Thursday, April 30, 2015

Tales from the Greenroom: Six Minutes on Television

Quite a lot of work can go into six minutes of TV.

I heard from my publicist on March 4th that I'd gotten a slot on AM Northwest, which is the local Portland morning show, aired on the ABC affiliate station. "That's going to be rough for you," Danny said when I told him about it. "You're going to have to be up early."

My publicist and I went back and forth discussing recipes - because I had a six-minute slot, I decided to play it safe and make the cherry crostini that first debuted on this blog. The one complication? No fresh cherries. I prayed for weeks that the grocery stores would have some early cherries in stock, flown in from somewhere in Argentina.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Reservations for Two Release Day Tiramisu!

It's been such a wonderful release day! Reservations for Two is officially out in the world (see purchasing options here).  I got to swing by a nearby Barnes & Noble location (our closest bookstore) and see copies on the shelf! So wonderful.

It's been a busy few few days - yesterday I appeared on our local morning television show, AM Northwest, and did a short cooking demo.

I'll post more fully about that experience tomorrow, but until then you can see the clip of me cooking and putting-together-sentence-doing here.

But back to Reservations for Two - it's officially out and about in the world, and to celebrate, I'm sharing the Home-style Tiramisu that Juliette enjoys during a visit to family in Tuscany.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt: Stop #14 (Pink Team)

Welcome to the Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt! I am a part of Team Pink, and this is Stop #14. The Hunt begins at Noon Mountain time on April 16 and ends at midnight Mountain on April 19, 2015, so you have a long weekend to complete all 34 stops and maximize your chances at prizes!

If you're just joining us, there are two loops—pink and purple—and they begin at Lisa Bergren's site and Robin Hatcher's site for stop #1 for either stream. If you complete either the pink loop or purple loop, you can enter for a Kindle paperwhite and the 17 autographed books from that loop. If you complete both loops, you can enter for the Grand Prize of a Kindle Fire HDX and all 34 autographed books.

Please be sure to keep track of the clues at the bottom of every post in the loop and the favorite number mentioned. You'll need those clues to enter for the loop prize and every number mentioned in order to enter for the grand prize.

(Also, please don't use Internet Explorer to navigate through the loops. Some web sites won't show up using IE. Chrome or Firefox are recommended.)

Hillary here - welcome to stop #14, Pink Loop, of the Great Scavenger Hunt of 2015! If you're just popping in, do start at stop #1 for the full dish. 

I'm delighted to be hosting my friend here today, the delightful Katie Ganshert. Katie writes with great sensitivity and lyricism on a number of topics, infertility included. Read on to find out how her own journey inspired her latest release, The Art of Losing Yourself, releasing April 21st. 

In the world of novel-writing, authors can usually be lumped into one of two groups—character-first and plot-first. The names are self-explanatory. A character-first writer starts with a character and builds the plot accordingly. A plot-first writer starts with a plot, and then creates characters to carry it out.

I don’t fit into either mold.

My novels don’t begin with a character or a plot. They almost always begin with a scene. They’ll come to me at random times. While I’m driving in the car or taking a shower or lying in bed or sitting in church. The scene will play out—so real and vivid and enticing that I need to write it. And once I’ve written it, I need to find a story to go with it.

For my upcoming novel—The Art of Losing Yourself, releasing in a few short days—it all began with a parking lot and my irritation with an Expectant Mother sign. As a woman who has walked the path of infertility, those signs can feel like a punch to the gut. In the midst of my inward musings, the scene that would birth this novel took shape.

Here’s a snippet:
I wasn’t sure at what point the air inside Toys R Us grew too thick to breathe. Mandy’s words had brought in a high tide of what-ifs. What if we were never chosen? What if we went through the same thing Mandy’s cousin’s church friend went through? What if Ben and I were doomed to forever be in this place we’d found ourselves in, with no hope of getting out? I tried my hardest to shut the questions off.

God had a plan…

It was something I believed once, a long time ago. But now?

My hand settled over the flatness of my stomach, even as I attempted to keep the memories away. But they were stubborn, intrusive things, dredging up handfuls of doubt I was so sick of holding. Once upon a time, I naively thought God would bless Ben and me for doing life His way. Yet there I sat in the driver’s seat, a bag of baby items resting in my lap, with nothing but aching arms and an empty house.

A ray of sunlight broke through the clouds and reflected off a parking sign straight ahead of me: For Expectant Mothers.

My composure snapped.

Without warning, without forethought, I shifted into drive and hit the gas, a wild scream tearing up my throat. My car lurched forward and rammed into the metal post. The sign remained standing. Its resiliency blistered all reason. I threw my car into reverse, backed up, and ran into it again, flooring the gas until a loud crunch rent the air.

I blinked several times with the steering wheel gripped in my hands. Then I rose up in my seat. A stork carrying a bundled baby was taking a nosedive toward the cement.

The Art of Losing Yourself Book Blurb:

Just like in my dream, I was drowning and nobody even noticed.
Every morning, Carmen Hart pastes on her made-for-TV smile and broadcasts the weather. She’s the Florida panhandle’s favorite meteorologist, married to everyone’s favorite high school football coach. They’re the perfect-looking couple, live in a nice house, and attend church on Sundays. From the outside, she’s a woman who has it all together.  But on the inside, Carmen Hart struggles with doubt. She wonders if she made a mistake when she married her husband. She wonders if God is as powerful as she once believed. Sometimes she wonders if He exists at all. After years of secret losses and empty arms, she’s not so sure anymore.
Until Carmen’s sister—seventeen year old runaway, Gracie Fisher—steps in and changes everything. Gracie is caught squatting at a boarded-up motel that belongs to Carmen’s aunt, and their mother is off on another one of her benders, which means Carmen has no other option but to take Gracie in. Is it possible for God to use a broken teenager and an abandoned motel to bring a woman’s faith and marriage back to life? Can two half-sisters make each other whole?

The Scavenger Hunt Skinny:
Thanks for stopping by on the hunt! Before you go, make sure you write down the clues.

Secret Word: your
Secret Number: 7, because Danny and I married on 7/7/07 (Yeah, we were one of those). 
Next Stop: Katie's hosting Stop #15! Click here to continue. And if you're turned around, a complete list of the stops with links will be on Robin Hatcher's website.

Before You Go:

You can find ordering information for The Art of Losing Yourself here, as well as the first chapter.

Reflections on my own journey with infertility can be found here and here.

Also, you can enter to win a copy of my latest - and not yet released - title, Reservations for Two below. Thanks for stopping by, enjoy the rest of the Scavenger Hunt!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Writer's Corner - Writing a Synopsis: a three-step process to getting it done

If you hate synopses, you know who you are. The word gives you the shudders. When you have to write one, you whinge about it on social media.

I get it. I do. But there are two reasons why being able to write one easily will really benefit you.

First - synopses are a reality of the publishing industry. If you're pitching a book to an agent, to an editor, they all want to see a synopsis. And with good reason, obviously - it's faster to read a synopsis than an entire book.

And second, a synopsis is a very useful tool for getting from beginning to end. A lot can happen in 85,000-95,000 words, and it can be easy to lose your way. A synopsis is a road map, a planning tool to work out plot kinks before you're in 60,000 words and realize you've lost your way.

Writing a synopsis can be difficult for many fiction writers. It's basically the opposite of writing a book. But if you break it down into three steps and shift you're writing perspective, it's very, very approachable.

1. Make a timeline. I take a sheet of 11x17" paper and create a timeline with three-act structure in mind. It's okay for this to be messy, with thought bubbles connected to the timeline with long pencil marks.

And do use a pencil, because this is a rough, rough stage.

2. Make a bulleted list of plot points. This is simple - in a document, transcribe the plot points on the paper, filling in any blank spots. This is just a list. For your personal use, you could probably just stop here. But for a proposal synopsis, the next stop is to connect everything together.

3. Write the synopsis. Stay with me on this one.

          Tip 1. Tell, don't Show. For instance, if you're writing a book you'd say -

"Penelope held the potted rosebush in the crook of her arm, stroking a soft bloom with her fingertips. Her heart squeezed. It wasn't supposed to be this way. The house had been in the family for generations. It had survived war, flood, and a pernicious case of mold.

But it couldn't survive her brother's financial decisions. After three hundred years, the legacy ended with a bad investment made by Bernie Seymour-Weston.

The furniture had sold, the artwork too. All she had left of the house was a cutting from her great-grandmother's rosebush."

And in a synopsis, you'd say -

"After her brother loses the family estate, Penelope has nothing but a rosebush to her name."

          Tip 2: Lean into the verbs and keep the sentences simple. Protagonist does this, later protagonist goes there. Protagonist feels hurt, protagonist decides to become a garden consultant. A week later, Protagonist travels to Upper Winbaugh to an estate willing to hire her - and so on.

          Tip 3: Look at is as a series of actions and reactions. In the Writer's Block blog, I talk about how a book is a series of chemical reactions. So look at the synopsis as a way to write out the actions and the subsequent reactions.

          Tip 4: Don't overthink it. If there's ever a time to not self-edit, it's synopsis writing. Take a deep breath and dive in, relaxing into the style.

          Tip 5: Practice. When I was pitching the Two Blue Doors series, I had 25 or so versions of the proposal - that's how many times I wrote and rewrote and pitched and re-pitched the concept. And after that? Tossing out a synopsis feels much more natural. So even if it still feels tricky, keep at it. It's the writing equivalent of riding a bike.

          Tip 6: Make it a reference point. Think of this document as a handy cheat sheet, not only for plot but also for names and places. As you develop your story, character and place names can change. Going through your synopsis and putting the names in bold (just the first time, you don't necessarily have to do it throughout) makes it easy to go back and remind yourself what your character's assistant's name is the name of the fictional cafe where she used to work. 

Those are my tips. What do you think? What synopsis tips work for you?