Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Importance of Goals

Target by Jasper Johns

If you've read this blog for any length of time at all, you'll know that I love goals. I try to set them every month, though I've slacked off this past summer. 

I've been reminded how much I need goals in order to get anything accomplished, especially something as big as writing a novel. Without specific goals, I flounder, piddle around, and waste way too much time.

You might notice that in the right sidebar I've placed a new word counter. It's for my new project, tentatively titled The Major's Minors, an historical romance set at Fort Larned, Kansas in 1868. I'm hoping to see that red bar fill up steadily over the next few months.

You see, I have a goal. I want to send my agent a completed manuscript by April 1st. When we spoke in Dallas last week, she asked what she could do for me, and I told her I needed a deadline, a goal, something to keep my fingers typing and my mind engaged in a story. And voila! I now have one.

I'm about halfway through the plotting of this story, and I'm layering in conflict and subplots and spiritual threads, romance, action, and lots more. Loving Major Elliot Ryder, his two wards and Priscilla Wellington, who complicates and simplifies things all at the same time. 

Here are my goals for October:

1. Finish plotting The Major's Minors by October 15th.

2. Begin writing The Major's Minors and get 10,000 words by the end of the month.

3. Put together a blog tour for A Bride Sews With Love in Needles, CA which releases 11/1.

4. Write all the blog posts for the Romancing America Blog where Sagebrush Knights will be the feature book for all of December!

What about you? Do you have any goals for October? Are you a goal-oriented person?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Friday Five

All week I've been plagued with Earworm songs so I thought I'd share the joy.

Here are five songs that have been stuck in my head this week: (With the links to youtube videos so you can get them stuck in your head too!)

1. Marry You by Bruno Mars

2. John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt (Thanks to my son for this one.)

3. You Are Good

4. A Woman Like You by Lee Brice

5. Time is Love by Josh Turner

How about you? Any songs stuck in your head this week? Any of these songs above familiar to you?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

World War One Wednesday


Upon my return from the ACFW Conference this last week, I was met with a formidable amount of laundry to do. No laundry was done while I was gone, and I had all my own travel clothes to wash when I got home. I spent much of Tuesday taming the laundry beast, and I'm happy to say I was all caught up by bedtime...when we changed into jammies and suddenly I had more laundry to do. Ain't that always the way?

While I was washing, drying, folding, hanging up, and putting away, I wondered how the soldiers on the front lines of World War One got their clothes clean. So, I googled the idea. :)

Here's an excerpt from a website I found:

Whether slopping through mud, sweltering in tropical heat, or swimming in continuous rain, combat soldiers do not stay clean very long. Soldiers knew that clean clothing, when provided, did not come often. For the first 150 years of U.S. history, soldiers were left to their own devices for personal laundry. Most did not bother, and the result was substantial loss of combat power due to disease.

The health risk factors associated with poor personal hygiene were well known at the turn of the century. British forces established standards of field hygiene, appointed field sanitation officers, and published manuals on sanitation techniques-including clothing sanitation. Their pioneering efforts were a result of astronomical non-battle casualties. During the Crimean War, the English lost 21,000 soldiers to diseases. Regimental medical officers knew that clothing provided a perfect home for a persistent camp follower and disease carrier--the common louse (the "Greyback" of the Civil War and "Cootie" of World War I).

World War I marked the first real attempt to provide front line soldiers with clean clothes through laundering and sanitation. The "Cootie" problem and its inherent risk of massive nonbattle casualties, coupled with the advent of chemical warfare, jolted slow moving design and procurement activities into high gear.

French and English forces already had mobile laundries in the zone of operations and furnished many of the units first used by American Forces. The first American portable unit was completed in October 1917 by the Broadbent Portable Laundry Corporation and consisted of four trailers carrying the laundry equipment, two trailers carrying supplies, and a steam tractor as prime mover and power source. On the road, the system extended for more than 100 feet and was often associated with the arrival of Barnum and Bailey's Circus.

Laundry companies organized to operate the systems were staffed by one second lieutenant and 37 enlisted soldiers. These companies were separate organizations attached to armies, corps, or divisions based essentially on accessibility of the parent unit since the laundries needed hardstands, good roads, and considerable maneuver space.

World War I soldiers never had adequate laundry service. In 1917, General Pershing requested that every division embarking for France be assigned a mobile laundry. The first system arrived in Europe in May 1918, and three more were received in August. By Armistice Day in November, 24 units were in Europe. Capable of servicing 1,500 men per day, the units operated primarily in the rear. Most trench soldiers did not see clean uniforms until they were relieved from the front lines. This severe lack of laundry service resulted in "Cooties" living on more than 90 percent of American soldiers at the front. Following the war, mobile units were used for salvage, sanitation, and reclamation of clothing for return to storage.

You can read more about how the military dealt with laundry issues by clicking on this link:

I don't mind washing and drying, or even sorting before laundry is done. The place where I get stuck is in the folding and putting away. It's so easy to take that basket of clean laundry and set it on the cedar chest at the foot of my bed, and every day, take out something to wear. Before I know it I have two or three half-filled baskets of clean clothes, and nothing in the closet. I'm making a concerted effort to get things put away right away.

How about you? What is your favorite and least favorite laundry task??

Monday, September 24, 2012

Distilling Niagara

Me on the left and Mary Connealy on the right, rockin our red banquet shoes at the 2012 ACFW Awards Gala. 

Home from conference. And...Wow. I was so blessed. I'm still processing, distilling, mulling, and otherwise ruminating over everything I saw and did and heard and experienced.

All I can say is God spoke words into my heart through His people. He forced me to ask some questions I've been trying to ignore. Questions like "Where is your identity? Because if it is anything other than in Christ, it's in the wrong place." and "What would your life look like if every day was a celebration of My goodness?"

This was SO different from my previous five ACFW Conference experiences. Those conferences leaned heavily on learning how to write better, learning the ins and outs of the publishing business, and learning how to move my career in the direction I would like it to go. They were all about the writing and the goal of getting published. In short, they were all about me and my goals and agendas.

Not so at this year's conference. I focused very little on my writing, though Davis Bunn's class and his thoughts and insights in how to write hope into our fiction for a hopeless, post-modern world were amazing.

Instead, I felt God focusing on my heart. You see, it's been a strange summer in my writing life. Without a current contract to work on, I've floundered. Researching a little, blogging a little, reading some craft books, but not writing. Aimless and wondering what was in store. I've had constant deadlines for four years now, and sometimes more than one. There's always been a goal, an agenda, a promise to fulfill. But now my work is out on submission, and I'm waiting. I thought I was waiting on the Lord, but mostly I was just waiting. :)

So God decided to gently remind me of a few things, and He chose to do it while I was in Texas.

This year at the conference, I deepened relationships and listened to wise counsel. I met with my agent, who gave great advice and with whom, for the first time, I felt we'd worked together long enough, communicated enough, so I could really relax and be honest about how things were going with me. (This is NOT a reflection on her, because she's...well, awesome! Rather it's a reflection on my insecurities and doubts, those doubts about my identity that God is working on.)

Throughout this conference, where I had no editorial appointments, no real agenda, nothing I wanted to accomplish or had to do in order for the conference to be deemed a success for me, I found myself listening more. I tried to focus on listening to the stories of those around me, and more importantly, I tried to listen to what God was saying. I felt God pouring His love and life and grace into some areas of my heart that I'd been withholding from Him. Areas that, through my actions, I had allowed to dry out and wither. Areas that are now springing to life under His grace.

Hopefully, through all this rambling, you can see that I had a wonderful time, and that it was a growing experience for me. I'm refreshed, renewed, eager to get to work, and so very thankful.

This song from our worship time especially blessed me. Do you know it?

You are Good 
Brian Johnson, Jeremy Riddle Bethel Music Publishing c 2010 

I want to scream it out 
From every mountain top 
Your goodness knows no bounds 
Your goodness never stops 
Your mercy follows me 
Your kindness fills my life 
Your Love amazes me 

I sing because You are good 
And I dance because You are good 
And I shout because You are good 
You are good to me to me 

Nothing and no one comes 
Anywhere close to You 
The earth and oceans deep 
Only reflect this truth 
And in my darkest night 
You shine as bright as day 
Your Love amazes me 

With a cry of praise my heart will proclaim 
You are good You are good 
In the Sun or rain my life celebrates 
You are good You are good

You'll notice I underlined the last two lines. They keep repeating in my head and heart. What would my life look like if every day, sun or rain, my life was a celebration of the goodness of God?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Autumn has Come


Fall has arrived in Minnesota. The air is cooler, the trees beginning to change color, the days growing shorter.

When I first moved to this state almost twenty years ago (how CAN it have been that long ago?) I loved the colors and the crisp air, the lowering of the humidity, the signs of harvest all around. Then I went through a rather long phase of being sad about fall's arrival. It meant winter was coming! (Nod to G.R.R. Martin and the Stark family...)

Winter in Minnesota was like nothing I'd ever experienced before. Colder, snowier, and much l---oooonnn----gggggeeeerrr... than winters in Kansas. I was ready for spring well before it actually came. Like months before it actually came. I got sad when spring didn't come.

However, now that I've lived here a long time, I've settled into the rhythm of the seasons here. Fall has arrived, and I'm pleased. I can enjoy autumn again, and even look forward to winter. Winter means a routine, a plan, a schedule. Winter means drinking hot tea and cheering at basketball games and a writing schedule. Thick sweaters, fur-lined boots, and heated seats.

Has fall arrived where you are? What's your favorite part of fall?

I'll be out of pocket for a few days while I attend the ACFW Conference in Dallas. Please be sure to pray for the Spinola family, who will be visiting here with my family while their son undergoes treatment at the Mayo Clinic.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Friday Five

It's a No!

This week's Friday Five is...

Five things I said I would never do, and ended up doing...

1. My kids will NEVER have to take piano lessons. (We started with lessons when James was 7. He's now 16.5)

2. I will never have long hair again. (It's past my shoulders right now.)

3. I will never homeschool. (This is year 15.)

4. I will never do the company bookkeeping. (Been doing it since 2006.)

5. I will never tell my kids "Because I said so, that's why!" (Um, pretty sure I blew that the first time my kid asked "Why?"

What about you? What have you said that you would never do and wound up doing?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Prepping for Conference - One Sheet

I've been working on my one sheets or pitch sheets for the upcoming ACFW Conference, and I thought maybe I'd reprise a previous blog post where I outlined my process for creating a one sheet. You can find it by clicking on the link below.

Have you created a One Sheet before? How did it go?

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Monday Morning Quarterback

A. Peterson & P. Harvin

It's Vikings season around here. And what a start to the season! :)

Question for you...are you a football fan, and if so, who do you root for?

Skol! Vikings!

Friday, September 07, 2012

The Friday Five-ACFW Conference

suitcase of memories

It's about 12 days before I fly away to the ACFW Conference in Dallas. I'm very excited. I love the conference, the learning, the fellowship, the friends, and all the rest. Such a good time.

And I'm beginning to think of things I need to pack, stuff I need to do, and getting ready to go.

So, in an effort to make my lists and get stuff crossed off, Here are some of the things I need to do before the conference:

1. Print Boarding pass and other paperwork.

2. Decide on wardrobe.

3. Break in new red shoes. :D

4. Plan meals and lay in provisions for the boys while I'm gone.

5. Get out small suitcase, fill it up, then decide I need the next larger suitcase, repeat procedure until I finally break down and realize I never pack light and get out the biggest suitcase I own. I'll need room for all the books I'm going to buy. :D

How about you?

Do you pack light?

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

World War One Wednesday

llustration for a Detroit Vapor Stove advertisement in the May 3, 1919 issue of Country Gentleman magazine. That was a year that thousands of soldiers came home from World War One.
Railway Spine
Stress Syndrome
Shell Shock
Battle Fatigue
Traumatic War Neurosis 
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

After experiencing the horrors of war, many US Soldiers brought back with them the symptoms of PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or as it was known in World War One, Shell Shock. These symptoms included hyper-vigilance, extreme fatigue, disassociation with family members and life in general, depression, sleep disturbances, numbness, avoidance, unbidden recall of traumatic events, irritability, anger, aggression, exaggerated startle response, and so much more.

For many of these soldiers of World War One, there was little or no treatment available. People assumed that if the soldier just went home and rested up, spent time with family, ate decently, and went to work, it would all pass over. And for many it did. But for some, PTSD lingered. These men found it difficult, if not impossible to assimilate back into their normal lives. They had seen too much, done too much, been too traumatized to ever forget.

Sadly, many of these American soldiers sought comfort in alcohol and drugs, their marriages and families fell apart, relationships imploded or withered away, and many took their own lives.

PTSD was a very real problem. It was in World War One and it is now. So many of our soldiers are returning from combat in need of help. As people become more aware of the disorder, more efforts are being made to help our soldiers. New treatments for PTSD are being developed all the time, and our veterans are being encouraged to seek help. And not just the soldiers. Help is available for family and spouses of returning vets and their children as well. 

If you want to help, check out They accept donations and volunteer hours, and their specific goal is to help veterans adjust to life after combat.