Monday, February 28, 2011

Miralee serves as president of the Portland, Oregon, chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers and speaks to women, libraries, and historical groups about her writing journey. Published first in magazine articles and two anthologies, Miralee moved on to women’s fiction with two contemporary titles. It wasn’t long before she discovered a love for writing historical romance, and her third historical with Summerside Press releases February, 2011.

Miralee and her husband Allen have been married 37 yrs and have two married children. They live on 11 acres in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge in Washington State, where they love to garden, play with their dogs, take walks, ride horses, and go sailing. You can learn more about Miralee and her books by visiting http://www.miraleeferrell.com/ or her Facebook profile at www.facebook.com/miralee.

Did you see yourself becoming a writer as a child? If not, what did you dream of being?

I don’t think the idea of writing ever crossed my mind as child. My older sister and our two best friends played many make-believe games, including creating story worlds we lived in, but it didn’t translate in my thoughts into the writing arena. I didn’t have any aspiration until I hit my early teens when I decided I wanted to be an airline stewardess, as they were called then. Little did I know (having never flown) that I would NOT enjoy flying—especially the take-off and landing—in the big jets, LOL!

How long did you write before you sold your first book?

I started writing short stories based on real events in my life during the summer of 2005, and sold those within a few months. That fall I wrote my debut novel, The Other Daughter, and started shopping it (after revising several times) the following spring (2006). It sold to Kregel that fall, and released one year later in Oct. 2007. It’s been pretty much non-stop since then, with four more novels following that one, and another later this year.

Many of the people who follow our blog are aspiring writers themselves. Can you share your favorite writing tip with them?

It’s so important to hone your skills by working with others. Yes, research, craft books, and conferences are important, but learning from other writers more advanced than you is invaluable. If you aren’t already in a strong critique group, do your best to get plugged into one. I’ve learned so much from my crit partners, and hopefully, I’ve also added to their knowledge and helped polish their writing as well.

Now for the readers…many times, it’s easy for them to connect with the characters in a book, but not so much the authors themselves. Share something about your day-to-day life that might help a reader to feel as though they know you a little better.

We’ve always owned animals…dogs, cats, horses, and for a number of years, two cougars (my husband’s project—read more details on my website). The dogs have always been larger breeds, particularly German Shepherds, Australian Shepherds, and a couple of Lab crosses. I never thought I’d want a small breed. But guess what’s asleep on my lap as I write this—a 6 lb Chihuhua—a medium haired, fluffy little thing that I absolutely LOVE. Her name is Lacey, she’s not yappy or high-strung, she’s loving, cute and FUN! And of course, she thinks she’s pretty much in charge of the house, LOL!

Now that you are published, do you still experience rejections? If so, how are these rejections different or similar to the ones you received before becoming published?

Yes, I do, and I assume that will be an ongoing event, but it is different from when I started. Those rejections were based on my writing—it wasn’t strong enough or polished enough, even though the story caught editors’ attention. Now, the writing is rarely the issue—rather it’s typically that they’ve filled their quota for the type of story I’ve sent, it doesn’t fit their needs, or they don’t see it selling well enough to take the risk. They can love your writing or voice but still turn a proposal down—being multi published doesn’t assure you of a contract, unfortunately!

Tell us a little about your latest release:

Love Finds You in Tombstone, Arizona is my favorite so far of my historical romances, and I’d have to say it’s due to the theme of God’s redeeming love woven through the book, as well as the strong characters that bring the story to life. I was thrilled to get to use a secondary character from Love Finds You in Last Chance, California, Christy Grey, and give Christy her own book. It’s set in the old west in a town many of us are familiar with due to the movie of that name, Tombstone, made famous by Val Kilmer and Kurt Russell. Here’s what the reader will see on the back of the book.

Love and second chances aren’t easy to come by in a town named Tombstone.
When Christy Grey receives an urgent summons to Tombstone, Arizona, she reluctantly leaves her new life in California. The trip goes from bad to worse when masked men hold up Christy’s stage. She finally arrives in Tombstone to find her mother ill and her brother trapped in a life of gambling. Desperate for money to support her family, will Christy bow to pressure from the local saloon owners and return to the life she thought she’d given up for good?

Nevada King has problems of his own. He’s been dodging bullets for years and wants nothing more than to settle down. But he’s on the run from outlaws bent on revenge, and the one woman who captures his interest recognizes him from the stagecoach holdup. Will Christy turn Nevada in to the authorities, or will the outlaws on his trail catch him first?

If you could only share one line from Love Finds You in Tombstone, Arizona, which one would you choose and why?

I hope it’s ok to go a little beyond one line—it’s tough to take one out of context. This is from Sara, a girl who works in a saloon, talking to our heroine, Christy.

“I’m dirty, like an old dishrag left to mold next to the slop bucket. God won’t take notice of me.”

“But that’s where you’re wrong.” Excitement colored Christy’s voice, and she leaned forward, tucking a strand of hair behind Sara’s ear… (skip forward)….

“Sara, none of us are perfect, but God loves us the way we are. He’s the only one who can change us.” Christy suddenly realized all the words she’d spoken to Sara were actually directed at herself. All these years she’d thought she had to be perfect to accept God’s love.

Writers often put things in their books that are very personal—like a funny story that happened to them, a spiritual truth they learned through difficulty, or even just a character trait that is uniquely theirs. Is there something in Love Finds You in Tombstone, Arizona, that only people close to you know is about you or someone you know?

I’ve done that often in the past—especially in my debut novel, The Other Daughter, and again in Love Finds You in Last Chance, CA (with all the horse details, as I’m a horse person). I think what I included in this book (the redemption thread) has more to do with the type of ministry I’m involved in—praying with and counseling hurting women—and seeing God’s grace and redemption at work in their lives.

Readers often talk a lot about the hero and heroine of a story, but today I’d like to know something about your villain. Does he or she have a redeeming quality? Why or why not?

My books rarely depict redeeming qualities for my villain. Not that they might not have some, but because my books don’t center on the villain, they center on the hero and heroine. Because it’s a love story and not suspense, there’s rarely a need to develop a deeply layered villain. I am working on one now, however, where that will change, but to date, it’s not been the case.

What kind of research did you have to do for this book? Can you share some articles or website links you found particularly helpful?

I love the research phase of my books, as (so far) I’ve been able to visit the town or location where each novel is set. My husband Allen and I traveled to Tombstone in April of 2010 and spent 3 ½ days there. We visited the newspaper office, the Bird Cage Theater, the Crystal Palace, the Oriental Saloon, (both depicted in my book), museums, the old courthouse, jail, sheriff’s office, went on an underground tour of an old silver mine, got to see the boarding house I used, and visited many of the businesses (some of which are the original buildings or close to original). I also found a wall map of the city streets of Tombstone during 1881 that I posted close to my desk and referred to often, to accurately depict street names and business names/locations. I also used the library and checked out a number of books on the history of Tombstone, as well as doing online research.

Tell us what new projects you’re working on.

I have several going right now. An editor requested a proposal for a series of horse novels for girls ages 8-12 and I’m hoping to have an answer on those in the next month or so. I’m in the process of writing two new historical novels, one with an old west theme mixed with romance, the other set in the old west, but with more of a mix of women’s fiction and romance. And my next release is August 1st, Love Finds You in Sundance, WY, with Summerside Press. Set in the late 1880’s, it has a lot of action, adventure, romance, and of course, a handsome cowboy for a hero!

The most common thing I hear when people learned I’ve published a book is, “I’ve always wanted to do that.” Faced with this statement, what advice would you give to someone just starting out in this business?

Never give up if you feel this is what you’re called to do. Don’t let others discourage you with their stories of rejections and struggles. Yes, you’ll have rejections as we all do, but don’t live there. Get connected with other writers who will encourage you, while staying open to constructive criticism from writers who’ve gone down the path ahead of you and can help you avoid pitfalls. Above all else, cover everything in prayer. If God is in it, nothing can stand against you!

What is the one question you were afraid I would ask…and how would you answer?

I think one that I dread the most is ‘if your book was a movie, who would play your characters?’ Sigh. I’d say, sorry….I rarely watch current movies, as I don’t have time, so I don’t have a clue who would fit the role. So I guess whoever wants to play them, LOL!
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Miralee is giving away a copy of her book. Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Friday for your chance to win!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

I read an interesting article the other day.

What Does Your Pet Say About You? the headline read. The premise was simple. Pets take on the characteristics of their masters, until their temperament accurately reflects that of the owner.

“Hey, kids,” I called from the living room. “What does my pet say about me?”

“What?” they asked in unison.

“This article says the kind of pet you have says a lot about you. What does Max say about me?”

My daughter laughed, her voice echoing from the kitchen. “He says you’re angry and you don’t like people.”

We all got a good laugh out of the article, but it got me to thinking. If choosing a pet says something about me, what do I say about my Master? Does my manner and way of speaking say good things about the Lord? Do I accurately reflect my Master?

2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (New International Version)

16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

It's always so much fun to give away great books!! Congratulations to this week's lucky winner:

Bluerose - Vicious Cycle by Terri Blackstock

Bluerose, please use the button in the upper right side of this page to email me with your mailing address so I can forward your information to the authors. Then, sit back and wait for your book to arrive.

Thank you all so much for stopping by The Borrowed Book and thank you, Terri Blackstock for your generosity in providing a book!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Entering our weekly drawing is easy:

1. Leave a comment on Fridays or...

2. Sign up to follow The Borrowed Book. Followers will automatically be entered for a chance to win that week's drawing!

This week, The Borrowed Book is giving away:

Vicious Cycle by Terri Blackstock ~ When fifteen-year-old Lance Covington finds an abandoned baby in the backseat of a car, he knows she's the newborn daughter of a meth addict he's been trying to help. But when police arrest him for kidnapping, Lance is thrust into a criminal world of baby trafficking and drug abuse. His mother, Barbara, looks for help from Kent Harlan---the man whom she secretly, reluctantly loves and who once helped rescue her daughter from a mess of her own. Kent flies to her aid and begins the impossible work of getting Lance out of trouble, protecting a baby who has no home, and finding help for a teenage mother hiding behind her lies. In this latest novel of suspense and family loyalty, bestselling author Terri Blackstock offers a harrowing look at drug addiction, human trafficking, and the devastating choices that can change lives forever.

Winners will be announced on Saturday, 02/26/11.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

For 30 years Strang Communications has been a well-known name in the publishing industry. On February 1, however, the company underwent some changes they hope will serve them well as they target growth for their book line and their magazines in the digital age. One big change is that their name will now be Charisma Media. In keeping with these changes they have renamed their book group Charisma House and have relaunched their magazine Charisma.

CEO Steve Strang says the new name was chosen because Charisma “refers not only to spiritual gifts, but also to our calling and passion to serve God and the church. Media signifies the diversified ways we can communicate—not only in print through magazines and books, but also online, via apps and the myriad of other digital vehicles.”

In 1975 Strang, then a 24-year-old newspaper reporter persuaded a Florida church to start a small magazine which he called Charisma. In the years since then, the magazine has come to be Strang Communications' flagship publication, and this publication is now available online.

I was especially excited when I discovered that the February issue features books and articles by Love Inspired authors. For those not familiar with Love Inspired books, there are three lines within Love Inspired. There are the Love Inspired, Love Inspired Suspense, and Love Inspired Historical.

The February issue features articles by some of today’s best known Love Inspired authors. Check out Susan May Warren’s article Turning Trauma into Triumph, Margaret Daley’s Mentoring: Pay it Forward, LI editor Emily Rodmell’s article on Amish romance, Linda Ford’s article about the children she adopted, and others by Linda Goodnight, Valerie Hansen, Carolyn Aarsen, and Cheryl Hodde.

An added feature of this special issue is that you can download free books. Three Love Inspired books are offered for free, and you have your choice of three lines. A Very Special Delivery by Linda Goodnight is the Love Inspired book, Homespun Bride by Jillian Hart is the Love Inspired Historical, and Hide in Plain Sight by Marta Perry is the Love Inspired Suspense.

The following link will take you to the online February issue of Charisma:

Charisma Magazine

It will be well worth your while to read this wonderful issue of Charisma. If you are hoping to write for Love Inspired, you may learn something from these multipublished authors. Joan Marlowe Golan, executive editor of Love Inspired, says in her introductory article to the issue, “If the spirit moves you to write such stories, we encourage you to submit them to us to consider for publication. Many of our writers began as our readers.”

Are you an aspiring Love Inspired author? Do you have questions about any of the three lines? Leave a comment, and The Borrowed Book ladies will try to help you.



Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Terri Blackstock is a New York Times best-seller, with over six million copies sold worldwide. She has had over twenty-five years of success as a novelist. Terri spent the first twelve years of her life traveling in an Air Force family. She lived in nine states and attended the first four years of school in The Netherlands. Because she was a perpetual “new kid,” her imagination became her closest friend. That, she believes, was the biggest factor in her becoming a novelist. She sold her first novel at the age of twenty-five, and has had a successful career ever since.

In 1994 Terri was writing for publishers such as HarperCollins, Harlequin, Dell and Silhouette, when a spiritual awakening drew her into the Christian market. As she was praying about her transition, she went on a cruise and noticed that almost everyone on the boat (including her) had a John Grisham novel. It occurred to her that some of Grisham’s readers were Christians, and that if she wrote a fast-paced thriller with an added faith element, she might just find her niche. As God would have it, Christian publishers were showing interest in the suspense genre, so she quickly sold a four-book series to Zondervan. Since that time, she’s written over thirty Christian titles, most of them suspense novels.

Terri has appeared on national television programs such as “The 700 Club” and “Home Life,” and has been a guest on numerous radio programs across the country. The story of her personal journey appears in books such as Touched By the Savior by Mike Yorkey, True Stories of Answered Prayer by Mike Nappa, Faces of Faith by John Hanna, and I Saw Him In Your Eyes by Ace Collins. Terri makes her home in Mississippi, where she and her husband Ken are enjoying their empty nest after raising three children.

Hello, Terri! Welcome to The Borrowed Book. Did you see yourself becoming a writer as a child? If not, what did you dream of being?

Since I was eleven years old I’ve wanted to be a writer. Before that, I thought I wanted to be an actress. I made up plays and got all my friends to act them out with me, so even before I could write I was writing.

How long did you write before you sold your first book?

That’s a difficult question, because I started writing at age twelve, but I didn’t write my first novel until I finished college. That first book didn’t sell, but by the time it was rejected by publishers, I’d finished my second one. I sold it when I was twenty-five.

Many of the people who follow our blog are aspiring writers themselves. Can you share your favorite writing tip with them?

My favorite writing advice is, “Don’t get it right, get it written.” I don’t remember who first said this, but it’s not original with me. But it’s such great advice because so many writers don’t get past chapter three in their manuscripts, because they keep rewriting and polishing as they go. Eventually they’ve written those three chapters to death, and they lose their momentum and eventually their interest. I prefer to write the first draft through without slowing down to fix anything. Then, when the first draft is finished, I can go back and rewrite multiple drafts until I’m happy with how it reads.

Now for the readers…many times, it’s easy for them to connect with the characters in a book, but not so much the authors themselves. Share something about your day-to-day life that might help a reader to feel as though they know you a little better.

My guilty pleasure is HGTV design shows. I love watching decorators make homes look beautiful, though I’m not very good at that myself. I also stay busy with Kay Arthur’s Precept Bible studies and Chuck Missler’s Koinonia Institute. And my husband and I love going to movies (I have a secret addiction to popcorn).

Now that you are published, do you still experience rejections? If so, how are these rejections different or similar to the ones you received before becoming published?

I’ve been very blessed to sell most of what I’ve proposed since my first published book. I sell most of my books before I write them now, but I do talk to my editors about my ideas and make sure I’m on the right track before I put anything into writing. They usually guide me away from the bad ideas before I spend much time on them.

It wasn’t always that way, though. I wrote complete manuscripts for my first five or six books. Then, when I was able to sell by proposal (usually a synopsis and three chapters), I would sometimes get rejections. But I didn’t take it personally, because I always had something else ready to submit. Publishers reject things for many reasons. They may have already published something like that, or they may have seen a glut in the market for that type of book. Or it might just be something that doesn’t appeal to them. You can actually learn a lot from rejection. The important thing is not to let it slow you down.

Tell us a little about your latest release:

Vicious Cycle is the second book in my Intervention Trilogy, and it continues the story of Barbara, Emily and Lance Covington. When fifteen-year-old Lance Covington finds an abandoned baby in the backseat of his car, he knows she’s the newborn daughter of a meth addict he’s been trying to help. But when police arrest him for kidnapping, Lance is thrust into a criminal world of baby trafficking and drug abuse.

His mother, Barbara, looks for help from Kent Harlan—the man whom she secretly, reluctantly loves and who once helped rescue her daughter from a mess of her own. Kent flies to her aid and begins the impossible work of getting Lance out of trouble, protecting a baby who has no home, and finding help for a teenage mother hiding behind her lies.

If you could only share one line from VICIOUS CYCLE, which one would you choose and why?

My favorite line was not original to me, but it’s the theme of this book—a prophecy spoken by Isaiah, but later quoted by Jesus, and in Vicious Cycle, quoted by my character: “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness the prisoners ...” (Isaiah 61:1) There’s nothing I wrote in the book that’s more poignant than that.

Writers often put things in their books that are very personal—like a funny story that happened to them, a spiritual truth they learned through difficulty, or even just a character trait that is uniquely theirs. Is there something in VICIOUS CYCLE that only people close to you know is about you or someone you know?

The whole idea for my Intervention Trilogy came from my experiences with my daughter’s drug addictions. While the first book, Intervention, is based on our story and our real-life intervention, this sequel is based more on the people we met when she was in treatment. My daughter never used crystal meth, but I was astonished at the number of middle class kids raised in good homes who were in bondage to that drug. Those addicts had the easiest detoxes, but the drugs took over their minds and bodies, and did more damage, than any other drug. Think about it. Meth can be manufactured at home, so people who might never seek out a drug dealer could make this themselves. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” And one of those ways he devours people is to make something made of rat poison and blood thinners and battery acids seem like something exciting and fun. Who else could make people think that ingesting that into their body, smoking it or shooting it into their brains is a good idea? It’s pure poison, and the damage from it can be irreversible.

It’s my hope that those who haven’t yet tried it will never want to go near it after reading this book, and that those who are already on it will stop before things get worse. And I also wanted to create compassion in the hearts of those who aren’t addicts, and make them see that we’re not all on level ground. Some people had truly awful upbringings, and everyone in their lives are on drugs. When that’s all you’ve known, you really don’t have the same chance as those who were raised in good homes. But there’s always hope for them to start over and break the vicious cycle of drugs in their families.

Readers often talk a lot about the hero and heroine of a story, but today I’d like to know something about your villain. Does he or she have a redeeming quality? Why or why not?

I don’t like to talk much about my villains because I don’t want to ruin the experience for anyone. Almost anything I say will give clues to who he/she/they are. But I like to create villains who have a reason to be the way they are. Very few people are evil without something in their background to make them that way.

I don’t feel the need to redeem my villains, however. Everyone has a choice, and it can go either way. But I think it’s okay for readers to hate the villain and hope he gets his. That’s part of the payoff of the book, so they feel like justice has been served.

What kind of research did you have to do for this book? Can you share some articles or website links you found particularly helpful?

My favorite web site about crystal meth addiction is MethMadness.com. And I’d encourage everyone to go to this page on that site: methmadness.com/facesofmeth.html. This site shows mug shots of meth addicts who are arrested time and time again over a number of years, and you can see the deterioration in their faces, their teeth, their skin, and their hair. They seem to age fifty years over just a couple of years of meth abuse.

In my work in prison ministry and my acquaintance with meth addicts I’ve met along our journey, I’ve never been able to guess the age of meth addicts. They usually look like elderly people when they’re only in their twenties and thirties. Yet more and more kids continue to experiment with crystal meth, thinking that it’s glamorous to put these substances in their bodies. It’s really hard to understand unless you connect the dots straight to Satan, the source of all evil.

Tell us what new projects you’re working on.

I’ve just finished the third and final book in the Intervention Trilogy. It’s called Downfall, and it will release early in 2012. It deals with a man who became an addict after an accident left him with chronic pain, and it will tell the story of all of those who never intended to become drug addicts, and the consequences of going from dependence for pain management to addiction for mood control. As a person with chronic back pain, I can really relate to those who, in the privacy of their homes, quietly become mastered by the medications that help them function.

The most common thing I hear when people learned I’ve published a book is, “I’ve always wanted to do that.” Faced with this statement, what advice would you give to someone just starting out in this business?

I would tell them not to fall into the trap of rushing to publication. These days there are ways to skip a lot of steps and still get published, but that doesn’t mean your book will be something people want to read. I’d encourage them to attend writers conferences and learn all they can about their craft, then submit to traditional publishers and use every bit of criticism they get to make their books better. If they wind up going the self-publishing route, I would encourage them to hire very experienced editors, no matter how much they cost, to take their books through the same process that traditional publishers do. That makes a much better product, and will help you with longevity in this business. I take at least a month to do revisions after my editor critiques my book, and I rewrite it from start to finish. Getting a book to the point where people want to read it all the way through, then wait anxiously for the next one, is hard, hard work. Skipping steps won’t get you what you want.

What is the one question you were afraid I would ask…and how would you answer?

I was afraid you’d ask me what kind of tree I would be if I were a tree. But thankfully you’re not Barbara Walters, so I don’t have to answer that. :-)
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Terri is giving away a copy of her book, Vicious Cycle. Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Friday for your chance to win! Or visit her on the web at:
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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I have a very hard time writing sometimes. Not because I don’t enjoy it. I just get so caught up in editing myself that sometimes it takes me days to finish a scene. This can be very discouraging to someone with a weekly word count goal of five thousand.

I think I’ve finally managed to strike a proper balance between writing and self-editing, however. Now, instead of polishing a scene until it gleams, I do a quick run through. I check for spelling, punctuation, word repetition, and grammar. After that, I leave it alone until I’m completely finished with the chapter. Not until I have moved on to a new scene do I go back and re-edit a previous chapter.

This benefits in two ways.

1. The scene is fresh since I haven’t spent hours perusing the content until I can no longer see straight.

2. Editing before writing helps me get back into the rhythm of the story. It renews my momentum and helps me get in touch with my characters again.

What about you? How do you balance editing and writing? Is one more difficult than another?

How about some feedback!

Monday, February 21, 2011

There are different ways of getting to a destination. Some ways take longer but are worth the time because of the scenery and experiences you get along the way. But sometimes you just need to find a fast way to get from where you are to where you need to be.

Today I'm going to be talking about both ways (although I'll focus more on the latter) for the final installation of a three-part series on writing tips for completing your manuscript--a series I've entitled CSG.

If you missed the first two parts in the series or would like to re-read them, here are the links:
  1. CSG Part One: A Companion for the Journey
  2. CSG Part Two: Devotion on a Schedule
And now for the G of the CSG plan: Goal.

As I mentioned in my first post for this series, my writing life was rather sporadic until 2011. I was taking the longer way, so to speak, for trying to finish my manuscript. Like riding in a glider (which I've done twice--and loved!), I was just meandering along through the clear blue sky, waiting for those "lifts" of inspiration that would make the trip worthwhile and exciting.

However, unlike the short glider rides I've been on that only last for 20 minutes or so, my writing life had no exact time frame. Everything was vague--I knew where the landing strip was and where I wanted to eventually go, but I didn't know exactly when I was going to get there or how.

And yet, as unproductive as that sounds, I think I needed that excursion. I needed those years of ruminating, of research, and of relaxed writing. I gathered information and ideas, and I grew up a little from that time years ago when the story first grabbed hold of my heart. It was OK for my writing to take a glider ride, waiting for those updrafts and cruising along, carefree.

But when 2011 came around, I realized that if I wanted to ever land and get to my destination--finishing my manuscript and publishing my story--then I needed to have a goal. The end needed to be in sight and the tracks needed to be laid to help get me to that end.

Now, I'm speaking from where I am chugging down the tracks. I haven't reached my goal yet, but I can tell you that it has helped me to have one.

When I told my writing companion about my goal, she encouraged me to keep it in sight, even if I didn't get all the way there this time. And why is that? Because having a sense of direction, having a deadline, helps get work done!

What is my goal? Well, my goal is to finish my manuscript by May 31, 2011. And then after that, my goal is to edit, polish, get endorsements, write a proposal, and make my way to the 2011 Oregon Christian Writers Conference in August.

Will all of that happen? Only God knows, but having this goal in mind--this time frame (the tracks) and this hope (the destination)--has helped me finally stick to a writing schedule, so I can actually sit down and get words on the pages!

As I think about my goal, I'm reminded of my Teaching the Bible class at Corban University. In that class we are encouraged to teach applications during out Bible studies--applications which are supposed to be specific, possible, and measurable.

I believe our writing goals should also be the same if we expect them to be practical and applicable. They should be specific, so that we don't end up wandering aimlessly. They should be possible, so that we don't give up too quickly or become discouraged. And they should be measurable, so that we can know where we stand and how close we are to the final destination.

Have you benefited from having goals in the past? If you need some direction, what specific goals can you make this year to help encourage you to keep on writing?

(That first picture is of me and my dad on our glider ride this past summer, along with the very fun pilot from Sunriver Soaring! The other pictures are photos I think my dad took on a train ride during our trip to Virginia City, Nevada, also last summer.)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

For such a small dog, Max certainly has the temperament of an alpha. Just today, he and I engaged in a battle of wills that left me wondering just who the owner was.

I’m ashamed to admit I have fostered a rather bad habit in Max. He’s become so accustomed to getting ‘people’ food that the moment my family and I finish eating, he runs to his bowl in anticipation of scraps. Well, today I wasn’t as quick to leave the table as I usually am, and Max sat at my feet growling.

“What?” I said, glancing down at him. He cocked his head at me, waiting. “Just a minute, Max,” I said and went back to talking.

He growled again, louder.

“Max, just a minute.” I let my tone sharpen, thinking with just a word of reprimand, he would quiet down. Instead, he barked at me, ran to his bowl, and turned to stare at me.

“Good grief,” my husband said. “He sure is getting pushy.”

“So he is,” I said, mumbling as I got up to get him something to eat. And that’s when it occurred to me. As a child of God, I’ve grown to expect His blessings. What was once received with thanksgiving has now become the norm. Worse still, I growl and grouse when His blessings don’t come as quickly as I expect. Instead of waiting on God, I push my way forward, then run to Him for help when my impatience gets me into trouble.

Lord, help me to remember that it is You who is in control. Don’t allow me to become so self-absorbed that I forget that it is You who reigns from on high. May I always remember to give You thanks for all the wondrous gifts You bestow, and may my attitude always be one of praise.

Malachi 3:10-18 (New International Version, ©2010)

10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the LORD Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.

Israel Speaks Arrogantly Against God

13 “You have spoken arrogantly against me,” says the LORD. “Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’


14 “You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty? 15 But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly evildoers prosper, and even when they put God to the test, they get away with it.’”

The Faithful Remnant

16 Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.


17 “On the day when I act,” says the LORD Almighty, “they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him. 18 And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

It's always so much fun to give away great books!! Congratulations to this week's lucky winner:

Bonnie R. Paulson - A Dad of His Own by Gail Gaymer Martin

Bonnie, please use the button in the upper right side of this page to email me with your mailing address so I can forward your information to the author. Then, sit back and wait for your book to arrive.

Thank you all so much for stopping by The Borrowed Book and thank you, Gail Gaymer Martin for your generosity in providing a book!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Entering our weekly drawing is easy:

1. Leave a comment on Fridays or...

2. Sign up to follow The Borrowed Book. Followers will automatically be entered for a chance to win that week's drawing!

This week, The Borrowed Book is giving away:

A Dad of His Own by Gail Gaymer Martin ~ With his Dreams Come True foundation, Ethan Fox turns wishes into reality. Amazing trips. Meeting heroes. But Ethan has come to care deeply for a sick boy whose dream is…a dad. And not just any dad: Ethan. Though little Cooper has a great chance of getting well, widowed Ethan can't chance loving—and losing—again. Yet he's spending time with the sweet boy and his lovely, strong single mother, Lexie Carlson. Could a little boy's wish for a dad of his own come true after all?


Winners will be announced on Saturday, 02/19/11.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

"Show me the money!" Speak those words and right away movie lovers know you're talking about Jerry Maguire, the story of a sports agent who falls on hard times when he loses his job at an agency representing athletes. Cuba Gooding, Jr. won an academy award for his performance as football player Rod Tidwell in this movie. One of my favorite scenes is Jerry on the phone with Rod as he desperately tries to keep him as a client. Jerry realizes as the minutes pass that all his other clients are being gobbled up by other agents in the office who are calling his clients to let them know Jerry has been fired. Even Rod tells him at one point that an agent from Jerry's office is on the other line waiting for Rod's decision on whether or not he's going to stay with Jerry. As Rod ends the conversation, Jerry realizes he's left with one client-Rod. In case you haven't seen it, here it is:



Rod Tiwell expected Jerry Maguire to "Show Me the Money!" If you watched the movie, you know Jerry delivered on that promise, but not after a lot of hard work along the way.

When you sign a contract with an agent, that person is going to go to bat for you just like Jerry did for Rod, but don't expect the money to come rolling in right away. You may be at the point in your writing career that you haven't been able to get a contract with an agent yet. In fact, you may be wondering if you even need one. In my opinion, if you're serious about selling your work to a reputable publisher, you need to think about getting an agent.

With publishing houses accepting only agented manuscripts, it's becoming necessary for every writer to have an agent. With all the prepublished authors wanting to get their foot in the door and publishers having fewer spots for new authors, it becomes a daunting problem. So today I want to focus on the subject of what agents can do for your career. I can't tell you how you're going to find the perfect agent for you, but I can give you some things to think about as you proceed with your search.

Even with an agent, it's going to take time to sell your book. Agents know what is selling and what is not. If your story doesn't fit a particular house, don't expect it to be submitted there. Those kinds of submissions receive an immediate rejection. When it is sold, however, it's great to have someone who knows what the market is paying in advances and will work to get you the largest amount possible. Since houses pay different amounts, you might get lucky with a big advance and then you might not. Of course your agent is going to get 15% of that. So your upfront money is smaller, and you have to sell enough books to pay back the publisher before you can even start to see royalty checks. Sad as it is, the truth is that we're not all like Nicolas Sparks and can get an advance of $1,000,000 for a first manuscript.

Rod Tidwell trusted Jerry Maguire, and you need an agent you can trust. Be careful to query only reputable agents. The inspirational publishing industry is like a family. Don't be afraid to ask friends and colleagues about agents before querying. Go to conferences and workshops where you will meet agents who are actively pursuing publication for their clients. I read that agents are not salesmen, they are people with a lot of friends in the publishing industry and make recommendations based on what the market needs. I like that idea. It makes me feel good that my agent doesn't have to SELL my work to a publisher, but she can RECOMMEND it based on what that house needs.

Also, look for sales that the agent has made lately. If you can't find any, be careful about proceeding with that person. Another word of caution: An agent who charges reading fees or mentions charges for other services is one to avoid. If he/she is having to do this, then they aren't making a successful living from their work for clients.

If you're looking for an agent, I hope you find the right person. I recently told a friend of mine who had received a rejection from an agent that finding the right person is like looking for the goose that laid the golden egg. It may take a long time to find it, but once you do it's well worth the journey you had getting there.

Have you found your agent yet? What do you expect from your agent once you sign with him/her? Leave your questions, and the ladies of The Borrowed Book will try to answer them.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Borrowed Book is proud to present a new media for introducing you to your fun, favorite authors! This special video interview with Gail Gaymer Martin is the first in a series that we will be presenting in the coming months. We hope it will help you get to know these authors better. Enjoy!
.
Multi-award-winning author, Gail Gaymer Martin writes Christian fiction for Love Inspired and Barbour Publishing, where she was honored by Heartsong readers as their Favorite Author of 2008. Gail has forty-eight contracted novels with over three million books in print. She is the author of Writers Digest’s Writing the Christian Romance. Gail is a co-founder of American Christian Fiction Writers, a keynote speaker at churches, libraries and civic organizations and presents workshops at conference across the US. She has a Masters degree from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan and is a licensed counselor. She lives in Michigan with her husband. Her current release is titled A Dad of His Own, published by Steeple Hill, February, 2011.




Gail is giving away a copy of her book, A Dad of His Own. Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Friday for your chance to win! And, to learn more about Gail and her work, visit her at:

Website: http://www.gailmartin.com/
Blog Site: http://www.gailmartin.blogspot.com/
Writing Fiction Right Blog
Facebook
Twitter

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


It’s sharp. It cuts. And a good writer will learn the value of using it with educated precision. By wielding the scalpel, you rid your manuscript of weak words, phrases, scenes, and unnecessary tangents. And as the word count you worked so hard to achieve falls to the floor in a bloody heap you rejoice knowing your manuscript is stronger for the loss.


Strange?


Yes.


Both writers new to the business and writers new to the world of publishing must learn the lesson of the scalpel and learn it well. As a newbie, I balked at the idea of cutting anything from my manuscript. Instead of bravely slicing unnecessary words and paragraphs, I would create a separate file for the precious orphans, thinking I might use them later, or that they might be fodder for another book.


Only it never happened.


I quickly discovered that anything worth deleting from a manuscript needed to be deleted *permanently*. No tears. No pining after the hours spent creating the words. If they were marked to be cut then they were inferior. Period. Sounds tough, huh?


I asked some of my writing peers to share their perspective on the cutting process.


Author Frances Devine’s response goes to show that applying the scalpel can be beneficial in more ways than one. “I cut several paragraphs a couple of days ago because I decided I needed to change the end of a scene. It gave me a new outlook on the next chapter.”


Kimberli Buffaloe isn’t published, but she is learning and maturing as a writer. This statement only proves that: “I've learned to push aside my ego and cut for the good of the story. I don't care if I like the line, scene, or chapter, or if I think the sentence is the most clever thing I've ever written. I've slashed 10k during this revision and know it's probable I'll cut at least 1000 more.”


Pam Meyers has learned the value of the scalpel during a revision she did on a manuscript before submitting a proposal. “Once I got into it (cutting words) I loved seeing how the story strengthened as I got rid of the "extra" words. So many times I found I had "Goes Without Saying" or "Resist the Urge to Explain" clauses at the ends of sentences.”


The secret to creating a better story is applying the scalpel. First, you have to learn to see your manuscript not as a work of art, but as a means of communication. Within a manuscript is a theme, a basic idea that you want to convey to the reader.


Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, as Kim said, you have to kill ego. As writers we often become so caught up in ourselves that instead of conducting the orchestra of characters, we want to spotlight each one of our “pretties.” The problem is members of an orchestra who vie for time in the spotlight are taking away from the work they have been brought together to produce. Characters are the same way. The writer is the conductor and the characters must work together to create a beautiful story with a common theme.


Applying the scalpel returns the focus to the theme of the story and puts the writer back in control.


Mike Ehret, editor of ACFW’s e-zine, Afictionado, sums it up it best: “I have never seen cutting words fail to make a piece better.”


Have you ever seen the necessity of cutting words from your manuscript to make it stronger? Have you ever read a story where the author would have benefited from applying the scalpel a little more?



Monday, February 14, 2011

It's Valentine's Day, and today we're talking about devotion! In this case, we're going with the second and third definitions given by Dictionary.com for this word: "earnest attachment to a cause, person, etc." and "an assignment or appropriation to any purpose, cause, etc."

We must ask ourselves:
  1. Am I devoted to my manuscript/story?
  2. Am I willing to devote time to my manuscript/story?
If you answered "yes" to both of these questions, then you're right on track with part two of the game plan I started outlining last week for finishing your manuscript! (Click HERE to read Part One: A Companion for the Journey.)

Again, I want to add that I am not yet a published author, and I'm currently working on my first manuscript. So these tips I'm sharing with you are just things I've been learning along the way!

And now for the S in the CSG plan: Schedule.

One of my New Year's resolutions for 2011 is to finish my manuscript by May 31st. But I know that this year will be no different from any other previous year in fulfilling this dream if I don't actually sit down and write. Thinking about the story, planning the plot, and doing research are all wonderful and necessary activities, but if I'm ever going to have something to hand to an editor or agent, all those thoughts, plans, and historical tidbits are going to have to make their way from my mind to my computer!

Now, a writing schedule can look different for each person. For example, a full-time published author (ie: an author who writes for a living) would most likely want to schedule in hours of writing almost every day. But for those who are working full-time at another job or are full-time students, writing every day is not only a daunting and frightening idea, but it's also impractical.

So what are those of us in the second category supposed to do? To be honest, it depends. Sometimes we have to wait, because writing can't be a top priority then. God, family, and work must come first. But sometimes we actually do have the time, but until now we've chosen to fill it with other activities that are definitely not priorities.

This semester, the opportunity has presented itself to me, and so I've made a schedule. Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday morning, I sit down in front of my laptop and type. My goal is usually at least 700 words, but sometimes I write a little less or a little more. The point is that the goal is practical, and I'm getting something onto that blank page. I think it's important to celebrate those small victories!

Since I had already written a good "chunk" of my story before beginning this new year, I think this schedule will help me meet my goal of finishing my manuscript before June. (After that--editing, polishing, and writing a proposal!)

Sometimes the words don't really flow well. I have to sit for a while and write bit by bit. A walk can be inspiring, and, of course, spending devotional time with God beforehand.

The point is, no matter how much I write or how much time I can set aside, I need to write. Pray, and then just do it! I think you'll be surprised by the results. On days when I think that a scene isn't going to turn out very well because I started out with only a vague idea in my mind, I am often excited by what ends up on the page.

And why is that? First of all, God is in control, and if He wants this story to be told then I just need to tell it and trust Him to work all the details out to His glory. And second, I personally feel devotion for this story.

If you love your characters and the story they're a part of, then you'll be drawn into their world and your love will show through your words. Your devotion will keep you going and help you stick to your schedule. So don't be afraid to keep your devotion on a schedule!

Do you have a writing schedule, whether you're published or unpublished? Does it work well for you? If you don't have a schedule, can you think of certain days of the week when you can set aside time just for writing?

(If you can't already tell from the pictures I included, I'm a fan of certain PBS Masterpiece programs/movies! These are characters a person can fall in love with for sure! The images are from the PBS Masterpiece website.)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

“What’s the matter with the dog?”

I looked from the book I was reading to glance at my son. “What?”

“Max.” He pointed. “His tongue is sticking out the side of his mouth.”

I got up to look. Sure enough, Max’s tongue was protruding out from his lips. “Max, let me see.” I bent down and gently pried open his mouth. Large red welts dotted his tongue, the inside of his cheeks, and his gums. “Oh my gosh! Go get your dad.”

While my son complied, I picked Max up and carried him to the kitchen. Once again, he closed his mouth but was unable to control his tongue. It poked out further than before.

“What happened?” my husband asked.

I showed him.

“Looks like he got into some fire ants.”

I rubbed Max’s head. “You think that’s what it is?”

My husband nodded. “His tongue is probably numb. That’s why he’s having trouble controlling it.”

After much consideration, we decided against taking Max to vet, figuring we’d wait to see if the swelling went down on its own. It did, but the whole episode made me pause.

People sometimes have just as much trouble controlling their tongue as Max did on this day, myself included. Why is this such a difficult part of the flesh to conquer? Can it be that we enjoy camouflaging our idle gossip beneath the guise of caring? God understood our weakness and warned against the corruption that can come to us by an unbridled tongue. The choice whether or not to listen is up to us.

James 3:1-12 (New International Version, ©2010)

Taming the Tongue

1 Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

It's always so much fun to give away great books!! Congratulations to this week's lucky winner:

daniel - The Resurrection by Mike Duran

Daniel, please use the button in the upper right side of this page to email me with your mailing address so I can forward your information to the author. Then, sit back and wait for your book to arrive.

Thank you all so much for stopping by The Borrowed Book and thank you, Mike Duran (via publicist) for your generosity in providing a book!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Entering our weekly drawing is easy:

1. Leave a comment on Fridays or...


2. Sign up to follow The Borrowed Book. Followers will automatically be entered for a chance to win that week's drawing!


This week, The Borrowed Book is giving away:



The Resurrection by Mike Duran ~ When Ruby Case, an unassuming crippled woman, inexplicably raises a boy from the dead, she creates uproar in the quiet coastal town of Stonetree. Some brand her a witch, others a miracle worker. Yet Reverend Ian Clark could care less. Dogged by demons and immersed in self-pity, Clark is being unwittingly drawn into a secret religious order--one that threatens his very life. But he's about to get a wake-up call.

Together, Ruby and Reverend Clark are thrust into a search for answers... and a collision with unspeakable darkness. For behind the quaint tourist shops and artist colonies lies a history of deceit. And a presence more malignant than anything they can imagine. Yet a battle is brewing, the resurrection is the first volley, and the unlikely duo are the only ones who can save them. But can they overcome their own brokenness in time to stop the evil, or will they be its next victim?

Winners will be announced on Saturday, 02/12/11.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Each Thursday I try to bring you some of the latest topics of conversation within the Christian publishing industry. Today the topic is one that should be of importance to anyone who is hoping to sell a manuscript in the future, whether you’re a pre-published or multi-published author.

In the last few years we’ve seen many changes in the industry. Five or six years ago editors were purchasing very few historical romances. Now they’re one of the most sought-after genres in the business. Another change is the emphasis that is put on marketing and mentoring.

How is a writer to keep up with these changes and write what will sell? The answer to that is the same as it is for doctors, lawyers, teachers, and many other occupations who have to incorporate all the advances in their fields—continuing education through workshops and conferences. If you are a writer trying to sell that first manuscript or an established author, writers’ conferences give you the chance to network with others in the industry while you hone your craft.

Now that we’re into the new year, conference schedules are set, and registrations have begun. With all the conferences available across the country, you may wonder how to decide which one is for you. Location may be one factor while registration, hotel, and travel expenses may be another. But don’t worry, there’s still time to make decisions and save the money that will be needed. To help you decide, I thought I’d give you an idea of what choices are available to you in the coming months. Check out the websites of the listed conferences for one which fits your needs.

Florida Christian Writers Conference
March 3-6, 2011
Leesburg, FL

Website blurb: This is your opportunity to learn more about the publishing industry, build your platform and follow God's leading to publish the message he has given you.

Mount Hermon Writers Conference
April 15-19, 2011

Website blurb: For 42 years Mount Hermon has created a one-of-a-kind laboratory for training writers at every skill level, from unpublished to professional, and has become the only place that offers help to writers in every phase of their careers.

Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference
May 9-13, 2011
Lifeway Ridgecrest Conference Center

Website blurb: Whether you are a professional writer expanding your skills and networking contacts, or a brand new writer just beginning to chase your dream, this Christian Writers Conference is the ideal opportunity to take your creative goals to a higher level.

Write His Answer
May 11-14, 2011
Estes Park, CO

Website blurb: Whether you are publishing regularly or not-yet-published, and whether you write fiction or nonfiction for children or adults, CCWC is an investment in your writing ministrythat can open doors and change your life.

Write to Publish
June 8-11, 2011
Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL

Website blurb: Whether you’re thinking about writing, longing to be published, looking for new markets and new ways to market your message, seeking to move from a part-time writer to a full-time writing career, or looking for a writing retreat with editor contacts, this conference is for you.

Kentucky Christian Writers Conference
Elizabethtown, KY
June 24-25, 2011

Website blurb: The purpose of the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference is to provide an annual interdenominational event to equip and encourage writers in their quest for publication.

Oregon Christian Writers
August 15-18, 2011
Turner, Oregon

Website blurb: We are writers from all walks of life – published and unpublished, students and retirees, fiction and non-fiction – with one goal: writing for Him.

American Christian Fiction Writers
St. Louis, Missouri
Sept. 22-25, 2011

Website blurb: "The Premier Christian Fiction Conference"

American Cnristian Writers

Check their website for conferences in 24 cities across the country during 2011.

I hope you find a conference that is the perfect fit for you. Is there something else you'd like to know about any of these conferences? We'll try to help if we can. And for you who attend conferences each year, do you have favorites? Give us some reasons that make certain conferences your favorites.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

In the graveyard, overlooking the city of Stonetree, a petrified oak broods. It’s a monstrous thing, not just because of its size, but because of who was murdered there. When Ruby Case, an unassuming crippled woman, inexplicably raises a boy from the dead, she creates uproar in the quiet coastal town of Stonetree. Some brand her a witch, others a miracle worker. Yet Reverend Ian Clark could care less. Dogged by demons and immersed in self-pity, Clark is being unwittingly drawn into a secret religious order--one that threatens his very life. But he's about to get a wake-up call.

Together, Ruby and Reverend Clark are thrust into a search for answers... and a collision with unspeakable darkness. For behind the quaint tourist shops and artist colonies lies a history of deceit. And a presence more malignant than anything they can imagine. Yet a battle is brewing, the resurrection is the first volley, and the unlikely duo are the only ones who can save them. But can they overcome their own brokenness in time to stop the evil, or will they be its next victim?

About the Author:

Mike Duran was a finalist in Faith in Fiction's inaugural short story contest and was chosen as one of ten authors to be published in Infuze Magazine’s 2005 print anthology. He is author of the short story “En Route to Inferno,” which appeared in Coach’s Midnight Diner: Back from the Dead edition, and received the Editor’s Choice award for his creative nonfiction essay titled “The Ark,” published in the Summer 2.3 Issue of Relief Journal. In between blogs, he also writes a monthly column for Novel Journey and has served as editor on the Midnight Diner’s editorial team. Duran is an ordained minister and lives with his wife of 29 years and four grown children in Southern California.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

One of the discoveries you will make as you grow in your writing is learning the way you work best. It's much like those tests they give you in school to determine the career path that best suits your personality and strengths. Some can't handle stress and don't muli-task well, these are the writers who should target writing one or two manuscripts a year. Others focus best and find themselves fresher when they have two or three books going at one time.

There are myriad little details seasoned writers and new authors often don't consider before contractually over-committing themselves. Let's take two little known necessities--edits and galleys--and get a glimpse of how these things can add to the stress level of an overcommitted author.

Edits are the second stage of a contracted manuscript's life. Let's say you have met your deadline for book number one and turned it in. While you are working on your second manuscript, the publisher has copy-editors, and sometimes content-editors, going over your first manuscript and writing a letter for you of proposed changes they want to see. These letters can be two pages, or ten. Oy! To top it off, you have a week to turn them in.

Galleys are the same way. This term refers to the last stage a manuscript goes through before it is printed. These, too, have a tendency to show up out of nowhere and often a short turn-around time is requested of you by the editor. And since it is your last chance to correct errors or typos, it is not the time to get sloppy with your proofing. No pressure.

Add to all this the trials of life and love and you could have more on your plate than you can handle. The key to keeping yourself at peak efficiency is discovering how you work best and knowing what you can handle, then planning accordingly. You want to set a writing schedule that helps you achieve your goals with minimal stress.

Have you ever had a moment when you didn't plan ahead and your creativity was stifled as a result? What kind of writer are you—one book a year or two or three at a time?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Up until 2011, my writing life was sporadic at best. There were times when I would get a burst of energy and inspiration, like last summer when I was on vacation in Oregon and then again in Nevada. But the dream of finishing my novel seemed illusive and undefined. It was a very real hope, but it wasn't easy to put that hope into action.

It still isn't necessarily easy, but in this new year I've discovered a game plan that's been working well so far. Now, before I delve deeper into this topic and share my ideas with you, I want to make a couple of notes:
  1. God's timing is not our timing.
  2. I'm not yet published.
The first note is just a reminder that as much as I'm glad to be on a faster track now (which I also wished for when I was younger), I'm just as glad that I had the time before to just ruminate on ideas, grow up a little, and gain new experiences before diving in to finish my manuscript. Some things can't be rushed! The second note is a reminder that the tips I'm about to share are the tips of an aspiring author--not a published author looking back on success. So, I'm learning along with all of you!

And finally--to the point. ;) I'm going to do a three post series about this game plan I'm implementing. You can just think of it as CSG. Nope, it's not "Constructive Solid Geometry," as Dictionary.com might tell you. This CSG stands for:

Companion
Schedule
Goal

Today we'll talk about the C: Companion.

A few months after I started my personal blog (Seasons of Humility) I met an amazing friend through a comment she left on one of my posts. Ever since then (last summer) she has been a huge encouragement to me--someone who prays for me and my family, sets an inspirational and humble example for me, and someone who is a joy just to talk to through the Internet and letters.

Eventually I asked her if she wouldn't mind reading what I had written for my manuscript and sharing her thoughts with me. She said yes! And then several weeks ago when I came back to school, I started e-mailing her three times a week with new scenes. Her support, feedback, and encouragement have been invaluable to me!

In the past (and even now, to some extent), the idea of a "critique partner" held little appeal. I didn't want someone to read the pages of the story of my heart and tell me all the things that were wrong with them. To be honest, if I chose to share my work with anyone, I wanted them to tell me all the good things about it and leave out the negative aspects.

But having a companion is different than having a critique partner, in my opinion (perhaps in name only, but "companion" does sound much nicer, doesn't it?). I trust my companion. I value her opinion, and I enjoy discussing things with her. She gently points out the errors and shares her thoughts on what she, as a reader, is thinking as the story unfolds.

I'm not at the editing/polishing stage. I'm not ready for line edits or nit-picking. I know that day will come, and perhaps that stage will be more appealing then. ;) But for now, I just need to finish the manuscript. And having a companion such as I have, with patience and a heart of gold, is a gift I'm overwhelmingly grateful for. She is such a wonderful friend!

I highly recommend having a companion to journey with you as you finish your manuscript. But note that the companion you choose must be trustworthy, honest, kind, and internally motivated to be a part of the journey. If you're going to be sharing your work on a regular basis with this person, that person will need to have a heart for the story, as well.

It's a tall order, for sure. But if you can find a companion or two to keep you company, even if only by reading your work on occasion and sharing their thoughts when they can, I think your motivation for writing will be much improved. The more your companion is invested in the story, the more you become invested, as well. Enthusiasm is definitely catching!

Do you have a companion now who is encouraging you as you work on your current manuscript, whether you're published or unpublished? Have you been a companion for someone else? Do you have some inspirational companion stories you can share with us?

(Pictures are from the Pixar website.)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Unconditional, undying, unchanging…love.

If ever there were an example of such pure and unmitigated devotion, it would be the affection Max expresses toward me every day. No matter the situation, he positively jumps for joy every time he sees me, regardless of whether or not I’ve had to punish him recently.

Take, for example, last weekend. I had gone shopping for shoes, something I hadn’t done in quite some time. After many hours, I was finally able to locate a pair I liked. They were a bit pricey, but I figured they were worth the extra cost since the brand I’d purchased was well known for their durability. I don’t reckon they took miniature dachshunds into consideration when they made that claim.

I wore my shoes to church once, and then left them on the floor of my closet. Much to my dismay, I returned home from work the following Monday to find that Max had completely demolished one of the shoes. Leather lay everywhere! To add insult to injury, the other shoe lay just where I had left it, perfect, untouched, and completely unusable.

“Max!” I yelled. “Bad dog, Max. You don’t chew on Momma’s shoes.”

Realizing he’d done something wrong, Max crouched down on his belly and crawled over to me, cowering at my feet like some wayward Isrealite seeking repentance.

“No, Max,” I said, still angered over the loss of my shoe. “Go lay down. Momma’s mad at you.”

He obeyed, but about an hour later, I felt a gentle nudge at my elbow. I looked down into a pair of gentle brown eyes, filled with regret and pleading for forgiveness. How could I help but relent?

“Okay, Max—”

I got no further. Overjoyed to see I was no longer angry, Max leapt into my lap and proceeded to lick my face, hands, and ears.

It was then that I realized just how deeply Max loves me. Despite my anger or any chastisement I might dispense, he loves me, and he can’t wait to show it.

Do I love my Master that way? Despite any chastisement He might have to give, do I hurry to show my affection to my Heavenly Father?

Lord, help me to grow in love for You. Let my devotion be unconditional, and my heart’s desire always be to exercise my affection in a way that is pleasing unto You.

Joshua 23:6-11 (New International Version, ©2010)

6 “Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left. 7 Do not associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them. 8 But you are to hold fast to the LORD your God, as you have until now.

9 “The LORD has driven out before you great and powerful nations; to this day no one has been able to withstand you. 10 One of you routs a thousand, because the LORD your God fights for you, just as he promised. 11 So be very careful to love the LORD your God.

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