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.