Monday, January 30, 2017

New to Me

Even the most exhausting task can become routine. For example: going to the laundromat. I'm thankful the one I used for years is right down the street. Still, the weekly ordeal of loading the car, unloading, getting everything into washers and later dryers, waiting, reloading the car, and then unloading the car at home makes me huff and puff.

I began to think there was no other way to do this chore or that it could never be different because of circumstances. My way of thinking changed gradually.

1.  I broke my wrist last June. Reduced to doing things with one hand (my left - not my dominant right hand) made lugging a laundry basket impossible. Duffle bags provided the solution. They worked so well I continued using them after my wrist healed.

2.  My house is old and the plumbing sometimes presented difficulties. When thinking about getting a washing machine, all kinds of negative thoughts popped up. My neighbor's parents were upgrading to new appliances. He was in charge of finding a new owner for their used washer and dryer.

I showed him the area, presented all my concerns, and he reassured me everything would work out fine. The new-to-me washer and dryer are now in my basement and functioning with no problem. I no longer to drag everything to the laundromat in all kinds of weather.

3.  The laundromat was expensive, but now I'm spending a fraction of what it cost me to do laundry.

There are other areas of my life I've grown to accept as "just the way things have to be." How often does God want to bless me, and I hesitate to obey Him? Is it fear of the unknown or concern I'll fail if I try something new?

It's time to gain a greater perspective. God's perspective - about my writing, about my spiritual walk, about my job, and about the future.

Writers and Readers:  What areas of your life have you come to accept as unchangeable? Please share your thoughts. Agree? Disagree? Why?

Friday, January 27, 2017

Blog Posts/Backstory/Redefinition/Devo/Coloring Books

1.  Zoe M. McCarthy gives 7 Tips to Generate Blog Posts. If you've been blogging for a while, you know how challenging it can become.

2.  Jerry Jenkins delivers a first-class article on Why Backstory Is Better Than Flashback. Far from an information dump, this backstory sets the reader up for a great payoff down the road. I've got to try some of these techniques.

3.  The state of Massachusetts recently tried to redefine places of worship as "places of public accommodation." This gave them the right to dictate what was said and done within churches. See how the Alliance Defense Fund challenged the state and won.

4.  Marja Meijers' post, "Give Me A Q," made me think.

5.  Donna, at The Enchanted Cottage, highlights her daughter's new coloring book, "Bedrooms." For all of you enthralled with coloring, I thought this might be an unusual change from flowers and animals. There are some neat pictures. It almost makes me want to take up the hobby. If only I had the time!

Writers:  Flashbacks are frowned upon these days. How do you handle events that shaped your characters' outlook on life?

Readers:  Do you enjoy coloring books? If so, what are your favorite subjects?

Photo Credit:  Dan Colcer

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

On My Nightstand - Understory by Lisa J. Lickel

Lily Masters knows something isn't right when her stepbrother, Art Townsend, sets up an interview for her in the Wisconsin woods. She decides to seek help from a friend, but gets lost in a blizzard.

Cameron Taylor, a former literature professor, finds Lily almost frozen to death near his cabin. He's hiding away while writing his grandparents' biography. He accidentally stirs up a cold case murder in the process.

While I met Lisa Lickel around the writing scene, this is the first book I've read authored by her. Understory shows many layers of trust, truth, and lies. The characters' fears were palpable and their wariness of strangers made for a spine-tingling reading experience.

I've read numerous novels that covered hot topics like interracial relationships, civil rights, and sex trafficking. Rather than a hit-you-over-the-head telling of the story, the author allowed the events to reveal attitudes and perceptions in an organic manner.

Understory held my attention and delivered a satisfying ending. Five stars.

Disclaimer:  I received this book in a blog giveaway. Neither the author nor the publisher paid me for a review. All opinions expressed, as always, are mine and mine alone.

Writers and Readers:  Do you write/read novels that deal with controversial/hot topics? Please share.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Newbie Corner: Pace Yourself

Once I make a decision to do something, I jump in with both feet. Instead of baking 100 cookies, I make 1,500. Crocheting - a simple scarf led to multiple afghans, baby sweaters, hats, mittens, adult sweaters, and throw pillows. I became a frenzied cookie baking/crocheting zealot. Whew!

Is it any wonder when I began writing, I used the same methodology? I quit every hobby and focused totally on learning the craft and submitting to publications. The rewards were satisfying, but in every case mentioned, I burned out.

I never wanted to bake another cookie.

The thought of picking up a crochet hook or skein of yarn made me want to hide under the covers.

And I came to the razor edge of chucking writing on that pile of enthusiastic projects.

It took me a long time to learn the wisdom of "slow and steady wins the race." Don't get me wrong, when I'm on a deadline, I'm as determined as ever to meet it. Yet, I also know that my writing will suffer if I neglect other aspects of my life.

I make time to soak in the Word of God, pray, and fellowship with my sisters and brothers in Christ.

Family and friends deserve my love and attention.

Rest, relaxation, and fun allow me to return to my writing with renewed energy and creativity.

Pacing ourselves builds endurance for the journey. Whether you're blogging, writing articles/poems/short stories, or penning your first novel, remember to live and notice the joys around you.

Writers and Readers: Have you ever become so obsessed with a hobby or some other activity that it chewed through the rest of your life like PacMan gone wild? How do you maintain a healthy balance?

Photo Credit:  Matteo Canessa

Friday, January 20, 2017

Symbolism/Prevent Burnout/Genetic Engineering/No Limits/Recipe

1.  Jonathan Vars guest posts at The Procrastiwriter on the subject of symbolism placeholders and how to use them in your writing.

2.  Jennifer Louden guest posts at Writers In The Storm. She talks about the ever-present demands of writing and how to keep from burning out.

3.  We've seen an increasing number of articles on bio-engineering. WND reports on "Genetic Engineering - Who Cleans Up the Mess?"

4.  Beth K. Vogt guest posts at The Write Conversation on the subject of No Limits. I'd like more people with this attitude around me. :)

5.  Okay, so I'm on a recipe kick. This is a main dish - One-Pot Cheesy-Italian-Pasta-Chicken. Yeah, I thought you'd be interested. :)

Writers:  How do you keep from getting writer burnout?

Readers:  What did you think of the devotional, "No Limits?"

Photo Credit:  Robert Owen-Wahl

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

On My Kindle - Londonderry Dreaming by Christine Lindsay

Keith Wilson's grandma left instructions that he was to clean out her house after her death. A music therapist, he leaves for Northern Ireland to attend the funeral and fulfill her wishes.

Naomi Boyd, renowned artist, travels to the Emerald Isle at the request of Keith's grandmother. Ruth Wilson has a gift for her and answers that might solve a long-standing mystery.

When she arrives, Ruth has already passed on. Naomi never expected to come face-to-face with the love she abandoned five years before. As they sift through Ruth's belongings, they discover more than answers to old secrets. Will they give each other a second chance or walk away.

I purchased this book way back in 2014 but forgot about it. The author writes wonderful stories set in exotic locales like India and Ireland. I've enjoyed her work for years. Londonderry Dreaming was no exception. She wove a compelling story with multi-layered emotions.

5 Stars for this novella.

Disclaimer: I didn't receive any payment for this review. All opinions expressed are mine and mine alone.

Writers:  Have you considered writing books in unusual settings? Please share.

Readers: What is your preference - books set in your home country or in other countries? Why?

Monday, January 16, 2017

Three Pistachio Promises

I'm sitting here eating pistachio nuts. Next to cashews, they're a favorite. So, who cares, right?

It occurred to me that pistachios make us a promise. I had this bag sitting around for a couple of weeks before deciding to open it.

Promise 1:  Until you open the bag, we won't get to taste their delicious flavor. As writers, we won't discover the amazing joys of a story until we open that document and begin the process.

Eating pistachios requires a certain amount of work. While some pop out of the shell with no problem, others require strong teeth or a nutcracker to pry them open.

Promise 2:   There are days when ideas flow and writing is almost effortless. The other days - let's say they're enough to make an author quit ten times over.

While pulling a shell from the bag, I discovered it was empty. Remember the old, "Where's the Beef," commercial? Yeah, this was, "Where's the pistachio?" Here I'm looking forward to another yummy morsel only to be disappointed. (I wonder if that's how Jesus felt when the tree had no figs.)

Promise 3:  A new story or article idea can set our imaginations on fire. We open a blank page and...nothing. Nada. Zilch. We're left with an empty promise.

A bag of pistachios promise a party for your taste buds, but you've got to open the bag, get them out of the shell, and sometimes you come up empty. It's a whole lot like writing and life in general.

Writers:  The strangest things can trigger an idea for a story or blog post. What was the most unusual experience/visual that inspired you?

Readers:  What lessons have you learned from day-to-day happenings in your life?

Photo Credit: Pawel Zawistowski

Friday, January 13, 2017

Colorful Writing/Two Plots/Assisted Suicide/Answered Prayer/Recipe

1.  Diann Mills, at The Write Conversation, talks about adding depth to your writing through color. You don't have to be a writer to benefit from this article. See why it's probably not a good idea to paint Junior's nursery yellow.

2.  Dave King writes about Your Two Plots at Writer Unboxed. Paying attention to your characters' inner life as well as the outward action can give readers a much-needed break but keep the action going.

3.  Babies are not the only ones at risk these days. Breaking Christian News reports on assisted suicide. The elderly are being put in jeopardy.

4.  Jodie Wolfe is featured on Elaine Stock's blog. She talks about Prayers Answered.

5.  This recipe for cracker candy looks delicious. Okay, it has chocolate. Need I say more? Check it out on Afternoon Baking With Grandma.

Writers:  How do you incorporate color into your writing?

Readers:  Did you try any new recipes during the holidays? Please share. (I tried the Almond Joy Cookies found on Facebook. They received mixed reviews.)

Photo Credit:  Karen Barefoot

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

In My Kindle - Give the Lady A Ride by Linda Yezak

Patricia Talbert, socialite and daughter of a U.S. Senator, inherits her uncle's ranch. She planned to check it out and sell it as quickly as possible, but didn't take into account the handsome cowboy running the show.

Talon Carlson's strong faith faces its greatest test. Will he trust God after the disappointing news that his adopted dad left the ranch to a blood relative?

Growing up, my grandfather and dad were keen for westerns. Bonanza and other shows marched across the TV screen when I'd rather be watching a sitcom. Give the Lady a Ride by Linda Yezak is not a book I would have chosen, but it was part of a contemporary romance collection.

And I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I'm giving this book a solid four stars. Anyone who can make me like a western deserves kudos.

Disclaimer: Neither the author nor the publisher paid me for a favorable review. All opinions expressed are, as usual, mine and mine alone.

Writers:  Have you considered writing articles, short stories, or books about unusual occupations? Please share.

Readers:  What books have you read that surprised you? I didn't like westerns, but this one captured my interest.

Monday, January 9, 2017

So, I Took A Blog Break....

and also a writing break. Does that sound strange for an author? For me, it came down to survival. After completing my last book, I was dealing with a broken wrist and numerous other challenges. All my energies were focused on getting well and regaining my strength.

Of course, I'm not suggesting the blog/writing break should last a year. That's not a break. It's a sabbatical. Most of the time, my mind is exploring different scenarios as I encounter everyday situations. You know, what if those two guys carrying a rug have a dead body wrapped inside of it? My brain needs a rest from all that mental activity.

I've always felt a little guilty about doing this, but a recent Book Marketing Buzz Blog post eased my mind. The simple act of taking a break during high-stress times like Christmas can rejuvenate you. It takes the pressure off. Rest is important for both the body and the mind.

This is my first Monday post since my blog break ended. I'm hunkering down and working on my blog and novel.  2017 - Let's get started on the New Year.

Writers and Readers:  How do you deal with stress overload? Do you have any tips on prevention?

Photo Credit:  SS