Amy's Place

Contemporary Fiction

sunshine-blogger-award

Talented author and fellow blogger, Margo Dill, who has been a great source of support for me and who is an old friend whom I miss seeing, nominated me for a Sunshine Award and assigned questions for pondering. The game goes like this:

  • Thank the person who nominated you. (Thank you, Margo.)
  • Answer the questions from the person who nominated you.
  • Nominate other bloggers for the award.
  • Notify the bloggers you have nominated them.
  • Hope they don’t block you, hope they do link to your blog in a nice post, where they answer these 10 questions.

1. What do you love most about blogging/writing?

I write fiction, so I spend a great deal of time with fictional people. I love that. But I love to blog because I feel like it’s a chance to connect to real people, too!

2. Name a place you’ve never been but would love to visit and why?

France or Italy. Easy answer–the food. That’s really why I like to visit any place.

3. Describe your favorite snack.

Cheese. Another cheese. Maybe a different cheese just to finish it off.

4. What’s the best movie you’ve seen recently?

I love movies, but I don’t get much time to see one. I can manage to watch a movie on Netflix over the course of three days or so. But I did get a chance to see the newest Star Wars and I loved it.

5. What is your favorite season and why?

Spring! I’m not a fan of winter in the slightest, so spring is a long awaited relief for me. I love to see the trees budding and the first bulbs blooming. I love to dream about a garden and to buy the little baby plants to put into the ground. I love the first warm breezes and the feel of the sun on my skin. Heaven.

6. Do you believe in ghosts?

I’d say yes. But then again, I’m not sure that they’re ghost or something darker… whatever they are, I think there’s something there. Luckily, Jesus is too, so I let Him handle it.

7. What advice do you give but don’t take yourself?

I tell my kids to “Chill” when they’re frustrated. I’m not very good at “chilling” when the tables are turned. 🙂

8. If you had to choose one favorite color, what would it be?

Purple.

9. When is the last time you laughed?

I laugh a lot. There are just too many funny things out there. I laugh at myself often. I goof up quite a bit.

10. Do you prefer a tablet or actual book while reading?

Book! I’m old school there. I just love the feel of the cover and the pages. I also like to toss a book in my bag or carry it around the house. I’m way to clumsy to cart around a delicate device in the same way I do a book. I also like to have a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and books recover better from beverage mishaps.

 

Okay, now I’m nominating three bloggers: (this is a tough choice)

Taylor Bennett : I love this young writer. I teach young writers myself, and she’s setting such a great example for them.

Candace Carrabus:Candace Carrabus: This is a good friend, who I miss seeing as well! She’s such an inspiration for writers. Life is a busy place, but she still finds time to write some terrific stuff. Get to know her!

Miss Annie Girl: Because sometimes, people are just awesome rays of light. If ever there was a Sunshine blogger, this young lady is it.

Falling Down the Rabbit Hole 101, or The Search History of a Writer

rabbit hole

I write contemporary fiction, so I don’t often spend much time combing through historical texts and tomes trying to make sure I get the tale of the times correct.  Still, that doesn’t mean that I never have to consult good old Google with a question.

Just the other day, the following searches occurred where one thing led to another and ….

What Color robes does a catholic priest wear at a wedding? (depends on the liturgical calendar…ok)

 

What color robe would a priest be wearing in May? (It’s not the month, but the season)

 

When is Easter 2019? (oh, it’s a longer time frame than that.)

 

When is Pentecost 2019? (what if the book doesn’t take place in 2019… dates of Easter and Pentecost vary : look up 2020, 2021 maybe I’ll go backwards 2017…. ok, nevermind, I’ll just say “robes.”)

 

Who is a recent gold medalist in swimming? (Michael Phelps. Didn’t something weird happen with Phelps…)

 

Did something weird happen with Michael Phelps? (Something about racing a shark and getting arrested… we all make mistakes… nevermind, my swimmer character is a girl anyway.)

 

Who is a female gold medalist in swimming? (Just get a name and go with it.)

 

What last names go with the name Oliver. (Are you telling me I never gave one of the main characters a last name. I need to know his name. *Ask (fictional character) Oliver himself, but in true Oliver fashion he tells me it didn’t matter to him, whatever I wanted to call him was fine. So…

 

Stumble upon someone else searching for the same thing ten years ago. Read through the  long list of suggestions—people are very helpful and they suggest many names even Twist. Asker of question seems to have gone with Cavenaugh –not bad.

 

Suggestions I pondered from the list…Mason or Finley. (—Finley….Realize this is a great play on names as giggly girls can make a cute nickname for him by reversing some of the letters. Fine-ly… get it, he’s cute.)

And the writing day goes on…

When is Spanish Mass at the Basilica in Asheville? (5pm on Sunday… oh, that changes the time of day in that scene if I want to make it match, which I don’t really have to, I never actually say they are in Asheville… I’ll make it match.)

Best places to get an appetizer in Asheville? (ooh, Zambra…)

Menu for Zambra downtown? (That looks delicious.)

Who is the chef of  Zambra (not that I’m going to put that in the book, I’m just interested now.)

Ok, so for the most part this list might look like I was googling a fun time in Asheville and trip to church–if I want to hear Mass in Spanish that is.

But sometimes my search looks like this:

How long does someone have to be suspected dead before a marriage dissolves itself?

How deep is the water off the coast of Kure Beach?

How is a new chef of police selected when the current one dies suddenly?

But that’s a whole different story… literally.

 

I wonder what I’ll search for today…

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publishing jounrey

The long road home… well, for my book that is. Today I want to share the publishing journey of how The Lemonade Year found it’s home. It’s the story of letting go and letting God do His thing.

First things first. You need to know a little about me.  I’m that sort of person who is independent to a fault.

Anyone about anything: “Do you need help with that?”

Me: “No, I got this.” (Then I proceed to “get” whatever “this” is on my own. You would think that repeated failure to handle things alone would teach me lesson.)

The second thing you need to know about me: I’m stubborn. I refer to it as my best and worst quality.       Best: Tenacious.    Worst: Stubborn.

Failure does not slow me down. Then again, failure does not slow me down.

Until now. Well, until around May of 2015. I have dreamed of being a writer since I was about 12 years old. (I’ll write a funny post about the day I realized where books came from, later. It was a life changing moment–albeit silly.) Over the course of then til now, I have published about a dozen short stories in various lit mags and anthologies and even have a collection of my own out.

Still, the published novel remained elusive. I would send queries to about fifteen agents, get varied feedback (no offers) and then say, “Fine, no one likes that book, I’ll just write another one.”  I did that about five times until I got tired of starting over. These were good books (well, a few of them) and I was determined not to stop looking until I found an agent.

I was also getting a little desperate. Truth of the matter here: I wasn’t where I wanted to be in the time scheme of things. I was ready to be published already and darn it, I was going to do it in my time, through my effort, and … well, enter the stubborn “me” of it all.

As 2015 began, I got serious about researching agents and sending queries and not changing course when I got some bites (and I got quite a few) that ultimately became “no thank yous.” Yep, you’re reading into this correctly–I got Stubborn (notice that capital S.)

Don’t get my wrong, it’s not like I wasn’t talking to God about the whole process. I was listening when He suggested that change my search. I could hear God tell me I was looking in the wrong places. I don’t write what would be categorized and shelved as Christian fiction, but I do acknowledge Christ and his divinity in my work. It had not occurred to me to seek an agent who represented Christian fiction, but that’s where I started looking.

I found several and sent letters. One of the agents I querier was Julie Gwinn of the Seymour Agency. I knew she was the one. I just knew it. I sent a query in April of 2015 and in just over a week she wrote back and requested the fully manuscript. I was right! At the time, I still had the book on the desks of a couple of other agents from my previous searches and I found myself hoping they would say no, because I really wanted to work with Julie and I was so certain she would offer representation.

Well, they all said no just like I had hoped, but I didn’t hear anything from Julie. No repsonse to the book at all. I supposed I was wrong, but I could still hear that little voice saying…

Wait

In late May of 2015, I was at a home schooling convention in which Jon Erwin a Christian filmmaker was presenting several sessions on creativity and “living the dream” so to speak. I attended one of his sessions where he asked the question that changed everything for me.

“What are you doing this for anyway?” (This creative whatever it is that you spend time doing.)

Here’s why that question changed my course. I had already talked to God about my writing, and what I planned to do, and how I wanted to serve him and how I hoped to use the books I wrote to glorify Him….pop quiz: What word appears 5 times in that run-on sentence?

Correct: I

If I really wanted to serve and glorify Him, why was I trying to run His show? I was listening when he asked me to turn my writing back towards Him. I heard the suggestion to look for Christians agents. But I was still expecting this whole gig to go down like I wanted it to.

So what was the answer to Mr. Erwin’s question?

To use the gift that God gave me in order to glorify Him. If that was really true, there was still something I needed to do.

So, there I was walking down the street from my hotel room on the way to another session at the conference, and I just said out loud (yes, on a busy street) “Alright, God. It’s yours. I’ll stop pushing. Do it or don’t do it on your time and in your way. I give my writing to you. 

Notice the “or don’t do it.” I also had to accept that giving it up to God, might mean giving it up. I thought turning it over would be a hard thing to do, but it actually lifted this anxious, knotty weight that I had on my shoulders, and it was liberating. God was in control, and I needn’t worry over it. That also meant that I couldn’t keep trying to make it work like I wanted it to. If I said it was His, I needed to act like it was. I needed to…

Wait

Months passed since I sent the book the Julie and in the meantime, I had done a revision on the novel that I actually liked quite a bit and wished I had been able to send that one out instead.

Then in late June, I got another message from Julie: I didn’t get your manuscript and I would still love to see it. 

What? A re-request. It’s hard enough to get a request at all. Somehow (gee I wonder) the first email containing the older version of the novel never got to her. So I sent out the new one with renewed belief that I was indeed right–Julie Gwinn would be my agent.

More months went by—nothing. OK, I’m wrong after all. But God, I really feel like you’re telling me it’s her. I mean like, really feel it. What’s the deal?

Wait

Then in late December 2015, I got up and went to the computer to check emails, (long having given up that anticipation that “today I’ll get the email offering me a contract”) and there was an email from Julie: She was offering representation and wanted to talk if I was still interested.

Uh, you bet!

I signed with her in January of 2016 and began the journey. I figured the wait was over. I’d gotten to know a few of her other authors and some of them had found homes for their books right away. Some of them even more than one book. Not me. For me it was…

Wait

Julie sent the book (A Soft and Thunderous Noise) around a time or three, but it just wasn’t finding its place. Soon it was 2017 and I was still waiting.

“What else do you have?” Julie asked. “Any other books finished we could pitch?”

Sure: I sent her The Lemonade Year and I went back to waiting. I knew I had the agent God wanted for me and, I knew that if He wanted it to, something would happen.

I was good at waiting by then. That kind of waiting that doesn’t seem like waiting–I was just going on about the business of life. Julie would send me updates on the novels and send encouraging messages when an editor asked to read something or had something positive to say.

And while I waited, I got to meet Julie in person at the ACFW conference in Nashville. I already knew she was an amazing agent, but she turned out to be an amazing person as well. I have loved getting to know her better. She is the just the best. I also wrote another book called If You Knew, because that’s what I do, I write books. And I waited….

In early March of 2017, Julie sent me word that an editor was reading The Lemonade Year and had sent a wonderful compliment. She said that of course, a compliment wasn’t a contract, but that it was nice to hear. I looked at the name on the email that contained that compliment, looked up the editor and the publishing house (writer becomes detective) and again… I felt like I knew. Shadow Mountain Publishing would the one, but…you guessed it.

Wait.

Then in May of 2017 (two years after I turned it over to God) Julie called. Hmm, this could be something. She doesn’t usually call me out of the blue. Shadow Mountain Publishing was offering a contract.

I signed in August of 2017 and began working with Lisa Mangum, who took my book and made it so much better. I had never worked with an actual, real life editor before and I was excited and a little sick to my stomach. This was REAL now.

Well, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. She suggested all the right things in all the right places with the most encouraging words all through the process.

The Lemonade Year releases April 3, 2018–three years after I first queried Julie about an entirely different book.

I let God do what He does. I waited and Julie did a lot of work and spent a lot of time finding a place for my novel (thank you for not giving up on me, best agent ever!) I love my agent, and I love my editor and publishing house and once again, God knows best.

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“Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” Psalm 27:14

I made this at a Bible study in which we were asked what verse meant something to you at the moment. I posted this on Facebook not long after. The date was January 5, 2016. I had already waited and there was still waiting to come.

It was worth ever minute of it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

star wars

So I just saw Star Wars, The Last Jedi… and I am renewed in purpose and spirit.

Ok, maybe that’s a bit much, but maybe not. I’m talking about story and the importance of it in our lives. Sometimes, as a writer, you wonder if what you’re doing really matters. So you came up with a good plot and a few quirky characters and your friends all say it’s awesome, so what?

What is the partaker of that story really getting out it anyway?  Today,  I sat in the theater (which had some awesome new reclining seats) wondering what was making me think that this movie was likely the best thing I’ve ever seen.

The effects, the costumes, the music… That was all stellar, but no….

I love the ships and the saber fights, the quirky furry things and the funny one-liners. I do jump around in my seat when the lasers flash and the fighters take flight, but what I love, what I was really moved by were the characters. Yes, in a big budget, sci-fi, action adventure, fantasy type thing…it’s always the characters for me.

Whatever is is that I’m reading or watching, I’m searching for connection in the characters. I’m clinging to their courage, I’m hanging onto their  hope, I’m feeling their failure, and thrilling in their triumph.

I learning from them and growing with them. I’m pulling for the good in the bad guy and understanding the bad decisions that the good guy can’t help from making. I’m understanding humanity and sorting out my place in the world. I’m finding the courage to keep on trying. Yes, at Star Wars.

So yeah, story matters. It teaches, reaches and delivers some pretty good speeches. It makes you step out of your world and listen to what someone else has to say and feel what someone else feels. It jars you with a comment that makes you see things differently.

“That’s how we’re gonna win. Not by fighting what we hate, but by saving what we love.” –Rose

Story stops us in our tracks and when we pick up our feet to keep going, we’re a little changed. Hopefully for the better.

Keep writing, keep reading. Story is a gift from God to teach us, to make us smile, and to give us the courage to keep on living and loving.

What do you love enough to save it? What matters to you?

 

 

blogs

Good Wednesday to you. I’d love to say that I spend all my time writing, but sometimes my fingers need a rest, and it’s always nice to see what other writers are up to. So, today I’m going to share some of the blogs I like to keep up with and why.

One of my all-time favs is WOW, Women on Writing’s blog The Muffin

muffin

This is a terrific blog. It’s as funny as it is informative and as heartfelt as it is helpful. It’s a joy to read!

Recent posts include, Where Do I Go With My Mess of a Manuscript, by Margo Dill, It Doesn’t End Well, But There’s Hope, by Mary Horner, and I’m Fabulously a Failure for 5 Reasons, by  Sioux Roslawski.

 

Another writer site it love is The Writer’s Alley.

writers alley

I love this blog because not only is it always uplifting, it is choked full of writer advice, tips, and tricks. The Alley Cats (the lovely ladies who write for the blog) are all writers and readers and committed to helping us all succeed.

There have been posts about Dialogue With a Purpose, How to Do a Back Cover Copy, and even raw and very relatable posts like It Should’ve Been Me. You’ll find friends on this site. I hope you visit and subscribe.

(Visit the contributors to these post: Pepper Basham , Laurie Tomlinson,  and  Ashley Clark)

 

Another blog that I live by is Proverbs 31.

proverbs

This isn’t a “writer” site, but you’ll be blown away by the writing. This is a “open up my email and there’s just what I needed today” site. Sometimes it feels like it’s catered just to me. I bet you’ll feel the same way. Someone is definitely watching out for you and the writers of this blog bring you home with their words of wisdom and inspiration.

These are a few of my favorites, what are yours? I’d love to know where you get your inspiration! Share some links in the comments!

Thanks for hanging out with me for a while,

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Christmas

I wanted to do a little something different for my holiday post.

No pics of the perfectly decorated cookie or shots of the sparing moments when my kids aren’t fighting (I hear screaming in the background right now.) No family photos where everyone is smiling and all our clothes match (heck, I’m doing good if my boys even have on clothes–spend any time with me on Facebook and you know that one’s true.) No impressions of a peaceful paradise and a partridge in a pair tree –although we do have a pair tree in the front yard, no pairs though–hey, life’s not perfect.

No, this Christmas I give you:

Christmas Confessions: My gift of truth this holiday season. 

I don’t know the correct way to type: Yep, that’s right. I entered college (ages ago) only able to hunt and peck. I decided I would be an English major. Who couldn’t type. Yep. Well, several years and many, many, many, papers later… I can now type without looking at the keys, but it’s my own made-up format of which fingers hit which keys, and it’s not always the same ones each time

I’m a bad speller… like atrocious (I had to look up how to spell that.) I long for the days of Shakespeare when apparently you could just spell things however you wanted to. Spelling is hard, folks. The struggle is real. I’d say more on the topic, but I’m trying to avoid misspelling anything. (That you inventor of Spell Check.)

I drink WAY too much coffee.   It’s what I eat for breakfast. My caffeine tolerance is so high, I can fall asleep while drinking it. This is not something I’m proud of, it’s just the truth.

I’m terrible at math: I count on my fingers when I add. I furrow my brow and make strange faces that look like I’m trying to figure our something very complicated when I’m mostly I’m just trying to figure out if the avocados are on sale for a good enough price to overlook that they are too ripe. (Then I talk to myself for a moment about it and decide that no price is that good.)

I talk to myself: Enough said.

And the best gift I can give you: laughter.

I am NOT photogenic: Not at all. My daughter recently took about 200 pictures of me for an author photo for The Lemonade Year. I wasn’t making a goofy face in about 5 of them. (Sorry, sweetie.)

Laugh and enjoy!

 

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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day job

Attack of The Day Job!

Well, the other day job. That one that requires that I be at a certain place at a certain time and do certain things. That job where people of various ages and sizes are waiting for me to teach them things like reading and writing and oddly enough art. Yep, that one.

You know the saying, “Don’t quit your day job.” Well, I wouldn’t dream of it. I am blessed to actually love my day job. When I was young, I wanted to be three things when I grew up: a writer, a teacher, and a mom. Check, check, check. Wow, who could ask for more?

The place I go with the little (and not so little) faces hanging on my every word–ok, I couldn’t type that with a straight face–is call Elevate Life and Art. I teach creative writing, writing fundamentals, and language arts. I lead a student written newspaper, and I serve as the accidental art teacher (that’s a whole other story.) My students range from pre-K to high school.

(Here’s a slideshow from my day job!)

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In total, I teach nine different classes over the span of three days a week. I take a ton of work of home, but how cool is it that that work is reading fiction, editing essays, preparing writing lessons, researching artists, doing layouts for the newspaper, and prepping for arts and crafts.

I love writing my own fiction, that’s a given. But man, do I adore teaching writing to kids. I love those moments when I see a light flash in their eyes because a story idea has sparked in their minds or some concept of writing that had once eluded them has clicked. I live for the email from a parent telling me that their child once dreaded writing and now loves it. I adore when the kids crowd around me just to tell me about their day. And those little pre-schoolers, oh so cute!

Oh yes, attack me day job–give it all you’ve got! Do your best, and I’ll still beg for more.

So what’s you day job? What’s your passion outside of it? I’d love to know. Chat with me in the comments!

Thanks for hanging out!

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