Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What I've learned about writing

In high school, I received high marks in writing. One of my teachers even told me that I should write a book. Over the years other people have jokingly told me that if I ever wrote a book, that they would buy it. It's always been sort of a pipe dream, living in the back of my mind, like one of those catchy songs from a McDonald's commercial--sifting to the top, and becoming unshakable. I have several attempts at "the book," but I never made myself take the time to actually write the whole thing. Once, I had thirteen chapters. I was proud. I mean, my high school teacher told me I could write, so why shouldn't I believe it? Mank. Wrong.
I met a published author, and she told me about ACFW. God intervened and made it possible for me to go to their annual conference in 2009. Boy was that a wake up call! Everything I "thought" I knew about writing was a sham! I realized that I knew nothing, but I became determined to learn the craft.
I had entered the Genesis contest with high hopes, only to have them shattered by judges comments that crushed my ego, but not my spirit. Two out of three judges told me that they liked my voice. Ok, that was good. Another told me that my writing was outdated, good, but outdated. What? How can writing be outdated? Well, I was about to find out. The two that liked my voice told me that I ripped the characters in and out of POV and that I was head hopping. Hmmm. A new foreign language. Something else to learn. Something I quickly "googled." (very helpful.) Ok. So I head hopped. Why couldn't I do that? Well, because it's confusing to the reader. Oh yeah. The reader. Isn't that the person I'm trying to please? Right. I'm taking notes. "Cannot confuse the reader." There are "rules." I have to learn the rules and use them when I'm writing. "No head hopping. Stay in one person's head at a time, one scene at a time."
So now, I'm still trying to figure out outdated. So I asked. (Never hurts.) I found out that I incorporated too much narration, and not enough dialogue. Everyone knows that there should be dialogue on the first page. Everyone? Everyone but me. Who told me that? My high school teacher? No, but I know now.
I did a very good job with setting. Too good. I needed to back off and let go of some of my descriptions. I would be ok. Letting go of the info dump would not be as great of an emotional detachment as I was thinking. I would not be scarred for life or anything like that. This was a learning process. It would be "good" for me.
While I was waiting for the good vibrations to kick in, I had an editor appointment to attend. Just outside THE door, I saw other hopefuls crying, wiping tears, or clutching portfolio folders, waiting for their turns. The tears made my tummy feel really fluttery, and a question crossed my mind. "Just who do I think I am, coming in here like this, thinking I can talk to an editor?" That's when I heard my name being called.
I walked into "the room" with the confidence of a chicken crossing the road. I sat down and began blabbering about my story. "I like your story idea. Send me a synopsis," the editor said.
What? Send me something? A synopsis? What on earth was that? More foreign words. There I was sitting across from an editor, (a smiling editor mind you,) and she wants me to send her....something. I don't know what it is, but I'm going to get one and send it to her. I know that. I didn't ask her what it was. I knew I could "google" that too.
That first experience with a conference and an editor will forever live in my memory. But what I will remember most is the plane ride home, thinking of my thirteen chapters at home that were trash now. And I thought that I was a writer! Whew. What a crock. I ripped out one of the craft books that I had purchased at the conference and began pouring over the contents. I read an author's story about her first experience with writing. Hmm. There were other people just like me! And now they were published authors. If they could make it, I could too. Even if it takes a few years.
When I got home, I began to write diligently. I signed up for a critique group. I wrote and rewrote. I joined a not-so-local writing group, but it was worth the drive. I asked questions. I learned. When I entered the Genesis contest in 2010, I got better feedback. They still liked my voice. They could tell that I had studied the craft. Hey! I liked that. But I still didn't get enough to be a finalist. But hey, they knew I had studied! I was getting better.
I submitted a story to Guideposts. They accepted it! They published it! I signed a contract! I SIGNED A CONTRACT! And--I got paid for my story. Wow. So I really was getting better, (or they felt sorry for me. Nah. I was getting better.)
So, at the conference this past year, I met up with the same editor. I asked her if she would still be interested in my synopsis. The answer was, "Yes, absolutely!"
I'm currently working to finish the story that she really liked. I'm hoping to have it finished by the end of January. When will it be published? I don't know. I have no idea. I can only pray that it WILL be published.
I learned that I am a peon at the bottom of the totem pole. But I also learned that if I really want to be a writer, I will always be a learner, even if I have 80 published books. Sigh..... I learned that there are people who are willing to help me if I ask. I learned that God can perform the same miracle-twice. I learned that I write better when I pray--every time. I learned that writing can present all kinds of challenges, and that a six and one-half hour drive alone can make you Really tired. And I learned that a child's spilled tea will not wash off of a laptop keyboard.
My writing journey has taken its share of twists and turns, but through all of it, I have learned to trust in God with everything on my plate. He is in control of every situation in my life. And if He wants me to be published I will be. He is the author of my story................

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Kim Vogel Sawyer-All About her new book, "Courting Miss Amsel"

Well here it is, my first author interview on my blog. And it's with my favorite author, and a wonderful friend, Kim Vogel Sawyer. I met Kim in 2009 after my husband gave me her book, "Waiting for Summer's Return" for a Mother's Day present. I've been a fan ever since. I tell people everywhere that my favorite thing about Kim's books is that the plan of salvation is included in her writing. So, besides being hard to put down fiction, they are great witnesses to share with someone who may not know Jesus!
I asked Kim some questions, and she gave me her answers. If you don't have a copy of this book yet, you may just have to go out and get one after reading this!

1. Short intro about you. Kim Vogel Sawyer is the author of seventeen novels, including several CBA and ECPA bestsellers. Her books have won the ACFW Carol Award, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, and the Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Kim is active in her church, where she leads women's fellowship and participates in both voice and bell choirs. In her spare time, she enjoys drama, quilting, and calligraphy. Kim and her husband, Don, reside in central Kansas, and have three daughters and six grandchildren.
2. If you could take only 5 books with you on a journey of ten years, which ones would you take? The Bible, To Kill A Mockingbird, Grimm's Fairy Tales, Christy, and some sort of encyclopedia of knowledge.
3. What would you be doing with your free time if you weren't writing? I'd be "kidnapping" my grandkids more often or indulging in my love of quilting.
4. Who's your one biggest fan/supporter of your writing? It's impossible for me to name just one person--so many people have blessed me with support and encouragement. But if I had to choose the ones who have been my longest-running fans, then I would say my parents. They believed in my dream of being a published writer before I dared to believe.
5. How do you decide on your character's names? Well, not to sound creepy or anything, but they usually introduce themselves to me. So my characters choose. lol
6. What are some of the spiritual themes that you like to write about? I always want to incorporate a spiritual thread in my stories--God is a main character in my life, and He will always be a main character in my books. Although the themes can vary from book to book, one underlying element always seems to emerge, and it has to do with hope. If we place our hope in anything other than the truth of who God is and how much we mean to Him, then we are pretty much hopeless. That tends to come through in all of my stories.
7. What gave you the inspiration for "Courting Miss Amsel?" My own years as an elementary school teacher was a huge influence on this story, but the "inspiration seed" came from a snippet in an article concerning women's suffrage. In 1888, if Nebraska had amended their state constitution, the women of Nebraska would have been the very first in the U.S. to enjoy the privilege of voting. That little bit of historical information led to the creation of Courting Miss Amsel.
8. How much of your own experiences are in this book? Considering the classroom setting, quite a bit, actually! And then there's Edythe's tendency toward stubbornness, her independence, her desire to make a difference in the world... Oh yes, there's more than a pinch of Kim lurking between the covers of this story. lol
9. Short intro to the book. Edythe Amsel is delighted with her first teaching assignment: a one-room schoolhouse in Walnut Hill, Nebraska. Independent, headstrong, and a firm believer in a well-rounded education, Edythe is ready to open the world to the students in this tiny community. But is Walnut Hill ready for her?

You can find out more about Kim on the web at : www.KimVogelSawyer.com
She also has a fan page on Facebook. Look her up if you're not already a fan!
"Courting Miss Amsel" is now available at Christian Book Distributors online.

Thanks for stopping by to read my post about Kim, and thanks to Kim for sharing with me. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did! Look for her new Katy Lambright, young adult book, coming out in February, 2011. It is the third in the series, "Katy's Homecoming." I'm looking forward to reading this one too!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thoughts of Christmas

With Christmas just around the corner, I'm really trying to put things into perspective for my precious babies. They all know that there is no real Santa, and that Christmas is all about the birthday of Jesus. My thoughts are turned to the materialism that is associated with the season, and what I can do to show my children what Christmas is really all about. The light of the world created a beautiful picture of His birth. The world has turned it into a frenzied shopping spree for unneeded frivolities. As much as I love the season, and the smells and tastes that go with it, I have come to despise what the media and society have made the holiday into. I dread shopping for those "perfect gifts" that are not so "Perfect." Many presents given in December will ultimately land on the shelves of Goodwill, or The Salvation Army in January, and the sad part is that some of them will be unopened. I would love to merely spend a week with my family-completely void of housework, TV, jobs, and appointments. Just to spend time playing games, crafting projects, or working in a scrapbook. --or my favorite, reading a book. The "good ol' days" are not really dead and gone. They are just forgotten, and need to have a little dust and cobwebs cleared so that we can see them for what they really were--wonderful...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Writing hard, writing fast

Today I'm setting a goal for myself of at least 1,000 words per day. It is doable, and I know that I can do it. My goal is to have my current WIP finished by January. So that will be writing hard and fast for me. James Scott Belle's book, The Art of War for Writers, suggests this as a tool to help writers learn and "get the book finished." (Kaye Dacus) So I'm even more determined to get it done. BTW, Kim Vogel Sawyer has agreed to be my first Blog Author to be interviewed! So I will be posting that sometime in the near future!
Right now, I'm looking for two names to be included in my WIP. If you want your name in my book or a name of your choosing, leave me a comment below, and I will pick two names at the end of the month! Good luck!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Big Adventures of Cagney and Lacey in Metropolis

On September 15, I embarked upon a journey of faith, fiction, and fun. I set out to arrive in the big Metropolis of Indianapolis, Indiana at 4pm. In actuality, I arrived sometime after 9pm. My friend and roomie, Dorothy, was already there waiting for me, having arrived on the 13th from Australia. This would be the first time that we had met in person, and I was excited to hear her accent. I had taken my time and made a few stops on the way, and thus, I was late in arriving. Keith had sent his GPS along to befriend me, but "she" lost her signal right in the middle of the big city, and caused me to turn the wrong way on a one way street. "She" found the signal once more, and I forgave her for her shortcomings. I made my way to the underground crypt where my van slept for the next 4 days and beamed myself up on the elevator, hoping that I was in the right ship.
Upon my arrival at the check-in desk, I saw my wonderful friend, Dorothy, out of the corner of my eye. I instantly felt like I had just been reunited with my long, lost sister! We chattered on endlessly until we could no longer stay awake at the ripe old time of 1:30am! Her accent was everything she said it was. She sounded just like Olivia Newton John! And I think she said that I sounded like Dolly Parton. Go figure! At any rate, we became an inseparable team of sleuths, delving into classes and sessions, trying to solve the mystery of publication!
We took everything that we learned each day and tried to evaluate great works of fiction. Actually, we picked them to death, until we found something in common with all of the really good books. They had what we called "The Hmmm Factor." The first page made us say that. We were hooked on those books. We poured over our own works of fiction to see if we could plug our new-found formula in. It was there. We had to rearrange some sentences, but IT WAS THERE!
A little sprig of confidence began to grow and we felt as if our note-taking was paying off!
After 3 days of classes and lots of fellowship, our adventure was almost over.
On Monday, we earned the title of Cagney and Lacey by practically running 3 blocks, through the mall, through a store, made a purchase, through another store, across a skywalk, through the hotel, cleaned out our room, checked out of our room, stored our luggage, back through hotel, across skywalk, through store, through mall, and down 3 blocks again-----ALL in 36 minutes! Whew! I said that I ran off all the calories that I was about to eat! The sidewalk was smoking behind us! (Or so we thought.)
Anyway, we were surrounded by people who love God, and write stories of faith and inspiration. We enjoyed fellowship with many of these such as Cindy Woodsmall, Janette Oke, Kaye Dacus, Kim Vogel Sawyer, Connie Stevens, Eileen Key, Tracie Peterson, and many more favorite authors. The event was The American Christian Fiction Writers Conference, and we had a ton of fun. Dorothy has promised me that she will send me more of her famous, Australian "Tim-Tams." (a little piece of Heaven) And I have promised that I will send her a copy of an inspirational book that she dared me to read-(I'm reading it now. I'm highlighting my favorite portions for Dorothy.)
So, all in all, it was worth the 6 1/2 hour drive by myself, Dorothy having ridden a plane for 15 hours and all. She talked to famous people. I talked to GPS. Same thing.
So goes the tale of Cagney and Lacey,........or Olivia and Dolly. (Same thing.)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Got my books in the mail!!!

Well, I got my two copies of my book in the mail. Am I excited! You bet. And what color would the cover be? Only my two favorite colors in the world! Pink and Purple. Yep. They read my mind. I posted to Facebook, and now I'm posting to my blog.
I know I've been a little bit reluctant to write too much on here, but I am very pressed for time, as the summer is coming to a close for the kids and for me. We are embarking on a wonderful Journey that God has placed in my heart. I am homeschooling all 5 of my children this year. And I won't be teaching at school. My own children are my calling, and I am embracing my call. We are taking on a very special project as well. We are making 5 care boxes to give to the hospital where our oldest son, Delayne was born prematurely. These boxes will be given to grieving families. Each box will include a picture frame, Christmas ornament, booties, outfit, hat, blankets, poem, teddy bear, and anything else that someone may want to donate or suggest. Leave me a comment! And if you have a baby in Heaven, please join me in giving a care box to the hospital where your baby was born!

Friday, May 28, 2010

I'm getting a story published!

Back in February, I submitted a story to Guideposts. The story was supposed to be about an extraordinary prayer that you prayed at some point in your life. I wrote about a prayer and how God completely turned the situation around. I received an email about 2 weeks ago that informed me that my story had been accepted for publication. I quickly signed the release, and am now eagerly awaiting my two copies of the book!!! My story is called "Keep Believing." The book is seventh in a series and is called, "Extraordinary Prayers: In Times of Need." It's a small publication, but it IS publication. I'm sooo excited, and just wanted to share. I'll post again when my copy comes in the mail. Should be sometime in June!!!!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

God has a plan!

Two years ago, my dear husband forgot me on Mother's Day. Of course he didn't forget me. He forgot to get me a little present. I've told him that I will accept a pack of gum, as long as he doesn't forget. So...... he came in on Monday with a wrapped parcel in his back pocket. It was a book by Kim Vogel Sawyer. I read it, and I can honestly say that it was one of the best books that I have ever read. I really loved the book for three reasons. One was, that someone can read that book and learn how to accept Jesus as their personal savior. Two was, because it is a historical, and I love history. Three was because I felt a common bond with the characters and I needed to "see" how the main character learned to depend on the Lord instead of herself. I contacted Kim Sawyer, and now we have become very good friends. She came to my church for a ladies' retreat. It was absolutely perfect timing. I shared my dream of being a writer with Kim, and she has been very encouraging to me. I was able to attend the ACFW conference last year, and I learned a tremendous amount about writing. I forged friendships that are also inspirational to me as a Christian and a writer. I have so enjoyed everything I've learned on my journey thus-far. If Keith had not "forgotten" Mother's Day, then he might not have felt compelled to get me a present at the Christian Bookstore. I might not have read Kim's book, and I wouldn't have contacted her. I wouldn't have met her, and I would still be just dreaming of writing, and not pursuing it, still thinking that I didn't know where to start. Right now, the dream looks like it is attainable. I still have a ways to go, but I know that "God has a plan." Everything does happen for a reason, and I am looking forward to the next chapter in God's plan for me.
P.S.--Keith is off the hook for Mother's Day this year. I bought myself a new book by Miralee Ferrell, and some Yellow Box Shoes. So, I told him that he can rest---until my birthday.........

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Catching Up

Tonight I am trying to catch up on things that have fallen by the wayside. My dear cousin reminded me that I needed to write something on my blog. So here it is.
My writing journey is a very scenic one. I've been reading, listening, asking, writing, erasing, writing, finding, comparing, illustrating, painting, cleaning, writing, changing, learning, revamping, relaxing, etc. And I've been told that -ing words are very much the no-no, but that's what I've been doing, and the scenery is great!! Oh, I've also been posing for the headshot for those wonderful one-sheets that everyone will be scrambling (-ing again), to complete before the conference in September, which, by the way, will be here before you know it! If you are working (-ing), on it, then I would strongly suggest starting (-ing), on it now and having(-ing), your critique partners to look over it. Look up some examples on Google. What you put into something is exactly what you will get out of it. So make it your best.
I'm really excited about the ACFW conference. Last year was my first time to go. I had never flown on a plane, and I had never been that far away from home. It was a segment in the journey that God is taking me on. I'm looking forward to the next big segment, or small. Let's face it, they are all important. God has a plan..........more on that later!!!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Just a little writing tidbit--Show, not Tell

A very good writer friend of mine pointed out to me this week that as writers, we must remember to show and not tell. This can sometimes be as simple as saying, "The color rose to her cheeks and she sniffed loudly before scratching her nose." --instead of flat out saying,"She lied." The color and the scratch to the nose will tell the reader that she is embarrassed about something. The other sentences in the paragraph will set the stage for the lie. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in what we are trying to tell in our story, that we forget to show until our faithful critique partner points it out and saves the day. The word "seem" is a definite no-no too. So if you are new to writing, and are ready for a great piece of learning, there it is: Show, not tell. But don't get so wrapped up in making it so perfect that you kill your story in the process. Tell your story first, then you can fix your tells, or grammatical errors in the editing process. I learned that from Kim Vogel Sawyer, a great friend and a great writer. Glean all you can from other writers. I haven't met a mean one yet!!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Love is in the Air

Thinking of Valentine's Day is fun for me because I am a hopeless romantic. Lace, pearls, velvet, ornate carvings, old letters, calligraphy, ruffles, anything victorian are things that I think of around this time of year. And of course, I think of Love. I was a love at first, or maybe second sight kind of girl. My husband asked me to marry him 12 days after we met. And I said "yes." We had a fairytale wedding, complete with the Cinderella dress, yards and yards of tulle, roses, and three tier cake. I even wore a crown. I think of all of the Valentine's Days since we met. Honey has done fairly well at romantic presents. My favorite was a pink flowering shrub. He kept telling me to water it, so I did, and it died. The internet said that I overwatered it. How's that for romantic? Then there was the time that he bought me a beautiful ring with money I had put back in a savings account that he found one day at the bank and thought it was money we forgot about. Yes, those are the moments. He also bought me some very good praise and worship CD's. So all is not lost. This year, he wants to "go on a date." I'm thinkin that's a definite plan. I like that idea. Of course my idea of a romantic movie would be something by Nicholas Sparks, and his would be more like Steven Segal. Still, Honey is fun to be with, and dates are few and far between with 5 in tow. So..... Love is in the air, and I'm breathing it in.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sugar coated wonderland!

Today, I also wanted to post some pics of our yard and trees. We have had an ice storm here, and the trees are covered in ice. It did start melting today, but I've been told that another one is on the way. Even though the roads have been treacherous, I just had to post the ice. It is so gorgeous!! And as you can see, my beautiful spruce tree on the side of the house fell over from the weight of the ice. Sniff, sniff.

10 things that I love..... and more

Since my great friend Dorothy has challenged me to write a list of 10 things that I love, I have given it a lot of thought. It will be hard to list just 10 things! Dorothy also awarded me with he Happy 101 award. So I will pass the award on to my friend Connie at her blog. And maybe Connie will list 10 things that she loves, and we will learn a little bit more about her as well.
For starters, I will have to borrow a couple from Dorothy as they are things I love too!! :o)
1. My Lord and Savior, Jesus
2. My wonderful, beautiful family
3. Shopping at Goodwill
4. Singing
5. Writing/Reading
7. Collecting dolls, plates, doorknobs, frames, etc.
8. Researching history
9. Roses (pink)
10. Presents
11. Gummi bears and jelly beans

See, I couldn't do it. I listed 11 things, plus I put two things on some lines! But maybe this will tell you a little bit about me, and then maybe we will learn a little more about my friend Connie too!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

My husband, the romantic

Well, after listening to the drum playing for weeks and weeks now, I decided to ask Keith a question. I mean, the dishes haven't broken--yet, and my hearing was probably going to decline in another 20 years anyway, so why not get up the courage to ask him to give me a romantic answer. He was listening to more drum videos on utube--loudly I might add-- when I knelt in front of him and asked him if God himself came down to Earth and gave him the choice of staying with me, or playing the drums, what would he pick? He started smiling from the first word, and then it grew into a snicker, and then a full-blown laugh. Funny. He never did answer me. Thus, another romantic moment lost forever- blown into the winds of utube land. Even as I'm typing, he is embarking on another adventure there. At least it is inspirational music he is listening to even it it is deafening. Maybe I would do better on the romantic side to ask him to play a drum solo and dedicate it to me. Hmmmm......

Thursday, January 7, 2010


It did snow here today, and although it wasn't a lot, it was enough to get us out of school!! It is much too cold to get out in it. All of the kids have pouted all day because we didn't get to play in the snow. But we have spent time together as a family. That is my favorite part of snow days. We usually stay in our pj's, play games, eat snacks all day, and maybe watch a movie. Today, we also did some much-needed house work. I just happened to pick up a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts yesterday, and they came in handy today with all of us being home. Tomorrow is another snow day. The kids are already planning to make brownies, and play more games....... I'm looking forward to watching them.