Author Interview ~ Cheryl Wolverton

Cheryl Wolverton has 1.5 million books in print. She sold her first book in 1996 and is still crafting her novels today. Full time in the ministry, she works with children 3-12 years old and runs a youth center. She’s been married twenty-five years and has two wonderful children.

She spends her extra time as a professional editor for upcoming and established authors, and creates web pages at affordable prices for authors (as she says, authors can’t afford some of those prices out there). She loves to hear from fans. You can find out more about her here

What new book or project do you have coming out?

I have re-releases, but I am currently working on a non-fiction—two actually.

How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific ‘what if’ moment?

The book is about MS. It’s a faction, fiction and fact together. It’s my story with a Bible study and truth attached to each chapter. It’s meant to help someone who is going through a struggle of recent diagnosis to acceptance.

Tell us about your publishing journey. How long had you been writing before you got a contract? How did you find out and what went through your mind?

I wrote four years before selling my first novel! I heard that Steeple Hill was starting a new line and actually, I sent it in the next day. I heard back in three weeks, and the story wasn’t done. I sat down and wrote the rest of the story in two weeks, non-stop and within another 3 weeks….well, I heard a message on my answering machine (I still have the tape) to call them. I did and they wanted to buy, but not only that, they told me they wanted me to be one of the premiere authors and wanted to build me into one of their top authors—which they did. That’s a lot to take in on a first call.

All I could think was, wow…I had grocery sacks in my hands when I came in, dropped them by the answering machine. I told Ann Canadeo I would call her back (I wanted an agent before I agreed to what she had offered) called an agent—who had just rejected me—and they took me on. My husband came home; I was still on the phone calling friends. He put up the groceries, fixed hamburgers for dinner and cleaned the kitchen before I got off the phone calling everyone.

Do you ever struggle with writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?

Good heavens yes! I just went through one of the worst years I’ve had. I simply stopped writing. I was so burned out that I simply dreaded coming to the computer to write. I asked God about what to do—he told me to leave where I was writing, and coward that I am, I wasn’t 100% SURE it was Him, so I put out a fleece and boy did God fulfill the fleece. I was so relieved. Then I prayed and I felt God saying He was leading me in a new direction.

So I stayed in prayer and simply waited on God/am still waiting…but I find I am slowly being refilled and actually can write some now. And it doesn’t feel like a chore, like I m forcing myself. The art part of writing is coming back, instead of deadlines and demands and writing for someone who doesn’t like your style (my last editor! LOL)

Where do you write? Do you have a dedicated office or a corner or nook in a room?

Don’t laugh. I write in bed. I have a laptop and find sitting in bed is the best place. It’s too bright outside or you’d probably find me out there writing! I do have an office, but we just moved so we had to combine it with my husband’s and it’s back in our bedroom (where I first started writing—I’ve come full circle)

Do you have a word or page goal you set for each day?

I am a seat of the pants writer. If I really like the story, I can write up to 20-40 pages a day easily. My best selling stories are the ones I wrote in 2 or 3 weeks. My worst selling story took me 4 months to write!

What does a typical day look like for you?

Oh boy…life is crazy. I am in full time ministry, so there are those who call that I am working with. Plus I run an at risk youth center and I am in charge of Wed. Night kids along with my husband. So that is a lot of it. Then add into that writing, editing and webpage creation. I don’t have a slow moment. Did I mention exchange student and MS?

I get up at 7 a.m. I drive Mariko to school at 8 a.m. I come home and have my Bible time and prayer. Clean the house, work on my wed program if it’s the first part of the week, work on my Bible Study for Friday and Sunday if it’s the last half (I teach older girls on sun night and we have a short bible study on Friday’s in our house and a movie).

Then it’s free time. Then Mariko is home and we work on homework. Finally, writing time…evening around 10pm. My husband is asleep in bed; I pull the computer up, open what I am working on and write. I insist on being done with computer time at Midnight because I have to have some sleep at some point!

If the story is really moving then I write also between around 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Otherwise it’s only night time.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve heard?

Rexanne Becnal told me advice she’d once heard from someone. It is that it takes you 4-6 years to get a professional degree. Why in the world would you expect to be published sooner than that?

I add to that: It takes time to learn your craft, the ins and outs, how to edit, etc., and if you work at it for those 4-6 years then that’s the important thing. You are going to have books rejected. But you have to finish that first book, submit it and start a second one, an when the second one is done, start submitting it out…and so forth. You get your name out there. They’ll see improvement in each story—and if you are consistent, eventually they are going to buy you!

What do you wish you’d known early in your career that might have saved you some time and/or frustration in writing? In publishing?

To be more honest with the editors. My all time favorite editor used to say, “I asked the people in the office and they all agree….” About changing something…that would absolutely kill me when she said that. I would go insane at the house…..It would have been so much easier to say Patience, why are you saying that. Just tell me: It’s gotta be changed. I’d be a lot happier.

The second thing is that all editors (except the above mentioned) lie. I don’t think I’ve found a single editor that is honest. They say what they think is going to pacify the author. It drives me insane. But, if I had simply accepted that and learned to shrug it off, I would have saved a lot of hours getting frustrated with them.

How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?

Well, marketing does work. Putting ads in RT, speaking with online groups. Making up postcards and sending a newsletter. These are all great ideas. I got a quote for my first book from Debbie MacComber. I really think that helped a lot since she is so well known. I mean, when I was a reader, getting a quote front of the book would draw my attention if it was an author I read.

You have to budget it. If you are really wanting to push the book, negotiate with your company (unless it’s steeple hill) about how much they are doing in marketing. Ask them for suggestions. And then get the word out.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

KEEP WRITING. I cannot tell you that enough. And listen to critique partners only when two or three agree to it. I edit books professionally, and one of the things I’ve found is the first three chapters edited to death, and nothing beyond that. Or that’s all they have done of the book, and all they’ll ever have done.

Also, listen to editors. They WANT to buy you. If they give you advice, or actually tell you to resubmit—then that is so absolutely above what they normally do, it means they really LIKE you. So do it! They’re not out there seeing who they can reject.

And finally make sure you make it as EASY for the editor as possible. Be as short and concise with your synopsis as possible and make sure the opening of your book sings! Check the spelling etc. Don’t waste their time and you’ll get a lot further.

Interview with TitleTrakk.com’s, C.J. Darlington

Titletrakk is known as “Your Christian book and music terminal,” and is run by sisters Tracy and C.J. Darlington. C. J.’s short fiction has appeared in various national publications including Live, Listen, Gems of Truth, Standard and Evangel. C.J. is currently working on her second novel, Innocent Blood.

What is TitleTrakk.com?
TitleTrakk.com is an interactive website spotlighting Christian books, music & movies. We feature surveys, polls, contests, author and musician interviews, book and album reviews, music videos, movie reviews and book excerpts. The site’s tagline is “Your Christian Book, Music, & Movie Terminal.” That’s what we want TitleTrakk.com to be–a website where people of all walks can discover the amazing options available to them in Christian books, music and movies today.
As you know, the Christian entertainment industry has exploded in recent years, maturing with real quality. We want to show that.
Tell us how you and your sister masterminded this idea.
Ever since I was young I’ve loved books. They’ve been a huge passion in my life. My twin sister Tracy (who’s also a freelance writer) feels the same about music. We got to brainstorming about ways we could do some writing together.
At first, TitleTrakk.com was just a way we could combine our writing interests. The plan was Tracy would provide content on music, I would cover the book angle. But we’ve quickly grown beyond that (including the addition of movie coverage).
We now have an incredibly talented team of writers working with us to bring TitleTrakk.com readers top-notch content. It’s exciting.
What do you hope to accomplish with it?
Our goal is to bring these authors, musicians and filmmakers to the forefront, revealing something for every person’s taste. We see ministry opportunity as well. Someone who might not know there IS an alternative to a lot of the not-so-cool stuff put out in the secular world can come to our site and be inspired to read/listen/watch something uplifting and edifying they might not otherwise have known existed.
We also hope Christians will be exposed to new material. Maybe they’ll buy a book they see featured and give it to their agnostic neighbor. Or they’ll give a cd to the teen behind the counter at McDonald’s. Or take a depressed friend to a movie that will build them up.
How did you learn the technical aspects of putting this together and getting it to readers?
Pretty much the way we learn everything—through trial and error. Tracy and I knew very little about website design when we came into this. If we got something right, it’s only thanks to the Lord. He’s blessed us above what we could ask or imagine.
From where did the name originate?
One night Tracy and I were brainstorming. We wanted to come up with a name that applied to both books and music. (We hadn’t yet branched out into movies.) We still have the sheet of paper with all the name combinations. Somehow we hit upon the train theme. Then after a little bit Tracy just said, “Title Trakk”. And the rest was history. I was writing the names down, and I immediately circled that one and we ran with it.
It’s amazing with the e-zine being so new that you’ve secured such big-name interviews, ie. Francine Rivers, Jerry Jenkins, The Newsboys, etc. Were you surprised that TitleTrakk.com has been accepted so freely?
Every day we’re surprised, and incredibly thankful, for the doors God’s opened for us.
I don’t recall seeing advertisers on TitleTrakk.com. Why not?
Actually, we are very much interested in advertisers. We have a great banner slot available. If anyone’s interested, feel free to contact us for rates.
What surprising benefits have you or your sister received through putting out this e-zine?
It’s been a pleasure to pick the brains of all the authors, musicians, and filmmakers we’ve had the chance to interview. We gain insights from every one.
Is producing Titletrakk as much work as it appears to be?
Yes!
What do you hope for the future of TitleTrakk.com?
That more and more people would find out about us. We would like to become a “terminal” for all that’s available in Christian and family-friendly entertainment. I can’t wait to see where the Lord has taken us in a year from now.
How can one sign up to receive the TitleTrakk.com newsletter, “On
Trakk”?
It’s really easy. Just visit this page on the site: http://www.titletrakk.com/newsletter_signup.html
We hold a drawing every month, and we pick a name from our subscriber list to receive a free book or cd. So sign up today!
You’re also an aspiring novelist. Tell us more about that.
My first novel Thicker Than Blood is about two estranged sisters who meet again after fifteen years. But what makes the story a little different is the antiquarian book angle. My background is in used and rare bookselling, so half of the story takes place in or around a large used bookstore called Dawson’s Barn of Books, and I get to incorporate some fascinating rare book tidbits into the story.
In fact, a first edition For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway plays a big part in the story’s outcome. The other half of the book takes place on a working cattle ranch and shows the gritty and unpredictable way of life for today’s ranchers who live on the edge of extreme beauty, hardship, and danger.
Currently I’m writing my second novel, Innocent Blood. It’s a sequel to Thicker Than Blood in that some of the main characters of my first novel become minor characters in the second. And again, rare books play an important role. This time I’m featuring a rare copy of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Did you know first editions with dust jackets can be worth over 30 grand? Let’s just say someone wants this book bad enough to murder for it. However, it’s not a murder mystery or a suspense. My main characters are a troubled seventeen-year-old-girl and a female police officer.
Parting words?
I’d just like to encourage all you aspiring writers out there reading this blog. Know that you can be as called to write as a preacher is called to preach. If God’s put the desire in your heart, He has a way to fulfill it. Patience is the name of the game. Commit your work to the Lord and trust Him. He will always be faithful.

Gorilla Moments

By Mike Duran

Mike lives in Southern California with his wife Lisa and four grown children. Chosen as one of ten authors for Infuze Magazine’s 2005 print anthology, Mike’s short stories have also appeared in Forgotten Worlds, Alienskin, Dragons, Knights and Angels, as well as the forthcoming Winter Issue of Relief Journal. His non-fiction is featured in The Matthew’s House Project and Relevant Magazine Online, and Novel Journey. Mike has written an unpublished novel entitled What Faith Awakes and is currently at work on a second. You can peruse his weekly ruminations at www.mikeduran.com.

Leslie Hand, founder of Movie Glimpse, tells the story about a Catholic woman working on the set of the Hollywood blockbuster, E.T, and the brief exchange she had with director Steven Spielberg. During filming, Melissa Mathison and the cinematographer suddenly realized the similarities between the plot and the story of Jesus Christ. “His being left on earth, being found, his apostles, dying, the resurrection. We were cracking up when we figured out that one. When we told Steven [Spielberg], he said, ‘I’m Jewish, and I don’t want to hear anything about this.’”

Professor Richard Wiseman might refer to this as a “gorilla moment”. The concept is developed in his book, Did You Spot the Gorilla? How to Recognize Hidden Opportunities.

The Amazon synopsis explains:

In a recent series of ground-breaking psychological experiments, volunteers were shown a 30-second film of some people playing basketball and told to count the number of passes made with the ball. After just a few seconds, a man dressed as a gorilla slowly walked into frame, beat his chest at the camera, and sauntered off. Unbelievably, almost none of the people watching the film noticed the gorilla. Exactly the same psychological mechanisms that cause people to miss the gorilla also make them miss unexpected but vitally important opportunities in their professional and personal lives.

It’s been said, we live in a “God-haunted” world. According to Scripture, the Creator infuses the cosmos with His presence; He roams the byways of nature and ambles through the everyday; He haunts our films, literature, language and myth. Or, to lift a line from Elvis Costello’s song Green Shirt, “Who put these fingerprints on my imagination?” Well, Scripture says God did. King David once issued a similar plea as Mr. Costello: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7 NIV). Like Wiseman’s gorilla, God constantly meanders into the scene, leaving fingerprints strewn like a bumbling felon.

The trick is being able to spot them.

When it comes to contemporary culture, I think Christians are often guilty of missing the Gorilla. David Dark, in his book Everyday Apocalypse, suggests that spiritual truths permeate pop culture. To the observant eye, the sacred is everywhere. Dark purports that musical artists like Beck, Radiohead and U2, films like The Matrix and The Truman Show, and TV programs like The Simpsons all reflect subtle, subversive Kingdom principles. But rather than relishing these gorilla moments, Christians often resort to counting curse words and frowning upon accompanying indecencies. To some, it doesn’t matter that Bono is dangerously close preaching the Gospel—what matters is that he cursed three times in the process.

The Christian author must be adept at spotting the Gorilla, looking beyond the crude and commonplace to affirm the God Who is there. One of Jesus’ favorite lines was, “The kingdom of heaven is like…” (Matthew 13: 24, 31, 33, 44, 47). According to Christ, the kingdom of heaven was like wheat and tares, seeds and soil, birds and flowers—it was right there if they only opened their eyes. That’s a gorilla moment, when suddenly the kingdom of God isn’t a vague concept, it’s the field ripe for harvest, the sparrow building its nest, or the tears of a penitent son.

In Acts 17, the Apostle Paul stood at the altar of the Unknown God and said,
Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. (Acts 17:23 NIV)

He then proceeded to quote the pagan poet Menander: “‘For in him we live, and move, and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring’” (Acts 17:28). Rather than rebuke their unenlightened mythology, Paul peeled back the literary skin to disclose the real Object of their longing.

I wonder that this is one of the charges of the Christian writer—to unveil the Unknown God. Jesus did this not by sermonizing, but by storytelling. He spoke of rich idiots and impoverished saints, bad stewards and good Samaritans. Christ’s parables were anything but feel-good moralistic tomes. At times, they left their hearers with unhinged jaws. Jesus roused the religious gatekeepers by absolving prostitutes and vilifying the cultural elites. In doing so, He shocked His audience into the realization of the Gorilla in their midst.

Not only must we forge whopping good tales, we must populate them with gorilla moments. And really, they’re all around us. Pop culture is awash with His fingerprints. Whether it’s E.T. rising from the dead, Ahab sinking with his obsession or Darth Vader returning from the Dark Side, we need not look far for echoes of redemption, harbingers of the coming Kingdom. “For now we see through a glass, darkly…” (I Cor. 13:12). Yes. But to the keen eye and the open heart, there are gorillas everywhere.

Sunday Devotion: And what do you do?

Janet Rubin

My friend Christina drove up the mile-long driveway that led through a towering forest. I watched eagerly for sight of the house. What kind of people had a driveway this long? Soon a large sign came into view—a carved wooden sign reading, “Harmony Hill.” What kind of people named their property? Memories of Scarlett O’hara and her plantation, Tara, came to mind as the imposing house rose before us. Warm light streamed from the many grand windows and projected long golden rectangles on the snowy lawn.

The owners were a well-to-do Polish couple who were hosting a piano concert to raise money for scholarships for young aspiring pianists. They’d hired a world renowned pianist to put on a full concert of Chopin pieces. Somehow, my friend Christina (a supervisor at a company that makes gauges for the marine industry) had gotten an invitation, and invited me (a stay-at-home mom and wannabe writer) to come along.

So here I was, standing in a kitchen the size of my entire house, accepting the offer of a Brazilian cheese ball from a woman carrying a tray and offering hors d’ourves, a glass of wine in one hand, and my eyes roaming the walls and taking in the expensive art displayed at every turn.

I found my self chatting with a woman name Betsy who lived in New York City, but drove in for the concert. She told of how she’d grown bored producing PBS documentaries, had sold her share of the business to her partner and now studied painting under a master artist. Her boyfriend, a white-haired pole of a man, bragged about the opera he’d just finished writing, which had taken him eight years to complete.

“What do you do?” she asked.

Before I could stop her, Christina opened her mouth and blurted, “Oh, Janet’s a great writer.”

Now Betsy and John leaned forward, waiting to hear about my accomplishments.

“What do you write?” Betsy asked.

“Uh…um…this and that…” I could feel my face and ears turning redder than the ruby on Betsy’s finger. My mind raced. I could say I had written Harry Potter under my pen name, Rowling. No, that wouldn’t be good. I tried honesty. “I’ve gotten some stories and articles published here and there, but I’m working on a novel right now.”

“Oh!” Betsy nodded. “Where has your work appeared? Any literary publications?”

I sipped my wine, buying time. “Nothing you would have heard of, I’m sure.”

“Try me,” she insisted, “You’d be surprised what I’ve heard of.”

What could I say? I’ve had some devotionals pubbed in small devotional booklets? I could ask if she’d heard of Novel Journey…

Apparently, I waited too long to answer, and thankfully, the conversation shifted.

“Betsy wrote a novel,” John announced.

She shrugged. “Oh yes, that. It’s in a drawer. My agent loved it, but someone else came out with something similar. I lost interest in the whole thing…”

It was no small relief when the host announced the concert’s beginning. We moved into a great hall filled with rows of folding chairs, and at the front, a grand piano. The music was delightful. I let myself get lost in it and forgot the tuxedoed men, and high-class women. I thought of Chopin, how he composed such music, and the years the elderly man on the piano bench spent practicing to be able to play an hour’s worth of intricate pieces so well and with no music before him.

Later, at home, shame came over me. What on earth had happened to me in the midst of those people that I would suddenly become so ashamed of who I was and what I did? I thought of the wonder of the life God has given me—a hard-working husband, three beautiful daughters, and a passion for writing. I thought of the people who’d told me my writing blessed or encouraged them in some way. How dare I underestimate the worth of that!

As many parts of one body, the Bible says we all have jobs—some big and glamorous, others small but just as needed. The important thing is that we are all working for Jesus, “the head” of the body, and that He is using us for His grand purposes.

Betsy and John seemed accomplished, people with glittering lives. But were they happy? Did they know Jesus? If not, then indeed I am richer than them. I regret that I did not speak with excitement about my devotional writing or my association with Christian writers groups. Perhaps they would have seen something of Jesus in me.

1 Corinthians 12:18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

Lord, Forgive me for caring too much what man thinks of me, and not caring enough what You think of me. Forgive me for being the least bit ashamed of the wonderful life and gift You’ve given me. Help me to write for You. I am content to follow where you lead—whether it be to well-known literary magazines and best-selling novels or only to minister to a few. Thank You for making me who I am. Amen