Thursday, September 30, 2010

Jane Austen, read for you by....

Do you have a cup of coffee? Are you sitting comfortably? Then take a little break and watch actor Dominic West read an excerpt from Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice:

You'll find it 11:26 minutes well spent.

Want more? Watch actor Greg Wise read an excerpt from Persuasion:

This one is fifteen minutes in length. You'll wish it was longer.

Many, many thanks to author Kaye Dacus (The Ransome Trilogy) for alerting me to this site today.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Genesis contest feedback

Today I received an email with score sheets from the Final Round judges in the 2010 ACFW Genesis Contest, for my novel, The Quiet in the Land (aka Willa). After being so nervous about attending the awards banquet, and having such a great time at the conference and my surrounding days spent visiting with friends and touring 18th century houses in KY and TN... I completely forgot that this feedback was still to come.

In case you aren't familiar with the contest, back in late winter I submitted the first 15 pages and a synopsis of The Quiet in the Land, which went through a first round of judging. After finaling in that round, the top five entries were again judged by another panel, and the winner and runner up announced at the banquet on September 19th, at the conference in Indianapolis. Some photos of that event in this post.

While I'm thankful to have placed in my category (historical), I'm just as thrilled to get this feedback. As in the first round the feedback felt right on target. The one thing at least two of the judges, if not all three, had to say was that the opening chapter was heavy on narrative and could use some trimming in spots. This is no surprise to me. In fact it's good news. It means I don't have to panic about my word count, which has edged just up over 100k now, though I still have at least seven chapters to write.

Unlike many writers who write spare out of the gate, I write long, sprawling, overwritten first drafts. Then, when I can see the story for the words, and it's much more clear which of those words serve the story and which don't, I cut and trim and shape. It's taken a long time to learn that I simply work that way, and it's okay. I might have to put in more hours at it, but the job gets done.

I hope the other finalists have found this second round of feedback helpful and encouraging. God bless each of you as you press onward with your writing, vision, and dreams. I'm thinking of you (running down the list and seeing many names I know, many I've yet to meet), and praying for you today.

The list of the 2010 ACFW Genesis Contest Finalists

And the 2010 ACFW Genesis Contest Winners 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

For Writers: Historical Map Collection

While I'm working now on catching up on my writing, having taken the week off for conference, I'm also bursting at the seams to share a few things here on the blog. So this post is a compromise--I'll quickly tell you about an on line historical map collection I learned about on this trip (thank you, Joan!).

If you are writing historical fiction, or simply have an interest in old maps, you won't want to miss the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. Find it HERE.

Caution: But only if you have an hour or two to spare. To misquote Bilbo Baggins, "It's a dangerous business, exploring old map sites. You click onto a map, and if you don't keep your head, there's no telling where you might be swept off to." 

And as Pippin might have answered, "Well, this Map won't sweep me off anywhere for an hour at least. It's time to write, and if you fellows won't wait, then you must go on without me."

Friday, September 24, 2010

a few ACFW photos

Me and Keli Gwyn, of Romance Writers on the Journey blog. She did an interview with me last June. We happened to pass each other and I recognized her. So glad we had the chance to meet. The Hyatt is a huge hotel, and there were over 600 people in attendance, so it was far too easy to never cross paths with the people I wanted to meet.

Joan Shoup, me, and Lisa Buffaloe at the Awards Banquet, Sunday night. I was so nervous I could barely eat the lovely dinner that was served. Lisa's novel, Nadia's Hope, was runner-up in the women's fiction category of the Genesis Contest. Congrats, Lisa!

A shot of The Quiet in the Land winning runner-up in the historical category of the Genesis Contest. As you can probably see, my name is misspelled and the title of my novel is wrong on-screen, but from what I can remember of that dizzy moment, they called the correct title over the microphone, and it's all correct on the certificate.

Right after that moment I would have loved to have my dinner plate back. :)

 The Books & Such dinner at PF Chang's. It was very loud--almost as loud as the conference meals in the hotel. I only got to know my end of the table, but was thrilled to be seated beside Etta Wilson (in light green), one of the Books & Such agents. I so wish my agent, Wendy, could have been there, too. This is the only photo I have with my friend and fellow historical writer, Laura Frantz. She's the one in orange at the head of the table. I'm in red. Between us is author Lorna Seilstad. So happy to meet both these ladies in person.
I don't remember who took the top photo, but the next two were taken by Ann Shorey. Photo of the Books & Such dinner was taken by Jill Smith, I'm almost certain. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

ACFW photo at last!

Or at least a photo from the trip.

The day after the conference, back in Nashville, I got to experience another highpoint of my trip, meeting Booktalk & More's reviewer, Ruth Anderson, in person.

Ruth and her review site have linked me up with some wonderful films, books, and tv shows (it's all down to her that I'm such a huge Chuck/Zachary Levi fan) over the past year or so that I've been a regular reader of her blog. If you haven't checked out Booktalk & More, you are missing one of the best review sites of period films, Christian fiction, and more, on the net.

Before we toured the historic Rock Castle (more on that in a future post), Joan Shoup and I met up with Ruth and Kaye Dacus (a favorite author of mine I met in person at the conference) at Panera Bread, in Nashville. I love Panera. I've only dined at one once before. I wish we had one in my town. Or anywhere within an hour's drive of my town. Though I'm not a fan of big cities in general (they tend to put me in a fetal position, mentally), I have to say having all these wonderful restaurants and stores handy is a perk.

Speaking of which, after our lunch we went next door to the coolest bookstore I've ever set foot in. I'd never even heard of Davis-Kidd Booksellers, but their atmosphere beats any other major bookseller chain store I've visited.

Me, Ruth, Joan, and Kaye

Ruth and I had, separately, watched the Chuck season 4 premiere the night before, but since Kaye is still catching up with season 3, we had to phrase our brief side-bars on the topic very ambiguously, to avoid sharing spoilers.

It happened to be Ruth's birthday, and I was so blessed she was able to share a bit of it with us. She's so down-to-earth and sweet, it felt like I've known her a good long time. I only wish we could have made an entire day of it. But she and Kaye were off to see a movie together, and Joan and I were off to tour Rock Castle....

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Conference Highlights

I'm not yet back home, since my conference trip was extended to include some visiting time with writer Joan M. Hochstetler, in Tennessee, but I thought I'd start jotting down the highlights of my first ACFW conference experience. At the top of the list are my fellow writers, a few of whom I'd met before, but many I met face to face for the first time. What a blessing to spend time with Laura Frantz, Lorna Seilstad, Regina Merrick, Kaye Dacus, Lisa Buffalo (who was a runner up in the Genesis Contest in the Women's Fiction category), Etta Wilson, Christina Berry and so many more. It was wonderful to see Ann Shorey and Camille Eide again, both fellow Oregon authors.

The Saturday night dinner with Etta Wilson and the Books & Such authors was another highlight. I greatly missed getting to meet my agent, Wendy Lawson, in person finally (or at least for the first time since she's been my agent), but enjoyed getting to know Etta and the authors who attended, at least those at my end of the table! PF Chang's is quite the noisy restaurant!

Another highlight of the conference for me was placing 2nd, or runner up, in the Genesis contest with my historical, The Quiet In The Land, at the awards banquet Sunday night. I was so nervous beforehand I could barely eat a bite of that lovely dinner.

My name is spelled right on the certificate.
It wasn't on the big screen at the banquet:

Also that night we had a special visitor, Janette Oke, who spoke about the writing and publication of Love Comes Softly, the book which paved the way for Christian Fiction as it exists today. Her editor, Carol Johnson, shared her experience of acquiring and publishing that book, and was awarded the first ACFW Lifetime Achievement Award. This year the traditional Book of the Year award was changed to the Carol Award, in her honor.

Spending time with my gracious hostess and roommate, Joan, has been delightful. It was about a six hour trek from Nashville up to Indianapolis, and on our way back we stopped for breakfast with some of the Middle Tennessee writers group. So great to meet Patrick Carr and Kathy Harris.

On the same journey south we stopped in Lou-eee-vill (that's for Kaye), Kentucky, to tour Locust Grove, a plantation home on the Ohio River, built in 1790, where Revolutionary war hero and general, George Rogers Clark, spent his last years (the house belonged to his sister and her husband, William Groghan). There we had a wonderful guide, Ted, to show us through the house and grounds. Ted bears a remarkable resemblance to Clark. At one point we stood before a portrait of Clark in his latter years, and I kept looking from the portrait to Ted and back, with the uncanny feeling I was in the presence of the man himself, despite the difference in attire.

Yesterday Joan and I toured another 18th century house, Rock Castle, built in the Nashville area in 1786. Another wonderful tour guide, Amy, showed us through the rooms, and I finally got to see a "brick" of tea, the form it was sold in during the 18th century. As we were about to leave, Joan handed Amy a bookmark for her Revolutiony War novel, Wind of the Spirit. Taking one glance at it, Amy exclaimed, "YOU wrote this book?" Turns out she had noticed it on the shelf at the Barnes & Noble where she also works. That's a fun and encouraging moment for any author, and I was so pleased for Joan.

The only real disappointment I experienced was my camera's refusal to take a single photo, so you will have to take my word for it that I was actually there and did these things! Or maybe I'll pop up in other writers' photos around the internet. If I find any and have permission, I'll post them here.

The 2010 ACFW Genesis winners list:

Congratulations to all the winners and runners up!

I've added in a photo taken by Lisa Buffaloe, at the Awards banquet, and a scan of my runner-up certificate for The Quiet in the Land (aka Willa).

Friday, September 10, 2010

Me, not blogging, or... a Writer's Mental Health

I'm not blogging. Really. I'm still on my blogging break beavering away at my novel, and figuring out what I need to print off and how many copies because I'm not taking my laptop to the ACFW conference (computer free for 8 days!!!), and what will I wear to the banquet?

I just thought readers of this blog would find this article on writers and mental health interesting. Or alarming. Typical for a writer, I find it both. :)

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Blogging Break

I'm taking a little break from blogging for the next two weeks, in order to buckle down and get as much work done on Willa in this last week before the ACFW conference as possible. If I don't post a note before I leave for Indianapolis, I certainly will when I get home.

Just a quick update on what's happening with Kindred and Willa (aka The Quiet in the Land). Proposals for both have been submitted by my agent to several publishing houses for consideration. No news at all yet on that front. I don't know how long this time of waiting will be (weeks? months?), but I do know both stories are in God's hands--and what a huge comfort that is whenever I get a little nervous about them. How cool to be able to trust that He's looking after them, and I don't need to fret over it for one second. Meanwhile, I'm keeping busy with research and work on Willa (I'm in the last quarter of the first draft), and getting excited about the conference, and all the on line friends I'll finally be meeting in person.

Hope to see you in Indy!

Friday, September 03, 2010

Only one scene

I've spent this entire week working on one scene. One very complicated scene with a lot of characters who all need to have their say, from the point of view of one character whom all these other characters sort of pivot around, pick on, plead with, thank, help, connect with, or attempt to intimidate.

It ended up being chapter length, so I went ahead and made it its own chapter, as the next group of scenes look like they will hang together story-wise .

My scenes aren't usually that long (around 3000 words, unedited), and normally one of my chapters is made up of 2-5 scenes. It was a bit discouraging around Wednesday of this week, when it seemed like I should have finished that scene and moved on to the next, but my characters had more to explore than I had anticipated (which I discovered during the second and third drafts), and some of it was great stuff. So I'm glad I let them all have their say. I'm of the opinion that for a first draft it's better to have too much material than not enough. I have (ahem) gained a bit of experience in trimming off that excess. Besides, sometimes these unexpected conversations, attitudes, or spoutings off of various characters lead me in directions I'd never have gone if I'd muzzled them and stuck to my original vision of the scene. Good directions.

And at least now I feel like I got a little more accomplished once I pronounced that scene a chapter. I tell myself these things to help me not get discouraged and keep climbing this mountain writing this novel. 

So Friday is winding down. After my morning work, and lunch, I went out shopping for the upcoming conference. I found a good carry-on/purse/bag that should work well schlepping my quart-sized Ziploc bag of no more than 3 (or is it 4?) ounce liquids, two PBJs, and a Charles Martin novel through various airports. I don't like to carry a lot with me on a plane, and this time I'm going even lighter. As for clothes... oh, how I wish I could hire someone to do that shopping for me. I walk into a mall and my energy level takes an immediate nose-dive. Just not my scene. But I really need some shoes since the only dressy shoes I own are sandals or boots. Neither is going to work for the awards banquet that happens on the last night of the conference.

And that's a look at a day and a week in the life of this writer, whose about to pull leftovers from the fridge for dinner. My characters have far more interesting lives!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Lorna Seilstad, debut historical author, Interviewed

So much for fall like weather. It's edging toward 100 again today. But that's okay. Summer's grip is waning. I'm SO ready for fall.

My friend, historical author Laura Frantz (The Frontiersman's Daughter, Courting Morrow Little), is hosting debut historical author Lorna Seilstad on her blog today. I'm looking forward to meeting both these writers in person in just a few weeks, but for now... how fun to find a fellow historical author who shares my rather odd birthday.

Head on over to Laura's blog for the interview, and a chance to win a copy of Lorna's debut novel, Making Waves.

Also visit Lorna on her website: