Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday Round-Up - #38

Woohoo! This week I celebrated my birthday. (I won't say which one.) I'm a firm believer in a birthday week instead of one day. It's more exciting to spread out the fun. Mom took me shopping for some summer clothes over the weekend. Another day, we enjoyed a luscious dinner at the Olive Garden, complete with Black Tie cake (chocolate mousse, chocolate frosting, chocolate everything). I can still taste it. :) Cards, Facebook greetings, and phone calls finished off the week.

Surfing the Internet wave, I discovered an excellent post over at the Edit Cafe. Rebecca Germany noted that authors spend so much time polishing the beginning and middle of their books they sometimes rush through the ending. Check out her tips on how to avoid a meltdown at the end and give the reader a satisfying conclusion.

Dawn Kinzer tells a delightful story at her blog. Wouldn't it be nice if everyone tried to make someone's day a bit more pleasant?

Smile. It keeps people guessing. :)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

On My Nightstand - Without a Trace by Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble's book, "Without a Trace," is the first installment of the Rock Harbor Series. Set in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the story is a wonderful mixture of romance, suspense, and mystery.

Our heroine, Bree Nicholls is devastated when her husband and son are in a plane crash. As part of a canine search and rescue team, she's frustrated at her lack of success in locating the downed plane.

As if her own troubles weren't enough, a murder sets the town of Rock Harbor into shock. The people wonder about the killer living among them. Will he or she strike again?

One of the things I liked about this story was I couldn't figure out whodunit. The author sprinkled throughout the story, but in such an artful way that it was difficult to connect the dots. When the identity of the killer dawns on Bree, I experienced her horror and dismay.

Yup, folks, I was up until 1:00 A.M. finishing this book. It's a good thing the next day fell on the weekend. I'll be looking for the other books in this series. I'm thrilled I've found another great mystery/suspense author. Way to go, Colleen!

By the way, you can't click on the book cover.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Keep On Keeping On

I am one of those people who works out three times per week. I'm motivated by one thing: my health. After an injury to the sciatic nerve, working out became a necessity.

With a compelling reason to hit the gym, you'd think I'd at least make the most of my time there. Instead, I found valid reasons to cut corners. After one surgery, I found it difficult to regain my stamina. The treadmill left me exhausted and wanting to crawl into bed. Then, the pain from the titanium hardware in my arm eliminated a couple of machines. My workouts went from 40 minutes to 15 minutes. Soon, my "Hi and Goodbye," to the staff happened so fast they were beginning to think I was a phantom.

When I embarked on this fiction journey, the story burned in my soul. My late husband and I worked out a schedule where I devoted every Wednesday to writing. Four months later, I held my completed first draft. Then life interrupted the flow of my creativity. All of the situations were valid, but they almost quenched the fire for my manuscript.

My feet were headed toward Quit City.

A talk with a trainer at the gym resulted in a plan evaluation. She worked out a new routine, which stopped the downhill slide. The sweeping changes motivated me to stay with the program.

Journaling through my late husband's illness kept the writing embers alive. When he rallied, one of the first things he did was encourage me to work on the book. He insisted I attend an upcoming writers' conference, saying it would do me good to take some time away from the daily pressures.

So, when the latest challenges threatened to sink my writing ship, I asked myself, "Where do I want to end up?" A change of routine, the support of others, and above all, prayer brought about renewed enthusiasm. Every worthy endeavor will hit stormy seas.

It's onward and upward toward Completion City.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday Round-Up - #37

On The Master's Artist, Mary DeMuth talks about a different way to promote a novel. While brainstorming with a friend, they came up with this unusual idea.

All my Facebook buddies know I've been up to my neck in tax preparation. I haven't changed my "Susan is..." line for almost a week. Today, I came across a post by Tiffany Colter, over at Writing Career Coach, about taxes. She has a link to a pdf file, which I cannot access due to problems with my Adobe Reader. However, all of you can check out the tax tips for writers. Maybe someone will pass on the info to me. :)

A couple of decades ago, I worked with a guy, who added a new word to his vocabulary each week. He would then work it into almost every conversation. By the end of the week, the staff wanted to run from the office screaming. Tiffany Colter's post brought this story to mind. Are you stuck in a word rut?

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

On My Nightstand - Painted Dresses by Patricia Hickman

I first met author, Patricia Hickman, at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers' Conference. Her workshop, empathy, and kindness touched my life at a time when I was in the throes of grief. Painted Dresses went on my "To Be Read List." Recently, I purchased a copy, and it went on my nightstand.

Two sisters, Delia Cheatham and Gaylen Syler-Boatwright, meet at their father's funeral. Circumstances send them on an unlikely journey. Delia has a knack for getting into trouble and drags big sister, Gaylen, along with her. Gaylen, ever the caregiver, feels a strong obligation to help Delia.

The painted dresses in their deceased aunt's cabin send them on a mission. With the delivery of each dress, another layer of their lives is revealed. Old memories surface, tease, and push the women to piece together their childhood.

In my opinion, Painted Dresses is character driven rather than plot driven. Each nuance in the women's personalities has significance, and are critical to the grand finale. By the last half of the book, I was having trouble putting it down at bedtime. I completed it at 12:30 A.M. on a work night.

Patricia Hickman's writing style and unique way of expressing herself evokes a feeling of, "I wish I'd said that." Her understanding of human nature and how events impact a personality merged with her writing talent to create a memorable reading experience. I'll be looking for other titles by this author.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Future of Publishing

With all the moans and groans about the economy and the future of publishing, I thought we needed a bit of hope. Every time I see a picture like this, I smile. I'm honorary auntie to this Sweet Baby Girl. Thanks to her mom for allowing me to post her pictures.

Lest you think this is unusual, Sweet Baby Girl's mom has at least three pictures of her "reading." Having just turned one, "reading" books is listed as one of her favorite activities. Mom put up the cutest video recently of her looking through a book and signing the word, "book." It reminded me of a fellow-blogger's post on Baby Sign.

Just remember, when Jane Austen penned her classics, none of us were around.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday Round-Up - #36

"Hi" to all my friends in the PCFW chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers. My local ACFW group and PCFW got together last weekend for lunch, fellowship, and a discussion on how to conduct a book signing. I'm tucking that one in my files for future reference.

Do you attend a writers' group in your area? Check around and see if there are others. You'll double your knowledge base and meet new friends. The two groups are hoping to hold a joint meeting again in the near future.

Gaye Gaymer Martin wrote a detailed series on Research for Fiction Writing. This link will bring you to Part I, but be sure to catch the rest of them. Her blog is a valuable resource for craft articles.

The Edit Cafe, the blog home of Barbour editors, Rebecca Germany and JoAnne Simmons, gives a list of the 2009 Fiction Bestsellers. If you scroll all the way to the end of the page, you'll find the list. Out of 20 spots, Karen Kingsbury snagged five of them, Ted Dekker captured three, and Joel Rosenberg got two. What title beat out the entire field? Hmm, see if you can guess before looking at the list, and put it in your comment. Find out who else made the cut by clicking here.

Have a blessed weekend. :)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

On My Nightstand - Grace in Thine Eyes by Liz Curtis Higgs

I can't believe I did it again! Yes, folks, I read Book Four in a series and didn't realize it until the end. If you like this review, I suggest you read the other three books before this one.

Grace in Thine Eyes is my first Liz Curtis Higgs' novel. Wow! Now I know why she's such a popular author. Liz lifted me from my bed and transplanted me to the Isle of Arran where most of the action takes place. By the end of the book, she had replaced my Bronx accent with a Scottish one.

Her main character, Davina McKie, walks through this story like a shining beacon. In spite of severe setbacks, she presses on and never gives up on life. She's far from flawless, but acknowledges her weaknesses and gives grace to those around her.

Liz left nothing to chance. She visited Scotland and did extensive research. I doubt if the most fastidious history buff could find fault with her tale. I give this book a big cheer. Hey Liz, I'll be reading more. I can't lose that new Scottish accent.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Right Track

The other day, I was cleaning out a cabinet and came across a file entitled, "Wit and Wisdom." A single piece of looseleaf paper with two quotations were written in my late husband's handwriting. My sweetheart still inspires my writing. :)

"Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." Will Rogers At times, we writers stand still for so long that it's hard to get going again. All around us, others are moving forward. They're learning new skills, submitting to agents and publishers, and building their platforms. Pretty soon, we find ourselves left behind in the dust or crushed by those pressing on toward publication.

Another saying I've heard is, "You snooze. You lose." It's time to wake-up from our hibernation, and regain our momentum. Are you with me, gang? Hold me accountable. The area where I'm sitting still on the track is my book.

Where are you sitting still?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Friday Round-Up - #35

You may recall a couple of weeks ago I was given the Premio-Dardos award for excellence in blogging. Rita Gerlach, of InSpire blog, asked me what, "Premio-Dardos," meant and what was depicted on the award.

These questions started a search of the Internet. I Googled it. I Wikipedia'd it. I even'd it. At first, I couldn't find a satisfactory answer. Then I came across a blog, which stated that Premio-Dardos was Italian for, "Prize Darts."

Rita examined the award itself, and discovered it showed an old-fashioned typewriter with plumes of words rising from the machine. So, the mystery's been solved. Thanks, Rita, for prompting the investigation.

By the way, Rita has another installment out on her Stepping Stones Magazine for Writers. Check out Platform Building Part 2 - Cultivating a Fan Base.

Sue Cramer, over at Praise & Coffee, is doing a February giveaway. Leave a comment for an opportunity to win WOW Hits 2009, coffee, and Bayview Cards. If you put her button on your blog, you'll be entered a second time.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Interview with Author Cathy Gohlke

Cathy Gohlke's writing has appeared in, "Chicken Soup for the Single's Soul," in, "My Turn to Care - Affirmations for Caregivers of Aging Parents," in magazines, newspapers, and in dramatic works produced on local stages. Her first novel, "William Henry is a Fine Name," received a Christy Award - the Catherine Marshall Christian Fiction Award of Excellence. Her second novel, "I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires," was included in Library Journal's list of, "Best of 2008."

Cathy and her husband live and raised their children in Elkton, Maryland.

1. Thank you for joining us, Cathy. I noticed your writing credits include non-fiction articles. How did your non-fiction work inspire you to dive into the world of fiction?

I've always wanted to write fiction but didn't know if I could develop a riveting plot, see a story through to the end, if I could maintain pacing, or hold a reader's interest. Writing non-fiction, especially articles, helped me learn to think analytically, to sculpt a story, cut extraneous material, and to make every word count in limited space. It taught me to set a deadline and "get it done." Writing, selling, and seeing my non-fiction in print built writing confidence and gave me publications to cite when submitting writing of any type. But there came a day when I really wanted to write the story of my imagination instead of telling the story of someone else. And so, once upon a time...

2. Some of the scenes in, "William Henry is a Fine Name," are emotionally supercharged and depict the horrors of slavery. As a writer, how did this affect you?

History is not always pretty, and the dark places grieve me. I can only imagine how they grieve God.

I felt sickened by the realities of slavery, by the drawings, documents and documentaries, diaries, stories - all of it. I've never understood how human beings could treat other human beings so cruelly, how one group or race of people could be so arrogant as to imagine themselves masters of another race. And yet, that mystery and the determination that such evil should never happen again, propelled me to write about it.

The whole issue of slavery leaves me bewildered and broken. I think that if truly our Father holds all our tears in bottles that Heaven must be riddled with oceans. Thank God that He is with us, and heals our brokenness.

3. How do you cope with the upheaval your research and writing cause?

To understand the character's experiences during those horrific times, both slavery (from "William Henry is a Fine Name") and the Civil War (from "I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires") I had to recreate those days in my mind. I worked on the imagery, did all I could to recreate the senses - the smells of those foods, the colors and textures of uniforms, the music they knew and played. I rubbed my hands over leather whips and hefted the weight of chains and manacles, etc. I imagined, to the best of my ability, what it was like to be both slave and master, to be someone on the sidelines watching, to be a soldier for the Union, a soldier for the Confederacy, a nurse, a woman who'd lost everything, a woman who loved and feared for those she loved - so many emotions and so many lives to try to understand and convey. And that, while absorbing and exhilerating, was also draining.

During the writing of the sequel, "I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires," I walked around numb for days and days after relating a character's memories of the battle of Gettysburg - carnage in the heat of summer. And when the battle ended I had to imagine what it was like for those men to go on, to get up and live another day - those who won and those who lost.

In the end I have to give all that sadness, all those spent lives to the Lord, and remember that this (this life, and that history) is not the end of the story. God has so much more to come. But sometimes research is hard and it surely leaves me sober. I find I have to plan things to lift my spirits after those long writing sessions - church, music, theatre, dancing, comedy, garden walks, time with friends. God supplies, but we must reach out and accept His gifts.

4. Can you give us a peek at your next project?

The working title for my new book is, "Owen Allen's Legacy," which opens in 1912:

When the Titanic sinks, Owen Allen offers his plans for a gardening and landscaping business, his dreams, and even his family to Michael Dunnagan, an orphaned and abused Irish stowaway, who looks young enough to pass as a child and board one of the lifeboats. But Michael, who carries his own dark secret, finds that accepting and learning to live with such an amazing and unmerited gift is not easy. Nor is it easy for Owen's younger sister, Annie, to forgive Michael for taking her brother's place. Through years of hardship and war (WWI), Michael and Annie, too, are called to sacrifice. Together they find forgiveness, redemption, and the love and joy they both seek.

Owen's sacrifice and gift parallels, in part, Jesus' sacrifice and gift so that we might live, and live abundantly. Michael's struggle to accept that life, and Annie's struggle to forgive, parallels our own.

Thanks, Cathy, for taking time out of your busy schedule to give us a description of the emotional side of writing. May the Lord bless you.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Moment You've All Been Waiting For

The winner of Only Uni by Camy Tang is:


Congratulations Nemil. You'll be hearing from me via email.

Thanks to everyone for entering the book drawing. Watch for more in the coming months. You never know when Contest Fever will strike. :)

P.S. See below for my regular Monday post.

Nutritious Food vs. Junk Food

Yeah, I know. I'm on a food kick. As a kid, I dreamed about having the ability to eat whatever I wanted for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Why not have cookies and milk for lunch? Why not have dessert before icky veggies? Immediate satisfaction of my desires trumped good nutrition.

Unfortunately, such a diet does not provide what the body needs to function properly. A number of years ago, I was working full-time, going to Bible School nights full-time, and living alone. For a couple of months, I lived on frozen dinners and cereal. One morning, I dragged myself out of bed, wondering why I felt so tired. My body didn't have the fuel to keep up with my schedule. A change of diet alleviated the fatigue and generally yucky feeling.

As readers and writers, do we exist on literary junk food? Our reading habits will not only affect us as writers, but also as people. Content which mocks and undermines decency and our relationship with the Lord may temporarily satisfy fleshly desires, but it will ultimately harm us and affect our quality of life. The Word of God keeps us on track and focused on His precepts. It may cause us to squirm at times and isn't always candy sweet, but is necessary to a healthy inner life.

There's a saying, "You are what you eat." My saying: "You are what you read."