Monday, January 31, 2011

Saying Goodbye

My grandma passed away today. I didn't know her well, though I wanted to. We lived on opposite ends of the country while I was growing up. I have a handful of memories of our meetings throughout the years.

The last couple of years, I'd tried to engage her in some biography questions via email. I learned a bit, but it didn't really work out. And now she's gone.

I wish she had written her biography, had left some more of herself behind for me to know, for my children to know, for future generations to know. I enjoy genealogy and am sometimes called the 'family historian' because others don't seem to share my interest. I have names and dates for ancestors back to the 12th century in some cases, but that's all they are: names and dates. The breath of life that was their essense is long forgotten. And I long to know them, to understand their world, their hopes and dreams, their fears, failures and greatest joys. If they'd written biographies, perhaps I would.

When I ask my living grandparents about their lives, they don't think what they have to say is anything special. They tell me they can't remember anything interesting. It's like pulling teeth to get anything from them. The stories will be lost. And that breaks my heart.

I do have one biography written by my great-great-great-grandfather Daniel Heiner and I count it among my dearest treasures. What a gift he left me, a priceless wonder to this descendant he'd never know. I pray you do the same for yours.

God speed, Grandma. I will see you again someday!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Author Spotlight: Jessica Degarmo

Hey, Love Stories fans! I had the wonderful priviledge of interviewing Jessica Degarmo, author of How To Meet A Guy At The Supermarket, a delightful and funny, romantic tale of going out there and finding a man (and all the frogs along the way). While you're sure to love the book, you may fall in love with Jessica, too. She's an absolute sweetheart and new to this writing business (succeeding wildly!). So, let's give her a warm welcome. *throws confetti*

CT: What made you decide to write this book?
JD: A few things happened to make me write this book. I visited the Outer Banks of North Carolina with my family in 2008 and 2009, and I absolutely loved it! The beach and that whole region are very inspiring. Then, my husband underwent a long-term layoff and we tried to come up with a creative way to make some extra money, and the idea for the book was just rattling around in my head, so I started to write it down. It went from idea in January 2010 to submitted to publishers by June 2010. I accepted a contract with Night Publishing in July, and the book was released in November 2010.

CT: I know the title was originally How to Meet a Guy at a Food Lion. I am glad you changed it, since I've never heard of a Food Lion. What exactly is that?
JD: The Food Lion is a chain of grocery stores down in the southern US. We spent a lot of time there during our vacations, so it was the inspiration for the Grocery King Supermarket in the book.

CT: What was your experience posting the book on Authonomy prior to its being published?
JD: Authonomy is a great tool for people who want to put feelers out and test the waters of being an author. I had never put my work out there for anyone else to see before, and I enjoyed the immediacy of the feedback I got. I won't say that everyone loved my book, but I rose through the ranks quite quickly, and ended up in top 200 prior to their system change-over that occurred a few months back. A lot of the comments on the book were very helpful, and I did do some revisions based on the feedback I got. Most importantly, I developed a great frienship with a lot of the other authors. I'd say it's an amazing networking tool.

CT: Why did you choose to set it in North Carolina?
JD: If you've never been there, you may not understand, but you're also depriving yourself! It's lovely...

CT: Any significance to the places mentioned in the book?
JD: Many of the places in the book are real businesses. The Corolla Brew Pub, The Outer Banks Brewing Station, Salty Paws Biscuits, Sooey's Barbeque, The Rundown Cafe and Tsunami Bar, and Lovie's Kitchen Table are all real, thriving businesses down in the Outer Banks. Check them out...they're lovely. Other places in the book are inspired by local businesses.

CT:  Have you always lived in that part of the country?
JD: I've always lived on the upper east coast of the United States. The farthes west I've been is Michican. I hate snow, but at least up here we don't usually have hurricans, earthquakes, tornados, floods, or really big
bugs and other poisonous creepy-crawlies.

CT: What's been the best part of the process (writing, published, etc) for you so far?
JD: Everything! I did an interview with a local TV station the other morning, and when I watched the playback, I saw that they had put a banner across the bottom of the screen with my name. Under my name it said, "Author." It was probably the moment I realized I actually did it. I fulfilled a dream. I am an author. Up to this point, I've just considered myself somone who tried out writing and got lucky, but the TV station actually labelled me an author. It was the single biggest moment I think I've had since starting this journey.
(CT Note: You can view the video on Jessica's facebook page.)

CT: Tell me about Night Publishing. What's it like to work with them?
JD: Oh, they're amazing! Mr. Tim Roux, esquire, is a fantastic publisher. He's very pro-author, and he seems very committed in working with us to get our books out there. He's tireless and I am not quite sure how he does it all and retains his sanity, but he does. He's also very hands-on and approachable. It's not like a business where the inhabitants of the Emerald City never get to see the Wizard. It's like a family. We all chat
on the Night Reading site and support each other. Tim's been known to pop in on the forums regularly and chime in. It's great. I'm in good hands there, and I believe in Tim's vision for us.

CT: Who designed the cover?
JD: Well, initially my incredibly talented sister-in-law did a design, but due to sizing issues (don't ask, I'm incredibly dumb at this sort of stuff), we had to scrap hers. We used the same image, just tweaked it to make it what it is now. I'd like to think it's a great collaberation between Tim and Teresa.

CT: What sorts of marketing efforts have you done (alone or with the help of your publisher) to get the word out?
JD: Social networking is very NOW, and very much a part of my marketing. I have a facebook page (Books by Jessica L. Degarmo) a blog (that I'm horrible at updating, but occasionally I post on it) at, and I'm a member of Authonomy still. I also try to contact our local media to let them know what's going on. I've had some small write-ups in our local paper, and the interview on WENY TV. Tim also does his own promotion and we have both sent the book to various book reviewers/bloggers to get them to review and promote the work for us.
CT: What do you have coming out next?
JD: Hooking Up will be released by Night Publishing in March 2011. It's a story about Caitlin, a young woman with abandonment issues who looks to find temporary solace in the arms of a stranger, just for the night. The problem is, he won't go away! How did Catie manage to find the one guy in town who wants more than a one-night stand?

CT: Any words of advice for aspiring authors?
JD: Don't give up! Learn all you can, but don't take yourself too seriously. There are always naysayers out there and not everyone will like your work. Just do the best you can and explore many avenues for publishing. Network and create a good support system. And most importantly, write from within. Thanks so much for having me! It was great chatting with you!

Thanks, Jessica. We loved having you on the blog and best of luck to you on your future books!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Year of Writing Dangerously

In 2009, I wrote my first book. In 2010, I tried to get it published.

2011 is a new year!

This year, I am not going to focus on publication or even writing for publication. This year, I am going to focus on writing for pure enjoyment. Strangely enough, I enjoyed writing while I was doing it, but once I finished and turned my eyes to publication, all the joy was stripped away.

I read for the love of it, why wouldn't I write for the same reason?

So, here's to new adventures, to silly stories that no one will want to read but me, and to sad tales that bring catharsis but no check. 2011 will be the year that Cyndi got her groove back!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Anna and the French Kiss- 5 stars!

Anna and the French Kiss is such a wonderful, easy read that I tore through it in one day. It's one of the best Young Adult books I've ever read, and I am terribly green with envy at the amazing voice Stephanie Perkins projects in her writing.

The book is not about plot, but instead focuses heavily on character development. Anna's father sends her to Paris for her senior year of high school, where she meets a fabulous guy who already has a girlfriend. Angst ensues.

Really, that's the main gist of the plot and if it weren't for Ms. Perkins' talented pen, I don't think there would be much to love. But I did love it. SO HARD. And here's why:

The characters (Anna and her four friends) were so real, so well fleshed out, that I enjoyed spending time with them. They could be going to the movies, browsing through a bookstore, hanging out at the cafeteria at school... it didn't matter. I wanted to hang out with them.

She drew each one with quirks, with individual traits that made you feel like you were really getting to know them. No character was a cookie-cutter model or archetype. Their reactions were genuine as they danced around each other in words and emotions, trying to come together while preserving pride and worrying too much (like all teens do) about what someone else might think.

I loved watching Anna and Etienne fall for one another and tentatively make their way across the chasm of potential rejection. Anna's thoughts and reactions were often laugh-out-loud funny, mostly because I remember being just like that.

Stephanie Perkins, my hat is off to you. Well done! Bravo! *cheers*

You make me want to be a better writer.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Excitement of a Child

Next month, my husband and I are taking our two kids on a trip to Florida. My nine-year-old daughter is so excited, she can barely stand it. My five-year-old son doesn't really understand what it means to "be at Florida", but he can tell by his sister's enthusiasm that Florida must be pretty darn great.

He's excited, but he doesn't really understand why. Even though he wants to, he can't really understand what we're talking about. Even if I show him pictures and videos of Disneyworld, even if I share with him what I remember of the park as a kid, his five-year-old self can't imagine what's in store. He has to experience it for himself.

It struck me that I'm the same way about heaven. Everyone around me is excited for this eternal theme park in the sky, so to speak, though none of us has any real idea of what it's all about. John tried to explain it, Jesus hinted at the glories that await, so we're all aglow in anticipation. Still, we won't really "get it" until we're there. Just like my son won't be able to wrap his head around the enormity of Disneyworld until he's had a chance to explore it in person.

I delight in sharing the experience with him, remembering the awe I felt as a kid, and it makes me smile to think of how Jesus anticipates showing me around the 'hood.

Can't wait! :)

Monday, January 3, 2011

To Resolve or Not To Resolve...

Scrolling through the many blogs I follow on Google Reader, the screen was chock-full with everyone's resolutions for the new year. I have never kept a resolution in my life, but I don't want to be left out so why not jump in with both feet?

I, Cyndi Tefft, do hereby solemnly resolve to do the following in 2011:

1. See my name on the New York Times Bestseller list. In big red Sharpie pen. With a heart and a smiley face.

2. Lose 50 pounds. I lose and gain back a pound a week, on average, so I should hit this goal with 2 weeks to spare.

3. Do a marathon. I envision an exhausting night of marathon Glee episodes and champagne drinking.

Whew! I know, I set the bar pretty high, but I am determined to keep these resolutions for 2011. Thanks, all, for inspiring me!