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:

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.

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


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 and through Amazon at .

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.


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 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:
The author's website:

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

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


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


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 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 SUV. Can't you feel the love?

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

A delightful 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.
“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

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.