Monday, May 29, 2006

The Hidden

Hello everybody! This month's selection for the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance was a real treat. As a writer I seldom find myself reading for pure enjoyment. I am usually looking at style, word choice, phrases, etc. With The Hidden by Kathryn Mackel, I forgot that I needed to learn while I read...I got so lost in the storyline that I never even got my highlighter out!

At first when I saw it, I thought, "Oh, no...another horse book." I even said to my husband, "I don't think I'll be able to get through this sounds too sentimental and there are horses."

Am I ever glad that I went beyond the first chapter, which mentioned horses! It gripped me and Kathryn wove the story around my head. I even dreamed about it. Yes, there are horses, but they are NOT what this story is about. Yes, there is the sentiment of heartbreak...but it goes deeper than the surface. This is spiritual warfare. It is real; it is today; it is happening.



Kathryn Mackel is not only a best-selling author but an acclaimed screenwriter for Disney and Fox. She was on the screenwriting team for Left Behind: The Movie, and Frank Peretti's Hangman's Curse. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts, with her husband.

I am honored to have been allowed some interview questions. Kathryn has graciously answered--even though she has just had a major surgery...

1. How did you break through the publishing wall that a lot of not-yet-published authors face?

Persistence. My first book, A Season of Comebacks, was a secular middle-reader. I sent out queries to major publishers who, at that point, still read unagented work. I got rejections across the board. Not knowing what to do (and I don’t recommend what I'm about to say), I sent the same queries out eight months later. This time personnel had changed and an editor who had played fastpitch softball saw the query and wanted to see the book.

But one breakthrough doesn’t make a career. I’ve needed to persist in learning craft—I learn every day—and in understanding what markets require. For my second book, I queried agents instead of publishers and established a long-term relationship with HarperCollins through that agent. Since then I've worked in various genres in film (big-budget SciFi, family films, Christian films) and publishing (adult thrillers and fantasies, children's sports and SciFi) by learning the craft required for each and pursuing open markets.

That said, it's much better for a writer doing their first or second book to simply write for the passion of it. Worry about the market once he or she has the craft down.

2. How long of a stretch of time did you have to wait after finishing your first book until it got picked up by an agent or publisher?
About a year. But I kept busy on my primary pursuit, which was screenwriting.
3. When did writing become your full-time carreer?
In August of 1995, I sold my first book and my first screenplay. It was the film sale that allowed me to become a full-time author almost immediately. It’s tricky to do it in publishing unless you sell a high-concept thriller. The advances for children’s books aren’t sufficient to support a writer unless
you're a major player in the market.
4. Are you a seat-of-the-pants author or a plan-it-stage-by-stage type?

Both. I approach my novels as a screenwriter—knowing the major turning points and how the plot will resolve. But I give myself permission to discover new characters and thus, plot twists. When I begin a project, I’ll know the overall skeleton of the story but I do outline every few chapters. I can’t write without a destination but I do allow myself to wander. The trick is having the guts to cut out perfectly good sections that don't fit what the story truly needs.

5. Rewrite. I hear this and do this so often for my own book but how about you? How long of a process do you have after getting the initial story down?

In my experience there’s two kinds of writers. The first work through a draft, then systematically go through drafts to refine plot, character, language. The second type of writer—including myself—pick-pick-picks as we write. We make ourselves miserable because we keep going back and rewriting. Progress is slow but by the time we have a first draft finished, it’s really the equivalent of a third draft. Overall, it's a six-month process because I write under contract. My goal is to get to where I only do a book a year so I can really strive for excellence.

6. If you wanted to say something to a potential reader about The Hidden what would it be?

That it’s the best book I’ve ever written. That it’s filled with pain and joy, the majesty of Colorado and the passion of horses. (Is there anything more passionate than horse-lovers?) But…though The Hidden is filled with twists and miracles and fear, the bottom line is that it is a story of forgiveness. And what greater story can be told?

Kathryn will be giving a class, Story Structure for Novelists, in this year's Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer's Conference. I am trusting God that I can attend this in August. It would be great to meet such a talented lady!

Order The Hidden Here!
Kathryn's Website

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Latest Developments

Well, I received a 'Thanks but no thanks' letter from Nelson Publishers. *Big Sigh* But I am not defeated. I have decided to trust God (a daily thing for me) and I am signing up for the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer's Conference in August. Please pray that God will help us get the monetary means to do this venture.

As I am thinking of the prospect of a huge conference, I have reread the beginning of my book and I realized that it needed something...humor. I have humor throughout the novel but the first part of chapter one was lacking. So, if you would be so kind...I am going to paste that rewrite here. Please tell me honestly what you think. If you hate it, how would you improve it? If you like it, why? Also let me know if you see any stupid mistakes. I'm known for my lack of punctuation and spelling skills. Okay, here it is...just what I rewrote. Hope it isn't too long.

Off and Running

Maybe it was the smell of decaying seaweed and salt water mixed with coconut oil. Perhaps it was due to the hot Californian sun melting her brains. Quite possibly it was the yellow jacket that decided to take a bath in her newly opened can of Diet Vanilla Coke. She wasn’t sure. Whatever the reason, Mimi suddenly found herself behind three boy band wannabes who were sitting in the sand sweet talking her three swimsuit teen-model cloned sisters.

She didn’t remember filling the pail full of icy Pacific Ocean water and she further amazed herself as she began pouring said water over the cutest and tannest of the boys. The only option open to her was giddy laughter followed closely by the fight or flight principal. Since she knew she couldn’t outrun them all and there was no way she could fight off all six, she decided to go for the Bratty Younger Sister Ploy Number One. Lie. Lie like your life depends on it, which it certainly did.

Mimi actually smirked as she said, "You don’t want to talk with these girls! They have boyfriends who are much stronger, cuter and probably even smarter than you. Aaaannnd they are walking this way right now to beat you up!"

The boys did that silent, "Let’s get outta here!" look and they ran off as quick as they could whip their streaky-bleached-blonde heads into motion.
It was then that everything seemed to take on a high speed motion, like watching those old black and white movies of people who, hoping to fly in strange contraptions, only come crashing down with the wings folding in and the craft falling apart from underneath.

The youngest of Mimi’s three older sisters, Chelsea, blew up. She gathered a handful of the newly wetted sand beside her and threw it into Mimi’s adrenaline induced freakishly delighted face.

Of course the sand hit her square in her open mouth. Chelsea had way too perfect aim. Mimi stood in shock with her mouth wide open and full of sand. No longer laughing, she fought back stupid tears as she watched Chelsea wipe her hands with the beach towel she sat on, sending the remaining granules of sand back to the ground.

Sneering at Mimi, she taunted, "Oh ‘WAA WAA’, you stupid cry baby! Go tell mommy! Maybe she’ll feel sorry for her ugly, fat baby. Why don’t you grow up? You’d think you were five instead of almost a teenager! We don’t want you near us!" Seeing that Mimi still stood dumbfounded she continued, "Can’t you understand English? You are so dumb! Look at her mouth open—oh wait, here she goes…come on, baby, cry!"

Mimi came to life, spitting out most of the sand as a seagull screeched overhead. A lone sand particle grated between her teeth. Fighting back tears, she coughed and spat again.

Her other two sisters were no help. They were obviously angry also and intentionally avoided Mimi’s pleading eyes. Angie applied a new layer of oil to her legs and Jes pretended to be absorbed with a piece of sand under her fingernail. Their silence screamed their agreement with Chelsea.

Usually, blubbering to Mom was exactly what Mimi would have done. After all, that was Bratty Younger Sister Ploy Number Two but she loathed the fact that Chelsea knew this. You don’t need them! A voice hissed in her ear. Escape! Run away! it urgently beckoned. Bratty Younger Sister Ploy Number Three lovingly known as the ‘Beat Cheeks Stratagem’ now set in. Kicking as much sand on Chelsea as she could, Mimi turned and dashed off down the beach.

With scorching sand burning her feet and bitterness eating at her heart, Mimi pumped her legs as fast as they would go. Her pounding feet beat out a tempo. Run-a-way. Run-a-way. Run-a-way. Anger and malice pulsed through her veins, quickening her step
"I hate you! I hate all of you!" she screamed, not caring who heard or stared at her as she ran past. Tears flooded her eyes and streaked down her face while she fled down the beach, farther and farther away from her family.

Mimi despised being the baby, the youngest of four girls…the bratty sister. She felt that she never quite measured up.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Noodles and Milk

We've dealt with a bit of sickness in our house this week. First Keegan had some sort of stomach bug which came up (yes, literally) right after his baseball game on Tuesday. It is not uncommon for him to get headaches, toss his cookies, and then feel surprisingly better. Well, that night he said he felt better so I let him eat dinner.


The next 3 hours were spent getting rid of the dinner with the help of Ralph...if you get my drift.

So, here I was giving a bath to Evan when Keegan comes running in to speak with his porcelain friend. It is one of the nastiest things in the world, being stuck in a bathtub while someone upchucks right next to you. You can hear the thuds of stuff hitting the water. Lovely. I held the washcloth over my mouth and tried to ignore the sounds. What do you think Keegan said after paying homage?
"Mom, never eat noodles and milk before throwing up. It looks so gross and tastes awful."
Thank you, son. If I had trouble picturing it before, I have a grand picture as well as taste to go along with the sound and smell now.
Boys are so much fun.
Along with Keegan and the flu thing, Evan now has a runny nose and a temp of 100.9 degrees F. So, needless to say, we have not had a grand week. I hope next week is can't get much worse than noodles and milk, can it?

After posting this, I went to my friend Ciera's Blog. In her comments was this link. Yes, it could have been worse. Please join me in praying for this family and their child.

Monday, May 08, 2006

How To Host A Mystery...Star Trek style!


Stardate 041994.20~ Remember the 90's and all the How to Host a Murder games? Well, after being married for 4 years but still no kiddos, Dave and I decided to host a Star Trek Mystery Game. We were living in Manhattan, Kansas at the time and invited a few of our Army buds who were also Sci-fi fans. This is what we sent out:

Along with this invite was a description of the recepient's character as well as a Top Secret communique regarding his/her role...whether he/she is the bad guy and why. Also this Priority Communication From Starfleet Command:

We had such a blast.

I was Guinan, hostess of the Ten-Forward Lounge and over 5 centuries old. Obviously I was an alien (from a distant planet of Listener life-forms). But I looked human. Although not normally a part of an Away Team, my culture had very specific legends about the Orb of Knowledge, and I was invited by Commander Riker to join the mission to help authenticate the discovery.

Dave was Commander William Riker. As First Officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise, he was considered one of Starfleet's rising young stars. He usually commanded the Away Teams.

We made some fun alien looking snacks like miniature quiches and uh, grapes...well, we tried. The drinks were ginger ale with various food colorings.

And, yes, I made both of our outfits. Aren't I the talented one? And oh! So modest!

I painted the observation panals with a red planet, Delphi 4, in view. (I put my Art Degree to good use finally!)

I wish I took pictures of the characters that were involved, besides us, but they were Lieutenant Commander Data, Dr. Beverley Crusher, Counselor Deanna Troi (I decided not to be her because I did not have the--hmmmm--shape that she did. I did not desire wearing a skin tight suit...and I am just not as sweet. Heh.), Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge, Lieutenant Worf, and Ensign Ro Laren.

If you are interested, google "How to Host A Murder Mystery Star Trek". I found oodles of sites and places to order it from.

Star Trek was not the only Murder Mystery party we had. The other one was a 50's high school reunion.

Here are the pictures from that one...enjoy!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Kidney Stones, Klingons, and Baseball

That's right. Kidney stones!

Sorry it has taken so long for the update...I've felt yucky as well as very busy and have used up all of my time (((-- not to mention doing posts for the Bible Study--))). Thank you so much for all the loving comments on the last post. The prayers are really appreciated.

I went to the doctor a few days ago and was told that I did not have a kidney infection BUT I had all the symptoms of kidney stones (Rhino horn in my side). The medicine I take for my blood pressure was the most probable cause...well, that and being at the end of the thiry-something age group...also living in a mineral heavy area with one of the largest rates of kidney stone development doesn't help matters. ***SIGH*** Whatever the reason, I got 'em.

My awesome doctor gave me some sample medicine to replace my blood pressure meds for three days...Supposedly the new med widens veins as well as the tube that runs from the kidney to the bladder. Believe it or not I haven't had pain for two days now! Soreness, yes; pain, NO! I think I passed whatever stone was giving me the problem. So, PRAISE AND GLORY TO GOD...and PRAISE for my Doctor too! He and his wife are the best doctors I've ever had!

Klingons...My home has been on a Star Trek kick. It is all Jean-Luc's fault (blogger extra-ordinaire!). You see, my sons saw me reading his site and they loved it. Then came the questions:

"What's a Klingon?"

"Do they carry lightsabers?"

"Isn't that guy with the funny glasses LeVar from Reading Rainbow?"

So, I just had to answer them. The best way is to give them the experience. We are members of and have been renting the seasons of both Star Trek Next Generation and Star Trek Voyager. We are nearing the end of Season Two for both of them. I'm loving it. I've always been a fan but now I have my own little Trekkies to play with. I also found a costume uniform that I made for Dave during the early part of our marriage (pre-kiddos). I had made it for a Star Trek Murder Mystery party we hosted. Now Keegan is in high heaven. He goes around pushing his insignia and saying "Captain Keegan to all hands, Red Alert!" Evan is asking me to make an Ensign uniform for him. At least I don't have to make a Klingon mask! Another cool thing is that Keegan has something to journal about...he is making his own Star Trek adventure with, you guessed it, Captain Keegan and First Officer Evan aboard the USS Adamant. Ahhhh, the life of homeschooling!

Baseball...we are in full baseball season. Our empty pockets (from having to pay to get into seeing our own kids play ball! Grrrrr!), sunburned faces (I keep forgetting the sunblock...who ever heard of sunblock in May???), and rotund bellies (Ahhhh, the snack dogs, M&M's, and a Gatorade please!) are the proof of it. Also the wickedly exaughsted mommy *stands up and waves* who has to drive the athletes everywhere EVERYDAY! (Well, almost everyday.) But we are having fun. I get so stressed watching though...Please hit it! SLIDE! Catch that ball! Tag the base, tag the base!!!! T-ball isn't as stressful...unless you're in the dugout with twelve 4-5 year-olds swinging bats around! Not me, thank you very much. For the first time I did NOT volunteer. But I do cheer...oh yes. I do cheer.

Well, that sums up my week or so. Hope I didn't bore you to tears!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Kidney Infection

Just an update...I'm seeing the doctor tomorrow because I may have a kidney infection. Please pray! Yes, I'm drinking plenty of water and cranberry juice! Anyway, that is why I've been a bit away from blogging. Will update more soon. Love y'all!