Christian Authors ROCK!

panelBeing a published author is a dream come true for me. And while some aspects aren’t quite as wonderful as I imagined (book signing with two attendees anyone?), others are better. Like the way Christian authors look out for each other.

I just spent several days at the RT Booklovers Convention in Atlanta. I was a little bit out of my depth at this HUGE event for romance readers and writers (from inspirational to erotica!). But no worries–my team was there.

More than a dozen other inspirational authors were in attendance along with staff from Christian publishing houses. Technically, I suppose, we’re in competition with each other, but you’d never know it. I got to reconnect with authors who have supported me in the past and meet authors who I know will support me in the future. And they even let ME support THEM.

And that’s what I want to do in a small way today. This isn’t everyone, but here are a few of the amazing ladies I had the chance to connect with in Atlanta. If you’re looking for something good to read–check them out!

  • Ronie Kendig – She writes rapid-fire fiction–lots of romantic suspense with military heroes! (And she’s a GREAT roommate.)
  • Tamera Alexander – Tammy writes LUSH historical romance and her books give me cover envy. Those dresses!
  • Dani Pettrey – She writes amazing adventure stories with delicious romance. If you like Alaska, you’ll love her Alaskan Courage Series.
  • Shelley Shepard Gray – Amish suspense anyone? You didn’t know there was such a thing? Well then, check Shelley out.
  • Rachel Hauck – Rachel endorsed my first novel after meeting me ONCE at a conference. She’s an amazing woman of God and I ADORE her Royal Wedding series. Modern day princesses. Sigh.
  • Elizabeth Camden – She’s a librarian and she writes historical romance–my dream job combination.
  • Rebecca DeMarino – We connected over our love of including family history in our novels. Except Rebecca digs a lot further back in time than I do!
  • Jen Turano – She’s funny–in person and in writing. Historical romance to make you laugh out loud!
  • Kristi Ann Hunter – She writes gorgeous historical romance and I’m blessed to be working with her on a novella project (more about that later). Plus, she’s smart and funny!

There were others, but my list is getting long. Suffice it to say, Christian authors have servant’s hearts and I’m so VERY glad to have been blessed by the ladies above as well as so many others.

Books! Chocolate! Authors!

No Appalachian Thursday today. I’m at the RT Book Lovers Convention in Atlanta, Ga., enjoying time with readers, authors, and chocolate. Good times! If you’re in the area, here’s one of my events:

RT Booklovers Meme

If you’re not in the area, heads up that my first novel, Miracle in a Dry Season, is FREE this week during the convention. BONUS–so are books by most of the other authors listed! Go look ’em up and I’ll let them know you said, “Hey.”

Appalachian Thursday – Cover Reveal

While my fourth novel–The Sound of Rain–won’t officially release until early November, I can now share the cover with you. And I’m head over heels for it!

The designers said they wanted to do something a little different this time and I offered lots of suggestions and samples of covers I thought conveyed the “feel” of this story . . . which probably didn’t help them at all.

But that’s okay because Bethany House designers are some of the best in the business and they can be trusted! So here it is . . .

THOMAS_SOUNDOFRAIN_FR&SP.indd

Sigh.

I love the antique, nostalgic feel which is my BRAND y’all! And then those raindrops. And the e.e. cummings lack of capital letters in the title. Lovely!

And, as you can see, Larkin is NOT blonde, but has brown to auburn hair. Well of course she does. As soon as I saw the dress, I wrote it into the story (I was working on edits at the time). It makes me happy to “find” the cover when I’m reading, so I assume others like that, too.

Here’s one version of the back cover copy:

Judd Markley is a hard working coal miner who rarely thinks much past tomorrow until he loses his brother—and nearly his own life—in a mine cave-in. Vowing never to enter the darkness of a mine again, he leaves all he knows in West Virginia to escape to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It’s 1954, the seaside community is thriving, and Judd soon hires on with a timber company.

Larkin Heyward’s life in Myrtle Beach is uncomplicated, mostly doing volunteer work and dancing at the Pavilion. But she dreams of one day doing more—maybe moving to the hollers of Kentucky to help the poor children of Appalachia. But she’s never even met someone who’s lived there—until she encounters Judd, the newest employee at her father’s timber company.

Drawn together in the wake of a devastating hurricane, Judd and Larkin each seek answers to what tomorrow will bring. As opposition rises against following their divergent dreams, they realize that it may take a miracle for them to be together.

Every Author Needs a Few Friends

Frances
Frances came from the Charlotte area!

Before I was published I might have daydreamed a little about the events I would do once I was . . . well, you know . . . famous. Signings, readings, interviews.

Now, two years into this published author business, let’s just say the reality hasn’t quite lived up to the daydream. I’ve done signings where the only takers were people I pretty much accosted and charmed into buying a book. I gave a talk (paid!) where one person came. And she didn’t know I was going to be there–she just sort of stumbled into the room.

There have been others that came closer to those early daydreams–my book launch was incredible. Doing a signing at the International Christian Retail Show was just plain fun. And then there was yesterday.

I did a signing and reading at our local Barnes & Noble to benefit the Literacy  Council of Buncombe County (you can still benefit them–if you shop B&N on-line, enter code ID #11827862 at checkout to donate 10% of the purchase through May 8). I invited folks and it was well advertised, but still, I was holding my breath knowing I could easily end up reading to the literacy council staff and my husband.

B&N crowd
My standing-room only crowd!

And then . . . people came. A reader who connected with me on Facebook came all the way from Charlotte, NC. Friends came and brought their own friends. Passers by heard me reading and stopped to listen, then stayed. After the reading others swung by the table and ended up buying books.

Oh, it wasn’t like Nicholas Sparks or Francine Rivers with a line snaking out to the sidewalk, but it sure made me feel good. And it was mostly because people I know came and made it look like an event so other people started paying attention, too.

My delusions of grandeur have yet to play out, but this business of having good friends I can count on? That’s better than any dream of fame or fortune.

Unrealistic Romance Novels

love-560783_1280I’ve had cause to read some mainstream romances lately–a genre I haven’t dipped into for years. Back in high school and college I couldn’t get enough of them, but they just haven’t been in my reading pile for quite some time.

I’d forgotten how unrealistic they are.

And no, I’m NOT talking about the romance. I’m talking about the FOOD.

Back in the day, I would have been thrilling along with each brush of the hero’s fingertips across the heroine’s cheek. Held my breath as they leaned in for the kiss. Sighed when things went inevitably wrong.

Not so much these days. I know the formula, so it’s harder to be swept away. But what these people EAT. Now that is pure, delicious fantasy.

The main characters are, of course, perfect specimens of human beauty. And yet they consume enough calories to keep a family of four satisfied.

One heroine, who is runway model tall and willowy, has a penchant for an over-the-top chocolate baked good. When stressed or upset, she goes to a local bakery and buys a box of sweets, then consumes several full servings. She does have the decency to mention–in passing–that she has a fast metabolism. I’ll say.

Another heroine wears a clingy, skimpy dress to a seven-course gourmet dinner, admits that she stuffs herself, and then has the gall to wonder if the dress might show a teeny bit of tummy pooch. Where’s your Spanx, girl?

Okay. I’m guilty, too. I feed my characters well. They enjoy big, family dinners and lots of country cooking. But I don’t go on and on about their stunning physiques. Shoot, some of them are pudgy.

But at least my meals are well-balanced. In one book, the main characters kept having meals together along the lines of an entire meat lover’s pizza with wine or country-fried steak with mashed potatoes. Give ’em a vegetable, please!

Isn’t it funny how your focus shifts as the years go by? I’m not looking for romance anymore–I have my sweetie by my side and kisses when I want ’em. But to be able to eat eggs Benedict for breakfast, a cheeseburger and fries for lunch, and a giant bowl of pasta with bread and wine for dinner? Now that’s the kind of fantasy I can get into.

Book Events–Hoping to See You Soon!

Speaking

The only thing better than holding one of my very own books in my hands is meeting someone who actually took the time to READ one of those books.

I mean, that’s kind of the whole reason I write them. So people can read them and hopefully be touched by my stories. I do run into people like this in daily life on occasion. Friends at church have read my books. Some co-workers have. Once in a while I’ll meet someone at a conference who’s read something I wrote. And readers get in touch with me via Facebook.

But the BEST place to meet readers is at book events. If they haven’t already read my books, they at least have some notion they want to. Never ceases to amaze me.

So in December, I’m heading out to do several events and if you’re not too far away, I’d LOVE to see you there. Here’s the itinerary:

Thursday, December 3 – Meet the Author at the Durham South Regional Library – 6:30-8 p.m., Durham, NC – I can’t tell you how excited I am to be speaking at a LIBRARY! One of my favorite places to be. As for the presentation, remember those Choose-Your-Own-Adventure stories? My talk will flow along those lines letting the audience choose which direction the conversation heads.

Friday, December 4 – Talk & Signing at Page 158 Books – 6-8 p.m., Wake Forest, NC – I had a chance to meet store owners Dave & Sue not long ago and when I mentioned I’d be in their neck of the woods in December, they kindly invited me to come by. Now I’m doing the same and inviting YOU to come by! (There’ll be snacks.)

Saturday, December 5 – Book Club at Reynolda Branch Library – 10-11:30 a.m., Winston-Salem, NC – Ahhh. Readers who get together and talk about books. THESE are my tribe. I’ll be discussing genre and promotion, leaving plenty of time for discussion because the only thing I like better than talking is talking WITH new friends!

Author Advice from Nicholas Sparks

Everyone had a chance to have their photo taken with Nicholas Sparks. That would be my elbow and nose there on the left. I hate to crowd people.
Everyone had a chance to have their photo taken with Nicholas Sparks. That would be my elbow and nose there on the left. I hate to crowd people.

Okay, he didn’t actually sit down and give ME advice. Not intentionally, anyway.

Sunday a week ago I volunteered at a book signing for Nicholas Sparks in Greenville, SC. Fiction Addiction is a fabulous, independent bookstore that has been gracious enough to host me for a signing.

Let’s just say FEWER people came to my event.

My job was to help make sure each fan’s book got in front of Nicholas Sparks, open to the correct page, and with a minimum of fuss. I was also key in keeping that line moving since we estimated around 600 people came out. Some as early as 8 a.m. for a 3 p.m. signing.

Here are some of my takeaways (you know, for when 600 people come to see me):

  1. If there’s a long line and people are waiting, start signing early. Nicholas started signing around 1 p.m. and we finished up around 4 p.m. That means early arrival fans had a two-hour shorter wait than otherwise. I call that thoughtful!
  2. Set parameters. Only one book per customer, only the current book, no personalizations, and only books purchased from the host store. This not only keeps the line moving, but gives an independent bookseller a significant boost. Nice!
  3. Be flexible with the parameters. Like, say, when a 98-year-old fan waits in line–she TOTALLY gets a peronalization. And when four generations of one family come together because they’re all fans, they’re getting their photo on the Nicholas Sparks Facebook page!
  4. Remember the people who got you started. I was amazed by how many people Nicholas knew. He asked about family members, jobs, and illnesses. He called people by name and he gave them hugs. There were several fans who’d been to a signing for every single one of his books. He recognized them right away.
  5. Be nice to the volunteers. Once the line dwindled to nothing, Nicholas personalized a free book for each volunteer. He also complimented the lady who supplied dried roses that perfectly matched the ones on the cover of See Me.
  6. Be real. He took bathroom breaks. He drank Mountain Dew. He joked and he might have been just the teensiest bit tired after three hours of interacting with fans. At which point he put on his jacket and headed for home.

I’m always a little cautious when I meet someone with a degree of fame. Will they be nice? Will they be a disappointment? I’ve met a few authors who left me less of a fan. Not Nicholas Sparks. I’ll probably continue to avoid his “sad” books just because I like happy endings, but after watching him interact with readers for three hours I have to say, I’m a fan, regardless.