Friday, December 31, 2010

Friday Round-Up - #137

Janalyn Voight, at Author Haven, gives advice on where to start your novel.

Stephen Tremp, at Breakthrough Blogs, discusses an easy way to promote authors' books to libraries.

Do you ever request your library carry a fellow author's books? With the New Year upon us, this is a nice way to help each other.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Rhonda's Boundaries - Virtual Luncheon - Part 5

Rhonda scans the dessert menu. "It's so hard to decide. This warm apple crostata sounds delightful. I'll give it a try.

"As for your question on how free I am to speak about spiritual matters, our community is heavily churched, filled with everything from Catholics to Amish to Mennonites of every stripe to Baptists and beyond. The newspaper gives me an amazing amount of latitude. Much of the time, I'd say I extract lessons and morals from our family stories and current events, but now and then, the Holy Spirit say, 'It's go time!,' and we speak to people in plain terms.

When a soldier from our hometown was killed in action one summer, followed by the sudden deaths of two neighbors tree days apart (both living within one-third mile of my house and both well known in the community), I sensed the Lord saying, "Speak to the people about being ready to die.' So, I did. And God used it."

After Rhonda handed the menu to Jen, I posed another question. "Wow, the time is going so fast, and I still have questions for the both of you.

"How has the column affected you and/or your family? Since Jen is deciding what she wants for dessert, why don't you go first this time, Rhonda?"

She almost chokes on her breadstick. "I thought I had time to think this over. Let's see, my family has been wonderful. Even though Mr. Schrock shuns the spotlight, he puts up with it because he believes in my gift and thinks I should be using it. The boys just roll with it. They shrug and say, "it's what Mom does.

"On a personal level,it's pushed me to face fears. Writing your heart is terrifying enough, but putting it out there for all to see..."

Rhonda shudders. "I really need that apple crostata now!" be continued.

Questions for the Reader: Rhonda puts a lot of prayer into her columns. Do you pray for your readers and ask God what take-away they need?

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Tale of the Birds' Nest

My aunt and uncle own a home with a stone facade and wood shutters. The neighborhood birds discovered the adage, "location, location, location," and decided it provides an ideal place to raise a family. You see, their neighbors own several bird feeders and keep them well stocked. Very cool! A birdie supermarket right next door.

Feeling magnanimous, my aunt allowed the nest construction. She soon regretted her generosity when the "deposits" began.

The following year, they discouraged the birds from selecting their house. Ah, but the future parents persisted. Only diligent effort on my family's part kept them away.

Negative thoughts are a whole lot like those birds. They land on our heads and try to set up housekeeping.

"Traditional publication is almost impossible." Let me get my broom and sweep that thought away.

"There are so many great writers out there. What chance do I have?" Get out the craft books, study the blogs, and write, write, write.

How do you keep a positive attitude in a tough publishing climate?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Music Video - It's About The Cross

A friend sent me this video. It's awesome!

Have a blessed Christmas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Preacher's Wife & The Newspaper - Virtual Luncheon - Part 4

Jen buttered a roll and nodded. "Spiritual themes? That's a great question. Because my column is on the religious page and I'm a preacher's wife, I talk about Jesus, use Bible verses, and share my faith all I want. I'm glad I live in a small town where talking about the Lord in the local paper is not frowned upon.

"Most of the people who read my column are already believers. I still keep in mind a small part of my audience may not know Jesus, but enjoy humorous stories.

"One friend, who is not a Christian, reads my column on a regular basis because she likes the way I write. Now, that's a high compliment! I hope and pray I am planting seeds in her life. I copy my columns and mail them to friends and relatives, some of whom aren't Christians, so I'm also getting the message out that way.

"Are you ordering dessert? Let's get something and share it, okay? Better yet, let's order three desserts and each of us share with the other two!"

I hold up both hands, "I surrender. You guys are wrecking my diet today. I'll have to spend the entire week at the gym.

"Rhonda, don't think I forgot about you. I want to know if your newspaper permits you to speak freely about your faith." be continued.

Questions for the Reader: How can we share our faith in a general market setting? Have you had any success in this area?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Too Rushed?

My computer can't keep up with me. As I click on links and race from blog to Swagbucks to email to website, it freezes. "Time out, girl! You're rushing me." I confuse the poor machine because I'm asking it to do too many tasks at one time.

Am I pushing too hard and too fast with my writing journey? Churn out that article, write that book, dash off a devotional, query that agent, friend that editor on Facebook. Someone hits the stopwatch (God?). I take a deep breath, look around, and get my bearings.

Recently, I stopped blogging at Susie's Sandbox. It was fun, but didn't move me forward on the writing path. I need that time for other pursuits.

So many things interest, intrigue, and beckon me, but I now consider how much time they'll require. Once I have an estimate, I double it. I know myself. If I'm going to do something, it will be done right.

I choose what is best over what is good. With the New Year at hand, a serious look at all the activities we've taken on and how they affect our goals is in order.

How about you? Do you stop long enough to measure your progress?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Round-Up - #136

Amy Andrews guest posts on Money Saving Mom about creating a time management budget. I've been reading up on this subject and thought she had some good things to say.

Do you have any time management secrets you'd like to share? Feel free to do so in the comments. :)

Some bloggers turn their corner of the blogosphere into a business. Amy Andrews shares her journey, including how to launch an e-book. I knew that subject might interest some of our readers.

Have you ever thought of writing an e-book?

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rhonda Gets Encouraged (er...booted in the Posterior) - Virtual Luncheon - Part 3

Rhonda puts cream in her coffee, a LOT of it, and takes a sip. "How I got my column is a long story. I'll try to condense it as much as possible."

"For years, my husband encouraged (see 'boot in the backside') me, saying I should be writing a book. And I would say, "Oh, sure, Let me fit that right in that time slot between Mount Everest in the laundry room and that stack of reports that need to be typed.' Then, I'd say, 'Do you know how many people want to be published and never make it?'

"Basically, I just blew him off, but once in awhile, I would pray, 'God, if You have something for me with this writing business, You're going to have to show me because it seems impossible from where I'm sitting.'

"One day, Mr. Schrock 'happened' to have an interview with a local correspondent, and he mentioned his dreams for me. She told him she'd help.

"Three days later, after a wild morning with the baby, I did something completely out of character - I sat down and wrote about it. My husband laughed, and a family friend howled. He sent it to the correspondent. A week later, she emailed him. 'I think this is column material...but how about the little weekly paper (paraphrasing here)?'

"At that time, a new publisher joined The Goshen News. He wrote a column introducing himself to the community, and invited people to contact him. With fear and trembling, I sent  him that first piece, expecting it would be weeks before I heard back. That afternoon, an email came: 'I think we can use this.'

"On November 5, 2010, we celebrated the three-year anniversary of the column that started on a wing and a prayer.

Jen put down her fork. "What a cool story! But you were the only one surprised. Did Mr. Schrock take you out to supper to celebrate? Hey, Suze, what else do you want to know?"

I laughed. "You know me too well, Jen. I love doing interviews. Maybe we could put this on my blog."

"I know these are local newspapers. Do they allow you to include spiritual themes?" be continued.

Question for the Reader: Rhonda prayed for something that seemed impossible, and God opened the door. Have you ever had a similar experience? I'd love to  hear about it.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Hold Onto The Vision - Part II

How do we get to the point where we want to quit? I've pondered that question for several months.

I'm convinced the root is fear. With all the rejection in this industry, guarding against this enemy provides a special challenge.

I can only speak for myself, but I often wonder if I have what it takes to be a published author. Am I good enough? Oh, I can read craft books and write, write, write, but do I have that spark that grabs a reader and doesn't let go until the last page?

Yet, in my heart of hearts, I know God's called me to write. In the face of rejection, whose report will I choose to believe? Years ago, a Bible School teacher gave this anagram on fear:





Allow that to sink deep into your spirit. It will affect not only your writing, but also your entire life. I choose to believe the report of the Lord.

Have you ever dissected the root cause of your discouragement? Your wisdom and experience might help another writer.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Round-Up - #135

Right about now, we're all scrambling for time. With Christmas around the corner, how do we get everything done?

Crystal Paine, over at Money Saving Mom, shares her secrets on managing online time and getting more done. (Part 1)

Do you have any tips for streamlining your blogging?

Rather than save this for another post, I'm giving you the link to Crystal Paine's Part 2 on how to get more done in less time as a blogger.

Have a happy, stress-free weekend!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How Jeanette Got Her Writing Gig - Virtual Luncheon - Part 2

Jeanette scoops salad onto her plate and pauses. "I went to the editor of our local  paper with three or four column samples. I asked if I could do a regular feature and call it, 'God is Bigger.' My son, an artist, drew an Eiffel Tower held in God's hand for the logo. Since I'd done several letters to the editor, one which had been re-published in Country Magazine, they knew my writing.

"I told them I would do the column for free in exchange for a blurb at the end of each column advertising our church. The editor agreed. That was almost 11 years ago. I've received many speaking engagements and opportunities to share my faith as a result of that column. It's opened a lot of doors for my writing career, since it serves as a  plank to my platform.

"And I love it when people tell me I make them laugh! I grab the paper and say, 'let me read that. I need to laugh myself!"

Engrossed in her account, I haven't touched my salad yet. "Jen, I love the idea of the Eiffel Tower held in God's hand, but why did you choose that logo?"

She reaches for a breadstick and passes the basket to me. "Paris is the name of my town, so it was the perfect choice to catch readers' attention."

Rhonda and I exchange glances and smile. Getting readers to stay with an article challenges every writer.

The server brings our lunch, and we suspend our conversation until we're settled. "Okay, Rhonda, it's your turn. Don't leave out any of the details." be continued.

Questions for the Reader: Have you thought about writing a column? What steps have you taken to make that dream come true?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hold Onto The Vision - Part I

Glasses. Reading doesn't happen these days without them. The DMV requires me to wear them when I drive. Now, I think I see just fine, but their eye test proved me wrong. With the proper specs, I can now distinguish signs and objects I missed before.

Even as physical vision is critical to daily tasks, a purpose, direction, dream, vision, or whatever you want to call it is vital to fulfilling our destinies as writers. With the New Year approaching, it's time to take a closer look, re-evaluate, and make course corrections.

Have we stayed true to the vision and direction God gave us? Have we trusted Him with our writing dreams or have we grabbed the reins and pushed Him out of our writing life? Have we grown discouraged and lost sight of the vision altogether?

This year brought many positive events, but I also fought with the temptation to chuck the whole fiction-writing endeavor. Shocked? Don't be. Every writer comes to that crossroad at one time or another.

In next week's post I'll share more about my experience, how I overcame the weariness that set in, and how I put on a special pair of "eyeglasses" to once again focus on the direction God gave to me.

What has your year been like? Do you struggle to keep a forward momentum?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday Round-Up - #134

What's a storm drain doing on my post? Take a walk down Blooper Lane with Kay Marshall Strom, and you'll find out.

What are some bloopers you've come across?

How do you organize your research? Janalyn Voight, at Author Haven, gives tips on keeping everything neat and accessible.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Jeanette & Rhonda - A Virtual Luncheon Interview - Part 1

Participants:   Susan J. Reinhardt, Christian Writer/Reader
                          Connection (You are here!)
                      Jeanette Levellie, Audience of One
                      Rhonda Schrock,
                         The Natives Are Getting Restless

Butterflies waltz in my stomach as I wait in front of the Olive Garden. This may be a "virtual lunch," but I'm nervous in a happy way. Jeanette Levellie and Rhonda Schrock are my favorite humor writers on the Internet.

Oh, there are two women getting out of a car. Classy redhead and cute brunette--gotta be them. Rhonda and Jen spot me and make a beeline for lots of hugs.

After the usual girly squeals, Rhonda grins at me. "It's such a pleasure to finally 'meet' you. I'm glad you suggested this get-together in cyberspace." She sniffs at the delectable aromas coming from the restaurant. "I can smell the breadsticks and taste the chicken scampi already. I hope they have the coffee on because nothing goes with girl talk like a fresh cup of java."

Jen's holding a package and looks like she's about to burst. "I brought you a gift, and you have to open it right now before we go inside. I can't wait."

I tear through the wrapping paper, eager to see what treasure awaits me. "Oh, what a sweetie you are, Jen." Pushing back the tissue paper, I see a lavender sweatshirt, but not just any sweatshirt--a Snoopy sweatshirt! "I love it. Snoopy is my favorite Peanuts' character."

Jen is jumping up and down. "Snoopy is sitting on top of his doghouse, writing. I special ordered it with 'Susie' printed on the side of the doghouse. Yippee, Dippee, and let's go eat!"

The three of us enter the Olive Garden, and the hostess seats us at a table next to a window. The Tuscan decor, with its gold walls, wrought iron fixtures, and colorful plates, hold special memories for me. My husband and I had our first date at the Olive Garden.

After the server takes our orders, I laugh. "Okay, now that we're all here, I want to know how you guys managed to snag a column in your local newspapers." be continued.

Questions for the Reader: Do you wish you could get together with Blogger friends, but they live too far away? How do you solve that problem? Phone calls? Personal emails?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Imaginary Friends

Being an only child encouraged me to use my imagination. For awhile, I had an identical twin sister inspired by the Patty Duke Show. My parents laughed and humored me.

I played for hours on end with Ginny dolls, making up stories. They'd go to school, get scolded for not doing their homework, and have fun with their baby sister, Jeanette.

Hmm, maybe all this pretend stuff has something to do with writing fiction. I might not have written down these tall tales, but they sure entertained me.

Now, I converse with characters in my books. I'll be in bed and suddenly see them in one scrape or another. Their anguish breaks my heart, and I must find a way to rescue them from the shadowy enemies bent on destroying them.

When you were a kid, did you have imaginary playmates? Did you line your teddy bears up and teach school? I'd love to hear about it. I hope I'm not the only writer, who started off this way.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday Round-Up - #133

Blogger friend, Jan Cline, announced an affordable, one-day writers conference in Spokane, Washington. It will be held on March 19, 2011, so you have plenty of time to make plans.

Jim Rubart, author of Rooms, will be the keynote speaker. For more details, check out the conference website.

For all you classics' lovers, Carla Gade posted a funny video on the Bronte sisters. Check out the Bronte Sisters Power Dolls.

Hmm, this might be the biggest craze since the Cabbage Patch Dolls if they put them on the market.

What favorite author would you turn into a doll. What would make it special?

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

My posting schedule is in place, but I'll be offline until Monday.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

On My Nightstand - Red Ink by Kathi Macias

Kathi Macias' novel, Red Ink, is loosely based on the story of a Chinese journalist imprisoned for her faith. She captures real life in a way few authors achieve. I'm struck by the clarity of the message, the empathy for people in both free and oppressive societies, and her ability to keep me thinking long after I finished the book.

It’s difficult for me to refer to people in her book as “characters.” Each one is individual, from the imprisoned Zhen-Li to the teen hooked on drugs in America. Their lives intersect in ways they will not fully comprehend until they meet in heaven.

Not only does Red Ink share the terrible persecution in China, but it also reveals the love of God for His people and those who do not yet know Him. The author’s grasp on how God deals with each person brings clarity to our place in His overall plan.

In the past, I’ve read numerous books about those persecuted for their faith. After awhile, it becomes overwhelming. Red Ink’s multiple layers provide much food for thought. Love, hope, and joy triumph in the midst of difficulty both here and abroad.

If you care about others, whether you’re a Christian or not, this book is a must read.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Not too long ago, I sunk into a woe-is-me attitude. Expenses increased, while no job offers came my way. Little things got blown out of proportion. I knew if I didn't corral those negative thoughts, I'd be in trouble.

I did what I always do when I get like this: I wrote a blessing list and listened to some worship music. By the time I was finished, my heart sang a new tune. I also asked others to pray for me.

Dear friends encouraged me, and one even did some work on my house. When I opened my email that Sunday night, I discovered a submission to a Sunday School take-home paper had been accepted. My heart soared.

I'm grateful that no matter what my circumstances, God reminds me He's still my provider. I see in the Word that He's my banner, my peace, my healer, and my God. He's brought me through the death of loved ones, illness, and financial concerns. I can depend on Him.

What are you thankful for today, large or small?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Winner!

Congratulations to:

                           ROBIN PRATER!

You've been notified via email. Please send me your snail mail address ASAP, so I can get your book out before Thanksgiving.

Thank you to all those who entered the drawing.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Round-Up - #132

Larry Brooks, at Storyfix, tells us "the last thing an agent wants to hear." Note: Be aware, this isn't a Christian site.

Kay Marshall Strom guests posts on The Roving Editor. She gives six rules for great writing.

Have a great weekend!

Which one is your favorite?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Author Interview & Giveaway - Kathryn Cushman - A Promise to Remember - Part II

Today, we'll continue our interview with Kathryn "Katie" Cushman. Check out the details for the giveaway of her book, "A Promise to Remember," at the end of this post.

4) Your handling of grief in, "A Promise to Remember," was right on target. Did you draw from personal experience or indepth research?

Thank you!

I'd never really experienced grief in an up close and personal way until a couple of months ago when my father passed away, so it wasn't personal experience. I don't really "study" emotions either. I know a lot of authors use psychological profiles and charts, but those kinds of things just don't work for me.

It was mostly closing my eyes and imagining myself in the character's situation. How would I feel? This usually left me teary and emotional, and that's when I knew it was time to write the scene. I would also picture the people I know who are like my characters, and imagine how they would react. I'd spend some time trying to figure out what would make them react that way.

5) What advice would you give writers trying to break into Women's Fiction?

First of all, absolutely be on your knees in prayer, asking God to show you His direction--whether that means writing or not. After that, write, write, write. Read books on writing, attend writers conferences (Mount Hermon and ACFW are my personal favorites). Get in a critique group--I met my two main critique partners at Mount Hermon several years ago when we were all fairly new at writing. We don't write the same genre (in fact, they're both men), but we are all serious about writing and improving our craft. Shawn Grady has since published several books, ad Michael Berrier has landed a terrific agent and is on the brink of breaking in.

BE PATIENT! A lot of breaking into publishing involves getting the right manuscript in front of the right editor when he/she is in the right mood. We can't control that (especially the editor's mood part). If God has called you to write, then He will work out the details in His time.

6) What new books do you have out or soon to be launched?

Angel Song was released in August. This is a book I co-wrote with Sheila Walsh of Women of Faith. It is about a woman's journey through the loss of her sister, accompanied by mysterious happenings that may or may not be angels at work.

Another Dawn will release in February 2011. It is the story of a  young woman who chose not to vaccinate her son due to fear of autism. When he causes a measles outbreak, which involves several infants and life-threatening complications, she must come to terms with her decision.

Note from Susan: My apologies. Blogger won't let me upload pictures of these bookcovers.

Giveaway details:

1) Only residents of the U.S. are eligible for the contest. The contest is void where prohibited. Sorry.

2) To enter the contest, please leave a comment along with your email address. No email = no entry.

3) For an extra entry, tell me if you're a Follower or become a Follower of Christian Writer/Reader Connection. Maximum number of entries for this contest: four (two on this post and two on last Wednesday's post).

4) Deadline: Saturday, November 20, 2010, at midnight.

5) The winner will be chosen by random drawing and notified via email on Sunday, November 21, 2010. An announcement will be made on the blog on Sunday.

6) Disclaimer: Neither the publisher nor the author provided the book or requested a review/interview. I'm giving away my personal copy.

Question for you: How do you handle emotional scenes if you don't have firsthand experience?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Giant Steps?

Growing up, the neighborhood kids played a game called, "May I." We would line up, and one of us would stand a distance away, facing the others.

Each child would make a request. "May I take two baby steps?" The leader would either grant permission or deny it. She did not want any of us to take her place.

Someone else would say, "May I take five giant steps?" The leader would roar, "No, you may not take five giant steps." The person would amend their request and eventually be given permission.

This writing path often feels like a game of  "May I." We know it's a long road and want to get to our destination fast. "May I take seven giant steps?" (Translation: May I have a contract?) An editor or agent, says, "No, you may not." We approach them again, "May I take three baby steps?" (Translation: May I show you my one sheet?) "Yes, you may."

Someone once said a journey begins with a single step. We may not get to publishing land as fast as we'd like, but we'll have the opportunity to take steps every day in the right direction.

What steps did you take today? Was it a baby step or a giant step?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Devotion Published Today!

Check out my devotion on Christian Devotions U.S. today (11/14/10)! It will only be up for one day, and I don't think they archive them.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday Round-Up - #131

Writers are often asked to speak. Crystal Laine Miller, at Christian Book Scout, gives practical suggestions on the second-most feared life event: public speaking. (The first is death.)

Do you have any techniques you'd like to share on engaging an audience?

Debbie Roome, at PixnPens, talks about the effects your workspace can have on creativity.

Where do you pound out your stories?

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Author Interview & Giveaway - Kathryn Cushman - A Promise to Remember - Part 1

Awhile back, I recommended Kathryn (Katie) Cushman's book, "A Promise to Remember." I'm happy we were able to connect for this interview and giveaway. Please watch for the details at the end of this post.

1) Welcome, Katie! How did you go from pharmacist to writer? Did you always want to write or did it sneak up on you one day?

I've always wanted to write. For as long as I can remember, writing a novel was something I was going to do "some day."

Several years ago, my husband's Uncle Charlie was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Charlie was still relatively young, in otherwise good health, and it got me thinking. "What would I do with a diagnosis like that? What would I regret?"

I have two daughters, so of course the obvious answer is that no mother wants to leave her children. But, I also realized that I had never even tried to do the one thing I'd always wanted to do. I began to pray about it and felt as though it might be a true calling. My younger daughter was just about to start kindergarten so I was going to have a little extra time. I decided that succeed or fail, I was going to be able to at least say I tried.

2) Why did you choose Women's Fiction over some other genre?

My first two manuscripts (never published) were actually romantic suspense. When I got the idea for "A Promise to Remember" and began working on it, I discovered that I liked writing books that have a bit of a moral dilemma to them--with no clear wrong or right side. So...that is where I have remained.

3) Can you tell us about your writing process? Seat-of-the-Pants or Plotter? How long does it take you to write a book?

I'm still trying to figure this out. :) I'm mostly seat-of-the-pants, but this has gotten me into trouble more than once, so I'm making a conscious effort to try to plan more. I'm currently working on a new idea, and I'm REALLY trying to plot it out more. We'll see how it works. :)

One book a year is the perfect timeframe for me. I've written faster this year, due to illness in my family and a couple of short deadlines, but I don't enjoy the process nearly as much when I'm rushed.

Stay tuned for Part II of this interview next Wednesday. Now, for the giveaway details:

1) Eligibility: This contest is open to residents of the U.S., but void where prohibited.

2) Leave a comment on this post with your email address in the spam-busting format. Example: susanjreinhardt AT gmail DOT com. Sorry, but no email address = no entry.

3) For an extra entry, please tell me you're a Follower or become a Follower. Maximum entries between the two blog interview posts: Four.

4) Deadline: Saturday, 11/20/10, at midnight.

5) Winner: The winner will be selected by random drawing on Sunday, 11/21/10 and notified via email. An announcement will be posted on the blog on Sunday.

6) Disclaimer: Neither the author nor the publisher sent me this book or requested a review. I'm giving away my personal copy.

Question for you: People talk about a "bucket list." Katie said writing a book was a life-long desire. What's on your "bucket list?"

Monday, November 8, 2010

Half Baked

"Don't open the oven yet! The cake isn't ready."

My grandma shared her expertise as a baker. She drilled me in the basics of using quality ingredients, measuring, rolling out cookie dough, and baking each confection for the right amount of time.

She never trusted her oven fully, but always tested cakes with a toothpick. If it came out wet and sticky, she closed the oven door and set the timer for another five or ten minutes. When the toothpick came out clean, she pronounced the cake done.

This reminded me of my writing ideas. Too often, I take them out of my "brain oven" before they're ready.

Several years ago, I wanted to put an experience down on paper. I tried to write a poem, but it didn't work. The writing "toothpick" came out, and I could see it was half baked. I then attempted an article. Once again, the results were unsatisfactory.

One day, Beloved had an epiphany as we talked about my idea. "That's it! That's your book!" I thought he'd gone crazy, but then caught the vision. I toiled over my first draft. Unlike the other projects, this came together. I'd discovered the right vehicle for my idea.

When you've got some tantalizing idea, but can't seem to figure out what to do with it, set the "timer" for another ten minutes. You may be surprised the direction you end up taking.

How do you know when your idea is half baked or just right?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Friday Round-Up - #130

Laurel, at Laurel's Leaves, talks about character nicknames. Do your characters have nicknames?

Kay Marshall Strom, at Kay's Words, had me laughing with her unique approach to taming overgrown ideas.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

On My Nightstand - The Preacher's Bride by Jody Hedlund

Elizabeth Whitbread's heart is torn by the cries of motherless infant, Thomas Costin. Her intervention earns her an enemy and sets her on a path that will forever change her life.

John Costin, devastated by his wife's death, resists all efforts to help him with the four children. He soon realizes the value of Elizabeth's housekeeping and nurture. With her taking on those responsibilities, he's free to travel and preach the gospel.

Elizabeth's future husband, Samuel, is upset with the arrangement but agrees to wait for her until the end of summer. Will Elizabeth be able to break free from her mission to watch over the Costin children or will she give up all hopes of having her own family?

In her debut as an author, Jody Hedlund does a stunning job of hooking the reader from the first paragraph. Her writing is textbook perfect without seeming forced. The characters radiate life, vitality, and passion.

Jody's jumped into the publishing world with an effort worthy of well-known, historical fiction writers such as Kim Vogel Sawyer, Julie Klassen, and others. I can't say enough good things about her writing or this book. Run, don't walk, to the nearest bookstore and grab a copy for yourself plus one for a Christmas gift.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Collage or Hodge-Podge?

While waiting for a friend at a restaurant, I noticed a large poster frame with a picture collage. Smiling babies, impish kids, formal-looking adults, and an assortment of people were displayed.

I'm sure they represented the owner's and possibly the employees' families. Beyond the cute and curiosity factors, nothing captured my imagination. The pictures showed faces, but didn't tell a story.

As writers, do we produce scenes that paste people in a collage, but don't engage the reader? Do we give the reader an emotional connection to our characters and story?

Characters and scenes must have a reason for occupying space in our stories. Otherwise readers will walk away and never look back.

Does your collage (book) show the story? How do you decide what scenes and characters to edit out of your manuscript?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Round-Up - #129

Kathy Ide, at Pixnpens, gives some tips on polishing our manuscripts.

I think I need to be less enthusiastic with the asterisk key to show a change in POV.

What's your favorite tip?

Janalyn Voight, at Author Haven, takes some of the dread out of the elevator pitch.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Author Interview - Linda Evans Shepherd - Part 2

For those of you who missed Part I of the interview last Wednesday, Linda Evans Shepherd is a multi-published, award-winning author and speaker. She shared on her beginnings as a speaker, as well as how she and her co-author, Eva Marie Everson, collaborate on their books.

3) Welcome back, Linda! Where do you get your story ideas?

Once someone asked me how it feels to write fluff. HA! Eva and I don't write fluff. We write about serious issues - with humor. As Eva and I plan each book, we decide on the issues and challenges that our characters will work through. But we let our characters tell their stories themselves. It's amazing to see how the stories come to life.

4) You've also written a non-fiction book. What are some of the challenges writing both non-fiction and fiction?

With novels, I feel like I'm creating a parable, letting the fiction speak truth to the reader. But with my non-fiction, as in When You Don't Know What to Pray - How to Talk to God About Anything, I use my personal stories as parables to point to truth. Plus, I get to share my personal insights as well as deeper Biblical truths through my point-of-view.

With fiction, I spend my research time talking to people who have been through some of the scenarios in our books, but with non-fiction I spend my research time in deep Bible study and Biblical research.

5) When you have too many ideas for stories, how do you decide which ones to pursue?

You have to ask yourself the question, which story leads to the most compelling read? Once  you determine that, then you know which story to tell.

When it's my turn to write the next chapter of The Potluck Catering Club Series, I try to think of several scenarios but pick the one which seems more dramatic, fun, comical or exciting. Once I know which direction I'm heading, I let the character take over. It's a fun process.

Thanks for a great interview, Linda. At left is one of Linda and Eva's books. I haven't read any of them as yet, but they're on my Wish List.

Question for our readers:  How do you decide which story ideas are worthy of pursuit?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Research in Disguise

Sitting at my computer one day, I made a discovery. I've become downright boring.

Shocking, isn't it? Chained to my desk for hours on end, I'd stopped experiencing real life.

I mulled over the problem. Could I pick up some long-neglected hobby or start a new one? Here's what I decided:

1) I came across an adorable crochet pattern for a baby cap. A quick ride to Walmart, and viola! I was ready to resume crocheting. Where I would get the time remained a mystery.

2) I took time out of my online surfing, and went outside. Oh yeah, smell the roses and all that nature stuff. Hmm, a nice 4X4 raised garden bed might be fun.

3) I spent more time with family and friends, even traveling on a non-holiday. Gasp!

The strange thing about all this activity and gadding about? It gave me more material for my writing. As I soaked up the great outdoors, crocheted my little fingers to the bone, and hung out with people, ideas popped quicker than microwave popcorn. The sights and sounds of farmers markets, growing veggies for our table, and seeing yarn turn into cute baby gifts nurtured my creativity.

To write about real life, we have to live it. It's really research in disguise.

What nurtures your creativity?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Round-Up - #128

Kathryn Lang, at Author Haven, talks about seeing your writing as a ministry.

Do you consider your writing a ministry?

Laurel, at Laurel's Leaves, gives excellent tips on choosing a title for our stories.

Have a blessed weekend!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Author Interview - Linda Evans Shepherd

Linda Evans Shepherd and I met at the 2010 Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference. She's a multi-published author and speaker. She and Eva Marie Everson collaborated on the popular series, The Potluck Club. You can visit her website or check out her book site, and watch some of the videos available on Youtube.

Let's give Linda a big Christian Writer/Reader welcome!

1) Linda, we don't often ask writers about their speaking platform. How did you "get  your foot in the door?" Also what came first: your speaking or your writing?

The thing I love the most about speaking is the ability to see how people react to my messages. For example, as a writer, I can't see how my words impact the reader nor can I hear her chuckle if something strikes her as funny. But as a speaker, I can both see and hear how God is using my messages.

In college I'd majored in art and drama, thinking I'd be a youth director. But God had other plans and I entered into the world of high tech as a technical writer. But it wasn't until I wrote my first book for teens, Ryan's Trials, some years later, that I got the call to speak. Literally.

One day the director of the national Christian Women's Conference in Denver rang to confirm that I had written a book. She asked, "That means you speak, right?"

My mind raced. Of course I could speak. I had a degree in drama plus I'd recently achieved the rank of "Competent Toastmaster" in Toastmaster's International, an organization that trained business people to speak. So, to my surprise, I answered, "Yes!"

"What do you speak on?" she asked.

As my baby daughter had spent a year in coma before waking up to disabilities, I blurted "Grief relief."

"Perfect!" she said. "How would you like to teach a workshop on grief relief?"

"Sure," I said, and that's how it all began.

Every year, this dear lady would invite me back to teach a workshop, never realizing I only spoke once a year. But the workshops went well, and the third year she asked me to be a keynote speaker. How surprised I was to find myself on the platform with Liz Curtis Higgs and Carol Kent. Since then, I've had the privilege of speaking in almost every state in the U.S. as well as in Canada and Europe.

2) Your Potluck book series is a collaborative effort with Eva Marie Everson. Can you share the mechanics of working with another author? Do you get together or use a special computer program?

Eva and I mastered the art of co-writing by following a few simple rules:

  A) Eva and I picked the characters that we were individually responsible for writing.

  B) We took turns writing chapters in the point-of-view of one of our own characters.

  C) We were allowed to include each other's characters in our chapters.

  D) If one of us should write something unexpected about the other's characters, the new twist could not be changed. We decided that just as real life brings the unexpected, our characters would also face and react to the unexpected. (Honestly, I think it makes our plots exciting.)

As for the mechanics, Eva and I generally get together once a year to do a little writing and to plan our over-arching plot lines, but we finish the novel separately, in our own homes. With Eva in Orlando and me in Colorado, the two of us spend hours IM-ing one another on AOL, while sending chapters back and forth for review and critique.

Our method works! We even went to New York together to research Taste of Fame. A lot of the stories that happened to our characters, like getting lost on the subway, actually happened to us in real life.

Thanks, Linda. We'll continue the interview next Wednesday, October 27th.

Question for our readers: Do you have a speaking platform? I love how Linda seized the opportunity to speak. How did you get your start? (If it's too long, maybe we can interview you!)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Blogging Buddy Brunch

How do you soothe your disappointment at not going to ACFW? Susan Panzica, of Eternity Cafe, and I met at a diner halfway between her house and mine. Mom came along for the ride on a brilliant September day.

We first met at the 2009 Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference. After trading business cards, we stayed in touch through our blogs and email.

While eating a delicious breakfast, we talked about the 2010 conference, our writing, and traded manuscript chapters. My blogging buddy is a gifted non-fiction writer. Wow, can she ever paint a word picture! One of her stories had me misty-eyed, while the other brought a smile to my face. She's full of excitement and ideas for her writing.

Naturally, I couldn't pass up the photo-op with my trusty digital camera. The lighting wasn't the greatest, but I did my best.

Here I am with the best Mom in the world. (I'm a bit biased.)

Susan and I decided we'd meet again in the near future. Blogging and email are great, but you can't beat chatting face-to-face. I'm sure all of you who met at ACFW will agree. :)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Round-Up - #127

My thanks to Sandra Heska King for this beautiful award. Sandy shares her poems and observations on life. I hope you'll visit her blog.

I'm passing this along to Nancy, of Boomers and Saints. Her blog is a regular stop on my rounds. I'm glad to count her as a friend and fellow-blogger.

Rita Gerlach, at InSpire, shares about connecting with readers on an emotional level.

How do you build connections between your characters and the reader?

Have a super weekend!