Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sneak peek of Christmas Jars Reunion now available

You've begged, you've prodded, you've sent threatening mail. OK, maybe that was just my mother. Nevertheless, I'm pleased to make available a sneak peek of Christmas Jars Reunion.

Click here to read now.

Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Checking in from the 11th floor

A moment of silence, please: Vacation is officially over.

I dropped the rest of the gang off at the airport for a flight back to Virginia and I checked into a downtown hotel. I do enjoy the quiet and it's certainly conducive to working long hours on a manuscript, but I sure miss the havoc in my mother-law's basement and listening to my loving, kind and patient children "interact".

One daughter opened a handmade greeting card store at the table and forcefully recruited her brother as an employee. The other daughter took special orders for Zoob creations while the baby bounced for hours on an exercise trampoline signing Hannah Montana.

Yes, I miss them all terribly. Maybe I'll order room service? That will make me feel better!

So what's next? I will spend the next several days editing The Cross Gardener. Here's what the process looks like:

1. Submit a first draft to both my agent and editor at Penguin. (DONE)

2. Wait anxiously for feedback. (DONE)

3. Toss and turn. (DONE)

4. Make sure my email and cell phone are working properly when I haven't heard anything right away. (DONE)

5. Toss and turn some more. (DONE)

6. Get first response from agent. (This is typical, her feedback isn't nearly as detailed as an editor's.) (DONE)

7. Receive my editorial letter! It's a little old-school, but it's how many editors still prefer to work. A week after submitting my draft, and with no communication during the meantime, I received an 8-page letter opening with her general "big picture" reaction. Then it goes to what she loved, what she didn't, and chapter-by-chapter feedback. Most of the suggestions are up to me whether or not to implement. Some will take minutes to change, others will take hours. The overall feeling is great. They loved it and want to make it even better. What a coincidence, so do I! (DONE)

8. Editing begins. I have 2-3 weeks to make my changes and submit a new draft. In reality, the finished product will look very similar to what they've already read. Fortunately no major, structural changes were requested. Because I've been on vacation with little or no time to edit, I'm down to less than a week to make my edits. Worry? Who, me?

9. By August 3 I'll submit a new draft which will be read by a wider universe at Penguin. Thus far only my editor and her boss have read it. The next draft will be distributed to quite a few readers, including the head-honcho-publisher.

10. All comments will be filtered by my editor and reported back to me within a few days. Hopefully the second round of changes, if any, are very minor. I'll submit my final draft asap.

And there you have it! The book will go to press for Advance Reading Copies sometime in mid-August and by September 1 their sales team will be pitching the book to the media, book buyers, wholesalers, etc. They'll have six months to get the book properly buzzed and ready for hardcover release, and they'll use every minute of it!

Then what? I'll begin the second manuscript of my two-book deal and submit it by Thanksgiving. Whew! I need a vacation :)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Wright Words: Second Chances and Recovering Charles

Wright Words: Second Chances and Recovering Charles

One year ago I was locked in a hotel room in my hometown of Woodstock, Virginia writing round-the-clock to finish my most recent novel, Recovering Charles.

The book is set in New Orleans just as Hurricane Katrina hits. It’s about a man whose estranged father, who had been living in New Orleans, goes missing after the storm. Luke hadn’t spoken to his father for nearly two years. He and Charles quit speaking to each other after Charles made one too many bad decisions.

Luke finally decides to make his way to the beaten city and there tries to find his father or, at least, find out what happened to him. Not only does Luke not know where his father is, he doesn’t know for sure what his father has become.

Luke is searching for the man named Charles who always needed money or some other favor, but he might also be looking for the loving father that left him years before. Charles stopped being that father when he gave in to his demons.

Luke gave up on Charles and Charles stopped bothering Luke.

All but the very best of us hold grudges. We righteously banish ex-spouses, estranged family members, friends who betray us, and other unpleasant people to an exile enforced by averted eyes and caller-ID. As long as we tell ourselves that – one day – we will make things right, we can justify our behavior as punishment for what we have suffered.

In the book, the possibility that Charles might be dead shakes Luke’s self-righteousness. Without an “I’m sorry, son” there could be no “I forgive you, Dad.” Luke begins to believe that Charles was looking for a second chance. Luke’s search for his father takes on new urgency as he realizes that he might just want to give him one.

So, who deserves a second chance? Where is the threshold of forgiveness? When one of my kids does something wrong, I’m quick to explain that they can make it right and get a clean slate. Children surely deserve second chances as they learn about consequences.

What about a cheating spouse? An abusive father? A vindictive lawyer? The drunk driver who kills a loved one? Do any of them deserve a second chance?

I know someone on the receiving end of each of those situations. And in each case, they forgave. None of the offenses could be undone but the bitterness and hatred dissolved once the offended decided to offer a second chance.

I also know people who proudly lug around grudges collected over a lifetime. When they let one go, it is often just to make room for another. They are slow to give out second chances because they know it means they have to give up one of their precious grudges.

When I started writing Recovering Charles, I didn’t know exactly how it would end. But Luke led me through the story and dictated its conclusion.

I learned a lot about myself as “what does he do next” began to reflect “what would I do”.

I’m still not sure that Luke and I are all that similar but I do know that I’ve learned to believe in second chances. I plan to give as many as I can.

I sure hope to get a few, too.