Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hitting the Send Key

I just sent off my new Shaker book to my agent and my editor before my deadline tomorrow, July 1. It's a good thing I had a deadline on this one or I'd probably still be dragging my feet and trying to figure out what happened next in the story. I had to really push myself to get Lacey's story told and say a few prayers for inspiration.

The truth is I feel that way on nearly every book I write. There comes a place in the middle where things just bog down and I find myself in the doldrums. I've always liked that word - doldrums. Doesn't it just look and sound like what it is? But on the other hand, I don't like finding myself in the doldrums when I'm writing. That's when you have to start puffing at the sails, praying up some wind or dipping your oars in the water to push your boat (story) to a better place on the sea of storytelling.

I did huff and puff and pray and row through the doldrums to get my story told and I'm hoping I got it told in an entertaining way. But with Mr. Deadline almost ready to knock on my door, I didn't have quite as much time to work it over as I usually like to have. I wanted to read it over one more time before I hit that send button, but then again I always want to read over whatever I'm working on one more time. I want to catch every mistake, change every awkward bit of phrasing, make it perfect. And I can't. I'm not perfect. I will never be perfect. There will always be one more word that I could change to bring the action more to life or that will smooth the writing. Always. I have to be satisfied with making my writing as near to perfect as I can. And face the facts that while smooth writing is certainly good, the story is more important. Tell a great story and the writing can be fixed. So of course I want to do both. Tell a great story and make my writing smooth at the same time. It's good to have goals.

I've always set myself goals even when I wasn't fortunate enough to have Mr. Deadline marching toward my door. In those days I had to set my own deadlines with hope that an editor somewhere might eventually like my story. But I did have my own deadlines that I usually missed by a few months because I always thought I'd have more writing time than I ever actually did. Still it was good to have those self-imposed deadlines so that I could stay focused on finishing and moving forward with my writing. You can talk about writing and think you want to write more than anything in the world but until you put your fingers on the keyboard or pick up a pen or pencil, no writing gets done. So thinking about when I wanted to have a project finished helped me stay motivated to dig those words out of my head.

And so I've hit the send key on a new book. That's a lot different than it used to be when I typed everything and then carried it to a copy shop to make a copy. I was the pits at doing carbons. Not a good enough typist for that. Word processors have made my fingers even lazier, but now I just have to be a good proofreader. So then after I paid the what to me was an exorbitant amount per page for copying my manuscript, I bundled it all up and took it to the post office. Now I hit a send key and off it goes. Sometimes that's almost scary easy. You just know that somewhere in that manuscript there's a glaring mistake you forgot to change but the send key has been hit. You can't call it back. You just have to sit back and wait. A nervous time for a writer like me.

At least I can hear the good things readers are saying about The Seeker, and having The Seeker out on the market is proof that I did it before. Maybe the magic will happen again with this new book I just sent in.

My first book launch is Friday night hosted by Corinth Parable Bookstore in Frankfort, KY. If you're in the area, come by and say hello and tell me what you like to read. Thanks for reading and I really appreciate those of you who follow this blog and your encouraging comments.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A New Book Cover - Coming 2011


What do you think about the cover of my next book, Angel Sister, scheduled for release in February 2011? I really like it. The little girl is a perfect Lorena and doesn't it just look like she's gazing up at her "angel sister?" I had been holding off sharing the new book cover since The Seeker has just hit the market and started landing in readers' hands. I didn't want to overwhelm everybody, but then Fiction Finder posted Angel Sister's cover on their Facebook page yesterday. So I thought I'd better get with it and let my reading friends see it first from me and share some of my excitement over another beautiful book cover.
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As you can tell, this is not a book set in my Shaker village of Harmony Hill. It's set in 1936 and is the story of the Merritt family. My mom and her three sisters used to tell stories about when they were growing up and usually ended up laughing until they cried. They had to have lived in a community with the weirdest assortment of characters you might ever want to meet. So I took all those stories I'd heard so many times, got Mom to tell me a few more, and then read some WW I history (there's a flashback romance to WW I) and put it all in the fiction blender in my head and after changing the characters into people whose stories I could tell came up with Angel Sister.
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It is without a doubt a story of my heart and I'm hoping readers will too even if it is different from my Shaker books. Don't worry I'm still working on a couple of those for the future too. But you know, that's one thing about my books. Even the Shaker books. They're different. That's good, isn't it? You don't want me to tell the same story over and over again only changing the characters' names. You want different, don't you? I certainly do. In writing stories and in reading them, too.
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But back to the book now, The Seeker. The Corinth Parable Bookstore in Frankfort, KY is hosting a book launch for me this Friday, July 2 at 7 p.m. I'll be talking a little about writing The Seeker and then those who are there will have time to talk and ask questions - my favorite part of any talk. If you're in the area, come out and join in.
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And now for this week's winner of an autographed copy of The Seeker. It's Samy of Pennyslvania. I'll be getting the book off to you sometime next week, Samy. The rest of you still have a few more chances to win if you sent me an e-mail from my website or made a comment here. And if you haven't thrown your name in the hat, you still can.
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Hope you have a great week and thank you for reading. And if you get a minute, let me know what you think of the cover for Angel Sister. Last but not least, if you're reading this, Happy Birthday, Johnny!! Today's my oldest son's birthday. Can you still claim 39 when your kid has to stretch the truth to say he's that age? But I remember my first sight of him as a little baby. He was screaming in outrage, but he was still beautiful. And so loved. My life was forever changed.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Words to Tickle an Author's Ears


What do you say to the author of a book you've just read? Well, if you like the book or even love the book, you might go to the writer's website (most writers have one these days) or find their page on Facebook and send them a message telling them how glad you were to read their book. Those messages are always fun for a writer to get. Or if you really want to share your excitement over a good story, you can post reviews in a blue zillion places on the internet. You can do that if you don't like the story too, but that's not nearly as much fun for the author. Us poor authors are needy when it comes to good words about our stories and wanting lots of stars on those reviews.
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It's hard for me not to click on all those stars for other writers if I'm reviewing a book because I know how hard that writer probably worked on the story and what hopes he or she had that everybody was going to love it. Some of us spend months, even years, digging the story out of our heads and then another year usually passes with edits, etc. from the publishers and finally the book will be out there in the hands of readers. We want you to read it. We want you to like it. We want you to more than like it. We want you to love it. Of course we know everybody in the whole world is not going to read our book and love it. Hey, if everybody in the whole world did read my book, I might be as rich as Bill Gates and not care if you liked it or not. Well, that's probably not true. I'd probably still want you to like it. Er, love it.
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So we're not talking about those books you don't like. We're talking about those books you do like. Maybe books where you actually know the author and will be telling him or her face to face what you thought of the book. I'm a hometown girl and a lot of the people around here have known me forever. So I'm always meeting people in churches or in the grocery store who know I'm a writer. They usually say something like "I love your books." Or "Are you still writing?" Or "When's the new book coming out?" Or (and no writer likes to hear this one) "I don't have time to read." But the best comments I get are the ones that tell me what they liked about the story or how they enjoyed the characters or that they sat up until the wee hours reading to find out what happened next. Or they cried over the sad parts and smiled during the happy parts. And were glad they took my book home to read.
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And now that's where I am with my new book, The Seeker, finding its way into readers' hands. I'm sitting back waiting for what people will have to say. My sisters. My kids. My friends. And hoping I'll hear some words that will tickle my ears. And see stars on Amazon or Christianbook.com or Barnes and Noble. I admit it. I'm needy. But I did like Adam and Charlotte and the story they had to tell and so it's only natural I want my reading friends to like the story, too.
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To celebrate the new book, I'm having a couple of book launches. The first one at Corinth Parable Bookstore in Frankfort, KY on Friday, July 2 at 7 p.m. and the second one at my hometown library, Anderson Co. Public Library in Lawrenceburg KY on Sunday, July 11 at 2 p.m. We always have fun talking books at these book launches. Before that I'm taking part in the Harrodsburg Book Festival this Saturday. If you're in the area any of these times, stop by and say hello. And if you've read one of my books, go ahead and say something nice. If nothing else you can say you liked the covers.
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Edna of Ohio was the winner on an autographed copy of The Seeker this week. You might be the winner next week if you've thrown your name in the hat by sending me a message or commenting here. Edna and Charmaine, your books are in the mail.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Daddy's Shoulder


Is there any safer place to be than with your head on your daddy's shoulder? This is my oldest son with one of his twin boys. With five kids he gets plenty of practice being dad. My other son has four kids so he's a busy dad too. Both are hands on dads who can do whatever needs doing for their kids. It is without a doubt a blessing to be surrounded by good dads in my family.
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My dad was a farmer, the son of a farmer and the grandson of two farmers. I don't know back before that, but I'm guessing the great grandfathers worked the land too. Dad didn't much like going to school. Only went to high school one day, but loved solving problems and sometimes worked algebra problems for fun. He liked competitive card games and horseshoe pitching and clay court croquet. He wasn't all that excited when I named my son after him because he'd never liked his name all that much and always went by his initials or his second name. But he loved his grandkids. He taught them to say what six times seven was when they were four. He liked to do math in his head and didn't care if he had a calculator once they came out on the market. He fought the onslaught of thistles and cedars in his fields with a hoe and an axe. Won some battles, but lost the war. He started driving when he was about ten years old. Nobody had to get a license back then. He rode a motorcycle across the country to Oregon to spend the summer with some cousins there when he was twenty-one. He was the only son of his father and he mourned that his branch of our family name wasn't going to die out since he had three daughters. I was the last daughter and supposed to be the son, but he loved me anyway.
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I wish now I had asked him more about his trip out west, more about everything that he did in the years before he was my dad, but we don't realize when we're young how we're going to miss knowing those stories someday. How about your dads? Did they ever tell you about how things were when they were kids? I hope they're still here to tell you stories.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Too Many Words


The letters on the keypads of my keyboard are disappearing. You think that means I've typed too many words? Look at it! The n and m are completely gone. The l is going, and the e is half gone. And the e key is worse than disappearing. It's collapsing. Still works, thank goodness. Can you imagine trying to write anything in English without an e key? I tried to hook up a new, well actually an old keyboard to the computer today. I could see all the letters on the keypads but unfortunately my computer chose to ignore that keyboard. So maybe it's time to go keyboard shopping. Before the e stops working altogether. And me needing to edit Shaker 4 before Mr. Deadline breaks down the door and lets me know time's up.
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I'm having troubles with more than the keyboard. The internet keeps freezing up. Or actually "not responding." Do you think the Lord gave us computers because He wanted us to learn patience? Or how to handle irritation and overcome frustration? Or learn to write without using the letter e? That would take some creative thinking. In this paragraph alone there are 34 e's. If I didn't skip over a few when I did my count.
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I'm not frustrated over my book, The Seeker, landing in people's mailboxes this week and pushing their way out onto the store shelves. We decided to stay with the July 2 book launch at Corinth Parable Bookstores even though people are already picking up the book. The store may offer hotdogs to bring people in. Free food is always an enticement. Plus I'll be talking about how I wore out a keyboard writing about Shakers. Some of you might want to hear that while you're chowing down. We usually have a fun question and answer time after I talk a little about writing. That's always my favorite part of any talk. I like trying to come up with answers. Maybe that's why I like writing. The challenge of coming up with answers about what my characters are going to do next.
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Questions, anyone?
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P.S. Don't forget to send me a message to throw your name in the hat for a free autographed copy of The Seeker if you haven't done so. Two winners so far - Charmaine and Shirley. If you've already entered, you don't have to enter again to be in the drawings. The names stay in until I've done all the promised drawings. Check out my website for details.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

My First Christian Writers Conference


Here I am with Virginia Smith, writer and great keynote speaker at the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference. Ginny did a great job of firing up all us writers at the conference with her three speeches on The Road to Publication. She told us about her bumpy road as a writer when she went for years without selling any of her writing and collected 143 rejections. She kept all of them in a file. I've collected my share, probably more than that, but I certainly saw no need to keep them all or count them. The ones I wanted to count were the ones that said yes. I threw those "we're sorry" letters away. Or most of them. I probably still have a few scattered in among the pages of my writing journal. I did keep a running record of my submissions and the responses. You can believe I put stars beside the ones that sent checks for those first short pieces I sold back when I was learning to write. That was before I tackled a novel. The checks were very small but the knowing that somebody was willing to pay anything at all to publish my words was encouragement worth thousands.
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This is the only picture I got. I was too busy talking to people and listening to people and running from the bookstore to my classroom and back for picture taking. And making friends. I did a lot of that. Everybody was so nice to a first-timer like me. Somehow I've missed out on writers' conferences prior to this. Most Christian writers attend conferences, but that was something I didn't even know they had until after I'd published my first Christian novel, The Scent of Lilacs back in 2005 and met a few other Christian writers at book fairs. Those writers were always surprised to hear I had never been to a conference. Well, now I won't have to surprise them. I have a Christian writers' conference under my belt.
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I taught three classes and people actually came to hear what I had to say about making characters come to life and about revising. I was sure people would avoid that last class about revising because that's not something most writers like to do. But they came and they listened and I hope went home with some idea of how to polish their writing to make it better. And I hope they were encouraged. That's what I wanted to do. Encourage the people I met. I told the lady who is going to be one of the coordinators of the conference next year that I didn't think there was anything better than being an encourager - a role she had felt comfortable in for years as a pastor's wife. And now she was going to be an encourager of Christian writers.
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My book is hitting the stores and people's mailboxes. So much fun. And the winner of the second week's drawing for a free autographed copy of The Seeker is Shirley Garwood. Congrats, Shirley! I'll be getting in touch to find out your mailing address. It's not too late for you to join the fun by e-mailing me or leaving a comment here on One Writer's Journal. That's how you can add your name to the pot for the rest of the drawings. I'm still planning to give away five or six more books.
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Enjoy your week and take a few minutes to read a good book. I've heard that Gabhart woman has a new one out. ;-)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

On the Road to a Story


This is the road through the middle of the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill near where I live. It's peaceful looking, isn't it? No traffic runs on it today except maybe what the workers of the living history museum there use to carry supplies, etc. But at one time this was the main road for everybody wanting to go between Harrodsburg and Lexington. And it wasn't peaceful at all during the time of my Shaker novel that is being shipped out to stores and readers now. The Seeker takes place during the first two years of the Civil War and soldiers were continually marching along this road between battles and skirmishes. John Hunt Morgan actually mustered in his troops in the middle of the Shaker village since it was a central location for the soldiers from the nearby towns. Later Morgan came back through the village on one of his guerilla raids through the area. The Shakers hid their horses, but prepared food for the soldiers. They did that all through the war. Before the Battle at Perryville, the Shakers served 1,500 meals on one day to soldiers marching through the village. And I set my characters of The Seeker right down in the middle of it all.
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That's one of the fun things about writing historical fiction. I get to read history out of the history books and then say what if this woman or this man (my characters) was there. What would they do? How would it change their lives? The War Between the States certainly changed our country and the lives of the people who lived then. That included the everyday life of the Shaker village.
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The Seeker is being shipped out to stores and those people who pre-ordered copies should be getting them in the mail soon. I got a couple of boxes of books today to have for my book launch in July and to take with me to the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference Friday and Saturday. I'll be teaching three classes. Two on "Making Characters Come to Life" and one on "Revise, Revise, Revise." Have no idea how many people will be in my classes, but hoping a few people sign up so that we can have fun learning together. I taught some writing classes for Community Ed several years ago and enjoyed teaching. But I like writing better.
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I did finally type "The End" on my work in progress, Shaker book four. But really that's just another beginning. Now I have to go back and pay attention to my teaching about "Revise, Revise, Revise." I'm anxious to read back through it and see what I need to do to make it better. Anxious as in excited as well as anxious in worried that I'll see major holes that need patching. I'm hoping nothing too major since Mr. Deadline is stomping ever nearer.
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I'm doing a guest interview on Margaret Daley's Blog tomorrow, June 10. Check it out at www.margaretdaley.blogspot.com. She had some great questions and if you make a comment there you'll be entered in yet another drawing for a copy of The Seeker.
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I'll draw for another winner in my book giveaways this weekend. Check out the details on my website, http://www.annhgabhart.com/. Hope I get to meet some of you this week at the KCWC. Two whole days of nothing but talking about writing and books. Sounds like great fun! If you're in the area (Elizabethtown, KY is really close to a lot of towns in KY) and want to come, they are taking same day registrations at the door on Friday and Saturday morning. You can check things out at their website. http://www.kychristianwriters.com/.

Monday, June 7, 2010

From My Hand to Yours


From my hand to yours - I have my first winner in my giveaway. Charmaine, you're the winner on an autographed copy of The Seeker!! Thanks for commenting here on my blog and entering my giveaway. I'll be e-mailing you to get a mailing address. Somebody else will win next week and the next and the next. So keep sending in those entries and you might win a copy too.
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A new book is so much fun. And a little nerve racking too, because you're never sure how readers are going to respond. Will they like the story? You sit on pins and needles and wait for the official reviews. That is, the ones in magazines and at on-line book review sites. And the unofficial reviews. Those are the ones from friends and family. You want everybody to love your book. But that doesn't always happen. Once on my last Hollyhill books, I got a terrible review from a reviewer who had loved my first Hollyhill books. But then other reviewers liked the book she hated. So you never know. But I'm not wanting to think about unhappy reviews. I want to think about all the readers loving my new story. And I think people will enjoy the Civil War setting and my two main characters, Charlotte and Adam. That's the thing, most of the time. If readers like your characters, then the story works.
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Of course sometimes readers are supposed to hate your characters. Last night I got a reinforcement of that when a reader came up to me and said she was scared to death while she was reading The Believer. I couldn't figure out what in the story would have scared her, but then she said, "When that Colton showed up, I just had to close the book and do something else for a while." Now while that's not usually what a writer wants to hear - close the book - in this case it wasn't all bad. It meant I had made my bad guy real to her. Of course, I think I'd still rather hear "I couldn't put it down." That's always music to a writer's ear. A lot better than the one where people tell you, "Oh, I used to love to read, but I don't have time to read anymore." That one's sad for me and for them. Reading is so much fun!!
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I've only seen a couple of reviews so far for The Seeker. Both favorable. Four stars for Romantic Times Book Reviews where they call the book "an amazing read." Amazing as in good, I'm hoping. And then the Booklist review says "Gabhart's absorbing coming-of-age Christian historical novel deftly juxtaposes Adam's and Charlottee's internal faith journeys against a backdrop of unusual settings." I'm not sure who is coming of age in the story, but the review is still nice. So now I'm sitting back and waiting for your reviews. For those of you who read my book to let me know what you think. Well, the sitting back part's not true. Actually I'm frantically working to finish Shaker book 4. Mr. Deadline is stomping my way. And I'll be teaching at the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference Friday and Saturday about coming up with great characters and revising to make your story better. So I need to figure out how to talk about doing those things. And it's summer with a million other things going on. You know what I mean. You're there too, I'm sure.
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And don't forget, it's not too late to pitch your name in the hat if you want to get in on my book giveaways. Just leave a comment or send me an e-mail from my website. It's always great to hear from readers and friends.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A New Book in Hand


It's fun when the doorbell rings and it's the Fed Ex driver bringing a new book. Especially when it's your new book or I suppose in this case - my new book! The Seeker is all printed and ready to go. This was an early rush "so I could see it first" copy but the others will soon be on the way to me and to stores. At least that's what I'm hoping. So if you want to be in the drawings I'm doing all through the month of June e-mail me from my website, http://www.annhgabhart.com/ or leave a comment here. You know something like "Yeah sure, I'd like to win a free book." I even pay the postage. That's because I enjoy hearing from reading and writing friends and I enjoy sharing my books.
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It looks good. They always look good when I see all my words printed out and bound up in a neat book. A lot of people are saying the book as we know it is going to disappear and I'm no teller of the future, but I do know I like holding a book in my hands and turning real pages. You may feel different. A lot of people really enjoy their e-book reading devices and I might like them too for certain books and for researching on the fly, but there's still something about settling down with a real book. And a nice tall glass of iced tea. And oh what the heck, let's eat a little chocolate too. Then we can let our imaginations take off for who knows where. Maybe a little town in the middle of Kentucky. Maybe a world no one's ever heard of before. Maybe a Shaker Village back during the Civil War. That last one sounds interesting. ;o)
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Thanks for reading. Now I've got to get back to work searching for those elusive two words "The End" on my next Shaker book. I'm thinking about the titles The Blessed or The Given. Of course I realize you have no idea what the story is about except that it does return to my Shaker village of Harmony Hill. So what do you think about those titles? Would they catch your interest?