Monday, May 24, 2010

Blogging Hiatus

In order to focus on finishing Before the Dawn and getting it turned in, I'll be taking a little blogging hiatus.

Hopefully, I will see you in two weeks. (One week to finish BTD, one week of company! Yay!)

Have a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend!

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Friday Five

This week's Friday Five is:

Five things I love about being the substitute teacher for the High School Sunday School class.

1. I love teens, especially the ones at our church.

2. The first 10-15 mins where we catch up on each other's week.

3. I love how willing this group is to go wherever...we've studied lots of different topics (currently we're looking at the book of Colossians) and they are always eager to learn, to answer questions, to read Scripture.

4. Friendship. The kids (half of whom are mine) are my friends. I like that.

5. I get to learn right alongside the kids. This week we explored Paul's arguments against Gnosticism and Asceticism.

So, what do you like about Sunday School?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Recipe Thursday

Today's recipe is for

Chicken Cheddar Bacon Melts

Rye Bread
Chicken Breasts
Cheddar Cheese
Tomato slices
Bacon strips

Pan-fry or oven roast chicken breasts. If they are extra thick, pound them a bit before hand to make them easier to eat in a sandwich. Fry bacon and drain.  Butter slices of marble rye bread on both sides, lay on a slice of cheese, bacon strips, cooked chicken breast and tomato. Fry the sandwich until the cheese is melted.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The View From Your Window

The challenge is:

What's the view from your window.

This is my one honeysuckle in the row of lilacs out my back door. I love that crazy bush. When we got the plants, they were each one stick with a few tiny leaves. Over the next couple of years we became aware that one of our lilacs was actually a honeysuckle. My husband wanted to pull it out, but I love it. It's dancing to the beat of its own drum, unique, one of a kind in a sea of sameness.

That's what's outside my window. What's outside yours?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Once Upon A Time...

This past weekend has been crazy. I sent well over 150 emails, most with three attachments each. Non-finaling entries in the ACFW Genesis Contest.

That's a lot of non-finaling entries. (In only two of the many categories. More than 400 entries didn't final.)

That's a lot of hopes dashed.

That's a lot of 'back to the drawing board.'

I talked to a friend over the weekend who didn't final. (She wasn't entered in any of the categories I coordinated, so I didn't know how she did until the entire finalist list came out. The Genesis is compartmentalized by category and no coordinator knows what is going on in another category.) She was sad, a little chagrined because she's agented and has gotten interest in her manuscript, and maybe a little bewildered. All very natural responses.

In response, I shared with her some of my own Genesis experience, and because I thought it might be helpful to some of my friends who didn't score as highly in this year's Genesis contest as they had hoped, I thought I would share it here.

In 2008, I submitted three manuscripts into the Genesis contest- two historical romances and one chick-lit.

The results?

One historical romance placed third.

The chick-lit won.

And one historical romance got trashed. Low scores, comments from the judges that made me wince.

Here's the reality. The chick-lit that won the category? It is a grand total of five chapters long, and I haven't looked at it since.

The third place entry was published in February of this year -- The Marriage Masquerade.

And the entry that got such harsh criticism from the judges?

That entry, after taking the judges' comments into account and revisions, was released this month.

Clara and the Cowboy.

I'm so proud of this book. I worked harder on it than anything I've written before. I did more revisions after the book was accepted than ever before. The Genesis judges weren't the last folks to pummel that manuscript. My beloved content editor Rachel pushed me hard on the rewrites.

And that book is in print today as a result of all that hard work, as a result of the judges and my editors pushing me.

So if you didn't final in the Genesis, take it as a barometer of where you are on THAT manuscript, but not a barometer on the future of that work. Use the comments to make the story better, and push yourself to improve.

Good things will happen.

Monday, May 17, 2010

It's Official

I'm so excited. Today, my agent Rachelle Gardner of Wordserve Literary is announcing on Publisher's Marketplace the sale of Before The Dawn to JoAnne Simmons at Barbour Publishing. To my knowledge, this is the first time one of my books has been announced on Publisher's Marketplace.

I have been blessed beyond belief. I'm so happy to be working with Rachelle and to be working with Barbour writing for their Heartsong Presents line.

Today my newest release, Clara and the Cowboy is the feature book on Heartsong Connection, a blog especially for Heartsong writers and readers.

Stop on by for a chance to win a copy of the book!

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Friday Five

Summer is coming! Woohoo! (I'm excited for this to happen since we had snow in MN this past weekend.) Today is my daughter's last day of high school. My son has been finished with school for a couple of weeks. So it can really be summer. I have great memories of summer activities, but one summer from my childhood stands out.

So, today's Friday Five is:

Five summer memories from 1980:

1. July 8th, 1980, I accepted Jesus as my Savior.

2. We spent the summer in Colby, Kansas in a little apartment because my dad was working there.

3. One night, my mother cried so hard I thought she'd make herself ill. She watched the movie The Last Shining Season, and if you even mention that movie now, she will tear up.

4. I took classes at the YMCA. Art, Gymnastics, and Tennis. I am neither artistic nor athletic, but I had fun anyway.

5. I remember going to classes at the Y first thing in the morning, then meeting my dad at the Daylight Donuts shop for mid-morning break. Then back to the Y for another class, lunch at the apartment, then walking down to the community pool. For 25 cents you could swim all day. We only swam in the afternoon, because at 4, we walked back up the (very slight) hill to the apartment, ate dinner, and went out to softball practice or a game. After the game was over, we'd go to the park and play tennis under the lights until after 10. I remember the lights were on a timer, and we'd be playing, running after balls, swatting backhands, and WHAM! the lights would go off and one of us kids would have to run to the pole and hit the button for another 30 mins of light. :)

Very good times!

What do you remember about the summer you were 11?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

2010 Genesis Finalists!

CONTEMPORARY FICTION:(total entries: 47)

Cindy Hays

Lynnette P. Horner

Chris Kraft

Mark Lundgren

Christina S. Nelson

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE:(total entries: 63)

Jeannie Campbell

Sarah Forgrave

Janice LaQuiere

Rebecca Syme

Linda Yezak

HISTORICAL FICTION:(total entries: 35)

Laurie Benton

Brenda Jackson

Robert Kaku

Lisa Karon Richardson

Katie-Marie Stout

HISTORICAL ROMANCE:(total entries: 65)

Susanne Dietze

Anne Greene

Pam Hillman

Lisa Karon Richardson

Ruth Trippy


Rich Bullock

Barbara Early (double finalist with two entries)

Lynda Schab

Chawna Schroeder

ROMANTIC SUSPENSE:(total entries: 50)

Valerie Goree

Mindy Obenhaus

Leslie Pfeil

Dianna Shuford

Teri Dawn Smith

Terri Weldon

SPECULATIVE FICTION:(total entries: 49)

Ben Erlichman

Suzanne Krein

Shelley Ledfors

Andra Marquardt

Holly Smit

WOMEN'S FICTION:(total entries: 76)

Lisa Buffaloe

Jennifer Fromke

Terri Haynes

Fay Lamb

Christina S. Nelson

Melissa Tagg

Michelle Ule

YOUNG ADULT:(total entries: 56)

Angela Bell

Lin Harris

Kasey Heinly

LoraLee Kodzo

Stefanie Morris

Thursday Recipe

Today's recipe is for:

Orange Fluffy Salad.

I love this stuff. My SIL Linda makes it, and it is soooo yummy!


1 sm pkg vanilla cook'n'serve pudding
1 3 oz box orange Jello
2.5 c water

Mix the above ingredients to a rolling boil and remove from heat.

Add 1 cup mini marshmallows and stir until melted and smooth.

add 1 small can madnarin oranges (drained) and 1 20 oz can crushed pineapple.

Refrigerate overnight. Just before serving, add 1 8 oz container of Cool Whip.

It's delish!!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Proud Mama

This week was a big one in our house. My children are involved in the AWANA children's program, and this week was the Awards Ceremony. We brought home some serious hardware.

My eldest, Heather, has been in AWANA for 15 years. Since she was three. She's completed 15 years of Bible memory, service projects, and Bible study. She's learned more than 500 Bible verses, read through the entire Bible, learned about world missions, supported AWANA clubs in foreign lands, and for the past six years has served as an AWANA leader in the Cubbies pre-school program. She has faithfully attended the weekly club, missing no more than a handful of meetings in 15 years.

All this hard work came to fruition when she was awarded the AWANA Citation Award. The highest award offered by the program. (Think Eagle Scout) I'm so proud of her!

Then there's my son, James. He received the Meritorious Award for completing eleven AWANA books, and he's set his sights on the Citation Award as well. I'm so proud of him, because memorization isn't his strong point, and he has to work hard at it. For the past two years, he has served as a Leader-in-Training in the Sparks (K-2) program. I've seen him grow by leaps and bounds (not just physically, though that has happened too) as he's lead his group of Kindergarteners.  

I would be remiss if I didn't mention my husband here as well. Peter has been an AWANA leader for more than 25 years, since he was in high-school. His heart for kids shows in his faithfulness to this ministry.

Congratulations, Heather, James, and Peter. I'm so very proud of all of you!

For those of you who don't know what AWANA is, I encourage you to check out their program at

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Tip For Tuesday

Today's tip for Tuesday is about time.

And taking a little for yourself.

I know it's hard. After all, you most likely feel as if your writing time is your 'me' time. But writing is exhausting as well as exhilerating. It's easy to get drained. Add to that the other responsibilities we all juggle, and before we know it, we're sapped.

I know when I'm working on a first draft, the story can consume me. I'm thinking about it all the time. In the shower, in the car, before I fall asleep at night, while I'm cleaning or grocery shopping. Reading used to be a big escape for me, but that only works now if I'm reading outside the genre I write. If I'm reading historical romance, I tend to read more for a learning experience than for escapism. I'm sizing up the story, the plot, the characters, the craft. What once provided a break from my everyday life now steers me deeper into the writing mode.

I've found I need to find different ways to turn my mind away from the writing world, as wonderful as it is. I have a weekly date with my husband. I go for walks. I listen to music. I play computer games.

I love having this bit of downtime. I come back refreshed and renewed and ready to tackle those goals.

What about you? Do you need downtime? How do you recharge your batteries?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Poisons and police procedures

This week I got some writing books in the mail. Courtesy of Writer's Digest, who was having a sale, I got four new books.

A couple of them might raise some eyebrows. You see, they are all about poisons and police procedures. (The other two are on how to write mysteries.) I've been toying with the idea of writing a mystery series, and my hero/detective's super-power is his interest in all things botanical. He's a frontier physician at a Cavalry fort, and he's interested in the medicinal properties of plants and the Native American uses for prairie flora. Hence a book on poisons.

I have research books on my bookshelf, some about how to write, and others about specific eras, people, and places in history. Catalogs from 1890, fashion books, biographies of famous Minnesotans, books about lighthouses, logging, railroads, stagecoaches, forts, cowboys, and orphanages. Prison camps, racial tensions, the Progressive Era in Minnesota, frontier travel, frontier medicine, mining,....the list goes on and on.

I love history books. I love reading about places and people of long ago and dreaming about what their lives must've been like, about how they met the challenges of living in their era. I love reading about cataclysmic events, then wondering how ordinary people rose to the occasion.

So, what is the most unusual research you've done for a book? An interview? A field trip? A strange book?

Friday, May 07, 2010

The Friday Five

This past week, as I finished up Before The Dawn, I posted as my Facebook status that I Really, Really wanted to use the phrase "Little Did They Know" in my novel. LOL!

So, today's Friday Five is:

Things I'd like to use in a novel but can't because they are no-nos.

  1. Little Did They Know. Ever since Dustin Hoffman said he'd written entire essays on "Little Did He Know" I've wanted to stick it in a book. :)
  2. Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch. CJ reminded me of this great classic. And since I love writing about cowboys, it would be so great!
  3. Dear Reader. This was a device of Victorian novels, where the narrator of the story stepped out of narration to have a side-chat with the reader. Wouldn't it be so handy to be able to draw a red circle around an important point by drawing the reader aside for a chat?
  4. And They Lived Happily Ever After. Hey, it would fit the romance genre, but writers nowadays have to show the potential for a happy ending.
  5. It Was A Dark And Stormy Night. Snoopy and Bulwar-Lytton aside, I would LOVE to stick this into a piece of fiction. :)
So, how about you? Any of these appeal to you? Do you have any of your own?

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Recipe Thursday

Today's Thursday Recipe is a little lighter than last week's. :) BTW, I LOVED the comments from last week. Slayed me!

Broccoli Raisin Salad


1 bunch broccoli, cut small
1 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 c. bacon bits
1/2 c. raisins
1/4 c. chopped green onions

1 cup mayo
1 Tbsp vinegar
1/2 c. sugar

Mix salad in a large bowl. Combine dressing ingredients and pour over salad. Toss and serve.

Do you have a favorite summer recipe?

And have a wonderful National Day of Prayer. Pray for our country. Pray for our leaders. Pray for your families.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

May Goals

This sign was for sale at Cabela's in Owatonna, MN. Too funny!

Today's post is my May Goals. As per yesterday's post, I'm all about goal setting.

So, for the month of May, here are my goals.

  • Continue my responsibilities with the Genesis contest. Finalists will be announced soon, and all the non-finaling entries will need to be returned to the contestants. I'll also be fielding thank-you notes from contestants and sending them to the appropriate judges. (FYI, even if your scores aren't what you had hoped, it would not go amiss to send a thank-you note. The judges volunteered their time to judge these entries for the sole goal of helping other writers.) Okay, commercial over. :)
  • Write. I've set an agressive goal for writing Light to My Path in just over a month. I have a goal of writing 1500 words a day, six days per week.
  • Family obligations. A graduation to plan, awards ceremony to attend, end-of-year piano recitals, registration day at college for the eldest.
So, what are your goals for the month of May?

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Tip for Tuesday

Today's tip for Tuesday is:

Goal setting.

I love setting goals. I'm all about putting a bull's-eye on the wall and aiming at it. Without goals, I wander around, dabbling at things but not finishing them. Getting easily distracted by the next shiny thing.

That's why I post my goals at the beginning of each month here on the blog. I don't always make my goals, but I'm much more likely to reach them if I define them and post them. (That's tomorrow's blog, Goals for May 2010.)

I have a novel to write. I'm aiming to get it written by July 4th. Doable, especially since we're done with school for the summer. So how do I go about breaking down the process in order to make it easier to see the steps needed to get from here to where I want to be?

First, I get out a calendar. There are 61 days between today and July 4th. Nine of those days are Sundays, and I don't write on Sundays. So we're down to 52 days. I'm going to need about three more days to fine-tune my chapter-by-chapter synopsis/outline. That leaves me 49 writing days. How much would I need to write over the next 49 days to finish a 50K novel?

1020 Words.

That's less than the pace of a NaNo Novel.

I'm going to aim for writing 1500 words a day, which will give me 50K words in about 33 days. Giving me two weeks to do a readthrough and edit before sending Light To My Path off to my critique partners.

So, do you set goals? Do you break big projects down into smaller bites?

Monday, May 03, 2010

New Scrapbook Pages

One of the things I've enjoyed over the past 18 months is creating a new scrapbook page for each of my contracted books. My daughter and I (and sometimes my son) go to Michael's, Hobby Lobby, and VIP Scrapbook and find stickers, paper, ribbons, and embellishments that create the sort of image I have in my mind of the story.

Since signing a contract to start a new series for Heartsong, we got to go shopping again. :)

The first title in the series is Before The Dawn. Here's a little summary.

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 a return to the love they knew before the accident. David Mackenzie, a mining engineer working for his family’s business, believes he is responsible for the accident that blinded him and killed several others. 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 it endangers himself and Karen. 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. 

The center paper is cream with wedding vows in gold. Ribbon and lace borders separate it from the back sheet of pink. Roses, hearts, and pearl beads are scattered over the page. The key Scripture passage from the book is Psalm 139, so I've included that reference.  There's also a little key to part of the plot at the bottom right of the little arbor (where I will put a picture of the book cover.)

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, bounced around from orphanage to orphanage all her life, only wants a home and the love she's craved all her life. She finds herself in charge of finding homes for three orphans who each have a marked reason why no one would want them. Eldora distrusts Sam, a mine owner, because her own father was killed in a mining accident. Sam 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.

I'm currently working on the detail plotting of this story. Ribbons of plot are unrolling from spools in my mind, and I'm trying to unravel them and tie them into pretty bows. :) So far, so good.

For this page, I found a paper with snowy peaks, as well as a long sticker of train tracks (thanks to Thomas the Tank Engine) to divide the upper and lower parts of the paper. Snowflakes, snow-covered trees, old-fashioned luggage, and train ticket stickers embellish the page. The key verse is Psalm 119:105, and I've included it on a sticker with a lacy edge. Also included is a synopsis one paragraph summary of the story, to which I added a lacy sticker edge to echo the one around the key verse.
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.

I had such a good time with this page. Tan paper with a pale pink border and flowers clustered in one corner, as well as tan paper with a musical score printed on it. Music, flower, and church-related stickers--almost too many, but I had such a hard time narrowing it down. I also chose a poem by Elizabeth Barret Browning, because it fit the story so well.

I love you not only for what you are,
 but for what I am when I am with you.
I love you not only for what you have made of yourself,
 but for what you are making of me.
I love you for that part of me that you bring out.

The key verse for this story is Proverbs 4:18, and I've included it on a sticker.

I just turned the first of these books over to the tender aegis (that one was for you, Kevin) of my crit partners.

I find these scrapbook pages inspiring. Which is a little strange, since I've never been very artsy/crafty. It's a whole different way to get the creative juices flowing, to visualize my stories and express a little of what I feel when I consider the characters and the setting.

What do you do to get the creative juices flowing?