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?