Sunday, September 29, 2013

Author Shelba Nivens' latest, The Mistaken Heiress, Coming Soon!!

Authors Shelba Nivens (on left) and G.H. Sherrer 

As an author of two published works, I understand the excitement of a new book on its way. Today I am so pleased to announce my friend Shelba Nivens as my guest. A book Author (Early Setters of the K-Springs/Chelsea Area), a Shelby County Reporter Columnist and playwright (Abingdon Easter Drama Collection, and others), she is a diversely gifted writer experienced in publishing. First, Mrs. Nivens, tell us which books or authors have most influenced your writer’s life.

Books by Catherine Marshall, Grace Livingston Hill, Louisa Mae Alcott, the book Pollyanna, many Christian romances, and a wide variety of inspirational novels have influenced me greatly.  My family is always very supportive and helpful, and some provide me with character inspiration.

You have been writing for quite some time, and have won many awards. Tell us about those.

I’ve taken Florida Christian Writing Conference (FCWC) awards for Best Novel and Best Non-fiction, two Second Place awards from Alabama Writers Conclave, several First and Second Place awards from Birmingham Quill Club, plus some minor awards from each.

You have a new and exciting book coming out soon, one you’ve worked on for a long time.  Why will most enjoy reading it?  

The Mistaken Heiress, being published by Heartsong, the inspirational division of Harlequin, will be launched in a few months. The book has humor, as well as subtle Christian inspiration. The main attraction? Strong, interesting characters, intriguing plot, a setting in Alabama’s beautiful central woodlands and other familiar local sites and much more, will surely pique interest of readers.  The primary character or protagonist, Kate, has a question common to many: “How can I trust the promise that God wants me to have a bright future and hope [Jeremiah 29:11], when my life is falling apart?”  How much God loves us, the hope He can bring into our lives… this message is what I wish to convey with this captivating story.

The Mistaken Heiress is sure to be a wonderful thought-provoking book, and I look forward to owning a copy!  Thank you, Author Shelba Nivens, for your time and a delightful peek into your writer’s life. Stay inspired! - G.H. Sherrer

Sunday, September 15, 2013

NLAPW Book Review for The Keeper Chronicles


My book's recent Pen Women (NLAPW) review by Mary Jedicka Humston, Iowa City, Iowa:

"Author G. H. Sherrer introduces a strong pre-teen character in her contemporary novel The Keeper Chronicles Volume I & II. Scrappy, independent Starr Bright, 12, reminds me of Flavia de Luce (Alan Bradley's mystery series) and Scout Finch (Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird). She has Flavia's curiosity, intelligence and detecting skills and Scout's courage and quest for knowledge and truth. Sherrer has deftly created an endearing, unique character in Starr we can't help but root for. In Volume I's The Mall Street Sleuth, Starr puts her spying observations to work and is thrown into one harrowing experience after another. Why is her mother holed up in her room for days? Did her father die in the hurricane or is he suffering from amnesia? Who is the Catania family next door? The Mob? And, why can't anyone else see the mysterious Patch?
Starr's no angel. Superstitious and woefully neglected by her parents, she steals food and gets into trouble while living in an unfair world of hunger and neglect. Elderly African-American Miz Alma Washington takes her under her wing. In both Volume I & II, the wealthy basket weaver provides continual sources of love, sustenance and support.
Volume II's The Breakthrough takes us to the opulent, post-hippie world of her maternal grandparents. Starr, 16, has mysteries to solve here, too. Why doesn't her new friend Matt call any more? Who is the stalker in the green Civic? What family secrets are her quirky grandparents hiding? Faith in God eventually plays a significant role in Starr's life as a background theme against the main plot highlighting her coming of age. In the end, Starr shines (pun intended), making me hope Volume III is forthcoming. Final note: Sherrer provides 31 thought-provoking questions for book club discussions geared for adult and young adult readers.

2012, Infinity Publishing. West Conshohocken, PA, USA $16.95 (to order from publisher toll-free call: 877-289-2665 or see www.buybooksontheweb.com) Also on Amazon or by request through bookstores worldwide.
ISBN: 978-0-7414-8034-7 paperback
ISBN: 978-0-7414-8035-4 eBook
Library of Congress Control Number: 2012918150

 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Journey into the 19th Century


Bridging the Past, with Courage 

How did author John Jakes research his series, The Kent Family Chronicles? A writer of historical fiction must “look unto the rock” from which he’s hewn, meaning to delve deep into the past. Time machines don’t exist. A writer wishing to write realism must think and act like a detective. My April research trip to South Carolina for an antebellum/Civil War novel-in-progress began two years ago, in conversations with historians and curators, perusing old maps and history archives, hanging out in libraries, reading tall stacks of books. Writing fictionalized history authentically is like going for a Nobel Prize.   

After gaining a knowledge base, I detected a possible migration route for my novel’s main characters travelling from Upstate South Carolina to North Alabama through North Georgia by wagon in 1858.Considering the remoteness of this route and ever seeking my security, I was fortunate to find a photography workshop in coordination with Clemson University, where participants would visit remote sites together. I packed, prepared, drove east.

I avoided Interstate highways, nonexistent in 1858. I audiotaped, describing what I saw of the route, traces of antebellum history, old buildings, ancient roadbeds now grown in timber, noting rivers, mountain ranges. I considered dangers, like river crossings and mountain precipices, landslides and wild carnivores, starvation, exhaustion. No tow trucks. One major concern was how the migrants going from Clayton to Hiawassee, Georgia got around a very lofty mountain, ranging from Timpson Creek on the east to Hightower Creek on the west. I was on a mission, to find an ancient roadway.

In South Carolina I arrived at Clemson University’s site in Pickens, admiring the view, towering mountains like a wall to the north. My good fortune held. The places I wanted to go were exactly where the group visited: a railway tunnel unfinished when Civil War hit, grist mills, waterfalls and botanicals. At daybreak we were sitting on a foggy mountaintop. As thunderheads gathered, we boated on Lake Jocassee. All but the lake would’ve been seen by 19th Century immigrants moving west from Upstate South Carolina. I chatted with local historians, and was somewhat confirmed in my speculation. A wagon trail going west once followed the blue mountain range on an ancient Indian trail. 

Returning home, I drove along the proposed migration route now partly hidden in two national forests. I descended from Sumter Forest at dawn, in a light drizzle. An enormous glowing cross set on a mountainside overlooking Clayton, Georgia lit the fog in a warm welcome. It was nearing 7:00am, hours before a museum would open, so I found the 1930’s Clayton CafĂ© and went inside for breakfast, hot coffee, blueberry pancakes.

While still sipping, hard rain hit, winds blustery. I snuggled down in my booth’s vinyl seat, listening to nearby conversations, chatting with the waitress, telling my desire to go to the museum, and why.

“How did wagons get over that huge mountain west of Clayton?” I asked.

She seated herself across from me. Her blue eyes lit, every freckle glowing. “How did wagons get over the Rockies? They had to, so they did.”

The answer was so simple I hadn’t seen it, but still. Couldn’t immigrants find a way around? 

Leaving Clayton in flooding rain, I proceeded slowly over the massive mountain in question, marveling at pioneer grit. I was alone on the winding high road. Never saw another car. Near the peak at the Appalachian Trailhead, two soaked and bedraggled hikers with monstrous dripping backpacks were hitching a ride. It was a couple, male and female. How pitiful, but it wouldn’t be prudent, picking up strangers. In all sincerity I breathed, Lord have mercy, and looked into my rearview, seeing a white van pull up… out of nowhere. 

About thirty minutes from Clayton, I arrived in the lakeside village Hiawassee and located its shoe-box size library near two old log cabins. No history museum. The young librarian led me to resource books. I began to peruse. In half an hour or less, in walked the hikers I’d seen, now dry-clothed. I decided they’d changed inside the white van, since the woman rushed to the ladies room. He got permission to get on the computer. Listening in like a gumshoe on his conversation with the librarian, I was able to confirm who they were: out-of-state AT hikers “taking the day off” due to rain. He pecked away on the computer. His hiking blog, I noted.  Today’s courage is hiking the AT. They likely seek history too, in their own way. Now back to my reading, a journal written by local history students in 1946-47, and here was my answer. A wagon road once existed in the Hightower Creek area, running northward of that mountain, crossing Appalachian Trail, connecting with Persimmon Road and Timpson Creek on Highway 76. I surged with excitement, made copies. 

On to Blairsville and I located the 1890 courthouse, now a museum. The rain was pounding the pavement, flooding streets, as I parked on a roundabout. Preparing to exit my trusty car, I looked up to see an elderly gentleman in full Scottish Highlander dress, kilts and all. My interest piqued.

Inside were more folks dressed in Scottish plaid, a gathering of a local clan likely descended from early immigrants. I signed the guest registry, told the white-haired museum hostess my desire to find an antebellum migration route, artifacts or maps. How did immigrants get around that mountain? I wanted more affirmation. She called to a younger man, fifties with graying hair pulled back in a ponytail, sitting within a side room. He jumped to his feet like an arrow shot from a bow, and began pulling books and maps.

I asked Mr. Ponytail, “How did 19th Century immigrants get around the mountain east of here?”

Well, quickly it became evident no one knows the name of that mountain, and he didn’t know east from west, plus his accent betrayed him. A newcomer. How much help could he be? What’s he doing here in remote northern Georgia anyway?

“Where are you from, originally,” I asked, gently.

“Nevada…”

He migrated, from the west? I smiled. “How did you end up here?”

“I was looking for a cabin.”

“Worked at other historical museums?”

He chuckled. “No… casinos.”

Is he escaping, some thing or another, or an undercover agent? As he pulled more books, I studied his face. Something about him seemed off, like bringing Legos into a domino game.

I glanced over at the snowy haired lady now seated under a window, watching us closely. “That your white car out there? You travelling alone?” she asked me.

A fellow freelance detective… I shrugged.

She continued. “You’re a gutsy little thing. I’d be afraid.”

Courage… even traveling 21st Century-style requires grit…

About that time, Mr. Phony Ponytail fled the room.

She pointed her chin toward his departing figure. “It’s men I’m afraid of… men! And that one is strange, much too fidgety.”

It was clear she has her eye on Mr. Ponytail, for all the good it will do her.

“Where do locals have lunch?” I asked to change the subject.

 

Nearing home, after ten hours on the road, my trusty steed’s leather seats no longer felt comfy. Approaching Ashville, Alabama, I glanced to my right. Bright afternoon sun lit up a fresh washed, spring green meadow. Beyond sat Chandler Mountain under a cloud, casting it a cobalt blue. The contrast was otherworldly, stunning. A renewed passion for home stirred within my chest, likely the way 19th Century immigrants felt on arrival, after nearly a month-long trudge behind a dusty wagon. That’s true grit. You know, looking back occasionally is fine, but don’t stare. You can get lost in the past, lose courage to face forward. -G.H.Sherrer

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, February 8, 2013

How to Query an Agent?

Agents are Gatekeepers of Traditional Publishers, so do your homework and expect to send out 100 carefully-crafted agent queries, pitching them your work. Wait until you have completed and edited your best manuscript before considering a query.
What do you look for in a query letter? How much do you need to know about plot versus potential marketing tactics in order to make the decision to request a partial manuscript? (Luke from Nashville, TN)
Reply by  PJ Mark, Janklow & Nesbit Associates, 445 Park Avenue New York, NY 10022
"Here are the things I look for in a query letter: a distinct pitch, a short tease of the plot (set up the story and make me want to read more), and a comprehensive bio. I take notice if it’s a referral, or when a query suggests the author knows the kinds of books I handle. I prefer a short, clear letter rather than one that is overwritten or opaque. By which I mean, get to it: Know how to talk about your work succinctly. And, in general, keep it to one book per pitch. When I read a query, I am going with my gut in deciding if I want to see more material. There’s no real trick. Your pitch may remind me of a novel I loved, or one I couldn’t sell, or something I recently read and passed on, or one I wished I had represented.I don’t care as much about an author’s explaining the potential marketing strategy, and don’t need quotes from friends and family or workshop or conference readers about how much they love your writing. As for the bio, I admit I am partial to queries that show some publishing history, that the writer has done the groundwork of sending writing out and getting it picked up by journals or magazines. This is especially true of short story writers. It’s not mandatory (though it almost is for nonfiction), but it’s nice to know, when considering someone’s submission, that the editor of a magazine, journal, or Web site also thinks the writer is doing good work. Still, agents want to discover something exciting, and I’m always up for being surprised. Lastly, some turnoffs: jokey queries; queries written by hand; stationery that features images of quills and ink pots and books; e-mail queries with hundreds of agents in the “To” field; e-mail queries sent from companies that solicit agents on behalf of writers; queries that describe the work as “a fictional novel”; and especially that spam query I received almost every day for six months about a novel called “Elizabeth.” Also arrogance. And desperation. Just be confident in your work."

 


 

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Best Writer Feedback? Royalty


Today I received an email copy of my Royalty Statement from my publisher, and smiled. Many say winning an award is the best critique of your work, though awards are mostly judged by one person, subjectively. To this writer, there's nothing like the affirming nod of royalty for my work. No, I do not require frequent affirmations to feel confident I'm on the right path, but after years of writing and editing this above book, an occasional "Way to go!" sure helps! Thank you, to every reader of my recent book, and now please write a few words of review at Amazon.com so others can find me. To my writer friends, persevere, stay on the path to publishing. There is joy at the journey's end. -G.H. Sherrer 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Distractions from Writing

Every New day Brings Fresh Opportunities
The holidays are past. Now what's your excuse, writers? It's so easy to let life interfere with your passion for writing, especially after a distracting month-long flurry of holiday dinner parties, and related activities. It's a new year, 2013 AD. Who knew the world would still be turning for so long? As writers, we have an obligation to continue placing our thoughts down for future generations to read. Or not. Who knows what those generations will do with words. Just look at the technological changes in the past 25 years, and be amazed.

I have an historical novel to finish this year, and have joined a new critique group I'm excited about, one which is professional and honest giving feedback. I'm sure to learn a lot this year. If I'm not learning and growing as a writer I feel stifled. Learning energizes me.

This new year reach out to other writers for inspiration and support. Be inspired!