Friday, October 31, 2008
A profound thought. At least for me it is.
Consider the following verse:
"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various form..." 1 Peter 4:10
I've always thought of God's grace as an amazing gift that I don't deserve, but so thankful to have. But never before did I really consider that I could be used as a vessel to deliver His grace to another person. According to Peter, though, we are to be faithful in administering God's grace through the gifts we are given.
We are instruments through which God extends His grace to others. Doesn't that make our responsibility to discover our gifts all the more important? It does to me.
The Word of the Week: Grace (definitions brought to you from http://www.dictionary.com/
1. elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action.
2. a pleasing or attractive quality or endowment.
3. favor or good will.
4. a manifestation of favor, esp. by a superior: It was only through the dean's grace that I wasn't expelled from school.
5. mercy; clemency; pardon: an act of grace.
6. favor shown in granting a delay or temporary immunity.
7. an allowance of time after a debt or bill has become payable granted to the debtor before suit can be brought against him or her or a penalty applied: The life insurance premium is due today, but we have 31 days' grace before the policy lapses. Compare grace period.
a. the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God.
b. the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.
c. a virtue or excellence of divine origin: the Christian graces.
d. Also called state of grace. the condition of being in God's favor or one of the elect.
9. moral strength: the grace to perform a duty.
10. a short prayer before or after a meal, in which a blessing is asked and thanks are given.
11. (usually initial capital letter) a formal title used in addressing or mentioning a duke, duchess, or archbishop, and formerly also a sovereign (usually prec. by your, his, etc.).
12. Graces, Classical Mythology. the goddesses of beauty, daughters of Zeus and Eurynome, worshiped in Greece as the Charities and in Rome as the Gratiae.
13. Music. grace note. –verb (used with object)
14. to lend or add grace to; adorn: Many fine paintings graced the rooms of the house.
15. to favor or honor: to grace an occasion with one's presence. —Idioms
16. fall from grace,
a. Theology. to relapse into sin or disfavor.
b. to lose favor; be discredited: He fell from grace when the boss found out he had lied.
17. have the grace to, to be so kind as to: Would you have the grace to help, please?
18. in someone's good (or bad) graces, regarded with favor (or disfavor) by someone: It is a wonder that I have managed to stay in her good graces this long.
19. with bad grace, reluctantly; grudgingly: He apologized, but did so with bad grace. Also, with a bad grace.
20. with good grace, willingly; ungrudgingly: She took on the extra work with good grace.
Origin: 1125–75; ME < class="blsp-spelling-error" id="SPELLING_ERROR_6">grātia favor, kindness, esteem, deriv. of grātus pleasing
Wow, that's a lot of uses for one compact, beautiful word.
May grace guide my every deed.
55 days left to reflect and celebrate our Saviour's birth.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Not only can a writer use specific details to show, rather than tell, but it's the well chosen details that can set a mood, sketch a picture, and thus bring a scene to life for the reader.
Be careful, though, there is a need for brevity when dealing with details. It's important to discern which details to include, and which to let the reader discover within their own imagination. If you provide too much detail, you risk boring the reader. Too little, and you haven't given enough to spark the reader's imagination so that they can complete the canvass to their own satisfaction.
A good exercise to educate yourself on details in writing is to pick a scene in a novel that stood out particularly well to you. A scene that you'd consider shone. Pick that scene apart word by word, paying attention specifically to the details that the author provided. Then consider what other details you added through your own imagination that completed the picture for you. Can you see how the details the author provided aided in your completing the picture? Were they specific, maybe unique, conducive to a specific style/mood, of particular interest?
The first example that popped into my mind for me to do this exercise with is actually from one of my critique partner's work. Becky Melby, with Cathy Wienke, painted a marvelous tour of a Victorian House so vividly for me in the following two paragraphs from their novel Treasuring Kate.
"Built in 1897, Heathercrest was the largest of the Victorian homes in Woodbridge, Wisconsin. It was painted in its original colors, a soft sage green with gingerbread trim the color of butter. Thirteen wooded acres protected it from being engulfed as the little lakeside town expanded.
Setting his camera back on the dresser before heading down to breakfast, Grant scooped up a pile of change and looked around the curved-walled turret room. It was this house, this room in particular, that had birthed his career in historic renovations. The thought of being able to see it only on a guided tour, the doorway cordoned off by a velvet rope, twisted something deep inside. No more treasure hunts in the gardens, no more sliding down banisters, no more stockings hung from the cherubs on the fireplace mantle, no more laughter, no more tradition. He couldn’t imagine raising children of his own without the backdrop of Heathercrest. (From Chapter 1 of Becky Melby's and Cathy Wienke's novel Treasuring Kate. This story has yet to find a publisher. I really hope it does some day soon.)
I just love this excerpt. Okay, let's look at the actual details provided in the first short paragraph.
Built in 1897
Largest Victorian home in the area
The home itself is called Heathercrest (These three facts alone paint a grandiose picture in my mind. I'm immediately drawn to think of Castle Kilbride, a local Victorian home. Facts or details like this provide the reader with data that they can associate with something concrete they are familiar with. I already have a pretty good picture of what I want Heathercrest to look like now.)
Colors of the house provided (Now I know specific details that set this house apart from the one I'm comparing it to, further making Heathercrest its own. I'm really liking it!)
Gingerbread (I love gingerbread trim, all its swirls and curves inviting me to come visit. When I picture gingerbread trim, I think of peaked roofs, attic rooms, covered veranda's, welcoming front entries,...I could go on and on, and that's just from one small detail of the house.)
Thirteen wooded acres. (What a picturesque, elite, backdrop for such a grand house. I'm thinking there might even be trails in those wooded acres. And all the critters that must live and play on such a property. Surely the yard has a birdbath and feeders situated near the home. Maybe the owner keeps binoculars in a basket sitting on a deep wooden windowsill inside the parlour.)
So in four lines of writing, I have a pretty good picture of this home in my mind's eye, and the property that surrounds it, and I've even started thinking about how the owner might live (binoculars and all). All this came from six specific, concise details provided by the author.
This post would go on forever if I attempted to go inside the house with the second paragraph's details. It's just so vivid to me, I feel like I'm actually pocketing that change from a high bureau chest of drawers, passing the wide wood-trimmed doors upstairs and descending the wooden staircase with heavy, shapely spindles guiding the way into a hallway that opens into a room with a grand fireplace. I can even envision the type of furniture this house holds, solid, sturdy, lasting.
Go ahead, pick that second paragraph apart, and enjoy the picture it provides for you. I bet it's different than mine, because you'll use your own storehouse of Victorian House memories along with the details provided to complete your canvass, and what a perfect picture yours will be for you, as mine is for me. Details, chosen wisely, can appeal to all your readers.
I challenge you to discover the details that lend themselves to a bigger picture. Include those details in your writing and let the reader's imagination paint the rest of the canvass subconsciously.
56 days left to reflect and celebrate our Saviour's birth.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
By allowing your protagonist to be candid, whether he's of the likable nature or not, and by revealing at least one of his vulnerabilities, a writer essentially has the ability to create a character that readers can relate to and will want to learn more about.
So go ahead and reveal the flaws within your characters early on, but consider doing so within that particular character's own POV. Let the reader experience your character's flaws through his or her own perception.
Create real time empathy and your reader will be drawn in. Well, at least the readers with an ounce of compassion will be, even if your character is ugly inside and out. As long as the reader receives a hint of "why" the character is the way he/she is, or that they're disturbed by their own faults, then empathy can be conceived.
How do you make the unlikeable tolerable in your writing?
57 days left to reflect and celebrate our Saviour's birth.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
The goal is to get the reader contemplating about what's going to happen, or what has happened to put the character in his/her present state, or raise a why this or why that type of question. You want your reader to want to know more, and to do that you need to get them wondering about this or that. Any type of question that you can spark will go a long way in keeping your audience reading to find out the answer.
Curiosity draws readers in, so be sure to give them something to be curious about in your opening paragraphs.
58 days left to reflect and celebrate our Saviour's birth.
Monday, October 27, 2008
You might want to consider including one in your opening paragraphs if you haven't all ready. An unexpected incident or character reaction is a great way to grab the reader's attention pronto and keep them hooked on your writing. So, if you find your opening isn't catchy enough, think of what the average reader wouldn't be expecting, and utilize it to your advantage.
One of the biggest surprise openings I've read lately was in the opening of Cheryl Wyatt's A Soldier's Family, a Steeple Hill, Love Inspired novel. She opened with a crash landing. Not your typical start to a romance. Thriller/Suspense, yes, but not in a romance. She immediately surprised me, and thus caught my attention to keep reading and get to know her characters.
What ways have you found, or can think of, to surprise your reader? Feel free to share.
59 days left to reflect and celebrate our Saviour's birth.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
As a rule, I believe I give constructive criticism with a dose of praise in each of the critiques I do. I view my job as a critiquer to be fair and honest within the confines of my own subjectivity. That end part is the key, I believe, to helping those new to critiquing. If you go into the rounds of critiquing with nothing else than the knowledge that subjectivity is everywhere in this craft, you'll be so much more emotionally equipped to handle the comments coming your way. If your critique partner(s) are truly invested in helping you, then take their comments seriously, mull over even the ones you disagree with immediately to see if you can discover its merit on further thought, then alter your work according to your decisions.
Now, I don't know what the most hurtful comment that I've given has been because no one has scolded me for being malicious with their work yet. But I certainly know which one and only comment I received that stung bad, so bad that I sobbed over it (this happened very early on in my writing, I've developed a much thicker skin since then). For all you critiquers out there, do you have a comment to share to add to the "DO NOT INCLUDE (DNI)" list for new critiquers? I really think there should be such a listing, it would alleviate a whole lot of heartache for beginner writers.
I'll go first.
#1 DNI item: "You have no voice, or at best it's generic enough that I can't hear it."
You tell me, how does that help a writer develop their writerly voice? A writer's voice is something that develops over time, and is so complex, that commenting on the non-existence of it is futile, and seriously hurtful to a beginner. My suggestion, wait until you start 'hearing' his/her voice, and then comment on how lovely or unique it sounds. Save the voice thing for a praise since there isn't much a writer can do other than to keep writing and honing their craft to develop their voice anyway. Always think constructive when making comments on other's work.
Okay, it's your turn all you seasoned critiquers reading this. What would you add to the DNI (Do Not Include) list for critique etiquette? And for those who aren't yet involved a critique group, feel free to comment on what you would hope to get out of a critique partner(s) relationship.
63 days left to reflect and celebrate our Saviour's birth.
Monday, October 20, 2008
November is National Novel Writing Month. A month where writers all over the world work to create a novel in one month.
In the words of the official organization : "National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30."
Last year I wrote the first draft of For Better or For Worse? (one of my Olive Series stories) during November. This year, I have a slight head start, I'm up to 2,500 words of The Unlikely One, but discovering that I really need to do some character sketching and GMC charting for it before I continue writing. So, although, I won't be writing this year as a die-hard seat-of-your-pantster, I will be participating in NaNoWriMo, and hope to see The Unlikely One grow to a good size during the month of November. Due to time restraints, I may not make the 50,000-word organization goal, but I'll do my best, that's for sure.
What about you? Have you ever dreamed of writing a novel? If so, please join me during November, sign up at NaNoWriMo, and let the writing begin on November 1, 2008.
66 days left to reflect and celebrate our Saviour's birth.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Alisha has always been a well-rounded student, but I always thought she tended more toward the maths and sciences, like both her parents, but I have to wonder now. Seeing how engrossed she was while working on this project, and how quickly she decided which medium to use for the next portion, I now wonder if we have an architect or artsy of some kind budding within our home.
Children have a way of making the future seem so exciting? Seriously, if I'm bored with my life, or just simply procrastinating while waiting for the next big scene to present itself for my wip (that's work in progress), all I have to do is think of my three daughters, and wonder what vocation they'll choose, or if it will be several for each of them. What a great way to brainstorm for your characters, too. Perhaps I just have to think of them as my babies, and let my imagination run wild like I do for my girls' future.
One big problem with that, I refuse to dream up nasty conflict for my daughters. A sure sign of a dud story, but makes for a happy dream life for my girls.
Children can be an inspiration for so many things. So I say, let's celebrate them, and all they accomplish while discovering themselves. A blessing like no other!
The word of the week is back, and today it's brought to you by Dictionary.com :
expeditious \ek-spuh-DISH-uhs\, adjective:Characterized by or acting with speed and efficiency.
His problem was to get from Lookout Valley to Chattanooga Valley in the most expeditious way possible.-- Ulysses S. Grant, Personal Memoirs
The criminal may of course use some short-term act of violence to 'terrorize' his victim, such as waving a gun in the face of a bank clerk during a robbery in order to ensure the clerk's expeditious compliance.-- Bruce Hoffman, Inside Terrorism
Expeditious is derived from Latin expeditus, "unshackled, unimpeded, ready for action," from expedire, "to free (one's feet) from a snare; hence, to get out, to set free, to get ready for action," from ex-, "out of" + pes, ped-, "foot."
May the weekend bring you a surprise or two!
69 days left to reflect and celebrate our Saviour's birth.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Love Inspired Oct 08
By Patricia Davids
Back Cover Blurb: A Child's Life Is in Her Hands
Operating on a sick little boy is Dr. Nora Blake's responsibility. Answering a determined reporter's questions about the surgery is not. Especially because Robert Dale is delving into her life, too. Nora has her share of secrets. She won't allow a newspaper to profit from the child's story--or her own. Granted, the handsome reporter truly seems to care. About young, orphaned Ali. About her. And thanks to Rob's skills at digging deep, there is one question she just might answer with a joyful yes...
Patricia Davids stories have always presented good reads for me. As a fairly new author (A Matter of the Heart is Davids sixth published Love Inspired novel) I appreciate her attention to detail and steady writing style. She always presents three-dimensional characters and her stories move.
Dr. Nora Blake comes across as a very real physician, struggles and all, in A Matter of the Heart. And although I found some of reporter Robert Dale's early dialogue bordering on backstory dump, I can't fault Davids for doing so, as it offers authenticity to the hero's vocation. The underlying mystery in the plot adds intrigue to the story, and also livens the pace.
All round good read with a message of hope and understanding. Praise to Patricia Davids for another wonderful novel!
70 days to reflect and celebrate our Saviour's birth.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
It's a little scary as I am writing in my usual seat-of-the-pants style and depending on my characters (with God's guidance, of course) to tell me what their story is as I work the keys on my laptop. I, of course, know the hero and heroine, the main conflict (And it's a good one I think. Something realistic, but not often used in an Inspirational Romance.), and the spiritual growth thread I want to incorporate is clear to me. So I'm off to a good start.
With a romance, the beginning and end are for the most part a given. Beginning: Have the hero and heroine meet in some interesting scene. End: Always a Happily Ever After, or it wouldn't be a true romance story. It's the middle that can cause romance writers to wish they had never started the piece to begin with. Thankfully, I'm still in the beginning phase, so I shouldn't have too much trouble clicking in a thousand words a day for a week or so yet.
I've decided that after years of studying this craft, and writing stories in what I call my Olive Series, that it's time I set a goal of submitting a manuscript to agents and editors. I haven't done that since the first year I took on this writing endeavor, and that was in my great naivety when I didn't realize how very much I still needed to learn. Actually, I'll always have oodles to learn when it comes to writing, but if I never submit, will I ever find out if I'm getting closer to creating publishable stories?
So, here is my goal, set in print. Since it often takes several months to hear back from agents and editors (for those houses that accept unagented work) I intend to submit one of my stories (likely this new one, since I can't seem to do right by any of my Olive Stories) by June 30, 2009 at the latest. That should give me enough time to write the story, run it through my critique group, and create a proposal to go with it. I'm cloaking this goal in prayer starting now.
At some point I'll find a widget that tracks word count and add it to this blog so that my writing progress for The Unlikely One is visible for all to see. It'll help me stay accountable, too, I hope.
What do you think? Am I making a wise goal? If you think not, please don't burst my bubble. I need this goal to jump start a more positive writing experience, and I need it now. Really, I do!
Blessings to all, and may your writing experiences be joyous ones, too.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Today is the kick-off for Oktoberfest in Kitchener/Waterloo. It always kicks off on the Thanksgiving weekend. The big thing they're talking about this year is the fact that the weather looks as though it will cooperate for the big parade, and the pancake breakfast coming up tomorrow. Which means that the weather will also cooperate for all the fun family events everyone is planning for their Thanksgiving celebration.
This year will be a little odd for my family, as my mother left for Israel last night, and thus she won't be celebrating Thanksgiving in body with us. Though I know she will be in spirit. With Mom away touring the Holy Land with a group of lady friends, we daughters got to thinking that Dad may need some extra attention. And what better way to do that than enlist him to teach us how to juice.
You see, Dad makes the absolute best grape juice, and for years he's been so kind as to juice extra for all five of his daughters to enjoy. But this year, it just makes sense to participate in the whole juicing extravaganza, which will also have us each going home with more than a precious few bottles that we must ration throughout the year. I'm looking forward to learning and sharing this time with Dad and which ever sisters happen to stop by during my shift with the juicer and Dad.
As a bonus, this year I won't feel guilty about using some of the limited juice for my Christmas fruitcake recipe. My girls have always scowled at me in the past for "wasting" Papa's good juice on a cake they haven't yet acquire a taste for. One day they too will understand that Papa's juice makes all the difference in how my fruitcake turns out. (I'm thinking their weddings here. I believe that's around the time I finally came to enjoy a good piece of fruitcake, myself.)
Hmmm, where was I hoping to go with this post, anyway?
Oh, yes, for all you fellow Canadians reading this post, as you celebrate Thanksgiving this weekend, no matter what you do, whether it be juicing with your Dad, or playing football with the gang, or a game of monopoly between pie baking and potato peeling, etc., may you take a moment to pause and recognize what you have to be thankful for, and may praise be lifted to Him, our Heavenly Father, for providing so graciously for us!
To my non-Canadian visitors, I wish you a wonderful 'everyday' weekend, and may you feel the urge to warm-up your Thanks-lifting, for your Thanksgiving is coming up just around the corner.
What follows is an Uncle Ben's Stuff'n Such recipe for Meatloaf. I thought I'd share it for all those looking for a non-turkey easy meal to have before the big Turkey feast arrives, whether it be this weekend or a few away.
1 box Uncle Ben's Stuff'n Such Country Style
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Egg lightly beaten
1/2 cup Milk
1-1/2 lb. Extra Lean Ground beef
1/4 cup Ketchup
1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
1 tsp. Prepared mustard
1. Combine contents of crumb pouch and milk.
2. Add egg, worcestershire sauce and contents of seasoning pouch to crumb/milk mixture. Mix well.
3. Add ground beef and mix until combined.
4. Press into a 9" pie plate.
5. Blend Ketchup, sugar and mustard. Brush sauce over meatloaf.
6. Bake at 350 F for 35 minutes.
Serves 4 - 6. Enjoy! It's the moistest meatloaf I've ever made, and the girls love it, especially when I double the topping sauce.
(We'll be having this on Saturday with my Dad while juicing, as Turkey dinners are anticipated for the remaining weekend. I just finished pre-cooking it. The aroma in the house is making me hungry!)
Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving Everyone,
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Monday, October 6, 2008
My second daughter was at a friend's barn a couple weeks ago. She went to ride a pony, Sonny, who she has been training for quite some time, but instead got caught up in the 'fascinating' veterinary job of dehorning a couple young cattle that share the barn with Sonny. I was horrified to hear that she'd spent her time helping with and observing the procedure.
"How could you watch that?" After seeing the aftermath a few months ago of blood-soaked hides on the older cattle, all I could visualize was gore and horror. I looked at my daughter for the first time in her life like she was some weird, heartless child.
"Mom, it's interesting stuff. Besides, there was no blood this time. I got to fill the syringes. They were put to sleep, they didn't feel a thing."
"No blood?" Wasn't possible in my mind. Not from what I'd seen before. "How can that be?"
"If they're dehorned early enough, they can just melt the horns. No blood. Really cool. But even if there were blood, it wouldn't bother me. They don't feel it happening."
"You actually find that kind of stuff interesting." What happened to my dear sweet little girl who played with dolls and barbies, dressing and undressing, and poofing their golden hair?
"Yeah, maybe I'll become a vet."
$$$ start flashing before my eyes. I know veterinarians make healthy incomes. After all, our household has helped support a few of their lifestyles for many years, not the least of which is this past one with Tucker's broken leg, and Columbo's thyroid problems. I have a thyroid issue too, but man, neither the drugs or the blood testing costs me near as much it does for our sixteen-year-old tabby cat. This ability, or open-mindedness my daughter has toward medical procedures may just be a good thing after all, I'm thinking.
We are all blessed with individual gifts. And I'm thinking those gifts may sprout from how we perceive individual situations or conditions. To me, working on a living creature, human or otherwise, gives me the willies. I can't get beyond that feeling, so clearly my strength is not in the medical profession. But thankfully there are those who can see beyond the oozing blood, past the open flesh, anticipate healing from short-term pain, and truly be fascinated and awed by carrying out procedures that are far less than beautiful in my eyes.
Whether my daughter heads to veterinary school in five years or not, I have no idea, but for now, she has opened my eyes a little bit wider. Perception is a powerful tool, a character building one at that. As a writer, this experience with my daughter taught me a very important lesson. If we can get into the heads of our characters, and understand how they perceive what is around them, then we are one step closer to authentically writing their stories.
Friday, October 3, 2008
Thursday, October 2, 2008
It's true, I'm not. Letting people in cyber space and other writers know that I'm attempting to be a published author is much safer and far more comfortable than having to deal with people of close proximity asking "How's the writing going?" every time you happen to cross paths. After a while they, too, learn to stop asking, and discover vicariously through you that this business is slow going. Either that, or they come to think that you're just an awful writer and living in a dreamworld to waste such precious time trying to get a story down worthy of publication. Either way, it's the writer who has to live with the feeling of incompetence every time they hear that question. A huge reminder of how difficult this business is. Do we really need this added frustration? I think not.
The truth is, few people who haven't attempted to learn the craft of fiction writing understand that the average author has sweat and toiled over learning this art for a good number of years before the glory day of publication arrives. Even more writers never see that glory day despite years and years dedicated to honing the craft. Nevertheless, I believe time spent writing is never a waste. Not if you write with a desire to please your Heavenly Father. For God can use our training-years in so many wonderful ways. I know, because I've experienced a few eye-openers already as a direct result of my writing.
If you are called to write, write for the immense gifts that writing can bring to your life. And if someone asks just one too many times, "How's the writing going?", invite them to join you on this writing journey. Worst case scenario is that they'll take you up on it and they'll get published tout de suite, but hey, then you'll always know that your encouragement had a place in his/her success. And that's the next best thing to being published yourself.
Blessings to all!
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
In my excitement to go pick him up though, I forgot to grab my nightstand book, and since I was early without something to read, I decided I'd stop at the nearby Zellers and see if the new October Love Inspired releases were shelved a day early. They were. And to my great surprise, two of the four stories depict a beautiful Christmas/winter scene on their cover. I guess I'm not too early to start the countdown after all. There are others like me out there. Yahoo!
Aren't the covers of this months releases gorgeous? I can't wait to devour the stories. Usually I restrain myself and choose two or three of the four available titles each month, but as I read the back cover blurbs, I decided I needed to enjoy all of these stories this month.
Happy reading, everyone.