Monday, May 30, 2011

The Blueprint

Last Monday, we discussed the big picture, vision, panoramic moment where an idea grabs us and won't let go. We have zero idea how we're going to get from Point A to Point Z. In fact, we're not even sure we know what Point A looks like.

This is where we zoom in and break the concept down into manageable, short-term goals. Dare this Seat-of-the-Pants writer say the dreaded "P" word? Planning, plotting - call it whatever you want. Even I no longer totally sidestep this phase. It's where research, meeting characters, and a plotline take shape.

Without further adieu, let's continue with the story of Echoes of the Past.

We left off with yours truly staring at a computer screen and somehow pounding out 55,000 words. For a non-fiction, primarily devotional writer, this was no small effort. I also had no clue what I was doing.

A newbie fiction writer in every sense of the word, I carted my manuscript off to the next writers conference. Editors smiled the way one indulges a child's flights of fancy. "A novel must be 80-100,000 words. Go back, my child, and write more. Add subplots and fatten up those characters."

I attended workshops and learned about point of view (POV), show - don't tell, creating life-like characters, tension, conflict, word choice...whew! What I lacked in craft, I made up for in determination and enthusiasm - not to mention a dash of daring. God gave me this vision, and I would do everything in my power to obtain the skills I needed to communicate it.

To be continued...
Are you the adventurous type? If you're a writer, I declare you every bit as adventurous as an explorer or pioneer. How do you manage to break your big picture down into smaller pieces?

Non-fiction writers: How do you structure your articles or devotionals?

Readers: Are you ever aware of the underpinnings of the story or are they invisible?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday Round-Up - #158

Gail Gaymer Martin, of Writing Fiction Right, lists the components of "a keeper." Note: "A keeper" is a book the reader doesn't want to lend to anyone for fear of not getting it back.

Debut author, Rosslyn Elliott, discusses translating historical times for the reader. She gets the brain cells firing in directions I would never have considered.

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

On My Nightstand - Book of Days by James L. Rubart

What would you do if your dying father and dying wife both urged you to find a mysterious "Book of Days?" Cameron Vaux didn't pay too much attention until his memory started failing him. His father's warnings that he'd die of the same disease sends him on an odyssey that will change the course of his life.

Meanwhile, his late wife's friend, Anne Bannister, is on her own quest. She's tired of being alone in the world and searches for her biological family. Even though she and Cameron have a history, she's nervous about getting hurt again.

With plenty of antagonists, strange doings, and a healthy dose of romance, Jim Rubart has once again produced a story with multiple layers of truth. I related to the characters on so many levels, including Cameron's agony over the loss of his wife.

If I had a rating system, this baby would be off the charts. Loved it!

Have you read any books lately that "wowed" you? Please share.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Big Picture

I like to think of the big picture as a panoramic view. You see the important elements without the details. Big picture people include entrepreneurial types and visionaries.

Ah, there's that word again: vision. You can see this great idea in your head, but how can you make it a reality?

To my way of thinking, writing is a three-fold endeavor:

1) Vision - the great idea. You're not thinking about how you'll communicate it, but you are totally captivated.

2) Planning - think of a blueprint. We'll discuss this more next Monday.

3) Execution - This is where it all comes together. You sit down at the computer, open a document, and WRITE!

My own experience with the big picture" came in Gettysburg, PA back in 2004. An old-fashioned town square screamed, "history." I stood there awed by the view, and I "heard" the voices of the forefathers like distant echoes, fading away into nothingness.

That night, I went home and tried to write a poem. Uh, no. That didn't work. Maybe an article would be a good vehicle to communicate the vision. More frustration. Finally, I prayed. "Lord, if You want me to do something with this, You'll have to show me."

I'll never forget the fateful day in August 2005, nearly eight months later, when my husband and I were discussing, "The Gettysburg Experience." He startled me with the declaration, "That's it! That's your book, and it will be called 'Ghosts of the Past.' You'll have it done in four months."

I thought he was crazy and said so. As we talked, I saw what he meant. The next day, I sat at the computer with no idea how to proceed. In four months, I had 55,000 words and a story called, "Echoes of the Past," burning in my heart.

To be continued...

Some authors talk about reading a news story or getting an idea out of the blue. How was your story conceived? What was your "Big Picture" moment?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Winner of Love Remains by Kaye Dacus

The winner of "Love Remains," by Kaye Dacus is:

                       RHONDA SCHROCK!

Congratulations, Rhonda. You've been notified by email. Please send me your snail mail address, and I'll get your book to you pronto.

Thanks to all who entered the giveaway. Keep your eyes open. There will be another drawing within the next month, but it may not be when you expect. :)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Round-Up - #157

Carla Olson Gade, of Writing to Distraction, posted a short video on the power of words. Hint: View the video prior to reading her commentary. You won't want to miss this little gem.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

On My Nightstand - The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen

Miss Mariah Aubrey is banished to her aunt's estate after an unfortunate scandal. She and her former nanny, Miss Dixon, take up residence in an old gatehouse. With no hope for love, Mariah does her best to carve out a life. Her dwindling assets inspire her to take up an old pastime, writing.

Captain Matthew Bryant returns from war a hero, but is haunted by thoughts of the woman who spurned his attention. He launches a campaign to win her hand, but will it bring more pain and rejection?

Two elderly sisters, two servants, a strange old man, and several children help unlock the door to happiness and solve the mystery of the girl in the gatehouse.

While the author transports you into the past, the characters are written without any author intrusion or explanation to the reader. Each one thinks, acts, and interacts with other characters in a way true to the time period.

I'm a big fan of Julie Klassen's writing. Every time I think this is her best book, she writes another that surpasses it. The Girl in the Gatehouse is my new favorite. I hope you'll check out her books, particularly this one.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Happy Blogoversary & Giveaway!

Three years! I can't believe it. Never in my wildest dreams did I think blogging would be so cool.

To celebrate this occasion, I'm doing a drawing for: Drum roll, please...Love Remains by Kaye Dacus!

Zarah Mitchell's job as a historian is not only her passion, but also a symbol of her inability to let go of the past. When handsome Bobby Patterson arrives back on the scene, Zarah's painful memories surface.

Bobby has some ghosts haunting him as well. When his job and his personal life collide, he learns some interesting facts about his former love.

This is the first book in the Matchmakers Series. Once again, Kaye Dacus chose unusual occupations for her characters and intertwined suspense with love.

Giveaway details:
1. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post along with your email address in the SPAM busting format: susanjreinhardt AT gmail DOT com. Sorry, but if you don't leave an email, you won't be entered in the giveaway.

2. Deadline: Saturday, 5/21/11, at midnight. The winner will be notified via email and announced on the blog on Sunday, 5/22/11.

3. Eligibility: Only residents of the U.S. are eligible. The contest is void where prohibited. The winner takes all responsibility for eligibility and any taxes.

4. Disclaimer: I did not receive any payment for this giveaway and purchased the book myself. The opinions expressed are mine.

Question for Bloggers: How long have you been blogging and why did you start? Have you encountered any surprises along the way?

Question for Non-Bloggers: What are your favorite kinds of posts? Please elaborate.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday Round-Up - #156

Laurel, at Laurel's Leaves, posts about using images related to loss. See how missing rings and empty shoes can evoke powerful emotions.

What are some of the images you've used to show loss in your writing?

  Larry Brooks, at Story Fix, talks about his self-publishing learning curve. While ebooks look attractive, publishing them is not a simple process.

Have you thought about publishing an ebook? What have you discovered?

Have a blessed weekend!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

On My Nightstand - Maid to Match by Deeanne Gist

Tillie Reese's training started from her earliest memory. She worked hard and became the head parlormaid at Biltmore Estate, but Lady's Maid is her dream job. When the current Lady's Maid becomes homesick for France, she and another maid, Lucy, go head-to-head to win the coveted position.

Her plans move along like clockwork until Mack Danver gets a job at the estate. Tillie is given the assignment of instructing him in the finer points of being the perfect servant.

She faces a difficult choice. Will she pursue a career that demands she forego the joys of marriage and motherhood or choose love?

This is the first book I've read by Deeanne Gist. The incorporation of the fabled Biltmore Estate made me want to hop into my car and visit it. Instead of the Vanderbilt's perspective on life, we saw what it took to manage the huge house from the servants' viewpoint.

While the cover is charming, it's not the type of book I'd normally select. However, blog reviews piqued my curiosity. I'm so glad I gave this well-written, delightful love story a chance, and recommend you pick it up at your favorite bookstore.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Keep Your Eyes on the Road

Have you ever seen a driver applying make-up while navigating through traffic? I have.

Ah, and then there are the folks, who carry on a telephone conversation or text while driving.

Would you drive with your eyes exclusively on the rearview mirror?

Even as lack of focus can result in serious injury or death while driving, it can keep you from fulfilling your destiny as a writer. Fixation on past failures or successes can jeopardize your present and future.

Keep your eyes on your goal and the One who planted it in your heart.

Agree? Disagree? What are your thoughts?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Round-Up - #155

Carla Olson Gade, at Writing to Distraction, found a clip of the I Love Lucy show. Lucy decides to write a book with hilarious results. Make sure you have some time. It's a full episode.

Have you ever seen this clip? What was your favorite part?

Nancy Moser, at Novel Inspirations from History, shares background information on the setting from her book, "An Unlikely Suitor." She zeroes in on the Cliff Walk in Newport, R.I.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

On My Nightstand - Shadows of Lancaster County by Mindy Starns Clark

Anna Bailey finally discovers some peace and quiet in her life. A satisfying career as a skip tracer is interrupted when she receives a call from her frantic sister-in-law in Lancaster County.

Her beloved brother is missing and possibly in grave danger. Her job experience makes her the ideal person to investigate the situation, but she'll blow her carefully constructed new life to bits if she gets involved.

She returns and stays with her sister-in-law's Amish family. Newspaper reporters camp outside the house, making anonymity difficult. Anna reunites with old friends, including the handsome Reed Thornton.

Using her skills, she uncovers scary information. Could her brother be a murderer? Her heart says, "no," but evidence is mounting.

Will Anna face her past no matter what the cost and find her brother?

This is not your usual "Bonnet fiction." The main character is not Amish, but has strong connections to the community. Since my book has that kind of dynamic, it caught my eye.

Written in first person, I was immediately plunged into the story. The tension and mystery kept my heart racing.

Mindy Starns Clark did a great job intertwining both Amish and non-Amish characters. She combined an unusual occupation, two divergent cultures, and a medical angle that held my attention.

Thumbs up for this story. I'm looking forward to reading more of Mindy's books.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Wax Lips Reminder

As a coupon diva, I try many brands. Recently, I purchased a new variety of toothpaste. The strangest thing occurred when I used it for the first time. What was that familiar taste? I brushed and brushed, trying to identify the flavor. (My dentist will be SO happy.)

Several days later, I had one of those "aha" moments. The toothpaste and the candy wax lips I favored as a child tasted similar. Warm memories of my aunt's tiny grocery store came flooding back. I saw my five-year-old self standing in front of the large candy case, selecting red wax lips. They never retained their shape long because I couldn't resist the cinnamon taste coupled with the smooth texture.

I've read descriptions of various taste sensations in novels. Some of them were ho-hum, while others sent me scurrying to the kitchen or the grocery store. When writing about this sense, I try to incorporate details of sight and smell, as well as taste. I reach back into my memory bank and re-experience walking into a kitchen where cookies are baking or a Thanksgiving turkey roasts in the oven.

Writers: How do you communicate the sense of taste in your writing?

Readers: Do you recall any specific instances where a taste description made you hungry? Please share.