough. Kneading is hard work. I was sweating (honestly) as I kneaded each batch for 12 minutes. Of course, that could be because our wood stove was burning on high (the temperature outside was 29).

The kneaded dough must sit for 30 minutes and then you put it through a roller multiple times before you put it through the pasta cutter. I thought my kids and nieces and nephews (and one soon to be nephew-in-law) would want to watch and help. They watched a moment and then disappeared.

Every one commented again and again, "That looks like so much work. Why are you doing it? Why not just get pasta from the box?"

Which made me think that our fast-food, everything-available-in-a -box culture inhibits creativity. I was (honestly) having fun. The pasta was so scrumptious. No one asked for boxed pasta when it came time to eat.

While I was rolling pasta, my husband was outside making a snow-sculpture. (The kids wouldn't help him either. A few years ago they would've begged and begged to help.) My brother-in-law said, "Steve's so creative."

Remember, Steve's the one who thinks he's not creative!

Well, I've gotta go start those pies.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cyber Sabbath

The following is an excerpt from "Taking Time for a Cyber Sabbath" from Grit for the Oyster: 250 Pearls of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers. A wonderful reminder for all of us writerly die-hards out there to take a break and enjoy a gratitude-filled Thanksgiving with our families.

When I worked at McDonalds as a teenager, I got so overdosed with the smells and sight of fast food that when I was off duty, the last thing I wanted was a burger or fries. Somehow, the writing profession doesn't work that way. The more we write, the more we want to write; the more we NEED to write. It's an addiction. The computer absorbs more and more of our attention.

We become cyber-junkies.

Work evolves into not just five days a week, but gradually six , then seven. The "I'll only be a few more minutes" we tell our kids turns into two hours. They finally give up and find someone else who'll give them attention. Before we know it, they'll be out of the house and will have unequivocally learned the lesson we taught them: that Mom or Dad (or both) would rather spend time with a machine than with them.

Is this the legacy we want to leave behind? Is our primary goal to honor God or become an honored writer?

Lord, help me to honor your directive to observe a day of rest in which to strengthen relationships, regroup, refocus, and refresh - not just in my spiritual life, but my professional life as well. Amen.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Savvy Verse and Wit

As our blog tour rolls along, it's interesting to read what catches reviewers' eyes. Each review is so different, so subjective, just like readers. What one likes, the other doesn't. I've been especially pleased that many "not exactly Christian" reviewers have really liked Grit's message. Yes, they comment that it is a bit preachy...but that's to be expected. I don't think it is preachy...but there is an assumption that you are writing because God has gifted you to write.

Today, there's an interesting review at Savvy Verse and Wit. This reviewer particularly liked Joanna Bloss' entry on being a writer with ADD. (No More 31 in Grit.)

It was one of my favorites, too.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Awesome Review!

A wonderful review today by As the Pages Turn.

The Review...

Have you ever wondered what prompted writers to become published authors? Have you ever wondered what force helped to shape and mold them into finding their dream and keep going when the going got rough? Wouldn’t it be cool to find that force through the mouths of established authors who will give it to you the way it really is so that you can do it, too?

The answer is Grit for the Oyster: 250 Pearls of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers by Suzanne M. Coty, Faith Tibbetts McDonald, and Joanna Bloss.

When I requested a copy of this book, I knew it had inspirational connotations and wondered just how preachy it was going to be. While I love quotes from established authors, I didn’t want it to sound like a preacher was yelling at me from the pulpit as some inspirational books tend to be.

That wasn’t the case at all. I quite enjoyed hearing about the experiences of these lovely ladies, as well as other published authors, who had mastered their craft well. While I’m not in all that Biblical stuff, the quotes they offered as advice for wannabe writers was so right on and I believe that’s their strong point.

When we read a title that says “250 pearls of wisdom for aspiring writers,” we want that wisdom and that wisdom is delivered.

Grit for the Oyster is a must-have handbook for aspiring authors. It should be read, savored and truly digested so that it will help you in finding your own writing dreams.

What I loved about this book...

I loved the way they mixed in other authors’ words of wisdom in between the chapters the girls wrote themselves. I’d almost be comfortable with the whole book like this, only we wouldn’t be able to hear the girls’ voices, of course. By mixing other authors’ quotes in with the girl’s chapters, it balances out very well and made for very enjoyable reading. The editors’ eye in me caught no typos so I give Vintage Spirit a thumbs up!

What I did not love about this book...

I tried my best to find something. Anything. Maybe the preachy tone? But that’s my personal beliefs interfering and I didn’t want to do that. So honestly, I can’t rip this book to shreds. It’s too well done, contains a lot of valuable information, and deserves a place in every author wannabe’s home as well as the bookstore shelves. I’d hate to see this one get lost in the masses. Not to sound cliche, but it’s like finding that one pearl in all those oysters out there. Good work, girls, and I hope they have more books coming out in the future. Their talent shines.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Think Not of the Mess

I once read about a mother who so desired to inspire creativity in her daughter that she went to great lengths to allow her to implement original ideas--she even helped her plant a carpet of grass in her bedroom. I'm not kidding. The girl longed to feel grass under her feet each morning when she got out of bed. So her mother helped her spread out a large, heavy tarp, cover it with topsoil and plant grass.

I told my mother about this. "That is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard," she said. "How did they water the grass? How did they scoop the mud out when the girl was tired of standing on grass in the morning? Think of the mess."

My sister agreed. "Ugh. What a mess. Why didn't they just pull a cot out onto the lawn?"

Me? I admire the grass planting mother/daughter duo. Not that I want inches of mud in my house. I don't. But I admire their can-do spirit. I admire that they pushed boundaries (and probably, beds) and ignored messes to pursue creativity.

When I was a girl, I loved to pop popcorn. (Still do.) I desperately wanted to pop corn--just once-- without the lid on the pan so I could watch the hard popcorn kernels ping into white fluffy blossoms. I thought the transformation must be an amazing creative moment. I told my mother that when I had my own house I was going to pop popcorn without the lid on the pan so I could watch. "No you won't," she said. "Think of the mess."

She was right. These days, I think of the mess. I keep the lid on when the popcorn's popping.

But it makes me wonder: to what degree do I stifle creativity because I think of the mess?

Practicing creativity requires a tolerance of messes. This week, when it comes to a choice between a creative act and a mess, just once--I'm not going to think of the mess. I'm going to tolerate the mess and pursue the creative act. I'll let you know how I do.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Ones that Get Away

I recently received a call from a publishing house editor asking if I'd be interested in being the witty half of a co-writing team. The project was a book about a serious subject couched in humor to appeal to the general population. Hmmmm. Sounded interesting.

The ironic twist was that this was the very same editor who had nixed a book proposal I'd submitted three years ago. At the time, I was devastated, feeling as if he had effectively tossed my career in the can. For this new project, I had been recommended to him by another editor who had worked with me on several projects since that time. He apparently had no memory of our previous encounter.

We set up a conference call with the two of us and my prospective partner. I dialed the number full of anticipation, expecting magic to happen. It didn't. Tinkerbell didn't show up. The call had about as much excitement as one of those flat lines you see on TV when it's time to write off the hero.

After losing the same fish with two worms, I concluded that the writing life is kind of like the scenario in Luke 5. Simon, a professional fisherman, had been fishing all night without a single bite. When he's thrown in the towel and is ready to hit the beach, Jesus tells him to "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch."

Simon knows those fish - which weren't there a minute ago - don't bite during the day and certainly not out in the deep water. But he tries again anyway. And his empty cooler overflows.

We might not be using the right bait with our proposals, or it's too dark, or sunny, or deep in that editor's office. But if God tells us to try again (and He often does), despite circumstances that don't make natural sense, we can be assured that our cooler will one day supernaturally overflow.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tuba or Tivo?

My 17-year-old son and I had dinner alone last night so I asked him what he wanted for Christmas. Between shoveling in food to his mouth (he had come straight from basketball practice and was starving), and being at that age when words kind of blur together as if they have no consonants, he gave me a one word answer.

"That's great!" I said, very pleased. "I'll look on E-bay and see if they have any used ones."

"Used?" he asked, eyeing me suspiciously.

"Well, you've never played one before...or any other instrument for that matter, so I don't want to spend the money for a new one."

"What do you think I said?" he asked.

"Tuba. You want a tuba."

"Tivo. I said I wanted TIVO."


Communication is huge! And hard to do, even when you're sitting at the dinner table, across from the person you're communicating with.

It's worth it to get it right. Double check your facts. Go back to your sources. Check your spelling. Ask for clarification.

Otherwise, you might end up with a used tuba.

Monday, November 17, 2008

a little gem

I'm in grad school and write lots of papers. I generally get positive feedback on my writing, and I believe this is for two reasons. One is that I pay close attention to the assignment--I always try to make sure I answer the question or issue posed. Two is that my thoughts are usually well organized.

This is due to one of the best writing investments I've ever made--the purchase of a little gem of a software called Inspiration. I first learned about Inspiration because my kids used it in elementary school for many of their projects. Then I read about it in an article in MacWorld magazine that reviewed outlining software. I considered it because an author said that it was an invaluable tool for helping him to write novels. That sold me and I've been using Inspiration for years now. I don't think I could even write a letter to my mother without it.

Every paper, article or book project I write starts with an outline. Sometimes the outline is three or four points and just helps me get my thoughts in order. For other projects it becomes the essential reference and I'd be completely lost without it (such as in the research paper on Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing and Cognitive Behavior Therapy I'm currently slogging through).

You may or may not find this tool as useful as I have; however, if you're a visual learner/writer, give it a try. Inspiration is definitely not the only outlining software out there and it may not even be the best, but I'm totally hooked on it. For more info and a free trial check out their website.

Friday, November 14, 2008

In the Mood to Surf?

While you're surfing the net today, be sure to check out the splash Grit for the Oyster is making! Grit's recent book tour stops include a great review here and a fascinating interview with the four authors here.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Let's get creative

Every time we visit a beach, my husband Steve--who couldn't sit still and bask in the sun if you paid him to--creates an elaborate sand sculpture. This is one of many that he created the summer of 2006 when we vacationed at Cape Cod and frequented Coast Guard Beach.

Yet, last week when I said to him, "Let's spend the next ten years putting everything we've got into developing our creativity.

He said, "I'm not really creative."

I reminded him of the sand sculptures, the chain-saw sculpted totem pole that stands in our front yard, the could-I-create-an-invention prototypes that lay scattered on his work bench, and the silly poems he occasionally writes for our kids.

He's creative.

Creative means resulting from originality of thought, expression or imagination. I don't think it's stressed enough these days and I'm eager to find ways to encourage and develop creativity in the lives of those around me. I long to become more creative and I intend for my writing to become more creative.

I've determined that the number one hindrance to more creativity in my life is lack of time. I can't get more of that! But I'm looking for ways to carve out time to devote to practicing creativity.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

There's Power in the Verb

Power Verbs. They're...well, powerful.

When I teach writing workshops, I stress the importance of concise, tight, non-rambling, to-the-point writing. One key way to achieve this is to cut out as many -ly adverbs (adverbs ending in -ly) as possible and replace them with power verbs.

For example, can you spot what is wrong with this sentence: She walked quickly across the room.

Okay, nothing is specifically wrong with it grammatically, but it's weak...anemic. Why have a flat, measly meat patty verb when you can have a big, fat, juicy hamburger verb?

Let's kill the -ly adverb (quickly) and replace the wimpy verb (walked) with a power verb that says even better in one word what you were trying to say (weakly) in two:
dashed, rushed, raced, flew, spurted, hastened, shot, tore, ripped, darted, sped, bolted

Power verbs make for much more exciting reading and show editors that you're not a lazy writer. So put on your super hero writing shirt and show us the power!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

There's Writing, And Then There's Writing Well

I was helping a friend's son with his college essays last week, and afterwards, thought about how hard it was to teach writing.

Many people hate, hate, hate to write. It doesn't come easily. Pulling words out of their head feels like slogging through blackstrap molasses on a January morning.

But the thing is, everybody has to learn how to communicate effectively. Even a one-page office memo with bullet points needs to be clear.

I do think that good writing can be taught, especially when a person disoovers its relevancy. Say, for example, getting and keeping a job.

But then there is a kind of writing that goes beyond communicating clearly. I'm not sure this can be taught, because it is so hard, but so very satisfying. I think this kind of writing happens because a person has that writing bug deep inside them, where she is willing to study the craft of writing.

Also known as...prose.

Here is an example:

"Everyone at the table became quiet."

That is a clear, concise sentence.

Now here it is again, jazzed up:

"Silence fell over the table."

See what I mean?

Prose takes work, editing, re-writing, reading other writers, loving and studying words and phrases. Basic philology.

But it makes all the difference in writing, and writing well.

On another note...check out our interview posted today at The Writer's Life and an excerpt of Deb Coty's devotion here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Setting Writing Goals-A SMART thing to do

What do you hope to accomplish with your writing? Perhaps you'd like to get published in a magazine or land a book contract, or finish the novel that is bouncing around in your brain. Whatever it is, you will be more successful if you take the time to do some serious goal-setting. Goals are important because they give you something to work toward and quantify your desires into something tangible and attainable. Here are some guidelines for setting some SMART writing goals. (I did not make the acronym up--it's useful in many settings.)

  • S is for specific-So you want to see your byline in a magazine? Good goal. Now get specific. Which magazine? What will you write about?
  • M is for measureableIt's not enough to say that you want to write more. Set concrete goals for your writing. How many words will you write each day? How many magazines will you query in a month? It's also very helpful to break your big goal (magazine article) into more manageable chunks. First you might brainstorm ideas for the piece and write an outline. Then find several magazines that are suitable for your topic. Then you'll need to craft a query and send it out. While you're waiting for replies you can do more research and write the first draft. Breaking your goal into specific and measurable chunks will make it feel more do-able.
  • A is for attainable-When setting your writing goals, be honest with yourself about the time you have available for writing--try not to bite off more than you can chew and build in some margin for those unexpected delays and interruptions we all encounter.
  • R is for realistic-Yes, we all want our novel to land on the NY Times Bestseller List. That's a great goal to keep in the back of your mind and it may propel you to keep writing, even when you feel like giving up. However, this is probably not the most realistic goal for the beginning writer. Try getting published in your local newspaper first, then gradually work your way up the ladder.
  • T is for time-specific-You'll be more successful in accomplishing your goals if you give yourself deadlines. Make them attainable and realistic, but do write a date on your calendar for when you expect to have each item on your to-do list accomplished.

My final word on this is to find someone to help hold you accountable. It could be a fellow writer or a good friend, but make sure it is someone who will do a good job of checking in with you from time to time.

Happy goal-setting!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Short and Sweet

A pearl of wisdom from the late great Blaise Pascal: "I have made this longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter."

Self-editing and writing concisely is so important to writers. Don't say in six words what you can say in four. Tirelessly search for just the right word. Don't settle for less.

That's the difference between good writing and compiling words.

Now a word from the sponsor:

Need a writing tune up? A spur of motivation in your saddle? Check out the terrific instructional writing programs included in Debora Coty's historical novels The Distant Shore and Billowing Sails (to be released 12/08). If you're interested in face-to-face instruction,
writing workshops for all ages are available at

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Book Tour, Day 4

Check out our interview at Beyond the Books!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Book Tour: Day 3

A very nice review from Debra Gaynor today...she gives Grit a 5 Star rating!

Check it out at...Review Your Book.

Grit for the Oyster
250 pearls of wisdom for aspiring writers

Suzanne Woods Fisher, Debora M. Coty, Faith Tibbetts McDonald, Joanna Bloss

ISBN: 9780981559223
Vintage Spirit, 2008
Reviewed by Debra Gaynor for, 10/08
Encouragement for aspiring writers…
5 Stars

There are many called to use their talent to write for God. Unfortunately, many of them never put pen to paper. Whether from lack of encouragement, lack of self-confidence or just not knowing where to begin, these talented people never get started. Grit for the Oyster is written with Christian perspective; the focus is on answering God’s call to write. Each chapter begins with a bit of wisdom and continues with a scripture and devotion. There is a short prayer, a few reflection questions and more bits of wisdom. Grit for the Oyster is a devotional book. I was enticed from the first chapter. I now have 1 Chronicles 28:20 hanging on my wall. I have a suggestion. Some of the print is very small, too small for easy reading. I really like this book. I will keep this book close at hand.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Book Tour, Day 2

Check out our interview at Michelle's Book Reviews!

Here's a brief excerpt...

We’re inspirational writers from the four corners of the country who got together through a writers conference in California in 2006. We were all on different legs of our writing journeys but were united by the desire to pen a motivational book for writers that affirms, builds confidence and inspires, while at the same time offering pithy practical guidance. All the things we wish we’d known when we started out.

The four of us represent many walks of life: single moms, married 30+ years, lots of kids, few kids, financially stable, struggling to make ends meet, ADD, focused, social butterflies, private, career women, homemakers, sensitive, steel magnolias…but we share a common passion about our faith and our writing. We view our writing as an extension of our faith and feel called to share what we’ve learned to help other aspiring writers along their own writing journeys. We’re more than delighted with wonderful reader responses to Grit for the Oyster: 250 Pearls of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers.

Monday, November 3, 2008

We're Launching Grit's Blog Tour!!

Today is the first day of our November Blog Tour! We have a HUGE line up of blogs hosting our book this month. Each day we'll give you the link to a blog to find out information about Grit for the Oyster and its four authors.

Visit The Bluestocking Society for a review of Grit today!