Thursday, December 31, 2009

Extra, Extra! Hear All About It!

With Jaime Wright-Sundsmo's permission, below are the details of Baby Chloe Joann's arrival.

Hi all!

The long awaited day came Tue am at 3:06. Chloe JoAnne is here! Our amazing little gal arrived 3 weeks early with a healthy birth weight of 7 lbs 3 oz but with underdeveloped lungs.

She is currenty being incubated with nasal c-pap oxygen at the NIC-U. While she's not in danger its hard leaving her there at night and difficult for me being there without being able to lay down to recoup myself. (Though may I extol the amazingness of the epidural?!?!?!)

That's the news!! Thnx to all for your prayers the last 9 and would appreciate a few more as we cross the hurdle of getting our Chloe home sometime in the next week or two!

Congratulations, Jaime and Hubby! Let's keep Baby Chloe in prayer, so she can join her Mama and Daddy at home.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

On My Nightstand - Forevermore by Cathy Marie Hake

Hope Ladley shows up at the Stauffer farm in a cart drawn by her mule, Hattie, and few personal belongings. Wandering across the state of Texas, she goes where God leads her.

The grieving farmer, his motherless child, and pregnant sister receive more than a hearty, homecooked meal. Hope's cheerful disposition, common sense, faith, and loyalty infuse them with the essence of her name.

The question lingers in all their minds whether Hope will stay or be off on a new adventure, scattering like a dandelion gone to seed. Even she wonders when the Lord will move her to help another family.

At times I've read a book by an author that I've loved, only to find disappointment in their other offerings. Cathy delivered a great book both times, and I'm looking forward to reading more of her work. You won't go wrong spending your hard-earned dollars on this author's novels.

Monday, December 28, 2009

2009 Reflections

With pages flying off the calendar at record speed, it's once again time to reflect on the year's events. At the beginning of 2009, I set some goals. Along the way, I made new ones and tweaked old ones.

1. This year, I went into blog improvement mode. Author interviews now share space with book recommendations on Wednesdays. I'm following more blogs to bring you the best links, and improved the pictures accompanying blog posts. Christian Writer/Reader Connection celebrated its first blogoversary with a huge online party, complete with book drawings and special author interviews.

2. I took the plunge, wrote a short fiction story, and submitted it to a national periodical. While it garnered a rejection, I got some terrific feedback from the editor.

3. Two devotionals were published, while a third is scheduled to run the beginning of 2010.

4. Book 1 went through a partial edit.

5. Much to everyone's surprise (including mine), Book 2 was written in a 9-week timeframe.

6. Thanks to my friend, Miriam, Facebook captured my attention. What a joy to meet so many authors and pre-published writers! I also reconnected with old friends and family.

7. Currently, I'm writing blog posts as fast as I can type and mulling over Book 3 in my mind.

Did I accomplish all of my goals? Well, I didn't set up a website. An agent? Uh, not yet. All in all, I learned a lot and made progress.

How about you? Did you meet your 2009 New Year's Writing Resolutions?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Seize the Moment

Luke 2:15-16

As soon as the angels went back to heaven, the shepherds didn't waste a moment. They wanted to see the Christ Child for themselves. It wasn't enough to hear about him. The angel gave them clear directions.

What if they'd waited a week or even a few days? Mary and Joseph might have found other accommodations by then. They would have missed a great opportunity.

We're given a chance, sometimes multiple chances, to meet the Savior. Someone shares how Jesus came to this earth, lived a sinless life though he was tempted as we are, died for our sins, and rose again. Then they tell us the most amazing thing of all: We can receive forgiveness and have eternal life if we ask him to forgive us and follow him.

Have you seized that moment yet? Don't miss your golden opportunity. If you want to receive Jesus as your Savior, pray this prayer:

Jesus, I know there's no way I could ever be good enough to meet God's standard of righteousness. Thank you for coming to this earth and paying the debt I owe. Forgive me for all my sins and come into my life. Change me from the inside out, and make me like you. Amen.

If you've prayed this prayer, please share the good news with me. May the Lord bless you.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Birth Announcement

Luke 2:8-14

Shepherds watch over their sheep through the night, protecting them against predators and other dangers. Without warning, an angel shows up on the scene, and the glory of the Lord lights up the night.

The angel reassures the frightened shepherds and gives them the good news. They're told the Savior, which is Christ the Lord, has been born in the City of David. He then gives them some landmarks or signs on how to recognize the Savior. After this astounding announcement, the angel is joined by a multitude of heavenly host praising God.

Wow! I'm sure they never forgot that night as long as they lived. Each of us has special times in our lives when God steps into our situation and turns it around for our good. They're unforgettable moments, filled with the glory of God. Thinking about those times, perhaps we can get a glimpse of what they experienced.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Birthday, Jesus

Luke 2:6-7

Mary faces one of the biggest moments of her life under less than ideal circumstances. She gives birth to her firstborn son, and wraps him in swaddling clothes, and lies him in a manger.

My thoughts turn to Jesus. The King of kings and Lord of lords is born in a humble stable. He left the perfection of heaven and suffered as we do, so that we might enjoy his presence for eternity.

Thanks, Jesus, for loving us and coming to the sin-weary world. Happy birthday.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

No Vacancy

Luke 2:6-7

Exhausted from their journey, Mary and Joseph arrive in Bethlehem. The one inn has a "No Vacancy" sign out front. The kindly innkeeper takes pity on the expectant mother and allows them to seek shelter in the stable.

We reach a temporary destination on life's journey, and new difficulties crop up. Relief is short lived as we encounter crisis after crisis. Then God provides in unexpected ways. Strangers reach out and assist us. People a world away pray fervently for us. Somehow, the need is met even if it's not a permanent solution.

Today, we celebrate the Lord as our Provider.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

On My Nightstand - A Promise for Spring by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Historical Fiction writer, Kim Vogel Sawyer, writes a gentle tale of growth and painful adjustments. Emmaline Bradford agreed to marry Geoffrey Garrett before he traveled to America. Although she expected him to bring her there within a few months, the wait stretched to five years.

The delicate beauty is finally summoned by Geoffrey to the Kansas prairie. By this time, the fires of love are ashes. When she arrives, the strange landscape and the older, more mature Geoffrey send Emmaline into a panic. They agree she'll stay until the spring. If she still wants to go home, he'll pay her passage.

The author creates a realistic picture of prairie life. I could feel the scorching sun on my neck, as well as see fields of wildflowers.

Characters are an essential element to a great story. I couldn't help but laugh at the misunderstandings between a man and woman. They were so typical of real life situations. The supporting cast provided humor, pathos, and wise advice to the heroine and hero.

For a genre I'd never read prior to blogging, I've become quite a fan of historical fiction. When I see Kim Vogel Sawyer's name on a book cover, I'll know there's a lot of hours of reading pleasure ahead of me.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Journey

Luke 2:4-5

Years ago, I remember pregnant women past their due date being advised to take a bumpy car ride. Mary, the mother of Jesus, endured an 80-mile ride between Nazareth and Bethlehem. With Joseph traveling on foot and her on a donkey, the trip would have taken between four to seven days.

On our journey through life, we encounter many stressful situations. Just as Mary and Joseph did what they had to do, we can follow their example of perseverence.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Pioneer Spirit

I've been reading a lot of books with a pioneering theme over the past few months. Those adventurous souls set off with high hopes and optimism to carve out a better life for themselves and their families. While they heard stories of Indian attacks, disease, and treacherous travel, the realities of the trip did not hit them until they experienced them firsthand.

As writers, we dream of our words bound together in a book. We imagine them impacting both individuals and the culture. The journey begins with words put on paper. Then we get smacked in the face by a nasty little thing called, "a reality check."

Somewhere along the line, we find out it's a good idea to attend a writers' conference. After a couple of workshops and hope-filled appointments with editors, we come away to lick our wounds and start applying ourselves to learning the craft.

We inhale books by the now famous on how to write The Great American Novel. Reading the blogs and websites of those who've achieved success becomes a daily habit. We go back to our WIP's and slave over each word, revising and editing until we want to scream.

The doubts crowd in, and torment us. Do we have what it takes to make this trip? Maybe we should cut our losses and move on to other endeavors. We might even try to quit, but the writing woos us like a persistent suitor.

And so, we write. We're committed for the long haul. No matter how many rejections clog our mailbox. No matter how many agents or editors paint a dismal picture of our genre. No matter how many times we re-write our manuscripts. We continue. Why? Because writing is a fire in our bones.

Like the early pioneers, we embark on this journey with stars in our eyes. The road toughens us, teaches us, and prepares us for new territory. Many of them reached their destination and built new lives. We may arrive with a few scars and bandages, but our words will impact our generation.

How about you? What misconceptions did you have about the writing life when you first began on this path?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Story - Part 1

Luke 2:1-3 (KJV): "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

Mary and Joseph lived and met in Nazareth. When the angel appeared to Mary, he told her she would give birth to Jesus.

Hmm, the scripture said the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, the City of David. Mary and Joseph both walked in obedience to God. They didn't try to make the prophetic scriptures come true, but lived each day following Him.

Lo and behold, Caesar Augustus decides to tax the people. As part of the decree, they had to go to Bethlehem, the City of David, because Joseph was of the house and lineage of David. God protected them from gossip, prying eyes, and brought them exactly where they needed to be at a specific point in history.

As we follow the Lord on a day-to-day basis, we'll find ourselves in the right place at the right time. He knows the path, and we can trust Him to bring us into our destiny.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday Round-Up - #80

"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." - William Wordsworth

Need a gift for a special writer? Find it here.

As a big Snoopy fan, I discovered a site that sells products with his picture. My favorite is Snoopy, Literary Ace at Work. Maybe you'll find a present for a writer friend or something to put under the tree for yourself (from your dog or cat, of course).

Beginning Sunday, 12/20/09, I'll be on a daily blogging schedule through 12/28/09. I've written some special Christmas posts to fill in the week. I hope you enjoy them.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Guest Posting at Eternity Cafe

I'm guest posting today at Susan Panzica's Eternity Cafe blog. Hope you'll pop over there and check it out.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

On My Nightstand - Letter Perfect by Cathy Marie Hake

Ruth Caldwell is an unusual woman. Spirited, outspoken, and definitely a square peg in a round hole, she tries to fit in without success. A series of life events lands her in Folsom, California.

Although taken with her great beauty, Josh finds himself in an uncomfortable position. As part owner of the Broken P Ranch, his livelihood is threatened by Ruth's legitimate claim of inheritance. At first, Ruth's accidents are attributed to her natural clumsiness. When they become increasingly dangerous, Josh must face some unpleasant truths.

This historical romance set in the mid-1800's delighted and intrigued me with its feisty heroine and honorable hero. I loved Ruth's warmth, her caring heart, and her refusal to be deterred from her goals.

In my opinion, this book is a winner with a capital "W" and a great read for a cold winter night.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Blogger Awards

My friend, Jean Fischer, honored me with the Kreative Blogger Award. Thanks, Jean!

I'm giving the award to seven other bloggers, but please don't feel you must do the same. I understand the time constraints with Christmas so close.

1. Audience of One - Jeanette Levellie shares her joys, struggles, and wonderful sense of humor. She's not only a wonderful writer, but also a dear friend.

2. Krista's Reflections - Krista and I have a lot in common. We're both SOTP writers! If you need cheering up, this is the place to head.

3. This Ain't No Glamour Detail - Crystal Laine Miller interviews authors, writes books reviews, and gives us delicious slices of her life. She also finds the neatest quizzes.

4. Write Now - A former homeschool Mom, online writing teacher, and writer, Karen brings us book reviews, links, and writing prompts. She has also dedicated herself to keeping a certain writer friend from getting a big head with her delightful humor.

5. Write In The Way -Kristin Torres-Torro gives us a unique view of writing through a missionary's eyes.

6. On The Path - A newly-contracted author, Jody gives us the inside scoop on what it's like after you sign on the dotted line.

7. BookingIt - Jessica Nelson brings a wonderful curiosity, thought-provoking questions, and sometimes intense writing advice. Her blog is a regular stop for me.

Here's where I'm supposed to give seven interesting facts about me. Unfortunately, I'm fresh out of those today, so I'll sign off. I hope you'll visit some or all of these nice folks, and tell them I said, "Hi."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Round-Up - #79

Office Max has it's fun site, "Elf Yourself," up again this year. You can upload up to five pictures, which they paste onto an elf's body. They do some pretty cool dance moves to music. The kiddies would have a blast! Kathryn Lang, at Successful Freelance Writer, talks about writing with passion.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

On My Nightstand - No Eye Can See by Jane Kirkpatrick

"No Eye Can See" by Jane Kirkpatrick is the second book in her Kinship and Courage Series. While the women from, "All Together In One Place," are in this book, it focuses on Suzanne Culver, the blind widow, with two children.

Suzanne struggles for her independence and takes foolish risks with her life and those of her boys. Finally, she learns to see with her heart, trust her instincts, and accept the loving help of her friends.

Jane Kirkpatrick's homespun wisdom weaves through this book. At one point, Elizabeth gives Mazy advice on giving folks the right amount of help. It's a lesson we can all use. All the characters worked their way through challenges, making mistakes, but learning from them.

I don't generally read books more than once, but I'd pick up this title again. I'm sure I'd find more interesting details I missed the first time around.

This is not a book you'll want to rush through, but savor like quality chocolate. Enjoy!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Getting Attention

A popular game show selects contestants from the audience. People try to increase their chances of being picked by wearing all kinds of costumes, ranging from graduation gowns to aliens. Their outfit might get them attention, but they still have to play the game.

As writers, we hear much about branding, standing out from the crowd, and offering something unique. Yet, everything comes down to our writing craft. Several agents noted they're seeing great query letters and proposals, but the writing doesn't live up to the promises.

I'm doing several things to improve my writing craft: reading quality blogs, craft books, and books by other authors, as well as attending conferences and a writers' group. Most importantly, I'm writing and practicing what I've learned.

What steps are you taking to improve your writing? Are your books character driven or plot driven?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Winner of A Star Curiously Singing By Kerry Nietz

Congratulations to TERRI TIFFANY! You've won A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Nietz.

Thanks to everyone, who entered the drawing. Watch for more fun giveaways in the future.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday Round-Up - #78

Tiffany Colter, at Writing Career Coach, encourages us to use the contradictory parts of our personality to enrich our characters.

Kathryn Lang, over at Successful Freelance Writer, explores ways to beat back procrastination.

Eileen Astels Watson did a great post over at Writers Rest about Writer Collectives. This type of writers group is strictly business, no relationships to get in the way of critiquing.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

On My Nightstand - A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Nietz

No, you're not seeing things. And, yes, I'm recommending a Sci-Fi title. The author, Kerry Nietz, did an interview on Sharon Ball's blog a couple of months ago. His concept hooked me and reeled me in enough to comment. Well, Mr. Nietz contacted me and asked me to read his book since, according to him, I'd "thrown down the gauntlet." After some email reassurances that the book contained no aliens or space creatures, I agreed.

Kerry sent me his book, and I resigned myself to reading about bizarre worlds. By the end of Chapter 1, I found myself rooting for the main character, Sandfly, a human with a special brain implant. He's a mid-level debugger, fixing all manner of robots and machinery. The implant allows him access to the stream, a database for information related to his job.

The downside of this futuristic world involves total loss of freedom. If Sandfly's thoughts wander into forbidden territory, he gets a nasty zap from his master. One day, he is summoned to the master's office and sent to space for a debugger job. Poor guy, he's not thrilled with heights.

There he uncovers a plot that threatens his existence, as well as a mysterious star song that nearly fries his brain. The book even has a futuristic budding romance for all you gals.

Okay, Kerry, you win. I enjoyed your book and look forward to the next one. How can I resist finding out what a futuristic romance looks like?

Now for the fun part. One of you will win, "A Star Curiously Singing," in a drawing. Please note that due to regulations the contest is open to U.S. Residents only and no fee has been paid to enter this drawing. The author has provided the book, and I'm passing it along to the winner.

Leave a comment with the spam-busting format of your email address. Example: susanjreinhardt (at) ____ (dot) com. The contest ends Saturday, December 5, 2009, at midnight. The winner will be notified via email and an announcement on the blog on Sunday, December 6th.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Hope Chest

As a young woman, I saved my allowance, birthday, and Christmas money and eventually scraped enough together to purchase a hope chest. It didn't look like this picture, but you get the idea. Walnut wood, a sleek Danish modern design, and a cedar interior made it the latest and greatest in dream keepers. I call it a "dream keeper" because I stored all the things I wanted to use when Mr. Right swept me off my feet and carried me off to his castle.

In some cultures, the hope chest might be considered part of a woman's dowry. In the U.S., a young woman made beautiful needlework creations and gathered household goods in anticipation of her wedding day. With the advent of Bridal Showers and elaborate wedding receptions, the practice has almost died out in this country.

Our websites, blogging, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media serve as writers' hope chests. They record our wish lists, our desires for publication, and our preparation for the role of, "Author." Friends cheer us on as we struggle through writer's block, rejections, and painful critiques. They celebrate small successes, a contest win, the agent signing, and "the call." We store our memories in cyberspace, in file cabinets, and on our computers that become a scrapbook to look back on and thank God for how far He's brought us.

What are some things stored away in your writer's hope chest?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

And the Winner Is...

Congratulations to JESSICA! You've won the drawing for Kristen Heitzmann's book, "The Edge of Recall." Please send me your snail mail address via email (susanjreinhardt (at) gmail (dot) com).

Thanks to everyone who participated. We'll be having another drawing soon.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Blessed or Stressed?

Susan Panzica, over at Eternity Cafe, asked me to announce a series she's doing on her blog called, "40-Day Focus." During this Christmas season, it's easy to get wrapped up in the preparations and forget the essential truth of Jesus' birth.

Susan asks, "How will your next 40 days be spent? Blessed...or stressed?"

Take a break from the holiday craziness, and read her inspiring posts.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday Round-Up - #77

Kathryn Lang, at Successful Freelance Writer, talks about writing the perfect presentation.

A hat-tip to my friend, Sharon Ball, over at Break From The Norm. She did a post on Grammar Girl. Check out this neat resource.

Rosslyn Elliott, at Inkhorn Blue, expresses the joy of doing something well even if it does not reach the top of the profession.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Give Thanks

When I attended Bible School, a friend and I played a game called, "The Blessing Game." We didn't have a game board, nifty little game pieces, or cards. Paper and pen were all we needed. Most of the time, we didn't even use them. When one of us felt down or overwhelmed, we'd play this game. We'd take turns, listing the many things for which we thanked God.

This time of the year is difficult for many folks. Today is not only Thanksgiving Day, but also my wedding anniversary. Since my beloved departed for the pearly gates, sadness tries to rob the sweetness from my memories. Instead, I turn to the Psalms and play, "The Blessing Game."

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.

Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.

Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his holy name.

For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Author Interview - Kristen Heitzmann - Part II

Welcome back, Kristen. Let's continue our conversation.

3. Do you have an overall spiritual theme to your novels, such as forgiveness, truth, etc.?

I never start with a theme. It happens as the characters relate and deal with the events. My upcoming novel, Indivisible, is the first in which the theme actually carries the story to a great degree, but this isn't evident until the end.

4. If you could give a novelist-in-training one tip, what would you tell them?

I would say, "Learn the craft and structure of language, so the clumsiness so prevalent in print will not impede your stories. It's like practicing scales so your fingers can then fly over melodies."

5. When a writer is contracted, they're often working on edits in addition to their next book. How do you balance the two and still make your deadlines?

Stepping away from a project is fruitful. So when it comes time to edit, I throw myself into it, knowing when I get back the WIP, I'll see it with fresh eyes. I absolutely love revisions, so it's a treat for me.


While home schooling my four kids, I wrote my first novel. I pitched it for publication, and it became the first of a five book historical series. Since then, I have written three more historical novels and eight contemporary romantic suspense novels with a ninth coming in 2010. The Still of Night was nominated for the Colorado Book Award. The Tender Vine was a Christy Award finalist, and Secrets won a Christy in 2005.

I have taught and keynoted at writer's conferences, spoken at women's, library, and church events. I love to encourage and exhort others on their journeys, in writing and in life.

People ask why I started writing, and I say to get the stories out of my head. Some say they'd like to write a book, but I say if you're not wracked with labor pains, there are easier ways to express yourself. Being a writer is a solitary, eccentric, and often compulsive path. But it also provides an opportunity to co-create with the Divine Author whose Spirit breathes life into ordinary words.

Thanks, Kristen, for an awesome interview. We look forward to your next book and wish you much success.

Susan here. Don't forget to leave a comment and your email for a chance to win Kristen's book, The Edge of Recall. The contest deadline is Saturday, November 28, 2009, at midnight. The winner will receive an email from me and be announced on Sunday, November 29th. You can comment on both posts for two opportunities to win.

Legalese: The drawing is open to U.S. Residents only due to state laws. No fee is required to enter this contest.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Are You Coasting?

Ah, there's nothing like going for a drive and coasting down a hill. Save a little gas, give my foot a rest, enjoy the scenery - very nice. Coasting does have one drawback though. If I don't hit the gas pedal before the upgrade, the car will lose momentum and stop.

Right now, I'm working on blog posts. It's fun, great discipline, and I love the interaction with others. I'm coasting along, having a grand old time. While the ride is thrilling, am I remembering my other projects and giving them the gas of effort and attention?

How about you? Are you losing momentum? Maybe it's time to put the "pedal to the metal" with your writing.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Round-Up - #76

Happy Thanksgiving from our house to your house! Are you having the traditional turkey or some other special dish? We'll be celebrating God's goodness to us with close friends up north.

I'm thankful for:

1) Jesus and the salvation He's made available to all who receive Him.

2) My wonderful family. Love to Mom, Rick, Shannon, and Mike.

3) All of my friends, who love me in spite of my flaws.

4) My Blogging Buddies and Internet friends, who encourage me on my writing journey.

5) For health, provision, and progress on the home repairs this year.

6) My country - still the most free nation on earth.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Author Interview - Kristin Heitzmann - Part I

Let's give a warm Christian Writer/Reader Connection welcome to author, Kristen Heitzmann. Be sure to read the whole post. There's a surprise at the end! 1. The Edge of Recall featured a Labyrinth Landscape Architect. How do you come up with such unique ideas?

My daughter, Jessie, and I were going to write The Edge of Recall together, and she actually chose the characters' professions. A history major, especially fond of the Medieval period and Literature, she is intrigued by Labyrinths. We thought it would be a neat element to work in, especially as they occur so frequently now as prayer walks in hospitals and retreat centers. We didn't get to complete it together, but I dove into the concept and found it sufficiently mysterious to support the suppressed memory and monster elements in the plot.

2. How do you go about writing a novel? Plotter, SOTP, combination, research?

I don't outline. My stories emerge organically from the characters and perhaps a main idea. It's much more fun for me that way, although lately the idea of structure has begun to appeal. I do research extensively, and sometimes that drives the plot as well.

Next week, we'll continue with Part II of Kristen's interview. To celebrate having her with us, I've decided to do a drawing for her book, The Edge of Recall. All you have to do is leave a comment with your email address, using the spam busting format. Example: susanjreinhardt (at) gmail (dot) com. The deadline is Saturday, November 28, 2009, at midnight.

Legalese: The contest is open to residents of the U.S. only due to various state laws. No fee is required to enter this drawing.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Big Rocks Go First

I heard a story once about a college professor. He brought a large jar, rocks of various sizes, and sand to class. He challenged his students to get all of the rocks and sand into the jar.

Some put the sand in first and the smaller stones, but found they wouldn't all fit. Others tried varying combinations. After numerous failures, the professor instructed the class. "You always put the big rocks in first. Then you put the smaller stones and sand. If you reverse that process, the big rocks won't fit."

What a life lesson for us! Make time for the big stuff, and then add all the smaller tasks. Over the past weeks, I've made a quality decision to get the most important things done first. My morning devotions and writing 3,000 words are given top priority. No longer are they the items that are way down on my to-do list. They get done. Period.

Some days, because of an appointment or life interrupting, the writing gets moved to the afternoon. I end up squeezing my writing time into my partially filled jar, trying my patience and my resolve. Some of us have full-time jobs, families, and church commitments that take up a chunk of our time. Our writing may be one of the smaller stones added after the big rocks are put in the jar.

Where does writing fit in your life? Is it one of the large rocks, a smaller stone, or sand that filters between all the crevices?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Round-Up - #75

Cathy Bryant, at Word Vessel, reports on Thomas Nelson's plan to create a self-publishing company.

Tiffany Colter, at Writing Career Coach, posts on, "Writing: Making Work or Making Progress." Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

On My Nightstand - Menu For Romance by Kaye Dacus

Since a close relative is a graduate of Culinary Institute of America and Johnson & Wales, Menu for Romance piqued my interest. Kaye Dacus got the details right.

Watching couples kiss at a New Year's Eve banquet, Meredith Guidry vows that next year she'll be a participant and not an observer. Tired of waiting around for a certain Executive Chef to ask her out, she decides to cut her losses and find someone else.

Major O'Hara, Executive Chef and friend, has made a vow of his own. A delicate family situation and past rejection hampers any thought of marriage and family.

Meredith's interest in handsome contractor, Ward Breaux, wakes him to the possibility of losing her forever. He sets out to win her heart, but is still torn over his unusual circumstances.

I enjoyed the setting, occupation, and characters. Combined with a great story line, this book is a winner. I'm looking forward to more books from Kaye Dacus.

Monday, November 9, 2009

To Recommend or Not Recommend.That is the question.

Last Monday, we discussed reviewing versus recommending books. As a follow-up, I'd like to share my personal convictions on the subject.

Early on, I decided there were several types of books I would not read or recommend. Material that focused on the occult without the truth of the Word of God topped that list. Since fantasy and sci-fi are not enjoyable to me as a reader, I also eliminated them.

Other than these books, I determined to explore new genres. This was a stretch for me as I tend to have favorite authors and stick with them. I've discovered the delights of traipsing through Regency England and the early days of America. Political fiction, contemporary fiction, chick lit, Suspense, and mystery have occupied a place on my nightstand.

Do I recommend books based on the writing or based on my enjoyment as a reader? I don't think I could separate the two aspects of my personality. As a writer, I appreciate a well-written book and can spot lapses. If, however, the story engages me as a reader, I don't think it's necessary to point out minor flaws in excruciating detail. Bottom line: I liked this book, and this is why I found it worthwhile. It doesn't mean it's perfect or that I agree with every single statement.

If I find a book strikes me as horrible, offensive, or boring, I simply don't review it. Out of the many books I've read, only a few fell into these categories. While I'm part of the blog network for several large publishers, I've been extremely choosy about the books I select.

What's your philosophy on the fine art of reviewing/recommending books? Do you feel it's necessary to reveal every flaw even if you enjoyed the story? Since we covered some of these issues in the comments last week, what genres do you enjoy? Have you broadened your reading tastes by sampling other types of fiction?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Round-Up - #74

As authors, giving our characters a stage is vital to a satisfying reading experience. Linda Yezak, over at Author Culture, talks about setting descriptions. How do you avoid boring the reader, while making the setting vivid?

One of my new Facebook friends, Teri Smith, contributes to A Novel Writing Site. While the lessons are geared for homeschoolers, there's much basic information for aspiring novelists.

Kathy Ide, over at Pixnpens, lists some pitfalls to avoid when writing dialogue.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

On My Nightstand - The Atonement Child - by Francine Rivers

Well-known author, Francine Rivers, handles an explosive topic with truth and diplomacy. The Atonement Child tells the story of Dynah Carey, whose perfect life is forever changed by rape and an unwanted pregnancy.

Dynah feels helpless and alone as her fiance, family, and friends struggle with the reality of an uncertain future. All of them agonize as Dynah seeks answers on whether or not to abort her child.

The author deals with the intense fears, suffering, and future considerations of each character. Atonement Child drew me in and gave me a glimpse into the heart of a woman so dreadfully wronged.

This book was my introduction to Francine Rivers' writing. I can see why she's a respected Christian author. I'll be picking up more of her books.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Review, Recommend, Endorse, Critique

Recently, there's been some discussion about book reviews. If a review lacks any negative comments, it's immediately suspect. I'd like to share my thoughts, and then have you chime in with your opinions.

I decided to pull out Mr. Webster and my Synonym Finder to determine the meanings of the words in my title. Here goes:

1. Review - As a verb it means to amend or alter, to review an opinion. Synonyms: critical article, critique, criticism, commentary, editorial, evaluation.

2. Recommend - to present as worthy of confidence, acceptance, or use, commend. Synonyms: commend, mention favorably, promote, speak well of, put in a good word for, approve, sanction, condone, support, endorse, suggest, offer, propose, warn, caution.

3. Endorse - To express approval or support, especially publicly. Synonyms: approve, give one's stamp of approval, sanction, warrant, seal, vouch for, stand behind, confirm, authorize.

4. Critique - an article or essay evaluating a literary or other work. Review. Synonyms: review, notice, report, article, editorial, essay, blurb, commentary, analysis, pan, slam, swipe.

A critic is a person, who judges, evaluates or criticizes literary or artistic works. The definition of a reviewer is similar: a critic, commentator, evaluator, judge, connoisseur, assessor.

Looking at these definitions, would you consider yourself more of a reviewer or one who recommends a good book? I stand in the second camp: I recommend books I've enjoyed.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Round-Up - #73

Since many of us are looking to shed a pound or two, I thought Susan Panzica's take on physical and spiritual fitness might strike a chord.

For all you chocolate lovers out there, Donna L. H. Smith has a chocolate blog. It's not only chocolate, it's organic chocolate.

Perhaps you've heard the talk about the FTC's new rulings concerning book reviews and giveaways. Publisher's Weekly recently talked to them and cleared up the confusion. You can all breathe a collective sigh of relief. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

On My Nightstand - The House on Grosvenor Square - By Linore Rose Burkard

Since my foray into Regency Romance began with Linore Rose Burkard's first book, "Before the Season Ends," I looked forward to Ariana's new adventure. She's snagged London's most eligible bachelor, Mr. Mornay, and plans her wedding.

Ah, but all is not peaches and cream. Not everyone is delighted with the match. Her beloved's housekeeper fears Ariana will dismiss her, and she'll be out on the street. Mr. Mornay's enemy is angry and seeks revenge, using Ariana to get back at him.

The author gets Ariana into so much hot water that I want to rescue her. The book has a high tension level and deserves the term Romantic Regency Suspense. This is no tea and crumpets novel. Right to the end, I wondered what other evil would befall our hapless heroine.

If you're a big fan of Regency Romance, you'll love, "The House on Grosvenor Square."