Monday, October 31, 2011

Blog Hoppin'

Today is a busy, blog hoppy kinda day.

I'm blogging over at Melissa K. Norris' blog

About the faith journey of Miles Carr, the hero of A Bride's Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas.

I'm also answering some fun, quick questions over on Sarah Forgrave's blog.

I'm also blogging at Lena Nelson Dooley's blog where I discuss my secret desire to be a panda. :)

Also, this weekend, Ausjenny reviewed The Marriage Masquerade on her blog:

And Happy Reformation Day! Yep, today is the day we celebrate Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Church Door.

Question for you: Is your house on a main route for trick-or-treaters? We don't get too many on our street.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Friday Five

This week's Friday Five is:

Five really cute Halloween costumes for babies.

1. How cute is this monkey????

2. Love the punkin' costumes. This hat makes the outfit.
 3. Hard to wrong with a Tootsie Roll baby. :)

4. Look at this adorable frog! I love the feet and the big, goggly eyes.
 5. Love the skunk. How cute is that little Mohawk on top?

As a bonus to the Friday Five, here are some costumes you should NEVER put your kids in. I looked at some of these and thought, "If you don't like kids, don't have them! This is just mean!"

Seriously? A turkey?

Sushi baby? ICK!

Yikes. Poor kid. My mom turned me into an exploded feather pillow and kept saying, 'Peep! Peep!' at me. And I didn't even get any candy in my basket. Just eggs!

And the next two were so bad, I couldn't choose between them which was the worst. A whoopie cushion or a joystick. Which would YOU rather be???

And then you have the ketchup bottle. I couldn't decide if this one was cute or not, so I'll let you choose.

Which of the above is your favorite, and which one is the WORST?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

Crunching the Numbers

Are you a numbers cruncher? One of my jobs is as the bookkeeper for our family lumber business, Vetsch Hardwoods, Inc. I'm the bean-counter. Money in, money out, payroll, inventory, gov't forms filled out.

This is not my natural habitat. I don't think in numbers. I'm so thankful for the accounting program we use, the folks at our bank, and the accountant who holds my hand through end-of-year stuff.

They help me understand when numbers are good and when they aren't. Being in the black with the green is way better than being in the red with the green. :) A bookkeeper is supposed to crunch numbers.

Writers building a platform have become number-crunchers too. And the numbers are confusing, scary, potential pits-of-despair or obstacles-of-pride.

The numbers writers watch include:

Platform Stuff:

Facebook followers.
Blog followers.
Twitter followers.
Klout score.
Number of comments on your blog.
Number of Re-Tweets on Twitter.
Number of blog hits.
Number of newsletter subscribers.

Book Sales Stuff:

Number of contracts.
Size of advances.
Units sold.
Units returned.
Units remaindered.
Book signing attendance.
Royalty checks.
Sell-in numbers.
Sell-through numbers.

Personal WIP Stuff:

Days until deadline.
Word count per day.
The deficit between the deadline and the word count. :)
Word count per hour.
Pages edited.

Now, the personal Work In Progress stuff I have a fairly good handle on. I set the goals, and it's easy to see whether or not I make them. I know when the next WIP is due on my editor's desk, and I know how long it is supposed to be and how many days I have to finish it.

The Book Sales stuff...I have my agent and the publishing house to help me decipher those.

It's the Platform numbers where I can get tripped up. Not just quantifying them and their effectiveness, but also not comparing them to others. I've recently signed up for Klout which does a gallop around your social networks, blogs, on-line communities, etc. and assigns you a Klout-score relative to the activity and influence it thinks you wield. Still trying to figure out what this might mean in the greater scheme of things, but I'll admit to being happy when the number goes up and a little sad when it goes down.

So, questions for you:

Are you a numbers person? Do you ever succumb to the temptation of comparing your numbers with those of others?

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Friday Five

I asked my family what I should post for The Friday Five this week, and my eldest child said "The top  5 things on your Christmas list."

(I suspect she has an ulterior motive here, as she mentioned that she would be checking it out when it posted. :D So here it is, darlin'!)

So the top 5 things on my Christmas List this year:

1. A KINDLE. (Note the position of this on the list and the fact that it is in capital letters. :D Hint, hint...okay, fairly blatant request!)

2. Numb3rs season 4. I have seasons 1-3 and season three leaves you hanging on a real cliff!

3. A kid-friendly nativity set. I love nativity sets and collect them. It was brought to my attention recently that I don't have one that is okay for kids to play with.

4. A John MacArthur study Bible in the ESV.

5. The Civil War 3 volume set by Shelby Foote, or William Folwell's History of Minnesota in Four Volumes.

My husband thinks I'm hard to buy for, so I hope this helps him out. :)

How about you? What is on your Christmas list?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Dream Realized.

This last week, I realized a dream. You see, for years now, ever since I first began pursuing publication with my fiction, I've dreamed of seeing my book on bookstore shelves. Particularly on the shelf at the Barnes & Noble at Apache Mall in Rochester. The truth is, I used to browse B&N and I'd always stop in the Inspirational Fiction department and check on the place where my book would be shelved if I had one.

I wasn't jealous of the authors already there, I just wanted to join their number.

I had heard there was a possibility that Barnes & Noble would pass on carrying my first trade-length novel, A Bride's Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas, because it was similar to something they already carried. That was kinda hard, but I squared my shoulders and determined that all of that was out of my hands. If God wanted the book in B&N, He would have to take care of it.

Last week, I got a photograph from a friend via Facebook. Imagine my joy to see A Bride's Portrait on a Barnes & Noble shelf in LOWER MANHATTAN!

I hustled out to the mall. And there it was. A Bride's Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas on the shelf at Barnes & Noble at Apache Mall in Rochester, MN.

My reaction? I stood there and smiled and swallowed and whispered, "Thank you, Jesus." Then, I did the dork thing and took a photograph. :D

God is good!

On another related note, my local Christian bookstore, the wonderful and welcoming and very author and reader friendly Christian Book & Gift, has a "Best-seller wall" in their store. They show the top five non fiction and top five fiction titles that have sold that week. Lookit #4!

Another dream I had was to do book signings with authors who were my friends. And I have been so blessed! This has been a very busy month of book signings and travel. On Saturday I was in Sioux Falls with Mary Connealy, Lorna Seilstad, and Rose Ross Zediker at Crossroads bookstore.

Monday, October 17, 2011

My ACFW Conference Experience

Okay, here's the scoop on why my ACFW post is late this year:
I lost my camera at the conference, and every time I tried to go to the lost and found at the registration desk, it was CLOSED! Thankfully, Mary Connealy rescued my camera from oblivion by reclaiming it for me while I was meeting my agent in the coffee shop. Now I have the pictures, and I can show you a glimpse of the terrific time I had.
The adorable Ruthy Logan Herne, who is so feisty and hilarious and sweet. She's seated with the lovely Cara Lynn James, who writes historical romance and has a set of the most beautiful book covers ever! (The top of the head along the side...that's Mary Connealy trying to photo-bomb my picture!)

Pepper Basham (Dual Genesis Finalist!) and Audra Harders. I have to take a moment here to say how kind and lovely Audra is. Such a sweetie! 

This is Casey Herringshaw, who, I'm pretty sure the character of Tinkerbell was patterned after. She's so tiny and adorable. She's a voracious reader and book reviewer, and a fine writer in her own right. I have a feeling the Christian Fiction world is going to be hearing from Casey pretty soon. She's got a contagious enthusiasm.

My publisher, Barbour Publishing, took their authors on a riverboat cruise on the Mississippi! This is Valerie Comer, fellow Barbour author and a Canadian. :)

This is the boat just before departure with the Arch in the background. That's Keli Gwyn on the staircase. :)

This is us on the upper deck chatting and waiting to shove off. The weather was perfect, and the company terrific. Oh, and the food. The folks of St. Louis are onto something with those fried ravioli!

This is one of my favorite pictures, a candid of Keli Gwyn. This was Keli's first publisher's dinner, and I think she had a good time. I'm so looking forward to her debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California. 

This is my friend and editor, Aaron McCarver. He is the epitome of a Southern Gentleman to whom chivalry and honor and integrity are as natural as breathing. I'm proud to call him my friend. I just finished reading Lily, penned by Aaron and his co-writer Diane Ashley and due out in 2012. It's a keeper!

The name of our riverboat was the Tom Sawyer. The other riverboat was appropriately named the Becky Thatcher. 

Dinner on the River boat! Clockwise are Rose McCauley, Jennifer Johnson, Ramona Cecil, and Keli Gwyn!

The bookstore asked us to come by and sign our books when we arrived at the conference. Here I'm signing copies of Idaho Brides and The Log Cabin Christmas Collection. It was at the conference that our editor, Becky Germany, informed us that the Log Cabin Christmas Collection had hit the New York Times Bestseller list! Squee!!! It's such a beautiful book. Lots of folks at my recent book signings picked up the book and commented on how beautiful it is, from the embossing to the foiling to the end paper photograph. I'm so glad to be part of this project!

Me and Beth Goddard and Debby Mayne in the lobby of the hotel.

Me, Heather Sunseri, Katie Ganshert, Jeanne Campbell, and Keli Gwyn. :)

This was my 5th ACFW conference, and I'm already looking forward to Dallas next year! 

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Friday Five

Tomorrow is my pastor, Kevin Sorensen's **'th birthday. Not only is Kevin my pastor, but I also consider him a very good friend. We've been coming to Cornerstone E. Free Church for twelve years now, and Kevin has been our pastor there the whole time. This is the first church my husband and I have attended where the pastor is our contemporary.

So today's Friday Five is for Kevin. Happy Birthday.

Five things I like about having Kevin as my pastor. (And there are more than five, but we'll go with these for today.)

1. Kevin had the guts to put the above picture of himself on Facebook for all the world to see. Bold choice, Kevin.

2. Kevin knows all the lines to The Princess Bride, and he is NOT afraid to use them.

3. Kevin never seems to mind that something funny happens in church every week and I wind up stifling giggles.

4. Kevin is always reading and learning and trying to deepen his knowledge of God so he can glorify Him more and teach others how to do the same.

5. Kevin goes above and beyond at the church, doing so many things that none of us even know about in addition to his up front duties.

Here's what Kevin looks like now. He cleans up pretty good.

Happy Birthday, Kevin! Enjoy the Caribou coffee.

Are you friends with your pastor? Did you know that October is Pastor Appreciation Month? Do something nice for your pastor before Reformation Day!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Christian Fiction - What is it?

A few weeks ago, Allen Arnold, Fiction Publisher at Thomas Nelson Publishers, posed an interesting idea on his blog.  He said that Christian fiction is often described by what it doesn't have. No sex, no gratuitous violence, no cussing. And he likened this to someone describing a particular dish by what it didn't contain. No soy, no salmon, no salt. You can read that blog post by clicking HERE.

Allen Arnold challenged writers to define Christian fiction by what it did include instead of listing what it didn't. I've been trying to define Christian fiction ever since, and it's led to pretty much nothing but more questions.

  • Is Christian fiction a novel that contains someone having heard the gospel and coming to Christ? 
  • Is Christian fiction a sermon in story? 
  • Is it Christian if nobody in the story is a believer and nobody is influenced by Biblical Christianity and the God of the Bible? 
  • Can you have Christian fiction in all genres, or are some, like Sci-fi or Time Travel, or Vampire-Lit not under the umbrella of Christian fiction? 
  • Is all fiction written by Christian authors by default Christian Fiction? 
  • If a book teaches a moral that lines up with Biblical guidelines like Dr. Seuss's Sneetches or Aesop's fables, is it Christian fiction?
  • If a book is published by a company known as a Christian publishing company, is it Christian? (This is putting me in mind of the VEN diagrams my son and I are working on in geometry this year.)

Tim Downs and Tracie Peterson (referenced in Monday's blog post) both write what is classified as Christian fiction, and both are excellent wordsmiths, but the approach they take to Christian content in their fiction is diverse. Do both approaches result in Christian fiction, or are they shelved that way because they are published by Thomas Nelson and Bethany House Publishers, Titans in the Christian Publishing Industry?

I don't know. I am not picking on either Tim or Tracie, simply using them as examples since they were the two most recent keynote speakers at the ACFW Conference. Christian fiction seems to run the spectrum from overt to covert in its Christian content. So what is it that is the commonality, the thread that ties it all together under one definition?

My conclusion: Christian Fiction is like LOVE. I can't tell you everything it is, but I know it when I see it.

Does anyone have a concise definition of Christian Fiction? Can we all pool our ideas to arrive at a consensus?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Easter Egg or Christmas Gift?

Last year at the ACFW Conference, the keynote speaker, well-respected Tim Downs, author of the Nick Polchak "Bug Man" series published by Thomas Nelson, addressed the writers in a general session in which he likened the gospel and Christianity in Christian fiction to an Easter Egg.

He had my attention. How is the gospel like an egg?

Here's a paraphrase of what he said:

When your child is very young, you lay the brightly colored Easter Egg on the grass and even go over and stand by it, pointing at it to direct the child to the prize.

When your child gets older and more savvy, you find new and clever ways to hide the Easter Egg. You make them look under and inside things, perhaps don't color it as boldly, and the child has to work for the prize.

And finally, when your child is a teen, or even older, it becomes a real challenge to hide the Easter Eggs. A battle of wits and wills. Burying the Easter egg, put it in the most obscure place possible, because the joy is in the discovery, in the hunt.

I've listened to the recordings of this session a couple of times, in addition to being there for the live presentation, and I'm still muddled. Is a novel where the characters are overtly Christian, where the gospel is evident, considered too simplistic? Is it fiction for babies? I don't want to mis-quote or mis-interpret Mr. Downs' words, but what he seemed to be saying is: the way he writes fiction, either not mentioning the gospel or Jesus, or burying the Easter Egg so deeply that the book could be classified general fiction, is a better way to tell a story and convey truth. The reader will enjoy the hunt for the truth in the story, and that joy of discovery will make the truth stay with the reader longer.

A couple of questions arise. By Tim Downs's own admission, he's been known to hide Easter Eggs from his teenage kids so well that months later they find a plastic egg with rock hard M&M's in it. Is it possible to hide the truth of the gospel in the middle of a rollicking good story so deeply that the reader will miss it altogether? Is that somehow better or worse than having a story that is overtly Christian?

In contrast to Tim Downs, last month at the 2011 ACFW, the keynote speaker was Tracie Peterson. And in her Saturday keynote address, she challenged us as Christian writers to be salt and light and to make our stories unashamedly Christian. We were to shine light into dark corners, to season our stories with the Truth of the Gospel and make it evident who we were and Who we belonged to.

I inferred from this that instead of making people hunt for the truth like a well-buried Easter Egg, we should offer it to them like a Christmas gift. Nothing secretive about handing someone a gift and saying "Here you go!" (And it doesn't escape me, the whole gospel is a Christmas gift thing. Jesus = Gift. Got it.)

So which is right? Is there room in Christian Fiction for both the overt and the subtle? I think we'd first have to define Christian fiction to see if both are included. Which is the topic for Wednesday.

But for today, do you write fiction that is overtly Christian? Easter Egg or Christmas Gift, or somewhere in between?

Friday, October 07, 2011

The Friday Five

This week's Friday Five is Five cool things about the ACFW Conference:

1. Meeting old friends and making new ones.

2. Hanging with the Seekers. These ladies rock!

3. Learning that A Log Cabin Christmas Collection made the NYT Best seller list! (The above picture is right to left: Michelle Ule, Editor Rebecca Germany, me, and Liz Johnson at the awards banquet.)

4. Having my soul bathed with assurance as Tracie Peterson spoke about being unashamedly Christian and letting that shine through her fiction.

5. An amazing river boat cruise compliments of Barbour Publishing. We had a GREAT time!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Goal Setting for October

Happy October!

It's time for those goals, checking in and resetting.

1. Turn in novella collection Sagebrush Knights. (Yay! I turned in this project, due 11/1 yesterday.)

2. Plot out and begin work on A Bride Sews With Love in Needles, CA. There are 120 days until this ms is due, so I can't waste much time. The story needs to come in at about 80K words. I've got a good synopsis that just needs some fine tuning before I can dive into the story.

3. Re-purpose a synopsis I wrote awhile back for submitting to a different house.

4. Read. My TBR stack is getting tall.

5. Four book signings.

6. Finish up the thank you notes I need to write from the ACFW Conference. (I'll be blogging about the conference next week.)

How about you? What are your October goals?

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Book Signings

This week, Mary Connealy and I are signing books at the following stores: (I KNOW! I'm so blessed to have Mary as a friend. She's such a dear woman to travel all this way to join me in signing books.)

October 7th from 6-8 pm

 Christian Book and Gift Shop
815 N Broadway
Rochester, MN 55906
            (507) 289-2590      

Saturday, October 8th, 2011, 10am-12pm

Burnsville LifeWay Christian Store (formerly Northwestern Book Store)

Cobblestone Court
14150 Nicollet Ave S
BurnsvilleMN 55337
Phone            952-435-8600      
Saturday, October 8th, 2011, 10am-12pm

Saturday, October 8th, 2011 2-4 pm

Maple Grove LifeWay Christian Store (formerly Northwestern Book Store)


Arbor Lakes Mall
12985 Elm Creek Blvd
Maple GroveMN 55369
Phone            763-420-3883      
Saturday, October 8th, 2011 2-4 pm

If you would like to purchase books by Mary or myself, but you can't make it to one of the stores during the signing, please call the store and they will set aside books for you.

If you're one of the lovely Cornerstone E. Free folks from my church in Rochester and want books signed, call Christian Book and Gift at the number listed above, and I will sign your books and deliver them to you at church on the next Sunday.

I hope you will all be able to stop by. There will be gift baskets given away, a small presentation on fiction writing at the Rochester signing, much in the way of fun, laughter, and BOOKS!