Wednesday, December 31, 2008

To Make a New Year's Resolution or Not

The approaching New Year brings up the age-old question: what are your New Year's Resolutions? The owner of my local gym sees a boost in memberships right after January 1st. Unfortunately, when the initial enthusiasm wanes, attendance cools off.

Last year, I didn't make any resolutions. Instead, I set some goals for my writing life. Here's my 2008 list:

1. Start a blog. (Yay! Here I am.)

2. Write and get some devotionals published. (A Secret Place and RevWriter Resource accepted a total of 3 devotionals between them.)

3. Get an agent. (Maybe next year.)

4. Finish editing my novel. (I did, but then discovered it needed more work. Back to the drawing board.)

5. Set up a website. (Does getting a domain name count?)

Hmm, what am I aiming for in 2009?

1. I'd like to get that website up and running. I've heard a lot of good things about Homestead.

2. Keep plugging away at my novel.

3. Improve my blog.

4. Write more devotionals. (I already have one scheduled for March.)

5. Clean and organize my office. (Trust me. You don't want a picture.)

What are some of your writing goals for 2009? Are you satisfied with the progress you made in 2008?

Thanks for making the launch of Christian Writer/Reader Connection such a delight.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Jane Austen Quiz

I am Marianne Dashwood!

Take the Quiz here!

Hat tip to my friend, Crystal, over at the Chat & Chew Cafe. All of you Jane Austen fans will love this one. Okay, okay, I'll have to read the book now. Maybe if I talk about it long enough, I'll actually buy the book.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Friday Round-up - #29

Since I'm writing this post before Christmas, I can't tell you about the day. As the song says, "The weather outside is frightful...," but I'm warm and cozy. The trees are glittering like ice sculptures, and the sidewalks look like an ice rink in need of several passes from a Zamboni.

I'll probably do an extra post after Christmas. At this point, we don't know whether or not the weather will cooperate for our trip. Our destination got hit with 12" of snow and white-out conditions today (12/19). This should be interesting.

With the New Year approaching and long winter nights settling around us, I thought some heart-warming links might be in order.

I discovered a website devoted to crafts for charity. They post all sorts of projects from simple items to more advanced ideas. Check out their blog. Be sure to scroll down the page to reach the latest post.

Heartmade Blessings is a not-for-profit, world-wide group of volunteers. They provide hand-crafted items to people suffering a loss, tragedy, or going through a rough time. It's a reminder that people care about them. People send in afghan squares, baby afghans or shawls, pins, cuddles, and other items.

Don't forget the snappy vocabulary game, which earns grains of rice for the poor around the world. Challenge your writer friends to top your score. What a worthwhile way to chill-out after finishing your writing quota.

Last, but not least, cuddle up with a mug of hot chocolate made from your very own homemade mix.

2 cups nonfat dry milk

1 cup cocoa powder

Artificial sweetener equal to 1/2 cup sugar

Combine all ingredients and mix well. To make hot cocoa, stir a quarter-cup mix into 1 cup boiling water. (Makes 12 cups of hot cocoa.)

Happy surfing. :)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Present

In my last post, I talked about the past. What's Christmas like for us today? I thought I'd give you a peek.

Our current church doesn't have a service on Christmas day unless it falls on a Sunday. Since we're traveling to another state, we celebrate the birth of the Lord the previous Sunday and in our hearts.

The days of cooking big dinners have been surrendered to the younger generation. Mom and I trek up to New England early Christmas morning, praying for favorable weather and traffic conditions. For a number of years now, we've spent Christmas with our dear friends, who are like family to us. We've watched their youngsters grow up, get married, and start families of their own.

Once we arrive at our friends' house and unpack the car, we travel a short distance to their youngest son's house. What a delight it is to have little ones underfoot again, their eyes shining as we walk in laden with gifts. Final preparations are made, and both sides of their family sit down to a feast.

With our biological family so far away, I'm often reminded of the scripture that says God places the solitary in families. Mom and I are blessed beyond our wildest dreams to have so many people who love us.

May the Lord bless you as you celebrate his birth with your loved ones.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Past

A couple of weeks ago, several friends and I sat around and talked about Christmas traditions. I remember the frantic activity on Christmas Eve. We raced to clean the house, set the table, and do all the cooking. My grandma's specialty, red cabbage simmering on the stove, sent me into a frenzy. I fled outside to escape. How I hated that strong aroma! Adulthood transformed my tastes. I now look forward to red cabbage. LOL!

No matter what day Christmas fell on, it started with church. My family didn't own a car, so that meant a long trip via public transportation. Occasionally, someone would have compassion on us and pick us up for church. I bundled up to face the elements, casting a longing gaze at the presents under the tree.

When we arrived home, family and friends soon showed up at our door. "Now, Mom? Can we open presents now?" All the kids groaned when the usual answer dashed our hopes. We'd have to wait until after Christmas dinner.

Family members have long since moved out of state or departed for heaven. Christmas is now spent with friends. One thing remains stable, unshakeable: our focus on the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Traditions may change, but He's the same yesterday, today and forever!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Round-Up - #28

Yahoo! Christian Writer/Reader Connection has passed an important milestone. So far, we have 100 posts. As a member of My Book Therapy (Susan May Warren's group), I started a discussion called, "Blog Brain Freeze." I was petrified I'd run out of things to say. As I've prayed, God has been faithful to provide ideas and connect me with others in the blogosphere. Thank you for reading. I'm looking forward to a Happy Blogging New Year.

Mary DeMuth posted an excellent article on her, "So You Wanna Be Published," blog. I don't often see the basics of sentence structure addressed, so I jumped on this one. I hope you find it helpful.

Last Sunday, my pastor told a story about the small village of Wauconda, located in the Midwest. Back in 1989, an atheist challenged their 40-year tradition of commemorating Christmas with crosses on the town's two water towers. Mary Mangan (age 18) and Patrick Mangan (age 17) were so inspired by the story that they wrote a children's novel. Mary's cousin, Kevin Sullivan Mooney, provided the illustrations. Pop over to their website for more information.

Have a super weekend!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Author Interview: Linore Burkard

Let's give a warm Christian Writer/Reader Connection welcome to Author, Linore Burkard. Her novels center on "Inspirational Romance for the Jane Austen Soul." Before The Season Ends ,which released on December 1, 2008, is a blend of Christian faith and romance with well-researched details from the Regency period (1811-1820). Her second novel, The House in Grosvenor Square, is scheduled to release in April, 2009.

Linore resides in southwestern Ohio with her husband and five children. Her hobbies include working on four new Regency novels, family movie nights, and swimming.

1) Did you have a specific "what if" moment before writing, "Before The Season Ends?"

I suppose I did. The whole story started at what is becoming known as "the tree scene." So I guess my question was, "What would happen if a genteel young woman somehow got herself stuck in a tree? At a posh estate? And the estate owner, who also happens to be a formidable character and much sought-after bachelor, is the one who finds her? And he has a strong distaste for young, inexperienced women?" You can see how the plot just kept getting thicker!

2) Are you a plotter or a SOTP writer?

So far I have only started books without having any idea of how they would end, or what would happen in the middle. I guess that makes me a seat-of-the-pants writer. However, I did outline the sequel to, Before the Season Ends, and pretty much stuck to it. I started the outline after I had started the novel, but at least I'm learning to work with an outline, which I expect to keep doing until I'm really comfortable with it. The sequel is finished, by the way, and my editor said it was "riveting." So I'm thinking outline (ie, plotting) is the way to go!

3) I was fascinated by your knowledge of the Regency period. Can you share how you became so well versed about that timeframe?

Reading. I read a couple of Georgette Heyer books. (Even though I loved her writing, I really never sought out more of her books. If my library didn't have them, I didn't read them.) But I started researching. Once I knew I wanted to write that period, I started collecting books about it, and reading whatever I could find. Jane Austen books and movies also inspired me.

4) Can you give us a brief description of the storyline?

A young Christian girl is sent to London during the Season, and becomes unwittingly tangled in events with the Paragon, London's darling rogue. She finds herself in a classic dilemma between head vs. heart. She knows she can't marry the unbeliever, but eventually is backed against a wall, betrothed to the wrong man. Her faith plays a big part in how things end up, but she is in hot water for much of the book. The story brings the reader to Regency, London, and gives them the sense that God is truly involved in daily life, and that happy endings are possible for everyone.

5) Are any of your characters modeled after historical figures, composites of people you know, or do they spring solely from your imagination?

The Regent was, of course, an historical figure, and Beau Brummell, and Lord Alvanley. The rest of my characters are fictional.

If at least ten people comment, Linore has graciously offered to provide a free book for a drawing. Please leave your email address in the comments so I can contact you. If we get enough commenters, she will send the book directly to the winner.

Thanks, Linore, for a behind-the-scenes look at Before the Season Ends.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Mommy Smell

When Mom got ready for a special occasion, I watched her apply powder and lipstick. The entire ritual ranked right up there with dolls and tea parties. The sparkly red compact held loose powder like a rare jewel. Eventually, she changed brands, but I never forgot that scent. Years later, she purchased the original powder. She walked in the door, and this adult daughter was transported back in time. "The Mommy Smell," I said.

Does our writing evoke that kind of reaction? Our unique voice, style, and the way we view the world around us form an indelible imprint on our readers. The use of the five senses can paint a picture as effectively as an artist.

I recently read a book set in the Regency period (1811-1820). By the time I finished, it took quite a bit of restraint not to talk like the characters. The author planted me in the middle of the action with authentic details, scenes, sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures. I'll always associate that time period with the author. By the way, I'll be doing an interview with Linore Burkard on Wednesday.

Have you experimented with using the senses to draw your reader into the story? Are you exploring not only the in-your-face ways of communicating, but also the subtle nuances?

"The Mommy Smell." I could pick my mother out of a crowd blindfolded. If all the identifying marks on your favorite author's book were removed, would you recognize the author by the writing? Interesting thought.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Round-Up - #27

Yippee! The December issue of Christian Fiction Online Magazine is a goldmine. Several people have done posts on book trailers, which seem to be all the rage. Ginger Garrett shares her experiences and gives helpful tips on producing a great trailer. Kelly Mortimer,of Mortimer Literary Agency, gives insight into what makes a book marketable. Enjoy these articles and many others, and you can't beat the price - Free!

The Seekers have a fabulous post on writing a query letter, include samples, and links. This is a two-parter, so be sure to catch both of them.

I found one observation particularly interesting. People are learning how to produce a dynamite query letter, but not paying as much attention to their novels. Hmm - a bit of cart before the horse here?

Dee Stewart, at The Master's Artist, gives 10 ways to promote your writing through the holidays. Check it out. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

On My Nightstand - The Hunted by Mike Dellosso

Mike Dellosso scores a homerun with his debut novel, "The Hunted." While it is described as "Suspense," I'd use adjectives such as chilling, thriller, and heart-in-your-throat fiction.

The small town of Dark Hills, Pennsylvania finds itself stalked by what some folks describe as a lion. People are dying, and the local police are powerless to stop the carnage. When his young nephew is attacked, Joe Saunders, returns to support his sister-in-law as the child fights for his life. He finds himself unraveling a mystery and facing the ghosts of his own past.

Maggie Gill, the town's first female Police Chief and Joe's high school sweetheart, is both shocked and hopeful when he arrives. Her family secrets stand between the two former lovebirds, threatening to destroy the rekindled relationship and the town.

While gals like me enjoy suspense, The Hunted is also a great Christmas gift for your hubby, father, brother, or adult son. This is not chick-fiction by any stretch of the imagination. Think Frank Peretti caliber here. I'm looking forward to more great writing from Mike.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Kids and Reading

I'm an honorary auntie to six kids, ages nine months to seven years. On Thanksgiving Weekend, Mom and I got to spend some time with three of these delightful little people.

When we were at one house for dinner, nine-month-old baby girl dug one of her many books out of a wicker basket. She turned each page, perusing the animals. Her attention span was amazing for a baby.

The next day, My friend was babysitting two of her grandchildren. The three-year-old grandson has a play area in the back bedroom. I walked back there and found him "reading" a book, complete with a miniature flashlight. He gave me a big grin, and announced, "I reading."

These encounters inspired me to check out the children's section of my local Christian bookstore. Wow! I wish they'd had such fabulous offerings back when I was a youngster. Christian books for kids were few and far between.

I came out of the store with a book for each child. After seeing the wonder on their little faces, I have hope for the publishing industry even in tough economic times.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Winner!

This morning, I placed the two contest entries into a plastic shopping bag and asked Mom to draw a winner. TaDa! Congratulations to Jessica on winning Lynn Austin's book, "Hidden Places." Jessica, keep an eye out for my email.

Next year, we'll be having more great contests. Have a blessed day!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Friday Round-Up - #26

I can't believe Thanksgiving weekend is history, and Christmas is around the corner. My shopping is done, but wrapping gifts and writing cards are major tasks still ahead of me. Gift bags work great for my Mom, but little kids love ripping that paper. Since I usually write a small book for people we don't see on a regular basis, Christmas cards are quite a project. I tried the infamous Christmas letter, but people aren't too keen on a typewritten, to-whom-it-may-concern missive. I guess they like the personal touch. How about you? Do you send out lots of cards? Do you write a Christmas, "State of the Family Letter?"

Kathy Ide has an article over at Pixnpens. She handles some of those knotty dilemmas on pluralizing words.

Did anyone out there complete NaNoWriMo? Did you get a good first draft of a future best-selling novel? How challenging was it to write 50,000 words in 30 days? If you did, please share your experience with us.

Reminder: Today is your last chance to enter my No-Strings-Attached Book Drawing. See the Monday, December 1, 2008, post for details.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

On My Nightstand - Billy by William Paul McKay & Ken Abraham

I grew up watching Billy Graham on television, and later participated in one of his crusades as a counselor and choir member. How could anything new be written about this well-known evangelist? The story told from the perspective of his erstwhile friend-and-mentor-turned-atheist, Charles Templeton, proved too intriguing to pass up. I wasn't disappointed.

Hoping to save her job, an aging reporter accepts an assignment to interview Charles Templeton. Maybe she'd unearth some skeletons buried in the background of Billy's stellar life. Since Templeton never achieved the notoriety of Billy Graham, he might provide enough tantalizing details to formulate a scandalous story.

Suffering from Alzheimer's and facing death, Templeton jumps at the chance to stroll down Memory Lane. To the reporter's chagrin, he insists on giving details from the beginning of Billy's life to the present.

A picture comes into focus that contrasts the choices of the two men. Templeton's abandonment of God inflames Billy's doubts. Like a raging fever, they threaten his soul. His friend's passionate arguments against faith leave him bewildered and unable to answer the questions tormenting his mind.

The dramatic finale to this tale made me both weep and rejoice. The loss of another night's sleep didn't even register as I devoured the last half of the book.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The No-Strings-Attached Book Drawing

Now what can I do for my loyal blog readers? As Christmas draws near, I'm sure one gift they'd enjoy receiving is a book.

For this contest, there are no complicated rules, no html to cut and paste, no newsletter subscriptions required, and you can keep your firstborn child. Yep, this is a straight drawing, pure and simple, and an unadvertised special. If you don't show up, read the post, and comment, you miss the opportunity to win a copy of Lynn Austin's book, "Hidden Places," which I recently reviewed.

To participate in the drawing, all you need to do is comment and leave your email address using the special format to keep away those folks looking for your address.

So, come out of hiding all you lurkers and get in on the fun. The drawing will take place on Friday, December 5, 2008 and the winner announced on Sat., December 6th.