Thursday, February 23, 2012

7 Ways Readers Can Support Their Favorite Authors

Before I began hanging out with writers, it never occurred to me that the authors of my favorite books were real people with mortgages, laundry, soccer practices, and—in many cases—day jobs. Obviously, I knew these things, but I didn’t think that there was anything I—a reader—could do to support or encourage them in any meaningful way.

But now I know better, so I give you...

7 ways readers can support their favorite authors.
1. Buy their books. Yes, this really does matter. There’s only a small percentage of the writing population that has anything that resembles job security. Most writers are only guaranteed to be published through their current contract. If book sales don’t meet expectations, the publisher may choose to pass on their next idea.

2. Write them a note. I’m not kidding. Again, only a handful of writers are so “big” that they don’t have time for fan mail. Many of the writers I know (including yours truly) have files where they keep every encouraging card or note.

3. Write a review of their book. Seriously. I had no idea how much this matters. You don’t have to be a writer to write a review. Take five minutes, log onto Amazon, Barnes and Noble,, Goodreads or wherever you purchased your book, and say something nice. Did it keep you reading until 2AM? Say so. Did you order takeout because you couldn’t put it down? Tell them! Did it change the way you think about a topic or open your eyes to an issue you were unfamiliar with? Let them know.

(Even authors who say they “never read reviews” still need reviews. Statistics show that books that have a higher number of reviews sell better than those that don’t.)

4. Go to their book signings. I know you think this means standing in line for hours, but that’s not the case for most authors. If a favorite author is signing books anywhere near you, take the time to meet them and say “thank you” or “I love your books” in person.

5. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter. Publishers expect authors to maintain a social media presence. And yes, they check to see how many fans and followers an author has. Many of my favorite authors post daily. Some are very good about sharing when a bookseller is featuring one of their titles at a discount. Most will let you know if the Kindle or Nook version is free or discounted as well.

What’s fun is when they are working on a manuscript and ask a question that relates to the plot—I love those little glimpses into their work-in-progress.

6. Subscribe to their blogs and newsletters. Again, publishers want to know how many subscribers an author has. When you subscribe, blog posts will be delivered to your inbox and you can read them when you have time. It’s very easy to subscribe, and it does matter.

7. Pray for them. Authors have all the real-world issues that plague the rest of the population—they pay taxes, struggle in their marriages, pray over rebellious teenagers, care for aging parents, and cuddle sick babies. They fight insecurity and exhaustion. They wonder if what they are doing matters in light of eternity.

I don’t know a single author who wouldn’t be thankful for prayers for strength, creativity, and the courage to write the stories God has given them.

So what about you? As a reader, have you ever done any of these things? For my writer friends, do you agree with my list? Have some things you would add? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


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Monday, February 20, 2012

The Cone of Shame

It happened again last week.

I entered the Cone of Shame.

If you have kids, you’ve been there.

It started out innocently enough. Everyone was smiling as I announced that we (that would be me and my three littles) were going to the store and then we were going to get French fries!(They were. I was getting a fruit cup).

The goodwill lasted until we got just enough stuff in the buggy to make it hard for me to abort the mission. Not to mention that my supper and a few other projects were contingent on the success of this endeavor.

Drew sat in the front, grabbing at everything. And he’s fast.

James and Emma took up most of the back of the cart, James manhandling the vegetables.

And Emma?

Well, what can I tell you. Emma did not want to be there.

And while expressing herself with words is challenging for her, she is a pro at expressing her displeasure.

The wails.

The tears.

The sobs.

I write fiction and I can’t make this stuff up. You’d have thought I had just told her she could never watch TV, never play on the computer, never see her grandparents, and never have another French fry again.

I tried everything.

I sang.

Oh, yes I did. Racewalking through the aisles, I sang her favorites. No luck.

I pretended to sneeze.

Oh, yes I did.

She usually thinks that’s hilarious.

Not this time.

I tried to reason with her. I reminded her we were getting French fries.

Nothing worked.

When I had loaded the cart with half of what I came for, I couldn’t take it anymore. I knew I’d be making a return trip, but at least I’d gotten the most important items.

I sped to the registers.

They had three open.

All three had long lines.

Oh, sure, the self-checkout lanes were open, but if “Buggy Diving” was an Olympic sport, my kids would be the World Record Setting Gold Medalists. Self-checkout is like asking to add a trip to the emergency room to the bill.

No thank you.

So I got in line behind an older woman with a buggy mounded to the heavens.

As I stood there, allowing Drew to play with my cell phone, saying soothing words to Emma (and to myself), reminding James that French fries were coming, I watched my fellow shoppers.

But let me tell you, they weren’t watching me.

No sir.

I had entered the Cone of Shame.

It radiates out from anyone responsible for a screaming child in a public place. In the fifteen minutes we waited, not one person—not one—smiled at me. They didn’t even look at me.

They looked everywhere but me. A few huffed.

My usual response in this situation is to grab a Coke and a Hershey Bar with Almonds. This time I tried to stay in the moment. Tried to process how I was feeling.

And I wasn’t feeling shame.

Was I frustrated? Sure. But I’m not ashamed of my daughter. I’m not ashamed to be her mom.

The Cone of Shame isn’t about the person on the inside. It’s about the people on the outside who are too caught up in their own agendas to offer a smile to a frazzled mom. Too busy to allow her to go in front of them in line. Too conceited to imagine that there might be a good reason for the drama.

Emma turns nine on Wednesday.

If you encounter the Cone of Shame this week, maybe you could think of Emma and celebrate her life by refusing to stay on the outside.

Smiles are free.

Five minutes of your time could bless someone for a week.

A silent prayer is more helpful than a loud sigh.

If you take the opportunity to splash some grace, well, there’d be no shame in that!


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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Book Review and Giveaway :: When the Smoke Clears by Lynette Eason

Lynette Eason has done it again!

When the Smoke Clears is the first in her new Deadly Reunions series (doesn't that sound ominous!) and it has everything I loved from her Women of Justice series - romance, mystery, and characters with intriguing professions.

But she's taken it up a notch in the suspense department! The first few chapters come hard and fast with all the pacing of a great thriller. Oh there's trouble. And we know it. But who's behind it and how is our main character, Alexia Allen, involved?

Well, that's the story!

And let's chat for a moment about Alexia. Did I mention that she's a smokejumper? In the first few pages, we see that she's driven, tough, brave, and compassionate. She's also got a stubborn streak, a serious problem with her mom, a past that haunts her, a crush on a cute detective that might be turning into something, and oh, someone's framing her for murder . . . when they aren't busy trying to kill her.

As the danger intensifies, so does the romance. Will they survive to see where this new relationship leads? And if they can find the person responsible for all the drama, will Alexia finally be safe?

We'd like to think so, but . . . oh come on!  You should know by now - I never give away the ending!

Sounds good, doesn't it? It is! And, here's the best have an opportunity to win a signed copy! Lynette has graciously agreed to sign my review copy for whoever wins this week's giveaway.

Here's how to enter:

1. Subscribe to Out of the Boat by email or RSS feed. (This is super easy! See the "subscribe" tabs on the right? Just click and follow the prompts.)
2. Post a link to this post on Facebook.
3. Post a link to this post on Twitter.

In all 3 cases, leave me a comment telling me what you did, and you'll be entered (up to 3x) to win a signed copy of When the Smoke Clears by Lynette Eason.

Hurry...the drawing will be held at 10AM on Saturday, February 18th...just in time for me to take my copy to Cross Way Christian Supply and have Lynette sign it. If you live in the Greenville, SC area, I'd love to see you there!

The super fine print: When the Smoke Clears ~ Available February 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. I was provided a free copy in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Do You Feel the Love?

Every now and then, I have a great idea for a blog post, but the words won't flow. So I change gears. Write something else.

And wait.

I have waited months.

This time, I only had to wait a week for God to finish my thoughts and leave me, again, in wonder at His love for us.

But, maybe we should start at the beginning…with sick littles and long staircases and twin mattresses on the floor...

Not so long ago, we lived in a home where the bedrooms were close. So close that despite being in this 24/7 job we call motherhood for almost nine years, I have rarely felt the need to sleep in my children’s rooms. Even when illness raged, I slept in my bed, they in theirs. And if they whimpered or called my name, I was by their side in seconds.

In our new home, our bedroom is on the main floor while the kids’ rooms are upstairs. We’re still in the same house. Still close.

But when the stomach bug hit a few weeks ago, a flight of stairs was too far away. So for several nights, I found myself “sleeping” on the trundle bed mattress we relocated to my son’s bedroom floor.

As I tucked him back into his bed after yet another race to the bathroom, the words from one of my favorite Psalms settled in my mind.

The Lord is near to the broken hearted.

I love the idea of God being near. And from my spot in the floor of James’s room, I could appreciate the concept of His nearness more than ever. When we are hurting, sometimes we need God to be nearer than near. When we are suffering and miserable, our need to feel His presence is more desperation than desire.

I thought about it for a while. Decided to write about it. But something was missing. . .

When it hit me, it blew me away.

Because while it’s true that James needed me, the real reason I was sleeping in his room was because I needed to be there. My little man was sick. It hurt me to see him suffer. I couldn’t bear the thought of him having to wait an extra second for my comfort.

Do you realize God feels that way about you? When life overwhelms. When pain stabs deep. When loved ones suffer. When you wish you could wake up and discover it was all a nightmare.

God sees.

God knows.

And God is near.

Sure, it’s for your benefit.

But it’s also for His.

But now thus says the LORD,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
3 For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you...

(Isaiah 43:1-4a, emphasis mine, ESV)

Happy Valentine's Day - You are Loved!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Book Review :: Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst

Can you picture this scene? A young, young-ish, um, a mom with young children is standing in the checkout line. The baby is crying. The toddler is whining. The big sister is screaming at the top of her lungs that she wants to go home.

The mom keeps the smile pasted on her face but after the last item is placed on the counter, she backs up a pace and plucks the Hershey Bar with Almonds from its perch. It's only a few more steps to the cooler full of cold Cokes. Her hand wraps around the familiar curve of the bottle and her fake smile relaxes.

This will make her feel better. She deserves it.

And who would disagree?

When the last child is buckled into their seat and the reusable bags are tucked in the back, she twists the lid, takes a long drink, and exhales long. Much better. The chocolate melts in her mouth, and the frustrations of the past hour ease.

So what's the problem?

If you don't want to know, you need to stop reading. Right now. And you definitely don't want to pick up a copy of Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst. With honesty and transparency that made me both laugh and cringe (seeing yourself on the page will do that), Lysa TerKeurst dives into a territory few Bible-thumping preachers would dare to enter.

Because gluttony is a sin. And needing that Coke? Ever heard of idolatry?

(I warned you to stop reading...)

Made to Crave is not a diet book and it's not a how-to manual. It's not a book that's written to make you hate food or go on a starvation diet. And it never says Cokes and brownies are sinful.

Because craving isn't wrong. We were made to crave. What's wrong is when we fill that craving with foods that are not good for us, instead of taking that heartache, that loneliness, that embarrassment, that fear, and running straight to the only One who can fill us. The only One who can ease the pain. The One who wants us to enjoy good things, but never intended for food to become an idol.

Because anything - chocolate included - that takes the place of God in our lives? You guessed it - that's an idol.

I'll be honest. This is one of those books that part of me (the part that has a serious Oreo issue) wishes I'd never read. Because now that I've read it, I have to decide what to do about it.

Made to Crave didn't make me feel guilty or defeated. Lysa's openness about her spiritual journey was empowering and eye-opening. Because, as she explains, this is first and foremost a spiritual issue. And that's a new concept for me.

Is it really possible to turn chocolate cravings into a soul level craving for God? When the day goes south, can I find the strength to "stop circling this mountain and turn north" (See Deut. 2:3) instead of turning to those salty sticks of deliciousness, otherwise known as McDonald's french fries?

I'll let you know.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Wimpy, Wimpy, Wimpy

Please indulge me this Monday morning as we take a trip to the archives. My family is recovering from a 10 day battle with a nasty stomach virus. And I am recovering from some of the harshest criticism my writing has ever received. This post seemed appropriate. Grace and peace to all of you!

Originally posted 7/20/10.

I’m a wimp.

A cream puff.

A marshmallow.

I’m so not cut out to be a writer.

I’m anaphylactically allergic to criticism. And this doesn’t apply only to my writing life. This is just who I am. I have the type of personality that always wants to be right. Not in the “I’m right and you’re wrong” way but in the “I’ll die of humiliation if I answer the question wrong so I’m not going to raise my hand, even though I know the answer” way.

The upside to being paranoid about making mistakes is that it has made me into a very conscientious person. If you ask me to do something, I’ll do it. And then I’ll go over it 100 times to be sure it’s right. And then I’ll call you a few days later to see if it met your expectations.

Again. I shouldn’t be writing.

Because all writing requires some form of criticism.

And criticism + Lynn = hyperventilation.

Each time I send a writing sample off to someone, whether it’s for an assignment, or a guest blog, or because they asked to read a few chapters of my book, it just about kills me.

OK. I’ll admit that I’m a teensy bit prone to exaggeration.

But the heart palpitations, sweaty palms, upset stomach. Aren’t those symptoms of dreadful things — like heart attacks?

So what’s a writer to do? When all the traditional advice says that she must develop a thick skin if she’s going to survive but when the transformation from thin to thick-skinned would require a personality transplant?

I tend to assume that thick-skinned people send off their work and don’t worry about it. They don’t spend time refreshing their email in case someone has commented on their blog and their hands don’t shake when they open up an email that will tell them whether their work has been accepted for publication. They certainly don’t lose sleep over what some anonymous person said about their book in an Amazon review.

But maybe — just maybe — that isn’t the case at all.

Maybe the thick-skinned person isn’t the person who stands tall and lets the waves of criticism roll by.

Maybe the thick-skinned person is the one the waves of criticism throw to the ocean floor and keep them submerged so long they begin to wonder if they’ll ever surface.

But when they are finally able to catch their breath, they don’t run for the shore.

They stand up.

And let the waves do it all over again.

Criticism drags you under, gratitude pulls you up.
Joy Dare 2012 ~ more grace...more joy...more hope...

3 gifts found outside . . .

1. Children, returned to health, giggling in the yard
2. Fresh, unseasonably warm air
3. Cheeky squirrels

You can find all my Joy Dare 2012 entries here.

Thursday, February 2, 2012