Follow my journey toward publication. Laugh, cry, point and stare-- it's all good. I'll leave a trail so that you, my fellow author, may have a straighter path to finding your own elusive publishing contract. Adventure awaits. Let's travel together...

Monday, February 28, 2011

How'd It Go? and Updates

Welcome boys and girls!  I promised you an update and here it is: I'm sick!  Just kidding.  Well, I am sick but that's not the end of my update.

As you probably know, I attended the Writing For The Soul conference in Denver a couple weeks ago to pitch my book to agents and editors and meet other writers.  It was an amazing weekend.  I'm not capable of giving a coherant narrative of the events so instead I will provide snapshots:

*Liz Curtis Higgs is a phenomenal speaker, encourager, and all-around great person.  I was in tears during her talk on opening night.  Afterwards, I stood in line to have her sign a book and gave her a hug.  I shared how touched I was by her message and we talked about the book I had inside of me waiting to get out.  She locked eyes with me and told me my book was already written.  Already written.  God knows our words before we speak or even think them, and my book was already finished. I cannot adequately describe this to you but her words cut straight through to my heart and I stood bobbing my head and swiping at tears and knowing I was meant to be at this conference. What a way to begin!

*My first pitch.... well, I chickened out and didn't even pitch in that first meeting.  I shrank back and claimed I was only interested in learning and asking questions without first even trying to sell myself and my idea.  Lesson learned.  After that point, my pitch went over pretty well with my appointments with mentors, agents, and the editor from Zondervan.  I was very excited and encouraged by all of my appointments. I had two requests from agents and one from an editor "in a few months". 

*Jerry Jenkins himself critiqued my first page in his Thick-Skinned Clinic.  Um, yeah.  Okay, are you ready? Yeah, it was interesting.  I guess I uh, had some dialogue that was a bit too, you know, realistic.  He taught me about "on the nose" writing.  Adding too much small talk in a scene that, while realistic, slowed down the action too much. 
       Note: I've since re-written my first page. *grin*

*Friends! I made a lot of new friends at the conference and I hope we keep in touch.  One of my new friends landed an agent while there--an agent who wasn't even on the panel but drove out to meet with her!--and I got to watch the progression of that success story go from her nervously entering first appointments to finding overwhelming interest to landing a contract.  Amazing and inspiring.  It was also so much fun meeting up with my friend Jessica Patch after chatting all these months online.  We met at the airport and stuck together quite a bit all weekend.  I also got to meet COTT's marketing rep Jennifer Slattery after working together for months.  Very cool!

*My plane home was a later flight and I had time to kill. Brandilyn Collins was in the lobby after the conference ended and I had the opportunity to chat with her at length which was pretty neat. She insisted I really needed to go to the ACFW conference.  She wasn't the first to mention it, so now it's on my prayer list to attend.

I've got to tell you, the very best thing about the conference is all the people you get to meet and talk with.  Having dinner with editors, agents, authors, speakers, it's very cool.  Not in a star-struck sort of way, just in a really neat 'no walls' kind of way.  I highly recommend you go to one!

Books I purchased at the conference:
  • Orson Scott Card's Characters and Viewpoint
  • Brandilyn Collins' Getting Into Character
  • Liz Curtis Higgs' Rise and Shine

So... now what?  When I got home I jumped right into my duties with COTT and pondered my post-conference action plan.  I joined ACFW. I am working with a mentor now to whip my novel into better shape and decided I would let the agent know it would be a little while before I sent my materials, for that reason.  That was difficult to do, but necessary.  I devoured Orson's book--well, the portions most relevant to me anyway.  I am working on fleshing out my characters more and highly recommend his book.

I got an idea for a non-fiction book while driving my daughter to school the other day.  My husband thinks it's a really good idea so that's encouraging! I sketched out my thoughts but I'm not sure when I will begin really working on it.  I have a lot to do working with my mentor on Beauty For Ashes. And I haven't forgotten my next novel, it's just sitting in a folder on my desktop waiting.  Yeah, free time is not in abundance around here these days.

So, I'm entering the Genesis contest through ACFW within the next couple days. This week I am meeting in person with my mentor and hoping to make progress on the novel.  That's my top writing priority.  Next on the list is finishing my proposal (that pesky marketing section is still laughing at me), and after that anything new will get my attention.  I'm praying about the ACFW conference in September.  Agents? Well, I'll wait until my mentor feels the manuscript is at a point where querying agents is a good idea.

It's a long, long road to be sure. But connections and feedback are the best ways to move forward.  Writing is a lonely process, but writing well--and getting published--is not.  If that's you, then get out there. Join critique groups, get to a conference, participate on blogs... do something to connect to the bigger world of writing. 

The keyboard will still be there when you come home.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Blogging Hiccup & What's Coming Up

Over the last several days, I had a horrendous time with my blog.  It kept moving portions of my post to the end and changing my colors and quotes and italicizing things that weren't supposed to be.  It was very weird. I still have no idea what was going on or whether it will happen again, but please accept my apologies for the lack of content here.

As you read, we crowned another COTT champion in Elaine Cooper--our first self-published author to compete and win in the general arena--and this concluded my hostess duties for the Clash.  Now I can focus on sharing what I learned at the WFTS conference and what I'm working on now. Yay! 

So be on the lookout for a new post here at Adventures in Writing to find out what it was like having my first page critiqued by Jerry Jenkins himself, sharing a heart-to-heart moment with Liz Curtis Higgs, chatting with Brandilyn Collins, and meeting fellow COTTer Jennifer Slattery in person.

Another COTT Victory!

This week Elaine Marie Cooper takes the crown over at Clash of the Titles. The category was Most Romantic Moment and the excerpt was from her novel The Road to Deer Run. She beat out her competitor Lorna Seilstad with a 54% to 46% vote.

Elaine is a wonderful addition to the COTT hall of fame, her warmth and enthusiasm making her Clash one of the most enjoyable yet. And Elaine is no stranger to the site. She's been a participating reader and sponsor for months. So when she got the news she had been chosen, she responded:

I am shouting for joy that my submission has been accepted! Thank you so much!! I am very honored to be a COTT contender!
An intro from Elaine's excerpt:

Mary began to relax. Daniel’s voice was soothing to her spirit. By the time the brush had reached the crown of her head, she was closing her eyes, the tension falling from her face.
Daniel smoothed her soft locks with his hand. “There. Your hair is lovely.”

If you missed it, you can read the full excerpt here.


What did Elaine think of her Clash? It's clear she's enjoyed every minute, even before knowing the verdict:


I'm so excited for this opportunity, Michelle and again, I so appreciate having my excerpt chosen. Thank you.

And once the Clash was underway: 

It's a thrill to be here at COTT!

It's a thrill to have you! Elaine's energy infused the entire two weeks of the Clash with excitement and fun. It ended up being one of the most commented-on clashes, for both contenders.Readers were just as delighted. A few comments:


  • Caught me up in what is behind the attack this woman faced and how can she get over it. Such a compassionate man at her side
  • The quiet strengthening of a bond between the characters, apparently in the aftermath of a terrible experience. That's wonderful! But what did it for me? He was brushing her hair. /sigh/
  • This sounds wonderful. I love reading about the revolutionary war and I like your cover!

Way to go, Elaine!


Professional History:
Christian, Wife, Mother, Grammie to triplets, Registered Nurse, Novelist, Blog Writer for Reflections in Hindsight reflectionsinhindsight.wordpress.com and The Barn Door www.thebarndoor.net , Magazine Freelance writer, Newspaper columnist.

Fun Bio:
I have three favorite grandchildren: Jack, Chloe and Luke. :-) I love my family. I drink hot tea all year and LOTS of it (caffeinated of course). I want to rescue all the shelter dogs but my husband says, "NO!" (we already have three dogs...) I cry at Hallmark commercials. I love Hallmark movies. I love to read, write, crochet, cross stitch, watch Jane Austen movies. I love to look at my flower garden (after I have weeded it and when there is no snow!) I hate mushrooms. I dream of living closer to my grandbabies.

Make sure to come take part in our next Clash on Monday: Emotional Intensity from our waiting-to-be-published authors.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Laying Bare

Today I am reposting an article I wrote for COTT a few days ago.  I hope you enjoy reading it here if you missed it over there:

Reading all the excerpts shared at Clash of the Titles this month, and discussing falling for heroes, has made me think back to other tender scenes I've encountered. Many stories make our hearts beat faster or awaken a deep longing within us—both in books and movies—and one such story is The Notebook. Yeah, yeah, it's often ridiculed by the guys. But women everywhere swoon. Why? Because in the movie we see a man who loves a woman—even when she doesn't know him.

Sound familiar?

We've been having a pitter-patter love fest here at COTT the past few weeks with all these Romantic Moments--by Lorna Seilstad, Elaine Marie Cooper, Joanne Troppello, and Karen Witemeyer--and as we come down off the sugar rush of Valentine's candy it occurred to me that no Valentine's month would be complete without focusing on our first love. And I don't mean the boy you kissed behind the bleachers in seventh grade, or even prince charming. I'm talking about the King of Kings. Today I thought it only appropriate to turn my eyes upward.

John 1:10 tells us that He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.

So The Notebook in this way is a picture of Christ loving his bride, the church. Christ is the lover of our souls!

We also read in Romans 5:8 that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. And from John 15:13 we know Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.

His love is not based on what we do or how we look. It's not based on seduction, flirtation, or how we make Him feel. He loves us for who we are; He loves us when we are exposed.

Isn't it breath-takingly romantic when a husband finds his wife most beautiful first thing in the morning, before she's applied her makeup and arranged her hair just right? So also, we need no "beauty tricks" to win Him. We don't need to hide our flaws, whether physical or spiritual. We couldn't if we tried—all things are laid bare before Him. And yet He loves us. Enough to die.

That's what I call a hero.

Thank you, Jesus, for rescuing me and drawing me into your embrace; for loving me with all my flaws exposed. I'm deep in love with you, Lord.

What other pictures of Christ have you found in romantic stories? Or, share how He captures your heart.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Ultimate Romance

We all long to form deep connections. To be seen and known and loved for who we really are. We get a taste of it when our spouse brings home our favorite chocolate bar from the store--that hint they really "get us". We may be filled with it when our man actually expresses in words how he feels toward us. But we will only be swallowed up whole by it when we enter into the greatest romance in history.

It's a romance that has been unfolding since the universe was spoken. The one on which every other love relationship is based. And it's the romance which we authors are trying to recreate on paper, whether we know it or not. That romance is the one between the Creator and mankind. You.

You're either nodding your head or recoiling. You may feel offended that I equate God with a word which, for many, is synonymous with sex. Stick with me.

One of my favorite definitions:

  • Romance (verb): to court or woo romantically; treat with ardor or chivalrousness.

This is exactly what the Lord does! He courts us, He woos us, He pursues us with His love. In Jeremiah 31:3 the Lord says "Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you."


Almighty God loves ME with an everlasting (never-ending, continuous, nonstop) love! And He draws me, woos me, with that patient, gracious, gentle love. Has anyone else ever loved you that way?

The other thing I see here is His persistence, no matter how hard we resist Him. He waits for us to turn to Him, never forcing a relationship to happen. That's where His chivalry comes in. We read in Revelation 3:20: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me."

He knocks and knocks and knocks—never willing to lose a single one of us—but He waits for us to open the door. And notice, He doesn't sit in the car and honk the horn. He approaches and knocks. (Guys—especially those waiting to date our daughters—you taking notes?) He is a gentleman.

Another dictionary entry that caught my eye:

  • Romantic (adj): displaying or expressing love or strong affection. ardent; passionate; fervent.

John 15:13 tells us "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends."

We see this theme played out in our romantic books and movies. The hero gives up his life for the woman he loves, or vice versa. It is a tragic end, but proof of their love. Take the recent Disney movie Tangled for example. (spoiler alert) Flynn cuts off Rapunzel's hair to save her, knowing it means his own certain death. His love proven, Rapunzel's tears bring him back to life and they live happily ever after. That kind of love takes fervency and passion and an emptying of self. And what woman wouldn't want a man to love her with such abandon?

But even those love stories can't touch what Christ has done. Nothing could keep Him from rescuing His beloved, even when His beloved hadn't returned that love. He didn't just lay down His life for His friends. He died for us while we were still sinners. While we wanted nothing to do with Him, He passionately pursued and expressed His love on Calvary. Tell me—is there a fulfillment of the above definition any more complete and profound as this? Has love ever been displayed or expressed more ardently, passionately or fervently than on the cross?
And one last simple entry:

  • Romance (noun): a love affair

As much as I enjoy going all tingly over a good romance in a movie or book (and believe me, I do!), the story of the Divine Love Affair surpasses them all. It's a story of betrayal (ours), a broken Heart (His), separation—followed by passion, zeal, and sacrifice. And it's an ongoing story, one we all experience uniquely and personally, whose ending is up to each of us.

My prayer is that every one of you reading this today will allow the God of the universe to woo you; that you will open the door of your heart to Him; that you will see the depth of love He has for you and swoon in His embrace.

After that, human romance—both real and fictional—will serve to compliment what is already overflowing in your heart. You'll come to see that the best romantic stories are those that most closely depict the eternal truths found in knowing Christ. With Jesus as your first love, every other human relationship will become deeper and more meaningful.

Do you know Him? Is He pursuing you? Has He wooed you? I would love to hear about it!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Love Day

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

1 John 4:7,8 (NKJV)

This week I am hosting the Clash at COTT.  Please stop by and cast your vote for the Most Romantic Scene!

Friday, February 11, 2011

COTT Winner!

At This Site They Bravely Battled...

It's time once more to announce a new Hero at Clash of the Titles. Two authors fought not with weapons and warriors, but with gentleness and devotion. This was a clash of Romantic Moments. Our swooning excerpts were from Karen Witemeyer's A Tailor-Made Bride, and Joanne Tropello's Mr. Shipley's Governess. Two fantastically romantic scenes. And the winner is...

Karen Witemeyer's A Tailor-Made Bride!

Congratulations! A Tailor-Made Bride is Karen's debut novel and recently won the 2010 Best Western Romance contest. So it's really no surprise that she's won this week's honors at COTT as well. A snippet from her winning excerpt:
"So…uh…did you like the sunflowers?" J.T. steeled himself as Hannah turned to pass him a platter.
Her eyes widened slightly and roses bloomed in her cheeks, but the smile that followed unclenched his gut. "I loved them. The other gifts as well. Thank you."
"You're welcome."
She bent back to her task, rummaging in the grayish water for something else to wash. "I had hoped they were from you."
J.T. forced a casual air to his voice he was far from feeling. "You got someone else courting you?"
(for the full excerpt, click HERE)
Some reader quotes:
  • Beautiful excerpts, both of them! But, I confess, I was hooked from the moment J.T. dried Hannah's hands with his towel.
  • Ah, so romantic. What a wonderful way to start the "love" month!
  • I was pulled straight into the scene without even knowing it. Drying the hands up to tracing the "hollow at the base of the neck" was a detail that drew the reader in.
About writing such romantic moments into her novel, Karen says:
The joy in writing these scenes is that as the omniscient author, I know these two people are meant to be together, and I get to help them discover that truth for themselves.
Of her time at COTT, Karen comments:
It's been so much fun to participate.

Karen lives in Abilene, TX with her hunky, computer nerd husband who has heroically saved her sanity on several occasions when evil glitches arise to assault her laptop. They have three children who think it's cool that their mom writes books even if the people on her covers usually have no heads. Karen is an avid cross-stitcher, shower singer, and bakes a mean apple cobbler.

To read about how she met that hunky husband of hers and the crush she has on her heroes, click HERE 

About the book:
When a dressmaker who values beauty tangles with a liveryman who condemns vanity, the sparks begin to fly!

Jericho "J.T." Tucker wants nothing to do with the new dressmaker in Coventry, Texas. He's all too familiar with her kind--shallow women more devoted to fashion than true beauty. Yet, except for her well-tailored clothes, this seamstress is not at all what he expected.

Hannah Richards is confounded by the man who runs the livery. The unsmiling fellow riles her with his arrogant assumptions and gruff manner, while at the same time stirring her heart with unexpected acts of kindness. Which side of Jericho Tucker reflects the real man?

When Hannah decides to help Jericho's sister catch a beau--leading to consequences neither could have foreseen--will Jericho and Hannah find a way to bridge the gap between them?

About the Author 
Karen Witemeyer writes historical romance fiction for Bethany House Publishing. She is a member of ACFW, RWA, and her local writers' guild. Visit Karen online at http://www.karenwitemeyer.com/.
Congratulations once again, Karen! COTT's next Clash begins Monday, V-Day, with two more Romantic Moments. Don't forget to vote and enter the free book drawing!

Article by Michelle Massaro, COTT Assistant Editor

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Note on Romance in Fiction

It’s almost Valentine’s Day and romance is in the air. Clash of the Titles is highlighting Most Romantic Moments for the next four weeks. We’ve kicked off our month of romance with two wonderful excerpts. The names and faces of the authors who wrote those excerpts have just been revealed, so be sure to stop by COTT and find out who they are! If you missed the excerpts, click HERE.

There’s a reason why Romance is the best-selling and most powerful fiction genre. It makes a story relatable to the reader. Even if the story stars non-human characters, like some fantasy, sci-fi, or speculative fiction, the romantic relationship gives the story a human side with which the reader can sympathize. The romance in the story doesn’t have to be happy either. It can be anything from mutual admiration to unrequited love. I hope in most cases fictional characters have a harder time with romance than real people. Authors, including me, do their best to keep conflict between the romantic leads in a story in order to make the plot more exciting. It might not be the nicest thing to do to these characters we love so dearly, but it sure is fun.

Every story needs a little romance, doesn’t it? What do you think?

article by Amanda Flower

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Giveaway on the Horizon

I said awhile back that I would have a giveaway when I reached a certain number of followers and I think it's time.  So keep an eye out for news regarding said giveaway in the near future! =)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Romance Defined

Hear the words "romance novel" and we'll likely picture Fabio and his six-pack locked in an embrace with a woman whose dress is ripped half-off and whose hair is flying wildly in the wind. Romance, in today's vernacular, is often synonymous with just one thing. Yet I suspect that often times what we women actually find romantic is much broader than a steamy kiss in the rain. Take for instance a romantic moment I recently had. The week before, I'd received some unhappy news related to my writing. I thought that both my disappointment and my "right" to feel down were past, so I hadn't talked much about it in the previous couple of days. Then my husband came home with a bouquet of flowers and a card encouraging me and telling me he was proud of me. He knew I was still feeling bummed even though I was wearing my "keep moving forward" mask, and his gesture touched me deeply. Realizing that he understood and cared about what I was feeling and had gone out of his way to comfort and cheer me up... that was romantic.  And that's the kind of romance I try to infuse into my novels as well.

Some of my Facebook friends also shared how they define romance. Here's what they had to say: 

• Romance is when you don't have to finish each others thought, you just know what the other person wants, and you do it for them just to make them smile, and that in return warms your heart.
• Being treated like a lady.
• My husband's hands on my face when he kisses me.
• I love it when my husband writes stuff to me...like a card or email or Facebook message...I love when he thinks about me during the day.
• After 14 years of marriage, my husband still makes my heart flip. I think it's that I respect and admire him so much- not necessarily what he DOES for ME- but because of WHO he is, and the fact that he wants me. I think that romance in a movie or book is effective when the leading man is a respectable man with a strong character, and he chooses the woman and she surrenders herself to him... that's what's worked for me all this time!
• I can't define it...I just know it when I see it!

What about you?  I'd love to hear your thoughts on romance, or read some of your romantic moments.
(You can also read some romantic moments on COTT this week!)