Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Applying Business Principles & Practices to your Writing Life Series: Vision Statement

Post # 1 in series: Vision Statement

The Business Side:

The Wikipedia definition of vision statement is: A vision statement plays a key role in an organization. The goal of a vision statement is to clearly articulate an aspirational statement about what the company wants to be longer term.

There are various views on how long a vision statement should be, and how far it should look into the future. Generally, the statement is meant to span years and would only be revisited quarterly or annually. Developing a vision statement should take some time, and as a result, you may want to revisit it more frequently when you first create it, and tweak it as needed.

Vision statements are meant to align an organization. These high level statements can help employees make difficult decisions, by simply referring back to the company's vision statement and asking: how does this option align with our companies vision?

In some organizations visions are cascaded down. There is an overall company vision, and then each area creates their own vision to align with the company's overall vision.

Applying this Principle to your Writing Life:

One of the biggest gains a writer can attain by creating their own vision statement is "focus". Once you know where your writing energy is to be focused, then you will know whether or not to spend time on a given project. A well defined vision statement that takes into account your values (we'll be discussing this in a later post), can basically act as a filter in determining which projects to take on, and how much time you should allot to them. A vision statement can be related to a priority list in some ways. If a certain challenge doesn't in some way fit into an element in your vision statement, then you need to either adjust your vision statement, or confidently decline working on the project.

Some steps you might want to go through to create your Initial Writer's Vision Statement:
  1. Consider all that you do right now that is writing related. Take a few minutes to run through your daily, weekly, monthly tasks, and list all that could fall under your writing umbrella.
  2. Now, ask yourself why you do each of those items that you listed under your writing umbrella.
  3. Analysing your reasons, consider if it is worthwhile to continue? (Keep your values and morals in mind here. Not everything worthwhile that you do will necessarily be for personal or financial gain, and yet still, it may be important and something you feel called to do.) If you can justify doing something to your satisfaction, then you'll want to include it somehow in your vision statement. If you can't justify it, then resolve to stop wasting your time on it. Perhaps it's to be taken up in another season of your life, just not in this one. Create your actions list (what you want included in your vision) according to your findings.
  4. Now, is there something you've been WANTING to do, FELT CALLED to do right now, or in the near future, but just haven't felt you had the time to incorporate into your life? If so, go over # 2, and # 3 above for it, and discern whether or not it should be included in your action list for defining your vision statement. This may be where you look longer term, what you aspire to do. If it's something you feel strongly about, then you'll want to add it to your vision statement to help you start setting the plan in motion.
  5. With your action list available, and everything justified in your mind and heart, go to creating a writer's vision that encompasses all the items on your action list in a generic, yet definitive way.

As an example, here is my vision statement.

"To share inspirational stories in a published format, support and promote fellow writers, continue to learn and grow as a writer and in faith, and to share personal reflections and knowledge that I've gained along the way, all in a Christian perspective."

You'll notice that the wording is sufficiently generic enough that I can fit many of my projects that I hold dear to me under each high-level concept, but it also gives me a clear perspective of what I want to spend my time on under my writing umbrella.

Now it's your turn. Try your hand at writing a vision statement for your writing life. We'd love to read yours, so feel free to paste it into the comment section. Next Monday we'll be coming back to this series to discuss Values.


Phil and Eileen

Monday, July 28, 2008

Applying Business Principles & Practices to your Writing Life Series: Introduction

A bit of background: Together, my husband and I have over 30 years of experience in the business world. This includes working for small companies and very large companies, in positions ranging from entry level to Assistant Vice President. As many of you know, I have been working on learning the craft of fiction writing for nearly five years at some level or another, so this series is helping me, too. These posts are intended to share some of the ideas, principles and practices we learned in the business world (mostly my husband's part), and then show how we can take these concepts and apply them to our writing life (mostly my part), making our writing time more efficient, productive, and rewarding.

For this series, the business principles and practices posts will be divided into two sections:

Firstly: Strategic

The purpose of the strategic items is to outline the fundamentals of what the business needs to achieve. These are the overarching items that are set at the highest levels of the organization to help guide decision-making. For us writers, these high-level concepts will help us gain focus and direction in what we write and how we promote our writing, etc. The items we will cover in this part of the series are:

Vision Statement
Mission Statement
Wrap-Up Strategic Post: Vision & Values in Action

Secondly, We'll take a look at some of the Tools required to make a business work.

After the strategic items have been set, we need to figure out how to move forward in line with these items. To do that, we'll covered the following in this section.

Goal Setting
Measuring your progress
Presentation skills

In each post we'll explain the business concept, and then show how you might apply it to your writing life. Whether you dabble in writing, or look at it as your profession, I believe this series will help you define your focus, and increase your productivity.

If there is a particular business practice or principle that you have heard of and would like discussed, but is not outlined above, please let us know, and we’ll see what homework we can do to incorporate it into additional posts.

We're looking forward to sharing this series, and pray that you will gain much from it.


Phil and Eileen

Friday, July 25, 2008

An Interview with Georgiana Daniels & Book Giveaway

Georgiana Daniels is the debut author of a Chick lit/romantic comedy novel titled Table for One. Table for One is available now, and it’s one of the most humorous reads I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying in a very long while.

Georgiana shows no mercy with her heroine, Lucy, in Table for One. The romance-seeking Lucy is as realistic as ever with all her nervous blunders. This story had me traveling back in time, recalling the long-ago dating scene, and thanking the Lord that I got through it and survived. If you’re after a fun read that shows wonderful character growth, I highly recommend you pick up a copy, or order one, of Georgiana Daniels Table for One. Purchasing information is located near the cover picture later in the post.

I’ve been enjoying Georgiana’s blog (http://georgianad.blogspot.com/) for a while now, but I first got cyber-acquainted with this talented writer through the ACFW forums. Georgiana is one of the few faithful posters to the forums, so be sure to check out her blog, and if you’re a member of ACFW you can meet her over on the forums as well.

Without further adieu, let’s see what Georgiana has to say.

Q: What is your favorite genre?

Georgiana Daniels: Chick lit/romantic comedy/humorous women’s fiction—anything that involves a little bit of love and laughter.

Q: What’s your most favorite thing to do?

Georgiana Daniels: Haunt the bookstore! I love cruising the aisles, checking out back covers, and reading first pages. There’s something about being surrounded by books that actually calms me down and makes me feel at home. If all goes as planned, my children will feel the same way!

Q: What would you run from without thinking twice?

Georgiana Daniels: The mall! Lean in and I’ll tell you a secret. Ready? I hate shopping. Yes, it’s true, and I’m unrepentant about it. Thankfully I have a hubby who supplies me with cute shoes.

Q: How would a friend describe you to their pastor?

Georgiana Daniels: Well pastor, if she starts coming here she’s not going to head up the helps ministry, and believe me when I say you don’t want her bringing you a casserole if you’re sick. She might offer to clean the bathrooms, but please, PLEASE don’t ask her to drive the big, long van. And just so you know, she hides during the greeting because she’s nervous about meeting new people. Hey, I know—let’s put her in the nursery!

Q: How much of your life experiences do you put in your writing?

Georgiana Daniels: While the adventures in my stories are different from my own life—after all, my sensible mother never threw me a Man Party—the emotions are all mine. That’s the great thing about writing, in one way or another we’ve all been there and done that when it comes to feelings, so we can write with authenticity. (I think that’s also how we identify with stories we read too.) Of course we have to write what we know, but it works well to do that with emotions and not just real-life happenings. That said, in my last career I was a broker, just like my heroine in Table for One.

Q: With two tots and a teenager how do you fit writing in and when?

Georgiana Daniels: Bedtime is my friend. Once the babies go to sleep, I hit the keyboard. For a while I tried writing during the day, but found that doesn’t work so well with baby gymnastics, choir practice, doctor’s appointments, blah, blah, blah. Now I find myself starting a pot of coffee in the early evening to get pumped for the night. It also helps that my precious husband suggested taking long naps—does it get any better than that?—so I can be wide awake at night. I adore long naps…..

Q: What, or who inspired you to take up fiction writing?

Georgiana Daniels: The writing bug bit me when I was young. In fact, I can’t remember not wanting to write, but it was always the proverbial “someday.” When I quit my last career to stay home with the kids I decided now was as good a time as any. My only regret is waiting so long to heed the call.

Q: What do you feel is the best way you have developed your writing skills?

Georgiana Daniels: Tons of practice!!! Yes, I took writing classes in high school and college, and I’ve read a bazillion craft books, but nothing replaces hours spent at the keyboard. There was a time when I found myself reading about writing more than doing the actual work, and that was a turning point for me. Classes, conferences, books, and plain ol’ reading are excellent ways to learn, but if you don’t take the time to put the knowledge into practice it won’t matter.

Q: How long did you concentrate on learning the craft of fiction writing before you received your initial offer?

Georgiana Daniels: About three years after I got serious about writing. Those were concentrated years, I’m not counting the years I spent tinkering, because there were a lot of those!

Q: How did you pursue publication? And please, tell us something about the publishing house that contracted Table for One.

Georgiana Daniels: After finishing Table for One, I tried the traditional route by looking for an agent to represent me. I got positive responses to the story, but everyone declined because chick lit was closed to new authors. I decided to submit to a small press, and they were more than enthusiastic! The Wild Rose Press has a business model that allows them to take chances on stories they believe in, rather than automatically declining based on a genre label. Working with my editor at TWRP was a great first experience.

Q: Initially, Table for One was out as an e-book, how does that work? Do certain publishers only offer this? At what point does your book go to print?

Georgiana Daniels: There are different types of small presses. The Wild Rose Press considers themselves primarily an e-publisher, but they also offer print releases six months after the e-book comes out. Yes, some publishers only offer e-books, but I wanted an actual paperback. Here’s another secret for you: I don’t read e-books myself because I already spend scads of time in front of the screen. I like that TWRP offers both because I know there are readers who love to download.

Q: What is your personal goal(s) with respect to writing?

Georgiana Daniels: I’d love to make a career out of writing and work into full time once my kids go to school. At this point I’m learning to focus on the journey without obsessing over the prize. I believe God has much to teach each of us along the way if we’re willing to pay attention.

Q: Do you have any further direction or thoughts that you care to share with weary authors-in-training?

Georgiana Daniels: Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Sound familiar? Those words are close to my heart, and not just in regards to writing. The word says we shall reap. Will we reap publication? Maybe…maybe not. But we are promised a harvest, and God knows what we need. Sometimes it hurts to think that all this time spent at the keyboard may not produce fruit, but that’s not really true. Perhaps it’ll be different fruit than what we plan for ourselves, but God, the Master Author, knows how the story of our lives is supposed to go.

Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Eileen!

Georgiana, it’s been a pleasure having you here. Thanks so much for sharing aspects of your life and writing with us. I look forward to keeping in touch with you, and may your writing continue to produce such fun, entertaining, and life-affirming stories. After reading Table for One, I can now honestly see those long-ago dating years for what they were—a time of learning and growing, with humiliation escorting me the whole way, just like everyone else. So good to know I wasn’t such a misfit after all! Thanks for clarifying that, Georgiana!

Table for One by Georgiana Daniels
Quick Links for purchasing:
The Wild Rose Press

Successful stockbroker Lucy Brocklehurst hasn't had a date in four years. In a town where the ratio of single women to men is 7:1, she's determined to wait on God for the perfect mate--as long as it's the hot new youth pastor at her church.

Lucy will do anything to get his attention, including volunteering for the youth group. Through a series of misadventures on the teen outings, Lucy finds herself falling in love with a kindhearted chaperone named Edgar Flowers. But when their relationship grows serious, Lucy discovers the lengths his recently widowed mother will go to in order to keep them apart. What starts out as harmless interference turns into an all out tug of war, with Edgar as the prize!

Will Lucy crumble under the scrutiny of her would-be mother-in-law? Or can Lucy and Edgar's budding romance survive the schemes of his meddling mom?

Book Giveaway:

If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of Georgiana Daniel’s Table for One, please leave a pertinent comment in this post with your augmented e-mail address. Since this story is about romance, I’ll be drawing for the winner on my hubby’s and mine eighteenth wedding anniversary, August 4, 2008. As usual, the draw will take place at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time. Good luck everyone!

Winner Update: Congratulations to Rae Byuel, you won Georgiana Daniel's Table for One.



Thursday, July 24, 2008

An Interview with James E. Robinson and Book Giveaway

I welcome author James E. Robinson to my Authors-Helping-Writers segment this week. James E. Robinson is the published author of his very first literary fiction novel, The Flower of Grass. James has also self-published three other books over the past five years, and with a young family, and a love for music, theatre, film, cooking, and fishing he lives a busy life.

Q: Please tell us about your life in general, and how writing fits into it.

James E. Robinson: I’m a busy guy. I am a therapist in private practice, I write songs professionally, I have a ministry…and most importantly, I have a wife and two young children. I try to be as physically, spiritually, and emotionally available to them as possible, because I have learned that without this sort of effort the family can be at risk. I say all this to perhaps make an excuse…but I hope not; the truth is, I am not a very disciplined writer, but only because I don’t presently have enough writing time in any given week to do much self-disciplining! I crave more writing time…but, on the other hand, I see any time the Lord provides as a gift, and He has empowered me to write a great deal under considerable pressure. I’m willing to wait on Him, and see where He leads me with writing as part of my future. I have not been very involved in any meaningful way with groups, writer’s conferences, etc., but hope to become more so in the future. Certainly, I have so much to learn, and want very much to improve as a writer.

Q: Please tell us about the “acceptance call”.

James E. Robinson: I found out about my first novel deal with UK publisher Lion Hudson through my literary agents, Ang and Dan DePriest (the book will be distributed in the U.S. by Kregel). I felt happy, nervous, paranoid, thankful, doubtful, ecstatic, and generally confused. Then, finally, once the papers were signed, I gradually decided it must be true.

Q: In addition to writing your novels, do you work on other writing related projects?

James E. Robinson: I have a ministry, http://www.prodigalsong.com/, through which I speak, sing, teach, and counsel. I would love to write reviews (I’ve done a few) and generally be more involved with all things literary.

Q: What inspired you to take up fiction writing? Or, who inspired you and what did they say or do to help you get started?

James E. Robinson: I have loved fiction since childhood, and dreamed of being a writer all my life. I was always encouraged as a child to read, and to write. My grandmother was an early encourager for my creativity, as were my mother and father. I wrote stories at an early age, but then focused most of my creative energy for many years in the world of music and songwriting. Only in the last ten years or so have I undertaken writing prose with the intent of being published.

Q: Is there something unique or special about you or how you write that you would like to tell us about?

James E. Robinson: I think my life has been an interesting one, and God has provided me with quite an education in living. I’m a recovering alcoholic/addict, and spent many years on a rather colorful prodigal journey. I have been very lost in darkness, and God has shown me the way Home. Today, my interests in and passion for human psychology, theology, and art have now all culminated into a baseline for writing about life, love, faith…and I can see now how God has been preparing me for this work. I try to write about what makes the human animal tick…and I love exploring the layered complexities of the human condition.

Q: How long did you concentrate on learning the craft of fiction writing before you received your initial offer?

James E. Robinson: Honestly, I’ve spent little time learning the craft in any sort of formalized way. Mostly I’ve just read books…revered them, really, all my life. And books that have inspired me have stayed with me forever, in a rich, lasting way, perhaps more than any other art form. I consider it a great privilege and blessing to be called to write.

Q: If you’ve received rejections, how do you handle that process?

James E. Robinson: Well, I haven’t received many actual rejections, but only because I haven’t up to this point really submitted much to anyone. The Flower of Grass was my first attempt at a novel, and although it was apparently rejected by some publishers when first pitched by my agents, the deal with Lion Hudson happened very quickly. I realize this is unusual, and I know that more than likely the future will hold many rejections. But, as a professional songwriter for many years, I’ve come to understand that rejection is just part of the process. You can’t take it too personally. I try to write what I like, and hope someone else will like it, too. It’s the writing that drives me, though, not the competitive nature of modern day publishing. For the most part, I’ve found throughout my artistic career that I’m happiest—and probably most productive—when I just try to please myself. I think all art is prayer. When we are in His will, the stuff should flow, and the work will honor God.

Q: How long did it take you to write The Flower of Grass, and then sell it?

James E. Robinson: I began the novel in February of ’07, turned in a rough draft to my agents in late May, and had a signed contract by that Christmas. I would certainly like the luxury of taking more time to write and shop…but life is what it is right now! Perhaps God will provide for a bit more relaxed atmosphere for my next one.

Q: What is a typical writing day for you?

James E. Robinson: The Flower of Grass was written in short but intense spurts…I would attempt to get all of my other work obligations done in three or four work days, so that I could steal a day or maybe two to write. I would start as soon as the kids were off to school, then barely pause to eat. Believe me, I’m not necessarily recommending this! But I found that while the novel was in progress, I was “writing” it all the time in my head; I would think of things while driving, sleeping, eating, working…and then scribble notes and ideas onto any scrap of paper I could find. I ended up with stacks of scrap paper, post-it notes, church bulletins, you name it. The whole thing had a certain frantic, manic sense to it. I don’t suggest anyone else follow this “technique,” needless to say! But who knows…maybe it’s the way I’m supposed to write? Each artist will need to find his own rhythm, and work to whatever energy best gets him where he wants to go. Creativity is a tough thing to harness, I think. For me, finding a “zone” and then getting as much on paper as possible is the way I usually work. Then, of course, the real hard work awaits…rewrites!

Q: What does your publishing house expect of you with regard to self-promoting your novel(s)?

James E. Robinson: I’m really only now beginning to learn what all the self-promotion stuff is about. I’ve joined some online writing groups, and people have been most helpful. I have a website (http://www.jameserobinson.com/) and am trying to be as available to my publisher as much as possible. But I’m really still quite the rookie. I look forward to learning more as we move towards our release dates this summer.

Q: How did you decide when your manuscript was ready for your editor’s eyes?

James E. Robinson: Well, this first book all happened so fast, I wasn’t even quite ready to stop revising when my editor finally demanded that I “stop writing RIGHT NOW and hit SEND!” So, my publishers gave me little choice…I had to turn the thing in so that they could have books by the time they wanted them. Working with a professional editor was also a first for me, and very educational. Hopefully, my next book won’t need quite as much editorial, because I will be more aware of what’s going down on paper from the start.

Q: Do you have any further direction or thoughts that you care to share with weary authors-in-training?

James E. Robinson: As all the writing instructors say: “Read, read, read, and write, write, write.” Figure out what you like best, and what you write best. Realize that rejection is simply part of any creative process. Dedicate yourself to learning the craft, but never at the expense of your own authentic voice or artistic passions. Although I doubt this would be considered particularly good advice for a lot of folks these days, I nonetheless believe that, for some of us at least, writing toward our own passion rather than to any commercial “box” is the best way to discover our truest talents.

Thank you, James, for visiting and offering such great feedback. I wish you all the best in your ministry, and writing. Now's the time to hear some more about The Flower of Grass.

The Flower of Grass by James E. Robinson
Available in August 2008
Amazon.com Quick Purchasing Link
Christianbook.com Quick Purchasing Link

John Allen returns to his small Tennessee home town following the death of his abusive, alcoholic father. He has been gone nearly twenty years, living in Los Angeles where he has become a successful author, but also followed in his father's addictive footsteps. Now sober, he comes home to make amends-to his younger brother, also struggling with alcoholism, and to his older sister-for all the years he spent running away from their abusive family life, leaving them to fend for themselves while he chased after his dreams.

The most important person driving John's return, however, is Jessie-the girl he left after high school graduation, the love of his life, and he hers. They had promised one another their hearts, and John swore he would send for her to join him once he had established himself. But his desperation to flee from the brokenness and pain of his past, the nightmares that haunt him, and his desire for the "medication" offered by a world of fame and fortune cause him to abandon the town and everyone in it, including Jessie. Eventually, his letters to her stop coming.

Over time, she loses hope in John's return and eventually marries Tuck, a lifelong and ever-faithful friend. Now John returns, and Jessie is torn between her desire to be with him and yet be true to herself and her husband. To make things worse, her father has died and her mother is gravely ill.

John and Jessie must discover what remains of their love, and at what cost it might be rekindled. And in searching for something long ago lost, they find redemptive healing they could not have imagined.

The Flower of Grass (taken from 1 Peter 1:24) frames a classic love story around the deeper themes of passing time and mortality, the true nature of love and faith, and the delicate balance of human relationships. In seeking one another, John and Jessie learn that love can run much deeper than desire, faith can heal even the most broken of hearts, and time waits for no one.

Book Giveaway Information:

Please leave a comment with your augmented e-mail address if you'd like to be entered into a drawing for a copy of The Flower of Grass by James E. Robinson. The drawing will take place on Tuesday, August 5, 2008 at 9:00 a.m. Eastern time.

Winner Update: Carole is the lucky winner of James E. Robinson's The Flower of Grass. Congratulations!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Revisions...When is enough, enough?

Hi, All:

I'm over on Writer's Rest today, blogging about the writer's revision conundrum. I hope you'll visit me there, and help me figure it out. http://writersrest.blogspot.com/2008/07/revisionswhen-is-enough-enough.html



Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Book Review of Cyndy Salzmann's Crime & Clutter

Crime & Clutter by Cyndy Salzmann
Genre: Woman’s Lit.
Published by Howard Books (2007)
ISBN: 1582296448
Amazon.com Easy Link to Purchase

Crime & Clutter is Cyndy Salzmann’s second installment in her Friday Afternoon Club Mystery series. A fun, appetizing, down-to-earth read that makes you feel as though you’re a part of the club—-learning and growing with the sometimes overwhelmed, but always well-meaning ladies of the FAC.

When Mary Alice’s long-held secret is discovered by a fellow member, it becomes the FAC’s mission to help her sort through the contents of her late father’s possessions, and discover why he abandoned his wife and infant daughter decades earlier. As the door to the storage unit is lifted, what awaits them is far from expected.

In Crime & Clutter, Salzmann humorously depicts current-day, mundane and surprising situations while taking the reader for an emotional ride back through the days of The Revolution. Like a good friend, Salzmann shares unique and tantalizing recipes to experiment with, too. You’ll find yourself gravitating to your kitchen and wanting to share both the recipes and the mystery packaged in Crime & Clutter with all your friends.

Cyndy Salzmann’s mastery of withholding information facilitates an inviting and entertaining read. She strategically discloses bits of information throughout the story, keeping the reader foraging ahead to piece it all together. Written in both first-person, present-tense and third-person past-tense, Crime & Clutter is a diversified read, rich in character, and depicts a delightfully realistic take on the process of forgiveness. I highly recommend this unique read for all women who seek a healthy dose of “girl time”, and be forewarned, there are some especially nice surprises along the way.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Getting Back on Track

Hi, All:

Hubby and I are fine-tuning our upcoming course for this blog (Applying Business Principles and Practices to Your Writing Life), and I'm trying to get back into my writing after a couple week hiatus from it, as well as organizing my blog time. Boy, do I need this course we're working on. As we work through the topics I see more and more how I need to look at my writing hours in a business manner to be more efficient and also to prioritize all of my life and stay true to what God calls of me.

Our goal is to provide the overview next Monday, so if you know of anyone else who might benefit from looking at their writing through a business perspective, please send them on over here. Leave any topics you'd like to see addressed in the comment section and we'll do our best to address them during the weeks we post on this course.

I'm also running a FeedBlitz contest this summer. For all my FeedBlitz subscribers, present company, and any who sign up this summer, I'll be drawing a winner in early September for your choice of one of several books, a $15.00 Starbucks card, and an added surprise gift. If you haven't signed up already, I hope you'll subscribe for FeedBlitz today (those already signed up, and who remain as subscribers throughout the summer are automatically entered. Thank you for your support of this blog!). It's easy to subscribe, just enter your e-mail address in the space provided at the top left of the side bar and validate your request through the e-mail sent from FeedBlitz.

Blessings, and Take Care All!


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Physiotherapy for the dogs? ... and Vocabulary Enrichment

Hi, All:

I pray all is going well for you, and that your summer vacation is heating up, too! So far this summer my family has had the privilege of attending two equestrian schooling horse shows, and now today, our Church's VBS (Vacation Bible School) wrapped up with more than 70 kids attending the whole week. A fun time was had by all, I believe. And what an awesome group of youth to work with. I pray they all learned how to Listen Up! for God's messages a little bit clearer this week!

On top of all that so far, my family has also been deep into physiotherapy work with our little Yorkie-poo, Tucker. His right front elbow is healing very nicely. The pins and screw have stayed where they belong and the bones are mending well. It's his flexibility and muscle tone that really needs work, and for that, guess what we do?

We take him to doggy physiotherapy if you can believe it. Some will be rolling their eyes at this, I know, but around here, in my family, pets are like children and you do what ever you have to to make their life better. For Tucker, in this case, it's physiotherapy, because if we can't get him to use his leg properly then it will have to be removed. Considering the investment we've already made in having his joint surgically repaired, physiotherapy seemed like a no-brainer to us when the doctor gave the directive. I must admit, though, both my husband and I were expecting exorbitant fees for this type therapy, but thankfully, we were pleasantly surprised. When you compare it to the surgery cost, it really is not badly priced at all, and well worth the effort. I highly recommend that people not shrug this type of work off without first checking out the actual cost.

We've been taught several exercises to do with Tucker at home throughout the week, between sessions, and then when he's in his half-hour session, he gets therapeutic ultrasound and laser therapy done, and spends time in the underwater treadmill, as well as doing some floor exercises with the trained therapist. Since we have a pool, part of his daily work-out regimen is to swim to help build muscle. He's responding quite well.

Next week we go back to the OVC (Ontario Veterinary Clinic) to see Tucker's orthopedic surgeon, and have x-ray done once more. We're anxious to see what improvement his doctor notices. Our little Tucker is still quite a joy to have around and continues to do his work-outs with fun and his usual attitude thrown in their too. Just like having a baby all over again. So glad he isn't a human one, though!

So that's my Tucker update. Hope you enjoy the pics, and that your weekend is marvelous! Smile lots, everyone!


Vocabulary Enhancement:

I've chosen this weeks word from a study I've been doing to prepare for my upcoming blog course: Applying Business Practices and Principles to Your Writing Life. You'll have to stay tuned to see where the word of the week comes into play in that course. (Hint: It's early on in the study.)

I've heard this word many times, and often thought it was an interesting one, but one that may have gained a connotation or two that it didn't deserve. So I did some checking, and discovered that given the true definition, I really like this word a lot, and it deserves to be understood and defined correctly.

Moxie, is the word we'll discuss today.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition for moxie is: 1: , Energy, Pep 2: Courage, Determination

The American Heritage Dictionary definition for moxie is : 1: The ability to face difficulty with spirit and courage.
2: Aggressive energy; initiative: "His prose has moxie, though it rushes and stumbles from a pent-up surge" (Patricia Hampl).
3: Skill; know-how.

My favorite definition for what I'm wanting to use the word for is: "The ability to face difficulty with spirit and courage." Don't we all need at least a little moxie to fulfill our role in life?

What sentences can you come up with using the word moxie?



Thursday, July 17, 2008

An Interview with Amber Miller & Book Giveaway

I welcome Amber Miller to my Authors-Helping-Writers Interview segment. Author Amber Miller keeps busy with writing, parenting her vivacious puppy named Roxie, and working as a freelance web site designer. With four books sold to Heartsong Presents line of Barbour Publishing, and the promise of two more before the end of the year, she is one up and coming author we’ll be lucky enough to enjoy stories from for quite some time. Amber is currently pursuing an expansion into trade-length historical fiction, and has an interest in romantic comedy as well.

Amber is a born-again Christian since the age of seven, her faith in Christ has often sustained her through difficult experiences. She seeks to share that with others through her writing. Other writing credits include several writing articles for various publications, five short stories with Romancing the Christian Heart, and nine contributions to the book, 101 Ways to Romance Your Marriage.

You can read more about the amazing Amber Miller at her web site: http://www.ambermiller.com/.

Q: Amber, please tell us your thoughts on Writer’s Conferences?

A: I support them 100%. If you can get to one, go. You won’t regret it. Whether it’s a local or regional, or even a national. They are worth their weight in gold for advancing your career. As for criteria, I’d look at the faculty who will be presenting and the workshop topics. If I don’t find enough to make it worth my while, I’ll choose a different conference. Cost and location are also significant factors. That’s why I make a commitment to attend ACFW every year, then the local Colorado one here at home.

The networking, connections, experiences, friendship, fellowship, prayer and praise time at ACFW are beyond parallel to any other conference I’ve attended. It was at that conference in 2003 where I connected with the publishing house that is now publishing my books. It’s also there where I’ve met countless editors, agents and industry professionals, not to mention other authors and writers who have become mentors, friends and confidantes. If you write fiction and can attend this one, don’t miss it. If it’s too far, start with regional and local ones, then aim for the big national one.

Q: What or who inspired you to take up fiction writing?

A: Tracie Peterson encouraged me to join ACFW, and Linda Windsor mentored me all the way through my first novel. I don’t know that either of them inspired me to begin fiction writing though. I’ve been telling and writing stories since childhood. I’d call it a natural offshoot of my creative mind and desire to get lots in worlds I create when the real world isn’t good enough to suit me.

Q: Is there something unique or special about you or how you write that you would like to tell us about?

A: In all my years of reading, I have found one common theme in the books that make it to the top of my list. They are the ones where I can get right into the thick of things with the main characters. If I can experience everything right alongside them, I’m hooked.

So, for my books, I write in what’s called a “tight POV” or close point-of-view. This means, it has the feel of first-person while still maintaining the third-person qualities. For an example, check out the first chapters of the first 2 books on my books page. (

This is so true, Amber. I loved the tight POV in Promises, Promises. Gives such an intimate feel with your characters, like you’re their best friend when you quite relate with their responses, and the character themselves when you fully relate to their reactions. It’s just wonderful!

Q: How long did you concentrate on learning the craft of fiction writing before you received your initial offer?

A: I spent about 4 years from the time I decided to pursue this as a professional career to when I received my first “sold” call.

Q: Have publishing rejections been a part of your writing life? If so, how do you handle them?

A: Rejections are a part of the experience, and just because an author gets published doesn’t mean he or she can put rejections behind him or her. On the contrary; with each and every book, the process starts all over again. I, personally, have received anywhere from 10-15 rejections on my books or my writing since I began pursuing this career. But thanks to my good friend, Linda Windsor (www.lindawindsor.com), I have a fresh outlook on them. She says, “Rejections are footsteps in your career. If you don’t get them, you’re not moving forward.” And that’s so true.

When they arrived, I admit to digging into the half-gallon of ice cream and drowning my sorrows in a bowl full of chocolate truffle or mint chocolate chip. But, that usually lasted a day or two and I was back at it. Rejections hurt. I’m not going to pretend they don’t. However, you can’t let them stop you from going for your goal. Otherwise, the rejections—and the enemy—win.

Q: What did you do to actively pursue a writing career?

A: When I made the commitment in 2002, I joined ACFW (www.acfw.com) and soaked up every morsel of instruction, teaching and coaching I could find. I joined an online critique group and am proud to say that all members but 1 of that original group are now published. And that last 1 is very close!

I didn’t set a daily word limit for myself at the time, but I did commit to writing every week. My reading habits also changed from reading for pleasure to reading for critiquing and analysis. I began picking apart successful novels to see what made them work and noting why other novels didn’t do anything for me.

But by far, the best decision I made was to attend the annual conferences of ACFW. The details of that are in a question above.

Q: How many novels did you have completed before your first sale? Do you intend to try selling all of them? Why, or why not?

A: I had 2 finished, including the 1 I sold. Now, I have 4-5 in various stages of completion and yes, I’d love to sell all of them. It just depends on the market and finding someone who will buy them. I do write for enjoyment, but I also write novels to see them in print. If I want to write something not intended for publication, I’ll stick to a short story. Writing a novel involves far too much sweat and hard work for me not to see the finished result in book form.

Q: When you first started writing, approximately how long did it take you to complete and edit a novel until you felt it was ready to be shopped around? Have you noticed a decrease in the time it takes you to complete novels to your satisfaction now?

A: Ok, some readers are going to hate me for this, but the very first novel I wrote took me 19 days. *ducks to avoid flying computer parts* But I was on a college break and not working and had nothing to do. And, it still needs a LOT of edits before it’s publishable.

For my debut novel, with research included, it took me about 1-1/2 years, but for the actual writing and editing parts, about a year. With those 2 under my belt, my next books have gone much smoother. I can generally write a 50,000-word book in about 1 month when I truly focus. Otherwise, I do about 1-2 chapters each week.

If you’re looking to balance your own writing, go with what works for you. Don’t try to imitate someone else’s pace or goals. Their writing isn’t your writing. Establish a routine that proves successful and don’t get stressed because you find some other writer or author writing more than you. Just be you and set goals that will keep you writing, not ones that will discourage you and cause you to quit.

Q: What is a typical writing day for you?

A: Well, since I run a web design business from home, I don’t have a ‘typical’ day, per se…unless I’m on a deadline, of course! Then, almost everything else takes a back seat or gets shoved to the back burner. However, I rise early (most days) with my husband and send him off to work first thing. Then, I sit down at my computer and go through any email, respond and take care of business, make any updates to client web sites or work on design elements that are pressing in nature, and finally get to my writing.

On days that I remain home with nowhere to go, I try to set a page count minimum and stick to it. And I usually end up doing marketing work, watching a movie or playing a computer game to break up the day as I write. My errands are usually run first thing in the morning.

Q: What does your publishing house expect of you with regard to self-promoting your novel(s)?

A: They promote on their web site and send out bi-annual catalogs featuring their latest releases. They also have an e-mail newsletter that goes out and a newsletter which gets included in all book club shipments. They promote what’s out this month and what’s coming next month.

On my end, they don’t really expect or demand that I do anything, but they appreciate it if I have an established online presence and do my fair share in promoting my books. They’re behind me when I need content for publicity and will do everything they can to make certain all materials are complete and accurate. If I have questions, I can ask, and I’ll get a reply usually within 24 hours or less. I love my editing/publishing team.

Q: Many new writers don’t know when to stop editing and revising. How do you decide when your manuscript is ready for your editor’s or agent’s eyes?

A: I, along with likely all authors, believe there is always work to be done on a book, even after it’s been published and printed. However, there comes a time when you must lay it aside and trust God to do the rest. No book is 100% perfect, nor will it ever be. Personally, I go with my gut. When I can’t do that, I go with the deadline. LOL!

Q: Do you have any further direction or thoughts that you care to share with weary authors-in-training?

A: Writing is not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of hard work, determination, patience, perseverance and faith. And it won’t happen overnight. You have to maintain a teachable spirit and be open to constructive criticism, no matter how far along in your writing journey you get. In the end, the rewards far outweigh all the sweat and tears you shed along the way. Most importantly, if you feel this is the path for you, never give up!

Thanks so much, Amber, for stopping by and sharing such wonderful information. For a review of Amber Miller's Promises, Promises click here, and now let's take a look at Amber Millers first two books out.

Promises, Promises
Publisher: Barbour/Heartsong Presents
Release date: February 2008 through Heartsong Presents; July 2008 to bookstores and online retailers
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Delaware Brides, book 1
ISBN: 9781597899390
Ordering link: www.ambermiller.com/books.html

Has God forsaken Raelene?

What kind of God would take a girl's family and leave her alone in a wild land where women have no voice? When Gustaf Hanssen promises Raelene's dying father that he will take care of her, he finds himself bound to her happiness, her success, and her well-being in ways he never imagined. To keep his word, must Gustaf really oversee all of Raelene's affairs, find her a husband, and maintain her farm, while she does nothing but scorn him? Can God reach through Raelene's pain and self-centeredness and give her the love that awaits, if only she will accept His will?

Quills & Promises
Publisher: Barbour/Heartsong Presents
Release date: July 2008
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Delaware Brides, book 2
ISBN: 9781602600492
Ordering link: www.ambermiller.com/books.html

Innocence paired with wisdom beyond her years--

With these traits, Elanna Hanssen unwittingly captures the attentions of Major Madison Scott. Her honest desire to understand the war fascinates him, and he resolves to get to know this perspicacious young lady better. When he is called away to fight the French and the Indians, they begin a correspondence, cautiously baring their hearts to one another. Elanna has never known emotions like these before, but she is drawn to the integrity she sees in her major. When a writer for the first newspaper in the colony questions the major's credentials and activities, however, will she allow her heart or her head to rule? Can true love grow over such distance and around such obstacles?

For more on Amber Miller, take a gander over to the following interviews as they become available.

Shirley Connolly (July month-long feature) - http://apenforyourthoughts.blogspot.com

July 7 - Margaret Daley (bio) http://margaretdaly.blogspot.com
July 7 - Dawn Kinzer at From Dawn til Dusk, Musings of a Night Owl http://dawnkinzer.blogspot.com
July 8 - Donna Moore at Write by Faith http://writebyfaith.blogspot.comJuly 8 - Kim Woodhouse at God's Grace, Love & Forgiveness http://www.kimberleywoodhouse.com
July 9 - Margaret Daley (interview) http://margaretdaly.blogspot.com
July 9 - Amy Riley at The Friendly Book Nook http://thefriendlybooknook.com
July 10 - Jenny Blake at Come Meet AusJenny http://ausjenny.blogspot.com
July 11 - Rose McCauley http://rosemccauley.blogspot.com
July 11 - Shauna Sturge at The Coffee Stop http://shaunasturge.blogspot.com
July 12 - Carolyn Strawder at Quiet Time with Carolyn http://www.quiettimewithcarolyn.com/Serenity
July 14 - Martha Rogers at Martha Writes http://marthasbooks.blogspot.com
July 15 - Leslie Sowell at A Little Bit of Sunlight http://www.footprintsinthesand.us/blog
July 16 - Novel Journey / Novel Reviews http://noveljourney.blogspot.com / http://novelreviews.blogspot.com
July 17 - Eileen Astels at A Christian Romance Writer's Journey http://eileenastels.blogspot.com
July 17 - Cheryl Wyatt at The Squirrel's Nest http://squirrelsnest.blogspot.comJuly 18 - Cara Putman at Cara's Musings http://carasmusings.blogspot.comJuly 18 - Tyora Moody at CB Reviews http://www.faithwebbin.net/cbreviews
July 19 - Stacy Johnson at Vader's Mom http://jeffstacyandvader.blogspot.com
July 21 - CFBA blog tour date (various blogs) http://christianfictionblogalliance.blogspot.comJuly 21 - Camy Tang at Camy's Loft http://camytang.blogspot.comJuly 21 - Jennifer AlLee at Musings on This, That & The Other Thing - http://jenniferallee.blogspot.com
July 22 - CFBA blog tour date (various blogs) http://christianfictionblogalliance.blogspot.com
July 22 - Cindy Woodsmall at the Plain Talk Blog http://www.cindywoodsmall.com/category/plain-talk/
July 23 - CFBA blog tour date (various blogs) http://christianfictionblogalliance.blogspot.comJuly 23 - Delia Latham at The Melody Within (review/interview) http://themelodywithin.blogspot.com
July 24 - Margaret Chind at Creative Madness http://cherryblossommj.blogspot.com
July 25 - Delia Latham at The Melody Within (guest blogger) http://themelodywithin.blogspot.comJuly 25 - Christa Allan at Fictionary http://cballan.wordpress.com
July 26 - Paula Moldenhauer at Grace Reign http://gracereign.blogspot.com

BOOK GIVEAWAY: If you would like to be entered into a drawing for Amber Miller’s newest release, Quills & Promises, please leave a pertinent comment in this post with your augmented e-mail address before Wednesday, July 23, 2008, 9:00 pm Eastern time. Good luck to everyone!

July 24th update: Congratulations to Mimi B. for winning Amber Miller's Quills & Promises. Thanks all for entering, and I wish you the best of luck in the future drawings you enter!



Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I'm Back!

Unexpected family events, VBS, and a very loooong horse show have kept me away from the computer for the past week. I'm going to try and get back on track again. Promise!

Tomorrow, the goal is to post an Authors-Helping-Writers interview with Heartsong Presents author Amber Miller. There have been a few glitches with this, though, but I hope to have it all ironed out and have the post up by late afternoon tomorrow. We'll have to wait and see what happens. I'm anxious to learn more about this Promises, Promises author. Click on the book title or here for my review.

I pray all is well with everyone and that your summer is going well!



Thursday, July 10, 2008

An Interview with Kimberly Stuart and Giveaway of ACT TWO

Kimberly Stuart makes her home in Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband, Marc, and their two children, Ana and Mitch. She began her writing career by journaling during her daughter’s first year of life. At the never-subtle urging of her mother, she entered the University of Iowa Alumni magazine’s annual nonfiction short story contest. After winning the contest, she attended the Blue Ridge Writer’s Conference in North Carolina, where she met some key players in the publishing world who were able to jumpstart her career. She is the author of Balancing Act and its sequel, Bottom Line.

Stuart’s most recent novel, Act Two, released May 2008, and is the first of three titles to be published by David C. Cook. She continues to revel in God’s grace and counts among her treasures nap time, imported chocolate, and a good story.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time? Hobbies?

Kimberly Stuart's Response: I’m going to forego commentary on the slightly injurious nature of the phrase “spare time.” I am the mother of two (three in August) young children and they, at least, do not see the value of those words. But hypothetically speaking, were I to come upon a windfall of time, spare or otherwise, I would run, not walk to our local bookstore and immerse myself in a good book. After several hours of literary indulgence, I’d skip down the street to the bakery and talk shop with the owner, pretending I know more than I do and serving happily as a taste testing lab rat should he or she need one. After a pecan roll or maybe a Dutch letter, I’d meet my husband at the market for some shopping, head home with him to our kiddos, and cook up something lovely to share with them. Husband, kids, books, food—a perfect stretch of moments strung together in one afternoon. MAN, I need to book a babysitter more often!

Q: If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?

Kimberly Stuart's Response: I would like to defer to my five-year-old daughter on this one as it’s been the topic of discussion for several of the last weeks. She would like the power to make her stuffed animals come alive with the touch of a hand. This, regrettably, creeps me out. But you did ask and I fear I’m merely a contemporary fiction writer and am woefully hemmed in to real people and real problems. Making stuffed creatures come alive is a problem I hope never to have to resolve, either in a book or in my living room. Ish.

Q: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Kimberly Stuart's Response: When I was a child, I wanted to be a “seener” (singer). Mostly, I wanted to be Amy Grant. That’s right, people: I was into STRAIGHT UP AMY GRANT. The hard stuff, the early years, like “My Father’s Eyes,” and “El Shaddai.” I rocked out (with choreography) in our basement, next to a record player roughly the size of an Escalade and was wholeheartedly convinced of my musical and entertaining genius. If only I could have met her at the right time, perhaps post-Gary, pre-Vince, we could have toured together! She totally could have used a back-up dancer/singer! In fact, if you’re reading this, Amy, I’m still available!

Q: Where are you headed next?

Kimberly Stuart's Response: God willing, I’ll be giving birth to our third child in August, so I’m afraid I won’t be heading anywhere too quickly. Lactation seems to preclude so many of life’s adventures…In addition to caring for our growing brood and being really snippy with my husband for a few months due to sleep deprivation, I have two more books to write with David C. Cook. Act Two is the first of three, and I must ask you humbly to buy it within the next four minutes as it is time-sensitive material. And it’s a pretty good summer read, if I must be so bold. After Act Two will come two more. This will make a grand total of five books so far from the pen of Kimberly Stuart. Don’t place any bets that I’ll try to have as many children as I do books. When it comes to babies, those in print are much kinder on a uterus.

Q: What’s the most difficult part of the writing process for you?

Kimberly Stuart's Response: Making myself sit down each day and crank out new material, especially on days when I’m feeling about as creative as a paint tarp.*Pushing through the middle of a novel, when the characters have lost their initial intrigue and it’d be so much more fun to daydream about the NEXT story to write.*Getting out of the way of the story. That is, allowing the story to flesh itself out without coercion on my part.*Being able to, as Stephen King writes, “crucify my darlings,” to part with the elements, characters, plot movements that do not serve the story, no matter how fond I am of them.

Q: What part do you enjoy the most?

Kimberly Stuart's Response: Without question, hearing from readers who connect with, cry about, laugh because of the stories I write and then take the time and effort to let me know. Unbelievable and lovely.

Q: How do you find time to write?

Kimberly Stuart's Response: For every writer asked this question, I’m sure you’d get as many answers. At this time in my life and the life of my family, I write in the afternoons when my daughter is at preschool and my son is napping. This is unfortunate for two reasons: One, my toilets become gross because the time I used to devote to being Martha Stewart is now devoted to being Kimberly Stuart, a woman with far fewer housekeeping ambition and far more dust bunnies. Two, afternoons are not my most creative time, mostly because I’d rather be napping. So I’ve had to force my mind and my body into thinking one o’clock is Do or Die and that by the time Mitchell’s awake and Ana is home from school, I’d better have a new scene or I don’t get any chocolate for dessert. (Okay, that last bit is a stretch of the truth. Self-denial is overrated.)

Q: When you write do you generally know where you’re headed or are you sometimes as surprised as your characters about the way things end?

Kimberly Stuart's Response: I begin a novel with barely more detail than that which I’ve pitched to the publishing house. I have a feel for the main character, the overall arc of the story, the central conflict. But the ancillary characters, the chapter-by-chapter breakdown, how my protagonist changes and what takes her there, those all flesh themselves out in the course of writing the book. My genre, comedic fiction, allows for this kind of approach but I’m sure a mystery wouldn’t be as forgiving. One can hardly decide whodunit as an afterthought. So, yes, I’m often surprised by what happens in my books, how some characters become unlikely heroes or heroines, how others reveal secrets I hadn’t anticipated. All in all, it’s quite the entertaining way to write.

Q: What would you say to someone who wants to become a published author?

Kimberly Stuart's Response: Hone your craft. There are lots of fancy stories about getting one’s foot in the door to a publisher, how to get an agent, how to market oneself and one’s story. But the best way to ensure you’ll be ready to take on the publishing mayhem is to work your tail off at writing. Become your toughest critic (short of paralysis, of course), get up the guts to share your work with someone smarter and more well-read than you, spend the hours good writing requires. Most of a writer’s life is very quiet, unromantic, and isolating. Unless you’re ready to devote yourself to the less glamorous parts of writing a good story, you’ll be spinning your wheels for the time when a good break comes.

Q: Where did you get the idea for your book, Act Two?

Kimberly Stuart's Response: I can’t possibly reveal that to the blogosphere, and I say that only partly because I’ve always wanted to use the word blogosphere. The other reason is that this one percolated for awhile. There was no lightning bolt moment. But I will say that I’m always interested in putting quirky characters in situations that make them woefully uncomfortable and allow the reader to laugh with gusto both at and with the character. A New York opera diva on a farm seemed like a situation that might work for that purpose.

Q: What are the major themes of Act Two?

Kimberly Stuart's Response: Grace, redemption, my love and respect for both urban and rural dwellers, and the under-used gift of laughter.

For more information about Kimberly, visit her at http://www.kimberlystuart.com/. For a listing of the blog tour spots featuring Kimberly Stuart, please visit http://www.blogtourspot.com/stuart-blog-tour/stuart-blog-tour-stops/ .

Act Two by Kimberly Stuart

New Yorker Sadie Maddox is the toast of the classical-music world-and a
bit of a diva. But lately her CD sales are sagging, not to mention parts of
her anatomy. Maybe it's time for a change. So when her agent suggests a
professorship at a small liberal-arts college, Sadie decides to give it a go.
Besides, she needs the money.

But the college is in rural Iowa. Sadie's colleagues are intimidated, her
students aren't impressed, and she has to live far too close to farm animals.
When Sadie meets Mac, a veterinarian, she assumes they have nothing in
common-he is, after all, a country-music fan-and she's counting the days
until she moves back to New York. Yet, when Sadie is forced to spend time
with Mac, she likes him. Her students really need her. And this quiet midwest
community begins to grow on her.

But when the semester ends, Sadie packs up and decamps for the city
that never sleeps.and fi nds she can't either. Will she fi nd the courage and
grace she needs to embrace her Act Two?

Book Giveaway:

If you'd like to be entered into the drawing for a copy of Kimberly Stuart's Act Two, please leave a comment in this post with your augmented e-mail addy by Wednesday, July 16, 2008 at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time.

July 17th Update: The first lucky winner of Kimberly Stuart's Act Two was Deborah, but she was so lucky that she also won it elsewhere, so she offered to have a redrawing. Next one to win would have been smilinkyn, Kyndra, but I couldn't find an e-mail addy for her, so she had to be withdrawn too. Please, Please, Please, if you do not have your blogger id hooked to an e-mail address then you must include an augmented e-mail addy in your comment to be eligible to win.

So, now I'm hoping that the third person drawn will answer my private e-mail. Patty, if my e-mail got lost in your spam filter, please notify me via this comment section and I'll try again. Congratulations. I'd love to send this book off to you!

Good Luck, Everyone, and Blessings,


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Backstory Dilemma

Hi, There:

I'm blogging on backstory over at Writer's Rest. I hope you'll join me there.



Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Book Review of Brandilyn Collins Crimson Eve

Crimson Eve (Kanner Lake Series #3)
by Brandilyn Collins
Quick link to purchasing from Amazon.com

Reviewed by my wonderful hubby, Phil.

Real Estate Agent, Carla Radling is showing a hard-to-sell house to what looks to be a promising client. Little does Carla know that the client is actually a hit man sent to kill her. Elsewhere, Tanya Evans is confronted in her home by an intruder who has a dire warning to deliver. Both story lines grip the reader, and give the book a jump start.

The book starts off fast and continues at a good pace. It alternates well between two initial story lines and gradually brings in flashbacks to the past to provide more depth to the story. I liked the fact that the chapters were relatively short, so one could easily follow the story line and did not have to read large amounts to find out what happens next. Crimson Eve's short crisp chapters and well-defined characters ensure that the plot keeps moving.

I am a big fan of series which have recurring characters in them, especially if the author stays true to the character and does not start making them larger than life. As a result , I really liked the 3rd book of Brandilyn Collins Kanner Lake Series. (We don’t have the first two...yet.) The series’ ensemble cast is introduced throughout the story and the characters are well described throughout, which allows the story to flow well and avoids the complications associated with having many characters in a book. I had no problem following this story without having read the initial two in the series. The characters’ personalities remain true throughout the book, and gives the sense of family that some small communities represent.

After reading Brandilyn Collin's Crimson Eve, I have purchased book #4 in the series called Amber Morn. I am looking forward to getting to know some of the characters better, and see if this next book in the series is as good as the third.

Overall a very good read for those who like fast moving thrillers with lots of action and intrigue.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Looking for Guidance?

First: My husband, Phil, and I are working on creating a course called Applying Business Principles and Practices to Your Writing Life. Our hope is that it will help me get organized and focused, and since we like to share, we'll be posting it on this blog starting in a couple of weeks for all interested blog readers to gain from it too.

In the transition time between the Debra Dixon GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict study which I just completed and when we're ready to start presenting this course, I'll be posting random thoughts and book reviews. I hope you'll find these posts useful and I look forward to hearing what you think of the upcoming course: Applying Business Principles and Practices to Your Writing Life. If you have any specific topics related to this course that you would like addressed, please let me know via the comment option and we'll do our best to do some research on it and include it in the course line-up.

Now, on with the Looking for Guidance? topic for today.

I've been working through Marlene Bagnull's Bible Study for Christian Writers called Write His Answer. My husband happened by this little book while looking for something on Amazon.ca and ordered it for me. It's truly a golden study for any writer. I'm not halfway through, but I'm already finding so many wonderful directions, and the plethora of Biblical referencing to back up the author's notes is marvelous.

One of my major struggles is discerning what is God intended, opposed to what is just self-wanted or what might be evil-lead in all it's disguise to make me think it's God intended. Sounds paranoid, I know, but the devil loves trickery as well we know from the very beginning with Adam and Eve. I struggle with these questions on almost a daily basis. Do any of you?

In one of the many informative chapters of Marlene Bagnull's Write His Answer she discusses this very question and offers four scriptural channels for guidance that I found very helpful.
  1. Study the word of God to discern if your plan of action, desire, proposed goal, etc. is biblicly sound.
  2. Listen to that inner voice/feeling. Are you being prompted from within to go forward or change course? Which direction offers a sense of peace?
  3. Are there any surprising doors opening that might help you discern that God is leading?
  4. Seek guidance and support from fellow Christians, church family, pastor, Godly Christian friends. Pray and have them pray for you to see His will.

So, by following these four guidelines, I will go forth and hopefully discern His will for me a little more efficiently and with a lot less stress. I pray you'll find these helpful as well.



Sunday, July 6, 2008

Romans 12:11

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual ferver serving the Lord.
Romans 12:11 (NIV)

A translation to the above verse that I found in Marlene Bagnull's Write His Answer (A Bible study for Christian Writers) is "Never be lazy in [my] work but serve the Lord enthusiastically."

We must remember that the Lord calls us to work at many things, all are to be done enthusiastically for the Lord, and thus we must seek the divine balance that God calls us to follow. Therefore, as writers, we must not put an unbalanced emphasis on writing, but always remember all our other responsibilities to serve God faithfully and to His Glory.

Blessed Sunday Prayed for You all,


Saturday, July 5, 2008

Review of Colleen Coble's Abomination

Abomination by Colleen Coble
Published by Thomas Nelson, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-59554-141-3
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Click here for a quick Amazon.com purchasing link.

Abomination by Colleen Coble is a chilling story that stirs your senses and makes you realize how important forgiveness is. When a killer, Gideon, turns the sport of geocaching into a hunt for faceless and dismembered bodies, Captain Nikos Andreakos of the Michigan State Police is more than haunted by the case. Through the use of multiple points of view the reader is transferred from one gripping plot line to another, left wondering how the group of characters and their dilemmas all fit together.

Colleen Coble writes with such detail in all the right places that even non-graphic readers will thoroughly enjoy this heart-pounding, suspenseful read. It’s a romantic suspense with an emphasis on suspense that will have you whizzing through it in no time, but not without touching your soul.

Abomination is Coble’s first hardcover and well worth the honor. You can now find it in soft cover, though, making it even more affordable. Her ability to discern where detail is needed and where discreetness was best adhered to kept me turning the pages of this rather darker topic with anticipation. The varying characters came to life and made me both sympathize and root for their survival…or death, as the case may be. It’s a book worth reading as much for craft as for pleasure and I highly recommend you pick up your copy today and begin the unforgettable journey with Gideon, Nick and Elena in the beautiful Upper Peninsula of Michigan. You won’t be disappointed.

Friday, July 4, 2008

An Interview featuring Debra Dixon.

In conclusion to the study of Debra Dixon’s writer’s manual, GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict, I’m pleased to offer an interview with the author of this wonderful how-to book as well as many novels. Without further adieu, I’ll let the questions begin.

Debra, you’re a writer, founder of BelleBooks, and Speaker, how do you do it all?

Debra Dixon’s reply: First, thanks for inviting me for a chat!

I’ve figured out that if you’re willing to give up sleeping, there are more hours in the day. LOL! Seriously, I’d like to think I’m special and juggling more pretty shiny balls than the rest of the world, but I think all of us are blessed and cursed with opportunities. It’s a busy world out there. You snooze; you lose. And I hate to lose.

Will you tell us what speaking engagements you have scheduled for the following year?

Debra Dixon’s reply: This fall I’ll be in Atlanta for DragonCon in September. Then the Southeastern Independent Booksellers Association tradeshow in Alabama. Oklahoma, Colorado, Virginia and…I’m not sure where else. My brain is a little fried from the launch of our new imprint Bell Bridge Books. (I’ll explain that more fully in answering another question.)

Will you be offering any workshops in the near future?
Debra Dixon’s reply: You know, I don’t organize any workshops myself. People ask me to do that and I honestly don’t know how I’d fit all the details in. It’s much easier to get on a plane and “arrive” somewhere and let the workshop organizers tell me what to do!

Please tell us about the small press you founded with several other authors called BelleBooks. What kind of books is BelleBooks publishing, and how best would a new writer go about pitching to BelleBooks if their manuscript fits what you’re looking for?

Debra Dixon’s reply: We’ve been publishing about 9 years. www.BelleBooks.com Just this year we’ve added a new imprint for emerging (newer) voices and to branch out from our Southern image. www.BellBridgeBooks.com Our titles are simultaneously available in print and ebooks. We’ve just reached an agreement with Audible to distribute our titles as audio downloads and those will be coming online soon. We hope to have our entire catalogue in audio editions eventually. They’ll be available through iTunes, Audible and Amazon. Most of our Southern titles are also picked up for large-print by Thorndike. We’ve had an author on Oprah, foreign sales, mass market subrights sales and book clubs sales.

We don’t put out 50 titles a year, but we work very hard to sell the titles we do bring to readers. Our titles are stocked and available from all the major wholesalers as well as available through the online giants like Amazon and BN.com.

For BelleBooks we are looking for strong voices and Southern fiction.
For Bell Bridge Books, we’re looking for fantasy, urban fantasy, YA, and even some Southern fiction from new voices. There is a great writer’s section on the Bell Bridge website that answers a lot of questions. I’d encourage people to check the website. We’ll be launching the fantasy titles in Aug/Sept to coincide with DragonCon which is the largest SF/F con in the country. They run 15,000-20,000 people a day through the con. And that number is probably low. They completely takeover downtown Atlanta.

How many books does BelleBooks aspire to publish in a year?

Debra Dixon’s reply: The number you can aspire to publish and the number you can publish well are two different animals! Between BelleBooks and Bell Bridge Books, we’ll publish about 10 books this year. We’re very particular about the quality of what we publish. Putting out 10 books means what little sleep I was getting…I’m not anymore. We’d like to put out about 20 titles a year but that’s a long term goal. We’ve grown steadily through the last 9 years and we’d like to continue.

Do you have any new fiction or non-fiction projects in the works?

Debra Dixon’s reply: I have a dark YA (young adult) fantasy story that will be out in an anthology from DAW (Penguin Group) in October ‘08. The book is WITCH HIGH and the cover is a little on-the-nose. But I’ve decided that it’s actually perfect for the demographic. You want a book cover that speaks to the reader by flashing a neon sign that says, “Hey, if you’re looking for stories about contemporary teenage witches, here’s the book you need!”

And as usual, I’m chronically behind on my deadline for the next Mossy Creek book.

Your latest Mossy Creek book, At Home in Mossy Creek, was published in July 2007 by BelleBooks, can we expect more to be added to the series?

Debra Dixon’s reply: See the answer above. Yes, we have # 7 in the series planned and a number of authors have met their deadlines. I’m a little late with mine. But BelleBooks is hoping to have that next book out by winter ’09.

As an established, award-winning author, what advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Debra Dixon’s reply: Read. Read a lot. Read constantly. Then decide how badly you want this. A writing career is rarely pretty. Rejection hurts. Competition is rough. Every time you think you might “get it” then the market changes and you’re scrambling again.

As for craft, you’ve got to master it. I’m not talking about “plotters” versus “writing-by-the-seat-of-your-pants” writers. I’m talking about understanding what POV is and what it does for your book. How you can shape POV. How you can shape GMC. How scene builds character. You’ve got to understand the reader expectations in your genre. (Literary is a genre too.)

Finally, you’ve got to create “voice.” You have to find something authentic and bring that world view and voice to the page.

Some GMC Related Questions:

Which element of GMC would you recommend writers master first, and why?

Debra Dixon’s reply: Goal. Because it’s the easiest to understand and often the first stumbling block to good work. Writers waste a lot of page space with characters wandering around and not doing much of anything. A character with a goal is generally interesting. A character with a goal provides an anchor. The reader thinks, “Oh! We’re doing THIS. I get it. This is going to go badly. Isn’t that fun!”

Ever walked into a room full of people and you’re not sure why you’re there or what you’re supposed to do? That’s how the read feels if the author doesn’t skillfully focus that reader’s attention and drag them through the book.

People often ask me which (GMC) is most important. I tell ‘em, “The complete one.” The elements all work in concert with and support each other. The elements themselves create conflict and tension. If a character’s emotional goal is to be worthy of his Amish father’s faith and, in the story in order to save his father’s life, the son must hurt someone else…well, that’s put your character in quite a bind. How do you choose between a father’s respect and your father’s life?

The movies you use in your examples are varied, what made you choose those particular movies?

Debra Dixon’s reply: I tried to use movies I thought were worthy of more than one viewing. I suspected that anything I’d watched more than once would have some meat on the bone. Beyond that I tried to find “classics” that many people were likely to have seen. And finally I tried to represent different types of stories. I’d done so many movies over the years.

I keep a movie journal. You can see a sample of what my movie journal would look like at the Romance Rules Blog:

This particular journal was done on The Hero’s Journey. I’m a big fan. But you can journal on any particular craft aspect. I normally become interested in something and then watch movies I’ve loved to figure out why they work or where they fail.

And in picking movies as examples, I find the stories are more accessible to a greater number of people. Trying to find books that a great many people have read is very tough! Story is story, so I’ve used movies to help writers learn the concepts.

The GMC concept really helps a writer focus and steer away from aimless wandering. As a result, have GMC followers reported a decrease in writing time and required revisions?

Debra Dixon’s reply: Yes, I have to say that over the years I’ve gotten such lovely letters from writers, telling me how helpful GMC is not just for creating the story, but for fixing it once it’s gone off the rails. GMC has helped me tremendously with my editors because they can see a fully developed character arc in my synopsis. They can see how the book works on more than one level. So, yes. Helpful for me, certainly and judging from my email, helpful for a number of people. I get such a charge out of letters that begin, “Where have you been all my life?”

If a character has motivations that spring from a fear that isn't realistic, how would you suggest to relay their motivation so that readers accept it and feel the urgency?

Debra Dixon’s reply: Oh…you aren’t going to like this answer. “It all depends.” You can do anything in fiction that you want to do as long as you do it well enough.

Without knowing the specifics, I’ll take a stab.

Fears must be realistic. Period. Realistic to the character. There has to be basis. Concrete basis. Especially for fears that are out of the norm or might be deemed absurd in their likelihood.

What has given this character the fear? The motivation isn’t the fear but the circumstances that resulted in the fear. In THE VISCOUNT WHO LOVED ME, Julia Quinn wrote a hero who was afraid he’d die at an early age as his father had. If we’d met that character as an adult, spouting that fear, we probably would have rolled our eyes. What Julia did was introduce that man as a child. We lived his father’s death with him. We carried that understanding to the next phase of the book. Now…not every book or author can get away with a child in prologue. I’m offering this as one way to win the reader to a character’s less than realistic perspective.

Debra, you offer a great deal of direction in building character in the GMC writer’s manual, and character is even in your GMC chart with the adjective and descriptive noun, (which I found very helpful, by the way) so why was character not included in the title?

Debra Dixon’s reply: There are so many character books on the market. GMC is about so much more than character; the publishers didn’t want to confuse writers. They wanted to be sure that the core of the book was shouted from the title. That said, anyone who reads the book will know that I have very strong feelings about creating solid character.

To be bold, I really want to know why Amazon is charging an arm and a leg for this writer’s manual when Gryphon books lists it at a much more affordable cost? I would have bought your book ages ago if I had found it through Gryphon Books For Writers then, but I assumed after looking at Amazon that I’d never be able to afford it, so off to inter-library loan I went. So what’s the scoop with that, anyway?

Debra Dixon’s reply: It isn’t Amazon. Individuals, who sell through Amazon, think they can hoodwink a writer into paying that exorbitant price! ::steam coming from Debra’s ears:: Amazon doesn’t actually sell the book. Its “associates” do. I’m so happy you’re giving me a chance to tell everyone… This book is NOT out of print. It’s in its 8th printing and alive and well. You do have to contact the publisher or order it from Barnes & Noble. If I’m not mistaken they are happy to get the book for you. But a simple trip to www.GryphonBooksForWriters.com will take care of everything.

Thanks so much for taking the time to respond to these questions, Debra! For more information about Debra Dixon, please visit her website at: http://www.debradixon.com/.

Here’s a few of the upcoming/current titles from BelleBooks and Bell Bridge Books, plus an anthology Debra Dixon is in to be released October of 2008.

The Gates of Trevalyan
Jacquelyn Cook

Known for intensely authentic, lyrically written inspirational and historical novels including Magnolias, The River Beyond, and Sunrise, Jackie Cook delivers an emotional story of a family's struggle to survive the Civil War.

Bite Me
Parker Blue

Life after high school is tough enough without having to go 15 rounds with your inner demon. Thrown out of the house by her mother, Val puts one foot in front of the other and does the only thing that seems to make any sense--she takes aim at the town vampires. A stake a day, keeps the demon at bay. (But don't call her Buffy. That makes Lola, her demon, very cranky .) Soon enough she finds herself deep in the underbelly of the city, discovering the secrets of the Demon Underground and fighting to save those she loves. Whether they love her back or not.

Charming Grace, (reprint of Little, Brown/Warner title)

Deborah SmithGrace Vance's troubled but beloved police detective husband died a hero's death, and Grace is determined to protect his very personal history from exploitation.Grace will do whatever it takes to stop an action star's exploitation film. Only one problem: she's got to get past the sexiest Cajun bodyguard in Tinsel Town.

Witch High
Debra Dixon

An anthology of fourteen tales which explore the challenges that students of the magical arts may face in a high school of their very own. If you think chemistry is tough, try alchemy. COYOTE RUN by Debra Dixon follows the only Junior in school without a familiar. Branded a freak, Izzy O'Connell has no idea she's about to make the Coyote Run and acquire the craft's darkest familiar.