Saturday, March 28, 2009

Book Release Day!

Today is the day that For the Love of Dogs is officially released!

The cover is actually from photostock used (with permission) from Guide Dogs for the Blind...but that lab is a dead ringer for my own pup. In fact, so far I have raised six guide dog puppies and all six are tucked somewhere in the book!

The story is set in 1969 and is about a young woman who is losing her sight. She ends up getting a guide dog from a fictitious organization,meets a guy...and, well, let's just say her life is never the same. That's the short version.

If you like dogs, and like love stories, you'll enjoy this book. All of the book's royalties are being donated to Guide Dogs for the Blind, by the way. It's available here.

Here's a longer version, an excerpt from a review that I really liked...

Suzanne Woods Fisher’s “For the Love of Dogs” is an encouraging and deeply wise book. It’s a book which teaches you how to put things in perspective, how balance matters most and how good things can emerge from events that look desperately horrible at first. It is a book about love, about forgiveness, about wisdom in
many forms and first and foremost, it’s a book about trust.

Samantha and Kathleen, the twins who were raised by their grandparents while their parents worked as missionaries, are doing quite well, managing The Running Deer, a ranch devoted to the production of olive oil.

It’s the days of Woodstock and the man first landing on the moon, so the benefits of the olive oil are not so well known yet. In spite of that, the ranch is getting a lot of national recognition and even receives a couple of important awards. While on the surface all looks smooth, there are a lot of undercurrents threatening to destroy the idyll.

First of them is Samantha’s near blindness, which is progressing rapidly. While Samantha manages nicely with the help of a cane, she is all too well aware that one day soon the last shreds of her vision will be gone, yet she refuses to get a service dog. Her new neighbor, Jack, who trains them, is just too annoying for words, and she will not admit that she needs help.

After finally giving in and learning to trust –and what a hard lesson that was! – Samantha returns to the ranch and finds it in utter turmoil. Her twin has a miscarriage and sinks into deep depression, her beloved grandmother, Nonna, is clearly getting befuddled and her brother-in-law, Pete, is being threatened by two hoodlums. It will take a lot of courage, wisdom and even more trust for Samantha to disentangle the twisted mess and see the things as they really are.

In addition to the well constructed and multi-layered story, which drew me in within minutes, it was the author’s strength in creating strong, likeable and well-rounded characters. Nobody’s too good to be believable, and everybody shows at least some weaknesses. Each of them has a distinctive voice, which goes double for the sweet Etienne Number Five, the elderly Frenchwoman who delivers one of the most important
messages in the book, “Everyzing iz a matter of balanz.” The characters are so well built that I found myself even feeling sorry for the two hoodlums. Who could not feel sorry for somebody this inept?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Author Interview with Deborah Brunt

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

I started writing articles for publication in 1980. In the nearly 30 years since then, I’ve written more than 1,400 published articles and four published books. In 1998, God took me on a lengthy detour from fulltime writing. In the last 10 years, I’ve primarily written two ongoing columns, a weekly and a monthly one. However, during that decade, God did surprise me with a couple of unexpected writing blessings: He opened the way for me to write devotions for the Focus on the Family women’s website and to publish my fourth book, Focused Living in a Frazzled World: 105 Snapshots of Life.

When in the process of writing your book did you begin to look for a publisher?

To my surprise, the publisher came looking for me. After publishing three books with a denominational publisher, I spent seven years in a ministry position that allowed little time for writing and no time for preparing and sending out book proposals. Near the end of those seven years, I was approached by a subsidy publisher who had seen and liked my writing. I made the investment in order to get my foot back in the book-publishing door.

What has been the best part about being published?

By far the most fulfilling part has been finding out that, perhaps months or years after I wrote an insight or told a story, someone read it – and God used it to speak directly to their need of that moment.

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

I want each “snapshot” in Focused Living in a Frazzled World: 105 Snapshots of Life to offer readers the blessing of an aha! moment when they really see what they’re seeing. I want readers to learn to see life differently and, as a result, to live their lives differently.

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

I wish I had known how religious I was – but at the time I wouldn’t have seen it or believed it. I wish I had known how easy (and devastating) it is for us Christians to try to get our significance from things connected with Christ, rather than from Christ himself. Yet because I didn’t know those things, I now have true stories to tell and insights to share that can help others experience freedom in Christ and fully live out their God-given identity.

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

In writing, as in life, I’ve gone through different seasons. As a young wife, knowing God wanted me to write for publication, I learned as much as I could from writers’ magazines, writers’ conferences and other helps. Then I plunged in, quite successfully. In that first season, I wrote primarily for denominational and regional publications and often had as many assignments as I had time to write. At home with a toddler and a new baby, I wrote my first book (a devotional for young women) because a publisher for whom I’d written numerous articles called me and asked me to do so! Two other books followed, and lots and lots of articles.

Then, I entered a frustrating season: With our two daughters in elementary school, I had more time to write. I had developed better writing skills. Eagerly, I tried to write for new markets and to publish another book. But every door that seemed to be opening slammed in my face. The article-writing assignments continued, yet no matter what I did I couldn’t seem to move beyond the “box” that held me.

As our daughters entered middle school, I entered a paid ministry position. In order to fulfill family and work responsibilities, I had to lay down every writing endeavor, except for a weekly newspaper column and a monthly column in a women’s devotional magazine. I had to fight to find time to write those two columns. Repeatedly, I asked God if I should quit writing them. He told me to persevere and, as mentioned above, even gave me grace during those years to write a series of devotionals for Focus on the Family women’s website and to compile some of the best of my Perspective columns into my book, Focused Living in a Frazzled World.

Now, I’ve entered another new season. Our daughters are grown. I’m helping my parents as they face the challenges of aging. With regard to my life and my writing, I’ve catapulted out of the box! I’m in a totally new place, at once wonderful and challenging. I describe that place on my website,, and on my new blog,, where the picture of me riding a mechanical bull says it all. Before, I had a passion to write. Now, I have a passion to tell what I’ve seen and heard. I have a passion to help others catapult out of religious boxes. I have another book inside me, clamoring to be born. It’s tentatively titled, You Get Your Life Back: Confessions of a Religious Has-been. My struggle? To find the keys to get this message out to the many churched or formerly churched people who are, in the words of Matthew 11:28 (MSG) “burned out on religion.”

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

I can recall times in grade school when the teacher asked for volunteers to read parts in plays in our school reader. I desperately wanted to read one of those parts – but did not raise my hand. No surprise: I didn’t get picked. Whether you want to read aloud in school or you want other people to read what you’ve written, it’s vital to present yourself. That doesn’t mean bragging or pressuring people or pushing others down. For me, it means seeking every appropriate venue to confess who I am and what I do, to tell what I’ve seen and heard with candor and humor – and then see who comes forward to connect.

One of the most effective ways I’ve found to present Focused Living in a Frazzled World is to read excerpts from it when I speak. Before the book’s release, I presold copies at a discount rate. When the book came out, I sent an email announcement to my database list. I’ve also done book-signings and an interview that aired on Focus on the Family Weekend Magazine. Online, I’ve promoted the book through:

my website:,

my blogs: and,

my Facebook page,

and the two free e-columns I send out. (You too can sign up for Perspective and/or for Key truths, Open gates at

Where can readers find a copy of your book?

Readers can order Focused Living in a Frazzled World: 105 Snapshots of Life online at my website,, and at and They can also order Focused Living through any local Christian bookstore.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Writer's Journey Continued

Is it Wednesday again already?

This week, no, this month has been a blur. So far I've spoken to a book club and women's organization, taught four Young Writer Workshops and an adult writing workshop, and had two book Choc-Tastic bookstore signings for Mom Needs Chocolate. Tomorrow night I'll be hosting a Tea Tasting and Book Event at a lovely English tea room.

So when do I write?

Not as much as I'd like, I'm afraid. Such is the sadistic irony. When a writer gets on a roll, there's no time to write. I keep telling myself it's a good problem to have.

But that's hard to remember when I only have five minutes here or ten minutes there to devote to cleaning up a half-finished chapter. I stare at my first draft, in which I basically regurgitated every non-sequitur thought in my head, and just start to make a little serious editing headway when...DING! Time's up! Run to the car. You're late again.

Okay. No more grousing. I need an attitude make-over. I know. I'll meditate on my favorite scripture from the author of life: To Him who is able to do EXCEEDING ABUNDANTLY BEYOND all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to HIM be the glory...forever and ever. Amen (Eph. 3:20, NAS). that jambalaya chapter is beginning to feel like a blessing instead of a blowout.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Story Behind The Story

Last Thursday, I attended a benefit for an adult literacy program that featured Annie Barrows, co-author of the best selling book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. Annie's aunt, Mary Ann Schaffer, was the one who wrote the book.

"Mary Ann was witty," reflected Annie, a petite woman who had to stand on a box at the podium to reach the microphone. "She was always writing--though she never saw herself as a writer, and she never finished anything."

The Guernsey story began in 1980 as another aborted book project for Mary Ann. She had gone to the Channel Islands to chase down a book idea and ended up fogged in at the airport for thirty-six hours. According to Mary Ann, said Annie, "she spent the entire time in the men's room under a hair dryer trying to keep warm."

But when Mary Ann did venture from the men's room, she stumbled on some books in the airport...all kinds of information about the Nazi occupation of the Channel Islands during World War II. When the fog lifted, so did Mary Ann. She left the airport without ever actually seeing Guernsey island, but as a self-taught expert on the Nazi Occupation.

Annie said that Mary Ann never saw herself as a writer. "It was an impediment," Annie said. "A writer was not her."

It was Mary Ann's sister (Annie's mother) who kept after her to write, even starting a writing group that forced Mary Ann to work on something. Every single week, Mary Ann had to turn something in at the writing group.

Keep in mind this was twenty years after Mary Ann had gone to Guernsey. Twenty years after the germ of the idea was planted.

Annie gave credit to the writing group for watering and nourishing and providing sunshine to her aunt's germ of an idea. "The power of the group became her reader," said Annie. "Her community wanted to know how this book was going to end. 'We want more!' they threatened."

So Mary Ann kept at it...if only to satisfy this writing group. She finished the book, found an agent, and continued to work on the manuscript for over a year with the agent.

Finally, the manuscript was polished and was ready to send out: Twelve proposals sent to twelve publishers.

All twelve wanted it.

The book was sold!

By the time the manuscript was ready for re-writes, Mary Ann had become ill so Annie agreed to help. "A family is a club with high dues," she quipped. The manuscript was too short so Annie filled in and expanded the story. She added a character but won't confess his or her identity.

As Mary Ann's illness progressed, Annie realized that re-doing the book helped her spend time with the "old Mary Ann." The witty, quirky aunt whom she obviously adored.

Mary Ann passed away five months before the book debuted.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society has been a runaway bestseller, holding the #1 hard cover novel spot for eight months and is a book club favorite. If you haven't had a chance to read it, add it to your list.

There are so many lessons for writers in this story behind the story:

Nothing is wasted. Find...or start...a writing community. Stay with a project. Make use of everything in your life. Finish something! And the next time you are stuck in an airport...take notes.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Author of the Week: Margaret McGee

Margaret McGee is the author of Stumbling Toward God and Sacred Attention: A Spiritual Practice for Finding God in the Moment.

Welcome, Margaret!

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

My first book, Stumbling Toward God, came out in 2001 from Innisfree Press, a small spiritual/religious publishing house that has since gone out of business. Innisfree’s publisher, Marcia Broucek, then became the acquisition editor for SkyLight Paths Publishing. Bless her heart, Marcia took me along with her, and SkyLight Paths published my second book Sacred Attention: A Spiritual Practice for Finding God in the Moment in late 2007. Currently I’m under contract with SkyLight Paths for my third book, which I hope will be published later this year.

What has been the best part about being published?

I love having someone come up to me and say – ‘Until I read your book, I thought I was the only one who felt that way! (about the church … or religion … or faith … or whatever.)’

I think part of my mission is to say out loud what’s hidden in many hearts. At one time or another, we each feel like a heretic, and we’re all afraid that we’re the only heretic in the pews. It’s deeply healing when we realize we’re not alone.

I also like it when someone says, “Your book made me laugh!”

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

I hope they carry with them that the God of life and love is found in their own ordinary, everyday human lives—warts, wounds, and all.

I also hope they remember the laughs.

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

I wish I’d known that persistence is a thousand times more important than talent. I’d been told that many times, but somehow I still hoped that my overflowing talent would make persistence unnecessary . It didn’t.

I also wish I’d known that editors and publishers don’t really hold all the cards. I saw them as all-powerful beings who render judgment on me and my work. But no editor is God, or even a demi-god. They are all working under guidelines too. Given the chance, they’d all rather say “yes” than “no.”

I had to stop seeing myself as a powerless supplicant and instead recognize that, with the help of the real God, I could partner with editors in serving the needs of readers. That’s a hard turn to make when you’re desperate for the validation of being published. But after making the turn, I more easily matched my work to a particular periodical or publishing house and actually got published.

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

Bumpy, largely because of that problem of hoping I could avoid the bumps and have smooth sailing. If I’d embraced the hard work and bumpy road from the beginning, I might have had more fun along the way. A bumpy ride can be scary-awful or scary-thrilling, depending on your attitude.

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

For Sacred Attention, I signed a contract in December, delivered a final manuscript in May, and the book came out that November.

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

I would hire people to help me. First a publicist to help me with book promotion, and then a personal assistant to help with the business side of being a professional writer.

Oh—and if money were really no object, I’d hire a housekeeper who’s also a good cook!

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

These days, an author’s efforts to promote her book are as important or more important than the publisher’s. I promote my books on my two web sites, and I work to get speaking engagements and always ask if I can bring books to sell. When I get a gig, I provide images of the book covers to the organization for their event promotion. I’m always happy (and grateful) to do an online interview such as this one.

If I spent a lot more time on promotion, I’d probably sell more books … but then, when would I write those books?

Where can readers find a copy of your book?

My most recent book, Sacred Attention: A Spiritual Practice for Finding God in the Moment, is available through major bookstores, online retailers, and from the publisher, SkyLight Paths (

Readers can purchase a signed copy of my first book, Stumbling Toward God, directly from me by going to my author web site,

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Strange Book Titles

I got a rejection today for a piece that I was sure would be published. Some days, I feel that I just don't know what it takes to get published. Most people will say that it takes an exceptional title, but consider the following news story which leads me to wonder: how did these books ever get published?

6 books make shortlist for strangest title

Selecting the shortlist for Britain's strangest book titles was tough this year because of the large number of candidates, a spokesman says.
The competition was so intense that "Excrement in the Late Middle Ages" and "All Dogs Have ADHD" did not make the cut, The Daily Telegraph reported Saturday.

The Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year was founded in 1978 by Bruce Robertson, a member of The Diagram Group, a book illustration firm, who had too much time on his hands at the Frankfurt Book Fair. In its early days, the competition relied on more old-fashioned methods, but the top winner is now decided by an on-line vote.

"At a time when the economic climate is forbidding and cost-cutting companies are 10-a-penny, I'm proud to report that the British publishing industry has remained as stubborn in the face of change as ever," said Horace Bent of The Bookseller, the trade magazine that runs the contest.

This year's shortlist includes:
"Baboon Metaphysics"
"Curbside Consultation of the Colon"
"The Large Sieve and its Applications"
"Strip and Knit with Style"
"Techniques for Corrosion Monitoring"
"The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-milligram Containers of Fromage Frais."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Platform Shoes

Earlier this week I spoke to a group of aspiring writers about the importance of building their platforms. What exactly is a platform?

Sometimes referred to as "content" by literary agents, a platform is just that: a podium from which your work is broadcast. How will people know about you? Why will your book sell and to whom?

A writer's platform is usually built brick by brick upon a foundation of his or her knowledge of the subject being promoted. Bricks include level of expertise (people will listen to you because you're an expert on the subject, or at the very least know more than they do about it), experience (your book is about a new technique for making donuts and you've been a baker for 20 years), and marketing strategies.

The latter is extremely important to agents and publishers and should include a web presence (website, e-newsletters, personal blog and appearing on other blogs as a guest or blog interview, Twitter, Facebook or other social networking outlets, etc.), speaking schedule (doesn't have to be extensive but publishers like to know that somebody wants to hear what you have to say), and plans for promoting your work. Are you willing and able to travel for book promotion? Do you have any hooks in mind to draw audiences?

One of my hooks is presenting writing workshops - many are free to the public - at libraries, schools, and for various groups, at which I display and sell my books. With decent advertising (media is always happy to advertise free educational events, which also gets your name out before the public), these are generally well attended (well, who wouldn't want to go to a FREE workshop?). As word circulates how beneficial they are, I receive more and more invitations and my name and books become better and better known. Good press, excellent promo.

So what is your platform?

If you're still limping around on beginner wedges, it's time to start lacing those platform shoes!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Everybody is a little bit Irish on St. Patrick's Day. But did you ever wonder who St. Patrick was?

St. Patrick was the patron saint of Ireland...but did you know he's not actually Irish?

Born in the late part of the fifth century as Maewyn Succat, son of a Roman-British army officer. Maewyn was growing up like any other kid in Britain. However, one day a band of pirates landed in south Wales and kidnapped him, along with other boys. They sold him into slavery in Ireland. Imprisoned for six years, it was in Ireland that he had a dream of seeing God.

According to his autobiography, God told him to escape on a getaway ship.

So escape he did. He went to Britain, then France, joined a monastery and studied under St. Germain, the bishop of Auxerre. And when he became a bishop he had another dream: that the Irish were calling him back to Ireland to tell them about God.

So back to Ireland he went.

There are many legends associated with St. Patrick. It is said that he used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the concept of the Trinity--the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Legend also has it that St. Patrick had put the curse of God on venomous snakes in Ireland. And he drove all the snakes into the sea where they drowned.

Tonight, enjoy your corned beef and cabbage!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Author of the Week: Tim Shoemaker

Today's feature is Tim Shoemaker, author of Dangerous Devotions for Guys.

Welcome to Grit for the Oyster!
Can you give us a little bit of information about your publishing history?

I have seven books published. Five of them are still in print. The latest, Dangerous Devotions for Guys, is aimed at small group leaders of high school guys. It has 24 object lessons on essential topics for guys.
When in the process of writing your book did you begin to look for a publisher?

Far too early! Initially I worked on fiction for 8-12-year-old boys. I showed that to a publisher long before it was ready. I’ve learned to get input from other writers and do a lot of polishing before I would consider showing a project now.

With the most recent book, a publisher I met at a writer’s conference asked if I’d be interested in writing a proposal for a book project. They accepted the proposal and Dangerous Devotions for Guys was born.

What struggles have you had on the road to being published?

I’ve seen publishers go through editor changes mid-project. Your book can become an orphan really easy that way. I’ve seen plenty of struggles I could note, but I think fighting discouragement is the one that has the most toxic effect.

What has been the best part about being published?

There is a heady feeling that comes with it—but that doesn’t last long at all. You can measure it in days. Beyond that, a published book gives you an element of credibility with people. It can help open doors to speak. But the best part comes down to faith. It has to do with believing God will use the book or article to help others in ways I’ll probably never know about.

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

The non-fiction devotionals for families were born out of my own frustration. I was trying to lead family devotions at home with my wife and three sons, and I just couldn’t find books that held the boys attention for long. I started writing my own material using object lessons and activities. I found it worked like nothing I had tried before. When I’d pray for ideas, they always came. I didn’t start out trying to write a book. I think that is important. I wrote so I could teach my boys about God and the principles he’s given us to live by. It came as a surprise sometime later when a publisher showed interest and eventually had me write three books for them.

Coming up with the ideas for Dangerous Devotions for Guys was similar. As I prayed, God always gave me ideas. And I wrote for my boys, now involved in ministry at our local church themselves, and for others that my heart went out to.

Fiction is a little different. Again, I start with praying. And then ideas come from all over. Out of my imagination, certainly. But often there is an element of truth in everything. Some experience I had or heard about will end up in my fiction.
Do you plan your stories first with an outline or does it come to you as write it?

When writing fiction, I always start with a loose outline. It isn’t a detailed one. I have a general idea of where I want to go and modify it as I write.

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

If we’re talking non-fiction, I want the readers to take the tools I give them and use them to teach their kids about God. I want them to remember how important it is to genuinely live the faith and to pass it on to the next generation.

With fiction, there is always a principle there, a life lesson I’m hoping the reader will learn right along with the protagonist. I want my fiction to entertain, absolutely. But I want it to help 8-12-year-olds to avoid the traps in life and to become men and women of God.

What are your dreams for your writing?

I’d like to have a fiction series for 8-12-year-old boys. Writing that will help them grow to be Godly men.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you have been given/learned in your life as a writer?

The whole process of writing and getting published takes time. You need to persevere. It isn’t always the best writers that get published, but the ones that stick to it.

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

Nothing more than I knew at the time. Not that I was so smart. The fact was I was really naïve. I thought editors would see potential and be happy to work with me to polish my writing. Like I said . . . naïve. But I’m glad I didn’t know how long and frustrating the journey could be. If I had known up front, maybe I wouldn’t have kept going. Thankfully I only knew enough to take the next step.
Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

I think when you’re writing from your heart, out of your passions, the ride is always going to be a little bumpy. Tough times teach us priorities in life. They humble us. Strengthen us. Drive us to hang onto God tighter. Without some tough times helping to conform us more to Christ, I’m not sure we’d have anything much of eternal value to share in our writing.

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

About 18 months.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/she is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

Yes, I have an agent. His name is Terry Burns and he is with the Hartline Literary Agency. Terry represents me in the fiction work I do. Having an agent is a good thing. Some publishers won’t take a proposal unless it comes from an agent. They probably feel the agent has already screened the project, insuring a higher caliber of writing.

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

I’d like to buy a boat. I could paint the title on the side of it so it would advertise the book as I drive around. Okay, you said if money was no object. Right? I know, I know. This wouldn’t exactly be a successful promotion—but it would be fun!

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

Self-promotion is really important, in most cases. Now, I don’t like the idea of just going out there and beating your own drum. I feel uncomfortable with that. But I do believe if you are really passionate about your book, the message it carries, you can promote that. I go to churches and teach parents how to do family devotions in a way that works, even as the kids go through their teen years. I am passionate about helping equip parents, opening their eyes as to what is happening and how they can make a real difference in the lives of their kids.

I hadn’t planned to do workshops like this. When my first book came out I felt like I had really accomplished my mission. Parents would be able to connect spiritually with their kids in a way they hadn’t been able to before. Lives would be changed. Trouble was many of the people who needed the message wouldn’t pick up the book. They felt family devotions couldn’t work and avoided the topic.

I found myself commenting to a pastor that I was confident I could get parents over the hurdles that held them back if I could just get them in a room and talk to them. He turned to me and invited me to come to his church. The Family Devotions Workshop was born—and I’ve been at it ever since. It isn’t that I had to come up with some way to promote my books. The key was the speaking came as a direct result of a need. I think that is a pretty important distinction.

Where can readers find a copy of your book?

Purchase or order it through a Christian book store. Hey, they need our support. If that is out of the question, you can get any of the books on Amazon.

We wish you great success!

Thursday, March 12, 2009


SO exciting!!! Five boxes of Mom Needs Chocolate were just delivered to my door. This one's different from my other books, you know. It's my baby. It's the story of my life. The good, the bad and the miraculous. Feels kind of like having your skirt accidentally tucked into your panties at the grocery store (my sister really did that) - exposure of the secret parts. The parts you thought no one would ever see. Until God told you to write them down to share and laugh about and encourage someone else.

So rejoice with me! And pray that the guy next door who leaves greasy pizza boxes on my driveway doesn't recognize himself in the chapter on loathing my neighbor!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

This Writer's Journey (continued)

Well, I finally took the plunge. After months of wrestling with whether to keep trying to do it all myself or hire a publicist, last night I signed on the dotted line.

Publicists ain't cheap, but with four books releasing within a year (I DON'T recommend this!), I've been drowning in the sea of promotion. The whole idea of being a writer is to write, right? Well, that minor detail has somehow sunk to the bottom and more urgent communications, speaking events, signings, workshops, details, details, details have choked the surface.

I'm hoping my new energetic publicist, Rebeca, will be my life preserver. I have contracted for her services for six months.

In the meantime, I received a delightful packet of thank you notes from public high school English students to whom I presented Young Writers Workshops a few weeks ago. This is one of my favorites:

Dear Debora M. Coty (*kids almost always address me by my full author name),
Thank you so much for coming to our class and speaking with us. You have shown me that you cannot give up, no matter how many times you are put down. That has really inspired me to want to go the exra mile in my own career. Writing for me is a hobby, but you never know what the future holds. Thank you soooo much for signing your books for me! They are amazing! I know you probably get that from practically everyon, but it is very symbolic for me. Being a history geek, I love how you adapted the real life story of someone and made it into a beautiful book. It's quite the page-flipping novel for me. My mother even told me to hurry up with The Distant Shore so that she could read it, too. I can't wait to read Billowing Sails.

Hillary, 11th grade

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Literary Awards!

Grit for the Oyster snagged two second place literary awards from Reader Views!!

In the categories of...

Writing and Publishing and How-to

We're honored!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Good Read

I recently read a book that's too good to keep to myself. It's "The Music Teacher" by Barbara Hall. It's a thought-provoking, motive-probing novel that explores reasons to teach, to develop talent and to create art.

The book inspired me to pay close attention and to carefully hone to the writing hopes and dreams that God has placed inside me.

The book includes a lot of truths that touched me. One of them is voiced by the main character when she speaks about Mary the mother of Jesus: "Mary said yes to her assignment. Most of us say, 'Maybe.' Which is worse than no."

Well, I'm off to say "Yes" to my assignment.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Journey to Dawn

I woke up at 6 am for my morning prayer walk. I blinked at my surroundings in sleepy confusion until I remembered where I was: central Florida's Lake Yale for the Florida Christian Writers Conference. Oh, yeah.

As I crept out of my room in the pitch dark trying not to awaken my roommate, I noticed the faintest lightening of the sky at the eastern horizon over the massive lake. After my first lap around the campground, the sky was gathering momentum in preparation for sunrise. It was still dark, but hints of light began appearing. One lone mockingbird braved its medley of morning in the crisp air.

On my second lap, more light appeared over the lake, this time with streaks of pale pink and tinges of silver. A cooing pigeon joined the mockingbird in an offbeat duet.

By my third lap, layers of multi-hued crimson emblazoned the horizon in the final stages before the sun's debut. More color - more promise. Tag-playing squirrels scurried up a tree. The world was awakening to a new day.

Then finally, nearly a full hour after the journey to dawn began, the sun burst through the low-slung clouds in a blaze of glory, casting shimmering jewels on the waters. A whole symphony of birds celebrated daybreak, punctuated by the rhythm of woodpeckers and chirping of little bush-beasties. What a difference the presence of the sun made - transforming the world from stagnant darkness into teeming life!

It had been a long phase of preparation, but each stage held its own unique beauty and meaning.

It occurred to me that the writer's journey is very much like the journey to dawn. At first we're striking out in the dark, feeling as though we're barely making a glimmer. But as our skills grow and we mature as writers, our momentum builds until God's appointed time when our debut finally arrives. At last we burst through the clouds of obscurity to touch a heart and make a difference in someone's life.

We, too, endure a long phase of preparation as writers, but we must remember that like the journey to dawn, each stage is important and necessary to the end result.

One day soon, our sun will rise.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Good Laugh

After flying in economy class back and forth from Hong Kong WAY too many times while we lived overseas, including one rather horrific experience when a man died sitting next to me enroute to Kuala Lumpur (I'll save that story for a rainy day blog), I am a reluctant, grouchy passenger. Flying really isn't much fun anymore. It's serious business.

But...I was on a flight recently and got more than I paid for.

A good laugh!

The plane took off and the flight attendant launched into the typical "If in an emergency..." speech that most people zone out on (except for my friend Kim...the only one I know who listens, with bated breath, for instructions to handle any airborne emergency. However, Kim also refers to herself as an HP...short for Hysterical Parent. But...I digress).

So the flight attendant started her spiel, and it was the funniest stand-up comedy routine that I've ever heard! She could be on The Tonight Show. A smooth delivery, confident and bold. Outrageous, too. "Do what we say and nobody gets hurt!" she warned.

If a passenger made a comment like that, they'd be spending the day in the airport security office under a glaring flourescent lightbulb.

It was fun to remember that travel can and should be fun. It is a privilege, really. And laughing so hard started our trip off on a great note.

A good laugh, especially an unexpected one (like on an airplane), is priceless. We can do that as writers, too.

Well-written, well-placed words can make a difference.

Character Development

How do you create a character whom your reader feels attached to?

April Gardner, a reviewer for Title Trakk and Christian Fiction On-Line, does it this way:

I forget what my characters look like, how old they are, who they’re related to, if I’ve killed them off. So I have to write it all down in detail and keep it handy. I refer to it often. I have written interviews with my characters. We talk about their dreams, their past, their motives.