Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Agents, and Publishers, and Queries...Oh My!

I decided to go through my Sally Stuart's book and kind of get an idea of how many agents and publishers are around. My book is 2 years old, so it's not up to date as far as preferences go, but it does give me an idea about who will even LOOK at new authors.

It's daunting. Very. I'm in the revisions stage of my Amish novel. My novel is not the usual "put a bonnet on it" kind of book. It tells some stories that aren't very nice to know about, but it's based on TRUE stories that ex-Amish shared over the last year. I know parts of this book may upset loyal Amish fiction readers, but I had to write the truth. The WHOLE truth. There are great aspects of Amish life that many love and appreciate, but there are some things about Amish life that are NOT always happy. My trouble is that I have no idea, at this point, where my book fits in with the genre categories. Is it modern? Is it historical? When I contact an agent or publisher, what genre do I choose?

And just when do I query? Do I need to have the entire manuscript revised before I even query? Or do I need to have the first three chapters polished only? I read many agent blogs, but I still get confused about what is considered appropriate timing. Ack! There are so many unknowns to the new author on the writing road!

How about you? Have you queried an agent or publisher? When did you decide to query--was it early on after your book was written, or did you wait until the entire manuscript was revised and edited? What advice can you offer this novice book author? I can't wait to read your suggestions and experiences!

Friday, October 23, 2009

New WIP Starting Soon!

I'm at the point where I'm working on two books at once. It seemed like an impossible task to my sleep-deprived brain when I first decided to do that, but I'm finding that going back and forth between books is kinda fun. Of course, my second book is only at the outline stage...I'm saving the actual writing for the NaNoWriMo kick-off on November 1st!

But having two books, two sets of characters, and two time frames going at once has been interesting. I can enjoy the story of Leah and her Amish ways, and then dip right into the turbulent and quirky world of Annie Thomas. Ahhh...I forgot to introduce Annie and her story to you.

Annie Thomas is a girl on the edge of womanhood. And she's growing up during America's most troubled years. Her story takes place between the summers of 1966 and 1968. The working title of this book is "The Powerful Odor of Mendacity", and yes, it's based on a short story I wrote for the Faithwriters Writing Challenge a few months ago. I loved the character in that story, and with encouragement from Jan Ackerson, I decided to expand Annie's tale into a full-sized book. I'm so excited to get to meet her again! (Annie that is...I'd be happy to meet Jan again, too, but...well...you know what I mean.)

I won't say that Annie is me, but she's got a lot of my personality in her, and she's got spunk. I hope you'll enjoy getting to know Annie as I tell her story, and I promise to add a few excerpts on here from time to time.

So--I'm excited to soon be writing again, and excited to get going with NaNoWriMo, too. I hope to hop on here a couple of times in November to let you know how the whole crazy NaNo thing is going.

Here's the short story of Annie I wrote for the Writing Challenge. I hope you enjoy the read.

The Powerful Odor of Mendacity
©by Dee Yoder

One morning, Kinsey and Peach took me downtown. My sister and her friend never went anywhere with me, so right away I was wondering what was up. We rode the bus to the Square and hopped off at Reed’s Department Store. The sun was shining so brightly, I got an instant headache, and my headband made it worse. It was stabbing into my scalp with its tiny teeth like I had a hungry piranha stuck up there.

At the store, Mr. Rivers swung open the door and held it as Peach sashayed through like she was Princess Grace. I mumbled my thanks and followed them inside.

“Hey, Peach, look at that,” Kinsey pointed at a skinny mannequin. “Pink from head to toe!”

“Law, Kinsey, I saw a girl wearing that same outfit on American Bandstand last week!”

They giggled. I rolled my eyes. Man! I could have been down at the creek with David and Royce Withers catching crawdads and, instead, here I was, burning daylight with these two goofs.

"C’mon, you guys. Why’d I have to come? Let’s go get what we came for.”

“Stop whining, Annie. Heaven knows we wouldn’t have brought you if Mom wasn’t sick.”

“Why’d Mom want me to come with you two turds anyway?” I asked.

“Ugh! You’re so disgusting!” Peach flipped her hair and swayed her skinny hips off toward the Lingerie Department.

My sister looked at me like she was staring at an ugly bug. I couldn’t help but be impressed by the way she could curl her lip up so far. “Come on,” she finally sighed. She led the way to Peach, who was fingering a pink, lacy slip.

“Do you see them?” asked Kinsey.

“What?” Peach answered dreamily. She acted like she was in love with that slip.

“You know, them. It.”

Peach met Kinsey’s eyes, and they looked at me and smirked. My headache started beating my brains out. Uh oh.

“There’s a powerful odor of mendacity in this room!” I shouted.

“Shh! You weirdo! Don’t yell like that!" My sister smacked at my arm, and then narrowed her eyes. "What’d you say?”


“Shut UP” Kinsey whispered between clinched teeth. She pulled me over into the aisle with the brassieres. At least, that’s what the sign said: PLATEX BRASSIERES 20% OFF.

Peach strolled over and said, “You just like to use big words because you think it makes you look smart. I bet you don’t even know what that means. Where’d you even hear a word like that?”


“What movie?”

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”

Peach raised her eyebrows to Kinsey and said, “Law, law.”

My sister put on her snotty, hoity-toity face. “ Mom would never let you watch a movie like that! Where’d you see such a thing?”

“The Withers and me hid in the bushes over at the Twi-Light Drive-In”

“I’m telling Mom!”

“Like I care.”

I started back toward the front of the store, but Kinsey pulled me to a stop. She and Peach circled me like two ranch hands trying to rope a mustang.

The next thing I knew, they were holding up one of those BRASSIERES and trying to measure the stupid thing against my chest! My head swam, my cheeks turned hot as coals, and I started fighting them off with both fists.

I heard a confusing mix of voices as Kinsey and Peach tugged and wrapped those awful bands around me, until finally, they stopped, exhausted.

“We’re getting this one,” said Kinsey with tightly pursed lips.

I watched as the two girls hurried to the counter and paid for that thing. Kinsey motioned for me to follow and we left the store and got back on the bus. Shame melted me to the seat. The bag carrying the monster underwear seemed to me like it was pulsating.

“Mom, we’re home!” Kinsey threw the bag on the chair, and she and Peach took off upstairs.

She turned once and gave me a look of near pity. I shuffled into the den, where Mom was lying on the sofa. She opened her arms, and I knelt into them, face hidden.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t go, honey,” Mom said.

“It was awful!” I cried. I could feel her stroking my hair.

“Annie, everybody has to grow up. It’s the way God planned it.” She leaned over and whispered in my ear, “The Bible says, ‘I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.’* Someday, you’ll know God did a beautiful job making you into a lovely young woman.”

“I’ll never wear it! Never! ” I said fiercely. Mom just smiled and kept stroking.

*Psalm 139:14 (NIV)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mystery Guests at the Holiday Table

Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming up soon, and if you're like me, you have family dinners to attend as these holidays approach. I was thinking about how quiet my family dinners have become over the years. My small group usually consists of just me, my husband, and son. Once in a while, we add my mom or sister and brother-in-law.

But in the past, if Mom or one of the aunts hosted dinner, there would be a huge group of people eating at the table, or tables, as the case may be. The funny thing is, I always saw people I didn't know from Adam. Often they were friends of grandchildren or great-grandchildren, or maybe a second cousin or two. The worst thing about having mystery guests at the holiday dinner is that you don't know what to say to them.

It seems rude to ask "Um...do I know you?". And maybe they wouldn't necessarily appreciate the third degree: "Where do you work? Are you from this area? Who do you know at this table?"

Once I can make a connection to someone that we BOTH know, I can usually chat for a minute or two about the person we have in common. But after that, again, there's a stand-off of silence. Somehow, I always think I'm obligated to make the mystery person be welcomed, since it IS my family, but I honestly can feel myself start to wilt under the pressure of making conversation with someone of whom I have no previous history. Beyond asking, "Would you like gravy?", I struggle with what to say.

And, what's up with me not being able to remember ANYONE'S name now-a-days? Is it menopause? Even if I only have to remember the mystery person's name, I find myself thinking, "Now, what was her name? Jill? Jamie? Jessica? Oh, rats!". Then I spend a lot of time thoughtfully chewing my roll and looking like I'm thinking deep thoughts to keep from having to address the mystery guest by name. It is just TOO embarrassing to have to ask for her name only seconds after she's already told me!

I think it's fun and exciting to have large family gatherings for the holidays (as long as I don't have to do all the cooking), but there's something nice too, about the small, cozy dinners we've been experiencing over the last few years. I know that, when I sit down to share the meal, I will know every single person at the table.

Then again, how much can I REALLY know my teen son? Now there's a mystery guest even an expert conversationalist can't crack!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Announcing the NEW Amish Culture and Discussion Board!

The Mission to Amish People website has a wonderful new way to communicate with others about the Amish people: the Amish Culture and Discussion board!

Joe Keim and I will be moderating the discussion on the board, and there are a host of topics that are covered. If you have questions or view points you'd like to share, we're happy to welcome you there and look forward to your input!

Have you read good books about the Amish? Seen a movie, or read a newspaper article about the Amish? Check out the discussion board to post your opinion.

Joe receives many emails about how to be a pen pal with the Amish, how to visit, or live among the Amish, how to minister and even how to BE Amish! These questions are answered on the board.

Please feel free to check out the topics and jump right in with your opinions or questions. See you on the board!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Fiction Friday: Pastor John's White Leather Seats

Welcome to Fiction Friday. My story was written for the Faithwriters Writing Challenge when the topic was "actions speak louder than words". It's an all dialogue piece, but I think the reader can easily distinguish WHO is being duplicitous. *smile* Thanks for reading, and for more great fiction, head over to Sara's Fiction Fusion.

Pastor John's White Leather Seats
©by Dee Yoder

“Well, well, my congregation knows a good man when they see one.”

“Uh huh.”

“I took Bobby Joe on over to his lot, and when he showed me that nice red Cadillac with those white leather seats, whoop boy! That just reminded me of what Heaven is all about.”


“I says to him, I says…’Bobby, now yonder sits the kind of ride a preacher deeserves’. Know what I mean, Sister?”

“Uh huh.”

“And then, ol’ Bobby, he just takes his big ol’ black marker, he does, an’ he just-phhht! Like that! Marks that red beauty ‘SOLD’. Hands me the keys, he does.”


“Did you HEAR me, sister?”

“I heard you.”

“Ain’t that just the way the Lord works?”


“Well, ain’t it?”

“I don’t know…”

“What d’you mean? He says, now, don’t He…He gives us the desires of our hearts…an’ boy howdy! I desired that good lookin’ ride, and He moved on Bobby Joe’s spirit to give it to me. Ain’t the Lord goooood? And I mean extry good.”

“I don’t know…it doesn’t seem to me that that’s exactly what the Lord meant.”

“What? You a little jealous, eh?”

“No, I’m not jealous, not in the least. It’s just…”

“Well, never mind. I plan to turn heads come Sunday mornin’ when this ol’ preacher boy rides on inta church!”

“Don’t you wonder, though, what some of the folks might be thinking-?”

“Thinkin’? I ain’t done nothin’ wrong, and the Good Book says the laborer is worthy of his hire, don’t it?”

“Well, again, it’s a matter for interpretation.”

“Interpretation? You sure do worry a lot; you know that? I wouldn’t do nothin’ the Lord wouldn’t want me to.”

“I have second thoughts about this though--wait. There’s the phone.”

“Who izzit? Don’t wave me off! Who’s callin’?”

“It’s Mrs. Peterson.”

“Mrs. Peterson? I ain’t here! Ha-ha.”

“She’d like you to come by and pick up her son for Sunday School this week. She’s sick and says he’s trying to win the prize for perfect attendance.”

“What? In my new car? Why, that kid don’t know which way is up, much less where the bathroom is-he wears them diapers. Don’t you shush me! I’m the senior pastor here!”

“Well, she’ll hear you-”

“Gimme that phone.”

“Please, be kind…you know how much her boy means to her.”

“Yeah, yeah…go on over there and let me handle this. Uh…Sister Peterson? This here’s Pastor John. Uh huh…I’m fine, fine. Now about this Sunday…ya see, I’m goin’ to be bringin’ the new State Superintendent. An’ I’m sorry, but there’s just not goin’ ta be any room in my car. Understand? Uh huh. Well, I was sure you would, Sister. Right. You tell little ol’ Tommy that Pastor’s sure sorry. Uh huh. You have a great day, too, sister. Bubbye now.”

“You didn’t tell her the truth!”

“A little white lie won’t hurt her none. It’s better’n tellin’ her about that kid of hers, isn’t it? Don’t look at me like that! I got to study my sermon. Go on and get those bulletins stapled together.”

“Your sermon outline is on your desk.”

“Fine. Fine. You’re ‘bout the best secretary I ever did have, you know that? Hey, wait a minute…what’s that sentence there at the top of the page?”

“It’s from Ezekiel 34. That part says, ‘…Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves*…’”

“My, my. Them Israelites just never did get the message, did they? Tsk. Tsk. Well, ought to be a mighty good sermon this Sunday! Could even get that old skinflint Taylor to let loosa his money. Yessirree. Go on and get your work done, now. I’ll be in my office. And, Sister Grant?”


“Hold my calls. Cain’t afford to be interrupted while I’m writin’ my sermon, now can I?”

“Right. Can’t afford that.”

Friday, October 9, 2009

Fiction Friday: Mercy

Welcome to Fiction Friday. My story is a tribute to my grandmother, who lived this tragedy and trusted God to help her through it.

Thanks for stopping by to read my contribution! Be sure to head over to Karlene's Homespun Expressions to join in with your own link, or to read more fiction posted there.

©By Dee Yoder

The green tiles in the bathroom are slick and shiny. My nose is pressed against the cold floor, which is where I landed when I finally got in here; alone. I haven’t been able to say a word out loud, except “Lord, Lord” since Jack York brought me the news. I had run to his car, flinging my children away from me, while cold dread began to drip in my bones.

“Lord, have mercy on Gould. Have mercy, Lord. He’s awful hurt and he’s suffering. Have mercy; have mercy, Jesus.” It’s the only prayer I can pray and my hankie is wet with the tears I keep wiping off my cheeks. My ears are attuned to the hospital sounds going on in the hallway outside the bathroom door. The nurse’s white shoes squeak their way past my sanctuary, and I’m listening for the sound of my name being called.

Gould’s new job on the road crew was a welcome end to the Depression for our growing family. He went off to work each morning with his face shining and his lips whistling, his lunch pail swinging by his side, happy to have a good job at last.

But now, my insides are drying up with fear. The dozer he’d been driving when it tipped on the edge of the road they were building had crushed him. His foreman had met me at the hospital doors and kept shaking his head, “He couldn’t jump clear, Ms. Muncy. He couldn’t jump clear.” Jack had led me to the doctor who told me it was a bad injury. “His chest is crushed, ma’am. I’m really sorry.”

I had to get away from all of them, and pray. So here I lie, my face down on the tiles, my hands shaking with fear, and my heart crying out to the only One who can help my husband. I can’t think about my seven children…I can’t think about what could happen…I can only cry out my prayer to God, “Have mercy, have mercy.”

My mind fills with my last image of Gould; pale and hurting, his hands grasping mine, and my hands pushing away the dirt from his brows, smoothing the pain lines from around his eyes. I tried to comfort and give strength, but all I really did was weep silent tears at his agony. Once they wheeled him off for surgery, I hurried through the halls looking for peace.

My heart pounds at the memory of his hand pulling from mine when they took him away.

“Have mercy on him, Jesus. Have mercy.”

A knock on the door interrupts my plea. “Ms. Muncy? Are you in there, Darlin’?”

For a second, I don’t want to answer. I don’t want to know. But hope comes to life, and I lift my face from the floor as the door swishes softly open. I keep my eyes on the green tiles as I hear her approach. In my vision, two white shoes stop within inches of my bent knees.

“Ms. Muncy? I’m afraid I’ve got bad news, Darlin’.”

Death slides into her voice, and I smell the grave. My heart pumps fiercely, holding on to Gould and our love and our life with all its power, but separation comes near and slices our ties in two. Just like that…all at once…it’s over.

I lurch forward to the floor again and release a cry of sorrow that I’ve never known was there. My heart seems to stop, for only a moment, and then picks up its life again.

“He went quietly, Ms. Muncy. He was at peace.”

I hear her words and know no answer. My lips press tightly, and my body begins to tremble. I envision Gould’s freed spirit soaring to God’s arms, and I know he’s gone.

The echo of a drop of water calls me back to my body, my pain, my hurt, and my instant loneliness. I feel the hard green floor against my cheek, and the coldness is already familiar. My lips repeat their prayer.

“Have mercy, Jesus. Have mercy, Jesus.” And this time, I plead for me.

The nurse is bending low, her warm hand patting my cold shoulder.

“Ms. Muncy? Let me help you up…”

My eyes focus on a gold cross dangling in mid air from around her neck. The cross swings to and fro, its light reflecting a brilliant ray into my eyes, and I suddenly see my future in its promise.

“Have mercy, Jesus. Have mercy.”

Monday, October 5, 2009

Starting Again: My Second Novel

I plan to again participate in this year's NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)! (If that link won't connect you to NaNoWriMo, try it again later--they often have too many trying to get on the site at once-oops!) It's a writing challenge to write 50,000 words in one month. I did it last year, and birthed my first completed novel (The Miting) from those words.

My new novel is going to be a coming-of-age story about a girl named Annie Thomas. It's set in the mid-sixties, in the Midwest. I can't wait to get started on this book! I'm working on the preliminary stuff like outlines, characters, and settings so I can jump in and begin writing on November 1st. Here's a link to my NaNo page if you'd like to follow my progress: DThompson's page

(Yes, I'm using my maiden name on NaNo--don't ask me why I set it up that way in 2007...it was a brain blip, I guess.)

If you've always wanted to write a book, I highly recommend the NaNoWriMo experience. The editor in your head (AKA Genghis Khan) is firmly chained during this mad month of simply writing. (No editing allowed!) It's the month of the unchained muse while you allow your story to grow and grow until you finish a novel-length manuscript thirty days later.

It's maddening, frightening, and down-right chaotic, but is it ever satisfying when you see that 50,000 word mark reached on November 30th! And at the end of it all, you have a jewel of a seed for your book. It will need polishing, and in the case of popular fiction, more words added, but it sure is nice to have one half to two thirds of an entire novel resting in your word processor.

I started writing my outline and character pages today. My main characters are already sketched out and waiting for their debut. I have the settings in my head, but over the next few days and weeks, I plan to have everything written and in place before November 1st rolls around.

Why don't you join the fun! You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain from giving this kind of whirl-wind writing a try. Here's hoping I see many of my writing friend's names on the NaNo list this year!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fiction Friday: Sister's Secret Pact

Karlene is our new host of Fiction Friday! The end of my story is based on something that really happened when I was in Germany. A big dog attacked a small dog that I happened to have with me on a leash. I kept yelling at the big dog to stop--in English. Only when I switched to German did the big dog back off. Duh. German dogs learn German words. (Remember that the next time you're in Germany!) Anyway, here's my story. For more fiction, go to Karlen's Homespun Expressions.

Sisters' Secret Pact
©By Dee Yoder

My sister and I walk along an ancient bauer’s road to Steinwenden, the village where my military family lives in Germany. Visoring my eyes with my hand, I look ahead at the winding dirt lane cutting neatly between rye fields. Our little dachshund, Heidi, is straining at her leash, her nose quivering with anticipation of small prey in the ditches that line the road.

“You know Mom’s sending us to spend two weeks with Oma and Opa in Bonn this summer,” my sister remarks casually.

“I heard her,and I’m NOT going.” The hot sun makes the back of my neck itch where my hair stretches tight against my head.

“What d’you mean, ‘ you’re not going’? You little dope, you can’t decide what you’re gonna do. You’re twelve.”

I shake my head, my ponytail swinging into my eyes. “I don’t care if I am twelve. I don’t want to go stay with that awful old man--he’s NOT my Opa.”

My German grandmother just married again last year, and I can’t stand her new husband, and I don't want to call him Opa.

“He’s Oma’s husband, so that means he’s our Opa, Nit-Wit.”

Sheryl digs the toes of her sandals into the soft dirt with each step; little clouds of dust puffs float behind in her wake.

I seal my lips against the angry retort that is bursting to spill out. I imagine porcine features: the tiny beady eyes, the stubbly whiskered and flabby cheeks, and the pink skin of Oma’s new husband, and my stomach flips. His hugs and slobbery kisses make my skin crawl.

“He’s a walking Porky Pig and he’s filthy disgusting!” I suddenly blurt out.

Sheryl stops short and regards me in surprise. Her eyes flick over my face, searching for an answer to my outburst.

“What’s the matter with you?” she asks quietly.

“Nothin’.” I hang my head. I can’t tell her what he said to me, in his halting English, the last time we were there. And I know this: he’s not going to stop at just saying filthy words to me the next time. I shudder.

“Lizzie, I know you don’t like him, but you should tell me why. I won’t tell Mom; I promise.”

I examine her earnest face and decide I can trust her-for once.

“He said nasty things to me the last time we were there. Things about--well--you know. Things he shouldn't say to a girl like me."

I look into her blue eyes and hope she can read my mind. Her eyes widen and then she purses her lips and squints. Usually when she looks at me like that, I duck.

“Never mind." she assures me. "I’ll take care of him.” Her determined words don’t calm my fears. She’s fifteen, but she’s still just a kid, so what can SHE do?

I pull Heidi out of a ditch and we walk on. Nothing else is said, but I feel a different kind of warmth in my heart as I glance at Sheryl, stalking determinedly beside me towards home.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a huge German shepherd intercepts Heidi, fiercely gnawing her head, rump, and tail while she tries to scurry away from him. Heidi is barking and growling, the big dog is snarling and snapping, and I’m trying to lift my pup above the reach of the huge dog’s teeth.

“Stop! Stop! You dumb dog! Get away!” But the shepherd doesn’t lessen his attack. His saliva wets my cheek, and I have a sudden fear that he will bite me as well as Heidi.

Halt! Halt! Halt!” I hear above the noise of the fighting animals. The German shepherd’s ears twitch backward toward Sheryl’s stern voice. He turns his head and stares at my sister. She walks toward him, commanding him, in German, to leave off the attack. Suddenly, he drops his head, his tail between his legs, and slumps to the ground.

I sigh and scoop Heidi to my chest, examining her glossy coat for injuries. A farmer, leash dangling in his hands, and out of breath from the chase, runs to us and coaxes his dog away, apologizing in German for his pet’s schlectes behavior.

Sheryl reaches out to stroke Heidi’s soft head. “He didn’t know English, Lizzie. You were shouting at the German Shepherd in English.”

“Oh.” My face flames at the realization.

She shrugs as she reaches out to smooth my messy bangs. I lift my head and look at Sheryl’s calm face. She looks older, somehow.

“Don’t worry, Lizzie. I’ll find a way to tell Mom we don’t want to go to Bonn this summer.”

I place Heidi down on the dusty road, and we meander home in the sunshine.

bauer - farmer
Oma - Grandma
Opa - Grandpa
schlectes- bad