Monday, June 29, 2009

What Happened Next

OK, for the second time, Shawna Williams' short story "What Happened Next" is appearing in an online magazine. Check out Muscadine Lines at to read the whole mag, or for just Shawna's story.

I LOVE this story--I've read it I don't know how many times and I just don't get tired of it! It is such a hoot. Shawna is SO talented!!!!

Sunday, June 28, 2009


OK, I've started and erased this post a couple of times already. I guess I'm just not sure what to write about--I'm more in the mood to vent, rant, whatever. Searching for markets to submit short stories to is exhausting and frustrating. The ones that pay well want very specific types of writing--usually a bit more highbrow than what I write. You know, I was a nerd (ok, punk-nerd) in school, and pretty much stayed the off-beat hybrid of intellectual and down-home girl. I love literary writing to a degree. Symbolism rocks. Really. I love writing that has meaning and a message. The Picture of Dorian Gray, for instance, is one of my favorite novels. (Well, minus the prattling monologues by Lord Henry. If you read that book, just skip whatever he says because it has nothing to do with the actual story.)

But I do not get some of the stuff that passes for writing these days. And I definitely don't get how it's encroaching on formerly intelligent yet lowbrow venues. Literary fantasy? Not like Chronicles of Narnia or Lord of the Rings literary--I'm talking fantasy written like obscure poetry in prose form. There's an online spec-fic magazine I submitted to recently, and I had never read anything in it before. I had only submitted to try and land a pro-pay publication. Well, I decided to check out one of their stories. Holy cow. I felt like I needed to be sitting in a coffee shop wearing all black, while people around me buzzed about how the story so accurately captured the dark plight of humanity, blah, blah, blah.

More like bleh, bleh, bleh.

I just finished Ted Dekker's Boneman's Daughters. THAT book has some great symbolism, and real meaning. And it's written in sentences that actually make sense. And the characters have actual traits. I was sucked into the story, and could actually follow it. (I'd like to know where he'd submit a short story for publication--well, you know, if he were doing so under another name cos you know darn well he'd get published anywhere he put a story the second they saw his name on there!).

Anyway, I'm not against getting away from traditional fantasy. Actually, that type of writing can get boring pretty quick. Only so many ways a land can be threatened by an evil king...oh, yeah, you know the story cos it's been done to death. (Not that it's all bad--Eragon, et al, rocks.) I do think uniqueness is good! But when the writing becomes all about experimentation with sentence structure and there's nothing to connect the reader to the ends up feeling clinical to me. I guess it all boils down to a quote from When Harry Met Sally..."That doesn't mean you're deep or anything." (I have yet to find a situation where there is no applicable quote from When Harry Met Sally :).

My point? Hm. Not sure I have one. Writing needs to be unique, and insightful, and thought-out. But when the writing is meant to show off the writer's "depth" instead of bringing the reader a really cool experience he/she can get lost in, it's gone too far for me. I don't want mindless drivel either (not mentioning any names here...ahem, Twilight....99.98% of commercial romance novels...), but I want a story that isn't all hacked up to show off the writer's intellect.

OK, I feel a bit better now.

And in case you're wondering, the magazine I mentioned rejected my story. Oh, now there's a shocker :P.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Finding Markets

This is the most frustrating part of writing short stories--searching for markets.

Coming up with ideas and putting them on paper is the fun part. Even editing and revising can be loads of fun! But searching data-bases to find magazines. Bleh.

First of all, the pay ranges from nothing to professional rates (5-10 cents per word). Naturally, one wants to start at the top :). But that's not going to happen for most of us. I've got my first three stories coming out in 4-the-luv markets. I'm lucky, though. They are all very professionally-run magazines. The fact that I'm not getting paid doesn't bug me a bit because I feel like my stories are being showcased in professional markets.

Here are links to those mags, btw. My stories aren't in them yet, but will be shortly:

CFOM is a must-read for Christian writers--my story "Eyes on the Hilltop" will be featured in this in just one more week!

My short story "The Artist" will be in this one in a couple of months (not sure of the exact date yet). Mindflights is an awesome Christian-run speculative magazine.

My longest piece, "Willing Blood," will be in The Absent Willow Review in August.
I have been really impressed with the quality of writing and artwork featured in this secular magazine. It's good, traditional writing--no artsy, high-brow, experimental junk. I hate that, and I'm distraught to see that some speculative magazines are turning to it. This month has a story I just love--"In The Valley of Dry Bones" by Jason Rolfe. (This is a dark magazine, so be warned--most of the stories have at least an element of horror.)

Speaking of artsy,'s so hard to tell what a magazine wants without really reading an issue. That's fine for online mags. But print mags are a different story--I just can't go buying sample copies of them all! I've already gotten burned on that. For one, I bought a copy of two mags that turned out to be horrible. Experimental nonsense. And another spec-fic mag I wanted to try out--The Leading Edge--never sent my copy. I think I'm going to be writing a letter to the editor this week.

So, I end up searching places like and to find magazines. These are great websites, btw. But you still have to check out each magazine individually.

Anyway, I am really trying to find some magazines that can put me into the "professional" arena--ones that pay pro rates. It's not the money I'm after quite honestly, it's the label. And the chance to join SFWA.

Ugh, I feel like all I've done all day is search online for places to submit my latest short stories!

I've sent a few more queries out for Finding Angel, too. That's my other least favorite thing about writing. But that's a whole different whine-fest :).

Monday, June 22, 2009

Latest Drawing

Not quite sure where this came from--it just sort of popped into my head tonight. I call it Dragon Eye. It's oil pastel. I've not done much with pastels before. I did a pastel series once, in high school, based on the song "Careless Memories" by Duran Duran. It was odd, to me, but I still earned a perfect score in AP art. I think even though the drawing was crude in that series, the emotion made it through. Same with this?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Vanishing Sculptor--review

Well, it's not Father's Day anymore--not here anyway--it's technically way early the next day. But I still think it appropriate to link this book to Father's Day, since it's about a girl on a quest to save her dad.

But...honestly, what else do I say about this? It's part of the DragonKeepers series--a prequel...sorta :). It's written by Donita K. Paul. I really don't need to go any farther. The DragonKeepers series is one of my favorites EVER, and The Vanishing Sculptor is right up there with the rest of the books in the series. Awesome characterization, great action, wit, vocabulary building--her books have it all.

I love that this book takes place in a different time and country, but still has a couple of the old characters. I won't say who, but they brought a smile to my face!

Tipper's father, Verrin Schope, disappears one day. Tipper has to sell his artwork in order to make ends meet, but in doing so she inadvertantly puts her father in mortal danger. She and a rather interesting band of friends head off on a quest to save her father's life.

If you loved the DragonKeepers series, you will love this book. If you haven't read the

Friday, June 19, 2009

Naming Artwork

Yesterday I said I have a story about naming artwork. Well, here it is :).

I think most artists dabble in different media (pencil/charcoal drawing, pen and ink, painting, sculpting, ceramics, etching, mosaics, multi-media, etc.) but we tend to each have our specialty. Mine is charcoal drawing, as you can see by the sketches I've posted on here. I discovered charcoal pencils back in junior high, and they have been my favorite ever since. I am a pretty good 2D painter, great at painting figurines, lousy sculptor--I've tried lots of things, but always end up back in pencil.

But, in high school you are given assignments and can't always choose which medium you want to use for a particular project. At one point, we were studying watercolors. As far as paints go, this is my LEAST favorite. Not that I don't like watercolor paintings--I just hate creating them myself.

So, the teacher assigned us to paint a cityscape of Tampa, and the best ones would be chosen to hang in the Tampa Museum of Art. I picked this night-time scene with the downtown buildings all lit up in flourescent greens, oranges and yellows. If you know anything about watercolors, you know this is probably not the best picture for this medium. I knew that, too, I'm sure on some level, but I picked it anyway.

About half-way through painting this I became completely frustrated. It was coming out all wrong. Too dark, the bright lights were bleeding into the rest. It looked NOTHING like the photo I was trying to paint from. I began just basically flinging the paint onto the paper.

The teacher came over and looked at my picture.

She told me she LOVED it.

It was such a great expression.


I'm sure I looked at her like she was nuts.

I named the painting "Tampa Abstract." And it WAS hung in the Tampa Museum of Art.

(Maybe I should change the title of Finding Angel to Amazing Bestseller.)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Another Sketch

Well, here's the latest sketch. My family went camping at a friends about a month ago--they have a small farm and had a weekend-long "retirement party" and we just parked our camper on their property. We got to take the dogs and everything. I spent half the time taking pictures of the kids picking veggies in the garden and swimming, but my favorite thing was their cows. I swear they actually wanted their pictures taken! They looked right at me so intently, and would move into formation....

OK, I know they didn't really. But their somber expressions were so cool. And those floppy ears just killed me :).

I'm doing nothing more than quick sketching lately. I don't really have time to invest in serious art these days, but I'm so glad to be drawing again. There was a time in my life when that was ALL I did (other than read) and I never thought I'd give it up for years at a time. It was who I was in high school--the artist. I've already talked about the road I took away from that in other posts, so I won't go into it again, but it's just so cool to be back :).

Update--A friend just looked at this and emailed me--she said, "trippy cow." I like that, so that is now the official title of this piece. Trippy cow. I have a great story about naming artwork that I will share next time...

Focus on the positive...

So, what do you do when you feel bleh about your writing? Focus on the stuff you've done right.

I've been feeling discouraged. Despite the prayers of my readers (thank you, btw!) and getting positive feedback in my rejection letters. Huh? Yeah, my last one for a short story said it was "well-written" but I guess was not quite the right style for the anthology. Even rejections can be positive.

So, I grab onto those words.

Yes, I can write.

Yes, I can write well.

And here's proof:

TEN sales of personal essays so far. Some of those are the same story sold multiple times.

THREE short stories accepted in online magazines:

"Eyes on the Hilltop" will be in Christian Fiction Online Magazine's July issue. That's twelve days away--woo-hoo! (Not that I'm counting :).

"The Artist" will be in Mindflights sometime in the next few months--still waiting on notice of the exact publish date. THIS is one based on a character in my book (so it's fantasy)! It's something that happened to her many years before the time frame of the novel. If you like this, you'll like my book :). Many of you are probably familiar with Mindflights--it's a Christian-friendly fantasy/sci-fi webzine.

"Willing Blood" will be in The Absent Willow Review on August 16 (through Sept 15). This is a dark fantasy/horror story. I really like this magazine so far (it's a secular mag, for those of you who want to know). I hadn't really heard of them before I submmitted, but now that I've been reading some of the stories in there, I'm really impressed, and even more proud to say they accepted my story!

OK, see--that cheers me up.

I've sent out a few more queries, and it felt really good to include real, solid writing credits. Now, I just have to stop worrying that it's not enough. And focus on getting more. I've got several stories out there being reviewed for different publications, as well as a few in the works. And there's the "well-written" but rejected one I need to find a home for.

I've made a lot of progress on my second book (Seeking Unseen) lately, too. I've got the prologue and the first fifteen chapters written (about 30,000 words so far). It looks like it will be about the same length as Finding Angel. Maybe a little shorter. It's been fun writing so far because of the addition of a new main character. Can't tell ya about that, though, or it will ruin Finding Angel for you!

Okey, doke. Time to take the kiddos to the pool. What else is there to do in Florida? It's hot. Always. Bleh. (Oops, better find something positive to focus on....)

Monday, June 15, 2009

OK, I just had to post this picture. This is my cat, doing her favorite thing in the world--bathing in my kitchen sink. Notice the trickle of water coming out of the faucet. It has to be set just right, and she will sit in the sink squawking until the water is turned on if you ignore her.

I had another cat who loved to drink out of the faucet, too. He didn't bath in it, though. I actually have an even better picture of him drinking, but it was taken in the days before digital cameras, and the only copy I have is in a frame, so it would be a major pain to scan in. He passed away a few years ago. Still miss him :(.

It's been a strange day for me--up and down, feeling bummy and feeling great all in one day. My first published short story will be out in two weeks! Yay! I'll post the link as soon as it's up. But, I also got another rejection from an agent the other day. It just really sunk in today. Bleh.

I won't bore you by whining, though. I'm going to bury my nose in a book, and then hopefully work on my latest short story tonight. And, apparently, judging from the sounds emanating from the hallway, I'm going to spend some time cleaning up cat puke. Guess I gotta go....

Friday, June 12, 2009

I received a great email this week from another teen girl who read the first chapter of Finding Angel. Her comments were so awesome. I posted them on my site (with her permission, of course).

She wrote me again to tell me she had shared my site with some friends. One of the friends said, "WOW that was AMAZING the end of Chapter One just left me HANGING!"

Reading comments like that from my target audience is the coolest thing ever. I mean, it's awesome getting praise from fellow writers and test-readers who are adults. But when the "person" I wrote the book for says "Awesome!"--well, I feel like I've just hit the bulls-eye!

But, even greater than that is the feeling I get when these girls follow their comments with, "I'll be praying for you to find a publisher."

Wow. What could be better? Talk about a confidence-builder. God is listening to those girls. And they're petitioning on my behalf. Humbling, for sure.

Just had to share:).

You can see comments by test-readers and those who've checked out my first chapter on my site at

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Yep, too good to be true

Well, it's time to tell about the recent event in my life that did in fact turn out to be too good to be true. (You can read my post about it from a few days ago, but that's not necessary.) I had to let this run its course before blogging the whole thing. This may be a long story, but bear with me.

A week or so ago I received a message from a publisher via an online writers group I am in. This was suspicious to me, but I thought there is no harm in hearing what they say. I emailed them back, and they looked at my first chapter via my website. I sent them a synopsis as well. They wrote back and seemed very interested. A little too interested. I allowed them to call so we could dicsuss things farther. I expected a big sales pitch. I also expected to end the call abruptly with bad feelings. That didn't happen. The women I spoke with were very nice, not pushy, and we seemed to click. The answers they gave seemed legitimate, and they answered things directly.

Let me take this moment to say I am normally very cynical when it comes to stuff like this. I also go by my gut--I believe the Holy Spirit nudges us and warns us when things are awry. And I'm smart. Together, those add up to me being a salesperson's nightmare.

The call ended with me agreeing to review a contract. I still felt that it was a big red flag that they had not read my entire manuscript. That fear was somewhat calmed by the fact that the contract was presented as though it was a preliminary contract, contigent upon approval of the full manuscript.

I received the contract. Much of it seemed reasonable and in line with what I've read about regarding publishing agreements. The big thing that told me this was a no-go, however, was the paragraph that said I was obligated to buy copies of my book up-front. Not all of them, but not just a dozen or so. Two hundred and fifty, minimum.

Now there are two ways of looking at this:

One--they have legitimate reasoning for this. They tend to focus on nonfiction, written by ministers and inspirational speakers. These are people whose real goal is to speak to and minister to the public. So, maybe they use the book as part of their platform in order to gain speaking engagements, and the book sales are not top priority. Buying those books makes them motivated to not forget about the books.

Two--possibly, because the authors/ministers/speakers see it as a ministry, they want to buy lots of books to give away and this company does offer quite a discount on self-purchased books. So, they structure it to help out these speaker-authors--they can call themselves a traditional house by not charging publishing fees, which makes you as the author look more credible--but you're still going to pay up-front like a self-pubber or subsidy and they just call it book purchasing.

This second scenario might seem shady or legitimate, depending on the light in which you view it. That is why I'm not mentioning the publisher's name. Maybe they are legit, within the circle that they work. Symbiotic relationships that work for one set of organisms don't necessarily work for other sets.

At first, I was a little angry. I felt taken advantage of a bit. Not completely, because of the above statement--if they are used to a publisher-author relationship like the aforementioned situation and all parties have been happy with that so far, then they don't see the downside that I do from over here. But I would think they'd understand that as a fiction author I'm not out to fill stadiums and pitch my subject of expertise. I'm out to sell books. MY books. Why do I need to buy them from you to prove that?

I was also upset that my radar didn't go off louder on this. Had the Holy Spirit abandoned me? Why was I not getting that bad, bad feeling?

Yes, I did get my hopes up some. Who wouldn't? With several signs pointing to this being a unique opportunity, I did allow myself to look into this. But I did so with eyes wide open, lots of research, and a definite reserve. Just not the complete "no way" attitude I tend to get when offered something that seems a little too good.

I think I've discovered why it played out the way it did. If I'd gotten the "alarm" way in the beginning, I'd have completely disregarded the message, and then forgotten all about these people. But, I feel God wanted me to get far enough into this to get my hands on the contract. I know have learned something and have physical proof that they are doing this. I will never doubt that I let that "golden opportunity" slip by. I can look at that contract and know that I made the right decision by turning them down.

Also, I can let you know about this. EDUCATE yourself as an author. Do NOT just take the publisher's word that they have your best interest at heart. Contact writers you know and ask them what some of the terms were in their contract--you can do this without asking their exact royalty percentage and advance amount. You need to know what is standard and what is not.

There are books out there to help you with this. One I have is How to Be Your Own Literary Agent by Richard Curtis. Go to sites that list publishers, like Predators and Editors. Attend writers groups, join online groups--ask everyone if they've heard of a publisher before you take a jump!

I did those things--asked everyone I knew (no one had heard of them), checked Predators and Editors (who, btw, did not have this company listed at all, so they weren't officially red-flagged), went to the bookstore and looked at their books (yes, they're on the shelves, which is usually a very good thing). At first it all seemed pretty good.

But, even with that, I held back. Maybe I didn't have that gut-sick feeling, but I did hold back. And I'm glad I did. I may not be able to get an advance as a new author, but I sure as heck am not paying my publisher one!

So, take from this what you will. I'm not mentioning the name of the publisher publically because at this point I have no reason to. When I told them "no" they took my answer graciously. But not every publisher out there will be so gracious. Some are true scams, so prepare yourself.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Missy the Mountain

Yes, strange title for a blog, but I'll get to that.

I've been pondering things to write about on here. My intention when I started blogging was to reach both writers and teens because :-) I write for teens. Makes sense. And I've been thrilled to no end to discover how many teen writers are out there! Awesome. That makes me feel like I'm not boring my readers to death when I write about writing.

Still, can't make that everything that comes out of my mouth (fingertips?) and I want to hit on some other subjects. I believe whole-heartedly in the old saying, "Write what you know." And when I was e-chatting with a blog reader of mine and she brought up the topic of bullies, well that filled my head with all kinds of memories.

When a writer's head is full, you know a story is going to have to come out :).

So...on to the day that Missy the Mountain said she was going to kick my (rear).

I was in eighth grade. I'd never been bullied before. Not true bullying, anyway. Good-natured teasing for sure--can't avoid that when you're the "smart kid" and the "tall kid" and have glasses thick as coke bottles. Actually, it was probably the "tall kid" part that kept me from being really bullied. Even nerdy kids can be intimidating when they're a full head taller than the rest of the class.

One day, a friend (let's call her Cara) and I went into the girl's bathroom. The distinct odor of cigarette smoke tinted the already stale air. A girl stepped out of the stall and saw Cara and me. I knew this girl. We had a class together. She hated me. And her best friend, Missy, made me look like a tiny china doll by comparison.

I grabbed Cara and dragged her out of the bathroom, my heart pounding in my chest, and sweat beading on my forehead.

"I'm telling," Cara said.

What a dilemma. I agreed that the girl needed to be told on. But I did NOT want to be the one--or be associated with the one--who told on her. Telling on her was the equivalent of telling on Missy. Telling on Missy was the equivalent of standing in front of a speeding bus.

I honestly can't remember if I argued with Cara, nodded agreement, or just went numb from fear and let her walk away. Probably the third choice. Either way, she did go to the office and tell on the girl.

And Missy the Mountain got wind of it. She knew I hadn't done the deed, but she knew there was someone else who had, and she knew I knew who that person was. (That is an atrociously written sentence, but you get it, right?) The pressure was on. I was told, through the girl in my class who'd been busted smoking, that if I didn't give up my friend's name Missy was going to...well, you know.

I called my best friend (we'll call her Sandy) and told her what had happened. She had experience with stuff like this. I'd been brought up in a Christian home, and was known as being a "good girl." (This is NOT a bad thing, btw.) Sandy, however, was from the other side of the tracks. How we ended up best friends I'll never know, but having that kind of background would surely come in handy in this situation.

Her response--"It was nice knowing you."

Oh, yeah, thanks.

"But, you've been in fights. You know what to do. Can't you give me some advice?"

She laughed. "Are you kidding me? Missy is HUGE. She's going to squash you. I love you, but you're going to die."

The time from this conversation to the moment I stood facing Missy out on the PE field is still a blur. I'm sure I cried. I'm sure I prayed. I'm sure I didn't eat for days. But I don't remember any of it.

Neither do I remember what I said to Missy that day. It was hot--well, it's Florida, so it's always hot. I know people were around us. I know the only thing I could think was, "Please, if you hit me, hit me in the stomach." You see, I had scoliosis, and under my clothes was a back brace with a thick metal bar running down the front. And no one but my closest friends knew about the brace.

I had hated that brace from the day I'd found out I needed to wear one. But on that day, I thanked God for it. If Missy had hit me in the stomach, she probably would have broken all of her fingers.

She didn't hit me though. I wish I knew why, what I said to stop her. Maybe just knowing I had something to back me up (the brace with the metal bar) was enough to give me confidence. But I doubt that. I'm sure God was there by my side, as He always is at times like that.

I have no idea what to tell you to glean from this--I just know it was a story I felt the need to tell. Bullies are a part of life, but they don't have to be feared. It's the strength in us that they don't see that will ultimately win out.

Maybe, if we let that strength show, bullies will leave us alone in the first place.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Too good to be true

A recent event in my life has brought out a memory of a story from my past. I can't tell you the event right now, but I can tell you the story.

When my husband and I first got married, we rented an apartment in a complex conveniently located--for us--in a town just east of Tampa, FL. Just right for newlyweds: reasonably priced, no lawn to maintain, bills pretty much all-inclusive, a pool and weight room at our disposal, and plenty of parking area for me to rollerblade around.

After about a year, though, our situation changed. My husband got a job in another town on the other side of Tampa--Largo, for you Floridians (and we were in Brandon). I had also started attending the University of Tampa. We decided it was ridiculous to BOTH be driving that direction every day. Gas was nowhere near as expensive as it is now, but we were also less financially endowed.

We decided to move to South Tampa. I'd be really, really close to school, and the interstate ran right through there, so hop on, hop off, and hubby could be at work. Great plan. Except for one thing. South Tampa is expensive.

Now, we Heckenbachs pride ourselves on (even those of us that are named such by marriage) our ability to find the best deal for our money. Not cheap, mind you, nor even "frugal"--just an insistance to not overpay for things, and amazing luck at finding sales when we need them :). So, we decided to search for an apartment.

Oh, my. Talk about a stressful time in our lives. Apartments that were anywhere near our budget were, well, holes. I'm talking trashed. Or tiny. One place I honest-to-God think was a hallway someone had converted into an "apartment." You had to stand sideways, and it had NO windows. We only needed room for two people, but we would've liked to not have to sleep standing up.

After looking at dozens of places, inlcuding places that claimed to be in the elite "Hyde Park" area of Tampa, but were actually in...well...let's just say, Tampa has some good areas and some not so good. I'd pretty much given up.

Then one day, I opened the paper and by habit went to the classifieds. There was an ad...for an said, "Hyde Park"...for $425 a month. No. Way.

But, I just had to call.

I fully expected someone sounding like a drunken sailor to answer the phone. Maybe police sirens and gun shots in the background. Or women screaming.

Imagine my surprise when the man who answered sounded sober. And intelligent. And articulate. And when, holy cow, he told me the address and I looked it up on the map (before internet and and it was actually IN Hyde Park.

I told him I'd be there in half an hour.

I stepped out of my car and beamed. The neighborhood was gorgeous. The apartment was the upstairs of a Craftsman-style house built in 1910. The floors sagged, there was paint peeling off the window panes, and the kitchen was decorated in black and white checkered linoleum with mint-green cabinets stencilled with pink roses. Some old lady must have put hours of work into it. And the place had spirit. I knew the second I walked in I'd found our new home.

The owner said they wanted to provide an affordable place for a nice young couple or family. They honestly just didn't want to gouge someone with ridiculous rent.

"Can we have a cat?"


"We'll take it."

The owners lived downstairs, and had a beautiful Golden Retriever, whom they let us "borrow" when we took walks. We love dogs, but couldn't get our own until we had a house, and that was just not possible a the time. So, we got the next best thing. And we got to babysit her all the time :).

Bayshore Blvd. was about two blocks away. It's exactly what it sounds like, if you've never been to Tampa--a road that runs right along Tampa Bay. Beautiful. With a super-wide sidewalk on the water side. So, so much better than rollerblading around the parking lot!

The place was too good to be true. Yet, we found it. Exactly when we needed it. Other people might not have taken it because of the peeling paint around the windows (a trip to Home Depot and $5 for a quart of paint fixed that). We propped our dressers up in the front so they didn't lean toward the center of the room. Hundred-year-old floors may sag, but they still hold you up! And I LOVED that kitchen with the checkered floor and mint-green cabinets. So did the cat--it was her favorite resting spot.

So, you see, the right thing can come along at exactly the right moment. If it's really right, the flaws become charming, maybe even beneficial.

Let's hope that's true this time :).

Great Short Story to Check Out

Please visit and check out "Anticipation" by Shawna Williams. Very good story. Quite appropriate for "The Cynic" :).

Shawna is SO great at characterization. She is working on a romance novel--and y'all KNOW how I usually feel about reading romance--that is just superb. I've had the pleasure of being a test-reader/critiquer for her. Her characters really stay with me. I find myself emailing her and saying, "Well...When do I get the next installment?? I'm missing Jacob and Meri!" It's not about not knowing what happens next. She's already given me a full synopsis of the book. Actually, of all three books in the series. But I want to read it anyway, because I love the characters. I've gotten to know them almost as well as my own!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

How preachy is "preachy"?

One of the things I hear all the time is that the Christian fiction industry does not want "preachy" novels. But, I'm wondering, by what are they defining preachy? There are loads of Christian novels out there that I would consider preachy--some very preachy--and some that make me wonder why it's in the Christian section at all.

It is just so subjective.

When I started writing Finding Angel, I had set out to not mention Christianity at all. I wanted it in there, but I wanted everything to be symbolic or allegoric in nature. I worked my message into the action, and into dialogue under the guise of something else, and did a pretty darn good job of making it all come off as natural. My Christian friends all thought it was nice and sublte.

Then I let someone else read it, someone who is not a religious person (at least as far as I know). That person felt there were certain passages that preached. I looked those passages over and agreed. So I cut them, or rewrote them.

After that, I let another Christian friend read it. She felt I should have made my message more obvious--so my guess is she would have liked the uncut version better.

I did not change it back, though. Those cut parts had made me feel uneasy from the beginning, even though all of my readers other than that one particular one felt the message was not too strong.

I decided who I agreed with, but who's to say either of them is right?

Or maybe both of them are.

What do you consider "preaching" in a novel? What are some books you've read that you thought came off as preachy? What are some books you've read that you thought did a great job of balancing message and story?

I really want to know this. Please leave me a comment, and ask your friends to leave me a comment. This is a subject that has been burning in the back of my mind ever since I started writing. How preachy is preachy?

BTW, preachiness is not reserved for Christian messages. Just pick up Next by Michael Crichton. Holy cow. He actually includes an entire lecture in this book. But if a Christian book did that with a sermon, it would never get published! (I wish Next never had been published. Even bought as a bargain book, it was a waste of money. Six bucks I'll never see again :P.)

June 3--update--

Well, I suppose had I gotten ahold of On Writing by Stephen King beforehand I may have never posted this. He talks all about symbolism and theme in this book. It's wonderful! But beware before you read it, as always, there's loads of foul language--does he write anything that isn't full of that? Nope, according to this book. But his insight is great.

Here's a great quote from him on the topic of symbolism:

"I think that, when you read your manuscript over (and when you talk it over), you'll see if symbolism, or the potential for it, exists. If it doesn't, leave well enough alone. If it does, however--if it's clearly a part of the fossil you're working to unearth--go for it. Enhance it. You're a monkey if you don't."