Friday, September 30, 2011
How much do writers owe their audience?
Now, of course, writers wouldn't get paid unless their audience bought their books. So, for that, no doubt, we are eternally grateful that people give of their time and their money to indulge our writing obsessions.
But my question goes deeper than that. The second book in my The Coming Evil Trilogy--Enemies of the Cross--will be released in February. That's just around the corner, and I'm starting to feel the pressure. Will people like the book? Will they feel satisfied and that the year-long wait was worth it?
Will I live up to the expectations of my fanbase?
Expectations... I never had those with Book One. It was a wild card. A weird little addition to the world. No one saw it coming and I certainly had no clue what the reaction of readers might be. But now that it's out--and people have read it--they have no doubt come to their own conclusions about "what happens next". I know I would if I were merely a Reader. Most of my favorite TV shows are eventually ruined for me because, the longer I stay with them, the more ideas I come up with for how I would continue the show. And, when the show veers from my ideal direction, I feel offended. I feel that the show has let me down because it's not stuck to my own fantasy direction.
The question is: Should it?
At what point do fans have "a right" to their story? Or do they ever? Is a book art? Or is it a product to be consumed?
If it's merely a product to be consumed, then I would say the fans have every right. If you buy Peter Pan Peanut Butter all your life, and suddenly the recipe changes, you have a right to complain. That's a product and you buy it because of certain attributes. If that changes, then it's not the same product. I suspect that's why some fans have created an uproar over the Blu-Ray release of the Star Wars saga with all of its (largely unnecessary) changes. They saw the movie a certain way in the theater, and now that product is being changed. The recipe's changed. It's not the same product. Or is it?
If a book is art, do the fans have any say? Or is it the author's right to create however he or she desires? Is George Lucas right to make his changes to Star Wars? It's his movie, after all, right? (I'm being rhetorical. I'm one of those upset with most of his changes :p)
What I find interesting is that, personally speaking, when I become a fan of something, it's because I trust the author. I feel like they know what they're doing and, especially for that first book/movie/tv season, I'm just along for the ride. But, as the ride progresses, then I want to start having my say. I turn into a backseat driver and I think the characters should do this, or the twist should be this.
I remember reading someone's comment on a facebook post that, if a reader doesn't like your book, then you--as the author--let them down. I find that to be a very harsh and erroneous, black-and-white statement. But maybe I'm wrong. How do you measure the success of a book? By how many people you pleased with it, or by how you personally feel about it?
I will not please everyone with Book Two, I fear. I'd like to think my audience will continue to place their trust in me as I lead them through this story. On the other hand, maybe it's an honor that fans feel so comfortable with your story that they feel a small ownership in it. Maybe that's what I want. Maybe that's a good thing. I'm passionate about the story and I want others to be too. At what point do you cater to those "partner owners" and at what point do you carry on in the path, regardless of your fanbase's wishes (both extremes)?
I've seen shows and stories that (at least I thought) have catered only to their loudest fans and they lose their identity. They lose the thing that made them unique because they allow themselves to be pulled this way and that.
I don't know if these questions have any easy answers. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about all of it--but I'd love your input. Where do you draw the line between "fan service" and "creative freedom"? Are novels art or a product? Or does the truth lie somewhere in the middle?
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Just a few years into our pursuit of a more artfully engaged and financially down-to-earth lifestyle we came across The Rabbit Room. In this semi-circle of artists there seemed to be no exclusivity, no specific hairstyle or ironic t-shirt required. Just support for the journey and a mutual admission that none of us is yet an expert. . . . The world is richer when we are engaged with it, the word is richer when we make it tangible. There may be nothing new under the sun, but the hard-won art of these Rabbits illuminates the same truths to new people, in a moment’s language. And when the truth is spoken, they continue on, looking for a way to say it again, for someone else. The artists that were present this weekend have at times spoken my language, have communicated things I did not even know I needed to receive, and that have changed me eternally. Their work does not promote escape, but engagement. It is not numbing entertainment; it is soul distillation. And, oh, how I need it. [emphasis mine] I am so grateful to this community, to those who host it, and to each artist who shows up over and over and hollers, “Y’all come!” despite what fear, despite what interruption it brings.
Monday, September 26, 2011
The graphic design department created a cover that really fits the story.
You can order the book here:
It's available in both print and e-book formats.
Maggie's Journey is set in 1885. The story journeys from Seattle, Washington Territory, all the way to Little Rock, Arkansas, and back while Maggie seeks the answers to the secrets in her life.
I have just returned from the American Christian Fiction Writers national conference in St Louis. While I was there the Romantic Times Book Reviews magazine arrived at the hotel.
Maggie's Journey received this 4-star review.
Dooley begins the McKenna's Daughters series with lovable characters finding out that who they thought they are is not really who they are. Readers are a part of the characters' journey to discover the truth. Dooley is a wonderful author who brings her characters to life.
I was both surprised and thankful for that review.
Tell us about the last time you were surprised with something wonderful happening in your life.
Friday, September 23, 2011
But when I hold my own book in my hands, the book I spent hours, days, weeks, months crafting and honing and polishing, the book I literally poured my heart and soul into, man, it's all worth it. And when I see my book on the shelf in a bookstore or a library a sense of real accomplishment fills me to running over and I forget the heartache and frustration.
So what's my favorite part about being an author? The people, of course. I love words, but interacting with people makes the words worthwhile.
Nothing excites me more than connecting with readers via email, Facebook, or in person. I love hearing what they thought of the characters, the plot, the twists and turns. Were they scared at the right places? Did they laugh when I wanted them to? Did they cheer for the protagonists and boo and hiss at the villain?
Were they touched? Did the story make them think, feel challenged or inspired?
Sometimes the common bond I share with my readers opens doors for deeper conversations about life and family and God. About the struggles with which we all wrestle, those monsters in life, about sorrow we must endure, joy we celebrate. Through the characters and themes in my book I make a connection with the reader, we share a moment in life together and, even if only temporary, a union is formed.
I recently had a young man connect with me after reading one of my books and share some real struggles he's been trudging through, tough stuff. He felt comfortable talking to me because of the book I'd written and the way the story touched him.
Folks, that's heavy stuff. I feel the weight of that responsibility and don’t take it for granted for one minute. For me, that's when this writing thing and all the baggage that goes with it is worth every minute of time I put into it. It's about people, it's about the reader, it always has been and always will be.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
I had a great experience the first time I attended the ACFW conference. I was a little overwhelmed with everything offered as far as classes, editor/agent appointments and Early Birds sessions. The classes were helpful for a novice writer to learn the basics and some facts about this crazy industry we’re in. I still remember some of the classes and authors who gave sessions and what they taught. There was a lot more to this writing business than I’d realized! The best part was meeting other authors and making connections that I still have today eight years later. It was great to meet my agent in person and spend some time talking over goals and plans for my writing career.
I’ll miss the conference this year. Instead I’ll be flying to Lancaster Pennsylvania to do research for my books. So I expect to hear all about it when I get back. Have a great time everyone!
Do you have a memory to share about your first conference?
Monday, September 19, 2011
There is a true story of two Genoan sailors who landed on an island off the Mediterranean coast. When they began to explore it, they found a monk who had been attacked by island natives and left for dead. The sailors rescued him and took him aboard the ship and set sail for their homeport of Genoa. One day en route, the monk was well enough to be carried on deck for fresh air. As the sailors helped him lean over the ship’s railing, the monk grabbed one of the young man with one arm and with the other waved out across the sea and said, “Over there is a land where the gospel has not gone. Send men there.” Then he collapsed and died a short time later.
The young sailor was greatly impacted by the monk’s words his entire life, telling the story over and over. As he grew older, his grandchildren would sit at his feet and listen to the tales of his seafaring life. The most repeated story was the one about the monk. The grandfather would always finish with the words “Over there is land where the gospel has not gone. Send men there.” Eventually, the grandchildren developed other interests and tired of hearing the story. Except for one. The youngest would ask his grandfather to tell it to him over and over. Years past and the grandfather died and no one ever told the story again. An ordinary sailor with an ordinary life that history would not bother to remember. Well maybe not quite. The young sailor who found the monk so many years before was named Stephen Columbus. No one knows what became of his many grandchildren, except for the one named Christopher.
Ex. 13:8 On that day tell your children, ‘I do this because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’
Have you told the story of your life? You never know who is listening.
Friday, September 16, 2011
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Friday, September 9, 2011
If reading is a journey of discovery, most readers can point to landmarks along the way. Whether it’s a matter of eloquence, conceptual lucidity, or just good timing, these books inevitably serve as signposts to our reading experience. These are the books you keep going back to — if not in thought, in actual re-reading — the ones you tend to judge other books by.
Below is ten of mine. I’m not necessarily saying these are my favorites, nor are they the best in their field. But just that they’ve had more lasting impact on my ideas, outlook, and emotions, than others. (I’ve purposely omitted the Bible because, hey, every believer is supposed to list it.)
The Pursuit of God — A.W. Tozer’s fiery devotional classic. As much a rebuke against stale orthodoxy as a passionate call to eschew comfortable Christianity. The chapter entitled “The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing” should be required reading for every believer.
Godric — Frederick Buechner’s Pulitzer-nominated retelling of the medieval hermit’s battles against the world, the flesh and the devil. A bittersweet, poetic tale about a quirky, painfully devout saint. Buechner’s rich, alliterative language is nothing short of amazing.
Celebration of Discipline — Though criticized by many for its flirtations with mysticism, Richard Foster’s contemporary framing of the classical disciplines — prayer, fasting, solitude, meditation, etc. — is a timely tether to monastic history, the saints of the past, and their personal pilgrimages.
Perelandra — The second book of C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy and the best of that bunch. The “unfallen” Venusian world of floating islands is unforgettable. But underlying the drama, Lewis demonstrates a philosophical rigor that engages the reader at another level. What Christian sci-fi should be.
What’s So Amazing About Grace — I read this on the heels of a debilitating legalistic relationship… and it was liberating! Philip Yancey unpacks a concept that’s been cheapened by bad theology and flippant culture. Through insightful anecdotes and heartbreaking stories, the author restores the mystery to the most powerful divine force in the universe.
The Lord of the Rings — Tolkien’s classic trilogy remains the watermark for fantasists everywhere. I still view The Two Towers as the book that single-handedly inspired me to become a writer.
The Master Plan of Evangelism — This short book expounds Jesus’ simple strategy for changing the world. Robert Coleman reaffirms the exponential possibilities of human relationships, while alternately dismantling the inherent flaws with program-oriented power structures. Should be studied by every Christian minister or leader.
Amusing Ourselves to Death — Neil Postman’s scathing expose of the effects of television on public discourse, religious thought, and political debate is even more relevant now than it was 20+ years ago. The decline of the written word has been replaced by sound-bite psychology. Thus, as we fixate upon Twitter and the tube, we empower the very mediums of our demise. A must-read for every cultural observer!
Till We Have Faces — Lewis retells the myth of Cupid and Psyche, displaying both his fluency in ancient literature and his worldview regarding myth and Christianity. But, more intrinsic to this story, is the psychology of the human soul. While lacking the overt Christian symbollism of Lewis’ other works, the tale engages at a deeper, more disturbing, level. A haunting, beautiful, story.
The Creator and the Cosmos — Astrophysicist Hugh Ross articulates how the existence of multiple dimensions not only aligns itself with a biblical view of the universe, but provides a paradigm for resolving apparent theological contradictions. This book on cosmology single-handedly helped me overcome a dreaded fixation upon paradox.
So I’m interested, what books have most inspired / influenced you?
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Galatians 6:9 niv
This verse is my signature verse for my writing. Because of my age, I despaired of every becoming a published writer, but this verse gave me the inspiration and motivation to keep working and not give up on my dream. God is giving me that harvest now.
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved to make up stories for friends, cousins, dolls and my paper dolls. Around the age of nine or ten, I began writing my stories down. I continued that through college when I wrote a novel, but then I married and started a family and had no time for writing.
Then in my forties, I decided to go back to school and get a MEd. I enrolled in a course to teach writing to high school students. My love for writing resurfaced and I began with short stories. My primary desire was to have a novel published after I already had written several Bible studies and stories or devotionals for various compilations, and even a story in a novella. Still, I wanted a book with just my name on it. I voiced this desire several times over the years, and one of my First Place 4 Health friends started praying for me and my writing.
In January of 2009, Carole Lewis, our National Director, challenged us to “Give God a Year.” I made the list of things I would do for God and myself for one year and then what I expected God to do for me. One of the things on my list for God was to get a contract for a novel. I didn’t share the list with anyone, but did my best at keeping my end. I didn’t always succeed, but I didn’t give up.
With the prayers of so many of my friends, both writing and church, and my new commitment, I had confidence and believed that God would honor my request.What happened that year is a testimony to God’s faithfulness and how He answers the prayers and faithfulness of His children.
In June of 2009, on my seventy-third birthday, I received a call from my agent that Strang Communications wanted to offer me a contract for a book proposal she had sent them. After accepting the offer, I received a contract for not one but four books all based on the one proposal we had sent them. God had not only answered our prayers, but had blessed me four times over.
Last year when I attended the American Christian Writer’s Conference in Indianapolis, Tamela and I received word that the editor was offering me a new contract for five books. Then in January of 2011, I was asked to write a prequel to the first series and given a new contract. I am overwhelmed at how much God has accomplished. I’m working on that fifth book of the second contract now. In January, 2012, My ninth and tenth books will be released. What an amazing two years.
We are on this journey together, and when we share our heart’s desires with others who then pray for and with us, it becomes sweet music to God’s ear. We rejoice with each other in triumphs, and we cry together in heartache. God hears and sees it all, and blesses us beyond measure for our faithfulness to Him and our belief in His answers.
What is a dream you don't want to give up?
Monday, September 5, 2011
One of the things that helps me is to act out my characters. Now, no, you won't find me prancing about my Batcave (that's where I write) with a cloak reciting lines to thin air (I don't know why I would have a cloak, it just sounded appropriate). But I really try to picture actors or put myself in the role. Not just in what they think or their background, but I want to define their mannerisms. How they relate to one another and what that visually looks like.
Today I had a blast watching through some audition tapes of the young actors that are going to be in the movie I wrote "Amazing Love: The Story of Hosea" (title subject to change). The film starts shooting in a couple weeks and I'm really excited to see the finished product. I wrote this a few years ago and, since then, filmmakers Rich and Dave Christiano worked on the script, found a director, and have put this whole thing together. Watching the young actors cast in the movie was a real treat. It was even a little emotional, watching them live out my dialogue. Some of them brought things to the roles that I would have never dreamed of. Their nuance, their acting choices--it showed me a new side to my own characters. What was especially neat was watching one young actress in particular read one of the more tender, emotional scenes. I marveled that she was making all the same nuanced mannerisms that I made while writing it! Perhaps I'm just really in tune with my inner teenage girl, but I felt a real kinship to that performance. That was my character, ripped right from my heart, and on the screen staring back at me.
I think watching the actors has helped my writing process even more. It's given me new things to think about in how people act and the various ways that a single line can be delivered and all the new meanings that arise out of each interpretation.
I'll let everyone know when the movie comes out. It's a far cry from my usual projects--you know, no monsters or disembowelment--but I think you'll like it anyway :p We're hoping to see it out early next year.
For the writers, what are some of the ways you've acted out your characters to better understand your writing? For readers, would it bother you to think of your favorite author prancing about in a cloak reciting dialogue to thin air? :p
Friday, September 2, 2011
I went to a book store.
There was a time I practically lived at a book store. My local Barnes & Noble is the only chain book store in my city. And, before Starbucks staked a claim on just about every corner in our town, it was the only place to get a decent non-fat latte while you were writing away at your novel.
At that time, my co-author and I were working on our depression book and the book store coffee shop was the writer’s community in our area. We knew the people who came and went. They were avid readers or wannabe writers. We sat and sipped and talked and, frankly, seldom wrote a word. But, it was community! It was warm and inviting.
Things have changed. I seldom go to my local book store anymore. Why would I have to? My church has added a coffee shop so I can spend time there working on my books. The money spent on coffee goes to a mission project. I read blogs and check out book reviews for new books. And then, I just pop open my iPad2 and order the book through iBooks or Kindle or Nook. Simple. Clean. Fast. Efficient.
Case in point. Our local apologetics group invited the collegiate minister in our area to speak to us on the state of college kids and the threat to them of losing their faith in a secular higher educational institute. He held up a book, “The iY Generation” and started quoting statistics. I have a keen interest in teaching college bound students how to defend the faith and to think critically. So, I opened my iPad2, found the book on Amazon, ordered it and downloaded it in less than a minute. By the time our speaker found the page with the statistics I had the book open on my iPad2! Isn’t technology great?
Or, is it?
This past weekend, my son and I decided to go on an adventure. I took my old nook (don’t need it anymore with the iPad) and we visited my Barnes & Noble. I decided to revisit my old habits. I walked through the front door. I realized instantly how I had missed that unique and enticing blend of fragrances. Coffee and paper with a hint of dust and what was that exotic tinge? Ah, yes, cinnamon. I went to the New Arrivals table. Lots of books I had not heard about. For free, I was able to sample the book with my nook. I grabbed a skinny latte with sugar free vanilla and began to wander and explore. My son and I compared reading lists and touched and handled real books. We sampled chapters and read passages out loud. We opened “The Fellowship of the Ring” and took turns reading aloud some of our favorite passages.
We had a blast! I realize now how much I miss the book store and the sensory experience of real books. This is something we have lost in the Kindle era. We have traded depth for expediency and I fear we are much less for it.
On a table near the back, we found a treasure. Classic books by authors had been compiled into large tomes with dark, rich leather and gold leafing. These were some of my favorite authors and their books had become works of visual art. I picked up two of them even though I have old paperback copies and also copies on my Kindle. Is this the future of books? Render them into works of visual art to be displayed on our shelves?
And, there sitting at a table was an old friend I had not talked to in years. He was a little grayer, a little more stooped but we sat and talked and shared mugs of coffee and we had -- community!
Do you miss the book store? Are we richer or poorer for our Kindles and Nooks?