Monday, December 24, 2007

Finding time to write

This has always been the most difficult time of year for me to focus on my writing. This year has been no different. I have managed to produce a little morethan my usual dismal December average, even though I haven't blogged here in almost two weeks. But I have accomplished a little on my current WIP. Not as much as I'd hoped, but enough to keep from berating myself. After all, it's Christmas.

We've had parties, get-togethers, cookies to bake, gifts to buy and wrap. Well, you know the drill. But serious writers still manage to write something, even in the midst of chaos.

Real writers--I sometimes wonder if I am one--commit to their story and get it down regardless of what's going on with the rest of their lives. Most writers hold down fulltime jobs and juggle marriages and children while snatching a few moments to put something to paper whenever they get the chance.

The story in our hearts deserves to be put to paper. It is important to us. The characters whisper in our ears and keep us awake at night. Plotlines twist all around us, causing us to stare into space when we should be paying attention at work or watching our child kick a soccer ball through the goal posts.

Let's honor that story. Even this time of year when the oven timer reminds you to get into the kitchen and check on the ham, dedicate a few moments to your story. Stay on track. Put your writing file on your desktop and make it easily accessible. The best part is you will see it every time you go past your computer. Hopefully it will beckon loudly enough that you will give it a few moments of your time.

Speaking of which, I need to get back to mine. I guarantee I won't be checking in for the next few days. Tomorrow will be a blur. I have a medical procedure scheduled for Wednesday so I don't know how long it will be after that before I'm back on the computer.

Have a wonderful Christmas and blessed 2008.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Golden Compass---Please read

This was posted on Tuesday, December 4th, on the blog of Albert Mohler. I copied and pasted here instead of just giving you a link to follow. Please read and then visit Mr. Mohler's blog for comments.

The Golden Compass -- A Briefing for Concerned Christians

The release of The Golden Compass as a major motion picture represents a new challenge for Christians -- especially parents. The release of a popular film with major actors that presents a message directly subversive of Christianity is something new. It is not likely to be the last.
Having seen the movie at an advance viewing and having read all three books of His Dark Materials, I can assure Christians that we face a real challenge -- one that will require careful thinking and intellectual engagement.

Why is this movie such a challenge?

First of all, The Golden Compass is an extremely attractive movie. Like the book on which it is based, the movie is a very sophisticated story that is very well told. The casting was excellent. Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig (the latest James Bond actor) are joined by others including Sam Elliott and newcomer Dakota Blue Richards, who plays the central role of 11-year-old Lyra Belacqua. Kidman is chilling as the beautiful but evil Marisa Coulter and Craig is perfect as Lord Asriel. Actor Ian McKellen (Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy) is the voice of Iorek Byrnison, the armoured bear.

The movie is very well done and will be very attractive to audiences of all ages. The special effects are superior to any previous movie of the type, including the Lord of the Rings trilogy (also released by New Line Cinema). Everything is in place for this to be a blockbuster at the box office.

Second, the movie is based in a story that is captivating, sophisticated, and truly interesting. Philip Pullman is a skilled writer and teller of tales. His invented worlds of The Golden Compass and the entire His Dark Materials trilogy are about as good as the fantasy genre can offer. His characters are believable and the dialogue is constant -- largely due to Pullman's brilliant invention of a companion for each character -- a "daemon."

The bottom line is that these books and this movie will attract a lot of attention and will captivate many readers and viewers.

So, what's the problem?

This is not just any fantasy trilogy or film project. Philip Pullman has an agenda -- an agenda about as subtle as an army tank. His agenda is nothing less than to expose what he believes is the tyranny of the Christian faith and the Christian church. His hatred of the biblical storyline is clear. He is an atheist whose most important literary project is intended to offer a moral narrative that will reverse the biblical account of the fall and provide a liberating mythology for a new secular age.

The great enemy of humanity in the three books, The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass (together known as His Dark Materials) is the Christian church, identified as the evil Magisterium. The Magisterium, representing church authority, is afraid of human freedom and seeks to repress human sexuality.

The Magisterium uses the biblical narrative of the Fall and the doctrine of original sin to repress humanity. It is both violent and vile and it will stop at nothing to protect its own interests and to preserve its power.

Pullman's attack on biblical Christianity is direct and undeniable. He once questioned why his books attracted little controversy even as the Harry Potter books attracted so much. He told an Australian newspaper that what he is "saying things that are far more subversive than anything poor old Harry has said. My books are about killing God."

Will viewers of the movie see all this?

The direct attack on Christianity and God is toned down in the movie. But any informed person will recognize the Magisterium as representing the Church and Christianity. Of course, in our world the Magisterium is the authoritative leadership of the Roman Catholic Church. In Pullman's world it represents Christianity as a whole.

Indeed, Pullman's tale tells of John Calvin assuming the papacy and moving the headquarters to Geneva, thus combining the Catholic and Reformation traditions into one. In the movie, the Magisterium appears to be located in London. In any event, the point is not subtle.

The most direct attacks upon Christianity and God do not appear until the last book, The Amber Spyglass, in which Lyra and Will (a boy her age who first appears in the second book) eventually kill God, who turns out to be a decrepit and feeble old imposter who was hardly worth the killing.

Is Pullman's attack on Christianity exaggerated by his critics?

No -- his attack is neither hidden nor subtle. The entire premise of the trilogy is that Lyra is the child foretold by prophecy who will reverse the curse of the Fall and free humanity from the lie of original sin. Whereas in Christian theology it is Jesus Christ who reverses the curse through His work of atonement on the Cross, Pullman presents his own theology of sorts in which the Fall is reversed through the defiance of these children. As Pullman insists, Eve and Adam were right to eat the forbidden fruit and God was a tyrant to forbid them the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

The supernatural element of Pullman's story is "Dust," which is seen by the Magisterium as original sin but is presented by Pullman as the essence of life itself. In The Golden Compass, Lyra is given an "alethiometer" or "golden compass" which is filled with Dust and tells the truth to one qualified to operate it. Readers are told that a great battle is coming in which forces fighting for human freedom and happiness will confront (and destroy) the Magisterium and God.

In the last volume of the trilogy, a character known as Dr. Mary Malone explains her discovery to Lyra and Will: "I used to be a nun, you see. I thought physics could be done to the glory of God, till I saw there wasn't any God at all and that physics was more interesting anyway. The Christian religion is a very powerful and convincing mistake, that's all."

Is there more to the larger story?

Yes, and it has to do with sex. Surprisingly graphic and explicit sex. Pullman believes that the Christian church is horribly repressive about sex and that this is rooted in the idea of the Fall. As he told Hanna Rosin of the Atlantic Monthly, "Why the Christian Church has spent 2,000 years condemning this glorious moment, well, that's a mystery. I want to confront that, I suppose, by telling a story that the so-called original sin is anything but. It's the thing that makes us fully human."

Puberty is a big part of Pullman's concern. Coming-of-age stories are one of the most common forms of fiction, but Pullman's packs a punch that readers cannot miss. He wants to celebrate the adolescent's arrival at sexual awareness. Remember that the child's daemon can change forms until puberty. At that point it is fixed as a single creature that reflects the personality and character of the young adult.

Puberty means the coming of sexual feelings. The Magisterium would prefer that children grow up without experiencing sexual temptation, so it is conducting an experiment in order to separate children from their daemons before puberty, when their daemon can no longer change. This procedure, known as "intercision" makes the child a "severed child" who has no daemon -- and thus no soul. The Magisterium has assigned Mrs. Coulter the job of abducting the children and taking them to the North for this experiment.

As Mrs. Coulter explains to Lyra (who is revealed to be her own daughter) in the first book: "All that happens is a little cut, and then everything's peaceful. Forever! You see, your daemon's a wonderful friend and companion when you are young, but at the age we call puberty, the age you're coming to very soon, darling, daemons bring all sorts of troublesome thoughts and feelings, and that's what lets Dust in. A quick little operation before that, and you're never troubled again."

In The Golden Compass, Lyra and her companions free the children held at this experimental station in the North and destroy it. In The Amber Spyglass, Lyra and Will reverse the story of the Edenic Fall by consummating a sexual act in the garden.

Again, Pullman is not subtle. Keep in mind that this is a series of books marketed to children and adolescents. Lyra puts a red fruit to Will's lips and Will "knew at once what she meant, and that he was too joyful to speak." Within moments, the 13-year olds are involved in some kind of unspecified sexual act.

"The word love set his nerves ablaze," Pullman writes of Will. "All his body thrilled with it, and he answered her in the same words, kissing her hot face over and over again, drinking in with adoration the scent of her body and her warm, honey-fragrant hair and her sweet, moist mouth that tasted of the little red fruit."

Just a few pages later, Will and Lyra will dare to touch each other's daemon. That passage is even more sexually charged and explicit than the first. The adolescents now know "that neither daemon would change now, having felt a lover's hands on them. These were their shapes for life: they would want no other."

What is it about Pullman and C. S. Lewis?

Put simply, Pullman hates C. S. Lewis's work The Chronicles of Narnia. He told Hannah Rosin that Lewis's famous work is "morally loathsome" and "one of the most ugly and poisonous things I ever read." Narnia, he said, "is the Christian one . . . . And mine is the non-Christian."
When the first Narnia film was released in 2005, Pullman described the books as "a peevish blend of racist, misogynistic and reactionary prejudice."

Indeed, Pullman's His Dark Materials is intended as an answer to Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia. What Lewis (and J. R. R. Tolkein) did for Christianity, Pullman wants to do for atheism.
So, what should Christians do?

A good first step would be to take a deep breath. The Christian faith is not about to be toppled by a film, nor by a series of fantasy books. Pullman has an agenda that is clear, and Christians need to inform themselves of what this agenda is and what it means. At the same time, nothing would serve his agenda better than to have Christians speaking recklessly or unintelligently about the film or the books.

This is about the battle of ideas and worldviews. While Christians will not celebrate the release of this film, we should recognize the mixture of challenge and opportunity that comes with millions of persons watching this film and talking about the issues it raises. When the movie is mentioned in the workplace, in school, on the playground, or in the college campus, this is a great opportunity to show that Christians are not afraid of the battle of ideas.

We should recognize that the Christian Church has some very embarrassing moments in its history - moments when it has failed to represent the truth of the Gospel and the love of Christ. Authors like Philip Pullman take advantage of these failures in order to paint the entire Christian Church as a conspiracy against human happiness and freedom. Of course, that charge will not stand close scrutiny, and we can face it head-on with a thoughtful response.

Some Christians have also held very unhelpful views of human sexuality. These, we must admit, would include figures as great and influential as Augustine and, alas, C. S. Lewis. But these figures, rightly influential in other areas of the faith, are not representative in this case of biblical sexuality. We can set the record straight.

Should we be concerned that people, young and old, will be confused by this movie? Of course. But I do not believe that a boycott will dissuade the general public from seeing the film. I am very concerned when I think of so many people being entertained by such a subversive message delivered by such a seductive medium. We are responsible to show them, in so far as we are able, that the Magisterium of The Golden Compass is not a fair or accurate representation of the Christian Church.

I can only wonder how many parents and grandparents will allow children and young people to see the movie and then buy them the books -- blissfully unaware of what is coming in books two and three.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ has enemies; this we know. Christian parents must be informed about His Dark Materials and inform others. We must take the responsibility to use interest in this film to teach our own children to think biblically and to be discerning in their engagement with the media in all forms. We should arm our children to be able to talk about this project with their classmates without fear or rancor.

Philip Pullman has an agenda, but so do we. Our agenda is the Gospel of Christ -- a message infinitely more powerful than that of The Golden Compass. Pullman's worldview of unrestricted human autonomy would be nightmarish if ever achieved. His story promises liberation but would enslave human beings to themselves and destroy all transcendent value.

The biblical story of the Fall is true, after all, and our only rescue is through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The curse of sin was not reversed by adolescents playing at sex in a garden, but by the Son of God shedding His blood on a cross.

So let's get our bearings straight as we think and talk about The Golden Compass. This movie does represent a great challenge, but a challenge that Christians should always be ready to meet.
We discussed The Golden Compass on Monday's edition of The Albert Mohler Program [listen here]. We will continue the discussion on today. Listen and call with your questions or comments.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Shadow of Treason

I am pleased to have Tricia Goyer with me this morning to share with us about her book A Valley of Treason. For those of you who've been following the tour, this is the second book in Tricia's Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War.

In Book 2 Sophie discovers that nothing is as she first imagined. When Walt, the reporter who helped her over the border, shows up again after Guernica is bombed, Sophie is given an impossible mission. She must leave behind the man she's fallen in love with and return to the person who betrayed her. Another layer of the war in Spain is revealed as Sophie is drawn into the international espionage schemes that could turn the tide of the war and help protect the soldiers from the International Brigade ... she must find a way to get a critical piece of information to Walt in time.

Welcome Tricia, to Joy in the Journey.
Q: A Shadow of Treason follows A Valley of Betrayal. This is the first time you've written books as a series instead of stand alone. Which way do you like better?

A: I love writing in series. It was great to continue with the same characters. In my stand-alone books I fell in love with these people and then I had to say good-bye after one book. It was wonderful to be able to continue on.

Q: In A Shadow of Treason Sophie must return to the person who betrayed her in an effort to help the Spanish people. It makes the book hard to put down because the reader has to know how Sophie's heart will deal with it. Why did you decide to make this an element of the book?

A: There are very few of us who go through life without giving away a part of our hearts to someone who didn't deserve it. Even though Sophie had the best intentions, she gave away her heart and she was hurt-not only that she must revisit those emotions.

I wanted to include this element-to delve into the topic that emotions are sometimes as big of a trap as any physical cage. Emotions are real and they guide us -- even when we don't want to admit it. Poor Sophie, not only does she have to deal with a war around her -- she also has to deal with a war within herself. It's something I've battled, and mostly likely others have too.

Q: There is an interesting element that arises in this book and that is Spanish gold. I know you can't tell us what happens in this book, but can you give us a brief history of this gold?

A: Sure. When I was researching I came upon something interesting. The Spaniards, as we know, had taken much Aztec and Inca gold during the time of the conquistadors. Well, at the start of The Spanish Civil War much of this gold was still held in Madrid. In fact Spain had the fourth largest gold reserves in the world at that time. The Republican government was afraid Franco would take the city and the gold. They had to get it out of Madrid and this included transporting priceless artifacts. The element of gold does make its way into my story. It was great to include this little-known (and true!) element into my story.

Q: Another historical fact I learned about was the Nazi involvement during this time. Not only were the Germans active in Spain, but they had spy networks busy around the world. How did you find out about this?

A: I love reading tons of research books. Usually I find one little element that I dig out and turn into a plot line. This is what happened with my plot-line for the Nazi pilot, Ritter. I dug up this bit of research of Nazi involvement in Spain -- and the United States -- because a lot of people aren't aware of the Nazi involvement prior to WWII. The truth is they were busy at work getting the land, information, and resources they needed far before they threatened the nations around them. The Germans knew what they wanted and how to get it. And most of the time they succeeded!

Q: A Shadow of Treason is Book Two. When will Book Three be out? Can you give us a hint of how the story continues?

A: Book Three is A Whisper of Freedom. It will be out February 2008. The characters that we love are all still in the midst of danger at the end of Book Two. Book Three continues their stories as we follow their journeys in -- and (for a few) out -- of Spain. It's an exciting conclusion to the series!

Q: Wow, so we have a least one more fiction book to look forward to in the near future. Are you working on any non-fiction?

A: Yes, I have two non-fiction books that will be out the early part of 2008. Generation NeXt Marriage is a marriage book for today's couples. It talks about our marriage role models, our struggles, and what we're doing right as a generation. It also gives advice for holding it together.

I've also been privileged to work on the teen edition of Max Lucado's book 3:16. It was a great project to work on. What an honor!

Tricia is available for further interview. Contact Amy with your ideas and questions!

Tricia's Bio:

Tricia Goyer has published over 300 articles for national publications such as Today's Christian Woman, Guideposts for Kids, and Focus on the Family, and is the co-author of Meal Time Moments (Focus on the Family). She has led numerous Bible Studies, and her study notes appear in the Women of Faith Study Bible (Zondervan).

She has written seven novels for Moody Publishing:
From Dust and Ashes (2003)
Night Song (2004)
Dawn of a Thousand Nights (2005);
Arms of Deliverance (2006)
A Valley of Betrayal (2007)
A Shadow of Treason (Fall 2007)
A Whisper of Freedom (February 2008)
Night Song was awarded American Christian Fiction Writer's 2005 Book of the Year for Best Long Historical. Dawn of a Thousand Nights won the same award in 2006.

Tricia has also written Life Interrupted: The Scoop on Being a Young Mom (Zondervan, 2004), 10 Minutes to Showtime (Thomas Nelson, 2004), and Generation NeXt Parenting (Multnomah, 2006). Life Interrupted was a 2005 Gold Medallion finalist in the Youth Category.

Also, coming out in the next year are: My Life, Unscripted (Thomas Nelson, 2007), Generation NeXt Marriage (Multnomah, Spring 2008), and 3:16-the teen version of the a book by Max Lucado (Thomas Nelson, Spring 2008).

Tricia and her husband John live with their three children in Kalispell, Montana. Tricia's grandmother also lives with them, and Tricia volunteers mentoring teen moms and leading children's church. Although Tricia doesn't live on a farm, she can hit one with a rock by standing on her back porch and giving it a good throw.
Important Links!

First Chapter:
Amazon Link:

Book 1, A Valley of Betrayal:

Tricia's Website:

Tricia's blogs:

Monday, December 10, 2007

Join me tomorrow when I will host Tricia Goyer who will be announcing the release of her new book A Shadow of Treason, Book 2 in her Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War Series.

"I walked with Tricia Goyer's characters. I breathed with them. I felt their anguish and shared in their triumphs. That's the true test of a novelist's superior writing---unforgettable characters."
---DiAnn Mills, author of When the Nile Runs Red

In the meantime let me tell you about my last author event for '07. This is my busiest time of year when it comes to marketing. I'm sure it is for all authors. We spend most of the year toiling away in virtual anonymity, only to come out of our shells periodically to hawk what we've written. Writing a book is probably the hardest thing most of us will ever do. Not just starting a book, or talking about writing one and discussing our characters with anyone who is polite enough to listen, but actually breathing life into these people. Not to mention my favorite part, writing those two magical words: THE END.

But letting the world know you've written a book, or five or ten of them, is definitely much harder. It's a job that never ends. That's what I've been doing for the last three months. A vital part of building a writing career, but something that takes a writer away from her computer. We can't let that go on very long.

Now I'm finished for '07. Whew! I can get back to my real job.

This weekend I wrapped up my touring schedule in Maysville, KY at the third annual writers' fair to benefit the Washington Opera House. A tour of the refurbished opera house is worth a trip in itself to Maysville, just across the river from Aberdeen, OH.

I had a wonderful time meeting other writers from Kentucky and the surrounding tri-state area. Most of all, I love talking with readers about the books. I don't know which is more fun. Meeting someone who hasn't heard about me before the event, and who discover the books for the first time. Or running into someone who says they've read all my books and want to know when they can expect the next one.

I have had a great time at all my events this year and look forward to a full and busy 2008. If you are still toiling away behind your computer screen, don't be afraid to venture out into the big world and promote yourself a little. Intimidating at first, but definitely worth the trip.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Big Apple Christmas

Just in time for the holidays.

I was in a department store a few weeks ago and spotted a display of books for sale. Much to my delight I saw the romance collection A BIG APPLE CHRISTMAS. It was doubly exciting for me because I am involved in the blog tour for this book. A BIG APPLE CHRISTMAS is a beautiful book, perfect for curling up in front of the fire and enjoying four romances.

Enjoy this interview with the authors and then run out and get a copy for yourself and a few for the readers on your holiday gift list.

By Vasthi Reyes Acosta, Gail Sattler, Lynette Sowell, and Carrie Turansky
A Contemporary romance collection that captures the sights and sounds of the Christmas season in New York City.

How did you come up with the ideas for your novella?

Vasthi: Growing up in New York City, as a small Puerto Rican girl, I loved the fact that Christmas didn't end for me on Christmas day. We still had El Dia de los Reyes (Epiphany or Three Kings Day) to look forward to. We received gifts on that day as well. The night before January 6th, tradition dictates that water and grass be left out for the wise men and their camels. In return the wise men left us a small gift. I always felt special knowing that while my classmates enjoyed their Christmas gifts I still had more gifts coming after the new year. So naturally I wanted to write about our celebration of El Dia de los Reyes.

Gail: The hustle and bustle of New York City at Christmas time is special and unique, and fun! And most of all, crowded. Then I thought of what it would be like to be surrounded by such a crowd, with nothing but a list of fun places to go and fun things to do, and Shopping For Love was born.

Lynette: I think New York is a special place at Christmas time, and I'd always wanted to write a Christmas novella. Then one November, I saw a news clip of how the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center is selected. Enter my widowed heroine and her scheming children who surprise her with a trip to see her tree in Rockefeller Center.

Carrie: I love stories that bring characters together who are very different from each other, so the idea of matching a professional organizer and a free-spirited poet intrigued me. New York City is a wonderful place to visit at Christmas time, and I thought setting our story there would be enjoyable for our readers.

It’s often said that writers need to read, read, read! So tell us what you are reading.

Vasthi: I'm always reading more than one book at a time. Master Class in Fiction Writing by Adam Sexton and Courting Trouble by Deanne Gist.

Carrie: I always have a book or two on my nightstand. Recently I’ve read A Bigger Life by Annette Smith, The Restorer by Sharon Hink, In Search of Eden by Linda Nichols, Off the Record by Elizabeth White, and Remembered by Tammy Alexander.

Lynette: I have a couple of Love Inspired Suspense novels on my stack. I just got started on Christine Lynxwiler's latest release, Forever Christmas.

Gail: A book by fellow author and friend, Lena Nelson Dooley.

What's next for you in your writing?

Vasthi: I'm hoping to find a home for my trilogy and write the third novel in the series.

Carrie: I am just finishing Surrendered Hearts for Love Inspired. Next I hope to work on a Civil War story set in Richmond. I also have an international adventure/romance set in Kenya that I am just beginning to brainstorm with my daughter who just returned from working in Africa for several months.

Lynette: I love mysteries, and I love romantic suspense. I'm working on becoming a better writer in both genres.

Gail: I'm working on a chick lit, but it's still in the beginning stages.

Are you a "plotter" or a "seat-of-the-pants" writer?

Vasthi: Both. I like to plot out as much as I can first to feel confident of the story I'm going to tell, but then I start writing and scenes appear that I hadn't planned, and characters show up that I didn't know, so I just flow with it.

Carrie: I am a plotter. I work on my characters and setting first, then I write a running outline that no one sees but me. (Thank goodness!) Then I revise that and write my synopsis. From there I begin writing and sometimes I deviate from the outline a little, but not too much.

Lynette: Both. I think the right amount of planning and plotting are necessary so I don't write myself into a corner. But I also like to keep my brain open for any neat twists that come up with my characters.

Gail: Definitely a plotter. I have to know the ending before I write the first word.

What writing resources do you recommend?

Vasthi: Become a member of American Christian Fiction Writers--it is a fabulous group! Subscribe to Writer's Digest, visit author web sites there is a lot of wonderful writing advice for free. Maybe someday I'll have my own web site too.

Carrie: I agree with Vasthi. Joining ACFW has helped me tremendously. I’ve also gained a lot from attending writers’ conferences. I often consult Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King.

Lynette: Besides finding a good critique group and writing group, read a lot. Pick up some good craft books. I like Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell and Getting Into Character by Brandilyn Collins.

Gail: Other authors are the biggest resource. Join a writing group, either in person or online, and get involved.

Who has been one of your best encouragers on your writing journey?

Vasthi: My family. They are my cheerleaders.

Carrie: My mother-in-law and my daughters.

Lynette: My husband. He won't let me quit.

Gail: My husband. He indulges me and takes care of everything he can so I can write.

Please stop by the special new web site we created for this book. You can read excerpts of each novella, learn more about the authors, see some of our favorite Christmas recipes and enjoy photos of New York City. We have some fun giveaways planned for our readers, so pick up a copy of A BIG APPLE CHRISTMAS and get ready to answer the questions and enter the draws starting in October.

You can learn more about the authors at their websites:
Gail Sattler:
Lynette Sowell:
Carrie Turansky:

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wasted writing time

So much is keeping me from writing these days, some of it avoidable, most of it not. Today my father-in-law is having knee replacement surgery. Unavoidable. Yesterday some girlfriends and I spent the entire day Christmas shopping at one of those upscale malls. Totally avoidable. I bought my husband a pack of socks and my granddaughter some Hannah Montana memoribilia. That took the entire day. What a waste of writing time.

Yes, I did enjoy the outing with my friends. This is an annual tradition, but I think I'll skip it next year if they are determined to do the malls. My son is older now. You can find Hannah Montana book bags anywhere. So why bother?

The list goes on and on of what is keeping me from writing: Christmas cards--still not done. Holiday baking--not even thinking that far ahead. Christmas lights and tree--not strung or hung. Painting--almost finished. Annual Christmas party--not even finished the guest list.

December has always been my least productive month. This year I am determined this trend will not repeat itself. Early in the fall I gave myself a deadline of having my current novel polished and ready to send to the publisher by the end of 2007. I'm not even halfway through the first draft. I've got to get focused on my writing and treat it like a business. I'm not the only one with Christmas cards to write and gifts to buy and wrap.

Everyone else does it. Why can't I?

Starting today, no more trips to the mall. No more wasting precious writing time by checking email or calling friends to chat. I have a job to do. I need to get at it.

Have a productive and blessed day.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Still plugging away

I apologize for not posting to my blog on a more regular basis. I also apologize for not offering any words of wisdom to new and aspiring writers, or writers like me who feel like they'll never know enough or their craft will never be good enough for anyone to actually read.

Even after publishing five novels and writing several others that are in the lineup for publication, I often wonder if I have anything new and different to offer the reading public. I mean, what's the point after all? Aren't there enough books out there to keep readers satisfied until Jesus comes back with all his angels to catch us up in the air?

So I keep struggling with my inner turmoil and hoping I've learned something with each book I've read and especially with each one I've written.

Yesterday my friend called to tell me she had just spoken with a woman at one of the county extension offices where she does business. The woman had seen my friend's name in the acknowledgments of one of my books and asked my friend if she knew me.

She proceeded to tell my friend that she loved my books. She had just finished the last one and couldn't wait for the next. She had read hundreds of books by big name authors and hadn't enjoyed any of them as much as she liked mine. She told my friend to tell me to keep writing and keep the books coming.

My friend said by the end of the conversation her face hurt from smiling in pride so much.

Like my friend told the woman I haven't really had any formal training in writing. My gifts are natural, which to me means God-given. If God gave me this gift, isn't it wrong of me to bury it in the ground like the unfaithful steward for fear of rejection.

I think I'll keep writing, keep growing and learning. My desire is to use my gifts to glorify the Maker and Giver of all good things.

What about you?

Have a blessed Thanksgiving and may we all be truly thankful for what he has given us.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What do you want to be when you grow up?

One of the chores I was responsible for while growing up was mowing the yard. Back in the old days--the 1970's, or however you want to look at it--we didn't have a riding lawn mower. We used an old push model, not the self-propelled version either. Our yard wasn't huge but it was pretty good size for a nine-year-old girl to mow. It took most of a perfectly good Saturday afternoon to finish. But I was never bored. I entertained myself with stories. I remember one was about a community, much like the Spartans who killed the weak and rewarded the strong. This story kept me entertained an entire summer while I mowed myself around that yard. Each week, the story got longer and more complex. I drew character sketches and plotlines in my head, though I didn't know that's what I was doing at the time. Alas, the story was never written down and consequently lost forever.

I dreamed of becoming a writer as far back as I can remember. I knew few people made a living writing books so like a dummy, I put my dreams on a back burner and pursued something that would pay the bills.
You know what I've since learned? God is a God of purpose. Whatever it is we've wanted to do since we were small...whatever that dream was back then, is what God purposed us to do. That's why so many people hate their jobs. They are doing something outside of God's will for their lives. They aren't doing what they were designed to do.
What about you? Are you doing the one thing you've always loved? Are you fulfilling the passion God put on your life? God's purpose for your life hasn't changed. He knew you since the foundation of the world. He knew you before you were in your mother's womb and he had a purpose for putting you in this place and time.
Are you fulfilling that purpose? Are you fulfilled?
If you are like me and constantly struggle with "What am I going to be when I grow up?" you might not be listening to God.
Think back to what you loved to do as a child. What were your passions? What made you want to stay up late and finish what you'd started that morning? God put that desire inside you for a reason. To fulfill your purpose and enjoy yourself while doing it.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Madonna Stamps

It's that time of year again. The Christmas stamps are now available at your local post office, which bring to mind two things. First, it's time to get out our Christmas card lists and start filling our cards. I receive over a hundred cards every year. Mostly because I send out more than my share on top of the ones I hand out at church.

Even though the price of postage has gone up since last year, my list is even longer. I collect addresses all year long at book signing events and try to touch base with each reader through a personalized Christmas card. What better time of year to show my gratitude?

The second thing the new stamps remind me of is to stock up on the Madonna stamps. I try to buy enough to last me well into the new year. I do this for two reasons. First and foremost, the stamps are a witness to recipients and everyone who touches my mail along its route of the saving power of Jesus.

The second reason I buy Madonna stamps is to annoy the ACLU. Every year they launch a campaign to stop the production and sale of the Madonna stamp, stating the old stand-by, seperation of church and state. Give me a break.

They'll do anything to rid us of the real reason behind the holiday. I'm not suggesting anyone honor Christmas. I'm not trying to thrust my beliefs upon anyone else. If you don't want to honor Christmas, than don't. But don't tell me how to celebrate this season. And don't remove Christ from it.

So run out and stock up on those Madonna stamps. Let the post office and the ACLU know we will celebrate Jesus's birth today and everyday of the New Year.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

What I learned at the Polls

For a fiction writer, I don't pay much attention to what goes on in my own backyard. Today I served as a poll worker for the first time. No major races going on so attendance was down. I had plenty of time to chat with the other poll workers.

I have lived in this precinct for 16 years--enough time one would think--to learn a little something about one's neighbors. Wrong! I got enough juicy material today to fill more volumes than I will ever have time to write. Which leaves me to wonder, where have I been for the last 16 years? How has all this great dirt gotten past me? Am I not paying attention at all?

I'm a writer, for crying out loud. I'm supposed to be observant. I should notice the little things the non-writing public overlooks. That's what sets writers apart from the rest of the world. We take those little nuances and run with them. Instead I discovered I need to get out of my house once in a while.

I'm not suggesting I write an expose on my neighbors, but it looks like I'm the most clueless person in the county. I have always prided myself on my insatiable curiosity--okay, I'll admit it, I'm nosy. Apparently not nosy enough. I think I need to leave my house more often. I need to write down all the little stories and 20-year-old rumors and scandals I heard today and file them away. The next time I have writer's block or am not sure which direction to take a plot, I can pull out one of those scenarios and see if it fits into the storyline.

To all the writers out there, leave your house now and then. Take time to chat over the back fence with a neighbor as it were. Pay attention to your local politics. It might just be more exciting than any of the mudslinging in Washington.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

THE OTHER DAUGHTER by Miralee Ferrell

I am pleased to be a part of a blog tour for my dear friend, Miralee Ferrell in honor of the release of her debut novel, The Other Daughter. Everyone who leaves a comment here and on the other blog stops along the way will be entered to win a free copy of the book. The more blogs you visit, the better your chances of winning.

Here’s a brief summary of THE OTHER DAUGHTER:

The girl standing at the door took a deep breath, pulling her suitcase a little closer to her trembling legs. "My mama's dead. He's my daddy."

Susanne Carson knew that she could trust the love of her life—her husband, David—until she discovered a strange, unkempt young girl on their doorstep, claiming to be David's daughter.
Not that their marriage had ever been perfect—David's decision to embrace the Christian faith had strained their relationship. Susanne may not have agreed with his beliefs, but at least she trusted him. Had David been hiding this not-so-little secret from his past? He wanted Susanne to believe in his God, but believing hadn't done much to keep David out of another woman's arms.

As David confronts the truth of his past, Susanne must face her own moment of truth as her marriage is taken to the breaking point and the life of one young girl is left in her hands.

TERESA: Welcome Miralee. Can you tell us how you came up with this story? Was there a specific 'what if' moment?

MIRALEE: An editor friend and I were brainstorming about what I could do for my first book, and she suggested using something I knew, possibly from my own life. That triggered the idea of using an episode from me and my hubby’s personal life—we received a letter from an 18 yr old girl a number of years ago, claiming to be my husband’s daughter. After investigating and meeting Trisha, we accepted her into our lives and hearts, and have continued a relationship with her. The basis for the book came from that episode, but the balance of the book is fiction, other than the setting—I live in the Pacific N.W., in the area where the book takes place.

TERESA: How long did it take from first word to sale? What were some of the steps along the journey?

MIRALEE: It took me five weeks to write the first draft, then the next six months of revising, editing and polishing before it was presentable. This was such new territory for me. I’d written several non-fiction short stories that were published in magazines just prior to starting off in fiction, but I had no clue what I was doing when I began to write this novel. I’d never read a book on writing, had no teaching on structure, plot, POV, characterization, dialogue, or anything else. It wasn’t until three months before Kregel made their offer that I discovered ACFW and joined. My sister, who has done some professional editing, and a friend who is an editor and author, both helped tremendously, mentoring and supporting me through the first two drafts, or I wouldn’t have made it this far.

The Lord brought Tamela (my agent) into my life in a series of miraculous events that only He could have orchestrated, and seven months later I received the offer from Kregel. When the book is released, it will be two years since writing the first draft, and nine months since signing my contract. Kregel graciously put The Other Daughter on the fast track to publication, beating the usual 12-16 months for publication by quite a bit.

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

MIRALEE: Yes, in the final ¼ of my second book, Past Shadows, I stared at a blank screen more than once when I sat down to write. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I skip ahead and start writing what I DO know, then I’ll come back and link the old and new together. I’ve found that if I can just get writing again, even if it’s several chapters ahead, the rest will come in time. Sometimes I simply need to step away for awhile and not push too hard. Prayer is also a key…ask the Lord to unlock the block and stir up a new creativity in your heart and mind.
TERESA: What else are you working on?

MIRALEE: I’m working on Past Shadows (might also be called “Sheltered”), the sequel to The Other Daughter, and hope to have it ready to turn in to my editor in early November. I’ve also started something new for me, an 1880’s novel set in Washington state…I’m hesitating to say it’s a romance, but it looks like it might be heading that direction. I’m playing around with another idea for a stand-alone women’s contemporary with an unusual twist. I’m hoping to start it as soon as Past Shadows is finished. There could also be a #3 in this series, and if so, we’ll return to Brianna, the 13 yr old girl who arrives at the Carson’s door…at the age of 23.

Thanks, Miralee for stopping by. May God continue to bless you and your writing ministry.

To the readers: Don't forget to visit the other blogs in Miralee's tour for a chance to win a copy of THE OTHER DAUGHTER. Happy Reading!!!!!!!!!!!

Nov. 5th Pam Meyers---A Writer’s Journey

6th Betsy St. Amant---Betsy Ann's Blog

7th Megan DiMaria---A Prisoner of Hope

8th Christa Allan---CBAllan WordPress

9th Susan Marlow---Suzy Scribbles---Homeschool Blogger

10th Jamie Driggers---Surviving the Chaos

11th Cindy Bauer----Christian Fiction Author & Speaker

12th Angie Breidenbach---God Uses Broken Vessels

13th Patricia Carroll---Patricia PacJac Carroll

14th Toni V. Lee---Spreading Truth Through Fiction

15th Camille Eide---Faith Inspiring Fiction

16th Lisa Jordan---Musings

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Miralee Ferrell Blog Tour

The last two weeks have been spent painting and general home improvement chores, getting ready for the holiday season. With little more I can do myself, I'm anxious to get back to writing and book promotion.

Isn't this the best time of year for it? I happen to have a wonderful gift idea for the book lover on your list. My friend and fellow writer, Miralee Ferrell has just released her first book from Kregel Publishing. In honor of the big event, Miralee will be here Sunday to talk about her book, The Other Daughter.

Read the entire opening scene at Miralee's web site:

The Other Daughter is releasing Nov. 5th, look for it in stores near you, or order from or

One lucky reader will win an autographed copy of her book so follow the tour and post here and on other blogs along the way. The more you comment, the better your chances of winning. To learn more about the books and begin entering the drawing now, you will find Miralee today visiting writer Bonnie Leon. Save this list and follow Miralee throughout her tour.

November 1st Bonnie Leon---Bonnie's Blog

2nd Jan Parrish---Bold and Free

3rd Tina Helmuth---The Ink's Not Dry

4th Teresa Slack---ShoutLife Blog

5th Pam Meyers---A Writer’s Journey

6th Betsy St. Amant---Betsy Ann's Blog

7th Megan DiMaria---A Prisoner of Hope

8th Christa Allan---CBAllan WordPress

9th Susan Marlow---Suzy Scribbles---Homeschool Blogger

10th Jamie Driggers---Surviving the Chaos

11th Cindy Bauer----Christian Fiction Author & Speaker

12th Angie Breidenbach---God Uses Broken Vessels

13th Patricia Carroll---Patricia PacJac Carroll

14th Toni V. Lee---Spreading Truth Through Fiction

15th Camille Eide---Faith Inspiring Fiction

16th Lisa Jordan---Musings


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Another Book Signing

I have yet another library author presentation and book signing tonight. I love doing these and so appreciate the library staff who goes to so much trouble to promote the event and make me feel welcome.

Unfortunately I haven't seen a lot of readers lately. Don't know if it's the weather. It's been gorgeous here in southern Ohio--until this week, that is. The days have been warm, with the scent of fall in the air. Hey, I'd rather be outside too. But with my eternal optimism, I'm looking forward to this one. It will be standing room only since it's cold and rainy out and no one has anything else to do. Haven't had one of those in a while. I wonder if everyone is tired of hearing what I have to say.

I certainly hope not. I am speaking to a RWA chapter in Ashland, KY on Saturday. I love speaking to writers. I've learned a lot in the last few years about writing and promotion and love sharing with others who know the pain and frustration of this business. We're all in this together.

Be blessed and get some writing done today.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Making a best seller list

Last week I discovered my latest release, EVIDENCE OF GRACE debuted at #18 in the Christian market according to Christian Retailing Magazine. Wow. This is my first best seller list. Needless to say I'm excited. The book is currently holding steady at #38 in the fiction category. That's four months later and out of more than 4000 books on the market. Another wow.

Please don't take this post as a blatant opportunity for self gloating and self-promotion. I'm just a little overwhelmed. While I want to celebrate and shout it from the rooftops that someone other than my mother is actually buying my books, cracking the top 50 in fiction sales makes me wonder what I did right with this book and what has gained it some attention.

I don't think this book is particularly better than its predecessors though writing is like performing brain surgery. The more you do it, the better you get. My goal is that every book I write will be better than the last since I strive to keep learning and honing my craft. So maybe it is a better book. Maybe I'm a much better writer than I was a few years ago and my material and storylines stronger the last.

Or maybe it's more than that.

Sometimes a completely unknown writer will write a novel that skyrockets to the top of the best seller charts. But it doesn't happen often. That's why it makes the news. Check out a best seller list. Nearly every author on there is a well known name. They are typically published through a large publishing house. There are many reasons behind this, but the most logical is name recognition.

You are building a business here, dear writer. Your goal isn't just to sell one book. You want to sell yourself. As you continue to write and put more published works under your belt, you will increase your likelihood of debuting your next novel at a noticable place on a best seller list.

I am thoroughly shocked that this has happened with EVIDENCE OF GRACE. Not that I didn't have faith in the book. It's a wonderful story. I hope people out there buying it will agree. I am just surprised that the books are getting noticed. EVIDENCE OF GRACE is the third book in my Jenna's Creek series so I am hoping this will translate into sales for the two previous books.

I made a lot of rookie mistakes in the marketing and promotion of the first books. But this is a learning process just like any other business. Let's keep learning and growing together.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Book Promotion Interview

Dash over to Michelle Gregory's blog, Life in the Midst of Writing, to read my interview about marketing and book promotion. Before a writer is published, they believer finding a publisher is the hardest job imaginable. Unfortunately it's only the beginning. After the contract is signed, the real work begins. Hopefully you'll find a tip or two that will help get you started.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Online Marketing

I haven't been doing much online work lately. Lots of marketing ops this month are keeping me from completing other tasks. October and November are my biggest marketing months--I probably do more in those two months than the rest of the year combined, at least in person. The other ten months focus on writing and networking online or through other venues.

I love getting out and meeting readers. At least that's the goal. Last night I had a book signing to which no one came. Oh well. I had a nice talk with the librarians and the head of the Friends of the Library committee. Set up an event for next year at a Ohio college where I will be speaking to faculty. That should be interesting.

I love to speak as you have probably discerned. But the online marketing must not be ignored. I was interviewed by Michelle Gregory on her blog Life in the Midst of Writing on the topic of marketing; what works and what doesn't. I have learned a few things about the subject in the last few years since the publication of my first book. It's sink or swim in this business. A fledgling writer must overcome shyness and reticence about speaking or tooting one's own horn, as it were. I'll let you know when the interview appears and link you over there. Plenty of good stuff and tips on how to begin.

Another thing that's suffered the last few weeks while I've focused on outside events is my writing so I'm off to get cracking.

Have a blessed day and week.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Time to Write

I've been finding it incredibly hard to carve out any serious writing time lately. Today I'm taking my mother to have a colonoscopy. Yesterday it was lunch with my out-of-state sisters who came in for a funeral. Last night was another book signing. Over the weekend was of course the funeral and a family reunion (different branch of the family tree).

Whew! When is a writer supposed to do that thing she does so well?

At the book signing last night someone asked how some writers pump out 4-8 books a year. We laughed and discussed the possibility of ghost writers (more common than you think). I was quick to point out the prolific writers who write more than 2 books a year don't maintain their own websites. They don't set up at craft fairs to meet new readers. They don't set up their own book signing events or blog tours, and many don't write their own newsletters, press releases, or applications for speaking gigs at conferences.

Oh, to have an assistant, but I've lamented that here before.

The main reason I don't produce more than I do is because I mis-manage my time. On days when I don't have doctor appointments or funerals or book signings, I should hunker down at the computer and pump out the word count. Then when a busy week comes along, it doesn't matter if I only have a few moments to steal away and do a few character sketches or post to my blog.

I can blame life all I want for not getting more done. I can moan that too many people are pulling me away from the computer. But the truth is, I waste my good writing days and then get irritated that my word count isn't higher.

I've said it a thousand times, and I'll say it again. As in anything you really want to do, it's all about discipline. Something I sorely lack most days. With a wedding and the biggest craft show of the year coming up at the end of the week, I probably won't get much done this week. But I'll do what I can and pray to stay more committed when I do have a chance to sit down and actually write.

Have a great rest of the week.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

October marks my holiday season kick-off for craft fairs and speaking events. I have done this with much success every Fall since my first book, Streams of Mercy was published in 2004. I don’t know why more authors don’t take advantage of this venue. I always set up at craft fairs with my sister who quilts and makes aprons. The first time I did a craft fair, she told a friend of ours she didn’t think I would sell a book. She was afraid I’d have a rotten time. I wasn’t sure myself.

I was busy all day. Most people have never met a published author. Nor have most events hosted one. So my books and I am a novelty. Now I have readers come back year after year to buy the next book. I’ve said it so many times, I’m going to have it put on my headstone. “An autographed book makes a great gift.”

Consider it, dear author. Try a small one-day local event. People will love meeting you. You will get to spend all day talking about your books. And someone may even ask to have their picture taken with you. See pic taken at the Buffalo Trace Balloon Race in Maysville, KY this summer.

Here’s my schedule.
Booksignings and Events:October 8th–Seaman Public Library 6:00 p.m.October 13-14–Lewis Mtn. Herb Fest: Manchester, OH Booksigning 1:00 but I will be there all weekend signing and selling books. This is a wonderful event. Lots of work, but totally worth it. So many readers from all over Ohio and Kentucky.October 15th–Manchester Public Library 6:00 p.m.October 25th–West Union Public Library 6:00 p.m.October 27th–RWA chapter meeting Ashland, KY Boyd Co. libraryOctober 29th–Peebles Public Library 6:00 p.m.November 3rd–Rambler Center Craft Fair and Bazaar, Russellville, OH All DayNovember 10th–Goshen Friends of the Library Annual Craft Fair. Milford, OHNovember 17th–Jingle Bell Craft Fair and Parade. Waverly, OH This was my first show; has always a wonderful event for me. I feel like I know everyone in town. Thanks to the lovely people of Waverly, OHNovember 24th–Amelia High School Athletic Boosters Annual Craft Fair. Amelia, OH Like most of the other craft fairs listed, this is my first year for trying this one. I look forward to it. Can’t wait to meet new readers.December 8th–3rd Annual Maysville Festival of Books and Authors Night

Check with your local Chamber of Commerce and find a craft fair or Bazaar near you. If nothing else, you’ll have the opportunity to meet people who don’t visit their local library or bookstore and may never have heard of you. But believe me, they will be thrilled to learn a “famous” author lives in their midst. Talking to them will be a great boost for you after sitting behind your computer all summer.

Oh, and did I mention the possibility of press coverage?

Step out of your comfort zone and sell some books.

Sunday, September 30, 2007


The other day I got a bad review on one of my books. Okay, it wasn't "bad" as reviews go. Let's say it was mediocre. I have gotten rave reviews on this book and I still believe in it. But I could also see valid points from the reviewer. It made me wonder if I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. There are so many talented writers out there---smarter than me, more eloquent than me, more in tune with what readers of Christian fiction want. What makes me think I can, or ever will, compete with them?

You know what the Lord revealed to me tonight in church? The devil is using bad reviews and feelings of inadequacy and being overwhelmed to keep me distracted from my purpose.

We are all familiar with the story in Mark, chapter 4, verses 35-41 where Jesus calms the storm. Afterwards He asks the disciples, "Why are ye fearful? How is it ye have no faith?"

Good question.

I let that review consume me all week. I didn't get much writing done. I couldn't focus on my work because I kept thinking I wasn't good enough to be a real writer. What was the use of me writing books that some reviewers thought were mediocre when there are thousands published in this country every day by people more qualified.

The devil was using that review to negate my faith. The moment I get overwhelmed or fearful or doubtful when it comes to my career or anything else I do in my Christian walk, my faith comes to a stand still. Through worrying, I am telling God He isn't strong enough or powerful enough to use little ole me.

I refuse to let the devil overwhelm me with numbers and statistics and a recession that says people can't afford to buy books anyway so what makes me think I should keep writing them. The Lord has put this calling in my life. He is big enough and powerful enough to use even the likes of me. I will no longer allow distractions and worries to keep me from fulfilling the calling the Lord has laid in my heart.

Thank you, Heavenly father, for putting me in this place and time to serve you. Jesus said, "If I be lifted up, I will call all men unto me."

He's doing the hard part. All I have to do is lift him up through my writing. Shame on me for not getting to it.

Praise His name and have a great week.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A sad state of affairs

What a sad world we live in! The following may not be news to you, espcially if you have children in school, but it came as quite a shock to me.

The other day, my granddaughter informed me they haven't had a Lock-down drill in the second grade yet. They had a couple in first grade, but none so far this year. I know what a lockdown is, but I never imagined applying the term to the second grade.

In a matter of fact way that broke my heart, she explained how a lock-down works. The teacher locks the door, turns out the lights, and pulls special black-out shades over the windows that they didn't demonstrate during Open House. The children are commanded to hide in their cubbies and keep very quiet until the teacher tells them it's safe to come out.

I asked why they had lock-downs. She said it's in case a robber comes into the school. He may have a gun. I didn't bother to tell her if a bad man brought a gun into a public school, he was not looking to rob the place.

While she talked, I fought the urge to burst into tears. I thought of how sad it is that my grandchildren live in a world that forces little children to hide in wooden boxes to hide from "robbers" who might come in with the intent of spraying their classroom with high powered weapons.

She is a typical product of this current generation. She saw nothing strange about hiding in her cubby until she got the all clear. But her Nana counts it strange. Strange and frustrating and terribly frightening.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Where does the time go?

Every morning I wake up with great expectations about what I'm going to accomplish. I make lists. I turn my distractions and lack of discipline over to God. I make up my mind that today will be different and I will finish my housekeeping tasks, I'll stay away from the television and the phone, and I'll even accomplish my word count goals on my current WIP.


Suddenly it's three in the afternoon, I'm winding down and I still haven't written anything worth saving on the hard drive and the kitchen floor still needs mopped. Forget about planning a real meal for dinner.

Why do I keep getting myself in the same perdicament day after day?

For about the first year after leaving the workforce, I was a little dynamo around the house. I mopped and scrubbed my bathrooms twice a week. I never had spots on the mirrors or fingerprints on the refrigerator. I exercised every morning. All the energy and pride I put into my outside job, I transferred into my home.

Over time I extended the amount of time spent on the phone. All those little household chores, I put off until later. "I'll do it tomorrow," I'd tell myself. "I'm not expecting company until the weekend. I'll tidy up the house the morning they arrive." "I've got plenty of time."

Dealing with my writing was even worse. I wonder people who only have an hour or two a day to devote to their writing are more determined to make that hour count. I'm here all day long. If I fritter away my morning lingering over coffee with my husband or watching Dr. Phil, I'll write in the afternoon. If I suddenly realize I haven't changed the sheets in three months and spend my afternoon washing linens and hanging them out on the line to dry, no biggie. I'll make up my word count tomorrow.

And the cycle starts all over again.

Yesterday was a good workday. This morning when I woke up, I realized I had accomplished my household chores--some that don't get attention for weeks on end--and I surpassed my 5000 word goal on my current WIP.

So what had changed? What did I do differently yesterday that I miss on other days. For the most part, I am passionate about my project. I really want to get this baby written, polished, and sent off to the publisher by the end of the year. I'm so excited about it, I can't wait to get at my desk and get to work.

Does passion come naturally? Can we force it or do we have to wait for it to fill our chests with excitement before we jump in and attack a project with fervor? I believe it can be manipulated. Just like in relationships. When my husband and I first started dating, I read an article that said passion only lasted eighteen months. After that, you were going on love or you weren't going at all.

How discouraging. I didn't want the passion and excitement of this relationship to fade after eighteen lousy months. I was crazy about this man. I knew we'd probably be together a loooong time. I wanted more than eighteen months.

What could I do to prolong the excitement of hearing the phone ring and knowing it was him? Or the way my pulse would race when I heard his truck in the driveway?

Hallelujah, there are ways to prolong and encourage passion. It usually takes work and determination on our part. We have to decide we aren't going to settle for mediocrity. Whether in personal relationships or how we feel about our work or hobbies, we can stay excited. We can look forward to what we're doing. We can be so passionate, we can't wait until we sit down in front of that computer and put those brilliant thoughts to the page.

In the words of Dr. Phil, get excited about your life today. Whatever you're doing, renew your earlier passion. It was worthwhile in the beginning. It's worthwhile now.

In case you're wondering, I'm still crazy about my husband. That eighteen months has stretched into nineteen years. I won't lie and tell you he doesn't sometimes drive me crazy. But I still look forward to his phone calls and hearing his SUV in the driveway. And his kisses... Well, we won't go there. Have a wonderful day.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Last night I had another author discussion and book signing at the public library in Hillsboro, Ohio. I love doing library events. The staff has usually put a lot of time and effort into making the evening a success before I ever get there. The best thing about doing library events over bookstore signings is that I get to talk. Once I get going, it's hard to shut me up, at least when it comes to writing.

The event last night was well attended by the public as author events go. I shared the spotlight with another Ohio author, Saundra Akers Crum. She was brought up in the area but now lives in Columbus. We both took turns speaking and then fielded questions from the crowd. As the veteran, I went first. I had to remind myself not to hog the time. I've done a lot of these presentations and try to make the evening humorous as well as a learning experience for everyone.

This time I had to keep it short so Saundra could talk about her books. She writes mysteries and suspense by the way so google her name after you finish reading this post. You might find something you like among her works.

Everyone had a great time, except maybe my poor husband who has heard me speak so many times, he can mime the words behind my back. Most attendees were there because they were familiar with either my or Saundra's work so the discussion was lively.

Writing is a lonely business. It's nice to get out and talk to readers who love the books and clamor for more faster than I can write them. I also get lots of feedback about what storylines they love and which ones they must see more of. It makes all the loneliness and frustration worth it.

The next time you read in the paper that an author will appear at your local bookstore or library, go out and support them. Listen to their presentation even if you've never heard of them. If you've read some of their work, all the better. Let them know you're out there and you are reading what they write. These events are never as exciting or well attended as the ones on TV. All writers are starving for feedback and encouragement. At least this one is.

Happy Wednesday.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

New Projects

I am determined to start my new book this week. Oh, I've done a little work on the actual book and lots of plotting, characterization, and outlining. A writer must be careful though that she or he doesn't spend so much time preparing for a new project, they never ctually begin.

I fear that's what I'm doing now.

In all fairness, I've been busy getting ready for fall. We spent last week staining our fence, deck, and porches. Still a little more to do on that. We bought crown molding and trim for our windows which have been up for years with unfinished trim. Don't you hate that? New crown molding means I must paint the living room, dining room, and kitchen from ceiling to baseboards.

I can't fathom how many writers produce in a houseful of preschoolers, fulltime jobs, and the many other distractions that come with life. Talk about dedication. I get distracted when the dogs want to go for a walk, and can barely stay ahead of housework with only my husband and me messing it up.

It's all about focus, discipline, and the desperate desire to write. I'm psyched and ready to get started even with the painting and staining and other chores that need done with winter on the way.

I'll get there. How about you? Let's get to work.
Happy Monday.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Treasure Hunt

Congratulations to my friend, Molly Noble Bull whose new book SANCTUARY will be released on September 15th. In honor of the big day a SHOUTLIFE treasure hunt will commence on September 15, 2007 at Roseanna M. White's blog site .

If you are not a member of Shoutlife, or if you have never heard of it before, let me tell you it is a wonderful community. Imagine MySpace without all the nasty stuff you don't want anyway. Hop over to Shoutlife and check it out. It's so simple to set up a profile, even I managed it. Then join in the treasure hunt.

The first twelve winners will receive autographed copies of Sanctuary, a long historical novel about the Huguenots by Molly Noble Bull. Sanctuary will be published in trade paperback on September 15, 2007.

It's easy to win. Here are the rules. Visit all twelve blog sites listed below, beginning with Roseanna M. White's site. At each site, you will find a question and an answer. Read both carefully. You will also see a star by the sentence in each answer where the main clue can be found. Copy or cut and paste the sentence with the main clue in it to your answer sheet.

When you have collected all the answers found at the 12 blog sites, send your answers to the Christian Review of Books' ShoutMail. The Treasure Hunt begins on September 15, 2007 - the day Sanctuary will be published. From Rosanna White's blog, you will be told where to go for the next clue. However all twelve blog sites will post all the blog addresses; so don't worry about getting lost.Happy reading!!!!!!!!!!

1. Roseanna M. White
2. Trish Perry
3. Betsy Ann St. Amant
4. Katy King
5. MaryLu Tyndall
6. Jill Elizabeth Nelson
7. Miralee Ferrell
8. Michelle Sutton
9. Elizabeth Goddard
10. Tricia Goyer
11. Teresa Slack
12. Molly Noble Bull

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Make your baggage work in your writing

Someone told me yesterday she has outlined her new book. Her plot is worked out and the characters are strong enough to carry the story to a satisfactory close. Her only problem is she's not ready to write. Her life is a mess right now, especially her marital relationship.

While I sympathize with her plight, I had to point out, what better time is there to write? Emotional baggage can make your writing come alive. I am one of the biggest non-confrontational people on the planet. When I was a kid and a schoolyard fight broke out, I got outta there. I never understood the kids who stood around in the circle, cheering on the combatants. Watching violence on TV makes me sick to my stomach.

I have never raised my voice to my parents. Since becoming an adult, the only people who have ever seen me loose my temper is my husband and my son. Don't you feel sorry for them? They know the real me. For everyone else, I display only meekness and a gentle spirit.

But when I'm writing I turn into a powder keg of emotion. Everything I ever wanted to say to my sister-in-law or the woman who cut me off in traffic or the coworker who made an inappropriate sexual comment comes through my characters. Where I am blubbering and slow-to-respond and inarticulate, my characters know exactly the perfect words to say to put this person in their place.

It's great. Not only does it make for good reading, it's loads of fun.

I'm not saying it's easy to focus on creativity when your homelife is in turmoil. When things are a mess at home, it's difficult to look past it and get into your WIP. But as most writers know, writing is very theraputic.

Use the page to catch all those broiling emotions. Change the circumstances of course. Maybe you can translate the trouble you are having with your teenager into a character's survival after a violent crime. The problems with your boss can become a man's struggle with his dying father. It's the emotion--the passion--you want to capture.

Anything goes in fiction. Your heroine can display the strength you've been trained to suppress. Since my first book was published, I am more confident in my dealings with other people. Public speaking has helped bring me out of my shell. But a big part of my transformation is because I have learned a lot about myself. I have something to say and I deserve to be listened to.

The next time you can't make your husband see reason or your wife is oblivious to your needs, translate it to your writing. Turn that passion loose on the page and see what happens.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Hiring an Assistant

As my to-do list grew this morning, I thought--not for the first time--how wonderful it would be to have an assistant to take care of my ever growing list of administrative duties that keep me from writing. A friend told me all I needed was better time management skills.

People are always helpful when they don't know what they're talking about.

I am determined to write Book 4 of my Jenna's Creek Series and make it publisher worthy by the end of the year. A piece of cake for some writers but not for me with everything else I have going on. Fall is my busy time of year. Check out my schedule of events page on my website. I have about ten events scheduled so far through the end of November with several more to come.

Besides speaking and signing engagements and writing a book, my husband and I are planning a few minor remodeling gigs around the house before the weather changes. Last Friday we came home from Lowe's laden with paint chips, catalogs, helpful hint guides, stain, and crown molding. Yes, I said crown molding. My rickety old house has cheap manufactured trim I have dreamed for years of eradicating. The trim around the windows in the bedrooms has never been finished. That's Job #1 followed by staining the fence that keeps our dogs in the yard, the back deck and front porch.

The baseboards and chair rail in the living/dining room and kitchen needs removed and painted to match the crown molding for which I still haven't chosen a color. The ceilings will get a fresh coat along with the walls. I hope the wallpaper in the kitchen will last until spring, but that depends on what color I choose for the living/dining room. They share a common wall so when you choose a color for my house, it must match the towels in the master bath. My husband bought this house in his single days and wasn't worried about color schemes or astetic appeal.

Besides writing, speaking, painting, and all the usual chores that go with maintaining a home business...and a home, I am procuring speaking gigs for the spring. I am working on classes for three writers' conferences, the first one in April.

Add to those duties participation in blog tours that get my name out there, article writing and sending out mass mailers. Oh, man, I forgot all about my Christmas newsletter. It's never too early to think about that.

Not to mention posting on my blog which I am determined to do at least 4 times a week. My friend is right. I need better time management skills, especially since an assistant isn't likely to show up for several years. Even if she did, I'd probably have her wash my car and tackle the sink of dishes first.

Have a great Monday.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Writer's Meme

I saw this on Michelle Gregory's blog and thought I'd give it a whirl. Thanks Michelle, for permission. Any other writers who want to answer these questions, let me know.

1. What’s the one book or writing project you haven’t yet written but still hope to? Yikes, so many. Every Memorial Day I visit a cemetery in a town near my home. There I discovered the grave of a woman and her family that truly intrigues me. I want to write a fictitious account of this woman's life. It would have to be fictitious since I know nothing about her except when she was born and all the other tidbits you learn from reading a grave marker.

Several years ago I had a dream that gave me the idea for a western type historical. This project is so far removed from what I typically write, but I am excited to give it a try. There are others. I usually have about 5 book ideas brewing in my head at any given time.

2. If you had one entire day in which to do nothing but read, what book would you start with? I am currently trying to finish Mary Jane Clark's When Day Breaks. I have renewed it three times already from my public library. Not enuf hours for pleasure reading. I also have a stack of books I picked up at the Intl. Christian Booksellers Show in Atlanta this summer that I would love to get to.

3. What was your first writing “instrument” (besides pen and paper)? The PC has made a writer's life too easy to mention anything else.

4. What’s your best guess as to how many books you read in a month? Not nearly enough. If we're talking fiction, I'd have to say only 3-5.

5. Think historical fiction: what’s your favorite time period in which to read? Turn of the 20th century through Nazi Germany.

6. What’s the one book you remember most clearly from your youth (childhood or teens)? Second Springtime. Don't remember the author, but it was about two girls who rode an Orphan Train.

If any of my blogging friends choose to answer these, let me know.:)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Only a Crime if you nabe a Mutt

I'm going to go a little off topic today. I've been lecturing everyone about writing and part of me is stalling to avoid beginning my new project which I hope to finish by the end of the year. Anyway, excuse the sidebar, but I am a huge animal lover so this experience hit close to home.

While sitting on a grand jury today, we had a case concerning the theft of a pedigree dog. The prosecutor kept talking about the value of the dog in question...over $1000 in case you're curious. I asked if it isn't a crime if you steal a worthless dog. You guessed it. It's only a crime in the state of Ohio if the value of the dog is over $500.

How does one go about estimating the value of a beloved member of the family? You guessed it again. You must have a receipt. Can you believe that? Well, I was a little annoyed. I am all about animal rescue. After losing my beloved Reiley in 2004, I seriously considered paying big bucks for a full blooded Springer Spaniel with all the papers and pedigrees. Something Reiley didn't have. I bought him out of the paper for $50. His mother was a full-blooded Springer, but Daddy was a handsome stranger. I love everything about a Springer from the tip of their constantly wagging tail to those soulful spaniel eyes.

At the insistence of my sister, I looked into rescue dogs and reached the only conclusion that made sense. Why pay for a dog when there are so many wonderful ones awaiting adoption at my local shelter? Now I have two sweethearts I wouldn't trade for anything. My lab mix cost $100 in adoption fees and the Collie/terrier/who knows what all mix was free. She just showed up one day.

If they ever get nabbed, I guess I'll have to take the law into my own hands. While we are pursuing indictment for the person who nabbed the $1000 dog, I had to wonder how its owners let it get dog-napped TWICE. Irresponsible pet ownership is part of the problem.

So lock your loved ones up tonight, especially if you lost your receipt. Otherwise the cops won't even show up to talk to you.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

She said what?

The last few days I've been writing about making characters real for the reader. We discussed giving them flaws and personality quirks that readers can relate to. Now let's discuss the way your characters react to outside stimuli. You may think that's a given, but it's amazing how many books and screenplays are written that have characters behave ridiculously at inappropriate moments. I once read a book where the main character's parents are killed in an automobile accident. The character is discussing funeral arrangements with his sister and girlfriend. In the same conversation, he turns to his girlfriend and says, "Oh, and by the way, would you marry me?"

The girlfriend actually accepts.

Mysteries and suspense are notorious for making characters behave in stupid, reckless ways because the writer needs to put the hero or heroine in a dangerous situation. We've all watched movies where the heroine descends a dusty staircase into a moldy basement to find the fuse box during a power outage while thrumming, dreadful music plays in the background. Everyone in the theater begs her to go back upstairs. Everyone but her knows she will soon be pushing up daisies.

Don't resort to these tactics in your book. Lights do go out during thunderstorms while a killer lurks in the basement, but keep it real. If your heroine must trip over a dead body on her way down the stairs, don't let her bury the body in her azelea bushes because she is sure the police will never believe that she didn't kill the guy.

I mean, come on. If you stepped outside this afternoon and found a dead body on your front porch, would you call the cops? Or would you hide the body, sure the cops would put you in prison?

Do you live under a corrupt third world government that punishes the innocent? Neither do your characters.

If you are a convicted murderer, the dead man on your front porch may raise suspicions. But you're a soccer mom. Sure, you got into that trouble in college and your brother once ran a meth lab in Miami, but if you have nothing to hide in the untimely demise of the body on your porch, investigators will soon determine that.

While you're writing, put yourself in the situation with your character. When your mother-in-law gets in your face about all the mistakes you're making in raising her grandchildren, do you burst into show tunes? Your husband tells you he's leaving you to pursue his lifelong dream as center for the Seattle Sonics. Would you lambaste him because he forgot your anniversary?

Make your characters react the way you would react. Or at least the way you would react if you had the nerve to stand up to your sister-in-law who hasn't hosted Christmas dinner in ten years because she has a highly stressful job and all you do is stay home all day with three preschoolers.

Put her in her place. At least between the pages of your fiction.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

More on Characterization

Yesterday I wrote about creating characters your readers will love...or hate. It really doesn't matter what brilliant storyline you've mapped out, if your readers don't give two hoots about who the conflict is happening to, they won't continue reading. What's a writer to do? Create memorable characters, that's what.

As writers we must keep in mind that each character must evoke a strong emotional response in the reader. Yesterday I wrote that characters must be flawed. We've all met someone who seems too good to be true. Even though common sense tells us this is imposssible, we can't help grinding our teeth at the perceived perfection in this person.

Now you probably think I'm incredibly petty, but come on. I know people, and I like to think I know a little something about human nature. When a woman is never seen in public with a hair out of place or a skuff on her shoe, her husband is incredibly successful and her children are potty trained by two and a half, and to top it all off she can eat what she wants and never gain weight...well, let me tell you, it's pretty easy to dislike this individual even though we know she probably doesn't clean behind her refrigerator either.

Okay, now that we've got that out of the way, I'll go back to the strong emotional response. As you read the above description about the perfect woman, didn't you dislike her just a teensy little bit. You can admit it. I won't tell anyone. If you're being honest, you experienced an emotional response to this woman even though she doesn't exist. Our characters must do the same to readers if we want them to keep reading.

The above forementioned woman could become the sister-in-law in your book who looks down her nose at your heroine. You can always reveal her flaws and insecurities later in the book if you're feeling guilty, but wouldn't she be a fun character to work with?

Or what about a mother-in-law or nosy neighbor? In nearly all my books I have a matronly character, typically an aunt or grandmother or mother, who annoys the socks off the heroine. This character is bossy and condescending and mean spirited. I don't include these characters simply because they are fun to write, which they certainly are.

They're even more fun to write than crazy people.

I include them for a very important reason. Most women can relate to this type of character. We have had a matronly figure in our lives who sometimes comes across as bossy and mean. Naturally I exaggerate these qualities for fiction's sake, but they always evoke a strong emotional response.

Did I mention I have fun doing it?

Have fun with your characters. Draw them so that readers can relate. Most importantly, make them real. A book critic once contacted me and said, "If I find out you had a perfectly normal childhood, I'll be terribly disappointed."

I figure I've done my job well.