Monday, February 28, 2011

New Craft Book

This last week the mailman brought me a new book on craft that I'm looking forward to dipping into. The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes and Heroines by Cowden, LaFever & Viders.

The basic set-up of the book describes 8 hero personalities and 8 heroine personalities.

For Heroes:

  1. The Chief
  2. The Bad Boy
  3. The Best Friend
  4. The Charmer
  5. The Lost Soul
  6. The Professor
  7. The Swashbuckler
  8. The Warrior
For Heroines:

  1. The Boss
  2. The Seductress
  3. The Spunky Kid
  4. The Free Spirit
  5. The Waif
  6. The Librarian
  7. The Crusader
  8. The Nurturer
Even better than the descriptions of these personality types, the book goes on to describe how each of these personality types interacts with the others and gives examples from movies and television of each of the personality types.

I love that this book breaks down the different types into strengths, weaknesses, occupations, etc. I can't wait to use it to help me create interesting casts of characters.

Have you read this book? And what would you cast yourself as based upon these lists?

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Friday Five

Recently, my publisher, Barbour, took out ad space in the Romance Sells Magazine that is sent to librarians and book-buyers in order to start the promotion of my upcoming release A Bride's Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas, due out this September.

Romance Sells is published by the Romance Writers of America, a writer's organization that boasts more than 10,000 members worldwide.

As a brand-new member of the RWA, I'm still learning my way around, but I'm already finding some valuable resources and information.

So today's Friday Five is:

Five benefits of belonging to writers' organizations.

1. Networking--a.k.a. making new friends who love the same things you do.

2. Education. Both the RWA and the ACFW offer courses, industry information, and instruction in the craft of writing and selling fiction.

3. Professionalism. Belonging to professional organizations calls upon a writer to think of herself as a professional and helps others to view her as the same.

4. Contests that are recognized in the industry. The ACFW Genesis and Carol Awards and the RWA Rita and Golden Heart Awards are well-recognized. Finaling or winning in one of these contests fill out an author's resume nicely.

5. Conferences. I've not been to an RWA conference, but I've been to many ACFW Conferences, and it has become a highlight of my year. Meeting with friends and editors and agents, listening to the speakers, and fellowshipping with 500+ fellow writers is fun, exhilerating, exhausting, memorable, and so much more. I hope never to miss an ACFW conference if I can help it.

So, question for you: Do you belong to a professional organization? What benefits have you gleaned?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I'm writing this on Sunday evening to schedule it to go live on Wednesday morning. Yesterday, if everything went according to plan, I got my braces off!

Braces are something I've wanted for a very long time. But life always seemed to intervene. I had two teenagers who needed braces. When I turned 40, I decided I wasn't ever going to be younger, and if I wanted straight teeth, now was the time.

January of last year I started the process of adjustments, bands, brackets, wax, and It-now-takes-me-20-mins-to-floss. I opted not to go with the invisible braces, because I wanted to get done with the process quicker, and I didn't really care if I had metal on my teeth or not as far as my looks go. It falls under the "life's too short to worry about stuff like that" category.

Braces at this point in my life have caused comment, double-takes, and even got me carded once. :D What a hoot.

So, did you have braces? Have you been through the process with your kids?

Monday, February 21, 2011

New Poll

Books behind the bedphoto © 2006 rjp | more info (via: Wylio)
This week I have a new poll in the right margin.

I'm curious to know how many books you are reading right now.

Are you a One-at-a-time reader?

Do you have one for your purse, one on your bedside table, and one in the bathroom? (Come on, I know there are bathroom readers out there.)

Do you have books going in different genres? A self-help and a contemporary romance, a cookbook and a memoir?

Myself, I have several books going at one time. I'm reading a mystery out loud to my husband, a contemporary romance I got at a recent book-signing, a biography/memoir that always encourages me, and an historical romance that I got at another book-signing.

I'm also stalking the UPS man for a new writing book and a new thriller that should arrive at the end of this week.

So, I'm interested in your reading habits. Take the poll, then leave a comment to tell me at least one book you're reading this week.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Friday Five

Today's Friday Five is:

Five things I LOVED about Mary Connealy's Shartshooter in Petticoats.

1. It is the culmination of a 9 book series. And all the major players show up in the finale so it's like visiting with old friends.

2. The action stampedes. There is NO down time in this story.

3. Tom Linscott, the hero. Well, he's a MAN. A real, tough, strong, protective, stubborn, heroic man,.

4. The humor. I love to gasp and giggle my way through a book, and Mary Connealy always gives me that experience. Sharpshooter in Petticoats is no exception.

5. The romance. Tom and Mandy are head-over-heels in love from the get-go. And they have a delightful time discovering what it means to finally be man and wife.

And a bonus:

The thing I loved best about Sharpshooter in Petticoats?  Mary Connealy herself. She is one of my dearest writing friends, a mentor, an advocate, a treasure. So generous with her wisdom, time, humor, encouragement. She has helped me every step of the way along this journey.

So, question for you have a mentor-friend who has helped you?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

New Scrapbook Pages

I love making new pages for my scrapbook. Not only because a new page means something new has happened in my writing life, but also because I get to visualize my stories in a new way, get to the heart of things--what the story is really about and what I'm trying to say--and...I get to play with stickers. :D

Today I thought I'd post some new pictures from two new pages I made this last week. (I have to admit, making the pages with my daughter is a lot more fun than making them by myself, and if I hadn't wanted the scrapbook to be ready for the book signing this past week, I'd have waited for her spring break to work on these pages.)

The first pages here are for my upcoming novella collection: Sagebrush Knights.

Here is the basic premise: Set in 1874, SAGEBRUSH KNIGHTS is the story of four sisters from Seabury, MA (fictional) who are in need of husbands. Their father, a medieval scholar, has passed away, and they have no means to support themselves. When one of the sisters discovers a copy of The Matrimonial News, a periodical devoted to facilitating mail-order matches, she convinces the other three to place an ad with her. The sisters stipulate that they must find men from the same town, so they will at least have each other as neighbors and support. An answer comes quickly from Wyoming Territory. When the ladies arrive in the little town of Sagebrush hoping to find their knights-in-shining-armor, they are disappointed in the serfs who greet them. While technically neighbors, the ranches are so far apart, the Gerhard sisters will have to learn to trust God and their new husbands if they are going to survive in the West.

As you can see from the above picture, I divided the page into fourths using sage-green papers and flower and rail-fence stickers. Each of the novellas gets a fourth of the page with a story description and some embellishments that go along with the story.

The first novella in the collection is called Knight and Day: EVELYN GERHARD STANFORD, eldest of the Gerhard sisters and a Civil War widow, keeps the knowledge of her ten-year-old son a secret from her prospective groom. Resentful that God made her a widow with a baby on the way, now ten years later she is angry that God would force her to move so far away and marry a stranger to survive. When she arrives in Sagebrush with her son in tow, she’s shocked to realize her groom forgot to mention his ten-year-old daughter. Where her son is bookish and quiet, his daughter is a mischievous hoyden, and Evelyn and GARETH KITTRICK are as opposite as the children. While she tries to teach Gareth’s daughter some manners, Gareth tries to teach Evelyn’s son what it means to be a man. And all the while, they are learning to be a family.

The background paper is old, handwritten postcards and letters, which I thought was appropriate since the hero and heroine exchange letters before they meet. I've also included a picture of St. George Slaying the Dragon, a cowboy hat, and a daffodil.

The second story in the collection is titled Lady in Waiting: JANE GERHARD is the invisible sister, the plain one. Overlooked, she longs to be special to someone. But the man she weds is a workaholic who spends all his time on the range. HARRISON GARVEY’S father has made him a wager. If he can’t double his ranch’s production within three years, he has to abandon his dream of being a rancher and move back east. And his time is running out. Jane tries to win Harrison’s attention by being the best rancher’s wife she can be, but it isn’t until she works herself to exhaustion and Harrison must tend to her that she learns he’d give up the ranch if it meant winning her love.

I used a softly patterned background and a cameo for Jane's story as well as some horse stickers and a cowboy hat for Harrison. Also, there are some baby chicks that will be in the story, and a picture
of a row of leather-bound books that shows Jane's love of reading. In the bottom left corner is a silver stamp that says LOVE.

Novella number three is Shining Armor: GWENDOLYN GERHARD, the youngest of the Gerhard girls is shocked to find out the man she intended to marry has died while she journeyed to meet him. Even more shocking is the fact that he was over seventy years old. His grandson, MATTHEW PARKER, shows up in Sagebrush determined to send the woman home, convinced she was a gold-digger preying on a dying old man. When he learns that she has no family to return to, he has no choice but to marry her and take her back to his ranch. But that doesn’t mean he intends to fall in love with her. He’s fighting a losing battle against the charming, sweet Gwendolyn until he finds out his grandfather intended him to marry her all along. Gwendolyn must convince Matthew that her love for him is real and that she wasn’t in collusion with his grandfather.

This corner of the page has a green 'crackle' background. It also has a picture of a wooden chess set (because chess will be an initial common ground for Gwen and Matt,) and a family crest. (Actually, this is my own family crest.

And the final story in Sagebrush Knights is called On A White Charger: EMELINE GERHARD has long dreamed of living on a ranch and learning to ride horses, herd cattle, and cook over a campfire. She’s thrilled to be heading to Sagebrush. Imagine her surprise when her cowboy turns out to have a ranch all right. A sheep ranch. With gentle persistence, JOSEPH BARRETT shows Emeline the reality of life in the west, and the special bond between a shepherd and his sheep. When area cattlemen threaten the flock, Emeline and Joseph band together—with the help of her sisters and their husbands—to save their ranch.

For this one, there is a lamb, a sheepdog, and a rather modest sod cabin. I have a feeling I'm going to really have fun with this story because her expectations and her reality are so very far apart.

Another page I completed for the scrapbook is for the September release of A Bride's Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas.

I must've been obsessed with quartering pages, because I divided this page into fourths as well, though two of the panels are the same brown polka-dot.  The other two panels are red floral to match the title color. I put the cover art in the center of the page and used a lace trim sticker to define the edges of each quarter.

A couple of my favorite things on this page are the photographs and the sign. (And the little wanted poster that is part of the story.)

This photograph is of Bat Masterson, one of the characters in the story. This photograph is part of the storyline. It's always been a favorite photograph of mine. Bat's eyes are amazing--so piercing. My heroine is a photographer, and I credit her with taking a photo of Bat similar to the one I used here for the scrapbook page. 

Another of my favorite bits from this page is the sign across the top of the page. I used some 'barn-board' patterned paper, letter stickers to spell out Reid's Photography. I 'hung' the sign using some black ribbon and some white beads. Rose stickers and white heart beads, as well as black picture corners comlete the page.

I never intended to become a scrapbooker (is that the right word?) but it has sort of grown on me. Have you ever fallen into doing something you never thought you would, only to find out you enjoy it?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Book Signing in Sioux Falls

This past Saturday I had the pleasure of attending a book signing event at CrossRoads Bookstore in Sioux Falls, SD. What a wonderful place! If you're passing through Sioux Falls, please stop by and visit CrossRoads. You won't be disappointed. An amazing selection of books, artwork, music, and the friendliest staff around.

Several authors took part in the signing, (Which is, after all, the best way to have a book signing.) Rose Ross Zediker, Mary Connealy, and Sue Schmidt were kind enough to let me join them on this adventure. :)

What a delightful time we had, chatting with each other and the wonderful patrons of the bookstore. We sold lots of books, met new friends and old, and renewed our aquaintance with the fine folks that work at CrossRoads.

Have you been to a book signing? If so, how did you learn the author would be in your area signing books?

And have a Happy Valentine's Day! Are you a fan of V Day?

And if you had to choose, would it be flowers or chocolate?

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Friday Five

This week's Friday Five is: THE LETTER Z!

Can you believe it? We've reached the letter Z already! (Now I'm going to have to think up something else for the Friday Five...)

So, Four things I like that start with Z and one thing I don't.

1. Zoos. LOVE zoos. I've been to lots of zoos, but there are few I'd love to visit. San Diego Zoo. Cincinnati Zoo. The National Zoo. The Toronto Zoo.

2. Zaccheus. What a great story, and I loved the song and the actions that went along with it when I was a kid. (Okay, show of hands, who's singing the song in their head now?)

3. The Cole sisters, Zephra and Zoe, who are entertaining Rochester Area Homeschool Defenders basketball players.

4. Fried Zucchini with ranch dressing dip. MMMMM Everything is better fried.

and one thing I don't like that starts with Z

5. Zone defense. Especially that which was played by Syracuse University against the Kansas Jayhawks in the 2003 Final Four Championship Game.

How about you? What do you like and not like that starts with Z.

And do you have any suggestions for what you'd like to see in future Friday Fives?

Oh, and hop on over to today. Tina Radcliffe is talking about the best writing advice ever.

And tomorrow I'll be at Crossroads Bookstore in Sioux Falls, SD signing books with Rose Ross Zediker and Mary Connealy. If you can join us, that would be fantabulous. If you can't and you'd still like a signed book, contact the store and they will see about getting one to you.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The ACFW Genesis Contest

The ACFW Genesis Contest for Unpublished Writers is open! This is THE premier contest for writers of Christian Fiction. There are so many reasons to enter this contest, but I'll only list a few here:

  • For $35 you get a minimum of three critiques of your work by published or well-experienced and trained judges.
  • An objective evaluation of where your work is. The Genesis is a completely anonymous contest. The judges won't know whose entry they are judging, and you won't know the identity of your judge unless he/she chooses to reveal that information.
  • The opportunity to get your work in front of a stellar line up of final round judges if your entry should get that far. Agents and editors from the top agencies and publishing houses will be reading your work.
  • The chance to network with other writers. One of the greatest joys I received from the Genesis contest was meeting fellow finalists and making new friends. 
I entered the Genesis contest three times. Once, my work was so raw and new, I wasn't anywhere near the top entries. BUT, though I received mediocre-at-best scores, I did receive a TON of constructive criticism and help. I not only learned what I was doing wrong, but how to improve. Priceless. 

The next time I entered, I finaled in the Historical Fiction category, though I wasn't one of the top three.

The third time I entered, I finaled in two categories, finished third in the Historical Romance category and won the Lit category. (Interestingly enough, I didn't final with a third manuscript that year. The one that didn't final and the one that finished third in Historical Romance have gone on to be published. The lit story? Haven't worked on it since.)

Question for you: Have you ever entered a writing contest? What did you learn from the experience?

Also, if you are planning on entering the Genesis this year, PLEASE--for the sake of your category coordinators--get your entry in before February 15th. There is a LOGJAM the last weekend that the contest is open to entries, and if your entry gets eaten in cyberspace, or if there is a formatting problem with your entry, there might not be time to send it back to you to fix. If this is the case, the coordinator has no choice but to disqualify your entry. I'd HATE to see this happen to anyone.

Monday, February 07, 2011

A little poll

75/365 Hugs are Healingphoto © 2010 Ganesha Balunsat | more info (via: Wylio)
If you check the sidebar to the right, you'll see a little poll I'm running.

I've been thinking a lot lately about character quirks and how adding a few here and there can really affect who your character is and how they react in given situations.

This thinking has caused me to become more observant, especially those close to me--especially myself.

I'm a 'gimme my space, don't try to hug me or I'll go ninja on you' kinda girl. I don't naturally hug people--except those in my own family.

My son is a hugger. He's apt to break out in a spontaneous drive by 'mugging' at any time. He needs hugs from his mom to fill up his 'I am loved' cup.

I'm trying to figure out how to work this trait into one of my stories. I've got some mail-order bride novellas coming up, and I've been toying with the idea of making one of the brides a spontaneous hugger and her groom a 'keep your distance' kinda guy. :) One will have to convince the other that they should change their ways. I'm putting my money on the bride. :D

How about you? Please take the time to take the poll, then let me know if you've ever used this character trait or something similar in a story.

Friday, February 04, 2011

The Friday Five

hey its the letter y!photo © 2008 echoforsberg | more info (via: Wylio)
Today's Friday Five is brought to you by the Letter Y.

Four things I like that start with the letter Y and one thing I don't.

1. Yeasty bread. I love the smell of bread, hot from the oven, ready for buttering.

2. Yarn. Especially really soft baby yarn. I like to crochet baby blankets for new babies when I can. I have a favorite pattern that I always use, only varying the colors.

3. "Yes, Ma'am" which is the proper response when one of my children is given a task by me. Love to hear a cheerful "yes, ma'am" and have quick obedience.

4. Yellow daffodils. A sure sign of spring around here.

Coming up with things I DON'T like that start with Y was easier. The New York Yankees, yogurt, yawning, yams, yodeling...

How about you? Thumbs up or thumbs down to things that start with Y?

Today is the last day that I'm over at Shannon Vannatter Taylor's Inkslinger Blog talking about my real life romance. You can drop on by and enter to win a copy of The Bartered Bride. This book is now out of print and I only have a couple of copies left, so hurry. :)

Also, Rebecca Germany updated the fiction acquisitions at Barbour and she mentions A Bride's Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas. You can check things out at

Have a happy weekend!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Website Updates

John rescues bunnyphoto © 2008 Susan Gilson | more info (via: Wylio)

Saturday I spent some time in the delightful company of my SIL and nephews. Her elder son, in addition to being a brilliant mathematician and computer genius, is also my web master.

With infinite patience, he let me tweak, suggest, change and shuffle ideas for my website.

My About Me page sports a new bio. (Same old picture of me though.)

The Books page needed the most changes. Lots of additions there. :D

We also added an Awards and Signings page which was fun.

I hope you'll go check it out. There is a link to my webpage in the right-hand column here on the blog.

Oh, and why the bunny? Aside from being stinkin' cute, my nephew's nickname is Stealthbunny which cracks me up. :)