Friday, January 29, 2010

The Friday Five

Today's Friday Five is:
Five things I LOVED about Out with the In Crowd by Stephanie Morrill.
1. That it was so compelling I read it straight through, staying up until 2:30 in the morning to finish it.
2. That real life problems with difficult consequences are addressed.
3. The way reading it was effortless. Stephanie is seriously talented. I learned a lot, and found some great little nuggets that I want to practice myself.
4. The Kansas City touches. The Plaza, Johnson County Community College references. I loved living in Kansas City.
5. The ending. Skylar Hoyt grew so much during this story, and yet, I can't wait to see what happens in book three.
She knew changing her life wouldn't be easy--but she never expected it to be this hard. Skylar Hoyt may have vowed to change her partying ways, but it's not so easy to change her friends. Even though the old Skylar is gone, she's still not sure who this new Skylar really is. Add to that two parents battling for her loyalty, a younger sister struggling with a crisis pregnancy, and a new boyfriend wishing for more of her time, and Skylar feels like she can't win. After all, how do you choose favorites among the people you love most? Stephanie Morrill is a twentysomething living in Kansas with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband and their daughter. She is the author of Me, Just Different and 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.
You can find out more about Stephanie by checking out her blogs:
Stephanie has generously offered a giveaway copy of Out With The In Crowd. Leave a comment to be entered to win.
If you don't win the drawing, go get Out With The In Crowd and you won't be disappointed.
Question for you: Were you one of the 'cool kids' in school?
And happy 149th birthday to the state of Kansas. Ad Astra per Aspera.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Three Ingredient Thursday

This week's Three Ingredient Thursday is:
Ham and Bean Soup
Chopped Ham
Chicken Broth
Navy or Northern Beans (Soaked dried beans or canned beans)
Dump them all in a crock pot and simmer. I like to serve this with cornbread or crusty French bread.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pie or Cake?

This past Friday I visited with my SIL (waving to Linda) at my favorite writing spot, Caribou Coffee.
During the course of our conversation, she mentioned that she preferred to make cake over pie. Pie was too hard for what you got, and cake was quick and easy.
For me, I've had Linda's pie and cake, and they're both good.
But again, this got me thinking about the writer's life. If you're looking for the quick and easy route, writing isn't it.
Awhile back, my friend Georgiana calculated how much writing time she'd logged since pursuing a writing career. You can read that post HERE. The basic idea, from Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, is that 10,000 hours is about how long it takes to achieve mastery in any area, based on a study of people at the top of their fields.
I calculated the time I'd logged up to then and figured I was somewhere near 8550 hours. And I've got a long way to go, so much more to learn, so much more to write, so many more things to try, to perfect, to polish.
So, are you in it for the long haul? Are you willing to roll out the crust, prepare the filling, lace up the lattice top, and crimp the edges?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pithy Saying

This week, I heard a quote, attributed to a college basketball coach, though I'm not sure it was original to him. But it really got me to thinking.
Here's the quote:
"Adversity doesn't build character. Adversity reveals character."
And I think it is true. When put under pressure by adversity, what's inside will come out.
Writers have plenty of chances for their character to be revealed. Rejection, edits, waiting, doubt, bad reviews, deadlines. And the list goes on.
The question is: How are you doing with writer-adversity? Have you had some setbacks? Has it revealed anything to you about your character?

Monday, January 25, 2010


Today I'm celebrating. (Though a big part of me is very sad for the Vikings not making it to the Super Bowl--still, it was a good season.) But, I am celebrating on another front.
I've got a new series to write for Heartsong! Yay!!!
Here are the summaries:
Martin City, Colorado, 1883
Before the Dawn – Karen Worth must convince her fiancĂ© his blindness has not changed her love for him, so she sues him! Citing breach of promise when he calls off the wedding, she demands recompense, though she has no plans to go through with the case. When he marries her to avoid the lawsuit, a battle of wits and wills ensues. Karen wants David’s heart and to prove to him she still loves him no matter what. David Mackenzie, a mining engineer working for his family’s mining business, is blinded in an accident he thinks he caused. Bitter at God for taking his sight, he thrusts away all offers of love and help. He’s driven by guilt and anger to uncover the cause of the mine collapse. But the closer he gets to figuring out the mystery, the more danger it puts him and Karen in. He must face his worst fears and the truth about his love for Karen in order to save them when the real culprit decides to get rid of the evidence.

A Light to my Path – A jaded Sam Mackenzie wants to get home to Martin City and get back to work in his family’s silver mine after finding out the woman he loved only wanted to marry his money. Eldora Carter, city-girl extraordinaire, has left her safe and wealthy eastern home and taken on a charitable cause to prove she can stand on her own feet. She finds herself in charge of getting three children to the new Martin City orphanage. Eldora looks on Sam, as a mine owner, as the enemy of these children, who have been orphaned in mine accidents. He considers her a busy-body from the East who judges without first-hand knowledge, too much like his former love. Prejudice and purpose collide when an avalanche threatens the snow-bound train, and Sam Mackenzie must lead the passengers to Martin City on foot. As they struggle with the elements and each other, pre-conceptions are stripped away and their paths intertwine, lighted by love.

Stars in Her Eyes – Silas Hamilton, the Martin City minister, is adept at dodging matchmaking mamas and matrimony-minded maidens. The soul of propriety and discretion, imagine his surprise when he finds himself falling for a beautiful actress. Willow Starr, darling of the mining town performance halls, falls hard for Silas Hamilton, but thinks she must refuse his suit, lest she damage his reputation. She feels she’s no fit wife for a minister, especially one as wonderful as Silas. But Silas thinks she possesses all the qualities of generosity and caring as well as talent and tenderness any man would want in a wife. When his congregation forces him to decide, Silas must choose between his calling to the ministry and his love for Willow. When one of the biggest mines in the valley floods, Martin City as a whole and Silas and Willow specifically, learn the meaning of sacrificial love.
Thank you to JoAnne Simmons for the green light on this project.
I Love writing for Heartsong!

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Friday Five

This week's Friday Five inspiration came from watching a Southwest Airlines commercial about airlines charging baggage fees. That is a peeve!
So, some pet peeves I have:
1. Being late. I don't like it when I'm late, nor do I like it when I have to wait for people who are late. (Trying to chill here.)
2. Fees. Extra fees tacked on. At the beginning of every year, I have to pay a bunch of fees for the business. Fees for boilers, fees for trucks, fees for the wood stove, fees for being on the face of the planet. Fees are taxes that the people don't get to vote on. I hate fees.
3. Flip-flop sports announcers. I don't like it when the announcers are touting one team to the point of making you nauseous, then, during the game when that team is getting waxed, they flop to the other side and start singing the praises of the team they were dissing in the pre-game (In case you're wondering, I'm thinking specifically of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman this week, but I'll give Troy a pass, since he was a Cowboy.)
4. When someone takes the last Diet Coke out of the fridge and doesn't restock it.
5. When I've been watching a movie for awhile (and no one wanted to watch it with me--I offered) and then they come in a half hour into it and want to know what's happening in the movie.
Question: Any of these your peeves? Do you have a pet peeve?
And in case you didn't catch it, I've got an interview up at Romance Writers on the Journey today. Please go check it out!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Three Ingredient Thursday

This week's Three Ingredient Thursday is actually a TWO ingredient Thursday.
Italian Dressing Chicken Breasts.
4-6 Chicken Breasts
1 Bottle Italian Dressing
Layer Chicken in crock pot and pour dressing over all and fire up the crock pot. Chicken is done when it flakes easily with a fork.
Also, Join me at Romance Writer's on the Journey with Keli Gwyn today!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Unexpected

Look, it's me, petting a skunk! I never expected to do that on a visit to a zoo.
This past weekend, a reader told me that she had read The Bartered Bride and really enjoyed it, and was re-reading it already. One of the things she liked was the unexpected turns in the story.
Made me happy! There needs to be a sense of inevitability with a romance, but never a sense of predictability. Though there are set expectations brought to the table by romance readers, they also demand originality and they long to be surprised. They want the familiar brought to them in a fresh way.
What a great challenge! I LOVE writing romance!
Question for you...have you ever petted a skunk? If not, what is the most exotic animal you've been close to?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

In the grip of winter

This past Sunday morning we awoke to a beautiful hoar-frost. Every branch, twig, and blade of grass bore a lacy shawl of ice crystals. The above picture is the view out my back door. It looks like something out of Narnia before Aslan returns.
Though winter is not my favorite season in Minnesota, there is no denying it has a special and unique beauty. The world is asleep under a frozen blanket. But spring will return, and every brittle branch will become supple, and ice will give way to tender leaves and delicate blossoms.
I am reminded that there are times and seasons in our lives, especially in the writing life. There is a lot of waiting, sowing the seeds of learning, writing, and submitting. Things begin to bloom, agents are gained, partials are requested, the sun shines. Summer storms blow when committees say no, thank you. But then, the harvest comes.
What season are you in right now?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Metal Mouth

This past week, I started a process I've been wanting to do for a very long time. I've always been conscious of how crooked my teeth are, so last Monday, I got braces! I'm 40 years old, and I have braces like a middle-schooler.

Some mouth pain early in the week, which was great for the diet, as I lost four pounds, but not so much fun overall. What has been fun is that my kids have both had braces (the youngest still has his for another 6-8 months) and they give me advice.

Each time I go in, I have the option of choosing colors for the fasteners. My husband dared me to get purple and yellow fasteners this first time in honor of the Vikings. So, I did! I have purple fasteners on the uppers and yellow on the lowers.

If the Vikes win the Super Bowl (Woohoo!) I will go with the purple scheme again next month, but if not, it's time to get some red and blue, because March Madness is coming. Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk!

Question: (Actually 2)

1. Did you have braces as a kid?

2. If you hadn't, and you'd always wanted them, and the money was there, would you do it at age 40?

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Friday Five

This week's Friday Five is:

Five things I keep in my desk drawer: (And for the record, the above picture is NOT my desk. I found the photo on morguefile.)

1. My MP3 player. I like to listen to music while I do bookwork. Can't listen to it while I'm writing, but I like it for the number-crunching.

2. My red pen. A gift from a friend to be used signing books. :) I love it!

3. A little bag of catnip. Treat for the kitty. I rub it on one of her stuffed toys from time to time and she goes nuts.

4. A hair scrunchie. For when I'm working hard and my hair is bothering me. I pull it up into a pony-tail and get it out of my face.

5. My pocket New Testament. This was a gift from my church when I graduated from 8th grade. It's a handy reference.

What's in your desk drawer?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Three Ingredient Thursday

Today's recipe comes courtesy of Carla Stewart.
Poor Man's Turtles
Mini Pretzels
Rolo Candies/Caramel-Filled Kisses
Pecan halves
Line up rows of the pretzels on baking sheets and place an unwrapped candy on top of each one. Heat in a low oven (300 degrees) for a few minutes, until the candies are soft but not melted through. Press a pecan half into the top of each candy and let cool.
These are easy and de-lish!
Thanks, Carla, for the recipe!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


The new bookmarks for The Marriage Masquerade have arrived!
They are so beautiful, and this blog address is on the front of them!
Also this week, I'm up to my elbows in a non-writing related project.
My SIL's and I are putting together remembrance quilts using scraps from my MIL's wardrobe. Lorraine always wore pinks and blues, and the color palette for the quilts will be harmonious. Each grandchild (there are 10) will receive a quilted pillow, and each of the families of Lorraine's four grown children will have a lap quilt.
That being said, I've cut out almost 600 5x5" squares this week! YIKES! That's a lot of squares.
Do you have a special keepsake from a loved one who has passed away?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Unveiling the new website

Today I'm launching my new website! I'm so excited about this. Big-time props and kudos to my fabo WebMaster, Joseph Ambrose from StealthBunny Designs. :)
You can get to the new website by clicking HERE.
Also, the Heartsong Presents fan page on Facebook has a new photo album. The Marriage Masquerade cover art is up!
You can take a look at the next cycle of books by clicking HERE.
So, do you have a website? Did you design it yourself?

Friday, January 08, 2010

The Friday Five

Here are the top ten fears of Americans (According to Gallup) - Note that three things tied for 9th. Though the rankings change somewhat from year to year, the list remains remarkably consistent.
1. Snakes - 51%
2. Speaking in public - 40%
3. Heights - 36%
4. Being closed in a small space - 34%
5. Spiders and insects - 27%
6. Needles and getting shots - 21%
7. Mice - 20%
8. Flying on a plane - 18%
9. Dogs (sorry, Lassie) - 11%
9. Thunder and lightning - 11%
9. Crowds - 11%
10. Going to the doctor - 9%
I would have to say, I'm pretty average. Though it would be easier to list the things here that I'm NOT afraid of.
So today's Friday Five is:
Things some people are afraid of, but that don't really bother me.
1. Public Speaking. I don't mind it at all.
2. Needles and getting shots. Trust me, when you're a diabetic who tests her blood, needles and shots are no big deal.
3. Flying. I'm not afraid of flying, but I always wind up in the chair right in front of the crying baby or the seat-kicking, unsupervised kid. Sigh.
4. Dogs. I like dogs. My dad raised Brittany Spaniels when I was a kid, trained them to bird hunt. I'm wary around strange dogs until I know if they are friendly or not, but that's about it.
5. Crowds. Though I don't like to be in crowds, it isn't because I'm scared.
How about you? Which of these fears do you share with me, and which ones don't you mind?

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Three Ingredient Thursday

Today's Three Ingredient Thursday comes from my editor, JoAnne Simmons.

1 lb. Ground beef
1 package Stove Top stuffing
1 cup of water

Mix the three ingredients and place the mixture evenly into a 12-muffin pan sprayed with cooking spray. Bake at 375 for half an hour.

An optional fourth ingredient is to add in a teaspoon of garlic powder to the meat mixture.

JoAnne suggests freezing leftovers for quick and easy lunches.

Thanks, JoAnne! These are on the menu for the Vetsch family tonight!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

How do you get in the mood to write?

At the moment, I'm winding up a western series for Heartsong Presents. The first book in the series, Clara and the Cowboy, comes out this spring, and the next two, Lily and the Lawman and Maggie and the Maverick will come out in late summer and fall.
This series is very different from my first series, which was set in Duluth during the Gilded Age. The cowboy series is set in 1880's Idaho Territory.
To get into the historical era of The Gilded Age, I read biographies of Vanderbuilts and perused fashion plates from 1905. I read books on shipping, and Duluth, and Great Lakes travels and tragedies. Just flipping through a history book full of pictures of Minnesota history put me in the right frame for the story.
For the cowboy books, I've been reading about ranching, westward expansion, lawmen of the west, even stories of saloon girls and outlaws. And I watch John Wayne movies and read Zane Grey books.
So, how do you get into the mood to write? Do you use music? Movies? Books? Photographs?

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Know the Signs

One of the things I'm doing at the beginning of this year is evaluating all the things I am involved in, the responsibilities I have, and setting up a strategy to accomplish those things.

And I'm trying to decide what I have to cut, and what new things I have room for in my schedule.

One of my downfalls is volunteering, particularly in the areas of leadership and organization. I have to be careful not to over commit. I'm learning to say no now. In the past, I felt if anyone asked, I had to say yes, especially if it was a good thing to do, like something church-related. Guilt is a powerful motivator.

And sometimes I have to take stock and change course, turn around. Cut loose from some responsibilities in order to take up others, or free nyself up from a schedule that is reaching critical mass. And not feel terrible about having to cull your commitments. I have to be realistic. There is only so much I can do and still do it well. I have to prioritize and thin the list until it is doable.
There are some things that can't be cut, culled, or cast off. Things like homeschooling, housekeeping, bookkeeping. Then there's church and writing and the zillion or so things that go along with all of those things. That's when it's time to put my plans into action and get things done.

And above all, I have to remember to yield. I need to be willing to yield my plans and projects to God. I need to be willing to yield my goals and desires, and especially my time-table, when the occasion calls for it. I need to remember to consult Him and be flexible.
How about you? Are you guilty of over-commitment? Do you have a plan for this new year to balance your obligations?

Monday, January 04, 2010

The New Blog is Ready to go!

I'm thrilled to announce that the Heartsong Connections blog is up and going with our first title.

This month's titles are varied, exciting, and worth reading. I hope you'll go and check them out. I also encourage you to become a Heartsong Connections follower. Prizes can be won by following the blog.

Also, leaving a comment will get you a chance to win a prize. Head on over and encourage me and Susan Page Davis, this week's feature author. I'd love to see the blog get off to a great start.

Question for you for here: What ideas would you have for launching a group blog like Heartsong Connection? How would you get the word out, and how would you help connect readers and authors?

Friday, January 01, 2010

The Friday Five

Every year to celebrate the New Year, we host a party at our place. There are always lots of people, lots of food, football, games, laughter. It is a day we look forward to all year.
This year my BIL and I are coordinating some of the food so we don't duplicate anything.
So today's Friday Five is:
Five foods that will make an appearance at the New Year's Bash.
1. Meatballs. See yesterday's 3 Ingred. Thurs. :)
2. Lil' Smokies. Can't get enough of those!
3. The Dip. My friend J. always brought The Dip to the New Year's Day celebration that my folks hosted when I was growing up. When I moved away and started hosting my own New Year's Day party, she was gracious enough to share the recipe with me. It is a New Year's necessity.
4. Fruit Pizza. I love fruit pizza!
5. Veggie Pizza. Love this one too. A little savory to go with all the sweets!
Do you have a New Year's Day tradition?