Monday, August 31, 2009

Revisiting Premises

Donald Maass talks about developing a breakout premise in his Writing the Breakout Novel. I read The Moral Premise, so this topic is fairly familiar to me, and I really get the necessity of it for our novels to have a deep meaning that can help change people, or at least encourage them to think and contemplate. Who doesn't want their stories to go beyond entertaining? To help create a new reader in one way or another? I do.

So here are some pointers that Donald Maass offers. One I've heard many times, but is definitely worth hearing again: "...frequent application of the question "What if?""

Do you pull out that "What if?" trick whenever things start getting a little too simple, eye-lid drooping boring in your novels? What about pulling it out while contemplating your book's premise? This two-word question can help writers in so very many ways. It's one to keep ready and waiting in your hat at all phases in your writing process.

Should you tend to the obvious for a premise? Donald Maass suggests not. The more unique and interesting your premise, the closer you'll be to creating a breakout novel. So how do we grab hold of unique? Pick some premises that have touched you and tie them together, or mold them into a fresh new one that is ever more powerful. Ask the what if's. Keep digging until you touch on something that resonates, something that your core feels strongly about--strong enough about to run the course of a whole novel because you've never read anything that tackled this specific premise before--and certainly not not in your crafty way.

Seek gut emotional appeal in developing your premise. Don't hold back. Dig into that pot of emotions, stir them up, and be willing to tackle them in your stories. Writing isn't for the weak.

Inherent conflict is also a must in creating a breakout premise. Is your story set in a safe place, safe setting? How can you make that NOT safe? Do so, and then you'll discover some breakout inherent conflict.

Plausibility. I believe if you follow the above guidelines, you can't help but find a plausible premise, but it is worth noting that plausibility is a must. I don't know how you can get gut emotional appeal without plausibility, though!

So there you have it--the recipe for a breakout premise. So, how do you go about finding the premises for your stories?

Surrendering to Him,


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Garden Party Any One?

Please, enjoy a cold glass of old-fashioned real lemonade while strolling through my gardens.

This is what my English style garden looks like from my kitchen patio doors.

Here are a few closer-up pics.

This shows the English garden from an aerial view.

This shows the side entry from the garden shed that leads into the English garden. Had to show off my hubby's stone work in this party!

This is our memorial garden for Kelsha, our first black lab who died nearly four years ago at the age of fourteen. She loved to eat raspberries right off the bushes, so of course her garden has a patch of raspberries in it.

We lost our dear Columbo (brown tabby cat at sixteen years old) this year, and so I created this little nook near Kelsha's garden with a stone cat hiding under the chair to represent our Columbo and how he used to seek shade under decks, chairs, tables, whatever.

This last picture isn't from my garden, it's my dad's. We don't get annuals that grow like this in our part of world often, so I just had to show off my dad's mammoth Caster Bean tree in this garden party. And, yup, that's my dad who will turn 75 this September 2nd. We're celebrating his birthday at the family gathering/reunion this weekend!

I hope you enjoyed my garden tour/party. I'm looking forward to seeing others out there in the cyber world. For your ongoing enjoyment, here's my recipe for the old-fashioned real lemonade that I hope you enjoyed while touring my gardens.

Old-Fashioned Real Lemonade

8 large lemons
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups water
pinch salt

lemon slices for serving time only

Finely grate rind of 2 lemons. In small saucepan, combine grated rind, sugar, water and salt. Bring to boil, stirring constantly. Boil 5 minutes, continually stirring. Remove from heat; let cool.

Squeeze juice from all lemons (you should have about 1 3/4 cups juice).

When syrup is cool, stir in lemon juice. Transfer to large jar; refrigerate, covered, up to 3 weeks. (This is your homemade lemonade concentrate.)

To serve, dilute 1/4 cup concentrate in 3/4 cup cold water or soda water. Add ice and lemon slices, and ENJOY!!

Makes 4 cups concentrate.

Surrendering to Him,


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Allergic to Deep Cleaning?

Does anyone experience what I'm enduring right now?

Since Monday I've been deep cleaning our house in preparation for the family gathering on Saturday. As I go along, I'm discovering that only a small portion of it will actually be complete, as each room is taking me way longer than expected--especially with all the sneezing, weepy eyes, and runny nose getting in the way! My head is driving me nuts.

The dust motes are jumping for joy and celebrating their victory over me taking so long to get to them! Hate it when I make dirt happy!

Anyway, tomorrow is blog garden tour day for me. And since my gardens aren't near as nice as they should be, I'll strategically capture in my camera lens what looks semi-presentable and share only those pictures. I'll also share an old-fashioned lemonade recipe for this little garden party. I hope others will join me in posting a picture or two of their favorite flower, vegetable plant, grass, or whatever is growing in your yard now that you thank God for.

We'll continue with Writing the Breakout Novel learnings next week. Too busy with cleaning this week to put into words what I've captured so far in my reads lately. It certainly is deserving of this second read and many more, I'm discovering.

Surrendering to Him,

Monday, August 24, 2009

Four Musts

I'm still re-working through Writing The Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. According to Maass, great novels are created with, "Above and beyond the setting, characters and plot, these are probably novels that altered your way of seeing the world." (pg. 39)

So, breaking this down, we have:

1) A setting for our story that is unique in its own way. It needs to be sufficiently different from what the mass majority of readers see every day. I wonder if that's why a lot of authors pick a rural setting? Rural in itself means low population, so therefore few people, when compared with the total population, truly experience rural life in all its glory. It's been a bit overdone though, I suppose. But what about choosing something even more specific than geographic location for the just of your story setting? What if you have intimate knowledge of what life is like as a miner, or you know the ins and outs of being a school custodian? Can you write a story with vivid, interesting details of these not-so-well-known settings? Can these setting provide enough food for conflict? Depending on the characters, they just may if you've got the inside scoop. I know I don't. So I have to dig deeper to discover what I'm intimately familiar with that the mass population is not!

2) As for our story characters, they need to be larger-than-life. Not zany and unbelievable, but who we wish we could be. They need to experience stuff and react to that stuff in ways that make the reader perk their eyebrows and say, "now I can learn a thing or two from this guy", or "Man, I wish I was like him."

3) Plot. Oh, that lovely plot dilemma. Think outside the box for this one. Or go inside the box and start spewing "what ifs" all over the place to get you teetering outside the box. Forget about mundane or the norm of experiences, instead find those really unique scenarios that will wake your reader up and grab his/her attention. Again, not unbelievable experiences, but ones that don't happen every single day. If they do happen every day, make them happen with a whole lot of twists so they come across as unique at least.

4) Message! That's what "novels that altered your way of seeing the world" provides. Make your story have meaning by presenting a message throughout. There's got to be some life lesson in all that showing you're doing. Something that the reader, if not consciously, subconsciously takes away from the story world they've just read. Something that makes them question if their living right, or how they can live better.

One last quote for this post from Donald Mass that struck home with me recently: "These novels change us because their authors are willing to draw upon their deepest selves without flinching. They hold nothing back, making their novels the deepest possible expression of their own experience and beliefs." (pg. 39)

That sounds like a challenge to me. A challenge that takes a whole lot of bravery. What have you incorporated in your novels that reveals something from your deepest self? Is it easy for you to read even after the umpteenth revision?

P.S. I'm so very excited! Yippey! It's finished. Hubby completed it. And now I'm on my way to New York--that is virtually, I'm on my way. Check my newest post out on my weight management blog. Exciting times ahead I say. So very exciting, indeed. Thanks to Carolyne Fyffe for the idea!

Surrendering to Him,


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Time To Show Off Your Green Thumb

I'm designating Thursday, August 27th to garden tour blog day. If you have potted flowers, or a garden full of blooms, I hope you'll join me in sharing the beauty in blogosphere this Thursday by posting a picture or more of your labours of love.

Any garden recipes out there? I'll be sharing my old-fashioned lemonade recipe along with the pics of my gardens on Thursday. As one day I hope to have a real live garden party, and I'd definitely be partaking in a cup of ice-cold lemonade at that!

Be sure to let us know if you'll be joining in the Garden festivities on Thursday in the comment section, so we'll be sure to check it out. Wouldn't want to miss any one's garden tour, now would we!

Surrendering to Him,

Friday, August 21, 2009

Love Is...

Biting My Tongue!

I don't know about you, but I'm an expensive wife! At least I dream to be. I'm always dreaming of something that needs renovating. Like my pink bathtub, pink toilet and sink, and then there's the green toilet and vanity, and then there's the kitchen with the chipped painted cupboards, broken rollers, and stained tile counter top. I mean, who wouldn't want to upgrade these rooms? I'm guessing the States is like Canada, in that bone colour or white is in right now and has been for the last few decades. Am I right?

Well, apparently my hubby doesn't have a problem with any of this. And so, even when the opportunity poses itself for a great lead-in to my wonderful renovation suggestions, for this week I'm sacrificing my tongue for the love of my dear hubby. I'm going to keep my mouth shut and give hubby a break from this broken record of desiring household renovations. But I'm only committing to one week, or he might truly think his wife has taken a 180. Which I definitely have not! But one week of peace is better than none. Right?

What could you bite your tongue over this week as a blessing for your dear spouse?

Surrendering to Him,


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Are you writing the Breakout or Break-In Novel?

I'm attempting to do both.

Since I'm not published yet, I figure the best chance I have of writing a Break-In novel is to aim for a Breakout novel. Once I'm published, then I'll aim to write yet another Breakout novel that will see a sore in my readership.

On my last post I received some comments referencing Rachelle Gardner's post on writing the Break-In novel. With each comment I thought to myself, "But isn't one great way to write the Break-In novel by striving to write a Breakout novel? Cause, in effect, if we're not published yet, even our first published novel, the break-in novel by Rachelle Gardner's definition, is in fact for us a breakout novel, since presumably we'll be going from 0 readership to at least two or three readers. Right? And that's a 200 to 300% increase in readership. That's not a bad increase for a new writer in my books." (And, yes, this is how I think in my head. I go on and on. It's scary really! And I often make little sense too.)

So, since I missed Rachelle Gardner's post while away, I jumped over and found it for my personal viewing. If you haven't already read it, check it out here.

I'm hating blogger these days. It's refusing to allow me to copy and paste with the cntrl c and v feature, with the exception of hyperlinks. What I wanted to copy and paste in here is Gardner's second last paragraph in that post. The five line paragraph that confirmed my ranting thoughts. Even the beginner can use Maass' concepts and guidance in his book Writing the Breakout Novel to create what Rachelle Gardner calls the Break-In novel. Alas, my study of Writing the Breakout Novel will not be in vain. There is value in it after all, even for someone who hasn't Broken-In yet!

If I've learned nothing else in my six-year writing journey thus far, it is that I must keep striving for perfection in order to improve just a little. Funny thing is, the more I learn and apply, the more I discover I still need to grasp and perfect! I've picked the perfect career for preventing Alzheimer's (I read somewhere that learning, keeping your brain gears active, is a natural preventative of Alzheimer's), cause learning to write better never ends, even after the Break-In and then the Breakout novel, because you can always strive for your next biggest Breakout novel. Talk about the journey that never ends!

Anyway, here's a Donald Maass quote to ponder today: "What the inexperienced novelist has not yet learned is how to make all that vivid stuff as vivid to the reader as it is in the writer's mind." (Pg. 40 Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass.)

Are you like me, something seems so vivid to you in your head, that you think you've caught it on the page, but in reality, to the average reader, you haven't?

Surrendering to Him,


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Early Bird Breakout

In a few short weeks I'll be sitting in on ACFW's early bird session on Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, so I thought I better re-read his novel and take a look through the workbook again to be prepared. So, from now until conference I'll be sharing a little of what I've been reading in at least a couple of my posts each week. It's about time I get back to sharing the art of studying craft on this blog. I've always found that it helps cement the concepts into my head too.

Whenever I study a craft book, I pull out my trusty highlighter. Love that invention! In my first read through, I used yellow, but this time I'm using blue. So when something ends up greenish (blue on top of yellow), I know I've hit something that sings to me. So I'll be sharing a selection of those noteworthy lines in these post for us all to learn from. Can't share them all--I'm noticing way too many greenish lines so far to do that! So, for starters:

"Breakout novels are highly detailed and generally complex." (Pg. 28)

Okay, now that poses an issue for me. I'm not a complex person, nor do I like stories that take me in several different directions at one time. But is that really what this means? I'm going to refer to Twilight often in these posts, because I believe that it is one of the most widely and most recent known breakout novels published. Is it highly detailed? I'd say yes. But it isn't riddled with such on every single page. Stephenie Meyer chooses carefully where to put detail and how much to include, whether intentionally or not. And that's what keeps the story moving and not overwhelming.

Is it generally complex? Aw, well, do vampires really exist? How does Meyer's make Edward seem so human, yet he's a mythical "vegetarian" vampire? I think the key word in this is "generally" for one thing. Generally gives a lot of leeway, so that it doesn't go over the top of most peoples' heads, but yet it's sufficiently different from the norm that it grabs and keeps our attention. Do we need to tap into the untrue to achieve that, though? No. If we write strictly reality driven stories, then I believe to make it "generally complex" we need only dig deeper into the issue we're creating the story to portray. Make it something that the reader will learn from, or at least start pondering their own view on, so that it becomes "generally complex" to them.

I write inspirational romances. A lot of people frown on any sub genre of romance, as if they have no real value. I sat watching my family eat at the popular Kawartha Dairy ice cream on vacation last week and looking around at all the other patrons sitting at picnic tables, glider swings, and on the grassy hillside, I noticed several "couples". Each couple told a story (at least in my mind they did.) Everywhere I look, I discover more couples. Our world revolves around relationships, relationships with God, relationships with co-workers, relationships with your doctor, and yes, relationships with the love of your life. If you don't have a love-of-your-life, the odds are you're looking for one. So, you tell me, is writing an inspirational romance that depicts a healthy, yet sufficiently complex enough courtship, that also delves into a "generally complex" issue (as if finding romance isn't complex enough) worthless?

It isn't to me. Romances written to inspire and stretch the human realm of emotions, are as valuable to me and my growth as a human being, spiritually and otherwise, as a new study and cure is for heart disease to a Cardiologist. And it's something I can much more relate to, also.

So, how are you making your stories, whatever genre, detailed and generally complex enough to possibly become the next breakout novel? Or, if you're a romance writer, how do you validate writing in a genre that is so widely criticized and snuffed off as irrelevant or petty?

Surrendering to Him,


Monday, August 17, 2009

Oh, Life at the Cottage...

We had a wonderful time last week. I hope you all had a great week too!
To ease back into life as is, here are a few pictures from my week at the cottage.


The kids doing dishes while having fun--Major Accomplishment!!

Our Furs enjoying the water.

Sand Castle Building


And for those who were wondering--Spider (Spidy) Wieners. Yummy!

I look forward to catching up on everyone's blogs. It may take me the week. But I will catch up! Along with going through my 710 emails awaiting my attention.

Have a blessed week everyone!

Surrendering to Him,


Friday, August 14, 2009

Love Is...

Breakfast in Bed!

How long has it been since you cooked up a good breakfast and served it to your spouse in bed just because you love him/her? For me, it's been way too long. I often serve hubby coffee in bed since I rise before him usually, but never breakfast, unless it's with our girls for father's day. So, this week my challenge is to fix hubby a nice breakfast and serve it to him in bed one morning. And for my hubby, that means I better add breakfast sausages to this weeks grocery list. Because those are his all time favorite for breakfast.

Won't you join me in serving up a leisurely breakfast to your spouse this week?

Surrendering to Him,


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Unplug Week

So this is the middle of my unplug week (these posts were made last week and scheduled), and I'm sure by now I'm feeling withdrawal badly. I'm wanting to hear all the news of my blogging buddies, wanting to laugh, cringe, cry with you all, but alas, I'm working on doing all that with my family whom I'm sure are very supportive ;)...really!

Hopefully I'll have some great stories and pics to share when I get back. But what I'm really worried about is being the last one to hear big news. Isn't that sad, I'm even competitive in the news department. Regardless, I am praying that you all have a wonderful week and that big wonderful celebration type news from you guys awaits me upon my return. I'll be cheering with you and for you in spirit if not in the comment sections this week. And to make this writing related, I'm thinking my heroine needs to be more competitive to up the steaks in my current story.

Anyone ever written a competitive character before? How did you do it without it coming across as obsessive?

Keep smiling everyone!

Surrendering to Him,


Monday, August 10, 2009

Brain Dead Haven

Ever have a brain dead time and discovered you liked that feeling? I'm there now, just enjoying the quietness of brain deadness.

Seriously, it's like a mini vacation from all the to-do's on one list and from all the must-remembers on my other list. There's truly something wonderful about being free of thinking responsibly for a few hours every now and then.

If you haven't experienced brain deadness lately, I encourage you to try it. Take a break from all the pressures of your life for just a short while and get rejuvenated. If you need help, try and get in that state by concentrating on your breathing alone. Let everything else fall away, then see how long it takes your mind to wander into fun creative thinking.

Sometimes all we need to discover a jump start in writing, is to first be still and allow our brain to stop working for just a little while. I hope it works for you.

This is my unplug week, and I'm missing visiting all your blogs. I know I'm going to be crazy busy next week getting caught up. Can't wait! But certainly enjoying my family time presently too.

Surrendering to Him,


Friday, August 7, 2009

Love Is...

sharing a little laughter!

What makes your hubby laugh? A good comedy? A clean joke? Funny prank? Or an all out tickle fight?

If it's a prank, I've got one for you to try. If your hubby isn't fond of snakes, but has a very strong heart, and might get a kick out this, have fun with it. Find a curled English cucumber, the longer the better. Be sure to clean off all the prickles so that it is nice and smooth. Slip between the sheets on hubby's side of the bed far enough down that he won't notice it until he crawls in and feels it. Be ready for a quick exit from the bed and a good laugh when he realizes it's only a cucumber and not the dreaded snake he thought it was!

My challenge this week is to share a good laugh with hubby while we are at the cottage. Would love to hear what gets your hubby laughing.

Surrendering to Him,


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Winner of Return To Love...

Congratulations to T. Anne! My middle daughter picked your ballot. Please send me your snail mail address to eileenastels[at]rogers[dot]com for me to send this fun read out to you.

Thanks everyone who commented on my slush pile post. You guys are an awesome, encouraging, and wonderful bunch of blogging buddies! Have no fear, I am right back into finishing my current ms. The goal is to have it ready for conference too. Big goal, so I must stay focused.

The ROM was great yesterday with hubby. They only had fragments of a few of the Dead Sea Scrolls on exhibit and no pictures were aloud. But the wealth of information displayed was awesome, and we loved seeing so many other exhibits as well. The highlight of the day, though, was the flooding. Seriously, what took us one hour and twenty minutes to travel in the morning, took nearly four hours in the evening because of stalling cars and the highway getting flooded from a torrential downpour. AMAZING!! Like driving through a lake, and we could only that by squeezing into the left lane. Definite sewage or engineering issues in that part of the highway.

What's the weirdest thing you've ever experienced on one of your excursions?

Surrendering to Him,


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Welcoming Me into the Slush Pile

I don't know whether to cry or leap for joy, but yes, I've finally done it!

On this, my nineteenth wedding anniversary, I'm joining the ranks of you wonderful writers who have submitted queries and synopsis into the infamous slush pile of Steeple Hill Books, or any other editors/agents slush pile for that matter. We're just one big happy slush family, no matter where our labored pages reside, right?

After mailing my baby out this morning, hubby and I will be celebrating our anniversary in Toronto, checking out the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit there. I still can't find my camera, so I'm bumbed about that, but hopefully one of our daughters will loan me theirs for the day.

So, for you experienced ones, just how do you manage the slush pile wait? I'm actually looking forward to receiving my first official rejection letter to start the progressive writers process. It's got to happen some time, so I'm gathering courage and just praying that some helpful advice will come with the expected letter. I think I might curl up and die if I receive only a form letter rejection. Don't even want to think of how I would handle that after nearly seven years of writing my heart out. That's yet another scenario to add to my prayers.

So how long of a wait have you all endured? And how did you keep from splitting from anticipation as those final weeks approached?

Surrendering to Him,

Monday, August 3, 2009

Can You Take Just One?

Last week I got some wonderful activity ideas from you great blogging buddies for our upcoming week at the cottage, so today I'm going to share a couple recipes that will be going with my family to the cottage. If you have some tried and true recipes to share too, I'd love to have them. My family and I will be in the kitchen pre-preparing for our week at the cottage, as well as packing up a storm. So here's my recipes to share:

Elephant Ears

1/2 dozen eggs
4 to 6 cups flour
1 cup sugar

Mix ingredients until dough is firm, not runny. Keep adding flour until a good consistency for rolling is achieved, but not too dry.

Roll dough flat until just under a 1/4 inch thick. Cut into strips about 1 inch wide and then cut those strips diagonally every four inches or so. Cut a hole in the center of each 4-inch segment and draw one end through the center to make a twist in the dough.

Fry in pre-heated oil until golden brown. Remove from oil and sprinkle with sugar immediately, while still piping hot. (Must be careful of not heating the oil too much, or these will burn easily.)

The recipe doesn't sound like much, but trust me, these are addictive, and a great change from chips. They stay fresh quite a while sealed in an airtight container, too.

And now for a recipe with some alcohol in it for those who don't mind a drink now and again. We used to love sipping on one of these while walking the beach of Lake Superior in Batchawana Bay, Ontario. It's one of my sister's favorites, and even the men enjoyed this girly drink too. It makes a huge batch, so you'll want to have lots of adult friends around to share it with.


1 cup Galliano
2 cups Vodka
2 cups strong tea
2 cups sugar
1 can orange juice
1 can lemonade
6 cups water

Dissolve sugar in hot tea and add all other ingredients. Freeze in a 4 litre ice cream tub. At serving time, mix half cup slush with half cup gingerale or sprite, and enjoy! Very tasty!

Don't forget, I'm giving away a copy of Betsy St. Amant's Return to Love on Wednesday of this week. If you haven't entered the drawing yet, click here and leave a comment to be entered.

Surrendering to Him,