Friday, April 29, 2011

The Friday Five

Coinsphoto © 2007 Peter Dutton | more info (via: Wylio)This week's Friday Five is:

If I won the Powerball, what are five things I would do with the money? (Of course, since I never play the Powerball Lottery, I have no chance of winning, but it's fun to kick around ideas.)

1. Solve the issue of which replacement windows to go with at our church by getting a new building. :)

2. Travel and see all the places that I've wanted to see for a very long time: Egypt, The British Museum, New Zealand, The Smithsonian, and so many more.

3. Hire landscapers to finish the patio in the back yard and to spray the lawn to kill the annual Vetsch infestation of dandelions that insist on overtaking the yard each year.

4. Completely plunder

5. Hire Merry Maids and a Chef.

How about you? What would you do if you won the powerball?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Going to see the King

This past Thursday, I realized a dream of mine that I'd had since about seventh grade, as near as I can recall.
When I was in seventh grade, my history textbook had a very long section on Egyptology. I saw a photograph of the mummy of Ramses the Great, and I was hooked. I developed a life-long interest in all things ancient Egypt.

The Treasures of Egypt: King Tut exhibit came to the MN Science Museum, and my kids and I were able to see the exhibit last week. Statuary, Shabtis, Sarcophogi, Pectorals, Plaster Friezes, Amulets...unbelieveable detail and antiquity.

I saw in person things that I had only seen photographs of before. It is such an unreal feeling to stand at the foot of a statue of Akhenaten or Khufu, or stare into the eyes of an alabaster canopic jar carved in the image of King Tutankhamen and contemplate the sheer age of the artifact.

We also took in the Omnimax film Mummies: Secrets of the Pharoahs. And guess who starred in the film? The mummy of Ramses the Great! I'd know that aristocratic profile anywhere. :)  One thing the narrator of the film said that made me shake my head though, was that staring into the face of Ramses the Great was a singular experience, since it was the only face from the Bible that we would ever see.

Sad, isn't it? Not only is there much debate over who the Pharoah of the Biblical Exodus was, but this narrator has no idea that in eternity, believers will see the faces of so many of the Bible characters. David, Abraham, Moses, Peter, Daniel, Josiah, Barnabas...and most to be treasured...the face of Jesus.

I'm so thankful to have been able to see the treasures of Egypt and fulfill this lifelong dream, but the greatest treasure, the dream to surpass all dreams, will be to see the face of my Savior.

Question for you: Are you interested in Egyptology? Have you seen the Treasures of Egypt? Do you want to?

Monday, April 25, 2011

3 Tip Monday

hourglass_croppedphoto © 2008 openDemocracy | more info (via: Wylio)
This Monday it's three tips to getting the most out of your writing time.

1. Plan ahead. Daydream about the scene you need to write next. Let it compost, percolate, ruminate, or otherwise stew in your mind. Use every available moment, washing dishes, folding clothes, walking on the treadmill, in the shower, whenever. This way, when you sit down to write, you'll have an excellent idea of where you're going and won't be tyrannized by the blank page.

2. Set goals. Hourly goals, daily goals, weekly, monthly, quarterly...set some goals, tell them to someone, and be accountable. One of my professors in college used to say, "If you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time." Don't aim at nothing. Set a goal and hit it!

3. Minimize distractions. Everyone has that thing that draws their attention. Some of us have several. Twitter, Facebook, Email, Youtube. Television, games, chatting with family/friends. When it is time to write, banish those distractions. For me, television can be a big distraction, so I get out of the house to write. There's no tv at the coffee shop and I feel like, if I'm going to spend the $$ on something as frivolous as a Black Thai Latte Fusion, then I'd better have something productive to show for it.

How about you? How do you maximize the time you have to get everything done that you want?

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Friday Five

Easter's Eggphoto © 2007 Mary | more info (via: Wylio)
With today being Good Friday and Easter coming on Sunday, I thought I'd perambulate down memory lane and see what I could dredge up re Easter recollections.

Five memories I have of Easter.

1. New dresses. Often times my sister and I had dresses made from the same pattern but in different colors. They were rarely a surprise, since we had often stood still for fittings and pinning up hems, etc. I don't remember getting new hats, but often this was when we got the summer sandals.

2. The sharp smell of vinegar as we dyed eggs. When my brother was a toddler I remember him having a blue 'glove' one Easter morning, because he accidently dropped his egg into the blue dye and instead of messing with the little wire holder thingy, he just plunged his hand into the dye and rescued his Easter egg.

3. Uncle Fred. My uncle used to come spend Easter weekend with us every year. Because he is only about 10 years my senior, it was more like having an older brother than an uncle. While we went to church, Uncle Fred would hide all the Easter eggs. He was a VERY GOOD Easter egg hider.

4. Being ill. Several Easter seasons in a row I was sick. I spent a couple in the hospital if I remember correctly.

5. The song He Arose. Singing those first two lines so sadly, so slow and dark...then really boosting up the volume and vim for the chorus. Our song-leader, Bill Tucker, really got the congregation into that song.

What do you remember about Easter as a kid?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Exciting News

I'm very happy to announce that I've signed a contract for my second Romancing America Single Title!

Coming in the fall of 2012 from Barbour Publishing:

A Bride Sews With Love In Needles, CA

Here's a brief synopsis of the story:

Meghan Thorson, a Harvey Girl in the fabulous El Garces Hotel of Needles, California, delights in waiting on the hundreds of ‘doughboys’ headed for the trenches in Europe. With a brother fighting somewhere in France, Meghan’s service to the soldiers is her way of joining the cause. When her brother is wounded, she enlists her fellow Harvey Girls to sew a Red Cross signature quilt to raise money to help injured soldiers.

Local horse breeder Caleb McBride longs to enlist, but the army won’t take him. Ashamed of the infirmity that keeps him out of the military, he allows people to think him a coward rather than reveal his polio-crippled foot. Instead, he contributes by breaking horses for the US Cavalry. Though the town thinks he’s only trying to profit from a war he won’t fight in, Meghan’s poor opinion of him hurts the most. How can he be worthy of her love when he despises himself?

When influenza invades the town, the hotel is made the temporary hospital. The Harvey Girls become nurses to the soldiers, travelers, and locals who succumb to the sickness. Caleb is taken ill, and in the course of caring for him, Meghan learns the secret he’s kept hidden all these months. Both of them must kill their pride before their chance at love comes apart at the seams.

I'm so excited to work on this story! The research has already been so much fun.

I'm also excited because I get to go pick up Heather from school tomorrow for the long weekend! Squee!!!

We're also going to take in the Treasures of Egypt exhibit at the MN Science Museum on the way home...and exhibition I've wanted to see for a long time. So exciting!

What are you excited about these days?

Monday, April 18, 2011

3 Tips Monday

beet itphoto © 2006 darwin Bell (via: Wylio)

Cliches. In our plots, in our characters, in our words. Cliches are the opposite of originality. Cliches must go.

So how do we guard against tired, boring cliches in our writing?

1. Weeding out plot cliches - read. A lot. And be aware of how often you see the same storylines/situations. The schoolmarm and the sheriff? The secretary and the boss? The restaurant/car/kitchen scene? Avoid these when plotting. Use fresh backgrounds, occupations, settings. Something to make your work stand out.

2. Weeding out cliches in our writing. The secret to finding and weeding out cliches in our writing is this: If you can finish the phrase without having to read's a cliche.

As red as a _______.
As dead as a __________.
As mad as a ________.

Cliche alert!

3. What if you can't think of a way not to use a cliche? If you can't think of a way to describe something without using a what James Scott Bell teaches. Use the cliche, and up the ante. JSB gave this example in a workshop, and it has stuck with me. "She looked like a million free." Isn't that great? A cliche with a twist, punched up and more powerful.

How do you avoid a cliche, and what is one of your favorite cliches?

more info

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Friday Five

This week's Friday Five is:

Five Pairs of shoes you will never see me wearing.
Um, a SPIDER? NO WAY!!!!!

I guess this is so you can get that 'walking barefoot through the grass' feeling.

I'm thinking not so much. I like giraffes well enough, but this is a little too much for me.

I'd be afraid of slipping and falling!

If it walks like a duck...

So, which pair of these shoes would you be most likely to try on, and which one would you be most likely to run away from?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Eclectic Research

Wall of Booksphoto © 2011 Ted | more info (via: Wylio)

This week I'm doing quite a bit of research as I flesh out some synopses. I had to laugh when I realized what a diverse range of topics I was delving into.

I spent part of one day at the local library tracking down items I needed and checking out books.

I've got books on Sheep, Polio, Influenza, The Lowry Park Zoo, The Red Cross, Zoo Vets, Frontier law, The Santa Fe railroad, and World War 1.

Pretty broad range of topics. And I have more waiting for me on reserve at the library.  I love research.

But it's easy for me to get lost in the research when I need to be writing.

This week, the goal is to work on the critiques from my fabo crit partners, Katie and Geo, who have given me plenty to work on with Stars in Her Eyes. Time to ramp up the conflict and not take it easy on my characters.

What kind of research have you done for your writing? What's the oddest thing you've researched?

Monday, April 11, 2011

3 Tips on Monday

A cabinet card of three childrenphoto © 1915 National Media Museum | more info (via: Wylio)

Three. I've noticed that many informative essays and blog posts group things in 3s. Three ways to lose weight. Three ways to save money. Three ways to fold bath towels.

Strangely enough, when things come in threes, they tend to resonate with me. I can remember three things.  I can choose from three things which to implement. Longer lists will drop from my ken, try thought I might to preserve them.

So I thought perhaps I would start a series of blog posts, writing related, that would give three tips on a particular aspect of writing. By no means an exhaustive attempt to cover any particular item of craft, I do hope that it will help me, and help you, to perhaps add tools to your writing toolbox in a way that will be user-friendly and easy to remember.

For this first Monday, since I'm working on writing synopses, I'm going to give three tips that have helped me and will hopefully help you when it comes to writing the DREADED SYNOPSIS.

1. Begin with the main character.
  • Who is it?
  • What do they want?
  • What will keep them from getting it?

2. Figure out the big moments.
  • A plot is a sequence of events. Figure out the biggest of these first.
  • These events will stem from what the character wants and why they can't have it. Be sure to make clear the consequences to the character and to others if the goal isn't reached.
  • Begin to string the big moments together in a logical sequence.
3. Get Feedback
  • Tell the story to someone else. Watch their facial expressions, so you can see when your story has an emotional impact, a surprise, or if they're bored. Let them ask you questions to identify where the story needs help.
  • Identify the plot holes, areas where things don't make sense, or places where you character is acting out of character.
  • Go back to the beginning and re-tell the story aloud with your adjustments to see if it makes sense.

What tips have you learned for writing the DREADED SYNOPSIS?

Friday, April 08, 2011

An April Friday Five

Free Wishing You Blue Skies and Rainbows Creative Commonsphoto © 2007 D. Sharon Pruitt | more info (via: Wylio)Happy April!

Five things I love about April:

1. NCAA Men's national championship game. Oddly enough, March Madness winds up in April now.

2. Baseball season stars and it's a whole new season. It's way too early for Cubs' fans to say "Wait 'til next year."

3. Warmer temps and things start to turn green. I miss green. I NEED green! Happily, I have a single purple crocus blooming in my garden. :)

4. Easter. And Easter break with my daughter. I can't wait to go pick her up for the long weekend.

5. Sunshine. Twilight lingers, the sun feels stronger, and I get happier.

How about you? What do you like about April?

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

April Goals

Little Red Bootsphoto © 2008 mollypop | more info (via: Wylio)A new month, and time for a reassessment of goals.

My goals for March were:

1. Finish Stars in Her Eyes. Getting sick the last week of February put me behind schedule on this title and I want to have it all ready to turn in by April 1st.

2. Take care of my responsibilities re the Genesis Contest. I am a category coordinator and I will be busy this month sending and receiving emails to judges and contestants.

3. Go on a writing retreat with one of my crit buds. :) We've been planning this for months, and I can't wait to see her again and to write, write, write!

4. Continue the plotting for Sagebrush Knights. SK is my summer project. :)

So, how'd I do?

1. I finished Stars in Her Eyes and sent it off to the crit girls.
2. The first round of the Genesis is in the books. Now it's on to my second round responsibilities.
3. The writing retreat was AWESOME!
4. Plotting is in full swing on Sagebrush Knights.

So, April Goals:

1. Finish all the plotting for Sagebrush Knights and begin the first novella.
2. Genesis Contest work.
3. Incorporate crit comments on Stars in Her Eyes and get it sent in to my editor.
4. Copy edits on A Bride's Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas

So, how did you do on your March goals, and what is one thing you want to accomplish in April?

Monday, April 04, 2011

Who's In The Driver's Seat

Classic Car Steering Wheelphoto © 2009 Pete Markham | more info (via: Wylio)Last week on Seekerville, Shannon Taylor Vannatter blogged about Writing The Second Book.

(BTW, thank you to readers who made my real-life love story the #1 favorite for the first quarter of 2011 on Shannon's Inkslinger Blog! You can read the story HERE.)

After reading Shannon's Seekerville post, I was reminded anew that fear is a writer's constant companion.

What if I can't write a whole novel?
What if I never get an agent?
What if I never get published?
What if I do get published, but nobody likes it?
What if people like my book, but I find out I'm a one-hit wonder?
What if I don't ever get another contract?
What if I can't move up from category to trade-length?
What if my genre dies?
What if I can't ever figure out this branding thing?
What if....

The truth is, when I focus on these fears, it's like handing Fear the keys to the car. I'm no longer in the driver's seat. Fear is taking me where it wants me to go. I'm just along for the ride.

So, how do I get the keys back?

By force if necessary!

I have to remind myself that I've come such a long way, and every step of the way, I've faced fear. With the Lord's help, I've perservered. It hasn't been easy, nobody said it would be, but giving in to fears isn't the answer.

Some authors have a "happy file" where they keep positive feedback and special remembrances of success on the journey. When things look bad, when Fear is careening all over the road and up on the sidewalks, they take out this file and remind themselves of where they've been.

I think for me, my writing scrapbook is like a happy file. I enjoy perusing the pages and reminding myself of how far I've come. I also remind myself of the positive feedback I've received. I don't do this to toot my own horn or to feed my pride, but to say, "Hey, you've done this before and you can do it again."

Another way I dispel fear is to get to work. There is always anotherTrunk of Lincolnphoto © 2010 Mark Ash | more info (via: Wylio)
project, another WIP, another edit, another something that needs to be done. Putting my head down and working means I'm not listening to Fear.

By refusing to give in to the fears, I relegate those fears to their place on this journey. Tied up in the trunk!

Does this writing life scare you? How do you dispel the fear?

Friday, April 01, 2011

The Friday Five

This week's Friday Five is

Five Great But Little Known Cartoon Characters.

1. The singing frog from the Warner Bros. cartoons. (pictured above) When the frog wasn't being watched, he wouldn't shut up the singing and dancing, and when he was on stage...nothing but a 'brrrrapppppp.'

2. Claude the Cat. I love Claude. His owners bring home a precocious little puppy that wants to make a chew-toy of Claude. The puppy's favorite ploy is to sneak up on a sleeping or unaware Claude and bark his head off. Claude rockets into the air and clings to the ceiling. :)

3. Egghead Jr. I loved how this little fellow could use his vast knowledge of calculus to find exactly where Foghorn Leghorn was hiding when they played hide-and-seek.

4. Also from Foghorn Leghorn cartoons is Henry the Chickenhawk. He was forever trying to take down the much larger Foghorn Leghorn and proclaiming to the world that he was  CHICKENHAWK! in all capital letters.

5. Sam the Sheepdog, the nemesis of Ralph the Wolf. Sam sat high on a hill and without exerting much effort foiled every nefarious plan of Ralph the Wolf to steal sheep from the flock.

How about you? Who else would you add to this list of non-headlining and yet wonderful cartoon characters?

Oh, and Happy April!