Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Today is the last day to get in your entry for the Genesis contest. If you're still on the fence with whether to enter or not, here are some benefits you will get from entering the ACFW Genesis contest:
1. Experienced judges--THREE-- in the first round who will give honest feedback motivated by the desire to help writers better their craft.
2. If you final, you have THREE, count em THREE agents or editors as your judges in the second round. The best in the industry will be reading and evaluating your entry. How cool is that??
3. The chance to form friendships with the other entrants. I've made some wonderful friendships in the Genesis contests I've entered. You get a chance to pray for your fellow contestants and meet some new people.
So what are you waiting for? Get your entry in before the deadline at Midnight tonight!

Monday, March 30, 2009

I have a crush

Okay, I admit it. I am a fickle woman. You see, I've developed a bit of a schoolgirl crush on my hero. (Disclaimer here: I am deeply in love with my husband and no one holds a candle to him in any way, shape, or form. He is the only man for me ever!) That being said, I figure if I'm not a little stuck on my hero, no reader will ever be. Guess that explains why there is a little bit of my dear husband in each of my leading men.
I'm fickle though because I tend to have a crush on each of my heroes in turn. Two months ago it was an ambitious shipbuilder engaged to the wrong girl, four months before that it was a cowboy out to pay a debt and running from his feelings for the boss's daughter, and now...a taciturn sheriff trailing bad guys and dodging his own feelings for a talkative little lady who has him acting like a love-sick bull calf.
And I'll admit it, there's a little of me in each of my heroines...or at least something that I WISH I was.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Friday Five

Five random questions.

1. Do you have socks on at the moment?

Yup, and shoes too. It's chilly!

2. Have you ever tripped over thin air!?

All too often.

3. What’s your favorite animal?

As a kid it was all about horses and dogs, but now I'd have to say my beloved cat.

4. What’s your favorite tree?

I like weeping willows. They look so gentle and sociable bending down to visit when you walk by.

5. What was the last thing you ate?

I had meatloaf, green beans, part of a baked potato, and some fruit salad for supper. And I just drank a mug of tea. :)

How about you? What are your answers?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cannibal Soup

These days one of the best ways I can relax is to do what I affectionately call "Making Cannibal Soup."

I run the water as hot as I can stand, get a book, a coconut-lime-verbena candle, some coconut-lime-verbena bubble bath (thanks, honey, for the Christmas gift) and escape to the relaxing world of bubble baths.

Of course, this is only when it's cold outside, which, considering that I live in Minnesota, gives me plenty of time for baths.

Reading books in the tub. Hmm...I remember when I first started doing this a few years ago. I was so nervous that I might drop the book in the water or splash a few drops on a page. It felt like I was doing something daring and dangerous, something my mom might have told me not to do when I was a kid.

But it doesn't really bother me anymore. Granted, I only read tub-books, those that are mine, not borrowed, not even from the library, and those that would be pretty easy to replace if I had to. Nothing old, limited edition, or signed. And I'm careful. Really. :)

How do you relax and get away from it all? Do you make cannibal soup? Do you go for a walk or surf the net or watch tv??

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Writer's Spaces

Here's a photo of my writing space. Though these days I spend less time writing there than doing bookwork or watching tv and hanging out with my family. The near desk chair is my husband's. For serious writing, I usually head to the coffee shop to get away from home distractions.

Check out this short video sent to me by Kevin S. (Pastor extraordinaire).

It's all about writer's offices.

How does your writer's space stack up? Are you a messy? Are you a neat freak? Are you somewhere in between? Is your writing space an office, a corner of your bedroom, wherever you happen to be with your laptop?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Three Things:

I lifted this from CJ's Blog.

3 Things

I am curious about you..Share


1. Erica

2. Ducky - it's a long story.

3. Mom


1. Bookkeeper

2. Novelist

3. Homeschool Mom


1. Salina, KS

2. Belton, MO

3. Rochester, MN


1. The Mentalist

2. Chuck

3. Survivor


1. Split Rock Lighthouse

2. The Gateway Arch

3. Tropicana Field - to watch the Rays play.


1. chocolate

2. ice cream

3. steak


1. School being out for the summer

2. Warmer weather

3. The Bartered Bride releasing this fall


1. Pookie, my cat

2. Rufus Rastus Justice Brown, a guppy

3. Mickey Alamucci Triumph Rose, a Brittany spaniel


1. hmmm

2. not

3. sure


1. Taylor Swift

2. Kenny Chesney

3. Third Day


1. Kansas Jayhawks Basketball

2. Minnesota Wild Hockey

3. Minnesota Vikings or Twins, can't decide


1. Diet Coke

2. Earl Grey Tea from Caribou

3. Diet Coke

Monday, March 23, 2009

Spinning Plates

Do you ever feel like you're an acrobat, spinning plates on sticks and praying something doesn't fall?
That's how I'm feeling these days. All these responsibilities, decisions, tasks, and issues spinning wildly, but if I take my eye off one of them for a minute...CRASH!
I'm thankful that my son has 15 more school days before he will be finished with seventh grade. That will be a major task done. He's done so well this year, making great progress with his learning and maturing before my very eyes.
As other family responsibilities ramp up and my regular jobs of writing and bookkeeping continue, I stand back and think, "I can't do this. I can't keep all these plates from hitting the floor."
And you know what? I can't. Not in my own strength. If I try to do this in my own power and understanding, I will fail--the plates will fall. I need to lean on Someone bigger and stronger than I am.
I have a polished slab of wood hanging on my dining room wall with a verse written on it. I pass this piece of wood every day. But just recently the words have hit home with me in a new and powerful way. I'm using it as the inspiration verse for Lily and the Lawman, and I'm using it in my own life.
Psalm 9:10 (New International Version)
10 Those who know your name will trust in you,
for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.
God has never forsaken those who seek Him. As I seek him through the challenges I face with my family and career, I know He will be there, worthy of my trust, ready to help me through.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Happy Dance, Happy Dance!

My friend Mary Connealy has been nominated for a CHRISTY AWARD! Her novel Calico Canyon is a finalist for a Christy Award for Historical Romance. I'm so excited. This is like being nominated for an Academy Award in Christian Fiction.

Congratulations, Mary, and all the nominees. This is just sooooooo cool!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Friday Five - Pick the Theme

Benjamin Franklin At twenty years of age, the will reigns; at thirty, the wit; and at forty, the judgment.

Helen Rowland What most persons consider as virtue, after the age of 40 is simply a loss of energy.

Anonymous At the age of twenty, we don't care what the world thinks of us; at thirty, we worry about what it is thinking of us; at forty, we discover that it wasn't thinking of us at all.

Arthur Schopenhauer The first forty years of life give us the text: the next thirty supply the commentary.

Helen Rowland Life begins on your 40th birthday. But so do fallen arches, rheumatism, faulty eyesight, and the tendency to tell a story to the same person, three or four times.

George Bernard Shaw Every man over forty is a scoundrel

Edward Young Be wise with speed; a fool at forty is a fool indeed.

French Proverb Forty is the old age of youth; fifty is the youth of old age.

Cicero This wine is forty years old. It certainly doesn't show its age. (Latin: Hoc vinum Falernum annorum quadragenta est. Bene aetatem fert.)

Colleen McCullough The lovely thing about being forty is that you can appreciate twenty-five-year-old men.

Lewis Carroll There are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents.

Maya Angelou When I passed forty I dropped pretense, 'cause men like women who got some sense.

Laura Randolph If life really begins on your 40th birthday, it's because that's when women finally get it… the guts to take back their lives.

James Thurber Women deserve to have more than twelve years between the ages of twenty eight and forty.

Samuel Beckett To think, when one is no longer young, when one is not yet old, that one is no longer young, that one is not yet old, that is perhaps something.

W B Pitkin Life begins at forty

The Madness Begins

It is here! It is here! It is here!

The Madness begins in earnest today. I love this time of year. The games, the Cinderellas, the buzzer beaters, the overtimes.

This year I've got my brackets printed out and my son and I will be marking the winners, moving them on to the next round. I've also joined Stinkin' Matt's Facebook Final Four bracket challenge. I picked quite a few upsets in the first round. My bracket pick setting was "Dangerous". If they only knew. :)

I don't know how anything could top last year's tournament, especially the final result (HEE HEE) since KU won. For a whole year my beloved Jayhawks have been the NCAA Men's Basketball reigning champs.

Writing production goes down a bit during the Madness. But I'll pick it up again once the tourney's over.

Do you watch the madness? Do you have a team you root for? Do you print your brackets and scream at the tv?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Not really a weigh in...

This isn't a weigh in per se, but it is a bit of an update. My mother-in-law is battling cancer, and in the past months we've spent time at the Mayo Clinic in the oncology department, the chemotherapy lab, and radiation departments. Everyone there has been so super.

One of the blessings in the midst of this storm has been the organization Join The Journey. This local organization is made up fo people whose lives have been touched by Breast Cancer. As a ministry to the visitors in the oncology department of the Mayo Clinic, they give gifts of grocery store and gas station gift cards, as well as hats/caps/scarves/bandanas etc. and support and literature.

Join the Journey has a fundraising and encouragement walk each year. They walk ten miles to raise money to provide these gifts to those going through the pain and desolation of cancer. I can't tell you how encouraged we have been by these simple gifts. Something to smile about, something to celebrate.

I had hoped to participate in the walk this year, but I will be out of town when the walk is held. But if you are in Rochester in September, consider joining in the walk. Consider a donation to Join the Journey or another cancer support group in your area to help breast cancer victims who are in the fight of their lives.

Last night, as a part of my own journey to better health, I walked a 5K on the treadmill.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Books, books, books

I just finished reading Sarah Graves's A Face at the Window, book 12 in the Home Repair is Homicide series.

It gets top marks from me. A page turner from first to last, it kept me reading in every spare minute (and a few that weren't so spare.) I finished the book in two days. (this was great fun, but a little sigh-inducing as I know it took her far longer to write the book than it did for me to read it. I realized that people could finish one of my books in a long afternoon...when it takes more than 100 hours to write and edit one.)

But back to Sarah Graves. Here's a list of the titles in this series. I think they're very clever.

1. The Dead Cat Bounce (It's a stockbroker/Wall Street term. The main character was a money trader in her old life before escaping to Eastport, Maine.)

2. Triple Witch

3. Wicked Fix

4. Repair to Her Grave

5. Wreck the Halls

6. Unhinged

7. Mallets Aforethought

8. Tool and Die

9. Nail Biter

10. Trap Door

11. The Book of Old Houses

12. A Face at the Window.

13. (This one is in the works now.)

I do miss the first person narrative of the heroine Jacobia Tiptree. In the first several books, the story took place all from her POV. The later books are multiple 3rd Person POV. I miss being in Jake's head all the time and seeing things from her pov while she solves the mystery.

If you're looking for a fun series of cozy mysteries, try the Home Repair is Homicide series by Sarah Graves. You can read an interview with her on Novel Journey HERE.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Fun stuff!

Here are the scrapbook pages assembled by Heather to illustrate the Brides of Money Creek Series. She created a series of pages for the Kennebrae Brides that you can view here. (And I got to help. We had such fun shopping for the paper and stickers and gizmos. And Heather is so creative. We don't have a lot of the gadgets and cutters and stuff that scrapbookers use, so we made do with her imagination and some glue.)

Book one in the series is Clara and the Cowboy. Since it is book one in a western series, she chose cowboy themed stickers and tone on tone background paper. Satin bows and soft pink flowers, lacey white hearts and old fashioned 'jewelry' represent Clara, the heroine who wants to love the hero, but he's standing in her way. Alec is represented in the gun, hat, boots, and in the rugged landscape of Southwest Idaho, the setting for the story. In the upper right corner is a quote from Emily Bronte. "Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same." Room for the book cover image is left open.
Book two is Lily and the Lawman (which I just started writing). Heather chose a dramatic burgundy to accent the text pieces. Lily is represented by the flowers and bows and jewelry. Baby Rose in the story is represented by the single pink rose near the center of the page. Trace, the hero is represented by the sheriff's badge, the hat, horseshoes and boots. Heather divided the page with a piece of burgundy ribbon and a string of hearts. The quote for this page is from Lao-Tzu. "Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength. Loving someone deeply gives you courage." There's a place for the book cover.
Book three in the series is Maggie and the Maverick. I love the brown ribbon and the buttons Heather strung along it. Little pairs of cowboy boots and turquoise stars with black splatters. Maggie is represented by the blue roses and the cameo, while Cal is found in the saddle, hat, boots, spur rowels and coiled rope. There's also a little hint about the storyline on the page. The saying chosen for this page is "Always and Forever." And, as always, there's room for a picture of the book cover.
I love the common themes she chose and how each page looks like it belongs together, but how each one is different too. Just like the series, I hope.
And Heather's optimism continues. She said there's room to expand the album when we use up the pages that came with it.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Friday Five

I'm spending time today at the coffee shop, starting Lily and the Lawman. So for today's Friday Five:
Five things that make for a good writing experience at the coffee shop.
1. Earl Grey tea. Preferable the Earl Grey at Caribou. MMMMmmmm.
2. An outlet to plug into. I don't mind working off battery, but the laptop screen is brighter when I'm hooked to an outlet.
3. Sturdy chair and a table that doesn't rock. And it can't be a hightop.
4. Friendly baristas who don't mind if you sip your tea and peck away at your laptop for hours.
5. Good company who also doesn't mind if you sip your tea and peck away at your laptop for hours. My kids are very patient and portable. They like taking school on the road and can amuse themselves for hours with books, homework, artwork, etc. Oh yeah, they also like the ladidahs from the bakery case...and hot chocolates. :)
So what makes a good coffee shop experience for you?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Confessions of a Reformed Writer...continued

Once I finish with the visual aide of the Plot Board, I transpose all my notes into a document. The format goes something like this:

  • Heroine's one paragraph description, hair, eyes, micro-backstory of who she is.
  • Heroine's GMC for External, Internal, and Spiritual goals.
  • Hero's one paragraph description, hair, eyes, etc.
  • Hero's GMC for external, internal, and spiritual goals.
  • Chapters divided into scenes. Paragraph summaries of each scene with a highlighted line in blue or pink to show whose POV the scene is in. And at the end of the summary paragraph I've listed the scene goals. Scene goals is a new aspect I'm trying. I want to make sure each scene accomplishes what I want and by analyzing it beforehand, I can better evaluate my success.

Here's an example of the GMC section for my heroine:

Lily Whitman:

Vitals: Age 20, blond hair, sea-green eyes, chatters a lot. One sister, Violet, (22) who is an unwed mother, one niece, Rose (6 mo.). Middle-class upbringing, basic schooling, wants to open a bakery with her sister. She’s younger than Violet, but she’s always taken the lead. She will provide for Violet and Rose, no men necessary.

Goals: External

1. Get baby Rose back from kidnappers.

2. Because she promised her sister Violet that she would care for the baby.

3. But she can’t get Rose back by herself. She must rely on Trace McConnell.

Goals: Internal

1. Steer clear of men and prove she can do things on her own.

2. Because the men in her life (Violet’s rat of a boyfriend and Lily’s father) have let them down again and again.

3. But she must rely on a man to help her get the baby back, finding it comforting and disturbing when Trace does and does not fit her stereotypes.

Goal: Spiritual – She needs to humble herself to ask for help when she needs it, both from God and from those He brings into her path.

As you can see I've used the Goal, Because, But format from Debra Dixon's GMC book which I HIGHLY recommend for every fiction writer.

I've given the character a Goal, then a reason why she wants it, and what stands in the way of her getting it. The essence of GMC.

Once I have these down, I start laying out the scenes. I color code the first few words of the scene description to fit the POV character.

I used this method for writing my NaNo novel and I was able to fly through the first draft of that book in 20 days. Granted this was during the insanity that is NaNo and I don't intend to push through Lily and the Lawman that quickly, but it sure was helpful to have that plan to go by. And the couple times during NaNo that I had a hard time getting words out it was when I'd veered off the plan I'd laid out before hand.

If there's one thing I've learned through this growth to plotting journey, it's that it is so much easier tweak a five page synopsis/overview/outline/scene list than it is to rewrite entire chapters.

This writing journey is just that--a journey. Methods change as I grow in my understanding of the merging of craft and creativity, method and imagination.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Confessions of a Reformed Writer...

Okay, now that I've cleared the decks of some other projects, namely turning in the ms for The Marriage Masquerade (almost three months early, yay!) and fixing something that I totally forgot at the end of Clara and the Cowboy, it's time to turn my attention to Lily and the Lawman.

And this involves a confession.

Hi, my name is Erica, and I'm a plotter.


I know!

I wrote six, count 'em SIX novels by the seat of my pants. A vague idea of where I was going with the story and who the people were, but that was it. Every day when I sat down to write it was an exploratory adventure. (Though the fifth novel was grounded in actual historical events that guided the plot. This novel was a learning experience in itself and gave me glimmers of the possibilities of plotting.)

Writing adventure drafts was fine because I was learning so much about writing through the process of finishing novels. Characterization, plotting, POV, show don't tell, and so much more. And no clue how to plot. I had dabbled with it before and it didn't work for me.

You see, when I had completed two novels, I took a look at plotting. The Snowflake Method, First Draft in 30 Days, Plot cards, I tried them all. And plotting the story seemed to suck all the fun out of writing, taking away that expectancy I felt when I sat down to write, that serendipity and whimsicality I loved when things took an unexpected turn. One of the things that I feared about plotting/outlining was being hemmed in by having written out the whole outline. What would happen if I veered off that plot? All my hard work would be for nothing.

At least that's what I told myself. The truth is, plotting was hard. Probably the hardest part of the entire writing process. And I'd rather just write and see what happened than do all that sweat-work up front. Getting the words on the page was difficult enough, why add to it with plotting?

But now, as I start my tenth novel, I've grown up. Not without resisting, but grown up none-the-less. (This isn't in any way suggesting that authors who write seat-of-the-pants are immature, I'm just saying my reasons for not plotting were immature. Writers are all different and at different places in their journey. If you're a SOTP writer, more power to you. I'm just journaling my own process here.) One of the things Heartsong wants when you query them is a chapter-by-chapter synopsis. But how could I do a chapter by chapter until I wrote the story and saw what happened?

Enter the Plot Board. This cool tool I found from reading the Seekerville blog. I've blogged about my own use of the plot board here. How cool was it to stumble across a plotting system that I could manage and get to use post-its at the same time? I admit it, I'm a post it freak.

By using a combination of ideas from lots of different plotting methods and using the plot board, I can now turn out a rough plot in an afternoon. It isn't perfect, but it's workable. And the amazing thing is, plotting by post it means changes are quick and practically painless. I can move things around, or if I decide I don't like the scene I've jotted down...well, it's just a post it note. Crumple it up and throw it away. The plot board is also a great way to see my whole story at a glance, visually evaluate how many POV scenes each character has, and check the pacing of the story.

After I've got the plot board filled up, I transcribe the information into a document. I'll share more about how that looks tomorrow.

Oh, and the quilt pattern in the picture above is called "Flying by the Seat of Your Pants."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

First College Tour

Last Thursday Heather and I went on Heather's first campus tour of a prospective college.

The picture at the left is of the entrance doors to Nazareth Hall at Northwestern College in St. Paul.

The tour was great, we saw the buildings, talked with financial aide, talked with admissions. The people were all very nice and the campus impressive.

One of the things that tickled Heather was that her name was put up on the inter office tv. Northwestern College welcomes Heather Vetsch.

She also got a Northwestern Eagles T-shirt.

We still have at least one more college to check out, but at the moment, she's leaning toward Northwestern.

Monday, March 09, 2009

A wonderful gift!

I'd like to announce a new sale.
JoAnne Simmons of Barbour Heartsong Presents
has purchased
The Brides of Money Creek Series!
I'm so thrilled. I received proposed release dates for these three books.
Clara and the Cowboy - April 2010
Lily and the Lawman - August 2010
Maggie and the Maverick - November 2010
(All titles are tentative, though I hope I get to keep them, because I really like them.)
I created a spreadsheet today to track contract dates, deadlines, and release dates, as well as dates for content edits, copy edits, galley edits, cover art sheets, and more.
I am so grateful to God for His blessings. I never could've imagined all this just a year ago. As my agent said, "What a difference a year makes."
God is good to me and so is my family. They are excited and willing to help in any way they can. And I'm so thankful for JoAnne and the team at Heartsong. I couldn't ask for better people to work with.
Now I need to get down to WORK!

Lights, Camera, Action!

Friday afternoon, with a beautiful sun shining (for the first time in several days,) the kids and I got to have some fun outside.

A photographer, Jonathan Chapman, arrived from Minneapolis with his assistant John to shoot some photos of the kids and I playing basketball out on the driveway.

What a fun experience. Jonathan and John were great to work with, and we had a very good time. I can't wait to see the pictures, though I got a couple quick peeks on the display on the camera. Enough to know that Jonathan is a very good photographer. I highly recommend him and his work.

Why did we want photos of the kids and me playing basketball? Well, it's a pretty cool God-thing. A few weeks ago I got an email from my friend Carla Stewart. Carla writes articles for Guideposts Magazine from time to time. It seems they were looking for a story about someone with diabetes, something inspirational and that might give readers hope that a disease like diabetes can have postitive effects on your relationships with friends, family, and faith. And sweet Carla, even in the midst of all her amazing, life-changing career news of getting her first contract, thought of me.

In a series of email and phone interviews with both Carla and Rick Hamlin, a Guideposts editor in New York, they shaped a story describing the last 10 months of my life since being diagnosed with diabetes.

The story will run in the June, 2009 edition of Guideposts Magazine. Isn't that amazing???

Friday, March 06, 2009

The Friday Five

Last night Heather and I attended a lecture-presentation at the James J. Hill house entitled:

The Diaries of Mary T. Hill.

It was a great time. So here are five things I learned yesterday.

1. Mary Hill had a great sense of humor and a deep love for her family. Though not overly wordy, she had some pithy comments about people's behavior that made me laugh.

2. Teenagers are not clamoring to attend lectures put on by the Minnesota Historical Society. Heather was the only teenager there. One couple looked to be late twenties or early thirties, and then I was probably the next youngest person. There were about 50-60 people in all.

3. Having free run of the first floor of the Hill house without a tour guide allows you the time to study details you've not seen before. I've toured the Hill House several times, but this time Heather and I strolled through the vast rooms taking note of the details of carving and woodwork, light fixtures and more that just can't be fully appreciated when you're part of a tour group. Heather particularly liked the brass dragon wall sconces, especially since they lit a the pair of sconces that flank the dining room doors. It was cool to see the flames and get a real feel for what gaslit rooms are like.

4. Passing on your passion to you offspring is such a great feeling. When Heather turned to me and said, "Imaging living here. Imagine what it must've been like to eat your meals in that dining room with the gilded ceiling and the hand carved chairs. Imagine what it must've been like to sleep in one of those bedrooms." I felt such a sense of kinship and happiness with my girl because those are the kinds of things I imagine when I'm in a place like the Hill House. To have her wonder and appreciate history in the same way is a gratifying feeling.

5. Always check the price. No, not for the lecture. That was free to society members. I purchased a biography last night entitled "James J. Hill & The Opening of the Northwest" by Albro Martin. I've coveted this book for a long time, but it was wicked spendy. Earlier in the afternoon Heather and I visited the Minnesota Historical Society Museum and Library and did a little research in the library (noodling a new novel idea) and visited the bookstore because I can't pass up a bookstore, esp. one full of history books. I checked the Martin biography again to see if it had come down in price, but it was still $60 Bucks. Grrr...I wanted it but couldn't justify paying that much for it. Then at the Hill House, they had a book table in the reception room, and the Martin biography was there. And lo and behold, the price was $22.50. (The MHS Museum and the Hill House are about three blocks apart in downtown St. Paul, and both are operated by the MHS.) With my 10% member discount, I got a sweet deal on this book. No clue as to why the prices were so different, but I am one happy girl!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

March Goals

My apologies that this is so late. I left the house early this morning and didn't get back until supper time. If you remember it, please pray for my husband's family. His mother's health is failing and prayers would be appreciated.

Also, I'm not going to do the Wed. Weigh in for the next little while, because I'm on the new medication and the doc said it would take about a month to settle in. No point in posting that nothing is happening. Believe me, if something amazing happens before then regarding weight loss, I'll post it. :) That being said, I walked on the treadmill last night for over an hour. This was made easier because I was watching The Biggest Loser while I walked. Those people are so inspirational to me. And I'm glad I'm not them. :)

But, this post is supposed to be about March Goals, so here they are. And as always, they are fluid things, subject to change, but only for a good reason. I don't want to be so flexible with them that I change them or excuse myself from finishing one just because I'm being lazy.


Bold Black Ital. = Goal

Blue = January comments

Red = February comments

Green = March comments

1. Editor Revisions for The Bartered Bride. Not exactly sure when these will arrive in my inbox, but whenever they do, they have priority, so I'm putting them number one. Heard back from my editor that these should be heading my way near the end of February and that everything is well ahead of schedule. Yay! Just the way I like it! Revision letter received, revisions done and returned to editor with a thumbs up. :) Now to wait for the copy edit in May or June.

2. Final read through for The Marriage Masquerade and send to editor. This happens sometime after February. The manuscript has been critiqued and revised, so it should only need a little tweaking before sending it off. I've read through it one more time and it's all set to go. I'm 30 pages from the end and hope to send this back to my editor early next week. I decided, in light of the editor revision letter on The Bartered Bride, that it would behoove me to go into The Marriage Masquerade document and see what little things I got dinged on in BB that I could fix myself before sending it off.

3. Edit The Engineered Engagement, my 2008 NaNoWriMo novel. At the moment I need to cut words, reassess my heroine's goal, add a character and delete a character. This is priority number one after the editor revisions on The Bartered Bride. This was my major January project. I cut 6K+ words, ripped off the final chapter and rewrote it, and now it rests with a crit partner awaiting her sharp eye and truthful yet delicate touch. One crit partner already returned it with a thumbs up. Second crit partner came up trumps with the ms. Now it will sit and marinate, compost, or age until later this summer when I fine comb it one more time before sending it to my editor.

4. Turn in The Engineered Engagement. This happens sometime after June 2009. As soon as crits come back, this one will be ready. See above.

5. Finish final edits on Clara and the Cowboy to send to editor who requested it. The manuscript currently rests with a critique partner. When she's finished with it, I'll go in and make one last round of revisions based on her comments, then get this story out the door to my agent and on to the editor. Sent 12/18/08. Yay crit partners! :) That's all I'll say about this one for now.

6. Begin plotting and writing sequels to Clara and the Cowboy: Lily and the Lawman and Maggie and the Maverick. If the above mentioned editor wishes to contract this series, (praying!) then I'll need to get busy on the next two books. So far they are only a paragraph each, though I have a fun opening line for Lily and the Lawman. Lots of ruminating on LatL. As soon as we can schedule it, the daughter and I will take off for somewhere for a day for a plotting party. No word from the editor yet, but I'm hopeful. :) Lily and the Lawman is plotted and I have a chapter by chapter synop done, but it needs some tweaks to it. That is my project for after I turn in Marriage Masquerade.

7. Prepare proposal packet and three chapters of a Gilded Age mystery/romance I've got kicking around in my head, including pitch sheet and materials to pitch at ACFW. I have an editor in mind to talk to about this series. And I have a name for my hero picked out. :) No action on this one except to order and begin reading A Season of Splendor: The Court of Mrs. Astor in Gilded Age New York by Greg King. Fascinating book. More ideas marinating, percolating, composting, etc. I def. want to get the proposal out there, but it isn't my highest priority at the moment.

8. Register for ACFW Denver.

9. Attend ACFW Denver.

10. Read 5 books on craft this year, focusing on characterization, conflict, and endings. I'm lagging behind here. Next trip to the library I will get one or two. I have been listening to ACFW lectures from the 2008 conference. So much good stuff! I have particularly enjoyed Mark Mynheir's continuing ed class on police procedural. I don't write cop books, but he is an entertaining speaker and the subject matter is fascinating. Since I do want to write a book about a frontier lawman, I've been interested in his discussions on the psychology of law enforcement officers and how their job affects their relationships. I got several books on writing and I did read them, but like the lame-o I can sometimes be, I forgot to write down which ones they were so I could post them here. Let's just say that they weren't anything I would have to buy, or anything that revolutionized my writing.

11. Revise and rewrite some older mss to submit to a new opportunity. I have the opportunity to revise and submit up to three of my early manuscripts to a publisher. In light of my improved craft, these older mss will take quite a bit of work. I skimmed one yesterday, and I still love the story, so I think I'm going to see what I can do with it. I also spent a few minutes last night brainstorming with my daughter and a good friend of mine on how to turn the books into series. This one has taken a back seat as well as other things press on my time.

12. Coordinate the Women's Fiction category for the ACFW Genesis Contest. Because of all the Genesis Contest and the ACFW has meant to me over the past four years, I wanted to find a way to give back to the organization as a whole and the Genesis Contest in particular. Huge Kudos to Camy Tang for overseeing this mammoth project and curating the Spreadsheet Of All Knowledge. Entries have been rolling in. It's so great to see so many. The last I'd heard, we needed only one more entry in Historical Fiction for that category to "make" and have enough entries to stand on its own. That means we already have over 90 entries in the contest and the deadline is still three weeks away. The end of March is going to be a busy time for me while I distribute entries to judges and make sure Women's Fiction is going as well as it possibly can.

How about you? How are your 2009 goals shaping up?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Terrific news!!!!

Shout it from the rooftops! My friend Carla Stewart has made her first (of many, I'm sure) sales! YAY!!! Carla's book, A Dandilion Day, will be published by FaithWords, releasing in the Spring of 2010. This is the first of a two-book contract. I'm so excited for Carla. Please leave a comment here to congratulate her.

Carla's guest blogging about her experience today. Thank you, Carla, and welcome.


Thank you so much, Erica, for having me here today. As you and most of your readers probably know, I recently signed my first contract. I’m still breathless about that, and lest anyone think I just wrote the story, sent it off, and got it accepted for publication . . . well, no. Not exactly.

I began (at a not-so-young age) with magazine and anthology pieces. I won a short story contest, had a vignette about my dad published in a regional magazine, and won the Guideposts Writing Contest (with subsequent articles published). Looking back, I believe this was God’s affirmation that I could be a writer.

While I enjoyed writing short pieces, I envisioned myself as a novelist. My first attempt at a mystery was wretched, and I found that what I really wanted to write were character-driven stories that didn’t fit definite categories. I was advised I might find the market too difficult to break into. Okay. Forget the story or accept the challenge? It was a no-brainer to me. I would do what needed to be done. I kept writing and sent off queries to 40 or 50 agents. I now have a very fat folder of rejection letters to remind me that coming to publication was not a fast process.

Then I discovered ACFW—American Christian Fiction Writers—and it was like coming home. Here was a huge group of writers who understood my heart. I attended my first ACFW conference in 2006 where I signed up for a paid critique. The author suggested an agent for me to contact, which I did. He recommended I have my manuscript professionally edited. Oh my goodness! The result was a total rewrite which took three months, but gave me the courage to enter the Genesis contest for unpublished writers the following year. Imagine my total shock when I won. That entry was A Dandelion Day, which is now my first contracted book.

That year I met with Chip MacGregor who requested the manuscript but passed it to Sandra Bishop, a new agent he was bringing on board. Last April I signed with her, and she began shopping my manuscript.

I wrote another novel and entered the Genesis again—in the Young Adult category. It was an angsty, character driven story which I was sure wouldn’t appeal to the judges. Another shock—a second Genesis win at the 2008 ACFW conference in Minneapolis.

Winning the Genesis twice was affirmation, but also very humbling. My scores weren’t all that good the second time, and I prepared to dig in and go through the grueling rewriting process again. Before I finished the rewrite, my agent called and had someone interested in Dandelion. Now, more than three months later, I’ve signed a two-book deal and am ecstatic that A Dandelion Day will release in the spring of 2010 with FaithWords (Hachette Book Group).

Here’s the skinny on the book:

A Dandelion Day is a novel about a girl growing up in Texas in the 1950s, struggling with her faith and identity in light of her mother’s mental illness and the family dynamics that result from her mother’s suicide.

While the new phase of my journey is exciting, it’s also terrifying. I feel like it’s the first day of school, and I have no idea what to expect when I walk through these strange doors. What if I can’t find the restroom? What if no one sits by me at lunch?

The what ifs can be paralyzing, so like I’ve done in the past, I’ll dig my heels into the dirt and navigate each day as it comes. God has blessed me, and I’m humbled to be at this juncture.

Thanks, Erica, for having me. I’m honored to be here, and more than that: it’s comforting to have another writer to cling to as we enter this newly-contracted phase of our writing lives.
Erica here: Thanks, Carla, for guest blogging, and congratulations again. I can't wait to hold your book in my hands.

Monday, March 02, 2009

So Much to Be Thankful For

This past week has been so amazing. I have so much to be thankful for.

Wednesday I went back to the diabetes doctor for a checkup. I'm so thankful to report that she feels my diabetes is resolved. Thank you, Lord! This has to be of Him. No more medication. But I must still test a couple times a week just to make sure things are still on track, and I'm still watching my diet.

Which brings me to another bit of good news. I've been slogging along on a weight loss plateau for quite awhile, frustrated because I've increased my exercising, decreased the calories, and still no weight loss to speak about. I'd bounce around the same 4-5 pounds.

But the reason has come forth. I've been diagnosed with an underactive thyroid. Which explains so many of my symptoms. Stuck with the weight loss, cold when I've never been cold in my life, sluggish digestion, brittle hair/hair loss. So now I'm on a low dose of synthetic thyroid hormone. This medication isn't without some side effects, one of which I encountered last night. I thought my heart was going to jump out of my chest. The doctor described this side effect as similar to when you've had too much caffeine. Uh oh. Since I OD on caffeine just by walking by a sealed can of Maxwell House, I wondered how this medication would go for me. I'm on the smallest prescribed dose, so we'll see if that is all that is needed to get things trending in the right direction.

All in all, it was a great week here. I couldn't have asked for better news about my diabetes, and though no one wants to hear that something is wrong with their thyroid, at least it explains some of my symptoms and it is treatable. God is good!

I've got a couple of other big announcements in the works, so stay tuned for those. :)