8 Fantastic Authors I Met At The 2018 ACFW Conference & What I Didn’t Know About Them

8 Fantastic Authors ACFW 2018

This was my first year attending the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Conference and I can’t tell you how excited I was in the weeks leading up to the event. Over the last few years I have been blessed to connect with a number of authors online, but for many of them, this would be my first chance to meet them in person.  I know that as readers, many of you can share in my excitement over meeting these wonderful women who have crafted some of our favorite stories. So I thought I’d share some of my favorite moments with you. (Presented in alphabetical order because I couldn’t possibly rank by favorite.)

Tamera Alexander

alexander145rt - Version 2

I actually met Tamera in the one place they tell you not to bother the faculty: the bathroom. LOL To be fair, it’s not like I stalked her in there. I just happened to come out of the stall just as she was finishing washing her hands. While I was washing my hands, I said, “Well, this is an awkward place to meet, but I have to tell you that I think your books are awesome.” Or something very similar to that. She very graciously thanked me for my compliments and that was it. Not much of a conversation since we were both hurrying to the next class, but a little while later I was able to sit in on a class where she was part of the panel discussing “Writing in Community.” It was great to hear her thoughts on the subject along with those of the others on the panel (many of whom I was also silently fan-girling over: Deborah Rainey, Jody Hedlund, Lynette Eason, Lynn Blackburn, Karen Witemeyer).

What I didn’t know about Tamera was that Deborah Rainey is her critique partner. The banter between those two kept the panel discussion fun.

Books by Tamera: A Note Yet Unsung (2018 Carol Award winner & 2017 Christy Award Winner & part of the Belmont Mansion series),  The Inheritance (2010 RITA Award winner), From a Distance (One of my personal favorites & 2009 Christy Award Winner & part of the Timber Ridge Reflections series). Find more of her books here!

Pepper Basham

After reviewing a few of Pepper’s books for the blog, I’ve had the opportunity to begin a friendship with this wonderful woman via email. Getting to finally meet her in person was such a pleasure. She immediately recognized me when we spotted each other in the huge crowd and gave me a hug. She is just as friendly and genuine in person as you could hope for.

What I didn’t know about Pepper was how comfortable she could appear on stage in front of nearly 600 people as part of the conference worship team. Her beautiful voice blended well with worship leader Rachel Hauck’s(!). (Rachel isn’t on my list because I just didn’t get a chance to connect with her – so many people, so little time – but yes, I was totally fangirling over her, too.)

Books by Pepper: The Penned in Time series (the books that made me fall in love with her writing), the Mitchell’s Crossroads series (how can you not love a great reimagining of Pygmalion?), and Jane by the Book (featuring a hero like no other). Find more books by Pepper here!

Mary Connealy

MaryConnealy by Ginger Murray Photography

Mary Connealy is a Carol Award winner and a Rita and Christy and IRCC Award Finalist. I have been a fan of her writing for so long, I can’t remember when I started reading her books. I only know if there’s a book of hers that I haven’t read (and I’m not sure there is), it’s only because I haven’t been able to get my hands on it yet.

It was the first day of the conference when I was speaking to Carrie Schmidt (another online friend I was thrilled to meet in person) when Mary’s name came up and I mentioned what a huge fan I was and that I hadn’t yet had the pleasure of meeting her. Carrie, dear heart that she is, immediately got up and went to pull Mary from the crowd and bring her over to introduce us. I’m not sure I managed a very fascinating conversation considering my brain just kept repeating, “No way. No way. I can’t believe I’m actually meeting her!” LOL But I do recall that she asked what genre I wrote in and I managed to get some intelligible words out . . . I think.

What I didn’t know about Mary was her willingness to help other authors. Later that night there was an event at which nervous authors were invited to come practice their pitches before facing agents and editors in appointments on the days to follow. Carrie Schmidt was one of the hosts so I stopped by to see how it was going and Mary was there, along with other experienced authors who’d volunteered to listen to pitches.

Books by Mary: The Cimarron Legacy series (don’t miss the novella prequel!), the Wild at Heart series, & The Kincaid Brides series, and Garrison’s Law is her fun new contemporary series that I’m loving.  Find more of her books here!

Emily Conrad

Emily Conrad

You know what’s really fun? Having a casual conversation with another author and suddenly realizing you just downloaded their debut novel the night before! That’s what happened when I met Emily Conrad at the conference. If you haven’t heard of her debut novel, Justice, I definitely recommend you take a minute to check it out.

What I didn’t know about Emily was … well I already covered that, didn’t I? 😉 I had no idea the author whose book I’d just purchased would be standing in front of me the very next day.

Find Emily’s debut novel here.

Sarah Sundin

Okay, technically this was my second time meeting Sarah, but she is just too wonderful a person not to mention here. I first met her at the 2018 Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in the spring. This time we happened to catch the same shuttle from the airport to the resort and were able to reconnect as we rode. It was lovely to get to know her better over the next few days through several conversations and her moderation of the Historical Fiction panel at the conference. (The panel also included: Karen Witemeyer, Carrie Turansky, & Melanie Dobson)

What I didn’t know about Sarah was that she is a serious outliner when it comes to plotting. Some writers start with a basic idea, then just sit down and start writing. Others outline nearly everything that happens in their novels before writing a single word. Sarah falls into the latter category and it can take her about three months to complete an outline, but then her actual writing goes pretty fast.

Books by Sarah: The Sunrise at Normandy series, the Waves of Freedom series, the Wings of the Nightingale series. Find more books by Sarah here!

Carrie Turansky

Carrie Turansky

I just happened to cross paths with Carrie Turansky after checking in at registration for the conference. She was very sweet when I stopped her to tell her how much I loved her writing. We had a couple more opportunities to talk during the conference and I found her to be a very kind person.

What I didn’t know about Carrie was that she is not only a fabulous author but a mentor as well. She was a finalist for this year’s Mentor of the Year Award.

Books by Carrie: Shine Like the Dawn (My favorite!), Waiting for His Return, and Across the Blue. Find more of her books here!

Erica Vestch

Erica Vestch

I met Erica at the Pitch Practice session where she was helping listen to authors practicing their pitch. While I was there, Erica very kindly took the time to look over some of my writing and provide me with invaluable feedback. The fun part is that I knew her name was familiar but couldn’t bring to mind her titles (my brain was mush by then – almost 10pm). So when I returned to my hotel room, I searched her name and discovered that I had actually read many of her books. Better yet, I immediately downloaded her latest novella, A Perfect Christmas, which has only recently released as part of The Victorian Christmas Brides Collection and, despite the anchors weighing my lids, I had a very difficult time putting that book down!

What I didn’t know about Erica was what a kind and helpful spirit she has.

Books by Erica: A Perfect Christmas in The Victorian Christmas Brides Collection (Highly recommended!), Prescription for Love in The First Love Forever Romance Collection, My Heart Belongs in Fort Bliss, Texas: Priscilla’s Reveille Find more books by Erica, here!

Karen Witemeyer

I first spotted Karen seated at a table beside mine, but she was engaged in conversation the entire time and I didn’t get to say hello until later that day when I mentioned to Kristi Ann Hunter (another great author!) how much I loved Karen’s books. Kristi kindly introduced me to Karen the next time we were in the same hallway together. After telling Karen how much I enjoy her writing, the first thing I asked her was if she had an assistant that helped her maintain the seemingly impossible schedule she keeps with her incredibly active Facebook Group (The Posse) and her writing deadlines and her fulltime job and everything else she does. The answer? Her assistant’s name is Karen Witemeyer. 😉 Her words. 😀

What I didn’t know about Karen (besides her not having an assistant) is that her humor is just as witty in person and she is genuinely kind. She really cares about her readers. I also didn’t know that she has a lovely singing voice. Karen and Kristi were both members of the choir that sang for us at the ACFW Gala.

Books by Karen: More than Meets the Eye (Laugh-out-loud-funny!), Heart on the Line (picked as one of my Top 5 Heroes of 2017), and A Tailor-Made Bride (the first book I read by Karen). Find more of Karen’s books, here!

Why only 8?

Well, because it’s 2018 and I had to cut it off somewhere. Honestly, though, I could fill 30 blog posts talking about all the wonderful people I met at the conference. I told my mom that it was like an actress who’s still waiting tables walking into a room filled with all the A-list celebrities you can think of and discovering their all happy to meet you and willing to help you, AND they all love Jesus!!!

Let’s Chat!

Have you had the pleasure of meeting one of your favorite authors?

Which Christian Fiction author would you most like to meet?

TWEETABLES

Ever wondered if Karen Witemeyer has an assistant? #ACFW2018

This author has a kind and helpful spirit AND her Christmas novella just released! #ACFW2018

Do you know which of your favorite Christian Romance authors was a finalist for Mentor of the Year? #ACFW2018

Can you guess which Christian Romance author has research down to a science and thoroughly outlines her novels? #ACFW2018

When your talking to someone and suddenly realize their book is on your kindle! #ACFW2018

Meeting this author caused total fan-girl brain melt. #ACFW2018

Not only does she write incredible Christian Romance, she can sing, too! #ACFW2018

Do you know who @TameraAlexander’s critique partner is? #ACFW2018

How to Ignore Critique

How to Ignore Critique

The timer buzzed but Susan completed her final note before setting down her pen.

The critique group leader looked up and surveyed the five people surrounding her dining room table. “Who’d like to go first?”

Susan held up her pen. “I’ll go.”

“Okay, thanks.”

Susan glanced down at her notes on Harold-the-newcomer’s first submission to the group.

“First of all, ” She looked up at Harold. “I like the tension you’ve established in this scene. I can really feel the conflict between these two characters. So, good job.”

Harold nodded and grinned. “Thank you.”

“Near the bottom of the first page, in the sixth paragraph.” Susan tapped her finger on the paper. “See where it says, ‘He felt the sun beating down on his back’? Do you think you could rewrite that to eliminate the word ‘felt’? If you can, I think it might help your readers experience a deeper point of view.”

Harold’s brows pinched together. He said nothing as he dropped his gaze to his own copy of the story.

After an awkward pause, Susan turned the page and found her next note. “Here in the middle of the second page, you do a good job describing how the trash is all cleaned up today, but then you point out that it was spilled across the yard yesterday. The reader already knows this, though, because you wrote about the spilled trash just two scenes prior to this one, right? I think you can get away with just the description of how clean it is today and leave out the rest. The reader will pick up on the significance of the change.”

She looked around. Others were nodding.

Harold’s lips pinched and he didn’t look up.

Susan stifled a sigh as she skimmed through the rest of her notes. “Regarding the last line on the second page. With the way you structured this sentence, I’m not sure what you are referring to when you say, ‘Those things didn’t matter anymore.’ Perhaps, if you-”

Harold jumped to his feet. “I don’t know what there is not to get. My other group got it just fine.” He snatched back the copies of his story from those around the table. “They thought it was great. You must not have read it carefully.” He jerked Susan’s copy from her hands and jammed the papers into his backpack. “Maybe if you didn’t use this stupid timer,” He knocked over the wind-up timer.  “You could appreciate great writing when you saw it.”

Everyone gasped.

Harold stormed out of the house, slamming the front door behind him.


 

Don’t be a Harold. Just don’t.

You should never dismiss constructive critique out-of-hand. It’s even worse to take it as a personal offense. If someone has taken time out of their day to read your work and provide feedback, the least you can do is listen calmly and with an open mind.

But what should you do when the person critiquing you is wrong? 

Well, first of all, stop and consider that they might be right. Seriously. We don’t know what we don’t know. Sometimes what that person is saying doesn’t make sense to you, not because they are wrong, but because they haven’t explained it in a way that you can understand. Ask follow-up, clarifying questions. Make sure you thoroughly understand what they are trying to say. Then, if you have thought it over rationally, and still don’t think they are correct in their assessment or suggestion … shut up. Just smile and thank them for their time and effort in critiquing your work. Then walk away and put their notes in a file somewhere.

Don’t delete or throw the critique out right away. 

Why? In my experience, even those critiques you initially assess as incorrect can sometimes prove to have a grain of truth six months down the line when you learn something new; or you can suddenly encounter a second person saying the same thing as the first person, but they are explaining it in a way that changes your perspective on it. Having two or more people provide you with the same or similar critical note means it is time to sit up and pay attention. Maybe they are both wrong. Maybe not. Either way, it will be much easier to reassess things if you can look at both critiques side by side.

So when should you throw out critiques?

If the critique is something objectively wrong such as telling you that you can’t capitalize the word “son” even when using it as a proper noun, unless you are referring to Jesus . . . double check your preferred style manual, then throw it out. Grammar is grammar (for the most part).

If the critique is subjective, – such as how much you describe something – you should first consider everything you have learned about the writing craft and the conventions of your genre. Then consider whether you are hearing it from two or more sources or if it is a solitary opinion. Then, if you, as the author, still want it to stay the way it is … that’s why you are the author.

The thing a lot of new writers forget is that when everything is said and done, writing is an art form. Art is subjective. Trust me. I have received directly opposing critiques from equally reputable sources. They can’t both be right.

When it comes down to it, it’s your name on that title page, not theirs. Until and unless you sign a contract granting someone else control of your art, it is up to you to decide what best represents your intentions as the artist. Own that.

Don’t be a Harold.

Do have the confidence to (respectfully) ignore a critique that changes your art into theirs. 

Have Confidence

P.S. I’ve come a long way in my thinking on this issue. Take a peek back at my first reaction to the revelation that I am an artist.

Let’s Chat!

Have you met a ‘Harold’? How do you handle critiques (writing-related or not) that you don’t agree with?

TWEETABLES

Don’t be a Harold. Do have the confidence to (respectfully) ignore a critique that changes your art into theirs. (CLICK TO TWEET)

Having two or more people provide you with the same or similar critical note means it is time to sit up and pay attention.  (CLICK TO TWEET)

You should never dismiss constructive critique out-of-hand. It’s even worse to take it as a personal offense. (CLICK TO TWEET)

Don’t be a Harold. (CLICK TO TWEET)

I May Kill You

Blog Post - I may kill you

Like today’s title? Well, it’s true. I may kill you. Or at least part of you. In the very least, if I know you well enough to know your flaws, there is a very good chance I may steal them, magnify them, mix them in with someone else’s struggles, and make you part of my next antagonist (or any character, really, since they all have flaws). Whom I may or may not kill off in my next book. Consider yourself warned.

If you think that truth is frightening, you should probably stop reading now, because the even scarier truth is that all of my villains contain at least a small part of me. In order to write any character well, I have to be able to relate to them on some level. I have to understand their psyche, what motivates them, and why they feel and do what they do. This means that some part of who I am now or who I once was at some point in my life is very likely to be reflected in some part of each of my characters . . . including the philanderers, thieves, con-artists, and murderers.

So… who still wants to be my friend?

Please do not annoy the writer Mug photo
Today’s blog post was inspired by this photo of Elena Dillon’s mug which she shared on Twitter. (used here with permission) Elena writes teenage romance full of sass, suspense and swoon. For those interested: there is infrequent mild cursing in a couple of her books, but they are otherwise clean. Elena is a Christian and says her books have a faith basis but don’t meet CBA standards. You can learn more about Elena and her books HERE.

 

First Line Friday – 12.15.17

first-line-friday-3

Welcome to a very special First Line Friday! Each Friday I pick a book and share the first line with you. In return, I hope you’ll share with me a first line from whatever book you have at hand!

What makes this week so special? Well, I had mentioned in a post last month that one of my manuscripts was a finalist in the the Historical Romance category in the American Christian Fiction Writer’s First Impressions Contest, along with manuscripts by Dawne Beckel  & Savanna Kaiser. (If anyone knows of a better link to Dawne, please let me know! You can bet I’ll be following along with their careers and looking forward to their first published novels.)

So . . . I just found out that my manuscript has WON ! Aaaaaaahhhhhhhh! (Be grateful you weren’t here after I concluded my conversation with the person who called to inform me. My children have lost a bit of hearing, poor dears.)

I wish I knew how to convey in writing how stunned and honored I am. A bit ironic that I have no words, I suppose, but it’s true. I’m a bit speechless. Mostly, though, I am grateful. So incredibly grateful for the encouragement and the honor. I’m also deeply grateful for those who have sacrificed their time and efforts helping me to improve my craft. (I would list them here, but that could take all day to read and well, you know who you are. I couldn’t do what I do without you!)

 

As my way of paying forward the kindnesses shown to me, I’ll be celebrating this win with a very special giveaway open only to my Kathleen’s Readers’ Club members, so if you haven’t already joined, now is the time to do so! For those who are already members, keep an eye on your inbox this week for an extra special email.

The list of previous winners of the First Impressions Contest in this genre includes:

Abigail Wilson

Deb Garland (who apparently won 2 years in a row!)

Betty Woods

I’ll be keeping my eye out for books published by these ladies.

Now, on to the business of the day.

In keeping with the theme of new authors, I thought I’d share the first line from the prologue of Beneath the Heavens, Lindsey Barlow‘s debut novel which just released in October of this year.

Beneath the Heavens cover image

New Hampshire 1891

Esther looked down at the letter for what must have been the hundredth time.

This book was randomly stumbled upon while I was googling one day and is now on my TBR. I started reading the prologue and found myself all the way in and starting the first chapter before I knew what had happened.

about-the-book-2

A heart guarded, a secret revealed, a love discovered – When the beautiful and coddled Abigail Silvers is sent from her parents’ lush Texas ranch to the untamed wilds of Tall Pine, Colorado, her mother is hoping that Abigail will learn independence and self-reliance. What Abigail finds among the Colorado mountain people is a community built on hard work, faith, and family––she also finds the handsome Pastor Will who, much to her dismay, seems only to have eyes for Esther, the community’s midwife hiding from a dark past. Fiercely protective of her young son Michael, Esther’s determined not to let anyone ­close enough to hurt them––even if that means sacrificing true love. But when the Texas Ranger Joseph Silver, Abigail’s brother, shows up, Esther’s past is unearthed and her heart is exposed. Abigail and Joseph’s brash Texas manners rattle the people of Tall Pine, but ultimately the brother and sister may be an answer to prayer the townspeople didn’t know they needed.

Now it’s your turn to grab the book nearest to you and leave a comment with the first (or your favorite) line!

Then head over to Hoarding Books to see who else is participating:

ACFW First Impressions 2017 FINALIST!

Exciting News

Every year American Christian Fiction Writers holds the First Impressions contest for unpublished writers. For the first time, this year I decided to enter one of my manuscripts and I am over the moon to announce that I am one of three finalists in the historical romance category!

I wish I could do a vlog so you could see just how excited I am, but I have a cold with a sore throat and you all don’t deserve the torture that is my voice right now.

Suffice to say, this:  I got the call yesterday afternoon as I was leaving my children’s dentist’s office (walking to our van) and the second I hung up the phone I was doing such a big happy dance my kids busted up laughing and said I was bouncing our van. This, despite having been on the verge of falling asleep in the lobby minutes before. Nothing like awesome news to brighten an otherwise miserable day and bring energy to the virus weary.

I also want to add a big congratulations to all my fellow finalists, especially those in the Historical Romance category:

Dawne Beckel  & Savanna Kaiser

You can read the names of the finalists in each category HERE.

The winners of the 2017 First Impressions contest will be announced on December 15th.

Did You Know? – When Girls Become Women

Did You Know Chalk Board w Rustic Wood Frame & Daisy

“[Researchers] found that in 1860, the average age of the onset of puberty in girls was 16.6 years. In 1920, it was 14.6; in 1950, 13.1; 1980, 12.5; and in 2010, it had dropped to 10.5. Similar sets of figures have been reported for boys, albeit with a delay of around a year.” – McKie, Robin. “Onset of puberty in girls has fallen by five years since 1920.” TheGuardian.com. 20 Oct. 2012. Web. 9 Sept. 2017

Additionally, studies have shown that malnutrition can cause a delay in the age of puberty onset.

Why am I sharing this? Well, because it directly affects my novel set in the gold rush era of Northern California.

I never directly state my heroine’s age in the novel. However, events near the beginning of the book are (more or less) triggered by visible signs of puberty in my heroine. This necessarily dictates her approximate age for the rest of the book. (Take the approximate age of puberty, use the current chapter date to calculate the time elapsed since she reached puberty in the first chapter and you have her approximate age).

In initial critiques, I got a lot of pushback that my heroine was too young because readers were associating her physical changes with the ages at which girls experience those changes today. Most people, it seems, are unaware (or don’t make the connection) that girls of the past were so much older when these changes occurred for them.  Nor were they aware that the poverty-induced malnutrition my heroine suffered might have delayed the onset of her puberty.

It’s amazing how such small pieces of information can dramatically change our perspective on a story.

#nowyouknow 😉

5 Tips for Writing the Perfect Book Synopsis

5 Tips for Writing the Perfect Book Synopsis by Kathleen Denly
(How it can feel trying to cram your masterpiece into 2 pages or less.)

In preparation for my attendance of the Asheville Christian Writers Conference 2017, I have been polishing my book synopsis for my WWM manuscript. In order to create the best possible synopsis I have read many, many articles and it occurred to me this information might be helpful to others as well. So this week I am sharing with you 5 of the most helpful articles I found on writing the perfect book synopsis along with some of my favorites bits of advice from each:

Back to Basics: Writing a Novel Synopsis by Jane Friedman

“A good rule of thumb for determining what stays and what goes: If the ending wouldn’t make sense without the character or plot point being mentioned, then it belongs in the synopsis. If the character or plot point comes up repeatedly throughout the story, and increases the tension or complication each time, then it definitely belongs.”

Your Guide To An Effective Novel Synopsis by 

“There are no hard and fast rules about the synopsis. In fact, there’s conflicting advice about the typical length of a synopsis. Most editors and agents agree, though: The shorter, the better.”

6 Steps for Writing a Book Synopsis by Marissa Meyer

“The first paragraph of the synopsis should give the same basic information you convey through the book’s first chapter: where and when does this story take place, who is the protagonist, and what problem are they facing right off the bat?”

How to Write a Synopsis of Your Novel by Glen C. Strathy

“The biggest mistake most people make when they try to write a synopsis for the first time is to create a bare bones plot summary … It is the emotional twists and turns that make a novel or a hockey game appealing.”

Novel Synopsis: How to Write a Synopsis for your Novel by Graeme Shimmin

“Another trick is to get a friend and sit down with a voice recorder. Then tell them the plot of your novel. Listen to the questions they ask. Transcribe the conversation and pick out the best bits. You might find that your story flows more naturally in a conversation.”