Friday, July 31, 2009

The Friday Five HAIR!

Every year, My buddy Georgiana posts a list of things you won't see her wearing at the ACFW Conference. In the same vein, I'm posting hairstyles you won't see me wearing at the conference. These are so bizarre! More than five, but enjoy!

Rhino Hair?

I could so do this one! But why would I?


For Heather, because she loves Giraffes.

Dumbo, anyone?

Trophy Buck!


Soft, like a bunny!

Seriously, WHY?

Grizzly hair or Grizzled hair?

Makes me want to throw it a fish.
So, any hairstyle tips for a conference?
Thanks to Pastor Kevin who sent me a couple of these and led to an internet hunt for the rest.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Death By Synopsis

So much work to do, and that counter keeps ticking down, down, down. So, the task of the day is to continue to fine-tune proposals. Tabitha asked yesterday about my process of writing a synopsis.

When I first started out writing, I was a complete SOTP writer, so writing a synopsis wasn't that hard. Write the book, then summarize what happened. :) Easy-peasy. Especially if using a chapter-by-chapter synopsis, which you need if you're going to sell to Barbour Heartsong. (Each publishing house is different. Some want a ch-by-ch synop. some want two pages, single-spaced, some want a ten page synopsis. Be sure to check the guidelines of the house you're targeting, and show the editor how well you can take direction by STICKING TO THE GUIDELINES. -- sorry about shouting, but this is important.)

After writing a few wandering first drafts that needed a lot of revision to be cohesive, I realized that I needed to be more deliberate about my writing, more efficient, and more focused. Enter the plot board and outline PRE-writing. This is more difficult for me, requiring a lot more linear thinking, and questioning. Instead of getting to know my characters in the first twenty to thirty pages of a novel, I am having to learn them up front.

So, my method of synopsis writing?

It involves a few steps, and moving forward, backward, sideways and all around these steps until I feel I have a solid story that hangs together before I ever start writing the story or the synopsis. Often these steps live in my head for awhile, and I do some preliminary research on the setting/occupation of the character, etc. There are a few basic things I need to know before I think about writing a synopsis for a story.

  • A hero. For some reason the hero usually comes first to me in a story. I like strong, stubborn men of principles. (who doesn't, right?)
  • A heroine. I try to decided who is the last person the hero would fall for, and create her as the perfect helpmeet for him once they settle their differences. After all, I write romance. :)
  • A setting. I like to use either places I've been, or places that I can easily research from my local library. I use the Internet for basic searches, but I prefer to have actual history books, travel guides, and biographies (and that extra gold mine of period newspapers) to work from. I write historicals, so setting is uber-important to me.
  • A crisis. Sometimes I take these from historical events. But it needs to be dangerous, compelling, and urgent. Life or death is always good. :)
I knead, pummel, and stretch these ideas, talking them out with my daughter, composting and turning them until I think they will mesh into an enjoyable story. Then out comes the plot board and the post-its. Things get worked and reworked as I plot the story. Then I write a synopsis. Actually, I write two.
I like to use the five paragraph essay as a framework for a synopsis for a proposal.
  • Paragraph 1: Give the setting, time period, title, overall tone of the book.
  • Paragraph 2: Introduce the main characters and what they want, why they want it, and why they can't have it.
  • Paragraph 3: Give the main obstacles to a happy ending. These are your major plot points. And this is where you mention that unique twist in the middle of the book that keeps your plot from fizzling into dampness halfway through the book.
  • Paragraph 4: The point of no return, all hope is lost, black moment of the book, and how the hero/heroine overcomes the impossible to save the day.
  • Paragraph 5: Bring home the spiritual lesson learned, the truth revealed, the happily-ever-after conclusion to the story.
This is a my synopsis in its simplest form, short, sweet, and containing all the elements an editor would like to know.
Then, for myself, I write out a second, working synopsis, using the post-its and plot board. I type out a rough, chapter-by-chapter synopsis to guide me as I write. With each scene I put in the working synopsis, I include the character's goal for the scene, the major conflict (and its source) and the story goal, just to make sure I stay on track with what I want to show in a scene. I've found lately that if I'm stuck on a scene, it's because I haven't loaded enough conflict into it.
So, how do you write a synopsis? Do you differentiate between a working synopsis and a proposal synopsis?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I've added a new widget to the blog. The countdown to when The Bartered Bride starts shipping from Squeeeeeee!
Also, don't forget to check out yesterday's interview with Stephanie Morrill if you missed it. She's giving away a copy of her debut novel, Me, Just Different to one commentor.
My current projects involve polishing up some proposals to take to the ACFW conference in just under 50 days. I've got a couple of editor meetings and want to have some fiction to pitch.
I've got three, maybe four proposals I want to get put together, which means a lot of sample chapters and a lot of synopses. Sigh.
I have such a difficult time making a synopsis sound as interesting as I want it to. I'm trying to be objective, to view the synopsis with fresh eyes and decide if I would think it warranted a further look by editorial eyes. However, objectivity doesn't come easily to me.
Also, I'm finding as I plot these new books, that I have a bit of a brand emerging, I think. Brand to me is one of those elusive things, like voice. I know it when I see it, but I'm not sure what all it consists of. What would a reader expect when he/she picked up my books? I'm finding some similarities emerging in the stories I plot that I think might be leading to a brand:
Action. Something has to be happening, and there is usually a rather action-packed climax to the story. Shipwrecks, boat races, cattle rustling, kidnapping, stage robbing, storms, mine cave-ins, avalanches, standoffs, and more. I love action.
Trust issues. My heroes and heroines seem to have trust issues with each other and with God. It usually takes losing something to make them realize how valuable it was. It makes me wonder if I have some trust issues of my own?
Strength. Strong heroes and heroines who are learning how to live with their faith and each other.
What do you think are some of the elements of your brand?
photo from flickr by nutmeg

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Stephanie Morrill - Me, Just Different - and a Free Book!

Today it is my honor and privilege to introduce you to Stephanie Morrill, friend, author, and all around cool person. Stephanie and I met at the Florida Christian Writer's Conference in 2006, and we've been friends ever since. And that Angela Hunt workshop she mentions? We sat side-by-side through it all, and I'd have to agree with her about it being instrumental in the road to publication.

Last summer, Stephanie signed a contract for three terrific books with Revell.

Here's a bit about the book, and about Stephanie:

Me, Just Different: Welcome to the world of Skylar Hoyt, a high school senior whose exotic Hawaiian looks have propelled her to the height of the "in" crowd, but who's no longer sure that's where she really fits. New friends, old friends, a reluctant romance, and a family crisis swirl around Skylar as she tries to keep it together and figure out who she really wants to be. Debut novelist Stephanie Morrill opens her first young adult series with a compelling story about characters every teen will recognize and relate to. Morrill addresses real teen issues, like popularity, friendship, sexuality, and more, with grace and style.

From the back cover: Getting a fresh start is harder than it looks. Skylar Hoyt is a girl who seems to have it all--she's pretty, popular, and has a great-looking boyfriend. Her senior year should be the best one yet. But a horrible experience at a summer party has changed everything. Now she's vowing to make better choices, including going back to church. But as
Skylar tries to gain new perspective on life, the world as she knows it begins to fall apart. Her parents are constantly fighting. Her younger sister has a big secret that Skylar is forced to keep. The guy she's dating is annoyingly jealous. And the new guy down the street is just plain annoying. In the midst of the chaos, Skylar starts to wonder who her real friends are and, even more importantly, who she is.
About the author: Stephanie Morrill is a twentysomething living in Kansas with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband and their daughter. She loves writing for teens because her high school years greatly impacted her adult life. That, and it's an excuse to keep playing her music really, really loud.

Stephanie and I had a little Q&A.

1. How are you most like Skylar?

Well, we both have hair. And eyes. Okay, just kidding, but Skylar and I have almost nothing in common. Especially in the first book of the series. Though, like Skylar, I spent a lot of high school trying to figure out what it meant to be a Christian and how to talk to my non-Christian friends about my faith.
2. How are you least like Skylar?

For starters, Skylar would totally roll her eyes at my dressing style (I'm a plain tee and jeans kind of gal). One of the fun things about writing Skylar was how confident she was about her looks, but not at all when it came to her "inside stuff." I've always been the opposite, unsure of my looks, but okay about who I am on the inside.
3. What surprises have you encountered since Me, Just Different was released?

The enthusiasm of my extended family, and that includes the extended family I married into. They are gung-ho about promoting Me, Just Different and a lot of the early success I'm seeing has to do with them chatting it up with their friends.
4. What is your greatest challenge as a writer these days?

Getting enough time at my computer. I have a 19-month-old daughter so my work time is mostly 30ish minutes in the morning before she wakes up and 2ish hours in the afternoon when she naps. I often struggle to balance blogging, e-mailing, marketing, and actual writing.
5. Which comes first for you, plot or character?

Usually character, though sometimes it's actually neither. Recently, I've had a few times where I think of an opening line, then build everything from there.
6. How do you turn an idea into a novel? What is your process?

After a lot of trial and error, I feel like this has become a fairly refined process for me. I get scraps of ideas all the time. A couple weeks ago, I got an idea when I was walking across the supermarket parking lot. It wasn't a full idea, just a bit of one. I racked my brain to see if it fit with any other ideas I'd had recently, but it didn't. All day I dwelled on it, asking myself questions like, "Okay, what are her parents like? How did she feel when this happened?" I wrote down what I could think of, but it was still wishy-washy at best. Then, a few days later, I got another idea that fit perfectly with that one. I now feel like I have enough to at least weave together a story.

What'll happen now, as soon as I wrap up the projects I've got in the works now, is I'll write the first draft. I'm so not a plotter. I've tried, and it just wastes my time. My first drafts always really stink. They're the bare bones of the story. When I do the first round of edits, it often feels more like a total rewrite. When I'm done with that, I read one more time for continuity/typos, then give it to my husband and writing partner to read. After I've applied their edits, I read it one more time, then turn it in to my agent.
7. Do you have a favorite craft book or workshop teacher?

Yes I do! I have three favorite craft books, Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and On Writing by Stephen King. As far as workshop teachers go, I took a fiction class from Angela Hunt that I LOVED. It was a key step to getting me published, I believe.
8. How do you balance being a mom, wife, and writer?

Uh, I don't know. How's that for an answer? McKenna is the priority. If I can help it, I never work when she's awake. I rarely even do e-mails. When McKenna takes her nap, I usually pop her milk in the fridge, then head down to my computer and work until she wakes up. Ben gets home from work around 5:30 and we spend that time as a family. When McKenna goes down, I'll usually take 30 to 45 minutes to get to a few e-mails, but for the most part I'm able to hang out with Ben at night. But that can vary. If I'm in a crunch, he's really good about letting me write a night or two. Somehow all the important stuff gets done. It's a God thing.

9. What were some of those milestones along the way that showed you things were going in the right direction in your writing career?

The first one that jumps out at me is when I went to the Florida Christian Writers Conference in early 2006. Everyone kept saying Christian YA wasn't selling, that it was an impossible genre to break into. But I left that conference with an award and a lead with a publishing house. Ultimately that lead didn't go anywhere, but I still felt encouraged that an editor had liked it.

After that, I got more comfortable with people reading my work, including other writers. Hearing positive feedback from them and also constructive criticism made me think, "It's not good enough ... yet." I knew I could get published, that it would just take a little more grit and determination.

When I went to the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in the fall of 2007, I had an amazing conversation with Natasha Kern. She really encouraged what I was doing, and even though I ended up with a different agent, I walked away from that conversation invigorated. Shortly after, I signed with my agent and the ball really got rolling.
10. What's next for you and for Skylar?
There are two more books in The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series. Book two, Out with the In Crowd release in January 2010. Skylar's committed to leading a new life, but her stupid old one won't get out of the way. Book three, So Over It, comes out in July 2010. She may or may not spend some time off the continent. (Sorry, I'm trying not to give away surprises in book two!)
Erica Here: Thank you, Stephanie, for stopping by OTWP. For the readers, Stephanie is graciously giving away a personalized copy to the winner of a drawing. Leave a comment here before 6 pm Central Time, July 31st, and you'll be entered to win. Be sure to leave a way for me to contact you in your comment. And once again, Thank you to Stephanie.
P.S. I'm really, really, really hoping someone finds a home for The Escape Route. I LOVE that book!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Summer field trips

This past week, my kids and I and my pastor's two youngest took a little summer field trip to Wisconsin. We went to the Paul Bunyan Logging Camp Museum and the Chippewa Valley Historical Museum.
We had a blast! Joking about cheese, and Brett Favre, and going the wrong way to get off an island.
Highlights included mugging as Paul Bunyan and his blue ox Babe, and dressing up as nurses, aviators, and crossing guards. We learned about logging camps, log jams, and traveling dandruff. (ICK!)
On the way home we stopped at LARK toys in Kellogg, MN. Here we had ice cream, rode the carousel, looked at a bazillion toys, games, and puzzles, then played a round of mini-golf. (Where I came in second!)
I love going to small museums in out of the way places. I love local history, and I love introducing my kids (and their friends) to the cool things of the past all around us. I also love it when a group of teens finds out that they're not too cool to have a good time. :)
The picture is of Jonathan, James, Heather, and Elizabeth, great kids all, dancing (boogeying) to some polka music in the Chippewa Valley Museum.
So, what's in your backyard? A local attraction? Something silly and fun? A place to make great memories?

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Friday...Eight?

Thank you to Jill Kemerer, for awarding me the Honest Scrap award. The rules are simple:
So the rules of the Honest Scrap award are to reveal Eight Honest Things about me.
1. I love to watch sports on tv. Any sport except wrestling or boxing. I think it's as much about the individual languages of the sport, like hogline, sweeper, hammer, oxer, liverpool, aero-loose, bump draft, weak-side blitz, off-side, forecheck, crease, etc. (That covered curling, show jumping, stock car racing, football, and hockey.) as it is about the competition itself.
2. It takes all day for my hair to dry, it's so thick and curly.
3. When I was a teen, I wanted to be a nurse. Then I wanted to be a teacher. Never was a nurse, but teacher I got. :)
4. I keep a Tide To Go pen in my purse because I'm famous for dropping something down my front when I go out to eat.
5. The first car I drove was a Ford Galaxy 500, so big it needed an anchor to slow it down. It was turquoise and had an engine bigger than my dining room table.
6. I love red geraniums.
7. I love bic crystal pens. They are the only kind I use. Blue, not black.
8. I love my church, Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church. We really are a family, and our goal is to shine the glory and love of Jesus to those around us. I don't always accomplish this, but I'm trying.
So my nominees for the Honest Scrap Award are:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thank you, Sherrinda! A Blog Award

Thank you to Sherrinda, for awarding On The Write Path the Superior Scribbler Award. I'm so honored! So here are the rules of the award:

1. Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.

2. Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.

3. Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.

4. Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we’ll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!

5. Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

So, Passing this award along to five blogs that I really enjoy reading (this is going to be hard because I read so many blogs each day, and I enjoy each and every one.)

1. Georgiana D's blog. So much fun, and so much like her.

2. Writer-at-Large, Betsy St. Amant's blog.

3. The Compost Heap, CJ's blog.

4. Carla's Writing Cafe, Carla Stewart's blog.

5. A Cluttered Mind, Pastor Kevin's blog.

I have a long list of links on the left that I read every day, so choosing only five was really hard. Thank you to all of you whose blogs I read. You're all winners to me!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Guest Blogger Mary Connealy

A big howdy to Mary Connealy, my good friend (and who I want to be when I grow up.) A couple weeks ago, I blogged about Mary's fantastic trio of mysteries: Nosy in Nebraska. And about phobias in our writing. It struck a chord with some of you readers, and I thought it might be fun to have Mary here to talk about writing phobias and character quirks. So, welcome, Mary!

My Personal Phobias and Quirks Finally Have a Purpose

I’m a writer of Western Romance. But I’ve been moonlighting, too.
I wrote three cozy mysteries for my publisher and they released in June, titled Nosy in Nebraska. For these three books I plunged head first into ‘Write What You Know’.
Book #1 Of Mice. . .and Murder has a heroine terrified of mice.
Book #2 Pride and Pestilence has a heroine who is a shy, insomniac bookworm.
Book #3 The Miceman Cometh has a heroine who is a complete klutz.

Okay that’s allllllllll me.
I am terrified of mice.

Just because I’m bringing this misunderstood phobia out of the shadows, does not mean I should be mocked.

Some may read Of Mice…and Murder and see the humor, mystery and drama. But for those of us who are musophobes (look it up, I can’t do EVERYTHING for you) this is an intense, life and death struggle.

You know, I decided at a very young age (too young to be deciding anything) while pondering eternal things like heaven and … well…NOT heaven—to avoid a four letter word.

I gave considerable thought to whether instead of eternal darkness, or a lake of fire, I might possibly end up in a room full of mice.

God knows each of us. God knows what our definition of—NOT heaven—might be.

The worst of that youthful pondering was the horrifying thought that maybe, since we’re talking having eternity to adjust, I might actually get so I didn’t mind being in a room full of mice.

That makes me really sad.

But I’ve made my peace with God and accepted Jesus as my personal savior, mice being the least of that decision, so I don’t dwell on—NOT heaven—that much anymore.

In Of Mice…and Murder my heroine Carrie is afraid of mice. Nothing else. She’s a very brave woman in nearly all other ways…except mice…….EEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!

In book two of the Maxie Mouse Mystery Series, Pride and Pestilence, my heroine is a shy insomniac bookworm. Hello, borrowing from my life again!

Yes, I am a shy, insomniac bookworm, musophobe, klutz. My life between the pages of a book. And yes, when I meet people they inevitably say, “You’re not shy.”

But my shyness is all internal. I know how to behave myself in public, but inside I’m a squirming, twitching, overly sensitive, lunatic. All my reactions are--Go home, go pull the covers over my head, better yet, GO WRITE. Have both sides of the conversation myself. Create COOL tough, bold women. Exactly NOT like me.

Or read books with those same cool, tough, bold women. Now THAT’S living. Or maybe pretend living, but if I pretend well enough, who’s gonna complain???

And it’s all set in small town Nebraska. Now THAT’S me. That’s the world I know.

So get a peek of Mary-the-Lunatic within the pages of the Maxie Mouse Mysteries, and a really nice, if somewhat exaggerated, look at life in a small Nebraska town.

The best thing and the worst thing about a small town is the same thing.
Everybody knows.

If you need help, have a death, lose a job, are sick or injured, everybody knows. They’re at your door with food and lawnmowers and company and even cash.

If you mess up, humiliate yourself, get caught in some outrageous act (you ALWAYS get caught) everybody knows.
Taking a break from cowboys for one book.
Welcome to Melnik, Nebraska
There is no escape.

Erica Here: Mary, I love Melnik, Nebraska! What a delightful cast of odd-ball characters you've surrounded your heroines with. (You'll notice that I did NOT say the heroines were odd-ball.) Thank you for sharing about your phobias and how you used them to create characters that are memorable, delighful, and relatable.

If you've not read any of Mary Connealy's work, hie thee to the bookstore or and snap some up. You won't be disappointed!

Other books Mary has coming out now and in the near future are:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Where is the starting line?

Okay, so I'm at the start of plotting a new series of stories to pitch at the ACFW Conference, and it occurs to me, after practically bathing in craft books, that I've created a quandry for myself.
I think I might have been educated beyond my intelligence!
Where do I start? Characters? Plot? Setting? How do I go deeper, put in more layers, symbols, arcs, subplots, subtexts, tension, moral premises, and so forth? Names? GMC? Backstory? I'm trying to create a bigger story, writing a better novel than any I've turned out before.
I'm swimming in options. It's time to start choosing from the options and narrowing the focus of the story. I just finished reading The Moral Premise by Dr. Stanley Williams. Man, I felt like a mental midget when I finished that book. I think I understand what he's saying, and I'm anxious to apply it, but the first half of the book, where he was discussing the moral premises of everything from Socrates to Seinfeld (Seriously!) I was barely keeping my nose above water.
So, I've got this US Cavalry officer, and this spinster nurse, and we'll see what happens when I give the story a moral premise.
Behaving with dishonor brings guilt, regret, and loss, but behaving with honor brings inner peace, contentment, and a sense of self-worth.
This is what I've come up with so far, after some soul searching and hashing over of philosophy with my DH. It might need some fine-tuning, but at least it's a start.
Where do you start with a new story? And have you ever read a new craft book and felt way out of your depth???
I'm going to go read GMC again. THAT one I get!
Photo from Flickr by Rennett Stowe

Monday, July 20, 2009

Wisconsin Christian Writer's Conference

Today's guest blogger is Lisa Lickel who will be telling us more about the Wisconsin Christian Writer's Conference where I am blessed to be teaching one of the workshops--Ginger or Mary Ann? How writers are like the characters of Gilligan's Island.

Who wants to be an author?
You do? Great!
Join me, Jaime Sundsmo, Erica Vetsch, Andrea Boeshaar, and Michelle Van Loon – with a host of others – for the latest and wildest reality show ever – “Who Wants to Be An Author”
Premiering in one unique place for one day only!

Thank you, Erica, for the opportunity to be your guest today, and announce the upcoming Writer’s Connect workshop planned for October 17, 2009, in Baraboo, Wisconsin. If you’re a Midwesterner who can’t make it to Denver for the ACFW convention this year, perhaps you’ll consider spending the weekend in Baraboo. It should be prime time color season, not to mention close proximity to some of the best, unique fun Wisconsin has to offer. And at $25 for the day, 9 AM to 4 PM, including lunch and door prizes, you can afford both Denver and Baraboo!

It’s been a few years since Wisconsin and other Midwest authors have had the opportunity to connect, so I hope we’ll return to regular get-togethers, and maybe even begin a Wisconsin ACFW chapter, as well as new writer’s and reading clubs.

To get away from the traditional key-note speaker, we’re starting off with a unique treat – yep – a reality show for wanna-be writers. More fun than a—well, I don’t want to give it away, but we’ll all hopefully learn something about the business, besides enjoying the opportunity to “vote” a new author onto the scene.

Jaime Sundsmo has put up a special website, that will answer most of your questions. Payment options, directions to the conference site, and local lodging venues are included.

Connect: A big part of our time together will be devoted to making connections. We’ve been approached about possibly starting an ACFW chapter in Wisconsin, and if there are people interested, we’ll make sure you have the information needed, and perhaps even the dues seed money, to start up. Book tables are a great way to connect with some of your favorite Midwest authors. You’ll have time during the day to chat and check out merchandise. I’m not sure at this point whether we’ll have the ability to take your credit cards, so plan accordingly, please.

Workshops: Besides those important connections, the bulk of the day will be devoted to learning and sharing and growing in our craft. The list of available workshops may still grow, so check in often. So far, we’re catering to both new writers as well as experienced ones with such offerings as:

Part 1: Steps to Publication - Andrea Boeshaar
Part 2: Steps to Publication - Andrea Boeshaar
Help, I'm Stuck! - Lisa Lickel
Nuts & Bolts of Submission - Lisa Lickel (Beginners)
Pitch to Me - Practice your verbal pitching in a non-threatening situation!
Ginger or MaryAnn? - how writers are like the characters of Gilligan's Island - Erica Vetsch
Writing your Story, Telling His - Michelle Van Loon
Discovering Your Writer's voice - Michelle Van Loon

Choosing early will let us know best how to meet your expectations. We’re also willing to entertain suggestions and, leader available, create the workshop that will help out most.

When I began writing professionally several years ago, the first writer’s gathering I attended was Wisconsin Christian Writers, hosted by Andrea. My eyes were opened to the possibilities of the writing career, and I was awed to meet wonderful writers like Linda Wichman, Kathryn Springer, Becky Melby, and Andrea, just to mention a few. I had no idea what I was getting in to, but I haven’t stopped. I have since attended other conferences and developed some wonderful friendships and I encourage you, too, to keep meeting other writers and professionals face to face.

Feel free to contact me for more information.

Which leads me to tell you a little more about me and why you should even consider asking me anything. Very briefly, I’m a Wisconsin native who got into the writing game after seeing an ad for the Christian Writers Guild in Today’s Christian Woman magazine while on my lunch hour as a church secretary. I signed up for the apprentice course and began selling my work before I finished. Since 2004 I’ve sold numerous magazine articles to my national church magazine and even one to Writer’s Digest, been a local features writer for a couple of newspapers, sold some devotionals, had a couple of radio theater plays produced, and sold two novels. If I tilt my head back, I can stick my nose out of the water while standing on the iceberg of ignorance. But I delight in sharing what I have learned so far. One of the most important ways is through meeting others who share a passion for language – for communication – for entertainment – for teaching and growing. You’ll find that I’m pretty blunt about my writing journey at my blog, where I share interviews and tips and updates about where I’m at on the path. I’ve been pulled kicking and screaming into social networking, although I’m holding out on twitter so far. This year I’m learning to market myself, although I’ve decided it’s okay to hate it. I walked cold into a bookstore the other day and left my poor little media packet and a copy of my novels for the owner – a very big step for me.

Whether or not you can attend the conference, I’d love to chat more with you.

Thank you, again, Erica, for this chance to meet your readers. My very best wishes for you and your writing journey, and I’m excited to meet you in person in October.

Lisa Lickel
Erica Here: I'm really looking forward to this conference, meeting people, teaching a workshop, and spending the day with folks who write fiction. If you can squeeze it into your schedule, you can't beat the price, and you'll have a great time.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Friday Five

I have a friend who is using The FlyLady system to get her house company clean. She started out slow, and is now almost through the fluttering stage to the flying stage. She's got one more room to reclaim from CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome.)
So, I was thinking about my own house. Admittedly, I'm not the world's greatest housekeeper. There's not a lot of clutter (unless you count my husband's side of the desk - but that's HIS problem) but I don't make a fetish of housekeeping. Company can drop in at any time, but they might find a basket of laundry in the living room waiting to be folded, or that my dining room floor needs swept.
This past year, in order to keep abreast of the housekeeping tasks while juggling several other jobs, I decided to deep clean one closet or hidden area a month.
So, today's Friday Five is:
Five things you'll find in my closets.
1. Puzzles and Games. I have a whole closet devoted to this. It was originally going to be a coat closet, but we've found it much handier to toss coats on the balustrade when folks come in.
2. SHOES. I've got a boatload of shoes in my bedroom closet. Shoes for all seasons. Black, brown, blue, and my favorite Red. :)
3. A pet carrier. I bought the smallest size pet carrier because I have a small cat. I should've bought a bigger one, as there would be more room to get her into the box (she resists this procedure) and when folks who have larger cats want to borrow it, it would work better for them.
4. My wedding dress. My mother made my wedding dress. It's so pretty.
5. Christmas ornaments. I have several boxes of Christmas decorations.
Soooo, what's in your closet?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sally Bradley - Affordable Novel Critique Service

Here's a rare opportunity! My friend Sally Bradley (whom I like in spite of the fact that I'm a Cubs fan and she's a devotee of that OTHER Chicago baseball team...;) ) is giving away a free 10 page critique to some lucky contestant.

Seriously. A FREE 10 page critique by an expert fiction editor.

Here's a little about Sally:

Sally Bradley has worked for two Christian publishers, writing sales and marketing materials, sorting through the slush pile, and proofreading and editing fiction. She has a BA in English and a love for perfecting novels, whether it's her own work or the work of others. Sally is a judge in fiction-writing contests and is a member of ACFW, The Christian PEN (Proofreaders and Editors Network), and the Christian Editor Network. She's a work-at-home mother of three and is married to a pastor who moonlights as a small-town cop. Working with fiction, particularly Christian fiction, combines her love of stories with her desire to help others grow closer to God.

To check some references about Sally and her work, click HERE.

And how does one sign up for a chance at a free critique? Click HERE.

The deadline is midnight tonight, so hurry!

And, coming next month on Sally's site, a WICKED COOL new Fiction Reading Contest. Stay tuned for more details.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Talk about the Weather

Okay, let's talk about the weather. What's it like where you are?

I realized while I was writing on Monday, that in my storyworld, the weather had been pleasant and sunny every day.


So I cooked up a storm to add to the conflict. It's so easy to forget about the weather when writing. It's one of those things I have to go back in and mention/layer/use when I edit.

So, what's the weather like in your WIP?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Hitting my stride?

Yesterday we woke up to no water in the house. Something had gone awry with the well, the pump, or something techinical like that. Well company came out, took a looksee.
Rather than stay in a house with no water while they fixed the issue, I packed things up and headed to Caribou Coffee. When I stepped inside, I inhaled the wonderful aromas. And the barrista had my Earl Grey ready before I even stepped up to the counter. Made me think of the theme song from Cheers, "Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your na-a-ame...." (You're singing it in your head right now, aren't you?)
I wrote 1000 words on Lily. And because I sensed I was getting stuck on the plot, I did what any good writer of westerns does. I shot somebody! :) Plot ideas came rolling thick and fast then. And I've realized anew that in order to really stimulate my creative juices, I need to up the conflict. If I'm blocked, it's because things aren't bad enough for my characters.
How do you hit your stride with writing? Is there a sure-fire way to make the words flow faster?
Also, have you heard of the Wisconsin Christian Writer's Conference? A one day conference in central Wisconsin. And all for 25 bucks! You can't beat that. Watch this space for more information in the coming days. :)

Monday, July 13, 2009

A stress-free day

Isn't she beautiful? This past Saturday, my family and I went to the MN Zoo. We were celebrating the girl's birthday a little late this year. When I asked her this past spring what she wanted to do for her birthday, she said "Go to the MN Zoo." Easy enough. I'm so glad she's easy to please and not at all demanding of unrealistic gifts and attention. (Okay, brag over -- for now.)
As happens often in our experience, the expense made us blink. It was nearly 70 dollars for our family of four to get day passes to the zoo. For an additional 25 dollars, we could become members of the zoo for one year. So that's what we did. Now, as members of the zoo, we can come as often as we like for the next year. Which will be nice. There are many exhibits indoors at the MN Zoo, so we can come in the dead of winter when crowds are fewer, and see the animals. And trust me, the tigers are way easier to see when there is snow down than when the grass is waist high in their multi-acre exhibit.
The highlight of the day for me, among many great moments, was getting to feed a giraffe. A once in a lifetime experience. Heather's favorite animal of all time is the giraffe, and she got close enough to get licked by that spotted skyscraper. Me too!
All in all, it was a wonderful, stress-free day. Peter took a zillion pictures with his new camera, and the kids and I walked (A LOT! It's a sprawling zoo.) and looked and people watched and got THIS CLOSE to a bull moose.
On the writing front, I mulled over a story idea set in a zoo. (How could I help it?) And I'm all finished with the read-through edits for Lily and the Lawman and am ready to put new words on starting today.
How about you? What'd you do this weekend, and what are the plans this week?

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Friday Five

Today I'm guest blogging over at Seekerville. I hope you'll jog on over to Seekerville and check it out.

The title of the blog post is "What to Expect When You're Expecting." It's about the limbo-land between contract and publication.

But it did remind me of the need for a Friday Five. So, today is Five things that Happened to Me when I was Pregnant with My First Child. (The first picture is of my baby girl at 2 years old. The second is of my baby girl at age 11. She turned 17 last week. Sigh)

1. I craved Oranges. A. Lot. Of. Oranges. I asked the doctor if there was anything in oranges that would hurt my unborn baby. He said "No." and gave me a strange look. Then "how many oranges are we talking?"

"Six, maybe more a day. One at each meal and one for a snack in between each meal."

He laughed and said "Be glad it's oranges. For some women it's Snickers bars."

I thought Heather was going to be born with a peel on her head. :)

2. Morning sickness. EW. Had it.

3. My husband started practicing his dad jokes -- you know, the ones that are so bad you have to groan, then laugh because dad thinks he's so funny? Peter practiced his dad jokes for months before Heather was born.

4. The smaller the infant is, the more STUFF they need. Crib, changing table, baby clothes, diapers, pacifiers, diaper bags, toys, travel crib, stroller, car seat, high chair, walker, etc. The list of stuff to get before the baby arrived was tyrranizing.

5. fun. Swell up like the Michelin Tire Man, go to hospital where doctors frown and look at monitors and take blood pressures, then suddenly decide to race down the hall for an emergency C-section.

How about you? Anything interesting happen when you were expecting your first?

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Heading for Construction

One of my goals for this year, one that I didn't post on the monthly goal list, is to get a website up and running, one that this blog will link to and from.
That means decisions. I have a webmistress working with me. (Waving to CJ.)
We're talking about colors, layout, written copy, links, text boxes, photos, cover art, photoshop, etc. Pages, static or scrolling, html, keywords, goes on and on. Fortunately, she knows what she's doing. :D
She's currently giving one of her websites a makeover. You can check it out at
So, in this information gathering stage, do you have some favorite author websites that might give me some ideas? I've already found some things I like and some I don't.
My likes:
Buttons that say what they are for and are easy to find.
Pretty colors
Not much clutter
My Dislikes:
I don't like anything that follows my cursor around like a row of bumble bees or hearts
Visual clutter
having to scroll forever to find any links or buttons
What do you like in a site, and what don't you like?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Phobias in our reading

I'm reading Nosy in Nebraska, a collection of three Maxie the Mouse Mysteries by Mary Connealy.
The first in the series, Of Mice and Murder, has a heroine who is out of her mind scared of mice. So of course, she must live in a rodent-infested mansion.
And the hero just happens to be a guy who can catch a mouse when he has to.
Which got me to thinking about phobias in characters. I mean, we all have at least one phobia. What are you afraid of? Public speaking? Heights? Spiders? Going bald?
What phobias do your characters have? How can you use a fear to deepen your character and how can you use that phobia to show strength of purpose to overcome it? How can you force your character to deal with the fear?
In The Marriage Masquerade, (coming in January 10) my hero, Noah, wants to flee the guilt he feels because he captained a ship that wrecked and killed several seamen. So of course, I put him in a position where he has to choose to captain a ship or allow another man to die. His phobia about being responsible for seamen aboard a ship haunts him until he must act on it.
Anyone have any examples, either from literature or from you own WIPs?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn

This month's cycle of Love Inspired Suspense has quite a few of my friends featured. Camy Tang's newest release (that I'll be blogging about in a about a month's time...I'm at the tail end of her blog tour.) Jill Elizabeth Nelson, fellow Minnesotan and the author of the To Catch a Thief series, and Liz Johnson, publishing house publicist.

Today, I'd like to spotlight Liz Johnson's debut novel, The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn.

ABOUT THE BOOK: Myles Parsons is just another inmate in Kenzie Thorn’s GED course until he kidnaps her, offering only a feeble explanation–that he’s actually FBI Special Agent Myles Borden. Terrified, Kenzie doesn’t want to believe his story of being undercover to protect her. Moreover, she can’t believe that someone might really want her dead.
But just when Myles thinks he has her out of harm’s way, his plans start to fall apart. He attempts to take Kenzie to a safe house—but the stubborn woman won’t go! So together they must uncover the clues that will reveal a most shocking perpetrator. All the while Myles tries to keep his distance from Kenzie … but finds himself falling in love.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Liz Johnson grew up reading Christian fiction, and always dreamed of being part of the publishing industry. After graduating from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff with a degree in public relations, she set out to fulfill her dream. In 2006 she got her wish when she accepted a publicity position at a major trade book publisher. While working as a publicist in the industry, she decided to pursue her other dream-becoming an author. Along the way to having her novel published, she completed the Christian Writers Guild apprentice course and wrote articles for several magazines.
Liz lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she enjoys theater, ice skating, volunteering in her church's bookstore and making frequent trips to Arizona to dote on her nephew and three nieces. She loves stories of true love with happy endings. The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn is her first novel. Keep up with Liz's adventures in writing at
MY REVIEW: This book pulled me in from the beginning, with a fresh set up, and fast-paced action. The heroine is idealistic but realistic too. Her GED program is noble and daring, but she' s no ideological bleeding heart. The hero, Miles, is suitably swoony, and Kenzie is more than a match for him. I enjoyed their chemistry, as well as the twisty plot. A quick, enjoyable read all around.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Ready, Set, WRITE!

Bookwork's done for the day, blogs read, emails caught up, lists made, breakfast eaten.
It's now time to write. Or in my case read and tweak.
I need to set a new agenda, a new normal. For the past several months, I've only been able to write when I'm not at home. But that needs to change. I need to be able to write here instead of at the library, coffee shop, or Panera.
So I'm buckling down, diving in, gearing up...whatever.
I'll try to post my progress later today.
Are you writing today? Care to post your progress later?

Friday, July 03, 2009

The Friday Five - With Betsy!

Today I have the honor of hosting Betsy St. Amant!

This week marks the debut of Betsy's Love Inspired title Return To Love.

Back cover copy: "I'm not the man I used to be!" - if only Gracie Broussard could believe that. Years ago, Carter Alexander broke her heart and betrayed her. Now, just when she needs him most, he's back -- asking her to believe he's changed. But this time, its not just Gracie who'll be hurt if he disappears. A penguin keeper, Gracie urgently needs to find a new home for her beloved birds. Carter is the only one who can help. He promises that she can trust him, that he's not the rebel he once was. And that he needs Gracie as much as her birds do.

About the Author: Betsy St. Amant lives in Louisiana and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. Her contemporary romance RETURN TO LOVE is under contract with Steeple Hill Love Inspired for a July 2009 release, and the sequel A VALENTINE’S WISH is contracted for a February 2010 release. Betsy has also been published in the Christian Communicator magazine and Praise Reports: Inspiring Real Life Stories of How God Answers Prayer. One of her short stories, Kickboxing or Chocolate, appears in a Tyndale compilation book, and she is also multi-published through The Wild Rose Press. Betsy has a B.A. in Christian Communications and regularly contributes articles to Betsy is a wife, author, new mother, and avid reader who enjoys sharing the wonders of God’s grace through her stories.
You can visit Betsy on the web at:
If you'd like to purchase Return To Love, click HERE.
I've known Betsy for a couple of years. I was so excited when she got her first book, Midnight Angel, published, and when she signed with her agent. And then came the fabulous news that she'd signed with Steeple Hill's Love Inspired line. Celebrations galore! Then there was the news of her baby girl's birth and all the exciting things that have come along since. Betsy has a heart for the Lord, for writing, and for shoes!
Because it's Friday, I asked Betsy if she would post a Friday Five for us. So without further ado...HERE'S BETSY!

Here is my Friday Five, in honor of the setting of my release!!!

Five Things That Have Happened To Me In New Orleans (over various trips of my life)

1. Sang with my youth choir in front of Jackson Square and attempted witnessing to a pyschic at their booth in front of the Cathedral.
2. Shared ONE hotel room with my parents and my boyfriend! (haha, memories!)
3. Watched the penguin feeding time at the Aquarium of the American, and touched a baby shark.
4. Ate a beignet from Cafe Dumond and had white powder sucked up my nose.
5.Was proposed to on the back of the Steamboat Natchez (hence the reason my parents were on the trip with us - chaperones, so he could propose and spend a fun weekend with me! They came along and were in on all of it! Good times.)

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Routines and Goals

Routine. According to this word can mean:

-- a customary or regular course of procedure.

-- commonplace tasks, chores, or duties as must be done regularly or at specified intervals; typical or everyday activity

This morning I'm trying to get back into my routine. Actually, I'm trying to forge a new routine. Those customary procedures and commonplace tasks that were routine last week are no longer routine.

Since today is July 2nd, I thought I'd outline my goals for July.

1. Finish Lily and the Lawman, the writing and editing. This past month has played havoc with my writing. This afternoon I hope to re-read the first 40K words of Lily and the Lawman and get back into the groove, remind myself where I was in the story, and where I'm going.

2. Complete whatever edits on pending books with Heartsong as may arrive this month. There are several books in the pipeline in various stages of edits. When one hits my inbox, it becomes the priority until it is returned. Content edits, copy edits, galley edits.

3. Piece together two proposals, one for another Heartsong series, and one for a trade-length series. I have an idea for each. It's a matter of fleshing those ideas out and getting proposal packages together before September's ACFW conference.

4. Begin work on Maggie and the Maverick. I'm really looking forward to this story. The hero, Cal, is a favorite of mine. The story is in my head, but it's time to get it onto the plot board and onto the page.

5. Attend ACFW Denver. The counter continues to click down. Less than three months. This will be my third ACFW conference, and I'm surprised at how much I'm looking forward to it each year. I can't wait to see people, attend workshops and appointments, and soak up the worship. Still need to decide if I'm flying or driving. Should decide that soon, huh?

6. Finish up my responsibilities regarding the ACFW Genesis Contest for 2009. The final round scores are trickling in. As soon as the last scores are received, I'll tabulate them and get them sent off to Camy Tang.

7. Enjoy some summertime activities with the family. We'll be making some day-trips to see local sites, and hopefully taking a bit of a family vacation. The options are open right now: A trip to Chicago to bask in the museum air there, a circular route of Lake Superior to enjoy the rugged coast and the isolated lighthouses, or a drive across South Dakota to see Mt. Rushmore, the badlands, the black hills and the frontier forts along the way.

How are you doing on your summer goals?