We’re nearing the end of summer when the days are getting shorter, the temperatures are cooling just a bit, and the kids are going back to school.
That last item doesn’t affect me personally, as I have no school-age kids. But my oldest daughter is a college instructor, and my second daughter has five young’uns in school. And, of course, this is the time of year to stock up on office/school supplies, because they’re on sale everywhere! I always feel drawn to look at them even though I don’t need anything.
In an e-conversation with said eldest last week, I commented that the smell of fresh asphalt is, to me, the fragrance of the first day of school, as I associate it with the freshly resurfaced playground at my old elementary school. I used to like school in those days. I outgrew it, but early on, the first day of school was fun and exciting, so even today, the scent of fresh blacktop makes me smile.
Living in a temperate region as I do, I enjoy four seasons each year. And when I say “enjoy,” that’s exactly what I mean; all four are my favorites. There are some aspects of each that I love and some parts I’m less thrilled with. But before I’m tired of one season, the next moves in to take its place, so I sometimes say my favorite season of the year is one we’re just moving into.
Life, too, has various seasons. In a way, these tend to be more of a progression than a cycle, because you only experience one fresh spring in your life, one prime of summer, one lovely autumn, and one final winter. But life offers other seasons too, which do repeat: seasons of challenge, of achievement, of rest, and preparation for the next round of challenges.
I entered a new season earlier this year, but I wasn’t sure what it was at first. Eventually I decided it must be a time of preparation. I don’t know what I’m preparing for, but in the last few months, I’ve felt compelled to spend more time in prayer and Bible study than ever before, so I figure there must be a reason for it.
I’ve also been reading a very interesting book that my friend in Tasmania recommended: Secrets of the Secret Place by Bob Sorge. Though I’ve been working my way through it for months now, I’m only halfway through, because I read a chapter and then contemplate it for some time before moving on.
Chapter 17 is “The Secret of Retreats,” and as I contemplated that topic some time back, I decided this season of my life must be a retreat of sorts. Though I’m not totally isolated, I’m home alone a good bit (which I love, by the way!), and being in an apartment, my housework is limited. Most mornings, therefore, I spend a few hours “in retreat” with the Lord, and it’s a delight.
But this time next month, I’ll have begun my season of traveling. First comes the ACFW conference in Grapevine, Texas, Sept. 20 – 24. Then I’ll leave again on the 30th for a three-week trip to Tasmania. I mentioned all this in my last blog post over a month ago, but the countdown is still ticking—and I’m still trying not to get so excited that I can’t think straight!
I’ll leave here at the beginning of autumn and visit the other side of the world where it will be spring. When I return home, all the leaves will have fallen, and everything will be dreary and brown and cold and damp. I’ll feel like I’ve been on a different planet. Sometimes it’s difficult to adjust to the changing seasons–especially when they change so abruptly.
I plan to post regularly during my travels because I’ll have plenty to talk about! In the meantime, though, I want to get in the habit of posting a little more often, so neither you my readers, nor I, go into shock at the sudden change. In order to do that, though, I’ll have to come up with some topics to write about. Hmm…
I’m not quite finished meandering through the topic of faith that I began two blog posts ago. However, I’ve decided to take a break for today and revisit the subject of writing. (Once upon a time, this was a writers’ blog, as you may recall.)
The idea for this post started with contemplations on book covers. Probably everyone reading this knows I was never happy with the first impression the covers of my first two books give, and so I made cover art a high priority for the next two.
While I was working with Ken Raney of Clash Creative on the covers of Ransom in the Rock (released in May) and The Last Toqeph (to be
released next month), two of my writer friends revealed the covers of their novels. The artwork on both intrigued me, for different reasons. Both titles are debut novels. Both novels are through the same publisher. And both authors are special friends of mine.
I asked them about the possibility of appearing together on my blog, and they liked the idea. So that’s what we’re doing today, and I’m delighted to welcome them to Y’s Words. Instead of a typical guest spot or interview, we’re just going to sit down and have a chat with the three of us. Pull up a chair!
I met Ane Mulligan back in 2002 in an online writers critique group. Hard to believe that was more than 12 years ago! But we stuck together through thick and thin, and although she lives in Georgia and I was in Ohio, we’ve also met personally. (At a number of ACFW conferences.) Ane’s always been one of my most enthusiastic encouragers.
I met Susan Lawrence at a writing retreat in Kansas City. That would have been… I don’t remember the year. Do you, Susan?
SUSAN: Hmmm. It must have been 2009. That was the year I wrote my first novel.
Yes, that sounds about right. We’ve been friends ever since, and we’ve even had the opportunity to view one another in our natural habitats. In fact, I made Susan’s hubby get up early one morning to take me to the Des Moines airport. He probably didn’t mind much, though, because it meant he could finally get me out of his house.
Ane’s a multi-talented lady whose literary bent used to be toward drama. I understand you’ve published quite a few plays, haven’t you, Ane?
ANE: I have. I started writing scripts in 1996 for my church. Our pastor loved to illustrate his sermons with sketches. I’ve written over four dozen, everything from the 90-second sermon starter to one-act plays and full-length musicals. LifeWay was my first publisher and published several of mine. After they closed the line, and I got my rights back, I self-published them on a CD.
Yes, Ane always was a bit of a drama queen (ha ha). But I didn’t meet her until she decided to try her hand at writing fiction. Never one to be half-hearted, she jumped in with both feet, even quitting her job in order to leave more time for writing. And working with American Christian Fiction Writers—she’s been very active in that. What offices have you held with ACFW, Ane?
ANE: I was the Zone Officer on the Operating Board for four years. I love ACFW and I love setting up chapters around the country. I’m now on staff as the Zone Coordinator, doing the same thing, overseeing the chapters.
SUSAN: And I’m attending my very first ACFW conference in September, where I’m looking forward to meeting Ane in person.
I’m a little worried about that, Susan. Whatever she tell you about me, don’t believe it, because she has an overactive imagination. But I’m happy you’re going to the conference—and that you’ll get to meet Ane and some of my other friends. You’ll have a wonderful time.
But let’s talk about covers. Ladies, you’re both at the mercy of your publisher. How much input were you able to have on your cover art?
SUSAN: My publisher did let me make suggestions but ended up going a different direction altogether. Now I think it is the perfect cover art and I can’t imagine my story in any other cover.
ANE: I ended up with the sweetest deal of all. Lighthouse agreed
to allow my hubs, who is an artist, to paint my cover. Poor man. It wasn’t easy pulling an imaginary town from my brain. To me, Chapel Springs was more of a feeling. Even though I could picture the buildings, I hadn’t given them form. So, Hubs would paint, then call me to come down to his studio and look it over. I’d tell him, “It’s a little more like this,” and show him a photo I’d found online. And I’d say, “But not quite like that.” We went this way through a good dozen photos until he got it. I love the end result.
I can’t help but notice, Susan, there’s a quote from a distinguished author on your front cover, talking about how good the book is. (And it is good – for sure and certain!) Seems to me endorsements like that should be on the back, not splashed on the front. What do you think about that?
SUSAN: I love the quote from one of my favorite authors and my dear friend, Yvonne. I think it fits perfectly on the front cover.
Aw, shucks. Thanks. Ane, do you have an endorsement on the front?
ANE: I do, from Gina Holmes. “Like coming home to the place you wish you were from.”
Well, maybe that’s more common than I thought. I guess I just never noticed before. As readers, do you judge a book by its cover?
ANE: It’s the first thing that catches my eye. Then I read the back cover copy. But the feeling the cover evokes will be what I notice first.
SUSAN: I agree. I know a cover does not a book make, but I will grab the book with the cover that appeals to me.
I think we’re all on the same page (pun intended) on this subject. But do you think a book cover should show a scene from the book itself? Is factual accuracy important? Or is the key thing to create the proper feeling or mood?
ANE: I think the key is the feeling or mood it evokes is the most important.
Susan, did you have something in mind for your cover initially?
SUSAN: I did. I thought I wanted something to show the accident scene. The actual cover of Atonement for Emily Adams shows Emily in a cemetery. In the story, she isn’t ever in a cemetery. But it could have happened. And I agree with Ane that the feeling or mood evoked is what is critical for a cover.
Ane, tell us about Chapel Springs Revival.
ANE: It’s a romp through miscommunication in marriage. Claire and Patsy, my two characters, are a hoot. A little like Lucy and Ethel, they’re both artists. Claire moves without thinking and goes through life without any filters between her brain and her mouth. Patsy says, “With a friend like Claire, you need a gurney, a mop, and a guardian angel.”
Susan, tell us a little about Atonement for Emily Adams.
SUSAN: It’s the story of a young woman who accidentally kills a child. She tries to atone for that unspeakable act by doing all the good she can do. It doesn’t work out so well for her. The message is that true atonement comes only through faith in Jesus Christ.
What does it feel like to hold your book in your hands or see it on a shelf?
ANE: After eleven years, it feels GREAT! It’s like giving birth. I don’t think anyone but another writer can appreciate the journey, but for one whose journey has been a long one, it was worth every frustration!
SUSAN: I love to see it and hold it, but an even greater joy is to get feedback from those who read it. To know that my writing has encouraged, inspired or uplifted someone is a blessing beyond compare.
For any reader who has been trying for years to get a novel published, like the three of us did for so long, what advice do you have?
ANE: Don’t ever give up! Your time may be just around the corner. Besides, if you’re truly a writer, a storyteller, you couldn’t quit writing anymore than you can quit breathing.
SUSAN: Work at it – attend conferences, join a critique group, read books about writing, and write, write, write.
Sounds like good advice. In fact, it’s pretty much what I’d say. Thank you, my dear friends, for stopping by to chat. I wish I could be with you at the conference next week (insert pouty face here), but I spent all my money on cover art…
More about Ane: While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, Ane has worn many different ones: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that’s a fancy name for a lobbyist), drama director, playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction (try saying that three times fast). She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. President of the award-winning literary site, Novel Rocket, Ane resides in Suwanee, GA, with her artist husband, her chef son, and two dogs of Biblical proportion. You can find Ane on her Southern-fried Fiction website, Google+, Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and Pinterest.
More about Susan:
Susan grew up on a small farm in the heart of Iowa. As a small child she learned to love
country life, writing stories, and her Savior, Jesus Christ. A graduate of Kansas State Teacher’s College, she taught special needs children for thirty-three years before retiring to devote more time to writing, speaking, and storytelling.
Susan lives with her husband, Gary, the love of her life and her best friend of forty-four years. She is the mother of three and grandmother of seven beautiful and brilliant grandchildren. She enjoys spending time with family, biking, and traveling. But most of all, she loves to tell the story, the good news of Jesus Christ, in writing, in speaking, or in living.
You can find more about or contact Susan at www.susanrlawrence.com, on Facebook or email her at srlauthor at mchsi.com.
Added two new chapters to my WIP this week. I know, nothing to brag about. But for me, that’s good progress, and I’m happy with it. If I were under a deadline, I’d make it a point to work faster.
Speaking of deadlines, you may notice that I’ve managed to maintain my self-imposed blogging schedule. This makes me happy too. It doesn’t count for a hill of beans, but it gives me a little pointless satisfaction.
The biggest news of the week, which I almost forgot to include (and yes, I honestly did almost forget!) is that The Story in the Stars is a finalist for the ACFW Carol Awards, Speculative Fiction category.
Possibly one reason it nearly slipped my mind is because the winner doesn’t get anything but bragging rights. I am happy about it, though, because, whether or not I win, being named a finalist confirms that I’m moving in the right direction. I’m not just a wannabe anymore, but an actual published writer who’s considered competent by people who know a thing or two.
So, yeah; it’s cool; and although it would be really cool if I won, I won’t be crushed if that doesn’t happen. I’m just delighted to follow the Lord on this weird adventure and see what happens in the next chapter.
In other news, Novel Rocket’s Launch Pad Contest: Boosting You Out of the Slush Pile is keeping me busy, as I not only administer the contest but also critique each entry — and this month’s category (Contemporary Fiction/Women’s Fiction) has the largest number of entries ever. I’m not the only judge, though, and am glad it’s not up to me to decide who wins. I’m only about halfway through the entries so far, and I’ve already found several that are really excellent. It’s going to be tough to choose. The winner will be announced on August 13, so watch Novel Rocket to see who’s the cream of this genre’s crop.
And, finally, I’ve ordered a batch of books from the publisher. Woo hoo! I’m looking forward to seeing Words in the Wind in print! I’ve also ordered some more copies of The Story in the Stars, since I sold all I had in Iowa this spring and hadn’t bought more.
Although the official release date is August 1, my first local book signing this round won’t be until September 4. I’ll be at the Dover Public Library at 7 pm — so, all you local readers, mark your calendars! I’ve elected not to have an event in the church coffee shop, but will launch Words at the library instead. So if you want to hear me deliver my Y’s and wonderful words in person, that’s where you’ll have to go.
Incidentally, if you’re ever curious to see what appearances I have planned or what Gannah-related interviews or book reviews are posted on other people’s blogs, I have these listed on my “Events” page. They’re all there, in ascending order (that is, oldest to newest), and I’ve been pretty good about keeping it updated.
That reminds me: This spring I did a radio interview when I was in Iowa, and the DJ gave me a recording of it. I haven’t gotten around to trying to figure out how to post it to my blog. Maybe I’ll succeed in doing that this week. If I do, I’ll let you know in my next Situation Report.
Meanwhile, hurry over to Amazon and pre-order Words in the Wind. Then bring it with you to my author talk at the Dover Public Library in September, where I can autograph it. I’ll have some to sell there too, but the price will be the same as on Amazon, so waiting won’t save you any money.
It’s not available on Kindle yet, but it will be eventually, so if you insist on reading books electronically, you’ll have to wait a bit for that. However, The Story in the Stars is on sale for only 99c on Kindle until August 1. So if you don’t have it yet, now’s your chance.
And I think that concludes my report. Have a great weekend!