Sunday, December 31, 2006

Rumors of my demise...

What a week!!! I've now lived through my first "end of year" frenzy as a company bookkeeper. Multiple visits to lawyers, accountants, and enough trips to the bank that I'm thinking of taking out office space there, left me no time to write.

The family was very good to me over Christmas. I received more than I deserved. The best was a wireless mouse for my laptop. I've been experiencing hand pain with all the typing I do, and having a full-sized mouse instead of using the touch pad has helped already.

The husband and the son have been purging the son's room. Frankly, it looked like Toys R Us threw up in there. Legos, Lincoln Logs, GI Joe, etc. With new toys arriving at Christmas, there was no room for them. They've done a great job, and there is a place for everthing, and much is going to be passed on to another home. Hooray for the men in the family!

I've been able to 'compost' on Drums quite a bit whenever I had a few minutes. I'm looking forward to getting back into our routine.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Blueprints

For more than a week, I've been absolutely, stinkingly stuck on my WIP. Several reasons come to mind. Overall busyness of my schedule making me into mental mush. The realization that my WIP is not the historical romance I thought it was, but rather historical fiction, so if it no longer fits the 'romance recipe' then what is the driving force of the book? The bombardment of "grass is greener" syndrome that has me longing to hop the fence and start a completely new and exciting WIP. Yet another rejection of the latest manuscript, albeit nicer than the rejections I've gotten from that particular publishing house in the past. The constant banging and noise as the builders work on the new addition. These elements are not unique to me, nor are they particularly spectacular or interesting...just cumulative.

But yesterday saw a breakthrough. Having written more than 40% of the book and finding it taking a new direction from the original (loose) plan, I knew I needed to sit down and hammer out where this book was going. One of my puzzlements over this book has been "why is it taking so long to write?" I wrote a novel in 10 weeks this summer. Why did that one go so quickly? I'm sure the fact that I did basically NOTHING else for those 10 weeks might have something to do with it, but I believe the major catalyst was the fact that the book was completely plotted out on 3x5 cards. I never sat before a blank screen and wondered what to write about next.

Enter the Post-it 3x5 card. Yesterday, I sat at my dining room table and wrote out card after card with scenes (almost 80 now). I garnered another POV character, fleshed out the timeline, and stuck them all to the back patio doors. (The builders must think I'm insane. They are working on the other side of the glass doors.) My daughter helped me shuffle scenes and number cards and talk out the plot. She also has a way of asking difficult questions like "If the driving force of the book isn't the romance, then what is it?" (I think she has a career as an editor in her future. She can pick out a weakness in my plot quicker'n you can say Jack Robinson. And she's only 14!)

Today I sat down with the cards, and in very little time, added 2500 words to the ms. I knew where I was going and what it should look like when I got there. Amazing!

I love a good analogy (Kaye!) and this got me to thinking. As the builders framed up the shower and closets for the new master bath and bedroom, I saw them consulting the building plans. That framing went up in no time at all. And I realized that's just what I've been doing the past two days. Working on and from a blueprint. Things go fast when I have a blueprint. I have the basic structure down on paper (cards) and can build from there. Once I get the framing done, I can add color, texture (carpet, paint, shelves, whatever), but I will get nowhere if don't have the walls squared up, the floor level and the structure waterproofed against the storms of doubt that will roll in.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Convoluted Yuletide Vocalizations

This week in Sunday School, as a little time filler before the class started, my pastor handed out a little quiz. I thought it an interesting exercise in word-play. Some of them sound hilarious when read aloud. Can you figure them out?

1. Draw near, Approach, Long-awaited Incarnation of Deity.
Come, O Come, Emmanuel
2.Inaugural Yuletide.
The First Noel
3. Exultation in the direction of the biosphere.
Joy To The World
4. Visit, Old-English-second-person-singular extensively-prepared for second person of the Trinity.
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus.
5. Proceed, narrate the announcement from an altitudinous geographical formation.
Go Tell It On the Mountain
6. Perambulate, totality of unswervingly loyal devotees.
Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful
7. Supernatural beings perceived from lofty expanses.
Angels We Have Heard on High
8. Give heedfulness, heavenly harbingers intone.
Hark, The Herald Angels Sing
9. Consecrated Nightfall.
O Holy Night
10. Pacific nocturnal unit, sanctified nocturnal unit.
Silent Night, Holy Night
11. Distantly located in a bovine feeding receptacle.
Away in a Manger
12. During the interval when agrarian caretakers observed their broods.
While Shepherds Watch Their Flocks
13. Resonate Metallic reversed-directional cones.
Ring The Bells
14. Diminutive municipality of royal-Israeli distinction.
O Little Town of Bethlehem
15. Third Person Plural Triumvirate of Royal Personages.We Three Kings



We had a lot of fun with these. I hope you do to!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Idea THPAM


I have ALWAYS said I could only work on one project at a time. I know myself well enough to realize if I start a bazillion projects at once, I will never finish any of them. They will scatter like buckshot in an ever-widening pattern until they disperse on the wind and none hit the target.
So why, when I'm hip-deep in an historical novel that I just realized isn't truly a romance, though it has some romantic elements in it, am I getting THPAMMED by ideas for the most hilarious, most engaging, and most fun book I could think of to write? I'm bombarded with material, themes, characters. They sprang full-blown into my head. And get this...it's not an historical. It's not a romance. It's a LIT book! What on earth am I thinking? I don't write "LIT" books!
I even tried to purge the idea by writing screeds of notes in a notebook late one night, thinking if I could just get the ideas out of the way, I could concentrate on Drums of the North Star and leave this book on a back burner. So far, this hasn't worked. The ideas for this new book keep crowding out what I want to be doing on the historical. I keep pecking away at the novel, jotting down notes for the lit book. And I even toy with the idea of working on two projects at once. Will the madness never end?
Did I mention the lit book has evolved into a three book series? Good grief!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Little milestones

You know, today I went over 32K words on the ms. I wasn't feeing particularly thrilled about this, because in light of the total word count, 32K doesn't seem very far. That is until you plug it into the Word Meter and see that 32K is 40.1% of the total goal. Saying you have reached 40% of your goal sounds better than I've got just over 1/3 of a first draft done.

I know it amounts to the same number of words, but it's all in the mind games!

This is the slowest book I've ever written. Is it because my life is so wicked busy? Is it because the subject matter is more difficult? Is it because I am less sure of my ability with each passing day? A combination of these things, or something altogether different? I don't know. All I can do is plug away at it. BOW...Black on white, black on white...I keep typing.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Never Ceese By Sue Dent

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sue Dent was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi and currently resides in Ridgeland. When not writing, Sue designs websites and works with digital photograpy.Sue loves to hear from her fans through her Website in fact, the push from eager readers has already set the ball rolling, and she's hard at work on Forever Richard, the sequel.In Never Ceese, Sue sets out to prove that faith and fun can live happily in the same story, and that vampire/werewolf fantasy can have a spiritual message too.ABOUT THE BOOK:
Never Ceese takes religious fantasy to a new level, bringing an entirely new Light to a very dark side of fiction, doing a very admirable job to prove that vampire/werewolf fantasy does not have to be evil to be enjoyed.
The story starts with the classic tale of an English manor owned by Richard, the vampire who righteously is the bain of his neighbor's existence, what with the missing goats and all!
Then enters Cecelia, better known as Ceese, the young werewolf maiden who's arrived via invitation by Richard's aging companion, Penelope.
Ceese and Richard would prefer to tear each other apart, literally, but they are drawn together by their mutual love for Penelope. She is dying and has one request...that the two of them love one another.
This is the overall theme throughout Dent's interesting tale of two who were wronged but learn to work together. Meanwhile they are threatened by an evil stem cell researcher who wants the immortality and power that he thinks their blood will bring him!
Dent's characters do differ from the stock one's we're all accustomed to in a very important way. They are not mindless, brutal killers. Bloodthirsty, yes, but they are constantly resisting the urge to kill, and, thus, curse another human. Feeding on rodents, goats, virtually any warm-blooded animal helps to satiate the never ending thirst for blood, but how long will they be able to resist that most delicious morsel man?
There is a chance that their curses can actually be lifted if they can find the strength within to resist their selfish natures and act selflessly toward another. Will they succeed? That same basic choice lies before us all every day...
A vampire and a werewolf, one determined to, once again, be able to acknowledge what will get her to heaven, the other no so sure he can. A spiritual fantasy designed to spark the imagination, to speak to the heart as well as entertain.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Round Books --a continuation from Georgiana

This week on GeorgianaD's blog (accessed by using the link to the left) she talked about making your manuscript "round". Most of the replies, mine included, had to do with the characters. This got me to thinking. If the characters seem three dimensional, if I understand their actions and motives (even if, or especially if, I can't predict them) then the book seems real. I care about the people populating it and I want to continue reading.

I've heard books described as character driven, and others as plot driven. But I say a 'rounded' book has both elements. If you have great characters, but they aren't doing anything...what a snore! That's my life every day. I think we're a great bunch of characters around here, but laundry and piano lessons don't set off the 'woohoo!' meter. And if you have a great plot that hurls along like a freight train out of control, but your characters are boring, predictable, flat and perfect, well, I'm kinda praying the train runs over them just for a bit of variety.


I am currently re-reading a series of books about one of my favorite characters of all time, Jo Beth Sidden of Bloodhounds, Inc. a feisty southern gal who does search and rescue missions with her faithful bloodhounds into the mysterious and dangerous world of the Okefenokee Swamp in south Georgia.


Why is she a favorite, and why does this series seem so 'round'? Here are my musings on the subject:





1) Jo Beth is far from perfect. She's mouthy, opinionated, a control freak, obsessive, passionate...the list goes on. But--and this is important--because Virginia Lanier uses the first person POV, you get a great peek into Jo Beth's mind and you understand her motives. I might not always agree with them, but for the period of time that I'm in Jo Beth's head, I'm willing to go along with it because it is plausible. She's opinionated because she's been on her own for such a long time. She's a control freak, always trying to organize and run everyone else's lives because her own is in such a mess and she has no control there. She's obsessive and passionate about her dogs, and it's endearing because of all she's been through before the book even starts.
2) The plots are rocketing! Danger, love, loss, mystery, scope, pace. You are dropped in the middle of Jo Beth's life and you'd better hang on to the end of the leash!
3) The setting. I've never been in a swamp, but the setting itself is a character, unpredictable, dangerous, and fascinating to this Kansan-turned-Minnesotan. If she'd have set the book on a wheat farm or a dairy barn, the book wouldn't be anywhere near as good.
4) The supporting cast. Everything from a deaf-mute kennel assitant to a reformed prostitute, an obsessive ex-husband with murder on his mind to a pampered, daddy's girl fashionista bookstore owner. Unexpected and unpredictable at every turn.

5)The antagonists. Quite often Jo Beth is her own worst enemy, and who can't identify with that? But there are some mean dudes in these books. And it isn't the escaped felons she's chasing through the swamps that are always the most dangerous. Sometimes it's the Greek bearing gifts.

6) And we can't forget the dogs. The names are hilarious. Taken from history and literature, they have names like Sherlock Holmes and Gloria Steinam. Ceasar and Anthony, Gulliver and Romona. And then there is Jo Beth's special baby, Bobby Lee, a bloodhound blind from birth but especially gifted.




You can read more about the author at http://www.sherpaguides.com/georgia/okefenokee_swamp/sidebars/virginia_lanier.html

Sadly, she passed away in 2003, so there will be no more Jo Beth Sidden books.

Oh, to be able to create characters and stories like this!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A little holiday quiz---


This Christmas quiz came via Kaye Dacus at Ramblin' Writer. You can access her blog by clicking on the K.N.Dacus link to the left. Copy the quiz to your blog, then come back here and let me know!

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Hot Chocolate---with marshmallows :)

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? We don't do the Santa thing around here, but when I was a kid, Santa wrapped everything...strangely enough in the same paper my mom and dad used for their gifts to us kids. lol

3. Colored or white lights on tree/house? White lights on the tree, colored bubble lights in the garland on the piano, and red poinsettia lights on the garland on the bannister.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? No, but I'm not adverse to dragging my husband under some when I see it. LOL

5. When do you put up your decorations? The weekend after Thanksgiving.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? Roasted Turkey and Sweet Potatoe Souffle.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child: Fearing you would never fall asleep, that Christmas would never get here, and giggling under the covers with my brother and sister. My dad went outside our bedroom window and shook a string of jingle-bells, and scared us all back into our own beds and rooms where we lay stiff as boards with our eyes jammed shut hoping Santa didn't know we'd stayed up.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I don't remember a specific time. I think it came to me gradually.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? LOL This was always a sore point with us kids. We got to open one gift, but it was usually a dress my mom had been making for weeks for us to wear to the Christmas Eve church service. We'd had it tried on us mutiple times, so we knew it was coming Always felt a bit gypped on that one.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? The whole family gets involved. The husband and son put the tree up and get the lights on it, and then the kids and I put on the ornaments and put up the garland. The boy and I put out the nativity sets, of which I have many.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? Love it.

12. Can you ice skate? Noooooooooooooooooooooo. Bad ankles, bad physique for it, and no sense of balance. lol

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? As a kid...loved getting books and Breyer horses. As an adult...last year my husband got up early the day after Thanksgiving and stood in the dark outside Staples to get me a flat panel monitor for Christmas.

14. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you? Family, worshipping together on Christmas Eve with my church. Seeing my kids' faces when they open their gifts.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? COOKIES! I love frosted sugar cookies. Oh, and peanut brittle.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Our church's Christmas Eve service ranks way up there. Then we go look at Christmas lights. Also, we have an open house at our place on New Year's Day, watching football, playing games and eating ourselves stupid in anticipation of our New Year's Diets. My parents had an open house on this day for more than 30 years. When I moved to MN, I missed the time with friends and family. So we decided to do it ourselves.

17. What tops your tree? Nothing right now, since our red and gold star broke and we haven't found what we want to replace it with yet.

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving? Both. :)

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song? White Christmas or I'll be Home for Christmas.

20. Candy Canes? YES!

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Ups and Downs


This writing life is full of ups and downs. In a week I've experienced the joys of making breakthroughs on a first draft, setting and meeting word count goals, finding a smash-bang finish for this first draft and having an idea for a whole new book. Wheee! On the upswing!
Juxtapose that with a rejection of the latest novel from a publishing house, and the news that a publishing house that was taking a closer look at my second novel has decided "not to pursue" that manuscript any further. ARGH! On the downswing!
I moped for a day and mentally kicked a few trash cans. Thought about quitting for awhile. Wondered if that door to publication would ever open, if I would ever hear the words, "Yes, this is what we're looking for."
Words wouldn't come yesterday. I only wrote about 300 of them.
Today is a new day, and as the Word says in Lamentations, God's mercies are new every morning. I reached my goal of 30K words total, even though we did school, I made a run to the bank, and the construction circus was in town.
Progress on the new addition: Lots of digging, backfilling, decking, trenching, draining...and hammering. The contractor is making great progress in spite of the cold temperatures. They expect to have it closed in by week after next.
I have lots to be thankful for.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Landon Snow and the Island of Arcanum

I had the privilege of reading Landon Snow and the Island of Arcanum this past week. How FUN! I enjoyed the story very much. I have to tell you, my son, (10) loves this series. His older sister is a voracious reader with several dozen books and many series fiction sets in her collection. James was so excited to receive a book about a boy near his age, and to start a 'collection' of his own fiction. He devoured the first one and waited eagerly for the second. I know he'll gobble up this third book in the series as quickly as he did the first two.

Things I liked about this book:
1. This may sound silly, but I love the cover art and the 'feel' of this book. It really feels like something you'd find in the Button Up, Minnesota Library.

2. In this third volume, Landon is accompanied by his sisters Holly and Bridget. While they do disagree and speak to each other like siblings, there is none of the sarcasm and hurtfulness so often portrayed in Children's Fiction today among siblings. It feels real, and I know my son will not come away from reading it with a flippant, 'sticking-out-your-tongue' attitude.

3. The fantasy world held together really well. Great description, a 'what will happen next' feeling shared by both the reader and Landon makes you want to keep turning the pages.

Things I didn't like about this book:
Actually, I could only thing of one thing that was rather bothersome. The print color. While it is in keeping with the look of the overall book, my soon to be middle aged eyes had a hard time focusing on the tan/pinkish words. My son has never complained of this, and I don't think it in any way reflects on the story, but it did trouble me late at night, which is when I usually have time to read.

I'd rate this book very high and encourage you to jump into the world of Landon Snow as soon as possible.


The BOOK:In the latest adventure of Landon Snow And the Island of Arcanum, Landon, once again visits his grandparents in Button Up, Minnesota. If your familiar with the first two books, Landon Snow and the Auctor's Riddle, and Landon Snow and The Shadows of Malus Quidam, you'll know that Landon's adventures always start at the Library in Button Up.This time, Landon's most dangerous journey yet, begins in a rowboat-shaped tombstone that floats. And it's lucky for him that it floats because a few drips from the library ceiling turns into a powerful waterfall.The stone turns into wood. The stone book propped up in the prow of the boat turns to paper. The left page says "ANCHOR". The right page says "AWEIGH"."Anchor aweigh?" said Landon.Holly whispered, "Did you hear that?"No one has time to respond, however. The next instant saw the water before them dropping away as the water behind them grew into a giant swell, pitching them headlong into the abyss.Landon will have to protect his two younger sisters, Holly and Bridget, who wind up in the boat with him headed towards The Island of Arcanum. On the Island, the animals of Wonderwood are imprisoned and the evil shadows of Landon's nemesis, Malus Quidam lurk!With the help of some old friends, a horse named Melech, an odd fellow named Hardy, a girl named Ditty, and the poet/prophet Vates--Landon seeks to unlock the island's dark secrets and escape with the animals intact.But first, he must navigate his way through uncharted waters and battle the villainous Archans...Can Landon and his friends rescue the animals from deep within the island's stronghold?




About the AUTHOR:
R.K.Mortenson is an ordained minister with the Church of the Lutheran Brethren. He has been writing devotional and inspirational articles since 1995. He currently serves as a navy chaplain in Florida and lives with his wife, daughter and son in Jacksonville.

Randy got the idea for this series one late night, when flute music woke him from a sound sleep. As he stood at his window, trying to locate the source of the sound, he spied a library across the lawn. Suddenly, he envisioned an eleven-year-old sneaking out of his bed and stealing to the library in the dead of night...And thus Landon Snow was born.

Be sure to check out a Landon Snow short story at: http://www.clubhousemagazine.com/fiction/friends/a0001467.cfm

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

In The Zone


Have you heard of writers talking about being IN THE ZONE, and how it is their favorite part of writing? The words come effortlessly, the scenes build and crescendo at the right moment, and you don't keep checking the word count wondering if you will ever get to your day's goal so you can quit with an easy conscience.

Today I was "In the Zone". I set myself a goal of 1000 words today and wound up with more than 2500!


Maybe it's the scented candle? (It smells like a white birthday cake, complete with cute little floating star sprinkles in the wax.) Maybe it's the fact that the grocery store had Diet Coke on sale, but was out of the caffeine free that I usually drink, and I'm drinking regular Diet Coke. Maybe it's because I made myself write last night at 11 pm so I could meet my goal of 500 words for yesterday. Whatever it was, one thing or a combination of things, I'm now staring my weekly goal of 30K total words in the face and it's only Wednesday.

Another cool thing. Donald Maass, in his 'gut-your-story-and-make-it-stronger' book "WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL" and its accompanying workbook, says think of something your character would never do, say or think, then write a scene where they do, say or think it. I had set this up for a character, him saying he would never do such-and-such a thing, thinking I had a scene in mind where I could turn this on its head. But today, as I was writing, a scene came out of nowhere (with a little bit of inspiration via some research) that had him not only saying he was going to do that thing, but plotting and raging, thirsting to get at it. So very cool!

I hope tomorrow goes as well.

Monday, November 27, 2006

I think I can...



Do you remember the story of The Little Engine That Could, by Watty Piper? What a classic reminder of the power of determination and perseverance.

Today I practiced some of that determination. This past weekend, I gained a lot of momentum on the ms. I didn't want to lose that momentum I fought so hard for. But how to maintain it? I can't "Steal" every day. I have obligations.

So I did something I haven't done in awhile now. I set a goal. Not only that, I set a goal and told a writing friend about it. She is my backstop, my accountability. The goal was reasonable, but it would require effort. Not only that, but I would have to tell someone when I made it, or explain to her why I didn't.

This encourager/accountability partner sent me an email to remind me of my goal and to get me moving on it. She's great about that kind of thing. Nobody sends more e-cards and emails just when I need them than she does. She is like the circus animals and the white faced clown who encourage, uplift, and urge the Little Engine on.

I began the day by a run to the orthodontist's and the grocery store, followed by intensive review of fifth grade history and science with my son for a couple of tests he was taking today. But all the while I remembered the goal. I 'composted' ideas for what I would write when I got to the keyboard, because I knew I would need to make a report of my achievement to my encourager.

I'm pleased to say, I made it. I set out to write 1000 words today, and despite phone calls, schooling, errands, supper prep, lunch breaks, and a cat who wants to eat my silk poinsettia decorations and retch about it later, I made it!

Thank you, Donna.

God is good. (And the cat is fine.)

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Wanted ~ Thief!




I did it! I stole! I stole a whole Saturday. I awoke at 6:45 this morning prepared to roll over and grab another hour or two of snooze time when I remembered. Today's the Day! I'm stealing it! A jolt of adrenelin hit my heart and sleep was murdered in that instant.


My daughter aided and abetted in the theft. We stole out in the early dawn chill with our bags. A quick trip to the bank to make business deposits and whoosh! We were free for the entire day. We breakfasted at Old Country Buffet, which Heather says is like Fred's Market Buffet near Grampa's house in Florida, but without the grits. (Her opinion of grits? Someone pulverized potatoes and took all the taste out.)


Then it was off to the Library. That's right. The Library. We tucked ourselves away in a study room and I typed like a mad woman. Heather read books and ran errands into the stacks to find research materials for me.

>


It was a very successful theft. I worked at the library for six hours and put another 5,000 words on Drums of the North Star. Things are really weaving together the farther I get into this book. I know it will need some major restructuring/rewriting, but getting that first draft down is the crucial thing right now.
And who has the most terrific husband and son in the world? I DO! When we got home at 5:30, they had dug out the Christmas tree and loaded it with lights. They'd also done all the laundry, including folding and putting away. How cool and supportive is that????

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Calm, Cool & Adjusted by Kristin Billerbeck

Kristin Billerbeck was born in Redwood City, California. She went to San Jose State University and majored in Advertising, then worked at the Fairmont Hotel in PR, a small ad agency as an account exec, and then,she was thrust into the exciting world of shopping mall marketing. She got married, had four kids, and started writing romance novels until she found her passion: Chick Lit.

ABOUT THE BOOK:
Calm, Cool, and Adjusted is the third book in the Spa Girls Novels.
Billerbeck did a great job with the characterization of Poppy, a quirky Christian chiropractor who is a health nut. I'm talking real NUT. She is so obsessed with health that she forgets about living. When she finally realizes that she is over the edge obsessed, she doesn't know how to stop herself.

~~Best friends since Johnny Depp wore scissors for hands, "The Spa Girls" live very separate lives, but stay in touch with routine visits to California's Spa Del Mar.~~

The third novel in the Spa Girls Series focuses on Silicon Valley chiropractor Poppy Clayton, who is as calm, cool and adjusted as they come. Or is she? Known for her bad fashion sense, a love for all things natural and the inability to get a second date, Poppy is beginning to wonder if she might be misaligned herself. Her route to self discovery will be an unnatural one - a plastic surgeon, a dilapidated house in Santa Cruz, a flirtatious client, and a blind date from the dark side.

It's all enough to send a girl - and her gal pals - running for the comfort zone of their spa.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Woohoo!

Better late than never. Today, after a restful weekend of shopping for bathroom fixtures and tile (we're putting an addition on our house) I sat my patootie down in my chair and worked on the manuscript. I caught up to my goal of last Friday to reach 20K words.

You know what was hanging me up? (Besides construction noise, schooling the kidlets, bookkeeping and life in general?) I didn't know where the next scene was going. One simple question, posed this morning after writing about three hundred words of aimless nothing, got me back on track.


The question, you ask? Simple. "What do you want or need to happen in this scene to move the story foreward?"


I know what you're thinking. "You dolt. That's the FIRST thing you should be thinking when you start a new scene."


Believe me, my life would be so much simpler if I thought the FIRST thing FIRST, instead of in retrospect.


Anyway, I've updated the word count ticker to the left to reflect the work put in.


Oh, and I'm stealing Saturday this week. Stay tuned for updates.


Saturday, November 18, 2006

Mercy Triumphs ~ Patricia Tanner

This week I read Mercy Triumphs by Patricia Pomeroy Tanner. Thank you, Patricia, for sending this book.

From the Back Cover: Ten years ago, Harley Malone was murdered. His sister, Mercy, an investigative reporter, finds new evidence that prompts the Texas Rangers to reopen the case. David Durant, the Ranger assigned to the case is frustrated that Mercy is determined to work with him throught the possibly dangerous investigation. Mercy thinks that he's a chauvinistic bully, and he thinks she's a stubborn vexation, so there is conflict between them. Their search takes them to several places, including Albuquerque, New Mexico. They interview many interesting, sometimes hostile characters. As time goes by, and attraction develops between them. Will Harley's murderer be brought to justice? Will Mercy and David be able to overcome their antagonism and let nature take its course?

About the Author: Patricia Pomeroy Tanner and her husband have an R.V. Ministry. She is also the author of For the Love of Joy.

Mercy Triumphs is a fun little book. David and Mercy are easy to like. The ending was exciting and climactic. For some reason, I really enjoyed the character names in this book, both the bad guys and the good guys. Also, Mercy's relationship with her mother is very sweet.

This book is available at www.airleaf.com and through Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/customer-reviews/1594534950/ref=cm_cr_dp_pt/002-5662064-9896054?ie=UTF8&n=283155&s=books .

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Scoop ~ Rene Gutteridge

Rene Gutteridge is the author of several novels, including Ghost Writer (Bethany House Publishers) The Boo Series (WaterBrook Press) and the Storm Series, (Tyndale House Publishers. She will release three novels in 2006: Storm Surge (Tyndale) My Life as a Doormat (WestBow Press, Women of Faith)Occupational Hazards Book #1: Scoop (WaterBrook Press).
She has also been published over thirty times as a playwright, best known for her Christian comedy sketches. She studied screenwriting under a Mass Communications degree, graduating Magna Cum Laude from Oklahoma City University, and earned the "Excellence in Mass Communication" award. She served as the full-time Director of Drama for First United Methodist Church for five years before leaving to stay home and write. She enjoys instructing at writer's conferences and in college classrooms. She lives with her husband, Sean, a musician, and their children in Oklahoma City.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

The Occupational Hazards Books are a series of books about seven homeschooled siblings whose last name is Hazard. The parents died in a freak accident leaving the kids ages 16-26 with a lucrative clown business but the kids realize that God has other plans which doesn't include being a family of clowns for the rest of their lives.

Scoop, is the first of the series and centers around Hayden, who was age 20 when her parents died. If you haven't yet guessed by the series title, this book is packed with many laugh out loud moments and great one liners.

Hayden is a strong Christian who, having been homeschooled, lacks some of the politically correct social norms...like not praying in front of everyone during a crisis. She finds herself in an internship at a television news station with a boss that takes stress pills, an aging news anchor that everyone wishes Botox on, a weatherman who wants to predict love for himself and Hayden, and a reporter struggling with his own politically correctness of being a good reporter and being a Christian.

Old School meets New School meets Homeschool. A smart and funny read.

The book link for Scoop: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1400071577
The author's website: http://www.renegutteridge.com/splash.html


I enjoy reading Rene's blog entries on Charis Connection as well as her interview on Novel Journey blog.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Cadfael

As promised, Cadfael. Cadfael is a twelfth century Benedictine Monk in Shrewsbury, England near the Welsh border. Created by Edith Pargeter under the pen name Ellis Peters, Cadfael is one of the most delightful characters I've ever read.

He came late to the monastic life, after a career as a Crusader and soldier. He spends his time in the Abbey Gardens growing herbs for medicinal purposes. On the side, he solves mysteries.

One of the most intriguing things about Cadfael is the setting and era. It is set during the Civil War of England between King Stephen and his cousin Empress Maude, a little known or written about time in fictional circles at least.

There are twenty Cadfael mysteries, thirteen of which have been made into television shows by the BBC for their Mystery! series. Derek Jacobi plays the role of Brother Cadfael to perfection. This past week, through the wonders of inter-library loan, I was able to borrow the "Cadfael Collection" of DVD's. The only problem was, I could only keep them for one week. Thirteen episodes (75 mins each) to watch in a week. This seriously cut into the old writing time.

Fortunately, Cadfael proved to be a favorite with the kids. They love any and all things medieval, thanks to The Lord of the Rings, The Battle for Middle Earth, and Age of Empires. We were also able to discuss the rights and wrongs of the Benedictine's interpretations of Scripture and piety and eternal life.

If you get the chance, read the books, and/or watch the programs. They're really fantastic.


As an aside...I took the kids to the "Y" for their homeschool swim club today. We were forced to evacuate the building due to a gas line being cut in the excavation outside for the new aquatic center. What a day.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Snow!



This weekend, Rochester was slammed with more than 10 inches of snow. We had 'thunder snow', which snow aficionados will recognize as some heavy duty precip. We had wicked lightening, and six inches fell in a three hour period.

I lit some scented candles, warmed some hot chocolate, and plugged in the laptop. Then I wrote about the blistering heat of western MN in August of 1862. I've finished 50+ pages and more than 16K words now.

Tonight was the first night of a new women's Bible study at our church. We had such a wonderful time. I didn't realize how much I had missed studying the Bible with a group of women. I'm looking forward to two weeks from now when we meet again.

Goals for the week...dare I aim for a total of 20K words? That would be about 25% of the total goal. I'm sure I could do it...especially if I don't watch too many Cadfael videos. I'll blog about Cadfael later. ;)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Cubicle Next Door ~ Siri Mitchell



If you like blogging...which you must if you are reading this...you will think this book is blogarific. After each chapter, there is a blog entry. The book is written in first person and contains some hilarious blog antics.

Imagine that you are an anonymous blogger, one who uses a silly name instead of your own, then imagine blogging about your work. Now imagine blogging about your cubicle mate of the opposite sex and calling him by an anonymous name.
I know some who have done just that.

But now imagine that your cubicle mate has discovered your blog and begins to read it out loud to you. EVERY MORNING.
The Cubicle Next Door is set in a civilian's view of working on a military post. That in itself is funny enough...then add that the main character is a tree hugging, anti-SUV lover, with a thing for Bollywood movies. (Her favorite it Bride & Prejudice.) Suddenly this civilian hippie is thrown into a cubicle next to an Air Force Pilot/Teacher who drives...yep...an SUV. Can't you feel the love?

Also, The Cubicle Next Door has some wonderful moments of self discovery.

A delightful read...here is an excerpt for you:
Released Aug 06
Excerpt from Chapter 1:
“So what do you think, Jackie?”
What do I think? Funny Joe should ask me that. He’s just finished reading my blog. He’s just quoted me to myself. Or is it myself to me? Do I sound surreal, as if I’m living in parallel universes? I am! The blog—my blog—is all about Joe. And other topics that make me want to scream.
But the clever thing is, I’m anonymous. When I’m blogging.
I’m Jackie, Joe’s cubicle-mate when I’m not.
And that’s the problem. Joe is asking Jackie (me) what I think about the Mystery Blogger (also me). And since I don’t want Joe to know the blog is all about me and what I think of him, I can’t tell him what I think about me. My brain is starting to short circuit. So if I can’t tell him what I think about me, I certainly can’t tell him what I think about him, so I’m going to have to pretend not to be me. Not me myself and not me The Cubicle Next Door Blogger—TCND to my fans. I have fans! If I were clever I’d say something like, “Look!” and point behind him and then duck out of the room when he turned around to look. But there’s so much computer equipment stacked around my desk and so many cables snaking around the floor that I’d break my neck if I tried to run away. So that option is out. I could try pretending I didn’t hear him.
“What?”
“SUVs. So what do you think about them?”
But then we’d basically end up back where we started. So how did I get myself into this mess?
It was all Joe’s fault.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The First Forty Pages

This is a picture of Fort Ridgely on the north side of the Minnesota River. The burning buildings are from an Indian attack. It is what's coming up next in Drums of the North Star.

Yesterday, I got to put in a solid two hours on the manuscript and have now plowed through the first 45 pages of writing. I felt as if I was gaining momentum as I wrote. This seems to be my M.O. It takes me thirty or forty pages to get my feet under me and find my direction.

My husband says it's because when I start a book, I have so many options I don't know which ones to choose. But as I begin whittling away at those choices and narrowing them down, the story becomes more focused and the action follows a more restricted framework. The characters must behave in ways consistent with past behavior, and the action is determined farther in advance. It is easier to see which way I'm supposed to go because I can see some of where I've been.

Yesterday felt so productive. Errands run, school taught, laundry done, words written...I was on top of my game. Until I realized at 10 pm that I'd forgotten my daughter's 8 am orthodontist's appt. Blah.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Coffee House

This morning marks the third morning in a row that I've spent in a coffee shop. My kids (homeschooled) are taking part in an art class a few blocks away, so I have 2.5 hours all to myself for three mornings. Bliss!

The benefits:
1. Uninterrupted time to spend on the novel. (Another 1K on the total)

2. The kids get to have some instruction provided by someone other than me.

3. We get out and about in the beautiful fall weather before winter sets in.

The drawbacks:
1. The coffee shop is a wireless hot spot. I have a wireless laptop. Email is so
tempting.

2. I am an inveterate people watcher. After three days, I've determined who 'the
regulars' are. There is a student with big textbooks, enveloping sweatshirt
and a lollipop, who slips her shoes off and curls into a leather chair with
her notebook. There's the youth pastor who wears his sunglasses on his
head. And the gramma who brings her little granddaughter, a colorbook
and a box of crayons each morning and meets 'the girls' for coffee. All
amazing distractions.

3. Then there is the oddity I like to call me. I've spent almost seven hours of the
past three days in a coffee shop. I don't even drink coffee! Instead, I've
sipped a lukewarm hot chocolate each day and surfed, blogged, edited
and generally sated my need to observe the human condition, at least as
shown in the local coffee shop. I do feel rather bohemian, on line, sipping
from an insulated coffee cup, in a place where they roast their own beans
and occasionally have live entertainment. For a simple country girl like
me, this is very cosmopolitan. It will probably find its way into a novel.

I did update the word counter yesterday. Woohoo! Over 11K words.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Sociable Trees


My son is a source of delight and inspiration for me. He's ten, and so like me it's scary. He leads an intensely vivid inner life that reminds me of me at his age. I don't know how many times I heard my mom say, "Get your head out of the clouds." or "Erica's always in her own little world." Who knew that someday I'd be able to use that inner galaxy to spin stories?
Anyway, my son...sometimes a little of the inner world seeps out of him in some profound statement that sounds wise beyond his ten years. We were driving along HWY 52 in Rochester and saw a long row of weeping willows near the Plummer House. He said, "Willow trees are so sociable. They make you want to take a book under their branches and read, and you would get the feeling that they would be reading over your shoulder."
I've always felt something special when I see a willow tree. James just put into words something I'd felt all my life, but hadn't been able to express.

Friday, October 27, 2006

From the Dust


I'm currently about halfway through The Secret Life of Bees. (I'm behind my time, I know, as I'm just getting around to it now.) All I can say is...WOW! Up front, I'll tell you, this is not Christian fiction. There are some language/violence issues that might make some folks cringe. But the writing...man, oh man.
Not long ago on Novel Journey (reached by clicking the link to the left), I read an interview with Rene Gutteridge, author of the 'Boo' series. When asked what writing strength she'd like to have, she said the strength of being able to write sentences that read like a dream, to be able to pull similies and metaphors from the dust.
That's how I feel as I'm reading "The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd...for all its hard subject matter-- abuse, racism, religion, civil rights--it reads like a dream, similies and metaphors from the dust.
So what are you reading, and has anything ever struck you like that--a terrifically written book?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Election by Jerome Teel


This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is reviewing Jerome Teel's latest book, The Election..

ABOUT THE AUTHOR :
Jerome Teel is a graduate of Union University, where he received his JD, cum laude, from the Ole Miss School of Law. He is actively involved in his church, local charities, and youth sports.He has always loved legal-suspense novels and is a political junkie. Jerome and his wife, Jennifer, have three children-Brittney, Trey, and Matthew-and reside in Tennessee, where he practices law and is at work on a new novel.

The book: THE ELECTION
They seek ultimate power.Nothing can stand in theirway.Ed Burke has waited a lifetime to become president of the United States. He's not about to let his nemesis, Mac Foster, stop him now...especially when he's sold his soul for the Oval Office.Claudia Duval has lived a rough life. And finally, things have turned around for her after meeting the wealthy Hudson Kinney. But is all what is seems?When a prominent citizen is murdered in Jackson, Tennessee, attorney Jake Reed doesn't want to know the truth. He just wants to get his client off. But as he investigates, he uncovers a sinister scheme. A scheme that would undermine the very democracy of America...and the freedom of the entire world.

The Election, by Jerome Teel, is a fast-paced, highly readable mystery filled with suspense, intrigue, and political conspiracy. Teel skillfully weaves together themes of faith, family, suffering, and providence in a way that not only compels, but enlightens."
David S. Dockery-President, Union University

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Now the wait....

I got it done! The ms is in the mail. There is something so satisfying, and yet scary about writing those words "REQUESTED MATERIAL" on an envelope. I sent the package off with a prayer and a hope they don't have to use the return postage provided.

I was amazed at how relatively painless it was to carve 8K words from this manuscript. I took out everything that wasn't necessary to the plot. This shows how much I've grown as a writer in the past two years, because when I originally sent out that ms, it was 98K words. Then I edited it last fall down to 93K and thought it was really tight. And yet, there were at least 8K words that were unnecessary. Objectivity is a beautiful thing, and while I know I'm not completely objective about this story, (I love it like crazy) I am far more objective about the writing itself than I was two years ago.

So, now what? The waiting begins. But I won't be idle. I'll go back to Drums of the North Star with more enthusiasm than before.

To all who read and commented on the last entry...THANK YOU! Celebrations are always more fun when shared with those who rejoice with you.

Be sure to ask Kaye Dacus about her own really cool news too!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sidetracked by a cool God Thing


Have you ever had something happen to you that you KNOW is totally a God Thing? This week my agent told me he thinks I set some kind of record for him. No, not for having the most publishers clamoring for my work at once, (a shame, but maybe at some later date) nor for the most scathing rejections on a single manuscript (whew! wouldn't that be a kick in the head?) This time it is because a manuscript I mailed out two years ago this month, and which I assumed had melted away in someone's slush pile long ago, actually returned to me with a request for a full manuscript. How cool is that?

So the current WIP, Drums of the North Star, is on hold while I re-read that manuscript (which I haven't looked at in a year or so) and trim it down. I went to this publisher's website and saw they wanted at most 85K ms. This means I need to murder about 8K of my darlings to get it to the required length. So far, I've trimmed about 3K. It hasn't been as difficult as I'd feared, because I haven't read it in so long. I'm more objective about it, I've learned a lot of craft in the last year and see how it can be tightened up, and I am fixing the subtle POV things that escaped me early on. At my current rate, I should be able to trim 6K off in the first pass through. How cool is that?

The goal is to get it all set and sent out on Thursday or Friday of this week. And to pray SPECIFICALLY (see previous post on the retreat) that this ms will find favor with the editor who lifted it from the slush pile. Incidentally, it's my first novel she's requested. God is good. ALL the time...even when your ms is languishing somewhere. How cool is that???

Saturday, October 21, 2006

What kind of writer?

Today I was browsing my favorite blogs and came across this on Angela Hunt's blog "A Life in Pages" (You can reach it by clicking on the link in the left margin of this blog.)

At least this little quiz seems to think I'm writing in the correct genre. You can take the quiz yourself by clicking on the link at the bottom of the page. Let me know your results.

You Should Be a Romance Novelist

You see the world as it should be, and this goes double for all matters of the heart.
You can find the romance in any situation, and you would make a talented romance story writer...
And while you may be a traditional romantic, you're just as likely to be drawn to quirky or dark love stories.
As long as it deals with infatuation, heartbreak, and soulmates - you could write it.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Like Dandelion Dust



About the Author: USA Today and New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury is America's #1 inspirational novelist. There are nearly 5 million copies of her award-winning books in print, including more than two million copies sold in the past year. Karen has written more than 30 novels, nine of which have hit #1 on national lists, including award-winning Oceans Apart, One Tuesday Morning, Beyond Tuesday Morning, the Redemption Series and Firstborn Series, and several other bestsellers, one of which was the basis for a CBS Movie-of-the-Week and Gideon's Gift, which is currently in production as a major theatrical release for Christmas 2007.Karen lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, Don, and their six children, three of whom are adopted from Haiti.

About the Book:

A PEACEFUL TOWN...

AN IDYLLIC FAMILY...

A PHONE CALL THAT THREATENS THEM ALL.
Jack and Molly Campbell enjoyed an idyllic life (great house in a fancy neighborhood, high-paying job, and a beautiful little boy) in their small hometown outside Atlanta with their adopted 4-year-old, Joey. Then they receive the phone call that shatters their world: a social worker delivers the news that Joey's biological father has been released from prison and is ready to start lifeover with his son. (It's discovered that Joey's birth mother forged the signature of Joey's birth father, making it a fraudulent adoption.) When a judge rules that Joey must be returned to his father (a man who cannot separatee love and violence), the Campbells, in a silent haze of grief and utter disbelief, watch their son pick a dandelion and blow the feathery seeds into the wind.Struggling with the dilemma of following the law, their hearts, and what they know to be morally right, the Campbells find that desperation leads to dangerous thoughts. What if they can devise a plan? Take Joey and simply disappear....LIKE DANDELION DUST.

Review by Mimi Pearson
Stop by www.amazon.com and take a look at this book today!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Our Stinkin' Old Lace



On Monday night (in the absence of my ability to get Monday Night Football, now that ESPN has it) our family watched a movie. One we'd gotten from the public library. As we were watching, my son commented, "I love our stinkin' old lace."

As you can imagine, his parents looked at one another in consternation and confusion. Upon asking for clarification, he pointed to the tv screen and said, "This movie--'Our Stinkin' Old Lace'."


Light dawned. We were watching Cary Grant in "Arsenic and Old Lace"! What a hoot!
On another note, the "Chick-lits" met and gabbed our heads off last night. Writing, writing books, agents, non-fiction writing ideas, kids, homeschool, movies, clothing, extended family...we covered it all with laughter and friendship.
And I did the Boot Scootin' Boogie today. Happy dance that I reached 10K on the WIP.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

RETREAT!!!!

This weekend my church held a Women's Retreat. What a refreshing time. I was so pleased with the turnout, and the speaker, Vicki Tiede, www.GraceLessons.com couldn't have been better. I went away from each session feeling like I had been standing in a shower of blessing, soaking up living water for my dry, thirsty soul.

One thing that struck me from the first evening's talk was this statement: "We must pray so specifically so that when God answers, we'll recognize it."

So how have I been praying? "God, bless my church." "God, bless my family." "God, bless the President." "God, help me be a better writer." "God, help me be a good mom." "God, help me be a good wife." All these are so nebulous and generic, I wouldn't recognize the answer to most them even when He did answer.

How can I change this approach? Be deliberately specific. And don't be afraid of the answer. Perhaps one thing holding me back from being specific is I don't want to hear the answer 'no, child.' Don't be afraid to tell God what I really want and need, to lay my heart open to the One who knows what's in there already. I don't mean to put God to the test, but I do mean to be deliberate, specific and fearless in asking my Heavenly Father for the help I know I need.


LOL My apologies to Vicki for misspelling her name...sigh...I am a goof! lol

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Alison Strobel's Violette Between




Between Here and the PAST,
THERE LIES A PLACE...a place of longing for what has been rather than hoping for what could be!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Alison Strobel graduated with a degree in elementary education, and in the summer of 2000 she moved from Chicago to southern California where she taught elementary school for three years. It was in Orange County that she met her husband, Daniel Morrow, and the story developed for her first novel, Worlds Collide.
Violette Between is a poinant story of a true artist. When the love of Violette's life, Saul suddenly died, she died too. Then she meets Christian, who also is morning the loss of a loved one.As Violette and Christian begin to feel something that they both thought was impossible. Tragedy strikes again. Christian finds Violette on the floor of his waiting room, that she had been painting to look like a New York rooftop restaurant.As Christian holds a vigil at her bedside, begging her to come back to him, Violette is in a coma, traveling to a place where she meets her beloved Saul. And she finds that she may not want to come back!What would it be like to choose a place between the past and the present?Violette Between is a powerful character study of a woman finally relinquishing the past to move on, only to be thrust into the quandry of reliving that life and needing to make a choice.For Christians, this will definitely make you think about heaven and the consequences of eternal life."Delving into the underside of complicated relationships, Alison Strobel takes readers to unexpected places, but doesn't hesitate to deliver redemptiom when needed."---Melody Carlson, author of Finding Alice
Alison has been a commentor here at "On the Write Path". Be sure to click on the links to read more about her, her adventures as a new mom, and as an author. I wish you all the best, Alison.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Maybe Someday File


I have a Maybe Someday File. I'm not talking about the sort of "Maybe Someday" thoughts you have from time to time about world travel or winning the lottery or inheriting a bazillion bucks from a long lost uncle.

My "Maybe Someday File" is full of story ideas. Everything from a four book History-Mystery series set at various Minnesota historical sites, to a romance set on a contemporary Arizona Ranch. A story about Skeeter, an orphan from 1870's San Francisco and a scrap of an idea about the locust plague of 1870's Minnesota. Then there's the Owatonna Orphanage story that cluttered up my mind when I was trying to research the current WIP. I put all my story ideas in the "Maybe Someday File" and when I finish a WIP, I go to it and read the "Maybe Someday" ideas and choose a "Today's the Day" story to begin working on.

Do you have a "Maybe Someday File"?

Monday, October 09, 2006

A little change of scene


Today I told my kids I needed a change of scene. I've been writing on the laptop at the dining room table for the last little while. While this helps me keep my finger on the pulse of the household, sometimes it can resemble writing in a tornado. Folks stroll by and ask questions, chores go on around me (a good thing, but distracting), piano is practiced. I find myself frustrated an unable to get into the flow of the story. So a change was in order.

Heather, the 14 year old, made me a pitcher of peach iced tea. (I don't drink hot tea, no matter how cold it is outside. I invariably burn my tongue on the first sip of any hot drink, and after that, everything tastes like burnt tongue.) James , the 10 year old, brought me some scented candles from off the top of the piano. (Not to worry, they sit on a tablecloth and are never lit while on top of the piano. They are there for looks as they match the decor beautifully. Thanks to mom for sending them to me for Christmas awhile back.) I lit the Hazelnut Coffee candle and the Pumpkin Pie one, sipped my iced tea, and banged out 1000 words in about an hour.

In talking with a friend today, I realized this ms is different from others I've done, in that the setting and the time frame are from actual historical events, therefore I'm somewhat limited in what I can have my characters actually do. This friend likened it to a puzzle. I took the thought a bit further in my mind. Writing an historical novel IS like building a puzzle. I have the box top with the picture on it (My research and my outline of events) and I have the borders/side pieces of the puzzle from which I cannot stray. (Historical events, time frames, etc.) The whole puzzle only goes together one way that makes sense. As long as I stay true to my research and timeline, I'll come out with a cohesive picture.

Today, the ms stands at just over 7K words. It feels great.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Something New

This week I joined the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance. Check out the links to CFBA on the left. I look forward to helping promote Christian Fiction by reviews and getting the word out. (Okay, I'm also a little tickled I was able to install those two links on the blog the first try...it takes so little to please me some days)

Also, I found a new blog to follow. J. M. Hochstetler is starting her own publishing house. Joan is the author of two historicals, Native Son and Daughter of Liberty. She's blogging about some of the challenges and frustrations of the publishing world and what happens if your writing doesn't fit the current hot trends. Check her out at http://publishingdream.blogspot.com/

Also, two friends have begun blogging this week, Donna at http://layers-of-life.blogspot.com/ and CJ at http://whine-and-cheeze.blogspot.com/. Both are funny ladies.

As to an update on the WIP...It's over 5K words now, creeping along as my life swirls and crashes like the waves against the Oregon shoreline.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I cracked the code

I finally sat down and figured out the html mystery of putting links on my site! Woohoo! (all this while the Twins were losing game two at the Metrodome-boohoo)

I've started with a few of my favorite blogs, and hope to add more soon.

I've also discovered the ability to add pictures through remote hosting. I'll see if I can come up with some pics for the readers. How fun!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Instinct and Intent

Today I finished the first draft of the first chapter of Drums of the North Star. It wasn't easy as I throttled that inner critic and just wrote, but two things helped me. Both were tidbits said to me by my friend Donna.

1) Trust your instinct. This is a tough one for me these days. It seems the more I read about how to write, the less sure of myself and what I'm trying to say I become. When I took a class from T. Davis Bunn last spring, one thing he mentioned was how a writer needs to have all the confidence in the world when writing a first draft and no confidence at all when editing the subsequent drafts. Today I was able to plow through by telling myself to ignore the uncertainty holding me back and trust my instincts to tell a story. Amazing results. Things I know I've worked out in my subconscious were allowed to flow to the surface and onto the screen. Some things had me sitting back and saying, "Yeah, that's what I meant, but where did it come from?"

2) There is a difference between wanting to write and wanting to have written. You might have to stop and think about that one a bit. I sure did. Do I want to write, to be a writer? Or do I just want to have written? Do I want to relish the creative process or do I want to rest on laurels? Am I willing to do the hard work for the joy it brings me, or do I wish it was all done so I could brag about it? Hmmm...I want to write. I want to enjoy that process, the 'a-ha' moments when pieces fit together with unexpected symmetry, the shaping of fictional events and the portraying of characters that are meaningful and enjoyable in a novel. For me, I don't want it to be enough to say I wrote some stories. I want it to be necessary to continue to write.

So, Donna, thanks for those bits of advice. I took them to heart. I'm not saying you won't have to remind me again from time to time, but the lesson was implemented today.

The ms stands at just over 4K words now. One chapter. 13 pages. A sound start.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Inner Critic

I've discovered that while all writing is difficult, for me the hardest part is the first few chapters of a first draft. I whine and pout and compost and dream, but actually sitting down and cranking out the work is hard. Why is this? I surmise a few reasons.

a) This is my fifth novel. I know all the work that must come between now and the words "The End". Starting means finishing.

b) My inner critic, the one I just let loose on novel number four, must be captured, contained, and confined to the calaboose during the first draft phase of the new novel. My inner critic resists this procedure.

c) The first few chapters of a novel is the period when I know my characters the least, when I have the least invested in them, therefore care about them the least. Though I like all my characters at the beginning of a novel, it isn't until we've spent a significant amount of time together, until I've dragged them to the highs and lows of the story, that I feel I really know them and don't want to quit working until I get them out of the trouble I've dreamed up for them.

That being said, I have managed a few thousand words on the novel, and I need to set some writing goals in the near future to keep myself on track. I have a nebulous goal of First Draft by Christmas, but am wondering if that is too imprecise. I'm liable to goof around and not do much until Thanksgiving is suddenly upon me. A daily or weekly goal will be much better, as long as I keep it realistic.

How about you? Do you have an inner critic that keeps you back at the start of a new book?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Book Review - The Redemption by M.L. Tyndall

Okay, this book was long awaited by my little old self. Almost two years ago now (can't remember the exact date) Marylu Tyndall put out an email on the ACFW loop asking how people acquired agents. The responses were along the lines of 'Go to a conference and meet one.' and 'Get referred by a published author.' This is disheartening stuff for someone who can't afford a conference and who is new enough to the writing world not to have scads of published author friends clamoring to refer them.

I emailed Marylu privately to tell her how I acquired my own agent. I found him through Sally Stuart's Christian Writer's Market Guide. No conference, no referral. Just a blessing from God.

She emailed back how encouraging this was for her, and she also signed with a great agent. She told me the premise of her book, and the idea intrigued me then. It still does.

The Redemption is the story of Charlisse Bristol, abused, shipwrecked, feisty, courageous and needy, who is rescued by Captain Edmund Merrick, secretly titled English gentleman who pirates Spanish ships in the name of the Queen of England. While Merrick is an expert at stealing Spanish gold, he's even more adept at stealing hearts. He certainly stole mine.

One of the things I loved about this book is that Merrick, after leading the life of a carousing pirate who surrendered his life to Christ, still struggles with some old sins. He has to approach temptations from a position of knowledge rather than innocent fascination, particularly those of drink, killing and promiscuous women. He battles himself with the Lord's help.

Charlisse faces feelings of abandonment at every turn. Because so many men in her life have let her down, trust in Christ and trust in Merrick do not come easy. One of the most powerful scenes in the book is when she cries out for God's help and He miraculously provides her with a safe haven. I for one am glad Marylu was able to keep this part of the story intact. It is quite the fad/fashion now to exclude God's miraculous help for his children from Christian fiction, that somehow, we can write fiction in God's name and yet leave Him out of all of it, save a few hasty prayers by our protagonists. Charlisse's miracle in The Redemption felt both astounding and right in the circumstances. Marylu wrote it well.

Would I recommend this book? Yes! For fans of historical fiction, pirates, romances, and just flat out good writing...Run out and get this book!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A Start

Today I got to start working on Drums of the North Star. I've decided on who my heroine is, and I like her. She's young, naive, a bit vain, and doesn't realize she's carrying some prejudice around with her. I'm looking forward to helping her grow and develop and discover that there are good and bad people of all races.

I also ordered a new Bible today. I can't wait for it to get here. It is a parallel translation of the Message and the New American Standard Bible. I love the NASB, and I've been intrigued by The Message. I know there are folks who all but shudder when they think of The Message, but I consider it to be like a commentary when paired with a translation. I'm looking forward to reading it.

Vicki has gotten a rather hefty dose of rejection this week. Her book made it THROUGH the publishing committee only to get vetoed by the president of the company. Ugh. So close, and yet... Guess that means that God has somewhere else for that book to land. Even though she got encouraging comments from the publishing board and the editor who went to bat for her, rejection still stinks. Been there, smelled that.

Donna has almost completed the editor's revisions on the YA mystery she's been offered a contract on. Congratulations, Donna. You've worked hard.

No news from any publishers re my own work, but I figure no news is no news. At least no one has said "No, thank you" in the last little while.

Still praying for Stephanie, whose requested YA novel is still in the inner workings of a publishing house.

I think we'll all get there if we only keep trying.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Monday Remembrances

Today is a day of remembrances. Many blogs, news programs, specials, and memorial services will be devoted to remembering all we lost five years ago today.

I wanted to share a verse that I feel is appropriate for the times we live in as a result of 9/11.

From the New American Standard:

Psalm 94:19 When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Thy consolations delight my soul.

What a comfort! As a novelist, my imagination is often a free ranging animal. This is great when you're making up stories, but not when you're worrying about life. I take great comfort in knowing that God is in control of everything at all times. I know He is not shocked, surprised or stymied by anything man does on this earth. And He is able to calm my heart and my mind when my anxious thoughts multiply within me.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Minnesota River Valley Trail

I have to give kudos, props, and a big thank you to my husband here. We traveled several hundred miles up the MN River Valley to research and explore the setting of my new novel. He took pictures, drove us to see the sites and sights. Oh, and I have a working title for the book too. Drums of the North Star.

On Saturday we drove west to the German town of New Ulm. We stopped at the Brown County Historical Society museum, housed in a beautiful building of Bavarian background. (How's that for alliteration?) We learned about buffalo heads, hoopskirts, butter and beer.

Then we went northwest out of New Ulm to the Harkin Store. This was the second visit to this museum for my daughter and me, but a first for my husband and son. The Harkin Store is a vintage 1870's general store and post office run by the MN Historical Society. I love this little store. A significant portion of the inventory is authentic 1870's goods from the store itself. The rest are reproductions of items that would have been carried in the store.

A bit of a sad note. Last year when we visited the Harkin Store, we were given a terrific tour by a young man named Scott. He was a history teacher in New Ulm and a Civil war enthusiast and re-enactor. He made us feel as if, when we asked a question, it was the first time he'd heard it. He took out a price list and showed us what things would have cost in the store in 1870, told stories of the original owner and the now extinct town, and introduced me to the history of the Dakota War of 1862 (the setting of the new novel.) His enthusiasm for the history of the Minnesota River Valley was contagious and sparked the idea for a novel. I was looking forward to meeting him again. When I asked after him, I was told he passed away last October at the age of 33. His legacy is the Wood Lake Battlefield Preservation Society.

We drove on to Redwood Falls, MN. On Sunday we visited the Lower Sioux Agency Interpretive Center where we toured the Galbraith warehouse and walked the Agency Trail. Peter and James took the Redwood Ferry trail (about a mile of straight up and down trails). We saw a terrific museum there as well.

Later on Sunday we went to the Redwood County Historical Society Museum. What we found there was more than 30 rooms crammed with stuff. With the exception of a small room devoted to Sears, who lived in Redwood Falls (though he was born in Stewartville, MN just south of here). I wish the items in the museum had been better cataloged and perhaps had more local interest stories attached to them. Instead it was a former poor farm turned nursing home piled with artifacts dated 1800's or 1900's.

Monday was a terrific day as well. Our first stop was the Birch Coulee Battlefield, scene of one of the most desperate battles of the Dakota War. We walked the trails of the battlefield, standing on the rise Big Eagle and his braves sheltered behind and looking down onto the open plain where the U.S. burial detail was pinned down for more than 30 hours. Seeing the landscape firsthand will hopefully aid me in adding rich detail to the novel.

We also went to Historic Fort Ridgely which was attacked twice during the war but stood firm. The commissary building is still standing and houses a very fine museum. The tour guide, Randy, was very informative as to the ordnance used at the fort, both small and large caliber. The kids dressed in soldier's uniforms and practiced loading a cannon. We walked the grounds, seeing the foundations of the buildings. the only building besides the commissary still standing is one of the ammunition cabins. Again it was so helpful to see the landscape and get a sense of distance and direction.

What a fun vacation. Now it's back to the grindstone and the schedule. We begin week five of school today, as well as resume piano lessons. New scenes or new layers to previously thought out scenes for Drums of the North Star are racing through my head, popping up at unexpected moments. I can't wait to begin the actual writing of this book.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A moving target

Tonight I was discussing the recent phenomenon of large, secular publishing houses buying up smaller, Christian houses in order to cash in on the lucrative Christian market. We talked about the dangers inherent in this practice. He said a couple things I thought were rather interesting.

We talked about how some publishers had as a goal not so much Christian writing as that which would appeal to the average reader in the Bible Belt, reflecting the morals of mid-west America. He likened this to trying to hit a moving target. Because our morals and social mores change with time (what is acceptable now wouldn't have been acceptable 50, 20, or even 10 years ago in some cases,) it makes reflecting those mores difficult at best.

Also up for discussion was the idea that if these publishing conglomerates move away from the Christian roots in their "inspirational" lines, will that raise up new, smaller, conservative houses to fill that need?

This dovetailed with a discussion on The Writer's View about overdoing the 'Christianese' in Christian writing. I've read with interest the posts there, and have come to the conclusion God calls his children to a variety of styles, voices, and target audiences in Christian writing. For some, their books are targeted to the lost, the unchurched, or the fallen away. Others write for those who are believers, who want their faith affirmed in what they read, who want to know there are other folks out there that think like they do. Is one better than the other? I don't think so. I think an author should know her audience, her voice, and her calling and write accordingly.

For me, I fall into the latter group of writers who write primarily to tell stories that affirm a believer's faith. I try to show spiritual growth in my characters, and I do have some unbelieving characters who come to Christ because of, or sometimes in spite of, the Christian characters around them.

On another note, I turned in the proposal packet and first three chapters of my newest novel "8 Seconds to Love" to my agent. We'll see what he says.

I've started writing note cards out for the next novel. I'm trying to incorporate some "breakout" techniques up front, hoping this will make the rewriting easier.

Only a few days until we go on our vacation/research trip for this novel. I have scenes crashing through my head. I can't wait to see the places where these scenes will unfold in the novel. I'm in the process of getting to know my characters. Like meeting new friends.

Erica

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Let the Wind Blow

Wild storms here in MN this week. We were without power for a bit, and spent yesterday with a chainsaw and bonfire getting rid of downed trees. I've decided to set the last ms aside for awhile before I do any rewrites on it. I'm going to send some to my agent and see what he says.

This weekend we'll be venturing up the Minnesota River Valley on a little family vacation. We'll take in some sights and do a little shopping in and around the delightful German village of New Ulm.

This past week the kids and I went on a couple of field trips. We saw some pioneer museums, and one of the most haunting museums I've ever been in, the Owatonna State School Orphanage museum. You can visit their site at www.orphanagemuseum.com

I purchased two books while I was there written by men who had been wards of the State of Minnesota and lived at the orphanage. I read one of them today. While The Locust Slept by Peter Razor. His experiences are absolutely chilling.

I've started a chart for the next ms. I'm composting the scenes, trying to get as much tension into them as I can. I'm torn as to who is the protagonist of my story right now. I have two to choose from and each is special in her own way. I'll compost on it some more.

Erica

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Edge of the precipice

I stand on the edge of a precipice contemplating my fate if I should leap into the wild blue. Will I soar like the red-tailed hawk over the canyon, or will I shatter on the jagged boulders below? The opportunities of success are great. The consequences of failure equally great.

All this is a fancy way of saying I fear the next step.

I got the critiques back from two of my critique partners.

Both had excellent ideas, saw the weaknesses in the plot and characterization I was too close to see, and in spite of my having read the goofy ms three times myself, each managed to pick out at least a half a dozen different typos. (smacking forehead with palm)

I breezed through most of the edits, fixing the typos, taking out the redundancies, the "telling" and not "showing" passages, and even managed to write a few clarifying, additional scenes that boosted the word count up to over 77K. All very good things.

Then the book came. The "Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook." I read Donald Maass' book "Writing the Breakout Novel" back in late March. It was powerful then. I feel it helped me step up the stakes in the current ms. But I sent it back to the library when the due date rolled around. This past week I ordered a copy for myself and the accompanying workbook. I figured it would help me with the next novel, since this one is almost done, right?

That all depends. I've read the first few chapters of the workbook, and I know, if I put my mind to it, I could improve this current ms. I know I could deepen the characters, raise the stakes higher, show more internal conflict, make the plot more complex. Or can I?

The precipice, the canyon that yawns before me, is my own fears and feelings of inadequacy. What if, in spite of knowing what needs to be done, knowing the possibilities if I apply the techniques in the workbook, I can't make it happen?

My head tells me to slow down, to really use the workbook as a springboard to elevate my writing and this current ms to another level.

My heart quails at the thought.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Critters

Today I met with Vicki to exchange crits on the ms. I've got some work to do. Things to tidy up and another chapter to write. I took my characters from A to C by totally bypassing point B. I'll wait to work on it until I get the crits back from my other critters.

Critters...those who critique. What a special group of people. I'm of the opinion that it takes time and careful selection to find the right group of critiquers for you. You have to be able to trust your critiquers motives. If they have a personal agenda, they will not give you a true critique, but rather a gushy, unhelpful 'this is the best thing ever' or a brutal hatchet job that leaves you wondering if you have any business being in the writing game at all.

So what makes a good critique partner?

For me, I want someone to catch the errors my eyes have missed, and I want someone to take a look at the 'big concept' issues, as mentioned above. I also need some cheerleading, some attagirls, and a few, I really like this story.

A big thank you to my crit partners, Donna, Vicki, CJ, and Stephanie. I couldn't and wouldn't want to do this without you.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Why, Why, Why, and reality TV

Now that the ms is off to the critters, I'm at loose ends. A new story is perking in my brain, but it isn't anywhere near the point where I can start writing. Today several research materials will arrive on the bookmobile. I'm hoping reading first hand accounts of the historical event/setting of the new novel will springboard the 'compost' phase and open new doors of plotting and possibilities.

Yesterday, when I didn't have any ideas and didn't have a ms to work on, I wondered if I was finished, if I had exhausted the 'writing' phase of my brain. I read some writing blogs and was bored with them. I read the digest emails of a couple of writer's groups I belong to and I was bored.

One thing I've learned in the last two years as I've been writing, is that there are more emotional rollers crashing around in this profession than waves hitting the beach at Waikiki. One minute you're on top of the world, you've gotten some encouraging news from your agent, or someone complimented your writing, and the next you're feeling isolated, inept, and indifferent.

How do writers deal with these ups and downs? My usual strategy is to wait it out, do something else for awhile, and come back at the writing later.

Lately, this escaping the ups and downs has taken the form of watcing reality TV. LOL Who knew? I've watched reruns (new to me) of Project Runway, Top Chef, and a totally hilarious show called Battle of the Network Reality TV Stars (or something like that). What a hoot! These programs have shown me my life as a writer isn't all that odd. I'm having a blast.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Editing and Pirates

I finished the pencil edits on my friend's ms. Hooray! What a rocketing good story she's woven. I can't wait to discuss the suggestions I made with her.

I also read a terrific ms from another friend. This one sucked me in from the get-go, and my husband had to drag me off the pc at 11:30...70 pages from the end! I had to exercise all my will-power to refrain from returning to reading it until after we'd finished school the next day. What a great story, and what great characters. I've not read such gifted dialogue in a long time. And her anti-hero...I couldn't decide how I felt about him...his motives were great (I think) but his methods...but he was also the only one in a position to be objective about the goings on in a group of teens who had been together for years. I think you're going to be hearing a lot from this author in the future.

Last night my husband took me out on a date, dinner and a movie. We saw "Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest". I have to say, this movie was loooooong, most of the time it was over the top, and it left me with a very unsatisfying ending. When it was all done, I felt manipulated, because you have to see the third movie in the series in order to answer all the questions posed by the second. Nothing was wrapped up in the second movie.

I know this is often the formula in trilogies. Consider Star Wars. The middle episode of the first trilogy is very dark and leaves you with so many questions. Or the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The Two Towers leaves you in an awful spot. The battle for Middle Earth has just begun, Frodo and Sam have still not gotten the ring to Mordor, and the fall of the white city is imminent.

But how does this translate to books? This has been the subject of discussion on the ACFW loop for the past few days. It has been interesting to see everyone's take on the idea. As for me,I hate it when I buy a book and it leaves me with a cliffhanger ending that makes me wait six months to a year to find the answers to. I tend to wait until a series is completed before I buy it for that very reason. Series that I enjoy most tend to have books that could stand alone, but are bound together by location, or loose ties, such as a minor character in book one who becomes a major character in book two. I don't like it when the antagonist of one book becomes the hero of another. I've already decided to dislike the antagonist in book one, and I don't want to change my opinion for book two.

I started 'composting' the characters for the next novel. This one's going to take a lot of research, but I look forward to it.