Monday, January 26, 2015

Ask The Easy Questions

Sometimes we're looking for answers, but we don't even know the questions.

As a repair person for commercial/industrial water softeners, my late husband's philosophy was go back to basics. Before getting into complex solutions, see if the problem is related to something simple and easy to fix. Even I learned to ask a customer, "Did you check the strainer?"

When I'm having difficulties with my writing, I ask the easy questions first:

1)  Do I have a strong opening hook?

2)  Am I giving backstory when I should be jumping into the action?

3)  Am I raising story questions to keep the reader turning pages?

4)  Are the setting details vivid enough?

5)  Is there a take-away for the reader?

Those questions alone could fix what ails your manuscript. If you're satisfied with the answers to these questions, then you can pursue the more involved issues like story structure, deep point of view, and inconsistencies in either your story or characters.

Writers:  Do you have your own set of story diagnostics? Please share.

Readers:  Do you try to analyze why you enjoy or don't enjoy a book? What catches your interest or makes you yawn?

Photo Credit:  beni bb

Friday, January 23, 2015

Frosting, Distractions, and Doubts

1.  Writer Unboxed talks about "frosting" your manuscript too quickly. Intriguing? It was to me. See how making your first draft too pretty can hinder the real work of editing later.

2.  The Positive Writer lists 7 Distractions Stopping You From Writing and how to beat them.

3.  Alisa Hope Wagner declares, "You Are Qualified!" Don't let fear stop you from moving into your destiny.

Writers and Readers:  What distractions keep you from writing or doing the things that really matter to you?

Photo Credit:  Kaicho20

Monday, January 19, 2015

Keep Doing What Works

A little over a year ago, the orchid plant I got as a gift bloomed for me. It was my first taste of success, so I kept doing what I'd been doing since I received it - two ice cubes daily.

By the time summer came around, the plant began losing new growth. It would wither and die for no apparent reason. Several times the thought crossed my mind that I might as well throw it out or bring it back to the gardener who gave it to me. Perhaps a little TLC from her would revive it.

Seeking publication, my early efforts yielded numerous assignments. It gave me a false sense of, "this is a breeze." I soon learned that writing can be a lot like taking care of plants: unpredictable and often frustrating. What worked in the past no longer seemed to produce the desired results.

My entry into the area of fiction left me feeling like a giant failure as agents and editors rejected my manuscript. Maybe I'd missed God's plan and should go back to writing non-fiction. Instead I kept plugging away.

The publishing professionals began saying things like, "I really like your writing, but I can't sell this genre," and "Would you consider writing a romance or Amish novel?" If my main purpose was to entertain or become the next superstar of Christian writing, I might have considered taking their advice. Yet I knew what God had called me to write, and I'd get it out even if it meant self publishing.

Everything changed the beginning of 2013. Little slivers of hope teased me and finally the day came when I held signed agent and publishing contracts in my hands. Three books came out that year in the space of six months. What seemed utterly impossible came to pass.

Oh, and the orchid? A few days ago, I noticed a new shoot with buds!

Writers:  Do you have a story about how God opened the doors of publication to you when it seemed impossible? Contact me using the blog form to see if we can do a guest post.

Readers: Life often presents challenges that seem insurmountable. Please share a time when God came through for you big time.

Photo Credit: Susan J. Reinhardt

Friday, January 16, 2015

Backpacks, News, Gifts, Tips, and Questions

1. Do you tap into the invisible, but very real, emotional backpack your characters carry? Robin LeFevers posts on this fascinating subject at Writer Unboxed.  

2.  World Net Daily reports that smuggling Bibles now carries the death penalty in Saudi Arabia. I'll let you draw your own conclusions. In my estimation, this highlights the precious freedom we have and the need to protect it.

3.  Dena Netherton posted about a special gift we can give those around us: The Listening Gift. Although shared just before Christmas, it's something we can offer year round.

4.  Zoe M. McCarthy gives valuable tips on how to ensure a happy book signing.

5.  Karen Lange, at Write Now, asks, "Why do you blog?"

Writers and Readers: If you blog, why do you blog? I blog because I enjoy the interaction with people and have made some strong friendships.

Photo Credit:  marcacrea

Monday, January 12, 2015

Food for Thought - 5 Myths About Writers

My mother and many others would often say that fish was "brain food." Still, they never quite convinced me to put aside my aversion to the taste and smell. I'm more a spoonful- of-sugar-helps-the-medicine-go-down type of gal.

A lot of writing advice reminds me of fish: smelly and yucky to the palate. What are some of the things that make me cringe? Here's a partial list:

1.  Real writers must sit down and write every day. I contend there's more to developing a story than putting words on paper. Research, turning various scenarios over in your mind, and jotting down interesting tidbits from your day all count. Then when you actually sit down to spill thoughts into a pristine document, something worthwhile comes out.

2.  Real writers plot out their stories. Sorry, folks, you might as well put moi into a padded room and lock the door. Writing is a Seat-of-the-Pants endeavor in this house. If plotting gets your brain in gear, go for it, but we're not all wired that way.

3.  Real writers are introverted, down gallons of coffee, and own stock in Godiva. Okay, I'll give you the Godiva. Introverted - not a chance. I thrive on interaction with people whether in person or on Facebook. The idea of a lonely cabin and a laptop makes me shudder. Lactaid milk and chocolate chip cookies - yeah, that will get the words flowing.

4.  Real writers will only read in their genre. Boring! I realize many are horrified by these revelations, but some of this stuff is what causes writer's block. I write Christian Speculative Fiction, but love to read Historical Romance, Romantic Suspense, and dare I say an Amish book or two. Oh, don't forget non-fiction has its benefits. Of course, I love futuristic novels, but what happened to being well-rounded?

5.  Real writers will make consuming how-to books their top priority. Don't get me wrong, but I believe in selective consumption of these tomes. Most of them are slanted toward plotters. I've got my favorite craft books, and they've helped me improve. My best craft book: God's Word. Getting closer to the One who is THE Creator and seeing how He expresses Himself - it doesn't get any better than that.

Question for Writers: What writing advice ties your brain into a knot?

Question for Readers: Is there a point where a writer's efforts to help you see a scene leaves you puzzled instead of enlightened? Who are some of your favorite authors?

Photo Credit: GlennPeb

Friday, January 9, 2015

Your Social Media Basket

Recently, Edie Melson at The Write Conversation wrote about the changes on Facebook that took effect on January 1, 2015. In this post she gives new strategies to reach your readers.

One of her suggestions involves a return to blogging, guest posts, and commenting on other blogs. Social Media cannot replace the interaction we've experienced through this medium, as well as provide the stability we need.

Check out the rest of her ideas and see which ones you can implement. The big word here is: diversify.

Writers: How are you dealing with the changes on Facebook?

Readers: Where do you go to find out information on new releases and your favorite authors? Do you belong to Goodreads? Twitter? Google+?

Photo Credit:  13dede

Monday, January 5, 2015

New Year's Resolutions - Yada, Yada

What compels us to declare we're going to make some dramatic change in the New Year? It's like a new beginning but not taking into account it's still the same us from the previous year.

One of my Bible School teachers said it best: "By the inch, it's a cinch. By the yard, it's hard." I don't know if that saying originated with him or if he borrowed it from someone. One thing I do know: It stuck with me.

It's rare that we make major changes in an instant. Even when we ask Jesus into our hearts, growth happens as we renew our minds with the Word of God.

So, why do we think we can jump right in and fulfill all these resolutions? My personal opinion is that we're expressing our desires without any idea of how to achieve them. I yearn to draw closer to the Lord starting right now in 2014. How am I doing this?

1.  I've picked up my neglected journal. It's time to re-trace my steps and do the simple things. Saving 15 minutes on writing in my journal is not worth giving up that quiet moment sharing my heart with the Lord. Journaling and Bible reading nourish my soul.

2.  As I travel in my car, I'm listening to music that honors my Lord and CD's that feed my spirit. My focus is turned toward Him as I go about my day.

3.  I'm bringing EVERYTHING to Him, asking for wisdom, direction, and mercy when I totally mess up.

Life is made up of small, everyday decisions. Instead of expecting overnight success, why not opt for the baby step approach?

Writers and Readers: What changes would you like to make in your life? What will help you get there?

Photo Credit: clshearin

Friday, January 2, 2015

Some Topics Are Timeless

While Christmas has come and gone, some topics are timeless.

Pamela Christian, Author and Bible Teacher, explores the subject of the missing wonder of the season. Her thoughtful insights reminded me of one of my teachers in Bible School. He declared we throw around the word, "awesome," in too casual a manner. The term has lost its meaning.

I invite you to visit Pam's blog. Her posts always make me think and consider subjects in a different way.

I hope you had a blessed Christmas!

Writers and Readers: How do you keep the focus of your Christmas on Christ? 

Photo Credit:  johnnyberg

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas on the Internet - Around the World, Peanuts, Mary Did You Know?

Here are a few links I thought might bring a smile to your face. As I hopped around the Net, it took on an international flavor.

1.  Belinda Letchford, of Australia, talks about celebrating Christmas in a way that reflects your Christian beliefs at her blog, Live Life With Your Kids. I discovered this blog by random searching, and was delighted with this 10-year veteran blogger.

2.  I'm a big Peanuts fan, so when I came across this post, I had to share it with you. gives some little known facts about the Peanuts Christmas Special we've all come to know and love. Linus' recounting of the Christmas story will forever stand out in my memory.

3.  How Do You Say, "Merry Christmas," around the world? This blog will tell you.

4.  At Things That Must Happen Soon, we have a list of Christmas celebrations from around the world.

5.  Finally, here's Mark Lowry singing his signature song, Mary Did You Know?

Writers and Readers: Do you have any special family traditions related to your ethnic roots?

Have a blessed Christmas and a Happy, Healthy New Year! I'll be taking a blogging break until Friday, January 2, 2015.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

O Holy Night - Sandi Patty

O Holy Night - Sandi Patty

Monday, December 22, 2014

Angels We Have Heard on High

Angels We Have Heard on High - Sandi Patty

Friday, December 19, 2014

Internet Travels - Promo Materials, Inspiration, Cookies!

1.  Zoe McCarthy gives tips on how to purchase promotional materials for your book release.

2.  Jeanette Levellie, at On Wings of Mirth and Worth, shares some inspirational quotes.

3.  The Christmas baking extravaganza has started in many homes. Here's a recipe for sugar cookies compliments of

Writers:  What types of promotional materials do you purchase? Please share any tips.

Readers:  Do you go on a baking marathon during the holidays? What kinds of cookies to you make?

Photo Credit:  q83

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

On My Nightstand - Captured by Love by Jody Hedlund

Living on Michilimackinaw Island (say that 3 times fast) in 1814 during the British occupation means severe hunger. Angelique MacKenzie takes the early morning hours to fish and bring a meager ration to her blind friend, Miriam. She longs for the day when the war will be over, and she can get away from her merciless stepfather.

When her long-absent friend, Pierre, returns to the island, she's thrilled but wary. Fur trading and the wilderness are in his blood. Island life will never satisfy him. All she wants is a quiet life and a family.

Pierre is captivated by the little girl who has now grown into a beautiful woman. What they each want is so different. How could there possibly be a future for them, especially when his brother can give her the kind of life he cannot.

The number of twists and turns in this book makes The Twist king, Chubby Checker, look like he's standing still. Every time I thought, "Ah, now all will be well," Jody threw another problem their way.

Rich historical and setting detail, complex characters, and a heart-throbbing romance make a dynamite combination. This is a great gift idea for your favorite reader of historical romances. Five stars for this excellent, well-written story!

Disclaimer: I received this book as a gift from a friend. Neither the author nor the publisher requested a favorable review. All opinions shared are mine alone. I did not receive any payment for this review.

Monday, December 15, 2014

3 Tips to Purging Your Email and Your Mind

If you're anything like me, you're probably subscribed to a gazillion blogs and accumulate lots of articles. Now is a great time to clear out the old and make way for the new. My email needs serious editing, but how do I decide what to keep and what to delete forever? Here are some tips:

1.  Have I learned the lesson? Keeping 27 blog posts on social media might be overkill. If you've mastered Facebook, know how to navigate Goodreads, and tweet with the best of them, you can safely hit the delete key. Besides, all you need to do is plug the subject into a search engine to bring them back to life.

2.  Does this email require a response? If so, get it out of the way, so you can remove it from your to-do list.

3.  Is this information I'll need down the road? I do a number of guest posts and interviews throughout the year. They're scheduled way in advance, so I need to hang onto the emails with interview questions, guidelines, and contact names/addresses. These are keepers!

Another kind of computer needs some purging - our minds. A challenging year required changes in the way I do things and how I move forward. Funny, when I got those two words as my focus for the year, it never occurred to me they were preparation for a tough time. Some of the issues moved through like a brief rainstorm, while others lingered for months.

1.  Snowstorms and car issues. Record snowfall in 2014 meant parking difficulties, getting stuck, and greater wear and tear on my 14-year-old vehicle. With the 2015 winter season already making promises for a wild ride, I've made some decisions.

The car died, so when considering replacement I purchased an all-wheel drive model with an excellent reputation for reliability. It's also smaller, which might help with the parking situation. I can't stop the snow from falling, but I'm better prepared for it.

2.  Life messing up my plans. Sweetie Mom's broken hip threw my schedule out the window for a good four months. At times like this, I go into crisis mode and deal with each thing as it comes along. Our families take priority over our neat plans. By God's grace, we get through these times.

3.  Regrets. Did I handle everything right this year? No. I made my share of mistakes, but the Word tells us to repent from - not regret them. Regret wastes time and energy, while repentance wipes the slate clean.

Writers:  Do you have any writing issues that nag at you? What are you doing to resolve them?

Readers: Do you deal with computer clutter? How do you decide what to toss and what to keep?

Photo Credit:  sraburton

Friday, December 12, 2014

Weekend Potpourri - Marketing, Writing, and A Recipe!

2.  The Procrastiwriter suggests unique ways to help you develop more realistic settings. Using proper architectural and design terms can sharpen your reader's vision whether or not you're writing a book.

3.  If you're considering making your own cranberry sauce this Christmas, you might like to try this recipe.

Writers and Readers:  What are some of the traditional dishes you make for Christmas dinner?

Photo Credit:  ngosset