Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cruising the Caribbean for Christmas

Christmas Under the Sea, Cozumel (Photo: Paul Getchel)

Nothing like a warm-up before Christmas. We recently returned from a cruise to the Western Caribbean with port stops at Grand Cayman, Roatan, Cozumel and Princess Cays (actually in the Bahamas). Sixteen of us travelled together to celebrate my brother Paul's 50th birthday.

Sting Ray City, Grand Cayman (Photo: Paul Getchel)

If you haven't cruised, you don't know what you're missing. It's the quickest way to release those tense shoulder and neck muscles. While we enjoyed the balmy tropical climate, the folks at home froze—in fact six inches of snow fell. After two relaxing days at sea, four fun-filled activities at ports of call, seven days of being pampered and fed the finest fresh food, we dreaded the return to reality, but arrived rested and ready to dive into life.

Gumbalimba Park, Roatan

Our cruise route to and from the Western Caribbean navigated the waters north of Cuba along the Florida Straits. On the return eastward through the straits the ship made a complete stop and announced they spotted a small boat in which there appeared to be a person in distress. As required by International Maritime Law, a rescue craft was dispatched to assist the person if possible. We watched the drama unfold from our balcony as the rescue craft sped toward the horizon to intercept the boat about six miles off. The rescue returned with the man from the small boat appearing in good condition.

Party on the Balcony

That evening the rest of the story circulated about the rescue. The man, a Cuban, got off course while fishing and would be turned over to immigration when we reached the Bahamas. He would certainly be returned to Cuba. The back story: He attempted to escape Cuba and reach U.S. soil before perishing at sea or being picked up by a ship and sent back. His gamble got him option #2.

Princess Cays, Bahamas (Photo: Paul Getchel)

During vacation I finished a non-fiction story about grieving and loss and began another, which I finished and submitted when I returned. I wrote the latter story in response to a call for non-fiction stories of how my marriage grew through a painful time to become a deeper, more vibrant and strong relationship.

Our Bungalow, Princess Cays

I wish you all a blessed and Merry Christmas always remembering that our gracious and merciful heavenly Father sent His only Son Jesus to be born a baby and then perish on a cross to redeem me and you from the penalty of our sins. And for that we celebrate Christmas!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

More on Critiques

Autumn Leaves at Bridgeport, Nevada County on the Yuba River

I recently published a post on the treasures of critiques. My editor friend Jennifer Hamilton sent a helpful link to a blog post that digs deeper on responding to critiques. Hosted by Nathan Bransford—literary agent and author—at Curtis Brown Ltd, the post takes a slightly humorous approach to handling the seriousness of a critique. Read the six guidelines and ponder how you might take the wisdom and apply it to critiques of your manuscripts.

Where do you see your strengths and weaknesses as you respond to a critique?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Picture Book: The Story of Nubs

While doing research for my first picture book, I became engrossed by stories of dogs in the military. Yeah... I know. What do stories of military dogs, called war dogs, have to do with a little boy and his dog? Plenty! You have a dog, a human whom the dog loves, loyalty, bravery and never a complaint. Okay?

In my reading about war dogs, I stumbled across the wonderful story about Nubs—A mutt in Iraq that had been cruelly treated even to having his ears cut off (hence the name). Major Brian Dennis first encountered Nubs running with a pack of desert dogs during a patrol of the border between Iraq and Syria. Dennis, a dog lover, worked his charm on the aloof dog and soon Nubs would show up each time Dennis and his unit returned to the border area. You can read the endearing story I first read at ABC News. And now children can read about Nubs in a picture book out this month—Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine and a Miracle.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Halloween Cuties

Dog, Yoda, Curious George (pinch-hitting as a Jedi Knight)
and Luke Skywalker

Halloween is a conflicting time for me. I love the dress-up part where it's almost obligatory that we don a costume and take on the persona of someone (or something) else. But I don't like the graveyard, vampires, and other ghoulish and frightening images that have become such a major part of the holiday. I don't get all wiggy about it though.

The cuties on display here are my grand-nephews. Aren't they adorable?

Awwww... Grandpa is reading a picture book to Yoda. So smart no wonder Yoda is!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Submission Follow-up

A Black Hole to Ponder

This week I did follow-up on three articles I have out for consideration. There is something to be said for the immediate rejection. At least you hear something. I have not heard one peep from any of the publishers I submitted articles to back in June/July. So I sent emails to each of them asking if they received my email way back in "ancient history"... seems like anyway.

I have plenty of patience, but at some point you begin to wonder Did they get the email I sent? or Did it go into the black hole of cyber-space? The latter situation oftentimes amounts to an accidental hit of the Delete key. Hmmmm...

This circumstance provoked a ponder. Instead of being called writershaving not yet been published and thus not earned the title authorwe should be called author-in-waiting. After all, writing involves lots of waiting. I don't mean the act of writing, although we sometimes wait for juices to flow, the muse to inspire or creativity to happen. But the part where we send off our "babies" to the publisher and wait to get a response. We hope to hear that our work is worthy of publication, however, dead silence after awhile causes the mind to wonder.

I'm hoping my follow-up elicits some kind of response... or am I in for more waiting?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Death: The Final Passage

Patti Benedict
3/2/1957 - 10/3/2009

My little sister Patti went to be with Jesus last Saturday night. She is now completely healed of the cancer that caused her so much pain these last four years. Oftentimes we felt helpless having her far away in Oregon--five hours by car. We made many a trip over the time to love and comfort her.

Patti was number four of six in the family. For whatever reason, she held onto many "demons" from the past that burdened her in life. While the rest of us settled in the Sierras outside of Sacramento, she chose to move away.

Shortly after the last person left my husband Bob's birthday party Saturday night, we got the word my sister had passed away. She died in the hospital; never got home to die as she had wanted. I am so grateful we all saw her three weeks ago in the hospital before her last surgery to unblock her intestines. Most importantly her salvation was assured with a prayer I helped her pray while two of my brothers (believers) were in the room with me. Having not walked with Christ in her life, she feared death. She never got to know the Great Healer like the rest of us have. She was 52 and is survived by her husband Bob and daughter Melissa.

At the time of her passing, a brief thunder shower occurred. My three brothers and remaining sister enjoyed a magnificent display in the sky as they drove home that night. Lightening lit up the sky as it streaked from cloud to cloud. Isn't that just like our God? He wept at the pain Patti endured and then took her for a total healing. My friend Kendra, who lost her husband, calls these occurrences God winks... Indeed. What an amazing God we serve!

Patti is now at perfect peace with no pain, enjoying the healing she so longed to have. I spoke to her last Thursday and told her, even though she was dying, I would see her again in heaven. It brought tears to my eyes and, I believe, a knowing for her. She knew her final passage would bring her to Glory.

Glory to the Lord Most High!

Friday, September 18, 2009

GoD and DoG

I hope you enjoy this video ditty that expresses some of the parallels between God and a dog like my picture book The Tail of Chessie--The Heart of God. Have a look...

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Treasures of Critiques

"Arghh! Gimme yo treasures, Matey!"

This week we had our first session of critiques at the newly added Inspire Christian Writers location in El Dorado Hills--five minutes from my home. Most of the writers at this location are new to Inspire. We submit our manuscripts several days ahead to allow a thorough and thoughtful critique. As I opened each document and began my critique, awe and wonder filled me. Wow! This is some very fine writing I thought.

What a pleasure it is to help a fellow writer tweak their manuscript, learn more about the nuance of point of view (POV), tighten up the wording, provide clarity to a confusing passage, and catch the nuisance typos and wrong words. Overall giving a manuscript a fresh look with a sharp pencil.

Afterwards I gather the copies of my marked-up manuscript and carry them home like treasures. Yes... that's right... treasures. Treasures that help me be a better writer. Attending weekly critiques these past few months has greatly improved my writing skills. I have gained improvement by the following:
  • My own work being reviewed
  • My critiques of other's work
  • Listening to others critique a manuscript
So if you write, I recommend you get thyself to a critique group post haste. Then watch your writing soar. You'll soon experience the treasures too. I wish you the best in finding a critique group as great as mine.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Picture Book Manuscript Done

Hidden Falls above Jenny Lake, Grand Teton National Park

Whew! It's finished--at least until it gets to an editor at a publisher. Now I'm ready to search out a publisher, find an agent and get to work on the next book project. I also have a few more children's articles up my sleeve that I want to tackle.

The book, The Tail of Chessie--The Heart of God, is nothing like the original version I wrote last summer. It underwent a complete overhaul keeping only the major premise--teaching children about the character of God through a dog. The long process included a professional edit by a children's author, several critiques at Mount Hermon's Writer's Conference, and last but not least, the scrutiny of fellow members of Inspire Christian Writers critique group. It has been seen by no less than nine pairs of eyes with sharp pencils. I really like the book in its current state.

And now for a treat, here's a link to Julie Cantrell's blog on how she got lucky and landed a fabulous agent. Julie is the newly published author of the companion picture books God is with Me through the Night and God is with Me through the Day. I will be following Julie's outline on her blog to make my query and proposal as perfect as possible.  Hope this helps you in your publishing journey.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Heads Spinning and Job Afar

The last week of July, Bob and I were leaders at Vacation Bible School (VBS) at our church. Bob had eight 11-year olds and I had ten 7-year olds--5 boys and 5 girls. We had a blast! When I look at my little charges, the familiar nursery rhyme comes to mind. 
What are little boys made of?
Snakes and snails, and puppy dog tails,
That's what little boys are made of.

What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice, and everything nice,
That's what little girls are made of.
My February post, Real Life Stinks, recounts the event that shocked our world--Bob lost his job. On Friday, July 31 after VBS, Bob had an appointment to present his reinvented self to a potential client/employer. That led to an interview and by the next Friday--one week later--Bob had a job! He started work on August 5th. Whew! Our heads were spinning. Note to job hunters: If you're getting no traction with your current job search, think about emphasizing a different aspect of your experience. Something more relevant to the current economic conditions.

Bob is part of a new senior management team working to correct troubling issues at a medium-size community bank.

Just one snag. The job is in Nevada City an hour and a half away via country roads and a major highway (not freeway). Since he'll be working 10-12 hour days, he will be setting up an apartment to stay during the week. UGH!

So here I am typing my blog, missing my hero... and that's the saga of life.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Book Review: Through the Fire

I just finished reading Shawn Grady's debut novel Through the Fire. I met Shawn last April at the Mount Hermon Writer's Conference during breakfast one morning. I found him very unassuming, soft-spoken and engaging.  Turned out that several at our table lived within a few hours of each other. We exchanged cards and information about what we wrote and hoped to one day get published. Then Shawn announced with a hand-out of goodies that his novel would be released on July 9th. We were very excited for him. It's wonderful to see that indeed there is hope for new authors getting published.

Shawn's book kept me turning pages. The story drew me in with vivid descriptions and careful character development. Aidan O'Neill struggled with inner ghosts while he and fellow firefighters chased down an elusive arsonist. Things shifted and changed throughout the novel, but never felt predictable with the exception of the growing attraction between Aidan and Julianne. Shawn's writing painted a picture of the intense danger a firefighter faces. Fire scenes built to a palpable level and I found myself there crawling on the floor of smoke-filled rooms, facing flames that "seemed to form faces. Razor teeth like a blacksmith's irons, a wall of glowering eyes encircling me."

Through the Fire is a great read. Oh... and expect to be sent to your dictionary more than a few times. This book will also expand your vocabulary with lines like "... clouds formed a soporific ceiling."  And "Piceous smoke surged from the overpass, sunlight coruscating off an overturned semi."

If you read Shawn's book already, leave a comment with your favorite twenty-five cent word from the book.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Blog Traffic Grows a Platform

The Great Wall of China is the only man-made structure visible from space. Now that's a platform!

As writers we learn that having a platform is important. Just what is a platform you might ask? To the unpublished writer it appears daunting... actually downright impossible. "What? I need how many people who know and follow me?"

In simple terms, the dictionary defines platform as a raised level surface on which people can stand. In other words, a platform boosts you above the noise and people notice. For example, Jamie Lee Curtis is a well-known actor. That is her platform. She wrote her first children's book When I Was Little and Harper Collins snapped up the manuscript. They knew her celebrity would be an instant market for selling her book.

OK... we all can't be actors, but we can grow an audience for our work... our style... our voice. Technology supplies the perfect vehicle:  The blog. 

If you build it, they will come. Yes they will, if simple guidelines are followed. Then be patient. Continue to work those guidelines and as time passes, you will see the traffic increase to your blog.

I found a great two-part post by guest blogger Jennifer Fulwiler titled How To Build Traffic on Your Blog (Part 1) and (Part 2) on Rachelle Gardner's Blog site. I'm sure you will find it helpful in growing your platform.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Submitting to Travel Magazines

I recently completed an article I first wrote last year about a boating excursion that Bob and I took with friends on the Big Island, Hawaii. We motored out to view the lava flow into the sea from the Pu’u ‘O’o crater of Kilauea volcano. Using the skills I have learned, I resurrected the article and rewrote it.

Searching for a magazine to publish the article, I found a great site with a list of 50+ travel magazines that accept travel narratives. Out of the list I found several with a good fit for my article. Now the task of submitting the manuscript.

Here is a taste of Lava for Breakfast:
It was dark and raining when we arrived at our meeting location. Rain pounded the roof as we waited in the car and peered out the windows into the blackness of the parking lot. It was 4:30 a.m. As headlights came into view, I studied each vehicle… No boat. Not him.
Have you written any travel articles and found a good place for them to be published? Leave a comment and let us know.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Educational Markets for Children's Writers

In poking around the web, wanting to learn more about writing for children, I found a great resource on Evelyn Christensen's site. She has posted a list of publishers in the educational market--complete with links to those sites. It is a very comprehensive list. Check it out and give Evelyn a Thank You at her site. You might want to peruse her site. She is a puzzle creator extraordinaire. Fun!

BTW, for those who have inquired, the pictures on my blog (except the Hawaii underwater pic/videos taken by my brother, Paul Getchel) were taken by me.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Road Trip!

We celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary last Thursday by taking a road trip to the Sacramento River Delta. We crossed seven bridges and rode two ferries in our travels.  Riding on levee roads most of the time, the trip odometer rolled up 180 miles. Sleepy, small towns along the route included Rio Vista, Walnut Grove, Isleton and the ghostly looking Locke. We passed by more that a few stately old mansions--Victorian beauties from the early 1900's. We had a relaxing day with no particular itinerary.  Awwww... It was marital bliss.

My writing week went well. I finished an article I will submit to Clubhouse Jr. magazine called It's a Dog's Job But Somebody's Gotta Do It.  This non-fiction article for 4 - 8 year-olds is a fun education on dog jobs--the one's they're born to do.

Also, I submitted my adult article, Lost In Public, to InTouch magazine. It covers our experience in Paris with the Metro. The story humorously illustrates the consequences of forging ahead in life without first studying which direction to go.

This week, back to my picture book.  It awaits patiently.
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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Underwater Views

I wanted to share some videos of snorkeling in the tide pools from our recent Hawaii vacation. You get the sense of how close we are to the sea life and how abundant the coral is.  The school of fish swam around us like we belonged there.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Break From Writing

I had a great time of rest and refreshment on my world travels these past weeks.  First Paris then the Big Island in Hawaii. In Hawaii I read a lot and even did some writing.  Most excitedly I snorkeled almost every day.

We stayed at a house in Kapoho in the Puna district on Hawaii.  Its beautifully green and lush there. Tide pools created by the lava at the edge of the ocean were walking distance from the house.  The interconnected pools are geothermally heated and teem with sea life--vibrant colored fish of all sizes, sea turtles (I saw four), and varieties of gorgeous coral. Each day we consulted the tide schedule to plan our daily snorkeling.

When the tide was not high enough, in order to swim to the next pool, we pulled ourselves along the rock practically on our bellies. On one occasion, I decided to stand up with fins on and carefully "flip-flop" my way to the next pool. When I got up I saw my brother close to me, flat in the water, wriggling his way across the rocks to the next pond. I burst into laughter as the picture before me looked like a giant salamander shimmying along the rocks with snorkel pointing skyward.  What a sight it was with me standing near.

Now that I'm back home with all of life's distractions (bills to pay, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, home repairs), its been hard to get back to all the writing projects I have going.

Last count I had six writing projects in various stages: two picture books, three children's magazine articles and one adult magazine article.  Its hard to prioritize what to work on next and for how long.

Meanwhile I have found that its good to take brain sharpening breaks to stimulate the creative juices and nurture clear thinking.  Here's a fun little match game that can help:

Post a comment with your own break ideas and how you prioritize your writing.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Celebrating On Top Of The Eiffel Tower

I made it to the very tippy top of the Eiffel Tower while in Paris and celebrated with the Snoopy Dance. Check it out...

Now my husband and I are vacationing (some more) on the Big Island with my brothers, a friend and spouses. We snorkeled this morning in the warm lava ponds -- best snorkeling in a long time. More later.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Manuscript Accepted...Time To Do The Snoopy Dance!

I heard from Lonnie Hull Dupont (pen name Callie Smith Grant) this morning. She wants my story A Saving Transformation for her book--an anthology of true dog stories. The book (no title yet) is listed for release 9/1/2010. 

Lonnie's previous book A Prince Among Dogs was published in 2007 by Revell a division of Baker Publishing Group.

With that great news, I'm off to Paris...Yes, the one in France. While conducting business in Paris in 1999, my husband Bob promised he would take me there.

I think I'll do the Snoopy Dance on the top of the Eiffel Tower.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Top 10 Tips for Children's Fiction Writers

The top 10 tips for writing fiction for children provided by Greenhouse Literary Agency. Make a copy and tape close by your keyboard for easy reference.

Number 6 can be a struggle for me. Once you set your POV keep it consistent. Number 11, however, is the best. If you embrace 11 and follow the 10, you'll have a winner.

Tell me which tip you found most useful. 

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Writing For Kids — Alleluia!

He is Risen — Alleluia!

I went to the Mount Hermon Writer's Conference and came home with my mind filled to the brim. I made many new friends from all over the country. It was an incredible experience. Go to Inspire Writers to read more about my experience at the conference.

Writing for children is a particular craft all to itself. I took the Children's Writing track with Mona Hodgson who has written numerous children's books from picture books to middle grade non-fiction. With 21 years of experience, she packed a lot of great material in the 9 hours of workshop.

She revealed requirements we must possess to write great material for children and important aspects, such as: 
  • Why write for children?
  • Where to look for ideas
  • What formats for each age group
Mona covered details about each type of book, the various formats and relevant age groups as well as all facets of story construction and how to submit manuscripts for each. She opened our eyes to others forms of writing for children, for example:
  • Magazines
  • Church take home papers
  • Devotionals
  • Curriculum
  • Poetry
  • Miscellaneous (e.g., rebus, puzzles, activities, cartoon, crafts and quizzes)
In future posts I will talk about a particular area about writing for children that I learned, for example, how to write a cover letter for your manuscript.

Tell me what you would like to know about writing for children. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Manuscripts Received...I'm on My Way to Mount Hermon

Tomorrow I leave for a five-day writers conference at Mount Hermon in the Santa Cruz mountains. I sent two manuscripts ahead of the conference. One for editorial review by Nick Harrison, Senior Editor at Harvest House Publishers.  The other for critique by Barbara Curtis.

I'm very excited about the submission for editorial review. I submitted my picture book The Tail of Chessie--the Heart of God. It's been completely rewritten and critiqued. I am very happy with it. It's a great story about Dillon and his dog Chessie who endears herself to Dillon with an attentive personality and ever-wagging tail. Dillon learns about the character of God through Chessie.

I also submitted an adult article about personal growth through a tragic incident. I hope to get it published in a magazine.

I finished the manuscripts under duress of illness and mailed them off. Best of plans can be thwarted by being sick. My head was feeling foggy as I worked to carefully polish the manuscripts and get them in the mail. To my distress I noticed a blatant error on the first page of my picture book today as I was getting things ready to leave..Arghhhh! I'm hoping that it miraculously goes unnoticed.

Leave a comment and tell me your submission stories.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Skies Proclaim...Snowflakes

Despite the pressing onset of spring, winter is still in the air. With the coldest winter in California I can remember, I have had the privilege of skiing six days so far this season. Every Friday my brother and various friends have a standing appointment to get up the mountain and swish down those glorious slopes until near exhaustion we quit before somebody gets hurt.

On March 6th the temperature was in the 20s and we were bundled up for the day.  After an epic day of skiing in perfect powder (a very rare treat in California), we headed up the chair for our last run down. And it started to snow.

The snow drifted softly down. When suddenly there on my lap a snowflake landed...perfectly formed!

"Look at the snowflake!" I screamed like a little kid.

It was so amazing to see such a beautiful sight. I don't remember when I last saw a formed snowflake in California.  Snow usually comes down in clumps--never revealing the beautiful snowflakes that comprise the clump.

It was a reminder of how awesome and mighty our God is.  Indeed the skies do proclaim the work of his hands (Psalm 19:1).

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Interview with Children's Author Nicole O'Meara

Meet Nicole O'Meara self-published author of the children's book Talking with God: A Child's Prayer Journal. Her debut book for children ages 5 to 10-years-old takes the child and parent on a journey together as they learn the spiritual discipline of prayer.

Nicole enjoys getting outdoors with her husband and son in the beautiful Sierra foothills near their Northern California home. She is actively involved in Bible Study Fellowship and gets excited when people become aware of God's active role in their lives.

I've known Nicole, Chris and their son Josh for many years through our church. After a few years relocated to the East Coast, Nicole and family returned to California when I learned of her journey into writing for children and choosing the road of self-publishing.

Tell us about your book and why you decided to write it.
When my son was six years old, I had a strong desire to teach him to pray on his own. At the same time, I was using a prayer journal written by a friend that brought clarity to my own prayer life. I thought this is what I want Joshua to learn. As I prayed about it, I clearly heard God tell me to write a prayer journal for Joshua. I fought God on it for a few weeks and finally, through scripture and through friends, I gave in to his direction. I wrote the journal for Joshua and he did learn to pray on his own. It was the most fun thing to watch! At the request of friends, I decided to publish the journal so others could use it to teach their children how to pray, just as I did.
Why did you decide to self-publish and how long did the process take?
I knew very little about the publishing world, but God gave me friends to help along the way. One friend, I mentioned earlier, had written a prayer journal for women. She explained to me the process of meeting publishers and getting published. I prayed about it and even had some opportunities to go that route but felt that this was not the route for me at the time. I called a few printers and was very overwhelmed with the details involved in just the printing process. I almost gave up. But I had another friend who works for, a self-publishing website. (Funny coincidence, don't you think?) I checked out Lulu and was impressed by their support for authors. My husband and I prayed about it and decided this was the route for me to take.

The process could have taken as long as I wanted to give it. I gave myself a budget and a deadline for each step. I found and hired an amazing illustrator and found myself in the position of giving her deadlines too. So, in a sense, I was author, publisher, and project manager of my book. From the day I made the first prototype for Joshua to the day I held my book in my hand, about six months elapsed.

The process isn't over. I have plans for revisions to my book and plans for another book. I just keep the process going. New budget. New deadlines.
What do you do to promote your book?
Not as much as I should.  I talk about it with friends.  I made a list of every person I know who I thought would want to know about the book and I emailed them.  Some of them had friends who had know how it goes.  I gave away several copies to people of influence.  I talked with a few bookstore managers.  I spoke at clubs and taught moms how to teach their children to use the book.  I talked with children's ministry leaders.  I also made a website.  The website needs the touch of a professional, but that's part of phase two in the process (see above).
Tell us about the experience of self-publishing (e.g., costs, pitfalls, benefits) and would you self-publish again?
Self-publishing was a big learning experience.  But it was a good experience.

The thing I liked most about self-publishing was that the finished product was completely my own.  I was the one who picked the illustrator and decided which artwork would be put in the book.  (I've been told that if I was picked up by a publisher, they would decide on the layout artists and the illustrators.)  I was able to choose what colors were used, which fonts, how many pages were in the book, etc.  I was able to change little things, or not!

The thing I liked least about self-publishing was that the finished product was completely my own.  If I didn't know how to make the layout look a certain way, I had to learn how or it didn't happen.  I had to find my own editors and then decide if I would listen to them.  I didn't make some changes that perhaps I should have.

The cost of self-publishing was significant.  I had to buy some new software tools before I sold even one book.  I had to pay the illustrator up front, before I sold even one book.  I had to pay for the books to be printed before I sold even one book.  I know that if I had been picked up by a publisher I would not have had to pay any of these costs.  

The cost of self-publishing is completely relative to the number of pages, color vs. black and white, the type of binding, and the number of books I bought. Plus, I paid an illustrator. All of my upfront expenses totaled about $2500.

Would I self-publish again? Maybe.  The limits (mostly, I'm thinking of my limited skills here) are annoying.  There are a few changes I'd like to make to the book that I don't think I can do if I continue to use  Frankly, I'm not sure how to make those changes.  I realize that a publisher would know how and could handle it for me.  That, in itself, might be the reason I choose not to self-publish next time.
Has any editor/publisher contacted you to sign your book to a contract?
What will you do differently in your next book?
I wish I had asked my illustrator to proof the book before I placed the bulk order.  Lulu recommends that you buy just one copy and look over it carefully before you place your bulk order.  I did that and found a few mistakes.  I was grateful for their advice.  I made corrections then placed my bulk order.  When I sent a few copies to my illustrator she noticed that the artwork didn't print the way she had pictured it in her mind's eye.  Had I given her a copy to preview, like I did for myself, I could have made corrections to the artwork before I placed the bulk order.  I won't make that mistake again.
What do you see writing in the future?
I have plans (dreams) for the next prayer journal.  The next one will be for older children, teens, or anyone else who has learned the basics of prayer and wants to move on to a less structured prayer journal.
Any words of wisdom you can pass on about writing for children?
Have children read your book when you think you are done (but before you send it to the publisher.) Children read differently than adults.  They take words and phrases more literally. They stop reading when they are unsure of a word.  Adults don't do that so it's hard for us to spot our trouble areas.  I gave my prototype to ten different kids of different ages.  It was amazing what they stumbled on and questioned.  It was useful information for me as I made corrections and revisions.  
Thanks for sharing about your experience and your thoughts, Nicole. We wish you success in your book and future books.  If you are interested in Nicole's book, you can visit her book website at

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stop The Voices

Peanuts: Lucy, Big, Loud, Screaming Blonde by Tom Everhart
Peanuts: Lucy, Big, Loud, Screaming Blonde

OK...I really don't want them to stop, but rather be a bit more moderated.  How about being there when I'm at the keyboard looking for those choice words, that perfect intro or the "too good to be true" story conflict.

I returned from my weekend writer's seminar with new vigor and commitment to my skill. And yes, lots of voices running around in my head composing the transition I needed in my story, or words for the ideal hook for a new story.

In the course of two days I have gotten two critiques--both very different.  One might consider one of them devastating, but I'm a realist and had expected there would be work to do. know what?  I'm excited!  The other critique was surprisingly encouraging--she loved the story.

If you've had a critique or feel you'll never get there.  Take heart.  I'll leave you with the words of free lance editor Pam Halter.  She responded to my email following her critique of my picture book, "You have a dream. A vision. Try not to stray from it while you are learning. There's something to be said for a fresh voice and style. You will hear lots of opinions. Your job is to sort through all the differing opinions and ask yourself, what is the right thing for my book?"

Remember, fellow writer, be true to yourself and your dream...I am.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Real Life Stinks

Recession vs. Depression:  A recession is when your neighbor loses his job.  A depression is when you lose yours.

This week was a shocker for us.  My husband Bob came home from work at 11:30 in the morning and announced that he had been laid off from his banking job along with many others in his group in Northern and Southern California.  My heart sank...Oh no!  We hugged...I sobbed.  We talked about how we would get through this one too.  We have always been wise in our finances and so do not have overburdening debt.  Thank God.  He will see us through and things will be better.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11

We processed the situation most of the day, but my sweet and caring Bob demonstrated his noble character.  Being concerned for others in his office that got the bad news, he spent some of that time calling them and letting them vent.

Tomorrow I leave for a writers seminar.  I sent them my book manuscript for a critique.  I'm very excited to hear what they have to say.  And being that realism is in the air, I'm prepared that there will be lots of work to do after that.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Carpe Diem

"Music has charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak."  William Congreve

Last week I finished my magazine article, a fictional story about Erina who went to Haiti and had experiences that inspired her to want to be a missionary when she grew up. It really turned out horrible. My brutally honest critic husband let me know so. Ouch! He was right. I knew it wasn't good. So after dinner we decided to jump in the car and head for a local coffee shop, Carpe Diem.

It was great to get away and forget about it--the horribleness and all. At least for a while, I put the whole article out of my mind. I'll come back to it later. My fertile brain is already working on a complete rewrite with a different theme--same result.

Carpe Diem had a jazz quintet playing that night.  We ordered, found some seats and enjoyed sipping our drinks as we listened to the soothing music.  It was quite nice.  We lingered for a while.  After finishing our drinks, we left feeling that "Ahhhh" effect.

Despite a disappointing day of writing, it ended on a good note--smile.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hello...Are You There?

Oh...Sorry!  I've been busy doing life, writing the magazine article, and know how it goes.  I just have to get used to writing for the purpose of publication and at the same time, posting relevant and interesting items for my blog in hopes I can get a loyal and growing following.

Monday I received the "turn-down" from my first manuscript submission.  You know you've been rejected when you get that eerily familiar envelope when you open the mail box. It's the one that you addressed and applied postage to.  The material inside is pristine as the day you inserted it into the envelope, addressed it to the publisher and mailed it off.  At least I'd feel better if there were a few stains on it giving it the appearance that someone did look at it.

Oh well.  I thought I'd likely get rejected--a harsh word--perhaps passed over would be better to swallow.  After rereading the submission letter I wrote, no wonder I got rejected.  As my writer friend Keli Gwyn says, "Don't fall into pitfalls that make your work cry Newbie!"  Why did I think that letter sounded good at the time? Is it because we writers, if we are honest, can always improve upon what we write?  And, of course, we always seem to do our worst when representing ourselves...arghhhh!  Any thoughts on this?

OK, gotta go.  I have to finish my article for the critique group tomorrow, register for the conference later this month and get my manuscripts prepared for submission.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Top 10 Words To Avoid

Yesterday I did another rewrite of a few pages of my picture book manuscript. I was driven by an article recommended in the January e-zine of the Children's Book Insider. Some may find the process of rewrite painful, but oddly, I find it refreshing and helpful. It has truly enhanced the book and made it better--in fact great.

The article 10 Words To Avoid When Writing can be found at Precise Edit.  Take a look and see if you too can be driven to rewrite your manuscript.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Up For The Job

If you have a dog then you know that every dog has a job. Some dogs pull a sled and other dogs sniff out certain material (e.g., drugs). Then there are dogs that herd sheep and others that rat out rodents. Dogs live to do the jobs they have been bred to do and no doubt you've seen how happy they are at their job.

We have always had retrievers and as you might guess (duh), their job is to retrieve.  Now... retrievers are not particular about what they retrieve--just give them something that they can call their own to get and they will get it.

Our dogs have used sticks, frisbees and balls as their item to retrieve. Brandy, the current occupier of the dog bed/throne in our home, looovves to fetch her ball. The midair catch is her speciality.

I came across this video of a smart pooch doing her job.  She loves to get her ball and figures out how to get it even though she hates to swim...or perhaps swim in a yucky pool.  I'd say she is up for the job.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Beverly Hills Chihuahua To Mexican Mutt

Taking vacations to warmer climates in the winter has been our pattern for some time.  This winter we spent Christmas in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico with my sister and brother and their spouses. On the trip down, Mexicana Airlines showed just the right movie: Beverly Hills Chihuahua--about dogs (talking dogs--the best kind) on location in Mexico. This movie is a dog-lovers delight--a must see!

Cabo delivered on a wonderful time soaking up the sun, watching gorgeous sunsets...and sunrises, shopping, eating great food AND going on the most spectacular fishing excursion.  Now...I am not the fishing type or the boating type for that matter, but my brother set up a boat for the six of us to catch marlin...or at least for him to catch a marlin as that was a lifetime dream for him.  The last time I went out on a boat on the ocean, I got so sick that my hero husband Bob had to hold me around the waist while I hung over the side heaving stomach contents into the ocean.  Not a pretty picture.  Ok, call me crazy, but I was willing to try again, plus my brother gave me a seasick drug that divers swear by.

Once on the boat, our boat captain took us out past Land's End taking a right turn into the Pacific.  After 90 minutes of motoring north along the west coast of Baja, we made our way west toward boats and flocks of birds visible in the distance.  We had arrived at the Golden Gate Banks, a seamount, where a veritable cornucopia of sea life churned the waters and filled the sky.  While hundreds of seals, sea lions, marlin and dorado were feeding on schools of mackerel, swarms of pelicans and frigates flew overhead ready to swoop down to grab the "bait" just below the surface or steal one from a casting line.  And to top it off there were hordes of humpback whales swimming throughout the scene.  What a feast for the eyes! Looking in any direction, it was a magnificent sight.

Did we catch a marlin?  We caught two marlin and one dorado.  Each marlin fought for a good 45 minutes before being brought in for a picture and then released back to the water.  We took the dorado home (about 35 - 40 lbs.) and had fish for dinner with plenty left for future dinners.  Oh...I almost forgot.  I did not get sick at all.  I'm ready to go again!

Later in the week we went out to Cabo Pulmo on the Sea of Cortez. While my brother went diving, the rest of us had breakfast and then went snorkeling.  During our breakfast under a palapa on the beach (what ambiance!), we met an adorable little boy and his mexican mutt.  The two were inseparable.  As the dog lay appearing to sleep, the boy would love on him.  But once the boy left, the dog would wander off after him.  The scene repeated.  Then all of a sudden, "Thud, screech, whack, scuffle...snap!"  Upon leaving his sleeping spot, the dog had snagged the fishing pole propped nearby.  Caught in the line, he panicked, dragging the pole through two bar stools until the pole got hung up by a palapa support.  With fishing line stretched tightly around his chest and a menagerie of pole and bar stools attached, the dog gave one big thrust, snapping the fishing line and dashed off.  Only a dog could "create" the twisted pile displayed before us.  You gotta love dogs.  For all the love and amusement they provide...even on vacation.


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