Monday, October 29, 2012

Chasing Trends

Have you noticed the trend toward colorful athletic shoes? While purple is my favorite color, there's a lot to be said for basic black and white. A recent shopping trip left me frustrated and wondering what's happened to the classics.

I'm not against the latest fashion fads, but usually catch them as they're fizzling out. For example, jumpsuits were once quite popular. By the time I adjusted to the look and purchased one, they were declared extinct.

Books also go through cycles in the popularity game. When I first began writing, Chick Lit was super hot. Whoever hears of it now?

When a genre gains popularity, how can we tell if they will be the next literary phenomenon or a short-lived blip on publishing's radar? I'm sure few people believed the Amish craze would last this long.

I've thought about this, and here's my take on the subject:

1.  A classic can withstand a bit of updating, while a fad is so far out it defies alteration.

2.  Timeless themes on the human condition will always be in style. Romance, good versus evil, and  championing the underdog never fail to rivet us.

3.  Originality is a key element. Authors who can breathe new life into a time-tested storyline will have readers beating a path to the nearest bookstore or online outlet.

Writers: What are your thoughts on classics versus fads?

Readers:  What fashion trends do you remember either with fondness or horror?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday Round-Up - #220

Author Jody Hedlund explores the subject, "Is Blogging a Time-Suck for Writers?"

Loree Huebner, at Between you, me and the gatepost, discusses the use of heirlooms in our stories.

Writers:  What are your thoughts about blogging and time management?

Readers: What are some of your favorite elements in a story: heirlooms, scene detail, customs of a bygone time period, etc.?

Have a blessed weekend!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies & Social Media

Those of you who've known me for awhile understand my favorite foods are chocolate chip cookies and a glass of milk (for dunking, of course). A friend told me about the whole food way of eating recently, and I was impressed. Unfortunately, the aforementioned treats do not appear on this diet.

My initial trips to the grocery store yielded few purchases, and I walked out in a daze. What do I eat? Words like, "gluten free, organic, and natural," chased me down the aisles and left this bargain hunting champ suffering from major sticker shock.

Little by little, I'm learning the ropes. Organic meats (no hormones, additives, natural feed) go into my cart. My grocery store marks them down on Monday mornings. You gotta be quick to get the deals. Organic veggie omelets grace my table 3 times a week, and raw nuts and carrots are new snacks.

But...let's not get crazy here. The milk and cookies stay. Period.

As a writer, I'm not quite so adventurous with Social Media. I took to blogging like a chocoholic is drawn to Godiva, but Twitter, My Space, Good Reads, Facebook, and Pinterest nearly sent me over the edge. A friend dragged me kicking and screaming onto Facebook. It took some deep breathing, but I've adjusted. My Twitter account rarely chirps these days, and they send me, "We've missed you," messages.

Maybe someday I'll join Pinterest and Good Reads. Maybe someday I'll go the full whole foods route and leave all things chocolate chip behind.


BTW: Diane Estrella, from That's What I'm Here For, is featuring me on her blog today. :)

Writers: What Social Media outlets strike fear in your hearts?

Readers: Have you connected with writers on Social Media (other than blogs)? What resources do you use to discover new authors/books?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

And The Winner Is...

Oops! I was supposed to post this yesterday. My apologies. To make up for my boo-boo, I extended the deadline through last night and eliminated the email address requirement.

Congratulations to:    SARAH FORGRAVE

Sarah, I'll email you to arrange shipment of your book. Thanks for all the comments.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday Round-Up - #219

Jeanette Levellie, at On Wings of Mirth and Worth, posts about being great before you're famous. 

Heather Sunseri, at Balance With Purpose, discusses self-publishing not really being "self" any more than traditional publishing is "full service."

Writers: Do you think self-publishing is "taking the easy route?" Why or why not?

Readers:  What are some of the small kindnesses that have impacted your life?

Have a blessed weekend!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Giveaway Time!

The Amish Midwife has a mix of Amish and English characters. Mindy and Leslie present a clash of cultures, and serve up a tantalizing mystery.

Rather than allow this story to languish on my bookshelves, I'm having a drawing. Here are the giveaway details:

1) The giveaway is open to residents of the United States.

2) Only Followers of Christian Writer/Reader Connection are eligible to participate.

3) Leave a comment on this post with your email address. Sorry, no email = no entry. You can get extra entries by posting this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, or your blog. Please notify me in the comments if you choose to share this opportunity with your friends and blog readers.

4) Deadline: Thursday, 10/18/12, at 11:59 P.M. The winner will be announced at the end of the blog post on Friday, 10/19/12.

Disclaimer: Neither the publisher nor the authors provided this book or gave me any remuneration for this giveaway.

Friday, October 12, 2012

On My Kindle - Secrets by Kristen Heitzmann

When Lance Michelli's grandma, Antonia, has a stroke, she manages to give him a letter and send him on a mission. With little to go on, he travels to a cloister in the old country. Upon his return, he and his trusty pooch, Baxter, end up at a villa being transformed into a bed and breakfast.

A perennial rescuer of damsels in distress, he nearly meets his match in the person of Rese Barrett. With her heart closed off to love and dealing with grief, she's built walls so high even she can't see over them.

Lance takes the job of chef and begins restoring the carriage house where he'll stay until Rese decides if he's a keeper. As he works, the property yields clues to its past, including a shocking discovery. He struggles with his mission from Grandma Antonia and his growing relationship with Rese. Will he be successful or once again hit the road?

A stand-alone novel, this book is the first of a series by Kristen Heitzmann. I was a bit surprised by the toned down fright factor and the ramped up love connection, but it worked. All you romance fans will love the story, and mystery buffs will smile as well.

I'm looking forward to her next book, "Unforgotten." Yup, I'd say this was another winner for Kristen.

Writers: How do you feel about tweaking your genre or even abandoning it completely to address changes in the marketplace?

Readers: When a favorite authors take another genre road, do you stick with them or abandon ship? Why?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Choosing a Path

Decisions. Some are easy, and others stress us out. When we know the choices we make could mean the difference between security and disaster for our families, they deserve our full attention and consideration.

Elections come up every year, but a Presidential year is extremely important. The winning candidate will exert a great deal of influence over our future for better or worse.

While my family has been affiliated with a particular party for many years, my father and mother always stressed two things: 1) The values of the candidate. 2) His qualifications. If a person met their criteria but was not a member of their party, they also considered the party platform. Never did they slavishly vote along party lines just because their ancestors or anyone else did. The well-being of the country and godly principles took precedence.

The amount of information in this media-soaked country sometimes causes confusion. How do we separate the honest from the hype? What do we do to bring clarity to the overall picture? Here's my methodology:

1) What is the candidate's track record? What has he done versus what he said he would do?

2) Does his values reflect mine, and, more importantly, God's precepts?

3) When it comes to economics, has he shown good business sense and responsible stewardship of our tax dollars?

4) Foreign policy: What is his attitude toward Israel? How does he protect the autonomy of the U.S.? Does he respect our Constitution or undermine it by his words, actions, and selection of people to fill key positions?

5) The candidate may not fully reflect my wish list, but is he a good fit on the most important issues?

6) I do not consider the candidate's rhetoric or how good-looking he may be.

7) Last, but not least, I pray. If we leave God out of the equation, how can we expect His favor or blessing on our land?

We're all busy with our own lives, but we cannot afford to ignore elections.

Writers and Readers: How do you select the person, who will be our President?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Learning the Hard Way

When I turn on the shower I expect water. On one particular morning, what I got was an anemic trickle. Uh oh. How do I fix this?

I remembered reading somewhere that soaking the showerhead in vinegar could clear out any mineral deposits. Later in  the day, I marched into the bathroom with a basin and a jug of vinegar.

With the basin of vinegar in the tub, I removed the hand-held shower attachment and let it hang. It didn't reach the basin. Hmm, what now? A lightbulb went off in my head. I dug through the linen closet and found additional basins. If the showerhead wouldn't reach the basin, then maybe I could make the basin reach the showerhead.

Now, now, I hear all those groans, but I thought it was a dandy idea. I stacked the basins until they resembled the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Only this leaning tower gave way, and the vinegar went down the drain. Someone later said to me, "Why didn't you just unscrew the showerhead?"

Because I tend to do things the hard way.

Unfortunately, this tendency isn't limited to plumbing dilemmas. My critique partners can attest to my rather creative attempts to format a manuscript. They have saved my neck more than once in the formatting wars.

I'm still learning how to format the right way, but I sure wish I had a teacher, who could walk me through the steps. ACFW Genesis Contest gave detailed instructions on how to format the contest entry. Does anyone know of an online class or craft book that teaches how to acquire this skill?

Writers: Please share your toughest formatting challenges and how you fixed them.

Readers: Have you come across books where the formatting messed up? I recently read a Kindle book where sentences and paragraphs ended in strange places. The distraction pulled me out of the story for a few moments, but didn't totally wipe out my concentration.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday Round-Up - #218

Stephen Tremp, over at Breakthrough Blogs, shares an article by Gillian Roberts. She gives the 7 C's of mystery writing. With so many authors introducing an element of mystery into their stories, this might be a good skill to acquire.

Writers: Have you considered including a mystery in your manuscripts? What are some of the pitfalls you've encountered?

Readers: How do you feel about mysterious happenings in your romances or contemporary fiction?

Have a blessed weekend!

Photo:  melodi2

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Parent and Child

I don't usually post on Wednesday, but promised I would if I had something to say. Well, that time has arrived.

My parents taught much by their example. Every year on election day, we walked to the local elementary school I attended. On the way to the polls, they would discuss the candidates and why they would vote for certain individuals. Dad would tell me when I reached 21 (the voting age at that time) I would be eligible to participate in the voting process.

This ritual continued year after year. It never occurred to me that I wouldn't be a voter. When I turned 21, my parents helped me register. The next time election day rolled around, I exercised my right as a citizen of the United States.

It still shocks me that so many people don't vote. Someone once said to me, "It doesn't matter if I vote or not. It doesn't affect my life." I totally disagree. Elections have been won or lost by a few votes, and winners have the power to pass laws that directly impact our well being.

Whether you are a U.S. citizen or have the right to vote in another country, don't let this opportunity slip away from you.

Writers and Readers: What motivated you to register as a voter? Did the example of  your parents influence your decision?

Next week: How I decide who gets my vote.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Are We There Yet?

Road trips are one of my favorite things in life, especially if someone else is driving. No matter how much I like them, the novelty wears a bit thin after the first 100 miles.Traffic jams and construction hamper progress. My back and legs scream for a good stretch, as well as relief from the constant motion.

The writer's journey is a lot like a road trip. The planning, anticipation, goal setting, and initial work are all driven by enthusiasm. Once we hit a certain rhythm, we just want "to be there." Our word count moves along much slower than we'd anticipated. Writer's block, plot holes, life's surprises all threaten the desired end result - a completed manuscript.

How To Survive a Road Trip (without going stir crazy)

1.  Make sure you have clear directions.

2.  Stopping every couple of hours keeps you limber and may prevent dangerous blood clots in your legs.

3.  Food. There's something comforting about a snack on a long trip. You also avoid ridiculous prices and losing travel time.

4.  Music, teaching tapes, games for the younger set, and taking in the scenery make the miles and time fly.

5.  If you're not driving, a quick snooze might be in order. My friends often traveled at night, so the kids would sleep through a chunk of the trip.

How To Survive The Writing Journey (without driving every one around you insane)

1.  Read as much as you can about the business side of publishing. You'll run into fewer unpleasant surprises along the way.

2.  Explore various genres and determine which one best fits your interests and talents.

3.  Take time to acquire the skills you need to communicate your story.

4.  Don't be in a rush to present your work to editors and agents. You'll save yourself a heap of embarrassment and avoid a bad first impression.

5.  Take a break to enjoy life. Putting God and family first will make your writing stronger and  more satisfying.

Writers: What are some of your writing survival skills?

Readers:  Do you have any tips for a frazzle-free road trip?

Photo credit: Windchime