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.