Tag Archive | book

What’s With Your Crazy Titles?

I am often asked why the books in my Orchard Hill series are titled so oddly. It’s a great question! Figured this was a good time to answer it.

PestoandPotholes2I wrote a book and titled it Pesto & Potholes because it was a metaphor for the journey my character was going to take. The pothole was her emotional pain from an abusive past. Getting out is a rocky process but takes help. The pesto was because Tony was an Italian chef and that is a favorite sauce in our home. So a savory and sweet romance was born. The ninjas were added because someone challenged me to put them in so, I did!

SalsaandSpeedbumps copy (2)Then a Facebook friend suggested my next book be called Salsa & Speed Bumps. I figured “Why not?” Challenge accepted. I took Renata’s roommate from Pesto & Potholes and gave her a bumpy journey with an unexpected pregnancy due to date rape and the challenge ripple effects of that. Even the unfair judgments of those in her church toward her and her new boyfriend, Roberto, became speed bumps on their way to happiness. Robbie, my Hispanic hero added some spice to the story.

FetaandFreewaysCover copyThe challenge was on to continue with a food theme combined with some road-related term. Book three became Feta & Freeways. I wanted to write a story based on a band I’m a fan of, Burlap to Cashmere. I was inspired by their journey. Since the band has Greek roots, I gave that to my character, Nikolos. Burlap to Cashmere is based out in the New York area – but my guys are from Wisconsin. Freeways – they take a journey – emotionally and spiritually as the band travels around the United States.

Not all titles will continue to be ethnically related, however. Johnny is Niko’s cousin and bandmate in Feta & Freeways. Book four is Root Beer & Roadblocks, due to release February 2017. Sprecher root beer is made in Wisconsin and features in the story. While Johnny is Greek, Katie is Irish in her background. I went with a more American theme. Johnny faces several roadblocks to his happiness.

Up after that will be Pastor Dan Wink’s story. He has a Germanic heritage and since Bratwurst is a Wisconsin specialty, that book is called Bratwurst & Bridges. He becomes the bridge to help his neighbor, Skye (Irish) come to know Christ as she becomes the bridge that brings him back to life from his complicated grief.

Book number six is Donuts & Detours. No ethnicity at all. She’s a baker and he’s a mechanic/tow-truck driver and there are a few detours on their way to their happily-ever-after, including a hidden identity. But we all keep secrets, don’t we?

I hope to write Truffles & Traffic this November, because someone has begged for me to have a title with truffles in it! I guess those will have to be a part of any party or giveaway for that book! The basis of the story is based on a real-life romance I watched happen eons ago. Names and careers are changed to protect the lovebirds.

Food continues to play a role in all the stories as does the ongoing challenge to use road terms for metaphors for the journey my characters take. 

I’m open to suggestions for future titles. Since this series takes place in the northwest suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, only traffic or food that can be found there can apply.

Here are some possibilities – so feel free to weigh in on what you, as a reader, would like to see next:

Cream Puffs & Crossroads (cream puffs are a Wisconsin State Fair specialty!)

Ramen & Roadkill (I put this here as a joke but I do have some friends begging me to write this!)

Lattes and Lanes or Espresso & Expressway  or Coffee & Concrete (similar concepts but which one???)

Pickles & Pavement  (seriously, someone suggested this!) Perhaps Panini’s & Pavement?

Apples & Alleys 

Jellybeans & Junctions

Rocky Road & Round-a-bouts 

Go ahead and be creative! Remember – Salsa & Speedbumps was birthed out of a challenge to write it. As will be Truffles & Traffic. Maybe your choice will be the title of a future story too!

burlaptocashmere_cvr-hi1

Feta & Freeways is up for a Goodreads giveaway starting Tuesday, October 4th. The giveaway includes a print copy of the novel along with a compact disc of Burlap to Cashmere’s self-titled album which was the soundtrack I listened to as I wrote the book! It’s hard to get physical copies of music anymore so this was a rare find and I’m sharing it with TWO lucky winners.

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Rejection Letters

The one thing I was looking forward to least with being an acquisitions editor was the fact that I would need to give rejection letters. I know how it feels to get that big fat “NO!” in letter form with no explanation or encouragement. Even if the letter is a form one what I hear is “You suck as a writer.”

The truth is, when I first started, I probably did! I’ve learned so much over the years of writing and now editing. Now that I am on the delivery end of rejections I have to say a few things.

1. I read every manuscript with the hope and expectation that I will love it. I don’t look at that first page and set a high bar. I just want to get pulled into the story.

2. I don’t give up quickly. I had one manuscript that I struggled to read -but I read it anyway. As time goes on I won’t be able to read full manuscripts if they don’t grab me quickly.

3. As I told writers at a recent conference, I don’t send a form rejection letter. If I reject you I’m going to try to tell you why and if I can figure out how to guide to what you could work on to improve your writing, I will. Who knows, maybe in time you will come back and be a blockbuster hit!

4. Some stories don’t grab me personally. Unfortunately this is reality. I don’t like every NYTime’s best seller out there and neither do you. However there are other editors I work with and I’m thinking that down the line if a story looks good but doesn’t appeal to me, I might just toss it to one of them and see if it’s more up their alley. See, if I am going to contract an author, I need to love that manuscript because I’m going to be spending a lot of time on it.

5. Even multi-published authors have to have their work edited. No manuscript is ever going to arrive perfect and ready for me to just  pass on to be published without some work. It’s the nature of the industry and our own humanness. So even if you get a contract, that only means your really hard work may have just begun!

6. I try to remind authors too that every editor is going to have their own opinion. I read the work of others and think I would have done things differently with the editing. How audacious is that? The fact is, no novel is ever perfect even though an editor tries to help it sparkle and shine. Most authors look back on earlier work and cringe because they’ve learned so much since then. But you don’t learn unless you put yourself out there, and you don’t grow unless someone helps you and gives you feedback.

7. I’ve had to do manuscript critiques – on the fly and also with a little more time to process. It is not the favorite part of my job because I realize I’m human and make my own mistakes too when I write. I cringe when I have to give negative feedback because, well, I imagine myself on the receiving end of it and I’ve got a bit of a sensitive side when it comes to stuff like that. Many will say “Grow a thick skin” but I think many authors are sensitive souls which is what allows them to write and create and yes, maybe a few tears will have to be shed and some chocolate or potato chips imbibed to get through those low spots, but it really is in feeling that pain and hurt that we strive to do better. If no one lovingly pointed out your weaknesses, you would never have a chance to improve.

I hope that helps. Many people who pitch at conferences will never submit their manuscripts to the editor or agent because they are afraid of rejection. I get that, but you can never move forward if you don’t put yourself out there.

Keep writing. Keep reading. Keep learning! I pray that you all have helpful rejection letters in your future. You are going to get them so they might as well benefit you!  And when you do, please let the writer of that note know you appreciate it if they give you feedback. They are the hardest part of my job and more than anything I want to encourage another author, not tear him or her down. Be nice regardless of how you feel. The world of editing/publishing is not a large one. You don’t know how your gracious and teachable spirit could help you make a connection down the line. Don’t burn your bridges because you’ve been stung by a nasty letter.

They Almost Always Come Home (Book Review)

They Almost Always Come Home is a debut novel by Cynthia Ruchti and a book I recommend reading. I found it hard to put down once I started.

Libby’s marriage is toast and her husband has not returned from his supposed trip to the Canadian wilderness. Is he dead or alive? Is he really up in the wilderness or somewhere tropical with a love interest? Not Greg. Never Greg. Libby is ready to call her marriage quits but doesn’t know if her husband has taken the choice away from her. Is he injured? Then get him home so she can file for divorce. Is he dead? How do you plan a funeral with no body or proof?  Eventually she decides to go look for her husband herself so she can get closure on a dead-end marriage.  She takes two others with her. But what she initially seeks is not necessarily what God had in mind.

I hadn’t completely finished this novel when I had already established an opinion about it. The main character, Libby, is a whiner. Okay, I’m honest. She annoyed me at times! But written from the perspective of a wife whose husband is missing, what else could an author do but explore the emotions and thoughts that run rampant in this woman’s head?  Later in the  book, the reader is privy to the husband’s own journey as well.

Does he make it home? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out.

I do recommend this novel though for this reason. Good literature forces us to take a look at ourselves. Libby annoyed me because she reflected some of my own inner struggles (and my husband is not lost in the Canadian wilderness). Her journey back to God and to trusting in Him regardless of the outcome was subtle and refreshing because you saw how slowly God sometimes makes those changes in our hearts even though we would (most of the time) prefer the instant miracle.

Cynthia also does a wonderful job at painting the journey in Canada. I’ve never been there but almost feel like I was as I journeyed north with Libby, her friend Jen and her father-in-law Frank. The characters are well defined and relatable. Greg’s story, when we get to see it, gives a beautiful counterbalance to the struggle that this husband and wife faced, and the brutality of sometimes facing our own failures.

So go ahead. Get the book and read it. But be prepared that God might challenge  you when you do.

Book Review: Driven by Shellie Neumeier

     Driven is a debut novel by Shellie Neumeier. Writing to teens, she captures the drama and angst of the age group as well as the durability of friendships and faith.  Robyn becomes a leader of her prayer group simply due to courage shown under fire. Courage that eventually gets tested as well as her faith when two boys vying for her affections, a vicious reporter and difficult life circumstances would threaten to throw her off course. This book however does not only deal with the human side of life, but does an incredible job of highlighting the spiritual battle that goes on behind the scenes when someone steps up to obey God, and pray.  With hints of C.S.Lewis’ Screwtape Letters and Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness, Ms. Neumeier captures the intensity of spiritual battle that even the most mature of Christians often overlook.

            I found the book dynamic and suspenseful and the characters realistic.  I would long for more Robyn’s in the world to stand in the gap and this character, while human, is a good role model in her honesty and struggle. Even as an adult, I find this teen and her story a good reminder of my own need to be praying and aware of the spiritual battle around me.

DRIVEN releases its Kindle version in time for the Holiday Season. Beginning December 1, you can join the fun by downloading it to your ereader, kindle, ipod, computer or phone.

Or you can pre-order it on paperback through Barnes and Noble (paperbacks are scheduled to print March 1, 2011).