Thursday, March 26, 2009


Ten years ago today, March 26, 1999, I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. To mark this anniversary, someone else is cooking my dinner tonight. Which means I have more time to work on my pitch, my one sheet, and my synopsis, not to mention the on going editing.

Text of my One Sheet, which is a little like a query one can hand directly to an agent to peruse during a pitch session:

When the master’s nephew returns to Mountain Laurel, the boundaries between the big house and the slave quarter are irrevocably breached, and one slave finds her lifelong secret perilously exposed.

Erstwhile Boston cabinetmaker, sometime frontier trapper, Ian Cameron has come to North Carolina hoping to remake himself yet again—into his slave-owning planter uncle’s heir. Complicating matters is his boyhood friend, Thomas, who has followed Ian south insisting on posing as his slave. His aunt thinks Ian is a savage. His uncle thinks he’s a replacement for a long-dead son. One cousin wants to convert his soul, the other is bent on seducing him into her bed. Then there’s Seona, light-skinned, green-eyed, enslaved to his kin….

A strand of hair swept across Seona’s cheek. Rather than pause to finger it behind an ear, she nudged it away with a toss of her chin. Precisely as his sister would have done.

His body jerked, as if his flesh had absorbed the impact of revelation before his mind could grasp it. He stared at Seona’s face, at her full mouth with its shapely corners, the straight sweep of jaw that narrowed to a firm chin, dipping and tilting now as she sketched the child, a chin that bore a slight but definite cleft. A mirror of his sister’s mouth and chin. Of his father’s. Of his own.

Blood will tell, Ian had heard it said. So would bone.

When Ian uncovers more family secrets than he bargained for, he’s forced to confront the face of slavery—one disturbingly familiar—and the tearing down of yet another life half-built. This time, with more lives than his own poised to topple, finding the courage to come home to a Heavenly Father forsaken is Ian’s only true hope of redemption.

Wrenching choices are made as Ian and Seona struggle to live and love across the dividing lines of race and freedom in the decade after the Revolutionary War.

Monday, March 23, 2009

SIG.... check!

I'm still busy editing, shopping, planning, praying, writing, preparing and organizing myself for the upcoming writers conference, but just had to post that I have managed, with much sweat and a few tears and a headache or two, at long last... drum roll please... to get this crazy big novel edited down UNDER my Seemingly Impossible Goal of 200,000 words.

I still have quite a number of chapters to work through, so it's going to go down more. Probably not a whole lot more (hmm... 195,000 would be nice, wouldn't it?), but at least I no longer have that big green 2 staring at me every time I check the word count.

Current count: 199,802

Ah... that looks good.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mount Hermon Post Script

For more on the first time attendee discount offered by the Mount Hermon Writers Conference, check out this interview with Camille Eide and Randy Ingermanson.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

An Unexpected Party

On the spur of the moment, with uncharacteristic lack of premeditation, I've gone and registered for a writer's conference, which takes place in April. Several of the agents I'd planned to query via email or snail mail will be attending. I will query them in person. God willing.

Gulp. I'm still a bit stunned at myself for doing this. I wouldn't have done it all, save for a fellow writer who made known to me a generous offer for a discount on the registration price. This isn't what MY plan for the next month looked like. Not at all. I was going to query agents from the safety of my keyboard (I'm not at my best when communicating verbally, especially on subjects about which I'm in earnest). But the timing feels right, and after several hours of walking around the house in a terrified and giddy daze, praying, thinking, praying, shooting off emails to a writer friend, praying some more, and just... listening, I went ahead and signed up.

I don't regret it. I have a lot to do. I want to finish the edits, write my verbal query/pitch, a one sheet, decide what needs to be printed, how many copies, anticipate any question an agent might ask me about Kindred... in other words be as squared away as I can be going into this.

And prepared to enjoy one of the best venues for fellowship and encouragement with Christians who are writers that I can imagine, this side of heaven.

Thank you so much, Camille Eide, for making this opportunity known!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Fictional Places I'd like to visit

I'm stealing this idea from Kaye Dacus, who stole it from her cousin, who borrowed it from a friend. Here's my 10 Fictional Places I'd like to visit:

10. LOST: the Beach Camp. But only during a peaceful lull, sometime after Desmond returned and the Dharma supplies were found. Since I'm allergic to fresh fruit, I wouldn't make it very long on wild boar meat alone.

9. Glenbogle, setting of Monarch of the Glen, a BBC series that ran for seven seasons, filmed on the Ardverikie Estate in the central Highlands. This quirky series is great to watch for the scenery alone. It reminds me a little of Northern Exposure, set in the Highlands of Scotland.

8. Lallybroch. The remote 18th century Scottish Highland home of the Frasers and Murrays in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander.

7. Brother Cadfael's workshop, at the Abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul, Shrewsbury. Here in the 1130s and 1140s, Medieveal monk and herbalist Cadfael brews his medicines, plots intrigues with Shrewsbury's sheriff, Hugh Beringar, and counsels youngsters in trouble (usually with someone of the opposing faction in the on-going civil war between King Stephen and the Empress Maude), or in love.

6. Narnia. Especially Mr. Tumnus' house. Sitting by the fire with tea and toast and a book... now that's my idea of a good way to spend 100 years of winter. Wish I could have found a photo of his cozy cave.

5. Mitford, NC. Author Jan Karon modeled her fictional town of Mitford off Blowing Rock, NC. I've visited Blowing Rock (photo of the Episcopal Church at Blowing Rock taken by my pal, Doree, while I minded the not-quite-legally-parked car on a very crowded Main Street). I'd love to visit the real Mitford and see Father Tim, Cynthia, Dooley, Miss Sadie, Louella, and the rest of her memorable characters. I'd like to sit in the Main St. Grill and listen to Uncle Billy tell his jokes!

4. Rivendell, Middle Earth. I'm enchanted by the fluid, open structures, and it'd just be cool to hang out with the elves. I've always been far more intrigued with Rivendell than Lothlorien. Sam says it best. "Well, Mr. Frodo, we've been far and seen a deal, and yet I don't think we've found a better place than this. There's something of everything here, if you understand me: the Shire and the Golden Wood and Gondor and kings' houses and inns and meadows and mountains all mixed."

3. Bag End, Hobbiton, in the Shire. I love Bilbo's cozy hobbit hole. Wish I could visit the human-sized set that was built for Peter Jackson's films. Messy, ala Bilbo, or tidied up, ala Frodo.

2. Caer Dyvi, the Iron Age hill fort in Stephen Lawhead's Taliesin. This book was my introduction to early Celtic/Welsh history, and my interest in it has never waned. "The king walked back among the clustered dwellings of the caer: sturdy, log-and-thatch, most of them, but here and there one of the low, round houses of an earlier time still stood. Nearly three hundred kinsmen... called Caer Dyvi home and sought refuge behind its encircling ditch and stout wooden palisade." Barring time travel, I'd love to visit one of the reconstructed hill forts in Britain, one of these days.

1. Edoras, Middle Earth. Just the coolest book setting and coolest film set I've ever seen. The location is as dramatic and inspiring as they come. I could walk around this village and Theoden's Golden Hall for days, ogling the incredible detail. Very Celtic. Very windy. Bring a hair scrunchie and hang on to your glasses!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Ian's Own Words

I've begun my next (and hopefully last before I begin seeking an agent) edit on Kindred. One of the main goals I have for this edit is strengthening the spiritual journey of both Ian and Seona in the first half of the novel, laying better groundwork to support what happens in the second half of the book. You'd think after so many years of working on Kindred I'd have it down, where each of them are with God at the start of the story. And in a sense I have had, but not for someone who can't see the unwritten layers of characterization and story that exist inside my head. It's taken a couple of beta readers to let me know that the spiritual journey in the first half isn't on the page like I thought it was.

But how to begin, and make sure I get it down this time? I've been praying about that all weekend, and at the last moment this morning, as I was about to start editing, page 1, God dropped a thought into my head: let Ian tell me himself.

Well, duh. Of course. How silly I never let him do so before.

So here's Ian in his own words, barring one bit I found too spoilerish to share, and will be replaced by [ ]s. I can tell Ian wrote this at two separate times, several months apart, shortly before the story proper begins.

I don't ken was it me first turned my back on the Almighty, or Him that did the turning away. It's been too many years, with too much water passed under the bridge I've all but burnt. If I look back now--which I try not to do--I cannot even see that bridge, and don't think I could cross it were I to go back and try. Callum calls me daft--and things far worse--and says if I cannot make my peace with the Almighty, at least go back to Boston and make my peace with Da. Callum doesn't ken, and I cannot find words to make him ken, that they've somehow got twisted in my mind to be one and the same. If I've sinned so badly against Da, who cannot seem to bear the sight of me, what must the Almighty--Him Mam calls our Heavenly Father--think of me? And why ought I to go poking about some prayer book, or Holy Writ, only to find I'm as damned as my soul tells me I'm one day to be? I've hung the ax above my own head. I ken that. There's no pardon for me. Not with Da. Not with God Almighty.

When I do think back--if I've drunk too much of Callum's Indian rum--I try to reason just when it happened. When did I last feel some sense of the Almighty's approval? Or Da's. As I've said, they're the same with me. If ever I felt it at all, it must have been the day before I let [ ], that time I kent what it was she meant by it, and I let her do it anyway. That was the day I made my pact with the Devil, though it was some while before I kent that's what I'd done. So I tell Callum, don't trouble me with talk of redemption. Je regrette, as the priests are wont to put it, but my regret came too late, and I lost the place in this world Da chose for me, that might have earned me that thing I've wanted above all others. For Da to look at me and for once see me, and be proud of what he sees. I am that prodigal sick to death of the pigs, but unable to turn and look from whence I came, for fear neither Da nor God Almighty is watching for my return.

Post Script--Maybe I was wrong about Da? Maybe Carolina will be the place I earn back his approval. I will not hope too hard. Oh, I'll do my part. If Da can send me to this life and bear his burdened conscience, then I'll find the means to bear the burden too. Maybe I can do some good for my uncle's people.

It's come to me just now, a bit of Scripture Mam once read me. I cannot quote ye chapter and verse, but I mind it well enough. "If ye bring a gift to the altar and mind that your brother has ought against ye, leave your gift and go, make it right with your brother, then come and offer your gift." What have I to offer to make things right with Da, save my life, to spend now as he sees fit? That's enough to be getting on with. The Almighty can wait His turn.