Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Relishing the Journey


Happy Wednesday, my writing friends!
I'm teaching through the book of Acts to a group of junior highers. I love it! Maybe too much.

Yesterday, I was having such fun with the class, I failed to be prudent about time. I glanced at the clock. I only had a few minutes left, but I couldn't speed myself up. Their eyes sparkled with interest. One kid even gasped when he figured something out. Their engagement prodded me to expound deeper and draw more out of them.

Problem was, when it came time to dismiss, I hadn't made my conclusion--which is, of course, the best part! The part where I tell them about how the gospel is for them, how Christ cares for them just like he cared for Cornelius. (That's who we studied.)

With no time left, I babbled out a conclusion and let them go, trusting God would use my feeble words for His glory and their good.

This happens with writing too, doesn't it? Sometimes I get so into my characters and plot, I get stuck "playing" with them. Lost in the ebb and flow of scenes, I imagine readers' responses and it provokes me to go deeper and draw more out of them. This is a good thing. It's a GREAT thing.

For one, writing isn't only about the end product--having a book on Amazon. The journey is so awesome too, isn't it? If excitement over my story pulses through me, I see it as a gift, a joy-filled, heavenly-Father gift. And I'm gonna enjoy it.

Second, when my students see me excited about God's Word (or any topic I'm teaching on), that enthusiasm sparks their own. Can't you tell when an author has enjoyed writing a book? Surely our passion shines through the pages and impacts readers.

That's why even though I knew I'd run out of time, I let myself enjoy the process, even if it meant the ending wouldn't be as great.

I sure wouldn't do that with a novel! Well, I would let myself relish the writing journey, but I can't really get away with a rushed, "babbled" ending. The conclusion’s one of the most important parts! It’s the last impression a reader will have. We need to nail it.

But another thing I was reminded of from this week’s Bible class was that God can work even through my imperfection. I didn’t nail the ending to my class, but the gospel was spoken, however imperfectly. This doesn’t mean it’s okay to get sloppy—no it doesn’t! But we can trust that even when we fail to follow all the writing rules, God can use our words. And when something good results from our imperfect attempts, we know beyond doubt it wasn’t our doing, but the Lord’s.

What a great joy it is to serve such a gracious Savior who takes our imperfect offerings and uses them for His glory—and gives us joy along the way.
You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf. 2 Chron. 20:17 ESV

God bless and happy writing,


When Happily-Ever-After Isn’t Enough by Amanda Cabot

“Nothing happens.” It’s been many years since I received that particular rejection, but I still recall my confusion. How could the editor say that nothing happened? I was writing short contemporary romances for the secular market at the time, and I thought I’d done everything right. The book was set in an exotic location and was laced with fascinating (at least to me) details of life in a place most of us only dream about seeing. My hero and heroine met, they fell in love, and after resolving a few misunderstandings, they lived happily ever after. What could be wrong? And why did the editor say that nothing happened?

When I recovered from the sting of rejection, I realized that the editor was right, although I still thought she was wrong in saying that nothing happened. What she should have said was that nothing interesting happened. I had written a story of a close-to-perfect romance, and while readers might want to live that story, they don’t want to read about it. Perfection is boring, or as Tolstoi said in his famous opening to Anna Karenina, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” What was missing from my book was conflict.

I hate conflict. After one of those stressful job interviews that used to be popular, the recruiter looked at me as if I were an unknown species. “You’d rather walk around a wall than through it,” he said. Duh! Who would willingly bang her head against a wall? There’s only one winner there, and it’s not the head. But that aversion to pain and conflict wasn’t helping my writing. If my characters weren’t willing to fight, if I wasn’t willing to put them through pain, then I was going to continue receiving rejection after rejection and hearing editors say, “Nothing happens.”

I wanted to make another sale, but I hated the idea of torturing my characters, and that’s how conflict felt to me. It seemed like an insurmountable impasse. And then I realized what I had to do. It might seem like a matter of semantics, but the technique worked for me. I told myself that I wasn’t torturing my characters; I was healing them. And since I believe in the healing power of love – both God’s love for us and that between a man and a woman – it became easy (okay, a teeny, tiny bit easier) to create characters who were in pain. Sometimes the pain was emotional. Sometimes it was physical. Though I wept and cringed as I wrote some of the scenes, I wouldn’t let myself off the hook. No matter how dark the story was, I knew that eventually I would give my characters – and my readers – what they deserved: healing, followed by a happily-ever-after.

And now, as I give thanks for the people who’ve touched my life, I include the editor who told me, “Nothing happens.”

With both parents avid readers, it’s no surprise that Amanda Cabot learned to read at an early age. From there it was only a small step to deciding to become a writer. Of course, deciding and becoming are two different things, as she soon discovered. Fortunately for the world, her first attempts at fiction were not published, but she did meet her goal of selling a book by her thirtieth birthday. Since then she’s sold more than twenty-five novels, all of which feature happy endings. Her most recent release is Christmas Roses, which answers the question, Can an itinerant carpenter searching for his father and a young widow who seeks only her daughter’s well-being find happiness in a small Wyoming mining town in the fall of 1882?

Amanda can be reached through her web site (www.amandacabot.com) or on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Amanda-Cabot/110238182354449?v=wall) or her blog (http://amandajoycabot.blogspot.com/).

Monday, October 29, 2012

Christmas 2012 Series: Postmark: Christmas

Question for you, dear reader-writers: How many Christmas stories have you read so far this fall? Maybe none. Maybe you wait until a bit closer to the big day. Because I'm a reviewer, I've read two so far. They always help me anticipate the beautiful Christmas season. Today we're launching a Christmas story series for Mondays through to the New Year. We'll feature interviews with authors of holiday books due out this Christmas season. So, I know it's a little early, but light a cinnamon candle, grab a pumpkin latte, and let's check in with
Darlene Franklin, one of the authors of Postmark: Christmas, a novella compilation from Barbour. Enjoy! ~ Annette

First, welcome, Darlene! Please share a bit about the book, Postmark Christmas

The holidays are stamped for love in Christmas, Florida. While keeping her eye open for her next job lead, will nomadic event planner Stella find romance instead? How will one retired major change war widow Randi’s postcard-sending mission? Can photographer David Levine draw shy Gabi Archer out of her shell? Will retired police officer Rick Stanton be able to steal postmistress Edie Hathaway’s heart?

Postmark: Christmas is contemporary romance.The authors on the compilation are:  Paige Winship Dooly, Darlene Franklin, Kathleen E. Kovach, and Paula Moldenhauer. How did the compilation come about?

I turned to people with a working knowledge of Florida. First, Paige Winship Dooley, a resident of Miramar Beach, joined me. Next I invited Kathy Kovach, who wrote part of the contemporary Florida volume, Florida Weddings. In turn, Kathy invited new-to-fiction author, Paula Moldenhauer. It didn’t hurt that I knew Kathy and Paula from my years in Colorado! We had a reunion of sorts.

What makes your Christmas compilation different than others you’ve seen or read?

The setting—Christmas, Florida—isn’t your typical snowy Christmas scene, although we do add a snow machine at the Christmas festival for those who must have snow with their Christmas. The use of the post office is another unusual angle. Several years ago, I saw a news story about the post office in Christmas that would postmark Christmas mail with “Merry Christmas, Christmas, Florida.” The idea of using that post office as a setting for a Christmas novella immediately appealed to me. We also sought to have a variety of ages among the heroes and heroines. Love can happen at any age!

What time of year did you write it and how did you motivate yourself to write a Christmas novel at that time of year?

Becky Germany (the Barbour editor who offered us the contract) made us wait until the ACFW conference in late September, because she wanted to introduce Paula as the recipient of a first-time fiction contract. The manuscripts were due on February 1st. So we got to write the stories during the Christmas season. Becky is good about that! 

I remember Paula receiving that contract. What a moment! Nice of Becky to give you the "assignment" during the season. What’s next for you in writing? Will you do more Christmas stories?
I hope to write more Christmas stories! But nothing slated for Christmas 2013 at this time. Next year I’ll have three books in the Maple Notch Dreams series published in the new Heartsong book club from Harlequin. Those are historical romances set in northern Vermont from 1927-1942. I also have more novellas coming out next year: all four stories in Calico Brides (June 2013) and Angel in Disguise in Texas Brides (May 2013).
It's been delightful hosting you today. Congratulations to you and the team!

To learn more about Postmark Christmas or these authors, visit Barbour's website.  See you next Monday for another great Christmas book feature!

(print version)        (e-book version)