Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Fifith Tuesday Surprise!

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Since Sunday April 5 is Easter, the most holy of all days for Christians, I thought I'd give you a taste of my Easter poetry from An Easter Walk, copyright 2009. Enjoy!
(Both of my devotionals are available as ebooks at Amazon.com.)

During His Easter Walk

He found
    No kingdom of men,
        But of Heaven.
    No gold for a crown,
        But thorns.
    No bone was broken,
        But a heart.
    He saved other,
        But not himself.
He gave
    Us the solemn sacrifice
    Of Christ,
    Savior of our souls
    Giver of life.


During Your Easter Walk

Have you experienced the Living Lord?
    Seen the Cross?
    Been to the tomb?
    Felt His scars?
    Seen the storm pass?
    Felt the earth tremble?
    Been filled with joy?
    Felt faith take flight?
    Your soul filled with calm assurance?

During your Easter walk,
May you come to the Cross
And see for yourself—
He lives!

May your Easter be blessed and your walk always with Him.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

March Author Interview: Susan Meissner

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Susan Meissner's books first came to my attention through an article in the American Christian Fiction Writers Association journal. She was included in a list of Christian literary fiction writers and I had to investigate. I started with A Sound Among the Trees. I've been mesmerized by her lyrical prose, intricate plots, and deep characters ever since.

Here’s my mini book review of my latest Susan Meissner read:
Secrets of a Charmed Life is a lyrical exploration of the effects the choices we make have on our lives. Set in the disruptive time of the Blitz of London and the evacuation of the city's children, the story will hold you mesmerized. A Must Read.

ZM: I’m so thrilled that I get a chance to interview a writer whose writing embodies what I’m reaching for in my own work. This quote from your interview on Women’s Fiction Writers says it all to me: 

“I was a Christian who wrote fiction, so I started out writing Christian fiction thinking that’s where I belonged. But I found that what I was really writing was fiction that fit my worldview, which happened to be Christian. I knew I was more like a baker who is a Christian and who wants to bake amazing bread that people can’t stop talking about rather than a baker who bakes Christian bread.”

Tell us about your journey into publishing.

Susan: I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love to write. It’s always been an itch that I had to scratch. I started out career-wise in journalism, but after ten years in newspapers, I knew what I really wanted to write was fiction. I quit my job as editor of a little weekly newspaper to write my first novel. It was published, by the goodness and favor of God because I had no idea what I was doing, in 2004. I’ve been writing books ever since. I started out in the inspirational market but moved to the general marketplace in 2014. Secrets of a Charmed Life is my sixteenth novel.

ZM: I love how many of your books weave the past with the present. What was the process that led you to this type of storytelling?

Susan: I’ve always liked mulling over how the past informs the present. History shows us what we value, what we fear, what we are willing to fight for, and what we don’t want to live without. When two separate and perhaps even unrelated story lines revolve around the same theme, we can see that there are aspects about us that don’t change, even though the years change. In The Shape of Mercy, which is the first book I wrote using this kind of past and present construction, I used a diary to link the two stories together. That book seemed to strike a chord in my readers. They wanted more books like that. In Lady in Waiting I used a ring to dovetail the story of Lady Jane Grey with a modern-day Jane. In A Fall of Marigolds the item that bridges both stories is a scarf. With Secrets of A Charmed Life, Thistle House is the constant in every time change as are the paintings of the Umbrella Girls.

ZM: I’ve classified your books as literary fiction, but I want to include them as women’s fiction, too. Would you agree? Do you think women’s fiction is limiting for writers? Do you favor a specific genre? 

Susan: “Women’s Fiction” is really just a way of describing a novel’s intended audience rather than how to find that book by genre in a bookstore or online. Men read literary fiction, but would not necessarily read what is classified as Women’s Fiction. WF can have a decided literary feel, but it’s not targeted to male readers. It can also have a definite comedic slant, which I don’t think of as being literary in tone.  I have heard my kind of book called an “upmarket novel,” which Writers Digest defines as literary fiction with commercial appeal – my favorite genre.  I don’t think classifying my books as Women’s Fiction has any kind of limiting effect if we understand it’s just a way of describing who the books are primarily for.

ZM: Ha! I like the sound of "commercial appeal", too. Many craft books stress that writers must read and read a lot. Who is your favorite author, or what is your favorite genre? What draws you to a book you read for enjoyment?

Susan: I have a number of favorite authors whose storytelling skills just amaze me. Two of those writers are Geraldine Brooks and Kate Morton. I like books that deal with historical events and multiple time periods, and that are peopled with memorable characters. I can usually tell by the first two or three chapters if a book is going to completely woo and wow me. What I am usually carried away by is voice. Every novelist I love has the ability to give their characters a believable voice. The books I like best are the ones where I forget the author even exists and that I am reading stuff she pulled out of her imagination.

ZM: Finally, what question do you wish interviewers would ask, but they never do?

Susan: What a fun question! And a hard one… I suppose I wish interviewers would ask if writing novels gets easier the more I write so that I could answer with an emphatic “No!” I used to be under the impression that when you do something long enough it becomes second-nature to you. But that’s not the case with writing novels; at least it’s not that way for me. Even though I’ve written sixteen books, I still approach every blank page with a healthy dose of apprehension and trepidation. I raise the bar higher with every book I write but I still start out the same way when I begin a new one – with a whole lot of nothing. That part thrills me, but it also scares me to death. Starting a new book always feels like I am writing one for the first time and haven’t a clue as to what I am doing!

ZM: It terrifies me, too! Thanks, Susan, for taking the time to let me "grill" you. ;-)

Susan Meissner is a multi-published author, speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. Her novels include A Fall of Marigolds, named by Booklist’s Top Ten women’s fiction titles for 2014, and The Shape of Mercy, named by Publishers Weekly as one of the 100 Best Novels of 2008. A California native, she attended Point Loma Nazarene University. Susan is a pastor’s wife and a mother of four young adults. When she’s not working on a novel, Susan writes small group curriculum for her San Diego church. Visit Susan at her website: www.susanmeissner.com on Twitter at @SusanMeissner or at www.facebook.com/susan.meissner

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Four Books: March Mini Book Reviews: S. Bradley, L. M. Bujold, B. Freethy, S. Meissner

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I have some lovely reads for you this month. Enjoy!

KEPT Sally Bradley: Christian Romance

Deeply drawn characters carry this romance to a suspenseful conclusion. The discussion of Christianity ties directly into the characters' lives and is not an after thought or add-in. Good Read.

MEMORY Lois McMaster Bujold: Science Fiction (of the very best kind)

In Memory, Bujold takes her iconic Miles Vorkosigan on a whirlwind ride and shows what a coming of adult status really means. You must read all of this series. I promise even those who don't usually like SF will fall in love with Miles. 

SUMMER SECRETS Barbara Feethy: Women's Fiction with elements of Romance

The secrets that bind the McKenna sisters have also strangled their lives. Then, a dashing stranger, bent on the discovery of their past, throws a twist into their stories. Wonderful Read. You won't put it down. 

SECRETS OF A CHARMED LIFE Susan Meissner: Women's Fiction

This is a lyrical exploration of the effects the choices we make have on our lives. Set in the disruptive  time of the Blitz of London and the evacuation of the city's children, the story will hold you mesmerized. Must Read.

Mother's Day Update: It was a last minute rush, but I made the deadline for the first contest I plan to enter this year. Whew! Now, I have 45 days to get twenty more pages polished and the synopsis expanded to two to three pages. Yikes!

Next week: Author Interview of Susan Meissner. You don't want to miss this one. ;-) 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

March Tip: Five Helpful Links on Queries

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Querying is always a daunting task for writers. Here's some of the latest posts I've seen about them.

What No to Do When Querying K. Whipkey has a great list of dos and don'ts.

The Hunt is On: How to Find an Agent Janice Hardy has six steps in the process.

And some oldies from the Books and Writer's Forum. If you've ever been curious about a writing forum, this is the place to be. The Research and Craft and Writers Exercises folders are golden. (Can you tell I'm a member? ;-)

Advice Please! Dig around in this one. Though is specific to Fantasy writer Julie, there's a lot of general info, too.

Query Help Dig in this one, too. Check out the query checklist for some lovely advice.

Query Based on First Twenty Pages This is a great resource, too.

Next Week: I'll have four more lovely reads to review. See you then! ;-)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

IWSG: What do you need to give up to write?

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Insecure Writers Support Group

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time.

Be sure to visit our fearless leader--Alex J. Cavanaugh and his co-hosts for the March 4 posting of the IWSG will be Chemist Ken, Suzanne Sapseed, and Shannon Lawrence!
First thing I have to give up to write, is the Fear of Failure.  

Fear of Failure-You don't succeed without experiencing failure. Just make sure you fail forward.
~~ Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Old Bridge, N. J.

I found this list by chance through a radio station I listen to--The JOY FM --and the very first on thing to give up for Lent on the list, really hit me where my writer's heart lives. That's the inspiration for my first Insecure Writers Support Group post. I hope you find some help here.

40 Things to Give Up for Lent

Writers are very prone to the Fear of Failure. That's what keeps up from writing at all. It also causes us to quail at the thought of revisions and editing. Are we scared of writing a query or synopsis? Yep, that's the Fear of Failure, too.

So, how do you Fall Forward? Here's some ideas that came to me while I contemplated this idea.
  • The only bad words are those that never get written. Having to revise is a good thing. Really.
  • Risking a hard critique is also Failing Forward because we can learn some things that don't work as well as we thought and we can learn to do them better.
  • Rejections hurt! But we can use them to spur Failing Forward when we double down and rework our submission.
  • Contests are important, not because we win (though that would be nice), but because we can Fail Forward with the feedback that adds to our writing from people who have no prior knowledge of the MS. Which is what happens when we query.
As a writer and a person, I'm giving up the Fear of Failure. From now on, I want to embrace failure as a learning, growing, improving occasion. 

Remember! Take every failure as a chance to Fail Forward. ;-)

Next Week: I'm going to dip my toe into the Query Game. At least, I'm going to share a few links to info about that necessary step. ;-)