Blog

September 2009


I’ve just received wonderful news


Award-winning narrator, Jenna Lamia, has been selected to narrate Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. Jenna is exceptionally talented and widely respected for her pitch-perfect narrations. From The Secret Life of Bees, to The Chosen One, to The Devil in the Junior League, to Incantation and beyond, Jenna delights listeners with her broad range of abilities. She beautifully captures the true essence of Southern dialect, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to have her narrate my novel!

 

~ Read an excerpt of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt here ~

 

Summer Reading

 

 

 

Picture 7

 

 


Writing


BOOK TOUR


My 2010 book tour and author signing schedule has been finalized. It will be a whirlwind adventure, there’s no doubt about it! I’m looking forward to meeting new people and visiting so many cities that I love. For a listing of where I’ll be, and when, you can check the schedule here.


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August 2009



So … you want to write a novel.

But what the heck does that have to do with blackberry jam?

 

blackcurrant jam

 

Aspiring novelists often ask, “How did you do it?” My answer will always remain the same … writing is a personal journey, and no two writers will approach their craft in the same way. But I’ll share what I know from experience, and, things gleaned from conversations I’ve had with other writers.

 

Nobody knows if a writer is born or made, but the majority of people I’ve met feel that writers are born. I tend to agree. I believe that classes can make someone a better writer, but I don’t think they can turn a person into one.

 

Many writers are introverts. If, like me, you grew up in a rural area where there was nobody to play with but your imaginary friends, you probably began developing dialog at an early age. Many writers are highly sensitive, and there are many who had peculiar, painful, or disruptive childhoods—Truman Capote, Pat Conroy, Jeannette Walls, and Augusten Burroughs—to name just a few.

 

So, no matter if you had a stockpile of imaginary friends in your closet, your parents moved every twelve minutes and you never established a sense of home security, or, if your mom had a nervous breakdown when you were eight years old, smeared blackberry jam all over your hair, and made you sit in the flower garden during a thunderstorm, go ahead and cheer Eureka!—because you just might have the soul of a writer. And, if you happen to have a quirky sense of humor too, all the better.

 

 

Storytelling -vs- Writing

 

Captivating storytelling is a gift—good writing is an art. By understanding how to combine those two elements, we can save ourselves from a whole lot of headaches. There are many books that can help a writer hone his/her talent, and I found the following to be of value: A Writer’s Coach by Jack Hart, and Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark.

 

 

Dig through your past


Attic


 

Make note of the things in your life that were funny, the things that hurt or caused embarrassment, and the feelings you experienced on both ends of the emotional spectrum. Venture into the attic of your mind and dig through the joys and ruins of your past, I’ll bet some treasures are waiting to be discovered. After gathering together some great images and memories from years gone by and writing them down, it’s time to get off your butt, go somewhere, and observe the world around you. Visit the bus station and the local Salvation Army Thrift Store, then go the opera or the symphony or a country fair. Expose yourself to people and cultures that are not part of your usual daily life. Watch people intently, eavesdrop on conversations, and listen to the cadence of voices. Train yourself to notice even the tiniest nuance in mannerisms.

 

Then ask yourself: how did these people get to this place in life, where are they headed, and what would throw them off course? Ask yourself tough questions about your character’s fears, dreams, and motives, and then answer them. More often than not, you’ll be surprised by what you come up with.

 

 

Write


“Looking back, I imagine I was always writing. Twaddle it was too. But better far write twaddle or anything, anything, than nothing at all.”—Katherine Mansfield


When you write, try to remain open to possibilities. How your story wants to evolve might be quite different than what you originally intended. Imagination is the life force of a writer—don’t get in its way, but don’t let it take you from the sublime to the ridiculous, either.

 

Some writers have an elaborate outline for their book, while others might only have a general idea. I do nothing more than a basic outline because I want to stay open to the flow. Plus, my characters dictate a great deal of where my story will go, so I try to give them as much freedom as possible.

 

 

 

Think outside the box

 

Think outside the Box


Yeah, yeah, I know, that’s a cliché and I should electrocute myself for using it, but when it comes to writing a compelling story—it’s true! Agents, editors, and publishers long for excellent writing and a story that’s told in a unique way.

 

 

 

Is it Writer’s Block

or

Could it be the lack of Discipline?

 

Every writer will experience a lull—a strange feeling of emptiness and sometimes a terrifying lack of inspiration. I believe that happens so creative energy can replenish itself. When I have difficulty with a scene or character development, the best thing I can do is get out of the house. Something as simple as a drive into the country or an afternoon with a girlfriend can clear my head. Inspiration is everywhere, and when I least expect it—WHAM—I’ll see or hear something, the reservoir fills up, and the muse is back.

 

One thing I learned in the early stages of writing my novel was the difference between writer’s block and the lack of discipline. When I looked at writing as a career and not a hobby, my energies shifted. Writing became my fire—it wasn’t something I’d do when in “the mood”—it was what I needed to do. I suspect many a would-be novelist has kicked the bucket and left behind a file cabinet crammed with unfinished and unedited manuscripts. Talent is the number one element a writer must possess, no doubt about it, but the second is good old-fashioned discipline. Writing is a job—a hard job, and it takes tenacity to see a project through.

 

 

 

Hallelujah, I’ve typed THE END!

Um, not so fast…

 

The End

 

 

When you’ve finally, blissfully, typed The End and think you’ve got a bona-fide novel in your hands—I can pretty much guarantee that you don’t. Not yet. So don’t lay rubber on the road to get your masterpiece to the post office. Instead, step away from you work for week or two, then go back with fresh eyes and edit with a ruthless hand. Hiring a professional editor/proofreader to give your manuscript a careful going-over  before you submit to a literary agent will be money well spent.

 

And here’s another tidbit: read your manuscript out loud. By hearing your story, you will immediately pick up any bumps in the road. In my opinion, nothing can help you edit a manuscript better than reading it aloud.

 

 

 

Scout out the business … aka do your research!


Detective


 

I know you’re chomping at the bit to send out your query letter(s), but please don’t. You desperately want to enter the world of publishing, so now is the time to learn all you can about it before you contact a single soul. Scout out everything you can, especially who is representing whom. I found Publishers Marketplace, Publishers Weekly, Agent Query, and Absolute Write to be treasure troves of information about agents, publishers, and editors. Make a list of agents who you feel would be a good match for your writing style and genre. Read their submission guidelines and cross-reference each agent with the editors/publishers they’ve sold to in the past. I promise that by doing this research, you’ll save yourself months of anguish and perhaps even embarrassment. Plus, you’ll learn so much about the business of publishing that you’ll feel like an insider.

 

 

Literary Agents

 

Once you’ve decided upon the literary agents you want to contact, it’s time to write a killer query letter—and I mean killer. Top agents receive a staggering amount of queries each week, and if you can’t make the hairs on a literary agent’s arms stand up with your one-page query, then she/he will never read your sample pages. Keep in mind that you’re about to present your work to some of the brightest luminaries in the literary world, so make certain it’s as polished as it can be. Nowhere is that old adage truer than in the publishing business: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

 

When the magical day arrives and you receive an invitation to submit your work, be gracious and timely in your response. It is an honor to be asked to submit a sample of your manuscript, so don’t get emotional and tell the agent your life story. Agents don’t give a flying flip that your aunt Myrtle’s proctologist thought your book was the best thing he’d seen in a long time, or, that you spent fifteen years writing it in the musty-smelling cab of a 1943 Ford pick-up that your grandpa keeps out in the barn. In the beginning stages of speaking with a literary agent, keep your private life out of the conversation at all costs, unless, of course, you are asked.

 

If an agent requests three chapters, send only those three, not a single page more. Respect their guidelines and keep all communications short and professional.

 

 

 

Luck

 

When someone said that I must feel lucky to have had my book published, I about laughed myself sick. Luck has nothing to do with writing a novel, landing a top agent, or having your work snatched up by a brilliant publisher. It’s all about creating a product born from years of hard work, the sheer love of story development, and extraordinary discipline—which includes numb hands, sore shoulders, and blurry eyes. If a writer waits for good old Mr. Lucky to tap her on the shoulder, then she’ll never reach her goals.

 

Lastly, believe in your work, believe in yourself, and try to maintain a spirit of joyful anticipation. Each day brings a gift, and that gift just might be a phone call, a letter, or an email from the literary agent of your dreams.

 

 

 

Enjoying the sun

 

 

Decorative

 

 

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July 2009




Girlfriends!



GIRLFRIENDS



When I opened the door to womanhood, the world appeared as a smorgasbord of countless possibilities. I was eighteen years old and the queen of my life, and I was about to gorge myself on the goodness that awaited me. The most vivid memory of that seminal year happened on a Friday afternoon. I was driving down a country road in an old convertible with my girlfriends, the sun splashing across the windshield as we shrieked with laughter about some absurd thing that I’ve long since forgotten. Out of nowhere it began to rain, and while the droplets ran down our faces like liquid joy, we held our hands high in the air and proclaimed ourselves anointed with the promise of the brightest futures imaginable.

 

I felt invincible that day. I imagine we all did.

 

Oh, the high-minded misconceptions of youth. I had no way of knowing that my euphoria was a temporary thing—that I would be visited by sorrows and heartache—some of which would knock me to my knees. Nor did I know that one of us in the car wouldn’t live to see her twenty-first birthday. Yet as I look back over the years of struggles and perplexities and triumphs of life, I marvel at how one thing has remained constant.

 

Girlfriends.


Men come and go. Careers change. Family scatters. But girlfriends are there for the long haul—I like to think of them as diamonds for my soul. No matter where life takes them, girlfriends are never farther away than a phone call or an email. They are the Super Glue that holds us together when our lives are unraveling. Whether they live next door, across town, or across the country, our girlfriends are always at the ready. They laugh with us, cry with us, and cheer us on. They revel in our successes and they love us when we’re at our worst just as much as they love us when we’re on top of the world.


I’m celebrating the women who have blessed my life in endless ways, and I’d like to introduce you to some of them. I’ll add more photos as time passes, so please stop back!

 


Marlane


Marlane Vaicius


This beautiful woman is my best friend, Marlane Vaicius. She’s smart, funny, and downright wise. She’s also my neighbor. Now how lucky can I be! Though her career takes her traveling all over the country, she miraculously manages to be a selfless friend, a fabulous wife, and a master gardener.  Without her, I might have had a meltdown while writing Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. Marlane kept me laughing, and through her unwavering belief in my story, I kept believing, too. She was there from word one until I typed the end. We even went to Savannah together when I did research for my novel, and that trip created priceless memories. If I had to sum up the qualities that I most admire in a woman, I’d simply say two words—Marlane Vaicius.

 

 

 

 

gardening is hard work

 

Debra Kreutzer

 

I always wanted a little sister, but that was never meant to be. And then one day this lovely young woman came into my life, and BAM, my wish came true. Debra Kreutzer is one of the strongest women I’ve ever known, and I don’t mean physically (though she certainly is no stranger to hard work). She has rock solid values and possesses the kind of life-wrought wisdom of people twice her age. An animal rights advocate, archeologist, and a teacher, Deb is also a talented and accomplished quilt maker. She has a wonderfully quirky sense of humor that I adore.  Deb was one of the early readers of my novel, and from the get-go she cheered me on. I’m hopeful that one day she’ll move to Kentucky so we can see each other more often. I’m so proud to call her friend.

 

 

 

Meggie Vincent

 

Margaret Vincent

 

This stunning photograph is a self-portrait of my friend Margaret (Meggie) Vincent. Meggie is a highly creative spirit who excels in many diverse areas—most notably photography. A lawyer, a lover of the written word, and a veritable diva of digital imagery, Meg delights and inspires with her photographs and her observations of life that extend far beyond the camera’s lens. On a particularly difficult day (all we authors have them) when I wasn’t sure if a passage in my novel was right, it was Meggie who convinced me that I was, indeed, on the mark. Now, if only I could convince her to start her own photography studio! I know she’d make a brilliant photojournalist. Please take a moment and view some of Meg’s photograph collections, you’ll be glad you did.


View Margaret’s exceptional photographs here

 

View the amazing photo that Margaret has dedicated to me


 

 

 

 

marie

 

Marie Behling

 

You are now looking at the face of an angel on earth.  Her name is Marie Behling and she is an old soul packed full of love and kindness. Italian by heritage, she’s the endearing kind of friend who makes you eat pasta as you sob out your woes. Marie is a deeply spiritual woman with an unshakable faith, the likes of which I’ve never seen before. Marie has taught me much about the game of life—most specifically when to hold ‘em … and when to fold ‘em. From Marie I learned the value of forgiveness, and also, what it truly means to not cast pearls before swine. And, as she loves to point out, she is never wrong. I can attest to the accuracy of that statement. Marie is very dear to me, and I’m blessed to have her in my life.

 

 

 

Lora Young

 

Lora Young

 

This beautiful smile belongs to my friend, Lora Young. Lora and I met in an airport. Our plane was delayed and we began talking. I told her that I was a novelist on my way to Manhattan to meet with my literary agent, Catherine Drayton, and my publisher, Pamela Dorman. Well, Lora’s eyes lit up, and she told me that she was in the midst of writing a non-fiction book.  That old adage is true!  It really is a small world. Lora and I blabbed about writing all the way to Manhattan, and we even shared a ride to our respective hotels—I felt as if I known her for all my life, and as it turns out, she felt the same way. And now we’re girlfriends! As soon as her book is finished and in the hands of a publisher (which I believe will be soon), I’ll post about it here!

 

 

 

Corvette Gigi

 

Gigi Meenan

 

This fabulous woman with the radiant smile and grease smeared on her hands is Gigi Meenan (aka Corvette Gigi), and she’s just as good at fixing Corvettes and racing them as she is at being a true girlfriend. I’ve known Gigi for a long time, and beyond possessing the ultimate voice of reason, she’s also one of the wittiest women I know.  I can’t count how many times she’s made me laugh so hard that I thought I choke! I’m still waiting for the day when we apex through the curves together, and though I suspect Gigi would probably blow my doors off, I’d never hold it against her—well, not for too long. You can visit her by clicking here: www.corvettegigi.com

 

 

 

SueSue Skidmore

 

This woman with the beaming smile and twinkle in her eye is my friend, Sue Skidmore.  Sue is a RN, a lover of books, animals, and sewing. She also has one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever known. She genuinely cares about people, and she is always at the ready to lend a hand, to listen, and to show up at your doorstep if you’re in trouble, feeling ill, or having a melt-down. Sue cheered me on and supported me the entire time I spent writing Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, and I’m grateful for her friendship.

 


 

MARY

 

This redheaded beauty with the devilish smile is my girlfriend, Mary Frye. And see that ocean in the background? Well, it’s no secret that Mary’s heart is just as wide and deep! Mary is smart, quick, and witty, and, she can be relied upon (24/7) for excellent advice. No matter what’s happening in my life, she can easily whip up the conversation and make me laugh myself sick! She’s one of those people who is so funny that she doesn’t even realize it, which of course, just makes her even funnier. Animal lover, wonderful mom, wife, and a true girlfriend, Mary possesses so many of the qualities that I admire and aspire to achieve.

 

 

 

Picture 7

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