Thursday, July 29, 2010

Murky Waters

"It's gonna get worse before it gets better."  That's what the guy told me about the pea-green water in my pond that I can't seem to clear up.  He wore the title of  "Acquatic Specialist" on his name tag, so I suppose I should believe him, right?  But for now,  I can't even see my fish!  The poor things look punished, living out their days on death row and swimming around in stuff that looks like dirty antifreeze.  Yet, I'm supposed to do nothing while my new filtration system is busy forming its delicate little eco-system?  I could upset the balance of the entire universe if I empty the thing out and scrub it down with bleach like I want to.

"One day," he added, "You'll walk out there and the water will be crystal clear - just be patient."

Patient?  Did the man really use the "P" word with me? 

If he only knew how empty my tank of patience really is these days, and how I've exhausted every last drop of it on my manuscript(s)!  Like my pond, I'm sure the whole writing process is destined to get worse before it gets better.  Right now, the water is murky.  I can't see the bottom.  My characters are like the fish fumbling around in the dark trying to find their way (bare with me here). 

I know they're in there moving around in the story waiting for me to solve all the problems, find all the solutions, tie up all the loose ends in a neat little package and finish the thing before I'm 80!  Also, like the pond, I'm probably creating more problems for myself when I should just let things progress naturally.  Anything forced, especially when it comes to creativity, is never appealing or believable.  And since I want this story to be both, I will need to tap into my reserve tank for a bit more patience.  Then hopefully, like the man said, one day, I'll wake up and everything will be crystal clear.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Writing Inside the Comfort Zone

I love coffee!  That first cup in the morning is the best.  My friend, Michelle, has introduced me to a hazelnut flavored creamer, and I'm even more addicted than before.  Now I can't live without the stuff!  Thanks, Michelle!

It's funny how we gravitate toward simple pleasures in life; the things that bring us comfort and security, like your favorite PJs, a certain herbal tea, your favorite seat in the house or maybe a particular shade of lipstick.  I suppose that's why I associate my desire to write for the middle grade market with a certain cozy factor.

My parents divorced when I was 6, which sent my whole world into a jumble of chaos and confusion.  But it was in the pages of some great books that I found a sense of security.  I loved when a book was so captivating and held my attention so much that it sort of grabbed me by the collar and pulled me into the pages to live among the characters!  I loved and appreciated the escape element a good story provided, and I believe now, perhaps unconsciously, that is the basis for wanting to share that same feeling of security and of comfort with kids who are at an age where they're devouring great fiction like they're French fries!

I only wish I could remember the titles of the books I found so intriguing.  Some were wonderful short stories packaged together in book form, just the right length for a kids' attention span.  Others were chapter books I couldn't bring myself to dog-ear and close up just before bedtime.  Either way, they took me out of my tumultuous world just for a little while and transformed me to a place of security and well-being.  What a blessing it would be to give that back to kids today!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

All About the Cross

Would you go against what the Lord has called you to do if it meant gaining a portion of your "reward" now?
I've posted about the Ventura Book Festival that took place about a week ago.  It was a great place for writers, authors and wannabe authors to congregate in hopes of rubbing elbows with the few mingling literary agents and successful "book people" there.

I also posted about my encounter with an agent from an LA based agency who seemed interested in taking a look at my synopsis and sample chapters of my young adult book.  Interested, that is, until I mentioned it was a Christian project.  Christian meaning that it was purposely written from a Christian perspective, with a protagonist living out an unwavering faith despite her set of circumstances.  She was very sweet and stated that she doesn't represent Christian authors.  OK, that's fine - I'm good with that; a little bruised and disappointed, but I'm sure my breathing will return to normal on my way out to the parking garage........

If I'd written my manuscript for the mainstream young adult market, I would have come back smiling and empty handed.  Instead, knowing that I'd prayed about the the event before I even left the house, I knew that it was still in God's hands.  So, as I returned home with my package, synopsis, author bio and 3 sample chapters all intact, I also felt a sense of excitement - God had something else planned!  How cool is that?  Even though my plan was to hand off my hard work to a real-life, flesh and blood agent, God was letting me know that my time hadn't come yet.  It's that whole "Your will, not mine" thing.

The dream God has placed within me is sincere, as should my desire be to live a life that glorifies him.  I've known from the start of this whole book-writing journey that I would only produce material that would reveal to my reading audience the awesome, amazing, life-changing love and mercy of our Creator.

I know that God doesn't want my heart sometimes; he deserves so much more than a flip-of-the-switch faith, turned on and off depending on who I'm with, what they expect of me, or how happy I am on any given day.  I'm not about to waver in my purpose for writing, or change direction of the dream just to satisfy an editor's requirements.  The Lord has directed me to write for him, and "Writin' 4 Him" is what I love most!

You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
(2 Corinthians 3:3)

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Here we are again on the brink of another weekend.  How do you plan to spend your free time, if you actually have any?  If you're like me, maybe you start out with good intentions vowing to devote a specified amount of time to normal Saturday obligations before allowing yourself the luxury of doing what you really want.

I suppose life is all about priorities. Because of my work schedule, I rely on my Saturdays to get the house clean and do food prep for the week.  I run errands around town, get whatever shopping out of the way, and spend time with family if we decide to do something together.....doesn't leave much time for writing at the end of the day, does it?  Besides, by then I'm exhausted and any shred of creativity is locked away behind a deep desire to get to bed!

I've realized that if I'm ever going to meet my writing goals that my priorities have to shift.  It's not enough to be "writing in my head" throughout the day if I'm not actually adding to my word count!  I have to make the time, especially on the weekends, to plant my rear in this chair and dive into my story/book/mind-numbing venture.

I'm in awe of series book authors who somehow manage to crank out 30-40+ books over their writing career.  Math isn't my strong point, but that's like a book or two every year!  Wow, now I'm feeling really ridiculous that mine has taken so long!  Does one truly possess 30-40+ DIFFERENT stories in one's brain, and then sit down for an interview to discuss them all appearing calm and composed as if the words just simply rolled from their fingertips with little to no effort???

Didn't they have chores, errands and family time on the weekends too?  What about sick days, vacations, overtime at the office, soccer games and piano recitals?  Perhaps they learned the fine art of living a disciplined author's life early on.  Obviously, they factored in their writing time, and actually added it as a task on their To-Do list.....and stuck to it.

So, that's what I'm going to do.  Today, my goal is to sit down at 4pm and give my full attention to the last few holes that need filling in my story.  If Gladys Lois Leopard can put so many Mandie books in the hands of middle-grade readers, and Debbie Macomber can supply every grocery store, drug store and book store with her many accomplishments, then so can I!  So, 4 o'clock it is! (prayers welcome).
Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.
Psalm 119: 133

Friday, July 23, 2010

With Renewed Energy...

So, I've come to a fork in the road, and I'm excited about it.  I'm heading down an alternate path free of stumbling blocks and pebbles.  

I have 3 different book-size projects, all in varying degrees of progress.  When I run into too many hurdles with one, I leap over to the other for a time - probably a bad habit to have gotten myself into.  I wouldn't call it abandonment, necessarily.  I'm just shifting gears and letting the words cool!

This time, I've put my walking stick aside and tied the laces on my running shoes, as the end is in clear view on another project.  My middle grade mystery, the first in a series, I hope, is the closest one to being completed, and I'm thinking that would be a great first book to help me break into the world of book publishing. 

Yeah, I know.  "Middle-grade mystery" sounds a lot like a Mandie book or a Nancy Drew, but it's not.  Of course, it's written with a Christian perspective, but hopefully the characters and setting will better distinguish it from the others.

I think this particular piece of work reminds me of the books I enjoyed reading as a kid.  Growing up, when I happened across a book I enjoyed, I read it over and over again.  I discovered Charlotte's Web and read through it 12 times!  There were many others too, all offering characters and scenarios unfolding in a world different from mine, but one to which I could easily relate.  I want so much to offer that same feeling of contentment and comfort to readers today.

Two roads diverged in a wood and I - I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
-Robert Frost

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Blessing of the Day!

Last weekend was a busy one.  After spending all day at the Ventura Book Festival, Sunday was church, lunch out, then a group of 6 of us heading out to the beach for the afternoon.

When I thawed out the tri-tip roast that morning, I wasn't counting on it feeding all 6 hungry mouths, but God was!  All the way back, I fretted and fidgeted wondering if I should throw a few burgers on the grill to be sure "dinner" stretched as far as it needed to.  That was my mistake.  That was me trying to meddle in something God already had under control.

Long story short, God came through once again.  We pulled the roast from it's 2-hour smoking session, and I would argue with anyone that it was actually bigger than when we put it in!  God is amazing in his provision for us.  I thank him for each new day, and I especially love how he works in the details.

I'd love to hear YOUR blessing of the day.  Leave a comment and tell me how the Lord is blessing you!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

How Are Fictional Characters Born?

Are you a people watcher?  If you're a writer, chances are your super-writer's radar pulsates wildly with a simple trip to the grocery store or the local shopping mall.  I love plopping myself in the midst of plain, ordinary folk.  But I find that it's the ones who aren't so plain nor ordinary who make for great story material. 

How are they dressed?  What's with the purple pants and orange vest?  Is that a toupee?  I wonder why she's limping.  How do they speak to their children or treat their dogs?  Is she really putting salt on her ice cream?  So much can be extracted from the details, and writers, of course are all about the details.

I'll never forget the day when a simple name introduced itself to my brain.  All I had was a name, but in that alone arose a full-on character.  I knew exactly who she was, what she looked like, how she spent her days, what was important to her, and how she would respond to any given situation.  I rushed to the computer eager to get it all on the screen.  With no regard to grammer, style, spelling, punctuation, whether marketable or not, I knew I just had to let go and let the words fly - that doesn't happen very often with me, so I figure, when it does, LET IT!

A completely new voice came through; one I didn't know I had! 

She'd  been brought up in the lap of southern hospitality, but clung to her exposure to a more refined, sophisticated lifestyle in England during the time when her late husband was employed there.  Somehow, a story emerged from my brand new character.  Her surroundings, her interests and her lifestyle all worked cohesively to make her believable to others instead of a little stick figure to be moved around through the pages.

A writer experiences each day with eyes wide open and ears alert to possibilities.  Anything is possible in a fictional world - where will your next character come from?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Agents, Authors and Books, Oh My!

You know that space between an ant's chin and the ground?  That's how close I came to handing off my synopsis and author bio (along with the first 3 chapters of my book) to a full-fledged literary agent today.  I suppose I saved myself a bit of frustration in the long run by not doing so.

There we were talking, laughing, almost on a first-name basis, when I reached into my bag to retrieve just a fraction of my manuscript; it's the one that wakes me up at night and gnaws at me during every waking moment, begging to be finished already!  Turns out, Agent X doesn't represent Christian authors!  Oops:(  Somehow I missed that - I was still hanging on the fact that she was desperate for young adult historical fiction.  My bad.

Today I learned that writing/finishing my book and publishing it are not impossible.  The Book Festival was full of smiling, beaming first-time authors, all sitting at tables behind neatly-stacked fruits of their labor.  And I just have to say:  How exciting!  Congratulations to them.  Someone believed in them enough to publish their work.  Someone took their manuscript, their idea and said, "Yep.  This will sell - there's a market for this.  Sign here, please."

Along with the open mingling and hum of conversation I enjoyed wonderful, information-filled seminars.  My head is still trying to download it all; I met a few literary agents, an editor/consultant, several authors, some just newly published, many book lovers, and a whole lot of folks just like me; some were stalled at various points along the writing journey while others seemed to be waving  back from the finish line!  Either way, today proved that there is much to be learned about the publishing industry, the business side of writing, and I was fortunate enough to be in the midst of it all.  But I realized that the only difference between me and those published authors is a contract......and of course, book sales!  I believe it's a totally do-able, yet ambitious goal, and with God, I'll achieve it.

Today's book festival has given me the extra kick in the sweat pants toward pitching an actual agent who DOES accept work from a Christian perspective. I trust and believe that God will do the rest.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail, 
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
Psalm 73:25,26 (NIV)

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Sometimes, even the most creative of minds could use a little rich espresso for the brain to spark imagination.  The artist, chef, designer, gardener, and the writer all experience peaks and valleys when it comes to creative flow.

So, what sets your mind in motion?  For me, it's reading a book in my genre. 

Some days the wheels just stop spinning.  I can't explain it.  The well simply runs dry and thoughts of housecleaning or what to make for dinner replace anything story related.  I sit staring at that blinking, screaming cursor - "So, write something already!  Anything!" it taunts.  I can almost hear it!

That's when I break out the books.  I read through Christian fiction paying special attention to plot, flow, characterization, grammar, etc.  Is it holding my attention?  Why did the author introduce this character so far into the book?  What's with all the passive voice?  I thought that was taboo in the writing world.  Someone actually published this???  And why, oh why is it written in the 3rd person?

Ultimately, I think it all comes down to discipline and how I decide to spend my time.  When we truly want something to work, we MAKE it work.  And if I truly want to finish this book, I'll find the inspiration and the rusty wheels will chapter at a time.

Monday, July 12, 2010

What Could Be Better?

Imagine spending a whole Saturday on the beach.  Well, sort of.  Technically, you're in a hotel on the beach.  Sound kinda boring?  Wait, there's more.  What if you're in a hotel on the beach at the 5th Annual Book Festival  connecting authors and book lovers (people like me) with booksellers, publishers, marketing experts and hello?  LITERARY AGENTS!

Sponsored by the California Literary Arts Society (CLAS), the Book Festival is where I'll be this coming Saturday armed with the first 3 chapters of my own book all shined up and polished.

I'm so excited!  Can you tell?  They're having guest speakers and offering classes throughout the day (for only $10 each).

If you live in the Ventura County area and are interested in attending, check out this site for more info:

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Body of Christ

My dear husband, who only thinks in black and white, spends his days (and every waking moment) as a mechanical engineer. With him, opinions and actions belong either in the “right” column or the “wrong,” and must be supported by pie charts and diagrams! After 21 years of marriage, MY BRAIN STILL DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY!

He was born with a trumpet in his hands, an already well-defined embouchure and valve oil coercing through his veins. With our children’s first steps, he had them marching around the house just as he did in his drum corps days (minus the diaper and footie pajamas), and he’s been known to wake them not with a sweet good-morning song, but with a boisterous round of reveille blasted from the bottom of the stairs.

I, on the other hand, tolerate a little more “gray area” to life’s situations smoothing out the wrinkles of the day in order to maintain peace and tranquility. And when the early-morning trumpeting begins, I and my coffee cup escape out the back door to the garden where the only “trumpeting” is that of the wild finches. I move about the morning at a sloth-like pace seeking out that comfortable place in which to quietly savor the calm, serene, awe-inspiring moments of life. Aahhhh…..

What a combination we make!

I have found the same differences lie within the body of Christ. It’s no accident we’re comprised of such a mosaic of personalities, gifts and characteristics; each offering what is uniquely ours to give. Together, we balance each other out; the hospitable with the recluse. The enthusiast with the reserved, but ALL to the glory of God!

4There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6 NIV)


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